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"We are gathered here today to give our respect and raise a pint of mead to the brave warriors who volunteered to fight off the recent dragon attacks on our city watch posts, and the village of Riverwood. The Companions have done Whiterun proud once again, defending it's people and territory without hesitation. Kodlak Whitemane has asked for no reward, as slaying a dragon pays for itself in honour!"

Jarl Balgruuf the Greater... It's not that he had forgotten the Odd Jobs' part in defending Riverwood, but Aria herself had asked him not to refer to the business. The Companions could have all the glory; there wasn't anything Aria wanted but the coin. Being a big deal with the Thalmor around just wasn't very safe - one look in their priority targets book and they could find her half-peaceful little life here in Whiterun. Then they would kill her, her partner, and burn the shop down just for the giggles of it all. At least, that's what Aria saw happening the moment she got discovered. The coin was enough of a reward... Heck, it'd be Cronic's pay finally, seeing as she hadn't quite caught up with that yet.
After the street crowd began returning to their daily business, Aria entered the shop and took her place at the front desk, feet kicked up and arms thrown lazily behind her head. One arm found it's way to her pocket, which she took the purse from. Balgruuf sure was generous for someone trying to head a Hold so torn between Empire and Rebellion... "Cronic, catch," the redhead yawned as she lobbed the bag of septims somewhere behind her.

"Now all I need is R&R... Dragon fights are such a pain."
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"On that, we agree." Cronic said, catching the septims, and setting them onto a table nearby, a journal-like book in his left hand, and a quill in between two fingers in the hand he'd used to catch the bag.

"A few close shaves too many with that one. We've fought against grim odds before, but that was because we were outnumbered against enemies our size. I was genuinely worried we'd end up finely roasted. Dragon breath is no joke..." Cronic said, his coat's right sleeve singed slightly, a slight burn on his arm from where the dragon's fire breath had caught his arm.

"I need to see if Arcadia has any potions that can treat burns later." Cronic said, as he went back to writing in the journal. Judging from what he was writing, he'd not had much time to put in a significant entry since he joined up with Odd Jobs. That or he just forgot about it for a time. One of the two.

"As for wanting the septims and none of the credit, I think I can understand that. I've made a few enemies in my travels, and having Balgruuf announce our names to the entire hold? I might as well just strap an archery target to my back. Word travels faster than most folks realise. Let's hope the people of Riverwood keep their traps shut about the whole thing."
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Only then as Cronic mentioned burns, did Aria notice that.. she didn't even get a lick of flame. That was lucky! Lucky, or would it be more feasible to say her destructive proficiency in battle hadn't worn off after only one year. And at his following words on not getting any credit for their part last night, she raised an eyebrow. They were probably in the same boat - you didn't have to dwell on matters of insecurity long to realise it: the Thalmor had a massive "to kill" list. Skyrim was full of Talos worshipers, prominent people who'd fought the Dominion in the Great War, and there was definitely Resistance and Blade remnants lying around. That, and everything interesting that happened in Tamriel's northernmost country caught the attention of those Altmer bastards.

"...Yeah, let's hope. So you're not on good terms with the supreme overlords either, are ya'?" Aria chuckled.
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"I make no secret I'm not a follower of the 8 divines the Thalmor regard highly. Akatosh, Stendarr, Kynareth... I've got better things to do than spend my life praying to gods. Needless to say, and I don't know how they came to think about this, the Thalmor came to the conclusion I was a worshipper of Talos, and they weren't keen to hear my side of the story. Needless to say I've been on the shit list ever since, having had to fight my way out of that encounter." Cronic said, looking at Aria setting the journal and quill aside while he waited for the Ink to dry.

"Hence why I typically use an alternate name if I have to pass through somewhere I know there are Thalmor agents operating. For what good it'll do. It's helped me dodge arrests by the Thalmor on some occasions, but on others, not so much." Cronic said, as he sighed.

