25th of Sun's Height, After dusk
Niernen had tried to go back to bed after the performance review but her exhaustion seemed to have made place for anxiety and stress. She hadn't seen her brother after he had stormed out of her room, too afraid to follow him, and the uncertainty of what he was up to kept gnawing at her like a hungry skeever. She gave up on sleep eventually and crept back down into the common room -- which was still full of people, including boisterous mercenaries spending their pay frivolously -- and sat down in a quiet corner with a strong drink. The stuff was disgusting but the Dunmer would make do. She put her broken leg up on a chair, inspected the wooden splint and, satisfied it was holding up, leaned back and closed her eyes. The splint had reminded her of Valen, as he'd been the one to apply it to her leg. Once again his horrifying death replayed itself in her mind's eye and the look of sheer terror as the Kamal dragged him to the depths seemed to burn in her thoughts.
It was then that Niernen was approached by a Bosmer. The Dunmer looked up (though not very far, considering Wylendriel's short stature) at her and frowned. She seemed massively out of place; a tiny, timid creature, swathed in a priest's robes and exuding an aura of innocence, though Niernen couldn't help but detect the tiniest hint of veiled disapproval. The Bosmer seemed aware she was out of her element, at least.
"Who are you?" Niernen asked bluntly, a slight slur to her pronunciation. The mug of liquor was nearly empty.
"My name is Wylendriel Greensky. I'm a priestess of Kynareth." She answered candidly. The mercenary's disposition is about what the priestess had expected, so as long as she behaved professionally, there shouldn't be any turbulence. She inspected the bandaging on the dunmer woman's leg with an appraising eye, but seemed relatively pleased. Whoever fixed her up seemed to know what they were doing. She looked back up to her and asked, "Are you Niernen Venim?"
Niernen's wariness evolved into full-blown paranoia as soon as Wylendriel's question left her mouth and the Dunmer sorceress' peculiar copper-colored eyes shot wide open. How did she know? Surely, a priestess of Kynareth wasn't part of the mercenary company, so who was she? An assassin sent by the Kamal? Niernen's already unhealthy head-space was further exacerbated by the alcohol and she resisted the urge to throw the Bosmer to the other side of the room with telekinesis. She settled for another question. "Why do you want to know?" Niernen asked in a low voice.
"Because a certain commander had asked me to heal her." Wylendriel commented pointedly. Considering Niernen's defensive tone, she took it as a sign that she found the right person. With a sigh, Wy fell down to her knees to closer inspect the bandaging, and as she began unwrapping the handiwork of the dunmer's previous nurse without even waiting for an answer (while ever-wary of her patient's current... combative disposition), she continued with a faint smile. "Fortunately for you, even if you're not Niernen, I am expected by my clergy to help the infirm."
"So Ashav put you up to this," Niernen mumbled. She initially flinched at the Bosmer's touch but decided that having her leg healed by a proper Restorationist was worth the risk. Besides, the rest of the inn would tear the wood elf apart if she tried anything. Niernen tried to relax and tossed the last of the mug's contents back with a grimace. "Very well. I am indeed Niernen. Pleased to meet you, sera," she said and managed to conjure a smile, if only briefly. "Are you... with the company?"
"Yes, my lady. The company and I go back as far as... say, five minutes ago." Wylendriel mused. As she unwound the last of the dried, bloodied bandages, she caught the splint as it fell and took a close look at the ugly bruising and scarring. It looked as though it was patched up slightly with some amateur restoration magic and treated decently with medicine. The scars left behind indicated that it used to be an awful break, and Wylendriel didn't think she wanted to guess what did it, because she thought she'd probably be right. Mind off of that, she layed her hands on the wound, preparing to react appropriately to her patient, and muttered a few inaudible words of prayer as a warm light soaked into Niernen's leg. The discoloration was visibly fading and the bones beneath could be felt fusing back together.
The sensation of her bones mending made Niernen's skin crawl and she shivered, but that was swiftly followed by a wave of relief after the pain faded away. She leaned forward and took a look at her leg. "Impressive," Niernen said and whistled appreciatively. "Thank you, Wylendriel, and welcome to the company. I apologize for my reaction. It's been a very, very long week." The Dunmer woman sank back in her chair and draped her arms slackly around the coarse wood.
"So I've heard." Wylendriel murmured uncomfortably as she drew her hands back.
"What drove you to sign up? And what is a Bosmer like you doing in Skyrim?" Blissfully unaware exactly how personal and prying her questions were, Niernen eyed Wylendriel with bemusement over the edge of her mug until she realized the latter was empty. Disappointed, she put it on a table next to her.
"Oh, you know..." Wy started, choosing her words carefully. She didn't want her goals to leak out prematurely. It was still far too early in her career to illicit enough trust in her that the company would let her embark on her own adventures. She thought back, and recalled her dear old friend who had died at the hands of the Thalmor. "The Dominion was a little upset that I didn't cozy up to them in the way they'd like, so I thought the best place to escape them is where the locals don't like us mer very much. As for the company, well... I figured I'd do right by my lady and the divines to travel the world they've made."
