Hidden 9 mos ago Post by Spoopy Scary
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Four of One Thousand Steps: New Allies
by @Hank and @Spoopy Scary

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.

"Sleep well."

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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Peik
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Sunrise, Sun's Height 26

Despite the preparations made for the briefing, the Steelhead deck was nonetheless busy with shipmates carrying around barrels, crates, lengths of rope, nails and rivets. A group of carpenters and shipmates were too busy fixing nails on planks and trying to fit in rivets into the brass plates of the ballista affixed upon the planks towards the front part of the deck, by the bowsprit, a precaution taken by the mercenary company in case of any further naval surprises, akin to the ships they had faced after Bthamz. With the ship having practically no list atop the calm waters of the port, the job was not very hard, although the main problem was making sure the operation of the machine did not interfere with the rigging, and constant swearing could be heard from the ever-disagreeing boatswain.

Of course, this was not the mercenaries' problem - it was the sailors'. The mercenaries themselves were too busy getting debriefed on the quarter deck. Ashav had ordered every single one of them to come to the ship fully prepared and finished with whatever they were doing ashore, and now here he was, glancing over each every one of them as a quick 'review', and to gather his thoughts, before the next mission. Ariane, Dumhuvud and Hargjorn stood beside them, while the ship captain, recently ‘promoted’ from first mate to the position thanks to the Thane's assassination, had leaned himself against the railing in front of the boat wheel. He did not seem all that enthused about the fact that all these non-sailors had taken his deck to prepare their briefing.

After visually confirming that every mercenary on the job roster was on deck, Ashav cleared his throat with a cough, and then began to speak.

''While most of you probably haven't had enjoyable experiences with ships recently, unfortunately this next mission of ours is going to be quite a trip. We're headed for Bleakrock Isle, which really doesn't offer much aside from being an excellent location for an outpost, from what I've understood. We have received intelligence that the Island has been overtaken by the Dunmer, who are using it as a base for their naval attacks, possibly where the ships that struck near Bthamz came from. I'm sure most of you would appreciate some vengeance for our losses.''

His gaze drifted over Niernen as he spoke those words - while he hadn't planned to refer especially to the loss of her friend, he found the coincidence convenient. She wasn't the most psychologically stalwart of the group, but it never hurt to fan the flames a just a little.

''Now, we expect their defenses to be strongest near the dock by the south, so the ship will have to make a detour and drop you folks by the northern coast of the island. You will have to make your way to the docks from there by land. Dumhuvud will lead you upon landing,'' he said, pointing at the Nord with a half extended arm.

He coughed and took a deep breath. Veterans of the Reach raid could tell that his voice carried less determination and strength, compared to back then. Every single one of them had been battered somewhat over time. Ashav's face was a bruised mess, and Dumhuvud had gotten a promotion from a dumb fuck to an ugly dumb fuck after his scarring; even Ariane seemed rather unkempt in comparison to her previous appearances, and the sight of the Dwemer staff in her hand, once Keegan's possession, could be said to debase her even further with less scholarly and noble elements such as 'loot'.

''Remember - this mission relies on the element of surprise. Stealth and swiftness is key, and you don't have much time to dawdle around. We've received information that there are about three outposts on the island, not counting the dock, so stick to the plan. Depending on how landing goes, you may have to lead a distraction attack on one of the three to overextend and weaken enemy presence. If you have any questions, I'm sure Dumhuvud will be glad to answer them.''

He threw his hand back dismissively after a moment. ''Dismissed. The ship will leave dock in a few minutes, best prepare your bunks.''

With that, the briefing was over.

Afternoon, Sun's Height 29
Sea of Ghosts

The trip to Bleakrock Isle had thankfully been rather uneventful, save the successful ballista testing and the brief moment of celebration that came after it launched its harpoon without problem. The seas were almost foreboding in their calm, and the skies had been mostly free of clouds. If one could forget the context, one could even enjoy the scenery of the Sea of Ghosts, the waves, the occasional whale sighting, and the horrifyingly human squeaks of curious belugas following the ship. Sadly, no narwhals had been sighted, but at the very least no corpses from Windhelm were mistaken for narwhals either, so for Sadri it wasn’t that bad.

There weren't many opportunities to pass the time on deck, although one crafty sailor had brought a couple of board and card games on board, and mercenaries could possibly try their chances against one other, or against the sailors. Trying to stay away from gambling and its possible misfortunes, Sadri spent most of his time letting Mora numb and feed off by his temple, chewing on a piece of leather to fight his sugar tooth urge, or practicing his tying skills as to not stay idle. The fact that he hadn't forgotten all of those quick knot techniques was somewhat of a relief.

He was not particularly happy with how things were going. On board, he had been staying away from the bottle, afraid of getting caught drunk in another boarding action, but so far this precaution had brought him nothing but longer lapses of awareness, which was most of the time an unfavorable thing for him. Not to mention Niernen's brother - considering his thoughts on loyalty, Sadri was not exactly unafraid of the mer changing his mind in the midst of a standoff and turn his wicked black blade on him instead. Even in a pitched, even battle, he was pretty sure that he did not have much of a chance against a well-trained and capable Redoran noble. The thought of such a possibility was not very elating. Perhaps it would do him well to keep some distance between him and the Redoran; an acquaintance getting backstabbed was bad, but not as bad as getting backstabbed himself.

On a more positive note, he wasn’t the only cripple in the group, not anymore. He hadn’t met the new arrival, in fact he hadn’t even spoken to her in any sense of the word, but he had noticed her arm still. A strange twist of fate, he thought, but it wasn’t like this line of work let you stay unscarred for long, although he wasn’t sure if the severity of the wound indicated to her prowess, or her lack of it. Then again, one could have, and some indeed had, the same doubts about him, and he’d proven them wrong. She could do the same. He decided to shake off the thought in a moment of empathy.

He found himself falling into contemplation again, and contemplation was a horrible thing. He untied the soft shackle in his hand and began work on a monkey's fist, while the ship listed from one side to another in a nauseating rhythm as it made its way atop the waves.

Night, Sun's Height 29
Bleakrock Isle

The calm boredom of the trip would reach an end upon the sighting of the isle by sunset of the third day. Fortunately for the ship, they had not been spotted, although admittedly they were at a distance that was reported to be completely out of range. The ship moved further with cover of foggy weather, with all the possible sources of light extinguished, and anything reflective covered with cloth - the captain did not want to lose his newly gained ship to an amateur mistake. The Steelhead eventually managed to lose sight of the port by moving more towards the port side, and before anyone could realize that they had been there, they had already begun circling around the isle.

While taking the scenic route and going around the island with the aid of a silent, soft gust and careful, silent movement on board, it was agreed to send the raiding party by boat to free the Steelhead of having the responsibility of anchoring and waiting for them, and to keep it safe from the risk of being caught anchored by possible patrols. Sadri, as always, was not very enthusiastic, nor optimistic, and thus had sat close to the stern of the boat as to avoid any projectiles that could greet their beach landing. Against his expectations, however, the night landing went without any fuss, and the boat disappeared again into the night as quickly as it had appeared to drop the party.

''Right, gather up!'' Dumhuvud spoke after the last mercenary landed, and then began his very own briefing. ''As the man said before we set off, we need to be quick and clean. Get it? Quick and clean. These knife-ear shits don't know that we're here, so if any of you pricks slip up, get caught and ruin that for me, I sure as Oblivion won't be lifting a damned hair to help you, and neither will anyone else. That's an order,'' he growled, eyes fixed on Sevine and Do'Karth towards the end of his sentence. He would not tolerate romantic heroics ruining everything in the midst of such a crucial mission.

''Beleth, tin can, you two lead the way,'' he blurted out in a scathing tone as he affixed his helmet atop his head and gestured at Sadri and Narzul. He didn't want the two to stay out of his sight, and plus, keeping them at the front meant that they were the most likely to take the brunt of any possible misfortune.

Sadri cursed his fate silently as he rolled his eyes over to Narzul and beckoned him along with a gesture of his eyebrows.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Chrononaut
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A Farewell to Facades - Sometime Before the Investigation.

Raelyn, in the dead of night, burst into Solveigs bedchambers. Her eyes were lost in shadow, and blood dripped from a split lip. She stood in the doorway, leaning against it as if in delirium.

She said through heavy, panting breaths, "I..." she coughed, spitting a globule of blood and saliva onto the floor. "I need your help."

The knife in Solveig's outstretched hand drooped a bit, seeing the threat of a cave troll gnashing and snarling at her was only Raelyn once the veil of her dreams had fallen away. The feeling of being tired still weighed heavy on her bones though, and it was for this reason that she frowned in annoyance, especially so as Raelyn got her bloody spittle near where she slept. "If you aren't being chased by bandits wanting to rape your corpse, then this is no emergency worthy of waking me."

She curled tighter under her blanket, waiting for Raelyn to inevitably continue speaking instead of respecting her right to sleep.

Raelyn stumbled forward, falling down onto the edge of Solveigs bed, "The Argonians, they robbed me. I managed to get away before they did the second part of your colorful statement, but I can't just..." she breathed in deep, "I can't let them get away with it. It's a sentimental item."

Solveig sat up on her arse, rubbing the sleep from her eyes before slowly getting up. Her knees and back popped and creaked in protest as she rolled her shoulders. Donning her mail and bear's head helm, and grasping up her seax, shield and spear, she stepped outside of her tent. A lungful of the cold, salty air did nothing to wake her. "Where are they?" She asked after the Argonians that she was going to maim or kill as if they were but dropped coin. "And what is it that they took that you just can't bear to forget and move on?"

Raelyn followed after hastily, cringing at the pain still flooding the back of her head, "My lute and a talisman given to me by my brother, Articus. They're currently in their off-site camp, if I had to guess." She added, quickly, "It sounds stupid when said out loud, but believe me, I need both back." She said, even more rapidly, "Look, I will do anything if you help me with this."

"And what favors could you possibly fulfill for me that would make risking my life worth it?" She said, although she remained walking towards the Argonian Camp, nonetheless.

"Your father." she said, with a firmness in her voice that was uncommon to her native flouncy tone, "I will find him for you."

Solveig stopped in her tracks, ceasing all movement down to her breathing. She turned around, revealing a face devoid of all humor. Through frowning lips came a dry and humorless lone bark of a laugh. "And how?" Her eyes narrowed to slits.

Raelyn deftly pulled back her left sleeve, revealing that in the inner lining was a a symbol of a diamond, with three spikes crossing an eye, over a red background. "I will send a letter to this organization. Within two days, maybe less if anyone is nearby, several agents of this organization will begin asking questions. These questions will lead to leads. The final and most important question will lead directly to your father. They will kill anything that gets between them and him. He will appear at your place of residence, be it at sea or land, haggard, but alive."

"You?" She took a step back, looking Raelyn head to toe and back again, "You? A spy?" She didn't expect her to be a spy, but wasn't that the point? The uncharacteristic firmness in Raelyn's voice told her there were no lies in her words. They were perhaps the truest she'd ever heard, it felt. "What..." She trailed off, weighing time in jail or death against seeing her father alive, or at all, "...What would you have me do to these Argonians?"

She re-adjusted her sleeves, thus hiding the symbol of the Penitus Oculatus."Whatever comes naturally. The important thing is that lute and that talisman are back in my hands." She cracked her knuckles, "Make sure I don't get stabbed in the back, if you will."