"Someone needs to knock those damn High Elves off their bloody perch."
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"Tell me about it!" Aria muttered as the stray cat pawed her nose. "I have a history with the Dominion, but I wouldn't say all Altmer are precious bastards with pain fetishes. Knew a fair few back in sword school..." the young boss said, remembering each of their faces, remembering they were gone. But the thought just didn't show on her facial expression, in fact she looked bored as usual - the harsh memories were forever evident in her eyes instead. But even then, you'd still have someone suggest she just looked tired all the time.

The stray turned and ran out the window as there was a knock on the door. When was the last time they actually got a request? The Dragons thing was volunteer work, but it still paid well when it was over. 

"Mr. Crystalis, get the door if you will~?"
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"Yeah, but the Thalmor don't really do much to make people think otherwise of the Altmer. So elves like the ones you knew are probably few and far between." Cronic said, losing himself into his own run-in with the Thalmor. He was on a road between towns at the time, lugging around a pack full of supplies and that heavy ass bow like it was nothing, when next thing he knew the Thalmor came out of nowhere, swiftly surrounding him and spitting false accusations. He tried to explain to them otherwise, but they didn't care. He snapped back to reality as the door knocked, and Aria told him to get the door.

"Wouldn't mind an easy job after fighting a bloody dragon." Cronic said, before he got up and opened the door to the Odd Jobs building, before speaking to whoever happened to be knocking.

"May I help you?" Cronic said, just keeping it short and simple for now.

"Please be an easy job."
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A young man was stood at the door, curiously looking into the Odd Jobs shop, specifically at the boss who was miraculously quick to sit neatly behind the desk before the door even opened. "Uh, yes, but can I come in to talk about this? It's a delicate matter, and I heard you two are quite good at fighting so..."

Aria waved the young man in and to one of two chairs on the other side of the desk, "You heard right, buddy. We have the tools and the talent! Take a seat n' tell us what ya' need."

"Protection," The man said seriously, shutting the door himself and walking up to the desk, placing his hands on it and leaning closer to the Odd Jobs' boss. "I need someone to help me get the hell out of Skyrim. This weird cult with bone masks, I saw them attack the new Thane, the one they call Dragonborn. He had to flee, and they noticed me witnessing the attack, so they've been showing up wherever I go! I'm not even from Whiterun, they've followed me since Windhelm!"

Aria raised an eyebrow and looked over at Cronic, "...Bone masks? You know anything about this?"
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"It's news to me. Closest thing I can think of are either the Forsworn over near Markarth or potentially a cult of Daedra Worshippers or Necromancers. One of the three." Cronic said, before looking over at the man, going to take a seat behind Aria.

"...If you want us to help you efficiently, we need you to tell us what you know about this cult. What they look like, how they fight, and so on. Without that information, we can't expect to put up a decent escort if we don't know what to look out for. If they managed to force the so-called "Dragonborn" to have to retreat, they have to have seen combat before. Either that or they heavily outnumbered said Thane." Cronic said, Before looking at Aria.

"We don't know the exact specifics of what we potentially could be dealing with here. Discussing how much we'll get paid for this job can wait, at least until we get all the information we need."
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"Well.. Aside from the masks they wore light brown robes. They used a lot of destruction magic, mostly lightning. They forced the Dragonborn back by electrifying his shield, and then while he was down.. they cut down that Housecarl he was with because she took on the onslaught in his place! I couldn't do anything, I.. I can't fight. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time..." The man explained, apparently guilt tripping over having done nothing. He finally took a seat, as it was very evident that he was worn out by now... If he'd come from Windhelm, that was a long run - and dangerous at that.

"Poor Lydia... Nice gal for a warrior, too. That's the way she would've wanted to bow out though. A true Huscarl..." Aria rolled her eyes away from their frightened customer, who had no idea what she was talking about. Whiterun wasn't big or small, but everyone knew each other around here anyway.

"No, no, I don't think they killed the woman. These cultists seemed to be after the Dragonborn... They dragged her off, and that's when they spotted me." The man explained further.

Aria put her hand under her chin and thought for a moment. And before long, there was a sly grin on her face as she turned her gaze to the client. He stared back at her, slowly shaking his head as he knew what she was thinking! "You're going to be bait, and we're going to jump these cultists when they come after you. This sounds like it could be a fun investigation!"

"I just want out of Skyrim!" The man complained.