Had Wylendriel met Niernen just after the latter had left Blacklight for the second time to see more of the world, the Dunmer would have had no problem believing the Bosmer's naive explanation. Now, scarred and embittered by her experiences, Niernen raised her eyebrows and suppressed a scoff. "I'm not sure you've come to the right place," she said, and then shrugged. "That said, we can use someone like you. After every encounter with the Kamal half of us are broken in places we never even knew could break. And then there's the fatalities." Niernen rubbed her temples and sighed, prompting a thoughtful look from Wylendriel. "Not that you can provide much spiritual solace to a soldier when he's being dragged into the Sea of Ghosts by a thrice-damned Akaviri demon..." She continued, then trailed off and her eyes glazed over, once again lost in the gutwrenching memories of the naval battle.
While lost in her trance, Wy measured her up. Though she had no experience with the akaviri herself, the look on Niernen's face - that haunted look - it was enough to further cement the terrible stories she has heard thus far. She firmly pressed one of the dunmer's hands in her own in hopes of helping her snap out of her spacey condition while providing some form of comfort in the process. She didn't really know that much about the supposed "living gods" of Morrowind, but there was a universal language Wy knew she would understand. "I might not be a miracle worker," she admitted, "but I've never met anyone who was. All I can do is my best. That's all we can expect from anyone."
The priestess turned her head, facing no one in particular, and was now appearing lost in her own thoughts herself and continued. "If I were there, I may have not been able to help those men and women... but what I could do is use their loss to strengthen my resolve, and maybe I could find comfort in their passing. Whether it's Aetherius, Sovngarde... or returning to nature and the Earth Bones - they're at peace now. If your ancestors are watching, just do whatever you think they'd be proud of."
She stood up and pulled over an unused chair next to Niernen, even as packed the tavern was, since the person who used to be sitting in it was now standing atop the table and bellowing his lungs out. She gave the rest of the tavern a once-over: it was full of mostly drunken revelry; some were sobbing, but they were held by either loved ones or even complete strangers. Regardless, they weren't alone. There was a grand scheme in all of mortality that the temple had taught her to appreciate, and finally, she looked back at Niernen with a smile. "The world's not all bad... but even these drunken louts need a hero. The fact that you've stepped up to the challenge says more about your character than you might realize."
It took a while for Niernen to respond. She was a little taken aback when Wylendriel took her hand and sat down next to her, but she decided to let the situation play out as it happened. The words of the Bosmer priestess reminded her of similar sentiments previously expressed by Leif and Do'Karth -- that she was somehow noble or heroic for her actions so far. It still felt wrong to think of herself that way. Could her stand against the Kamal wash away the blood of all those dead Argonians that stained her hands?
"Oh, my ancestors would be furious with me, I'm sure," she said eventually, averting the topic of her own heroism. "Risking life and limb for these outlanders? My own brother is very upset with me and he's alive and here in Dawnstar right now. Archmaster Bolvyn Venim, Reclamations rest his soul, would be even less understanding. And the Nerevarine has declared me a traitor to my own people."
Wylendriel hummed to herself in a way that sounded of intrigue, but mostly is was just a self-reflection of her own awkward trip. Her ignorance of dunmeri culture was beginning to show. She finally sighed and opted to resign herself to humility. An itch inside of her felt inflamed in doing so.
"I won't pretend I understand your culture," Wy said, "and perhaps I don't know as much as I should, given my station... but there's a scale larger than the politics on Nirn. In the grand scheme, we're all flesh and blood. If you believe you're trying to do the right thing..."
Wy closed her eyes for a moment and withdrew her hands, as though lost in memories, but quickly recomposed herself and exhaled sharply.
"Running away from home was one of the hardest things I've ever done." She blurted out. "It's also one of the best things I've ever done. The Thalmor were awful to my people. It's natural to doubt yourself, Niernen, but don't second guess what you know is moral."
Niernen's esteem of the Bosmeri priestess rose when she mentioned her own escape from home again. Perhaps the two of them weren't so different after all. Leaving home to prove her worth had been the hardest thing Niernen had ever done too, and now they were both in a situation in which they firmly disagreed with the rulers of their ancestral homelands.
"You're right," she said, though conflict was etched on her face. "I don't want to doubt myself. It's... hard not to, though, when my brother so strongly feels the opposite. I have always respected his opinion. He's older and more experienced," she continued, initially with deference, "and I'm sure he thinks he's wiser -- b'vek, what am I saying? He's a fetcher. Or at least he's being one right now." Niernen laughed mirthlessly and buried her face in her hands. Wy just smiled, resting her chin in her hand.
"Sorry, sera," her voice came through her fingers, muffled. "These Nord drinks loosen my tongue too much. I don't mean to bore you."
"Don't be sorry," Wy chirped, "you're hardly boring. We're quite alike, I think. I come from a family of spinners. They're... highly respected in Valenwood for their insight and wisdom - priests of Y'ffre. My faith in Kynareth in addition to the Storyteller was, ah... unpopular."
The priestess pulled out the long, skinny feather she in her braid. It looked as though it had come from an argonian. As she gently stroked the vane of the plume she spoke softly as though in thought. "The thing about wisdom is that it comes from living, and no two lives are the same. So you can't let another direct your life, even if they're supposedly wiser. Learn from them, but... nothing more."
Wy stuck the feather back into her hair, and looked warmly back at Niernen. "That was actually my first lesson in wisdom. I think it was my family's way of letting me know I was accepted."
"Hm." Niernen leaned back in her chair and stretched her arms out, wincing at the pain that flared up in her ribcage and wrist. "You may be some use to me as a priestess after all," she added, smiled, and yawned. "I think it's time for me to try going to sleep again. See you around, Wylendriel." And with that, the Dunmer woman got to her feet and excused herself to her room, hoping her slumber would be deep and dreamless.