"A Shield-Sister is good for that." Solveig nodded. They came upon the Argonian Camp and Solveig stopped at its edges. Four of what she assumed were youths were huddled around a fire, drinking and rifling through purses and packs they'd no doubt stolen. Among that camp, among some other group of youths, were Raelyn's things. "You can ask them if you want. I'll be there to bleed them."

Raelyn nodded, mentally preparing a character in her mind. She imagined a woman, begging, pleading with the men who had robbed her. She considered the kinds of poses the woman might perform. What would she feel? Desperation. She slackened her shoulders and forced herself to cry a tear by thinking of her brother.

She approached the hooligans who had robbed her, timidly. She spoke in a soft voice, "Sirs." One of the Argonians shot up, glaring at Raelyn. "What do you want wench?"

Another piped in, "I think it's the one we robbed."

Raelyn started sobbing, "I've come back because...that lute and talisman were given to me by me grandfather." she said, adopting an extremely rural accent, "And they hold sentimental value to me. I came here to buy them back." She produced a pouch of coin, worth about 150 septims. "I begged about and dug into my bread fund, but..."

The closest Argonian snatched the pouch. He laughed, "Why, thanks for the coin miss. Why should we bother to give you your property?"

"Because, it'll be your head I'm wearing instead of this bear's." Solveig sauntered up, seemingly without a care and cast a glance across the gathering of lizards before her. She could see it in their eyes- or a lack of it. A lack of what she saw in Rorik Four-Faces, or Folki Pierce-Neck, as they stepped into the Circle with her. A will to see violence through to its ultimate end. "A fair exchange, ain't it? Coin for your things there."

The closest Argonian, apparently the lead by mob vote, hesitated, "I mean, I could..." another Argonian placed a hand on his shoulder and whispered something into his ear. "Right." the lead Argonian said. "Fuck it, take your things. They aren't worth shit anyways." he grabbed the lute and medallion from the fire and roughly chucked them to Raelyn, who by her credit acted like she was surprised by this action, barely catching them.

Raelyn said, "Thank you, I will pray to Stendarr of your fortunes!"

She hurried off, looking over her shoulder as if nervous, followed by Solveig. Solveig could not help but to look back at the Argonians watching them leave. An odd and worrying pull to turn back around was shaken from her mind as she sped up her pace to catch back up with Raelyn. "So, this letter..." She shook her head, "Will it work? How does it work?"

Raelyns turned back to the serious demeanor of someone who dealt with issues that concerned her country said, "I will contact my commander, who will ask every investigator under his command to look for your father. He will ask other commanders to ask their investigators to look for your father. Eventually, I hope, one investigator will confirm his location. Then, a group of Inspectors, also known as Spectres, will search the likely area for him. Alive or dead." She looked to Solveig, frowning, "I'm sure he will be fine. The Armigers haven't killed their prisoners."

"It is not the Armigers I am worried about." Her tongue flicked across the notch in her lip, a constant and everlasting reminder of what the Kamal had almost done to her. She shook her head, "The ways of spies are beyond me. I will leave the uncovering of my father's fate to you. It's out of my hands."

After a time, letting the sound of their footsteps and her breathing fill the silence between them, Solveig spoke up, "Who are you? What are you?" She asked, "The bumbling bard getting drunk in the tavern, the bloodied woman in those Dwemer ruins... She is nowhere to be found in the eyes of who I'm with now."

Raelyn laughed, heartily and sincerely, "I'm both not and all of those things. It is easier to act with some truth to yourself. I was sincerely panicked about dying in the dwemer ruins. I was actually drunk in the tavern and my opinions on Gordos music were true. I am an Imperial citizen, loyal to the end." She frowned, looking Solveig in the eyes, "I act...less directed, than I am. I know what I want. I want the Empire to succeed. I want to help its citizens, even going against the White-Gold Concordat. I sincerely appreciate your help in the Dwemer ruins. I..." she frowned, "I don't know even if what I'm doing now is enough. You saved me from death. For that, I will do anything."

Solveig could not help but to look inquisitively at the Imperial woman before her. It was as if the bumbling damsel had melted away and been replaced by whoever this was overnight. To be honest, she was almost a little disappointed in the revelation Raelyn was not all she seemed. "I'd no idea there was so much to you." She let out an amused huff through her nostrils, "But that is the point of a spy, I'd think."

Raelyn walked over and threw an arm over Solveigs shoulder, "You know, I've taken to it that the point of a spy is to pierce, through wit and patience; lies and concealment. Why, I've heard it said..."

"HEY." Doomfist, the massive 8 foot tall muscle orc shouted at the top of his lungs, towards the ceiling where he thought his Kamal captors were hiding. "LET ME OUT. I KNOW WHERE MEAT IS. I STASHED A WHOLE BOX OF MEAT UNDER A WILLOW TREE OUTSIDE OF WINDHELM."

Zelzibel, a diminutive Bosmer in rags somehow worse for wear than Doomfists shit encrusted trousers, frantically added a human tooth to the mixture of piss, shit, one of her whole fingernails, and the hair of a wolf she had been brewing in her bucket toilet. She grinned, stirring the mixture with a tightly woven straw stick she'd made out of her own bed. "This!" she shouted. "Will allow me to break the bonds of the cell with my bare hands! You laughed, said I was crazy! But you'll see! You'll all see when I crawl out of here, shivving Kamal as I go! I will be the new Captain and I will sell you to all to the Dunmer!"

A guard's metal tankard slammed against the barred window of Doomfist and Zel's cell, "Would you two shut the fuck up?" He said from behind the door, not showing his face lest he catch spit or shit, or piss in the eye like the last guard who decided to peek inside. "I've been posted here for the last six hours and have had to listen to you loud pieces of- shit!"

A scuffle was heard behind the door, with almost-childlike chuckles coming from a voice so deep it sounded disturbing. "Fuck! Fuck, shit, Gods! Gods! Guards! Guar-gurgh!"

The dreadful snapping of bones was heard with a wheezing. Then the guard's head appeared in the barred window of Zel and Doomfist's cell, before leaning back and seemingly slamming itself so hard into the bars it dented the metal with the sound of the wet cracking of Dunmer skull and a harsh, hacking, disturbed laugh. The eyes had bulged out of their sockets and the guard's jaw was slack in his mutilated face, tongue lolling about before the guard crumpled to the ground. The next thing to happen was for the sound of the door's locks disengaging and the door swinging open. A tower of a man almost comparable to Doomfist in heighth and breadth with a great red beard and tangled mess of crimson cascading from his head stood in the doorway.

He took a step forward, a smile almost as mad as Zel's upon his bleeding lips as he knelt in front of Doomfist, "Do they deem you dangerous, green-skin?"


Zel stopped prying the teeth out of a human skeleton in the cell to dive towards the dunmer Jorwen had so favorably dropped into their cell. She lifted it by the hair and used her other hand to tear out one eye, dropping it into her mixture bucket and then, after a moments thought, removed the other eye and added it to the mixture.

"S'pose I don't have to waste the breath asking you, 'uh?" Jorwen said, looking upon the rat-like woman squatting over a macabre task. He took in the orc one last time and nodded, "You'll do."

Doomfist's shackles fell away from his wrists before Zel's arms were yanked from her task by Jorwen's boulders called fists and her own binds were removed. "Get the hells up. We're killing our way out of here."

Zel quickly ran to the dead guard, grabbed his tankard, and dipped it into the horrible, ill-advised concoction she had made. She laughed madly, screaming incoherently in Bosmeris, then drank the mixture, drop for drop. For a moment, it seemed that her muscles were actually growing. This quickly changed however, when her muscles began rippling, blood pouring from her pores, then her eyes, then her mouth. Her hair grew longer, then, when the worse seemed to have ended, she fell to the floor, vomiting blood. A black gem rolled out of her sleeves, shortly pulsating a faint light.

Doomfist grimaced, "IS...IS SHE DEAD? FINALLY?"

"Of fucking course." Jorwen grimaced at Zel's lifeless body, "I free it and it kills itself."


Zels body twitched.

Doomfist jerked back, screaming, "COVER YOUR EYES, SHE ALWAYS GOES FOR THE EYES!"

Zels body twitched again. Then, a white light entered her eyes for a moment and she spasmed. Her skin seemed to regain color, as if blood was being made at a rapid pace in her body. Her eyes opened, slowly. Then she shot onto all fours, growling. He growled first at Jorwen, then at Doomfist who was currently covering his eyes with his gigantic lion paw hands. Then she whimpered when Jorwen gave her a terrible look.

Zel sniffed at the air, her upper lip curling and letting go a growl before she sat back on her haunches and sprang from the room and down the halls. Jorwen watched her go, running his fingers through his beard, "What in all the hells..."

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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Robeatics
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Robeatics Codename: Fupa

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Night, Sun's Height 25


The thin air of the mountains as it swooped down into the Reach carried with it a particular chill for the season. Eirik tucked her arms underneath her cloak, though kept her hood about her shoulders to better enjoy the sun’s warmth on her face. She didn’t know quite where she was going for a while; simply followed the path in front of her, staring at the scenery as it crawled by. She was never much of an outdoorswoman in her youth; a wasted opportunity, having grown up in Skyrim. At each fork in the road, she glanced up at the signs pointing in each direction and make a random decision. Wisely, she avoided roads to Solitude at all costs. She couldn’t bear to see what the Stormcloaks and Dragonborn might have done to her city, or what the new owners were doing to her childhood home.

She tried to put such thoughts out of her head, but her journey, with no real goal, felt endless. Having no one to talk to during her long marches left her adrift in a sea of her own meandering thoughts. She marveled at the vista of the soaring tundras opening into Whiterun’s holdings, and stopped in Rorikstead for the night. All across the tundra, she trudged silently alongside a caravan--a family of bards, it seemed. They played wonderful music on the way to Whiterun, but something about their faces seemed troubled. The times being what they were, Eirik didn’t pry, and simply enjoyed their company for as long as she could.

She didn’t stay in Whiterun for long, as she found herself drawn north. Rumors abound in the city, troubling stories of the fall of Windhelm, a strange army, an even stranger crew of ruffians in the center of it--Eirik was intrigued. She hadn’t tasted real combat since her...incident, and a servant of Stendarr without purpose was as good as a whetstone without a blade.

Summer had left the land patchy and green. As she climbed north, the green thinned, until it almost seemed like she’d caught the land on the single day it wasn’t snowing. Dawnstar seemed muddier and danker than usual in the summer, and the air was thick with the stench of the sea, which assaulted her sensitive nose in unique ways with every breeze. She skirted around the Beast camp and approached the edge of the town, waving down a waiting guard.

The said guard was recently part of shift change. Two sleep-starved men gave way to two light-starved individuals; a man and woman. Late night was nobody's favorite shift, especially since the arrival of the Argonian refugees. Even the most enthusiastic night owl couldn't help but feel dread to watch the mass of slinking scales marching to sleep. When a newcomer came around, the expression caused was a frown on the female guard's face. This rather attractive woman's face stuck out conspicuously in the light of torch, creating a stark contrast to the rough and tumble men around her.