"So as soon as we've captured us a live bone-face, we'll send you on your way. After all, they can't follow you if we've killed or captured them~! Now let's talk about payment-"

The man immediately dropped a large bag of septims on the desk, sighing as if he'd finally been relieved of all his stress and fear, "That should do, right Ms. Odd Jobs?"

Aria looked over at Cronic and tilted her head gleefully at him as the rustle of coins falling across the desk stopped. "What'cha think, partner?"
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"We'll need to find the quickest route to the border. Maybe look into transportation too, as a means to speed things up. Possibly a few extra weapons as well. A spare blade never hurt anyone." Cronic said, before taking out a map of Skyrim and unrolling it in front of him.

"Whiterun's just about dead centre of Skyrim, and our client came from Windhelm. This rules out the possibility of trying to slip him into Morrowind, as the Cultists could be anywhere around that area." Cronic said, as he set the map down on the table.

"So the most reasonable, quickest, and potentially the most predictable option would be to try and slip him out the southern border, into Cyrodiil or Hammerfell. Alternatively, we could try and trick them into thinking we're headed that way, but then head north west to Solitude and then drop him off in High Rock. It'll take longer, but it's potentially safer. The main problem are the cultists, but there's the possibility of other factions like bandits or Thalmor slowing us down long enough for said cultists to catch up and attack."
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"...Excellent assessment!" Their client praised Cronic, amazed at how well he could lay out the situation in no time at all. Aria had gotten pretty used to this, and she loved it - couldn't think of a better right hand man. "But I'd very much like to head back into Cyrodiil. I have family I can go to stay with in Bruma, and I doubt the high security on the border would let any odd-looking people past. What do you two think?"

Aria shrugged neutrally, "If that's the way you wanna go, we'll take you to Bruma. I don't think we'll be caught up to very easily in the mountains, be it by the maskies or the Thalmor."
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"Well, sometimes even the simplest bit of planning can make or break a job. Both before and during the job. Ok, Cyrodiil it is. I'll start making the arrangements, after I get this burn on my arm treated. Not exactly keen on having an untimely end because of a painful distraction." Cronic said, as he then rolled up the map and stowed it away in what looked to be a pretty sturdy backpack, before taking out a bit of paper and writing down things on the list.

"Food, supplies, healing potions, and so on." Cronic said to himself as he then stepped out the door, heading towards the market. First order of buisness was Arcadia's cauldron, in which he'd see if Arcadia had anything for burn injuries, even if it's minor.

"Better get everything set up quickly. The sooner we get the client past the border, the better." Cronic thought to himself, as he began browsing Arcadia's wares.
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There was another knock on the door a few minutes after Cronic left for Arcadia's Cauldron. Despite having one job to deal with, quite a risky one at that, what's to say they couldn't take on another request for later? Aria slid her chair to one side and strolled over to the door, but she stopped as she heard not-so-friendly noises. Focusing for a moment, she noticed the sound of lightning sparks surging up and a sword being carefully unsheathed. This was clearly no customer...! "Go upstairs, Mr. Client. We have some unwelcome visitors," Aria quietly told the man, who panicked and ran for the upstairs rooms muttering something about being found so easily.

"For the true Dragonborn!" A sinister voice rang outside. Aria narrowly dived behind her desk as she felt a surge of power outside the door. A Thu'um was cast... There was only a single, weak 'Fus', meaning that the apparent shouting bastard wasn't very versed in the Dragons tongue. Still, it was enough to blow the door off it's hinges. As the dust settled the three cultists ran inside, only to find the Odd Jobs' boss sat on the desk twirling her katana around like it was a damn toy! Bone masks, robes, magic users. Yep, these were the guys!

"...You're gonna pay for that with gold or steel, but either way, you don't just get to barge in here. What's it gonna be? Pay up cash or push up daisies," Aria made her offer. The three cultists obviously didn't like this cocky kid from the moment she opened her mouth. She was in the way. Their witness was in this building, they just had to find him... And that meant going straight through the stupid brat who openly challenged them.
Whiterun's streets fell very quiet all of a sudden, with the exception being the one-word Thu'um outside the Odd Jobs shop. Everyone outside at the time of the cultists' entrance to the city was paralysed by magic. Those inside couldn't exactly witness what was going on, but they could probably hear it all happening.