Eirik said as she drew close, “Hello there! Mara, I’ve had quite the long trip. I’ve been waiting on a nice warm bed all day.”

Without even the time to don her helmet, the guard was thrust into conversation with the perky newcomer. "Uh yes, greetings." Besides her, the male guard filed by to ensure the no Argonians violated the curfew. She spat on the roadside, silently cursing her partner for leaving her alone with a figuratively handful of a visitor, and a literal handful of torch, sword and the unworn helmet.

"Welcome to Dawnstar, daughter of Skyrim. I'm afraid the inn may be at capacity tonight." Her words came out almost like grinding gears; automatic as Skald's captain drilled into every single new recruits. Thinking about the inn prompted an yawn of the guardswoman, and when she came back from stifling it, she found the traveler was still around. "Are you staring at me?"

Eirik’s eyes quickly flickered to a random other point in the darkness, innocently glancing about as she spoke. “Hm? Oh, no, no.” She laughed once. “I’m just not used to seeing a guard in Skyrim without that helmet.” She hoped her smile would be diversion enough from the fact that she was, indeed, staring at the woman’s face. She couldn’t really blame herself for lingering a little too long. After traveling for miles on sore legs, staring at nothing but dense wilderness and the blur of faces in one town after another...

She coughed once before her imagination could get the best of her. “You mentioned the inn rooms being full? Not a problem. Any Nord could sustain herself on mead and a roaring hearth alone.” She pressed her right hand somewhat theatrically against her breastplate, leaning in conspiratorially.

"Right, well, none of us guards are too eager to put on these head buckets." The guardswoman tapped the headgear in question. "It's poorly ventilated, poor sighted and contributed to many head bumps against doorways." She sighed, barely catching Eirik's eyes flickering off. "Also, it often requires two hands to properly fit..." She implied at the torch in hand.

"Anyways, I have no doubt that you can." The guardswoman snickered. "But I don't think it's wise to do so with that cough." She leaned back slightly, grinning and shaking her head at Eirik's display. "If you ask me, I'd try to get a tent and a cot from the mercenaries. They're across the harbor and recently returned with a few men short, so they probably have spare accommodations for rent." While they talked, the guardswoman's partner started arguing with Argonians in the distance. Her grin gradually soured, and looking back and forth between the distant Argonian camp and the visitor in front of her, she suddenly found the latter to be much more preferable.

"A bedroll and a hearth can get you by, but let me tell you, sleeping on the floors of Windpeak Inn is an invitation for unwelcome pests to crawl in with you. There's also the danger of nightmare cultists; I heard they snatch up those without a locked door." The guard's grin returned; she was enjoying spooking the newcomer. "Of course, I can give you a few local tips, if you buy me a mug of ale." She winked.

Eirik’s heart dropped for a moment, and her eyebrows drew together in concern. “Cultists?” Suddenly, she was back in that dank, dead swamp, hounded by insects, armor clinging to her skin--she saw those masked cultists looming above her where she lay, sleepless...Her eyes lost focus for the briefest of moments, but she blinked it away and feigned a lighthearted smirk of disbelief.

“Sounds like an interesting rumor. Looks like I’ll have to take you up on that ale.” She glanced up at the argument beyond their conversation and propped her hands up on her belt. “Well, you must have your hands full here. I’d best get to the mercenaries about that lodging before I earn you trouble from your captain for chatting on duty.” She attempted to slip past the guardswoman, lifting a hand in farewell.

Losing focus for a second time did not pass by the guardswoman, and as she was trained to look for patterns, she thought the newcomer must have been hazy from her journey. She let the armored woman slip by her, examining her as she walked through the torchlight and admiring her finely crafted circlet (among other things). "Ah yes, I believe there will be work that requires my presence." The newcomer's words elicited a sigh from the guardswoman. "However," she held up, "you can find me at the tavern in the morning, when my watch is over."

"And don't stress yourself over the cultists, eh?" She attempted to soothe the newcomer's concern. "Most of them cleared out a couple of years ago and the town is safe enough if you keeps your wits about you." Finally, she realized that she still haven't gotten this individual's name. For reporting purposes, and maybe personal ones, she ought to give it a try. "Nice meeting you, by the way. I'm Cyneburg." She dropped her shield on the roadside and jogged towards the departing figure for a handshake.

Eirik nodded slowly to herself at Cyneburg’s reassurances, then quickly turned and took the guard’s handshake between both hands, perhaps a habit picked up from the clergy. She smiled warmly. “Cyneburg! Nice to meet you. Call me Eirik. Don’t let that shift get to you, now; you’ve got a drink waiting in the morning.” She lifted her hand in farewell again, then turned her sights on that tent and cot.

As Eirik drew closer to the harbor, the stench only got worse. Her lip curled very subtly, nose wrinkling. The Solitude harbor couldn’t have smelled this bad. But perhaps she’d been away from Skyrim for too long, and such stink was a fact of life anywhere its people lived. A misstep had her boots sink into a puddle of what she prayed was mud, and she grunted distastefully all the way to the mercenary’s setup. She waved down the first rugged-looking person she spotted. “Pardon! Hello there. I’ve traveled quite a ways to…” She drew her side dagger and began scraping mud from her boots as she spoke. “...see this mercenary band I’ve heard so much of. Might I speak to your...captain?”

The rugged-looking person was a injured wood elf man. His expressions were crestfallen and much of his battered body were covered in bandages. He looked to Eirik with an empty daze and absentmindedly pointed her to the largest tent. "We're not much of a company now, and it won't be 'we' for me anymore" He dredged on packing up archery equipment. "The captain, Ashav, is just over" With that, he started hauling his bags for the last wagon out of town.

Eirik frowned at the man’s sorry state, but followed his direction regardless. She glanced about the camp, eyeing the other men and women with that similarly downtrodden expression. For a moment, she hesitated. Perhaps she’d found the wrong mercenaries, and the ones she’d heard stories about have moved on. Or perhaps the stories were entirely false, and any mercenaries involved just happened to be remembered. Either way, she hadn’t trudged through mud for a full day off her course just to turn away in her doubt. She approached the larger tent slowly, steeling herself for whatever conversation she might have.

Inside the command tent, Ashav had just concluded meetings with Khazki and Wylendriel, and was exhausted beyond relief. His effort to find comfort in the bottom of a bottle had failed when he poured half of the alcoholic content onto fresh scars Wylendriel had just closed. Burning sensations pierced the incompletely healed scar tissues; it was not pain in the pure physical sense, but the combination of his humiliating fumbling and the overwhelming stress drove Ashav into a fury. He began roaring, cursing, throwing objects around and smashing everything he set his sight upon. In his incoherent state of enragement, the Redguard didn't seem to notice anyone coming his way.

Eirik jolted at the sounds of mayhem in the mercenary leader’s tent, and stopped dead in her tracks. Her nose scrunched at the scent of strong alcohol, and she carefully stepped over a sprinkle of broken glass on her way inside. She drew the tent flap aside and peeked in. Seeing the Redguard man in such a fury, she stepped forward through the flap and held up a hand. “Woah man! Hold your peace!” The chaos erupting from the man infected her with a strange sense of humor. She chuckled nervously. “If I knew my arrival would throw you into a frenzy, I’d have gone to Winterhold.” She removed her antlered circlet and smoothed her hair back in one easy motion.

Ashav froze abruptly. "What do you want?" He demanded.

“You’re the leader of those mercenaries I’ve heard of, correct? The ones involved in Windhelm, the invasions and such? I am Eirik Eiriksdóttir, servant of the Divines. I’ve come from Whiterun to see if the rumors are true.” She tapped her right hand against her breastplate. “It may seem odd that someone like me would be interested in joining a mercenary outfit, but these are strange times.” Her eyes studied Ashav’s face carefully.

Ashav slumped down onto his chair. He buried his face in his hands for a few seconds, and when he came out to look at Eirik again, he was no lighter shade of red. He sighed, embarrassed at being seen in such an incoherent manner and annoyed at the unending train of business to deal with. "Yeah, rumors, whatever; I already had one 'servant of the Divines' earlier." The Redguard slurred. He didn't even bother to return Eirik's look. Instead, Ashav stared up at the tent roof and shook his head. "I don't have time for 'Lord and savior' and 'holier than thou'; get out of my sight." He slapped one hand down on his table harder than he meant to, while the other pointed to the woman and then the exit.

Eirik's brow furrowed, ego wounded more than she would've liked. She put on her negotiator's tone and shrugged aside his pointing. "Perhaps I've introduced myself too formally. I'm no preacher here to lecture your men. Frankly, I would spend hours lecturing myself before anyone." She gestured behind her, to the camp beyond. "Swathes of my country are being overrun. Through the rumors I've heard, your outfit involves itself in nearly every major battle and crisis related to this chaos. That must amount to many casualties. If you're so ready to turn me away in exchange for the next farm boy with a stick who wanders in here, perhaps the rumors were false."

"Rumors? Rumors?" Ashav slurred angrily. "Forget everything you've heard, because the real 'major battles and crises' are ten times worse than what you can imagine. Er..." A belch broke Ashav's words, but it helped him to finally focus the woman talking to him. "You don't look like someone who needs to risks herself to fight the horror we fight. Seriously, you have no idea what you are signing up for."

"Let me tell you, the snow demons.." Ashav's face froze as if some invisible demon suddenly seized from behind. He grabbed for his trusty beer mug, but reluctantly pushed it away. "Damn it," he threw up his hands, "you want to be the heroine, eh? Jarl Skald's got plenty of jobs for your type, hell, he may even let you sail on that ship."

"Please go spend the next lots of hours lecturing yourself." Ashav leaned back as far as he could in his chair, aware how much his own breath stank of alcohol. However, he made no attempt to hide longing glances at where his mead reserves were. "Can you leave me alone now?"

Eirik’s eyes betrayed the indignance that boiled in her belly. Unable to help herself, she retorted, “You have no idea what horrors I’ve fought.” Her face refused to mirror Ashav’s own, though memories flooded to her mind’s surface like a breaching sea-beast...The temptation rose to continue from there, but she knew it’d be fruitless and silly to argue with him any further. She considered the ship in the harbor. Gaining passage would be a world better than loitering in the inn, waiting for the next invasion.

She gathered herself quickly, giving a dignified sniff. “You make your priorities clear, then.” While she wasn’t willing to fight him any more, she made a show of whipping about-face, sending her cloak flaring dramatically in her wake. She curtly donned her circlet and shrugged aside the tent flaps, expression soured but determined. To the Jarl she goes.

"We all fight our own horrors." Mumbled Ashav. He watched Eirik leave with a determined swagger and slumped down to the scratching embrace of the old wooden table. He remembered himself being just like her decades ago; feeling invincible, always fighting the right fight and self-pitying over every scratch big and small. Some may scoff at this state of "innocence", but Ashav had came to miss the youthful idealism and the excitement of baptism by fire like the first stroke of blood red paint splashing upon a clean canvas. That part of him was sadly beyond reach, and Eirik was fortunately too. However, his old friend, the mugful of ale, never left his side on a trying night like this. So he went to sleep clinging to the amnesia of alcohol, escaping to Vaermina's realm for a few scarce hours.

She, again, made her trudging journey down the street to the longhouse. She found an interesting dichotomy between methods of dirtying her armor: on the wet side of the street lurked inches of mud, and on the dry side, clouds of dust kicked up by passersby. She made it to the longhouse with a duller shine to her plate, and approached the guard stationed there. “Hail. I hear the Jarl has work. May I speak with the steward?”

"The court is closed." The guard grunted. "Please see the job board instead." What he referred to was a wooden board besides the longhouse entrance, where hiring notices range from "refugee camp cleaning" to "frontier garrison volunteers". One particular paper was the crew signup for the Steelhead, a war vessel belonging to Thane Alberich. On the night of 25th, one day away from sailing, one more person would be needed for ship security. This final crew member would be required to provide combat competence and their own equipment to do so. In exchange, payment inferior to similar positions in Solitude of Windhelm would be provided on top of food and accommodation. Orange torch lights dimly revealed that conditions and interviews have been replaced with "urgently required; sign and come to dock tomorrow".

Eirik grimaced at the sign. She certainly fit the bill for the security position, though the pay and clear desperation left something to be desired. She signed the paper nonetheless, and turned to survey the ship she would be boarding. Backlit by the shroud of the ocean’s horizon beyond, it loomed over the fishing dinghies neighboring it. Something about docked ships seemed ominous to Eirik. She recalled watching trade ships come and go through Solitude’s harbor from all corners of Tamriel, though never was allowed to go to the docks herself. She didn’t stand staring for long, as a gust of horribly dusty wind ushered her towards the tavern.

With the inn being full, she supposed she really wasn’t getting any rest tonight. But her aching limbs from her day of travel could at least be appeased by a few pints. Her mind drifted back to Cyneburg as she sat and drank, and she irritably willed the night to pass more quickly.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by MacabreFox
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MacabreFox Master of Poor Life Decisions

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A Steelhead for a Hard Head

Early morning of the 26th of Sun’s Height

    Black faded from his vision as each eye opened one-by-one. The wooden rafters greeted him as he came to realization what had happened the prior night. After promising his word to Solveig that he would help her find her father, dead or alive, he returned to Windpeak Inn. Once inside, he purchased a room for the night. Exhausted still from the fight with Do’Karth despite Niernen’s healing powers, he crawled into bed with no desire to engage in drinking. Sleep took him quickly, until the sound of Dough-Boy’s voice woke him. He staggered from the warmth of his bed, his words barely registering in his head as he jammed his feet into the worn leather boots.
    “Awaken! Awaken! Emergency meeting!”
    Much to his dismay the emergency meeting actually held a degree of… well, emergency. As Ashav explained, there were a series of murders in Dawnstar that raised the attention of both the locals and the Jarl. And to boot, the blame fell on Daixanos and Tsleeixth. Even though it was the dead of the night, and Leif had just woken from a deep sleep, he could still comprehend the severity of the situation. Not to mention he knew, he knew, that Tsleeixth wouldn’t dare do such a thing. After all, why would he murder the Paxseech? That especially made little sense, even for Dax. Why would the Argonians kill someone they respected? Sure, there were always outliers, but that seemed odd even for an Argonian. This… these blatant string of murders held little when it came to logic. The captain of the Steelhead, Vurwe, and Gordo, and Almad were also murdered. He hadn’t met the woman nor her bodyguard, but he vaguely recalled Almad, a rather striking Redguard, who served Dibella with a passion.
    His attention focused on the makeshift tail as an iron-clad Khajiiti woman, who he had yet to exchange proper introductions, sniffed the object. From her observations, she could not distinguish any particular scent asides from the smell of well treated leather. However, the meaning of this was lost on him at this time of night.
    Under Ashav’s direct orders, he, and several others were charged with the task of conducting an independent investigation. This would allow the company to find the true murderer, and clear both Tsleeixth and Daixanos from judgement. Leif returned to his quarters for the remainder of the early morning hours. Though he was tired, sleep did not come so readily this second time around.
    Resting on his back, his eyes inspected the intricate grain of the rafters above his bed. He pondered for a while, on the matter of the murders. ‘This series of unfortunate events cannot all be the source of spontaneity… These people either have a connection that I have yet to understand, nor cannot see, or the murderer is using these murders for something far more sinister.’ Truly, his own thoughts unsettled him, yet with the heavy weight of sleep pressing down on him, Leif succumbed to familiar touch of sleep.
    He woke this time, to the sound of a loud commotion in the hall. At first,  his mind darted to the siege of Windhelm. ’Kamals?’, he wondered in a daze of fading slumber.
Leif sprang from his bed, he tugged on his clothes in record speed. Orvar would be proud, and perhaps liken his spryness to the time he fell asleep in the barn of an unfortunate milkmaid he bedded. He skipped washing the sleep from his face, and half-fell half-scrambled for the door. The door flew open to reveal a scene organized chaos. He saw sailors, and mercenaries alike from the company bustling about. Many shouldered rucksacks with weapons sheathed.
‘Bless you Talos… He breathed a sigh of relief as he realized that the commotion was not the source of a Kamal invasion. No, these were the members readying for the mission to Bleakrock. His mind wandered to Niernen, would she be one of the many to go on the voyage? He settled for keeping an eye out for her in the least, and avoiding Sevine or Do’Karth for the day. He could imagine how much of a spitting viper the Huntress would be after the fight. Leif returned to his room, and gathered his belongings, pausing to wash his face before returning to the hall.
For the voyage ahead armor needed mending, blades sharpened, supplies replenished, and farewells to be said. He spotted many a familiar face, but kept to himself as the shame of the duel with Do’Karth hung heavily on him like an ominous black cloud. Already, whispers of the duel had circulated within the company, and amongst the citizens of Dawnstar. A Nord defeated by a Khajiit, what a sorry sight to behold. He snatched up an apple from a plate on the long table, and set out for the docks. While he could inquire after other people, he decided that speaking with like-minded people would yield the best results. So, he left Windpeak, and headed towards the Steelhead.
    Seated on the edge of the dock where the Steelhead sat moored, Leif watched the bustling activity aboard the ship. For this mission, the Steelhead would be put to use. Under his scrutinizing eye, he could see why the ship was selected. In comparison to the Kyne’s Tear, it was slightly bigger in size, but more importantly, better armored. After the last encounter with the Kamals on the water, possessing an adequately armored ship could end up saving lives.
    For over an hour, he watched the crew hustle and bustle aboard deck as he bit lazily into the apple. Once he reached the core, he chucked it into the waters below.
“Tell me you’re not a sailor aboard the Steelhead.” A peculiar voice caught his attention, the owner sounded female, though by the connotation of their words, they didn’t sound particularly happy. His head twisted over his shoulder to see a stocky Nord woman in leather armor, her hands were planted upon her hips while a long blonde plait fell over one shoulder. Her mouth formed a hard, thin line. She didn’t seem to pleased on seeing him.
“What’s it to you?” Leif asked, if he wanted information, he didn’t want to scare anyone away.
“Because if you are, then I’ve got half the mind to put a boot to your backside and send you into the water.”
“In that case, no ma’am,” He scrambled to his feet, and extended a hand for her to shake, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Call me Laila.” The blonde said, a grin splitting her face as she accepted the hand.
“Laila it is. I’m Leif. Are you a sailor onboard?” He gestured to the ship behind him.
“Aye. We’re making ready to leave for Bleakrock. You’re one of the mercenaries, eh?”
“I am. Though I won’t be going on this voyage.”
“What a shame. You look like you know your way around a ship.” Laila added with a shrug of her shoulders.
“I know my way around more than just a ship.” He said, a sly smirk spreading across his face.
“Come again?” She growled, and brought one hand up into a curled fist.
“I didn’t mean you any harm, I’ve just got a funny way of going about my words. Can I come aboard with you?” At his request, Laila regarded him with suspicion, her eyes narrowed as if she would unveil something about him she had not seen before. Satisfied that she had not, the Nord let out a gruff sigh.
“As long as you put yourself to work, I don’t mind. It’s Torbin you’ve got to watch out for, he doesn’t take too kindly to lolly-gaggin’.”
“And who exactly is Torbin?” Leif asked, now trailing behind Laila as she headed up the gangplank.
“He’s our new captain. Used to be the first mate until… until Alberich met his end. Alberich was a good captain, he was fair, and knew these waters like the back of his hand.”
“Wasn’t Alberich the Thane of Dawnstar?” Leif asked, keeping pace with her as she headed below deck.
“Aye.” She grunted, and then pointed to a congregation of barrels. “We’re to make room for the extra persons we’re to take on. Help me roll these above deck.” As she ordered him what to do, Leif watched in awe as she hefted one barrel up the stairs as if it were a sack of flower.
    When he made his way above deck, sweat already beading on his brow from the physical labor, he spotted Laila standing where three other barrels awaited. Standing alongside her was a grey-haired Nord, a man who reminded him of Atgeir. He had a thinning crown of peppered hair, and a beard riddled with wooden beads.
“Put it right here, we’ll rope them together and box them in to prevent them from rolling about the deck.” She said with a pointed finger.
    Rolling it into place was certainly easier than rolling it up the stairs. When he did as asked, Leif dusted his hands, and focused his attention on the older Nord. “A pleasure to meet you.” He said, reaching out his hand to shake. “The name’s Leif.”
“Likewise, Aarne Oak-shield.” The seasoned sailor cracked a toothy grin, wherein several teeth were missing. A repulsive odor clung to his words as he spoke causing Leif’s stomach to turn in protest.
“Say… you wouldn’t happen to be a Shield-Brother from the war now, would you?”
“I was. I’m proud to have served my country and my kinsmen. I wasn’t going to let us be crushed under the heel of the Thalmor.”
“Nor I, I didn’t have a problem with the Empire until they turned on their backsides like a bunch of lily-livered cod. That’s when I had enough.” Laila piped up, now that he had the chance to stand closer to her, he could see that she was older than, perhaps by five or seven years. Her eyes held deep lines that creased every time she smiled or squinted.
“I take it many of the sailors aboard served in the war?” Leif asked, nodding his head in agreement to their statements.
“Aye. You’re a Nord, you know how it goes.” Aarne said, and clapped him on the shoulder. “I believe there’s more barrels to be moved.” It seemed he wouldn’t get much information out of these weathered sailors.
    Over the course of two hours, Leif helped prepare the Steelhead for departure. He didn’t mind in the least, after all, his ulterior motives were more benign. If he could get the crew to think less of his appearance, the better.
    He found an opening to address two sailors who were arranging beds and hammocks to accommodate the mercenaries. Laila and Aarne had both gone their separate ways, and had provided little information on the events that had unfolded the past few days. Their interests were focused on preparations, not wagging tongues.
    By his experience from nearly a decade spent sailing, he could tell the two sailors were still green around the ears.. One had accomplished in growing a full beard, while the other sported a patchy growth of brown hair on his chin. He joined them without a word, and began tethering the hammocks.
“I don’t give a hoot what you think, Markus, I’m just tellin’ ya how it is. I’m sick, and I’m tired o’ being pushed around like I’m nothin’ more than a piece o’ shite. Cap’n Torbin’s not experienced enough to be leading us. And if you ask me, I can tell you right quick that something’s not right.” This was the second time Leif had heard of sailors aboard the Steelhead speak ill of their newly appointed captain.
“O’ don’t be daft now, you clog-head. Rorin, when did you ever see Torbin speak ill o’ Alberich? Huh? Tell me, now.”
“Well, I ain’t ever heard him speak bad of Alby, but I’ve damned well seen the looks he’s given him. Like he just ate a bowl o’ sour porridge.” This caught Leif’s attention, he tried to hide his surprise and kept his back to them as he worked slowly on securing the rope for the hammock.
“And these cut in wages ain’t gonna cut it. Sure, three septims less ain’t much, but it’s my three septims.”
“Three septims less you can spend on ale, eh?” At that, they both chuckled. “Well you don’t hear me complainin’ now do you?”
“Well that’s cause you ain’t got two mouths to feed, Markus.” He grunted with disapproval.
    Leif knew he had to find a way to question them, the problem was… how? An idea dawned on him, and if he didn’t act now, he would lose his chance to uncover any possible leads.
“How many more of these hammocks do we need to put up?” He asked, drawing their attention.
    At first, the two sailors looked at Leif, puzzled perhaps at the question, or rather, puzzled at his presence. The one called Markus reached up and scratched his head, a look of complete confusion washed over him.
“What did the Ca’n say, Uthred?”
“Uh… I think he wanted ten?” Uthred, as his partner called him, began to count the hammocks they had erected. “We need four more.”
“Right.” Leif agreed, his chance was slipping fast. “So your wages have been cut too?” It wasn’t like he hadn’t noticed the delay in his pay from the company, that’s what he had been told at least.
“Aye. Seems like it’s all politics anyways.”
“What makes you think that?” He asked, certainly an interesting take on the subject. He was beginning to doubt that these two men weren’t so blockheaded after all.
“Well this is how I look at it-”
“Oh shite, here we go now-”
“Pipe down, eh?” Markus snapped. “Right, so here’s how I see it. We’ve got the bloody Kamal to fight, yeah? And now we’ve also got these damned Argonians holed up outside our city. We’ve also got refugees from the east pouring into Dawnstar. So the problem is, resources are dwindling, and guess what? Prices are going up. And they’re going up because Skald likes to keep his belly fat along with all of his friends. So that’s the problem for us. No one wants to hear the common man’s plight.”
“Do you think it’s got anything to do with the murders here?” Leif asked, highly aware that he could draw unwanted attention from that question alone.
“I don’t know. I’ve got two theories on that though.”
“You, and your theories-”
“Ey! What did I say? Like I said, theories. Theory number one, those murders are a big ol’ feckin cover-up for Alby’s murder. No one seems overly concerned that the Thane of Dawnstar, and cap’n o’ this ship is dead. And no one, seems to be curious why he was targeted. But listen, I tell you what, that Torbin is awfully close to the jarl. He’s run a few special missions for ol’ Skald. Who knows, maybe Torbin wanted power all along, and Skald saw a chance to kill two birds with one stone. Help out Torbin get a promotion, and also find a way to get rid of those nasty blight-infested lizards.”
“So what’s theory number two?”
“Yeh, theory number two is just that. Someone here doesn’t like, I dunno, the Argonians, or maybe they don’t like Skald, but my point is this. Someone is trying to stir up trouble in Dawnstar to cover something up. These murders are a good cover-up for something more evil afoot here. For all I know, maybe those lizards they arrested are the culprits after all. I still think that Torbin’s got a hand in this.”
“Well… did you see anything suspicious a few nights ago?” he ventured, wondering just how far he could press them for information, “Did you happen to see Torbin, or perhaps one of the Argonian’s slinking about?”
“Now that you mention it… Torbin was visiting Skald that night Alberich was murdered.” Markus said, stroking his chin.
“Oi, but you know what? I did see a big ol’ commotion late that night. There was some strange hooded person lurking around the docks that same night too.” The one Markus called Uthred spoke up.
“Did they look...like a lizard? Did you see a tail, perhaps?” Finally, he had found something worthwhile.
“Come to think of it… I didn’t. But whoever that person was rather short. Coulda been a Bosmer.”
“What makes you think a Bosmer?” Uthred said through a surprised laugh.
“Bosmer’s are short! Why else? Though I suppose it could have been a woman… or maybe someone younger?”
“Like a child?” Leif felt as if he were being led in circles now, it seemed that these two were just full of suspicions about everything. He couldn’t make heads or tail of the situation. He shook his head at the two of them, and did his best to refrain from letting out an exasperated sigh.
“No, no, not a child. Like a youth, you know, one of those wily teenagers. I know that Sigrid, she’s the widow of Elof, she’s got two hooligans for sons. I forget their names. They’re pretty set in their ways, just like their father. Can’t tolerate anyone whose not a Nord.”
    With this newfound information, Leif helped finish setting up the hammocks, and arranging the beds before he disappeared above deck. He caught sight of Hargjorn and gave him nodded a hello. He also spotted Ariane with a peculiar staff next to her, and worst of all Dumhuvud. He skirted around him, and disappeared off deck, making his way back into town. Perhaps this widowed Sigrid could provide him more answers on the matter, that is, if he could find her.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by Father Hank
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Father Hank F O U L / M U R D E R