"Aren't we supposed to do this quietly? Sorjal already used a shout!" A muffled voice came from outside Arcadia's. "Well then let's just do this quickly instead. The magic will wear off soon. Remember, everyone in here dies - no loose ends." With that, the door burst open, with two cultists charging inside... They knew Cronic was here, and they were going to kill him and the shopkeeper so she wouldn't become a witness also.
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At the time the two cultists burst in, Cronic's coat was set aside onto a chair, the vest he was wearing underneath in plain view, and he'd only just applied the potion that would treat the burn onto his arm. Unluckily for them, Cronic had managed to somehow hear them, The Thu'um having caught his attention, and the tell tale sign of magic flaring up in his hands, since he left his sword back at Odd Jobs.

"Bone Masks, Robes. Arcadia, take cover behind the counter." Cronic said, as he looked at the cultists, having a shock based spell ready to be cast in his right hand, and a ward on standby in the other. Not wasting any time, Cronic unleashed a burst of lightning at the cultist closest to him, which would quickly arc to his companion, and likely catch both off guard. Not stopping to pick up his coat while the two cultists were reeling from the spell, he threw up his ward to block any spells they might throw at him, and charged towards them, slamming his shoulder into the closest cultists and knocking them outside once he'd closed the gap.

"Can't even treat a burn wound without someone trying to kill me. You picked the wrong person to piss off." Cronic said, the electricity in his right hand being promptly replaced by fire, and his face reflected his mood; Extremely annoyed.
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With a thundering crash, a body was launched out of the Odd Jobs shop and onto the cobbled street, a cultist with blood pouring from ...well, everywhere! The other two ran outside, bound Daedric blades in hand - they weren't stupid enough to keep discounting the kid's speed after the first one-hit-kill, and opted to use melee weapons to defend what wards simply couldn't. They didn't waver in the slightest. Commendable, but they had no idea who they were messing with...

Aria slowly stepped outside, tapping the ground with the tip of her katana. She lacked any real expression, mainly due to the fact that her opponents' faces were masked. She wondered if they were shitting it or genuinely standing their ground. Probably the latter; they were so damn zealous. "Can you two do yourselves a favour and spill everything before you leave Whiterun forever? It's bad for business if there's three dead morons bleeding all over the street outside my door. Oh, you still need to pay for that door, too."

"You pathetic runt... You will fall before the loyal servants of the true Dragonborn, and so will your friend and that witness you have!" The larger of the two snapped as he built up a fire bolt in one hand. Before he could make another move, Aria closed the gap between them, swiftly and powerfully taking his arm off at the elbow. The larger cultist fell and screamed as the deceptively strong young lady kicked into the open wound.

"You already smashed the door, you freaks! You burn my shop down and I'll rip through those masks and burn your eyeballs out!" Aria growled sadistically. The second cultist made a clumsy swing for her neck, but she was behind him before he'd even finished his swipe. Everything was still for a moment, until the man's robes began to turn red. The cultist fell forward, and Aria quite calmly began walking up the street toward Arcadia's Cauldron, the tip of her blade occasionally dropping a droplet of blood onto the clean cobbles. "And you, with the missing arm? Move an inch and I'll make sure you die slowly. Kay~?" she chanted as she left the injured man's sight.

"Cronic, you alive?" Aria called up the street.
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Aria would find herself met with the sound of someone's bones breaking, followed by a very loud scream. When she came to investigate, she'd notice one of the cultists had been burned beyond recognition, and the other was face down on the ground with Cronic stood firmly on the back of his right leg with one foot, having stamped on it so hard it broke the bone.

"Now, you gonna tell me who you work for or am I going to have to start breaking other bones?" Cronic said, keeping his eyes fixed on the cultist in case the crippled idiot tried anything, clearly not in a good mood.