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Ghosts and Reflections

collab between @Peik and myself

Noon, Sun’s Height 28
Sea of Ghosts

''Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink.''

It was one of those scenes that were mind-numbingly boring to look at in itself, yet would look marvelous as a painting. With the sun hidden behind distant clouds and constant fog of the aptly called Sea of Ghosts, the sky was grey not unlike an empty canvas, and beneath it was nothing but the wide, bottomless sea, bubbling with every wave washing in over itself, somehow placid and still, and treacherously shifty at the same time. The only sight that looked out of the ordinary in this endless mix of grey, white and blue was the occasional iceberg, which added some much needed density and matter to the vague and ever-changing scenery.

At least, this is what Sadri saw and thought from his quiet ‘abode’, which was simply a small part of the edge of the top deck, tucked behind some cuts of tarp and nets. After a bad bout of sleep, he had decided to breathe some good air – but he knew well how the sailors could get pissed at someone just sitting around doing nothing while they were working their asses off, so he had chosen a spot somewhat out of sight.

Plus, the tarps were comfortable to lean his back on. He began quietly singing a tune to himself as he laid his head back and tried to think of better things than not having had a word with Solveig over her father while they were back in Dawnstar.

"Oh!" Niernen said and clasped her hand to her mouth, startled at the sight of Sadri. She'd just appeared from behind the nets and tarps, having evidently picked out the same spot to take a breather as her fellow Dunmer and not expected to find anyone there. "Sorry," she added and laughed. "You gave me quite a scare. I didn't mean to intrude, I can find a different spot if you..."

She trailed off. "Are you alright, Sadri?" she asked, the tone of her voice having shifted from embarrassment to mild concern. The look on Sadri's face had been a little haunting. No surprises there, what with Jorwen's disappearance. Niernen was well aware of the bond between Sadri and Solveig.

''Oh, oh shi-'' Sadri thought in a moment of sudden panic, as if someone had caught him in a rather private moment (which thankfully it had not been). The panic subsided the moment he realized he was no longer sixteen years old, and the new arrival was not a concerned parent running into his child in an awkward situation. It seemed that the new arrival, who seemed to to be Niernen, was simply startled by his unexpected presence. He calmed down and took another look. It was indeed Niernen.

''Oh hi, Niernen,'' Sadri began after she finished her words, ''Not at all, I mean, yeah, uh, I’m alright, sit down if you want. Just watching the sea, you know,'' he trailed onwards. ''Ought to be enough space here, and the scenery’s nice.''

She nodded and settled down next to Sadri with a grunt, a moan and a long sigh. "Everything is still sore," she explained. "I've been trying to help the sailors out wherever I can. Keeping the body oiled and all that. B'vek, I feel like I've been trampled by a pack of guars after just fifteen minutes every time." Niernen shivered and rubbed her arms together before drawing the folds of her gray cloak around her torso. She pulled up her legs too. "You're right, the scenery is nice. What did Veloth say when he first saw Vvardenfell? Magnificent desolation? I feel like it applies here too."

Wondering if she'd done enough to break the ice, Niernen figured there was only one way to find out. "Hey," she said softly. "We all hurt. What's eating you, serjo?"

''Keeping the body oiled?'' Sadri thought in an unaware moment of curiosity, before dispersing any possible dirty connotations that could follow up. Nonetheless, it made him feel infantile, something he tried to make up for by listening to Niernen in a more focused manner. It seemed she wasn’t convinced by his shabby excuses about him being okay, for after curling up deeper into her cloak, and some remarks about the scenery, she decided to push on.

Sadri sighed, he did not wish to talk about the matter, but eventually decided to budge. At least the presence of Narzul on the ship gave him a ‘get out of topic free card’. He took in a breath.

''Too much shit going on, I guess. It’s all messed up. It feels like there are mammoths fucking in my skull.''

It only hit him with this confession that he could really use a smoke, but his pipe was probably sitting somewhere at the bottom of the sea floor around Winterhold.

''Just concerned, that’s all. I’ve no idea what I’m doing, y’know, that just sometimes hits you. I went and confessed my love to a woman I barely know and is young enough to be my granddaughter, foolish, I don’t know why I did that, and then you learn she reciprocates your feelings. I just don’t get it. Now her father’s gone missing, and I’ve no idea what the fuck to say to her.''

He stopped, with a sad, faint smile on his face.

''I mean, you ever stop and think of ‘invaders from Akavir’? How fucked up does that sound? It’s all just fucked up, really. Thought I’d made my peace with it, but I guess I just managed to conveniently forget all of it. And you know how trips like these make you think of the most inane things.''

"Akavari invaders presumably brought here by our so-called High King, no less," Niernen added to Sadri's rant as she returned his smile with a lopsided one of her own. "Ready to slaughter and pillage their way through everyone and everything. You're right, it's almost beyond comprehension. There's an old Bosmeri saying that goes, 'May you live in interesting times'. It's more of a curse, really. They used to say it to people they didn't like. We are sure in interesting times now..."

She took a deep breath and patted Sadri on the shoulder. "As for Solveig... I wish I could help you there, but I fear that I know less about love than you do. I've never..." Niernen looked away and bit her lip, suddenly regretting all the hours she spent studying, traveling and practicing. What if this invasion would be the end of her without having ever experienced reciprocated love? Suddenly, she knew what to say.

"It's good that you told her how you feel, and it's good that she feels the same way about you. You never know. Perhaps something might have happened and you never would have gotten a chance to tell her," Niernen explained, wondering what the odds were that Sadri hadn't come up with this by himself yet. "Jorwen... condolences, I suppose. Offer help, whatever that might be. Depends on what she needs. I don't know her at all."

Niernen rubbed her face. "I don't know much of anything," she sighed.

''Frankly, this is probably only ‘slightly’ worthy of news by Bosmer standards. I’ve seen shit in Valenwood you wouldn’t believe, and I still don’t believe some of it either,'' Sadri replied to Niernen’s explanation, trying to find a slightly more optimistic note in the conversation, but it seemed Niernen had fallen far too deep into her sorrows to turn back, and Sadri couldn’t find the cheeriness within himself to save the conversation from itself. And with Niernen’s voice so regretful, Sadri found it too selfish to continue talking about himself.

''I see the little firestarter has her own issues. Has the trip gotten to your mind as well, or is it something else that's troubling you?'' Sadri asked, sounding more caring than he expected.

Niernen couldn't help but crack a smile at the way Sadri described her as a little firestarter but that fleeting expression faded from her face almost as soon as it appeared. "It's not the trip, though I can't say I'm pleased to be back on a ship so soon. There's, ah, someone..." She paused to look Sadri in the eyes for a few seconds, judging how trustworthy he was, unaware that Sadri already knew the true identity of the heavily-armored Dunmer warrior that accompanied the mercenaries on their voyage. Niernen had passed him off as a hired bodyguard, similar to Valen's previous occupation, that her family had sent after her in order to keep her safe. Narzul, satisfied with this disguise, had done or said nothing to the contrary -- as far as Niernen knew, anyway. Narzul hadn't told her of the conversation between himself and Sadri on the eve of his arrival in Dawnstar. In fact, they'd barely exchanged a word since their disastrous fight.

"You know the other Dunmer that's with us? My bodyguard?" Niernen asked, deciding that Sadri, an enemy of Morrowind in his own right, could be trusted with this information. "He's actually my brother. Don't tell him I told you. He... disagrees, to put it mildly, with my choice of friends. He's real Redoran. You probably met him too at some point during the Black Marsh campaign. I think he knows by now that I'm in far too deep to safely return home, and he's risking everything he has ever worked for to protect me. I tried to tell him to go back to Blacklight but he wouldn't listen. I'm... conflicted. I love him and I'm glad he's here to watch my back -- he's an exemplary warrior -- but I also feel guilty to drag him away from his entire life. And I'm angry. He wasn't exactly considerate when he shared his opinions on... this whole situation, and all of you, with me." Niernen pulled her legs up even closer against her chest and rested her head on her knees, staring out over the Sea of Ghosts with a frown on her face. "And now we're on our way to take the fight to the Armigers. Those are... or were, before he came here, his allies. The Nerevarine thinks highly of him and Narzul thinks highly of the Nerevarine, family history be damned."

She looked back at Sadri. "What do you think? Is it... I don't like saying it, but, dangerous to have him here?"

A sense of worry slowly began creeping into Sadri as Niernen pulled the conversation someplace, or to someone, he had been trying to forget – he had hoped that he was the only one worrying about that special someone with the black blade, but it seemed that things hadn’t gone well in their reunion.

''Ah, shit, I see. Well, don’t tell him I told you,'' Sadri echoed Niernen’s choice of words, ''we actually shared a drink in Dawnstar, I know who he is. Real Redoran alright, seemed to hate my guts, but I don’t think that feeling is exclusive to me, admittedly.'' Sadri grit his teeth together for a moment before continuing.

''Well look, Niernen, I have buddies amongst the Armigers as well, but that wouldn’t make me turn and stab one of us folks in the back. It’s not in my nature to betray people because of old friendships (in truth, it was, but Sadri liked to believe he had principles). I don’t care if your brother hates us, loves us, or whether he thinks Argonians make better belts than warriors, what matters to me is what he’d do if he had to choose between, say, me or some old acquaintance in the heat of battle.''

He took a breath; he obviously couldn’t ask the girl to smite her brother should he turn on them.

''He strikes me as more martial rather than blue blooded. Sure, we seemed to agree that we wouldn’t get along, but I’d like to believe that he’s got principles and would put his current allegiance above his past.''

He took a pause. It didn't feel right to leave things on such a vague note.

''Well, I guess I just want to think that I’m not going to get my head lobbed off when I’m not looking, I guess. Even I couldn’t survive that,'' he added, hoping Niernen would find some humor in his words.

Niernen raised her eyebrows in surprise as Sadri told her about his encounter with Narzul. The more she learned about how her brother behaved outside of the ivory tower they'd lived in as Redoran nobility, the more she grew to dislike him. Was Sadri's status as a mercenary and an outlander really enough to make Narzul hate him? She grimaced, and not even Sadri's joke made a dent in her disapproval.

"Sorry you had to deal with him," Niernen said in a low voice. "Honestly, I had no idea he was this stuck up. And you're right -- I think you punch well above your weight as a warrior, Sadri, but Narzul would probably make short work of most of us. He killed an ancient Dremora in single combat. That said," she continued quickly, "you are also right in that he has principles. Perhaps moreso than you or I. Thank you for reminding me of that." She fell silent for a few seconds and the frown that creased her brow slowly relaxed.

"I have faith he won't turn on you, or any of the others, in the heat of battle. He has always been very loyal to his family. As long as I don't want you dead, you're fine," Niernen said, and finished her line of thought with a joke of her own and winked at Sadri. "So stay on my good side, alright?"

''Oh my, is that a threat I sense? Well, I’ll have you know, muthsera Venim, that I graduated at the top of my class in the Ansei Academy,'' Sadri replied coyly, doing his best to take the seriousness out of the conversation. He continued on with a sudden, deadpan serious tone, one perhaps almost too serious. ''Jokes aside, it’s good to know that you’re the only thing stopping the sword prodigy from trying to gut all of us.'' He raised his eyebrows, puffed his mouth, and shook his head as if he had said something deep and profound, in hopes that the humor would not be missed.

Having relaxed a little, Niernen allowed Sadri's dry humor to amuse her and she laughed out loud for the first time in a while. It was a pleasant, pealing sound that surprised even herself. "Thanks, I needed that," she said and snickered while shaking her head slowly from side to side. "You're absolutely right, this life of ours is utter madness, and yet what else is there to do but laugh in the face of Sheogorath? Either way, I'll keep Narzul in line, don't worry."

A short silence fell as Niernen's thoughts turned back to their earlier topic of conversation. "Do you... do you think Jorwen is still alive?" she asked tentatively, glancing sideways at Sadri.

Sadri went quiet for a moment after Niernen’s question – it was one that had been in his mind for some time, but also it was one question that he had been trying to avoid. His expression went absent as he decided to gather the pieces of thought that had grown around the question in his mind, and form a proper opinion out of them.

''Well,'' Sadri said, ''I know this answer’s pretty lacking, but I really don’t know. Maybe he fell on the field after the others retreated, maybe he somehow broke through and is trying to slowly make it out of the woods, or maybe it was there in the woods where he found his end. He could’ve… he could’ve gotten captured as well, which, after things I’ve seen and heard, is not a possibility I’d like to entertain. What I do know is that Jorwen is one nasty warrior, though, and the sort of guy who doesn’t give up easily. So if they haven’t taken him yet, I reckon soon they’ll wish they did.

Nonetheless, I hope whatever the case is, we find out soon. I’ve known people who just lost their loved ones and never heard from them again, and I’ve observed that the lack of conclusion ends up hurting more than learning whatever bad end came to them ever will.

During the Great War, for example; I was just content waiting it out, but my neighbors either couldn’t avoid conscription like I did, or just weren’t as cowardly as I. They got sent to the fronts, and for most, letters came back home to their families, saying how they valiantly fell facing the foe. Some people didn’t have the luxury, though. I often saw them, with their gazes fixed on the streets, waiting for their loved ones to show up. Some did, too. Some came back unharmed, some you couldn’t recognize. It took years, and some came back. And the others who waited but never got an answer, either they moved on and tried to forget, or they just faded wallowing in unfulfilled hopes and past memories.''

He thought of himself, and his own friends that he had lost to the Great War, those that never came back, those who left their joy of life on the battlefield, those that came back, but never forgave him for hiding behind his status as a Dunmer. Maybe that was why he had left after the war’s end – a new perspective, a bitter one, but one that offered more explanation about himself.

His voice went quiet.

''I wouldn’t want her to suffer that.''

"Me neither," Niernen said and exhaled deeply. "That said, having been their prisoner, I can tell you the Kamal are very proud, very arrogant and very cruel creatures. I wouldn't be surprised if they wanted to capture Jorwen alive so they could... well, torment him," she continued uneasily. "It's not a pleasant thought, I know, but he could very well still be alive. Where is life, there is hope." She patted Sadri on the shoulder again, gentler this time, and her hand lingered there for a few seconds. Sadri reminded her of the grizzled veterans that had accompanied Niernen to Black Marsh to act as her bodyguards. They had been full of wisdom and humor too, and their appearance had been equally worse for wear. Niernen's mind flashed back to the nights she'd spent with one of them, Llerwen, in her tent, exploring her budding sexuality. It had been a loveless affair, but interesting. She missed him sometimes.

She pulled her hand back and gathered her limbs beneath the gray cloak again. "It's cold," she whispered. "When do you think we'll reach Bleakrock?"

''I suppose.'' he replied quietly – the only reasonable and viable reply that came to mind was more dry humor akin to his previous attempts, but still, making jokes off a lost friend and the possibility that he was captured and getting tortured was not even dry, but just unpleasant. She did have a point, though, he wasn’t sure if their hope would turn out vain in the end.

Her following question came just right in time to break the silence and change the topic, and Sadri quickly took to mental gymnastics to answer the question properly – it wouldn’t be fitting of a mer who claimed to have been a sailor to give an incorrect estimate, after all.

''I’d give it… a day or two at most, provided the wind stays this way. Not very exciting, but then again, the only exciting I’ve seen with this company is the fatal sort, and that loses its charm fast.''

"Good," Niernen said, suddenly bitter. "Mephala guide me and Sharmat take them, I want my revenge on the thrice-damned traitors." Her emotional stability hadn't improved since they set off and Niernen was constantly thrown between bouts of anxious sorrow and seething wrath.

"Sul en am as errat Chimer, almardar as sharmaat malshok alna," she added in Dunmeris, quoting a passage from an ancient Ashlander oral tradition: the unbreakable soul of the lost Chimer would silence devils mad first, and smiled wryly. "Ironic, isn't it? That used to refer to the Nerevarine and Dagoth Ur. Now it feels like we're the lost Chimer setting off to silence his madness."

''Only time will tell whether we are the heroes or not, I’d argue. Times change, morals change, people change. It’s not like we’ve never been part of an invading side,'' Sadri replied solemnly, recalling his conversation with Narzul – the older Venim was certainly much more standoffish and less amicable, but Sadri appreciated the logical, clear-cut outlook that he could bring to the table. Or maybe he was just too exhausted from the trip to keep his hate fanned.

''There’s plenty of reasons to hate the Kamal and the Nerevarine – his madness, or whether he's right or not, though; I don’t think they count. For me, the fact that his allies are trying to kill us is enough. No morality or nothing special in it – just us and them. Keeps things simpler.''

He felt like quipping about how its simplicity made it desirable, but, he found it unnecessary on a mercenary ship headed for a raid. It wasn't the best context for faux-philosophical aphorisms based off perceptions of war.

Niernen's flaring temper subsided at Sadri's polite admonishment and she looked away a little awkwardly. "Yeah, well," she began but fell silent again. She still thought the Nerevarine was insane, bringing the Akaviri monsters to Tamrielic shores, but Sadri had inadvertently made her doubt herself after all, undoing Wylendriel's work from a few nights before. What if they weren't the heroes in this story? What if Narzul was right, and the Nerevarine's vision was truly the best for Morrowind -- who was she, then, as a Redoran noble, to concern herself with the plight of the rest of the continent? Was this even her place to be?