"Avoid giving me bullshit and maybe I'll kill you quickly." Cronic said, flames in both hands now.
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"Worried for nothin'. These guys aren't exactly what I'd call an elite cult... More like a bunch of gutter scum who look the part of powerful people," Aria said as she sheathed her blade, slowly approaching the downed cultist. She'd crouch in front of him and pry the mask off, throwing it to one side to reveal a pained, young Dunmer face. "You better start talking, pal' - otherwise Mr. Crystalis here is going to break your spine next."

"Solstheim! Miraak doesn't want any witnesses to his doings! Please don't kill me, I'll do anything!" The cultist grovelled as he struggled to try and get free. Aria tilted her head and poked at the Dunmer's face playfully. He gave her a puzzled look, until she spoke again.

"Go on..."

"M-Miraak is.. is the one true Dragonborn! We were commanded by our Lord to find and eliminate the pretender, but he escaped... We took his companion alive... And the witness... We had to kill him! We should kill you too...!" The cultist explained, his mood shifting constantly between fear and zeal. He finally settled on fear as he met Aria's eyes, and gulped. "But... I'm willing to... to back down. I can forget all about this, I'll.. I'll go and live my life as I should... Please, if you just give me a chance!"

Aria looked boredly up at Cronic and shrugged at the cultist's pleas for mercy. Honestly, she didn't care either way. She valued life more than anything else, but at the same time this stupid bastard decided to join some ridiculously cliché evil cult - he was willing to kill other people without question. A pathetic resolve... "Well, whatever. He's all yours, big guy." she said before standing and beginning to walk back towards the shop.
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"...And you, good sir, are a moron. You were willing to kill people in cold blood who had nothing to do with this "Miraak" character. I can't let that go unchecked. But I ain't gonna let you leave here either. GUARDS!" Cronic shouted out as he waited for Whiterun's Guards to arrive. When they finally did, Cronic picked up the Dunmer and passed him to one of the guards.

"Toss this sorry waste of skin into the Dungeons. Attempted murder ought to suffice. And spread word to the rest of the guard; Anyone matching this guy's appearance should not be allowed into Whiterun at all." Cronic said, handing the Cultist's mask to another guard, then walked down to the odd jobs shop, the magic flames on his hands having extinguished when he shouted for the guards.

"This "Miraak" just warranted my foot up his ass."
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People all over Whiterun began to wake up now, the paralyzing spell having worn off a short time ago. They returned to daily business as if nothing had happened, aside from the fact that they all just woke up on the floor or leaned against the nearest wall. The Guards would haul the cultist off to the dungeons of Dragonsreach, and that would be that. Oh, and the bodies would no doubt get cleaned up by, ...well, whoever does that around Whiterun.
As Cronic entered the Odd Jobs shop, the witness could be seen with a pleasantly surprised smile, shaking Aria by the hand when he heard his pursuers all bit the dust outside. Save for one, actually, but prison might change the Dunmer cultist's ideas on how to best spend his life for the better. It's not like this cult was defeated or anything, but there must've been some incredible relief at hearing the people who'd been stalking him since Windhelm were no longer a threat. He felt safe, and was visibly content now.

"Hey, all in a day's work. I think it's safe to say we should get you to Bruma ASAP, though." Aria calmly replied to him, glancing back at Cronic with a small grin. "I love travelling in the countryside - so beautiful and ridiculously dangerous, right?"
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"I underestimated the tenacity of these cultists. Willing to attempt to kill their assigned target along with me and Aria in the midst of a city. Seems we'll have to make do with what we got." Cronic said, going upstairs to grab his sword and making a quick trip to and from Arcadia's Cauldron to A: Retrieve his Coat, and B: Grab a few healing potions.

With his gear retrieved and his sword at his side now. Cronic stopped in front of the Odd Jobs store to look at Aria and their client.

"Make any last minute preparations you can, and meet me at the Stables. Time is money afterall, and we need plenty of both." Cronic said, going inside to grab his massive bow, not wanting to leave it behind since the door got blasted off it's hinges, and made his way to the stables, having the bow slung diagonally across his chest and back, yet was carrying it like it was weightless.

"Not gonna have time to get Horses set up just in case there's a second wave inbound, so we'll have to rely on the next best thing." Cronic said, as he approached the horse drawn carriage, and began arranging the journey with the Driver.
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