Frustrated with the capricious nature of her motivations and beliefs, Niernen sighed and slowly got to her feet, working through the toxic aches that still lingered in her limbs. "Thanks for the talk," she said, trying to sound as genuine as possible, and conjured a wan smile for her fellow Dunmer. "I'm going to see if the sailors need any more help."

The Redoran’s stillborn reply caused Sadri to chastise himself internally for possibly alienating her with his sudden, contemplative rebuttal. He preferred not to deal much with mages, and if possible, be a person whose presence they wouldn't want to disintegrate. And yet, all of a sudden, he had gone full moral relativist against the face of a recently imprisoned battlemage. Whether he was right or wrong, that didn’t matter, what mattered was that the action had the possibility of tilting Sadri’s worth in Niernen’s mind slightly further to the ‘Yeah, smite’ end of the scale. This alone made it undesirable, but there was also the stuck-up swordsman brother with the ebony blade and disregard for the lives of common folk. Add them together and it was not the smartest course of action.

Then again, it was his sudden acts of foolishness that made him himself. He decided to accept the sense of worry that came out of it, and watched Niernen get up and leave.

''So long.''
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Spoopy Scary
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Spoopy Scary Skeletons

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Five of One Thousand Steps: Loss
by @Spoopy Scary and @Gcold

26th of Sun's Height, Morning

Sleep came to Wylendriel far easier than she had expected the previous night. She expected to be up all night wondering if she had made the right decision in joining these mercenaries. Wondering if in doing so, she had forsaken any of her values or if this new fork in the road would lead her down a path that would direct her away from her pilgrimage. After all, her soul was on the line. However, the day's events had taken more out of her than she had expected. She was whittled down from the long journey from Whiterun to Dawnstar, to the amount of magicka she has spent healing the argonian refugees and the mercenary Niernen, and speaking of whom, she only had enough energy to spare to report to Ashav before resigning to bed. In exchange for letting him know of Niernen's improved condition (and hopefully improved spirits), he let her know of her first assignment to Bleakrock Isle. It was east of Skyrim, nestled between the nord country and Morrowind. In other words, it was the front. The stories of the Kamal were just a boat ride away from being reality.

The day Wy had woken up from bed, refreshed and ready to go, she did her typical morning rituals: her prayers, for starters. Thanks to Kynareth for the beauty of life, and to Y'ffre for the privilege of breathing the air. Then maintaining her hygeine, consisting mostly of swishing a mixture of hot water and lots of salt in her mouth to both grind the plaque off her teeth and cleanse her mouth with the salt's antibacterial properties. Then she went downstairs of the inn so that she could eat. Sharp and aromatic goat cheese and similarly pungent smoked fish, along with a mug of water that was flavored with a dollop of honey - that was the best bang for her buck she could get out of the ten gold pieces she had left and Dawnstar's already paltry food shortage. Still, she wasn't picky and enjoyed the meal all the same after a brief prayer of thanks over her plate. Also, of course, after hesitating to grab the food with her bare hands before remembering what Skyrim classified as table manners. She picked up a fork and knife with some reluctance.

"It looks like those mercenaries are finally leaving Dawnstar for good!" One of the two nord women said at a nearby table. She was redheaded and freckled, and wore her hair in a long braid down the middle. The other was stark blonde and carried a little more weight. Wylendriel wasn't ordinarily the nosy sort, but with as little as she knew about the comings and goings in the Pale, she couldn't help but figure she could learn someting. She continued to eat, seemingly minding her own business. "It's about time if you ask me. I've nothing against them, but food around here is scarce enough as it is without them, thanks to the refugees. Again, nothing against them."

"Don't be so sure," said the blonde one, "just half of them are sailing off. Word is that some of them are staying behind to help investigate those murders."

The murders... Wy thought she had heard of them lately, they were one of the two jobs she could've been assigned to. It was disconcerting that she had just spent the night in a town that had a serial killer lurking in the shadows. It reminded her of that old giant, disrespecting the circle of life and profaning nature's bounty... it was for that reason that part of her felt somewhat responsible for taking care of the situation. If she were on that job, she could likely provide autopsies for the town guard, but for now it was out of her hands.

"They are?" Replied the redhead. "Well, I guess it's for the best. Damn, it makes me nervous. I can't help wondering if I'm going to be next - or you. They already found another one."

Either assignment were gruesome cases. On one hand, she could be sent to the front lines to patch up wounded soldiers with injuries as ghastly as she'd ever seen. On the other, the murder spree was getting highly out of hand. It targeted civilians and with there being only one enemy and a bunch of friendly faces, it became very personal. Any one of those faces, those friends and neighbors, could be the killer. What could be more nerve rattling that that? The priestess finishes her food and drink and stacked the mug on top of the plate got up to bring the dishes to the innkeper at the other side of the inn as a courtesy. The two nord women continued their gossiping.

"Did they?" The blonde gasped. "Who was it?"

"It was one of the argonian refugees. He was an older lizard... Climbs-From-River, I think."

The sound of a silver plate and pewter mug crashed together on the floor with a wooden thud, alarming a couple of the patrons including the two women. The innkeeper was visibly surprised, as his hand was already reached out to take them before they fell from Wylendriel's hands. She stared at the two women with her mouth agape and her eyes fixated on them. Her chest felt tight.

"W-what... what did you say?" Wylendriel asked.

The redheaded nord softly stammered, "Uh... an argonian refugee, Climbs-From-River. He died last night. Murdered, under the same MO as the other victims. Are you...?"

The woman hardly had the time to finish her sentence before Wy stormed out the front door in a furious march. Outside, her breathing was ragged, fast, and sharp. Nearly hyperventilating even, but her hands were tightly clenched, ignoring the stinging pain of her pointed nails digging into her palms. Her teeth - grinding together; her eyes - dilated, and although her heart was filled with sorrow and broken from grief, she felt consumed by rage. Her mind was a burning whirl of emotion, namely hatred and... offense? For whatever gods-forsaken reason, she felt slighted and stolen from.

'How dare they?' She was thinking. Whoever had done this, awful, terrible act, she wanted to hurt them. Not even kill them, no, that felt too... merciful. There had to be justice befitting of the Green Lady.

'When I find them, I'm going to punish them.'

It was only justified.

It also only took a minute for Wy to reach the large field tent in front of the docks where she first met Ashav. Unlike last time though, she abruptly ripped open the entrance that was uncharacteristic of her typical disposition and her face was flushed red.

"Ashav!" She barked.

The redguard was already gearing up in preparation for today's departure to Bleakrock and consulting with Edith about the state of their supplies when the company's newest hire entered. Though he winced at the ruckus being made so early in the morning, he still maintained the professionalism he exhibited when the priestess first met him.

Edith's hand flew to her sword as soon as Wylendriel walked. She stepped forward to intercept like a loyal housecarl protecting her thane. "It's alright, she is the chaplain I hired last night." Ashav calmly explained in a way that extruded easiness and authority the same time.

"It's commander now." Ashav corrected the Bosmer sternly. There was something about what he said that stoked her ire, like as though he were exercsing his control. That must have been it, he was expecting her to answer to him now. It just made sense.

"Ashav." Wy repeated. "Put me on the murder investigation."

"Why?" Ashav asked in a neutral tone, lacing his fingers together. The priestess was about to answer with outage on the tip of her tongue, but the simplicity of the question stopped her in her tracks for a moment. Why? She was forced to think for a moment, and for that moment, she was trepidatious. She was losing control of herself! The implications of her sudden breakdown agonized her, and though she still felt sorrowful over the death of her new friend, she was now forced to confront of herself and had to ask herself what she planned on doing - she had to seize back her control. While her rage had not entirely subsided, she managed to center herself a little and looked calmer than she did moments ago.

"...The last murder was of a friend." Wy admitted. She plucked the feather that was adorning her hair and held it gingerly in both hands. She continued to explain, "The Saxhleel pakseech, Tzinasha. I helped his people recover just before I entered Dawnstar. He was very kind to me."

"Sorry for your loss." Ashav's eyes softened for a moment, his fingers briefly unlaced. Then he was back to his typical stern self, however, his expression showed something empathetic on its blankness. "Let me tell you something Edith and I have learned on this job." He said in his raspy voice. "You can't go forward when you dwell on the past, and when you're stuck on your losses, you will easily lose yourself." Ashav glanced down to the table and then at Edith, who traded a worried look with him but ultimately nodded.

Wy dipped her head solemnly, as though in understanding of what Ashav was telling her, but something didn't feel right. She was absolutely distraught, just... perhaps not as much as she felt she should be. She felt angry, too, but she hid those feelings to instead convey an appearance of melancholy. Needless to say, it was in no small part to her grievous experiences that it came to her with little difficulty. She still felt she had a sense of justice guiding her hand, twisted though it may be, and she knew she would've chosen to stay in Dawnstar anyways. There was more on the line here than just revenge.

"Now, what can you do for the investigation?"

"I'm a priestess... commander." Wy replied simply. Her conduct seemed to have found its way back to her. "As a restoration expert, I can perform autopsies and find the cause of death, which'll give us a lead to further evidence. Also..." Wy cleared her throat and, after some hesitation, continued, "I understand that the front lines will need medics, but what good is fighting a war to protect civilians when the civilians are dying anyways? The guard doesn't have the situation under control. The sooner the situation is resolved, the smaller the death toll."

It was Edith who responded first. She coughed uncomfortably, her eyes darting between Ashav and the Bosmer as if alerting him to the very being of Wylendriel. Ashav picked her meaning and addressed it accordingly. "You are aware that the locals, Nords, are hesitant to let Bosmer access their honored dead. They have concerns of your dietary choices."

"Ashav, the ship..." Edith gently reminded him about briefing the Steelhead mercenaries, however, Ashav waved her down again.

"Dawnstar is the bastion of Stormcloak nationalism." Explained Ashav. "The people here hate foreigners; there were lynching, even against Nords, for simply speaking in favor of the Empire. Everybody is more on edge than ever, and many will see you as a cannibal instead of a priestess. I fear not only for your safety, but also disruption to the investigation process. If the authorities as much as see you look at a corpse funny, they will likely turn you into a convenient scapegoat."

"Ashav, we don't have time for this." Edith said more firmly this time.

"Please, sir." Wy pleaded.

"Fine, if you insist, priestess." The Redguard took out a sheet of paper and started writing on it. "I do owe you a favor for repairing my nose last night. With that said, you should keep your head above personal confrontations and act low-key when conflict arise from this investigation."

"Sign here." Ashav slowly inched the paper forward, giving Wylendriel her last chance to back out.

"Thank you commander." She muttered. She took a quill from Ashav and was about to sign her name in Bosmeri, but carefully considered what her commander had just told her of Dawnstar. It might be best to get into the habit of writing in Cyrodilic more often. As she wrote, she looked at Edith carefully from the corner of her eyes. As far as she was aware, the quartermaster was just trying to get in the way. Still, they had a point. Perhaps it was best to harken back to her first days in Skyrim and speak when spoken to - she wasn't in Whiterun anymore, after all. Though she had to wonder how much harder that must be than before. She wasn't cursed back then. She clutched her stomach with her spare hand.

"I'll make sure we settle these murders once and for all." Wy grimly promised. With that, she turned around and started heading back out the tent, but before she truly vanished from their sight, she turned around and peered in once more for a few parting words. "By the way... fixing your nose is what you pay me for, isn't it? You'll owe me once I give you an actual favor."
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Dervish
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Dervish Let's get volatile

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Some Debts are Paid Dearly

26th Suns Height, shortly after the departure of the Steelhead, Iron-Breaker Mine...

It took time for Bharzak's eyes to adjust to the dark and barely lit corridors of Iron-Breaker Mine, and no sooner did she start to make out the cold rock walls with her adjusting eyes did she have a pick-axe thrust into her arms by Leigelf, the owner of the mine since his divorced wife met her end at the end of a Dark Brotherhood Assassin's blade during the Stormcloak Rebellions. Now in possession of both Iron-Breaker and Quicksilver mines, the Nord was fabulously wealthy and the lack of competition between Leigelf and Beitild meant the quotas were far more relaxed for the Iron-Breaker workers. It was still hard work, granted, but at least now the iron miners weren't expected to outproduce the Quicksilver miners just to try and earn the mine a bit more and their jobs weren't on the line for falling behind. Bharzak held the well-worn too uncertainly; its balance was off from an axe, and its elm handle sturdy and sporting obvious grip and stress marks along its somewhat uneven shaft; at least there'd be no splinters from its use. She grunted quietly, accepting that this was her way of paying off one debt with another, albeit she was getting pretty sick of being sent into dark caves to pay these debts off. Jonimir forcing her into the encounter with the pyromancer was still fresh on her mind.

Still, she was grateful for being alive, and rubbing where the collar had dug into her neck was a welcome reprieve she never thought she'd experience again. She'd effectively been a slave of the Kamal, and while there was a lot of distrust towards her given that unfortunate association, she'd rather deal with people not liking her based on fear and loathing than the alternative of displeasing a cruel master that held the keys to her premature demise. She was used to hate; it came with being an Orc; her people had been maligned and ostracized since the dawn of their race. She could handle scowls, they hurt less than being electrocuted to death or burned or stabbed. Not that she was afraid of a fight, but recently she discovered that the world was less interested in fair and more in wholesale slaughter.

And so, without fuss, Bharzak took the pick-axe and allowed herself to be lead to the end of the mine where they had been pursuing another sizable ore vein on account of the rusty coloured filament that was being struck free of the stone. Being shown how to handle the pickaxe and how to strike the rock without hurting herself by one of the experienced miners, the Orsimer got to work and even though she felt played out by the end of ten minutes, she kept going with only minimal breaks, taking turns with another miner every twenty minutes or so that they could keep their strength up.

After two hours and already exhausted to her core, Bharzak and her partner were told to take a 20 minute break, the Nord excusing himself to take a piss. And so the Orc sat, eagerly drinking back an entire water skin due to her mouth feeling like sandpaper for how dry it was. It occurred to her then that perhaps, just perhaps, drinking nothing but ale to try and forget her troubles the night prior wasn’t a suitable replacement for keeping hydrated. Getting up to refill the skin from a water cask that had been brought into the mine, Bharzak realized that her partner had been gone for some time, their 20 minutes had to have been up. Perplexed, the Orc moved through the tunnels, finding an end where the light was extinguished for privacy, she assumed.

“Are you done? We have to get back.” She called. No response.

About to give up on anyone being down the dark corridor, she caught the gleam of something in the dark grabbing a still lit torch behind her, Bharzak walked down towards the reflected light and realized what she was looking at. Prone on the floor with a crimson crescent dragged across his throat was her partner, who had died without anyone hearing a thing. Almost dropping the torch in alarm, Bharzak waved it back and forth in front of her, suddenly feeling very trapped in the mine without an idea of where the murderer was. She had to get out, warn the guards, escape… something!

“Everyone, get out!” She called out, hurrying down towards where the exit was, only to find the way ahead dark, the torches extinguished. Confused shouts came from up ahead, only to be cut short as if interrupted by an unseen hand across their mouths. This gave way to something far more blood chilling as a shrill scream echoed across the stones before being utterly silenced, a stampede of feet and alarmed and terrified shouts came from ahead, shadowy figures dancing across the torchlight before being snuffed out one at a time. She fled back to the back where she was working, tossing her torch behind her, hoping to hide herself in the dark and avoid whatever was lethally stalking the tunnels, the lights sequentially getting snuffed out.

Bharzak was so preoccupied by the lights further down the tunnel that she did not notice her own torch being picked up by a figure, who suddenly caught her attention as it moved towards her. Covered in layers of rags and eyes concealed by a pair of dark lensed goggles, the figure was the size of a man or mer, but far more ominous. It stared at Bharzak for a few quiet moments before it lifted a hand, and a flash of dark smoke made it disappear from sight, and a moment over, the torch was extinguished.

Bharzak grabbed her pickaxe and screamed.

~ ~ ~

One hour later…

Gunnar had drawn patrol duty that particular afternoon, a welcome reprieve of dealing with corpses, something that wasn’t getting easier as the summer heat was forcing a decision about burial sooner rather than later due to the rapid decomposition that an old blanket only did so much to conceal. Behind his helm, Gunnar’s face was concealed and he allowed the disappointment and depression of the entire week to be shown only to himself. The people of Dawnstar needed their guards to look the part, even if they didn’t really feel like they were up to that particular job. Mercenaries were drinking the town dry, and more than once had he gotten off shift to find that there wasn’t a drop of mead to be had; by the Nine, the entire town was dealing with supply shortages, the Argonian refugee not the least of the problems. The sooner the mercs left for an assignment and the murderers were caught, the sooner Gunnar would be able to sleep.

Passing by Iron-Breaker Mine, Gunnar found it conspicuously quiet and usually there were one or two people leaving or entering over the course of an hour. It had been still and quiet, and it raised an uncomfortable tick in the guard’s instinct. Heading towards the entrance, he called out into the dark, “Hello! What’s going on in there?”

“Help… me.” A croaking voice said below him. A hand shot out into the light, blooded and covered in dirt.

“Gods.” Gunnar gasped, rushing over to the man, who was covered in stab wounds. The thick scarf that had wrapped around his neck was bloodied, but Gunnar suspected it was the reason the man was still breathing rather than having had his windpipe severed. “I’m going to get you help, hang on!”

Soon, a mage was brought to the cave and a group of guards entered the mine to investigate the carnage, realizing that they were extremely fortunate to find even one survivor. Gunnar reached the end of the tunnel, a frown across his face. The green skin of an Orc was soaked with crimson; her head slumped against her chest. Bharzak, wasn’t it? He recalled that she’d been pressed into service in the mine to pay off a debt of sorts or to keep her under close watch, he recalled.

“I’m sorry.” Gunnar said softly, crouching in front of the body, noticing that just out of her reach was a blooded pickaxe. Noticing all of her wounds appeared to be that of blades, nothing resembled the blunt and brutal puncture of a pickaxe; Gunnar had seen his share of those given that drunken miners and violent disputes were all too common occurrences in Dawnstar.

He picked up the tool, looking at the Orc with a passing respect. “I know it isn’t of comfort to you, but you might have given us what we need to stop whoever did this. May you rest well among your ancestors; you died bravely, which is more than most of us get to say.” Gunnar said, standing and heading back to the exit, wondering what the wounded man would say. He wanted to visit the alchemist. Maybe, just maybe, they’d be able to figure out exactly what the blood soaked upon the iron belonged to. It was certainly more than they had an hour ago.
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Hidden 8 mos ago 8 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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POOHEAD189 Warrior

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The Beast Within

The last week had not been kind to Dax, and those who would stray near him upon the Steelhead most likely would swiftly turn away for fear of incurring the silent wrath he held openly for all to see. Yes, often times Dax would keep silent. Controlled anger, patience, discipline, these skills made him invaluable as a hunter and as a teammate of the crew. However, ever since he had been released from prison, he has taken his brooding nature to a level not even he thought possible.

If anyone spoke to him directly, he simply looked at them and went on his way, if he even acknowledged them at all. He would help the raising of the ships sails silently, as was his duty, and then disappear from sight like a vengeful wraith that had retreated back into the nether. His claws fists clenched often, and he hissed dangerously more than he had in years. True, most of his companions did not get too close to him for sympathy of his wanting to be alone, but he was not certain what he would do if they did. He felt as if he could not trust himself anymore, and some demon within him asked the most terrible question. Is that so wrong? To give in to rage?

"Yes," he whispered, gripping the pendant his father had given him at an early age. The Hist only knows how he had not attacked the guards that had...chained him. He still shuddered at the thought of when they had placed the manacles on his wrists. He had bared his teeth and shouldered a sneering guard, but caught himself and calmed as best he could. He would not endanger his crew, nor Tsleeixth any more than he he could help it. He did actually appreciate some of the guardsmen letting him privvy to their thinking he was innocent, and the well-cooked steaks they would give him. He knew deep down they were only doing their duties, and he apologized to the guard he had shouldered. Though that particular one happened to think he was guilty, he found out later.

He did not do well in chains. He did not do well being judged by his race. Nor did he take it well when the Jarl, a man whom he had worked for personally, accused him of murder. It was just after Ashav had him and Elmera investigate the abandoned warehouses after Ashav had been attacked. The next day, he and his fellow Argonian had been imprisoned. Just thinking about it brought a low growl from deep within his throat, and he felt it rousing once again.

The beast within.

The want to rend and tear. The desire for solitude, and the rage boiling underneath, threatening to overwhelm if he did not find it soon. He had dealt with his anger all of his life, and had no desire to take it out on his companions. Or more accurately, he had no desire to have desire to take it out on his companions. The promise of hunting rogue Dunmer had helped keep him calm for now, and he sighed as the ship lolled along the ocean current.

The night of the landing...

Daixanos had his bow strung and in his hands, his eyes steeled for the hunt of what was to come. He had spoken to no one since they had landed, and had already begun to wade deeper into the island as the others tried to organize themselves to do just that. He did not go far, however, forcibly making himself play the role of scout and vanguard, instead of splintering off from the group entirely.

"Hist," he whispered. "Guide my hand, and my blade..."

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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by MacabreFox
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MacabreFox Master of Poor Life Decisions

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A By-Product from Master @Dervish and I

26th of Sun's Height, 4E205, 06:32…

The morning brought with it a sense of odd serenity that was underlined with no small amount of tension. Word had spread about the murders and the subsequent arrest of Daixanos and Tsleeixth, and it seemed to Do’Karth that Dawnstar wasn’t unlike the kettle of stew he was tending to at the moment; while the weather was pleasant and the seas weren’t particularly rough, everything could boil over at a moment’s notice and create no small amount of chaos that stood to destroy the fragile and tense peace, namely between the town itself and the Argonian refugee camp.

There was a war going on, and even despite the battles the mercenaries had fought the last few days, Dawnstar seemed to pretend it was in its own self-contained world with its own problems that didn’t involve the rest of Skyrim. Both the guards and the Argonians were too busy staring daggers into each others’ souls that they were blinding themselves to the unspeakable evil that was only days away from attacking, rendering their petty conflict completely pointless. The Khajiit sighed, dropping a few sliced potatoes in with the salmon chunks and broth he’d already had going.

He felt somewhat disappointed and ashamed of himself for feeling relieved to be leaving on the Steelhead to go fight the war proper and leave the problems of Dawnstar, and his friends, behind knowing full well all of which might not be there when… if they returned. Do’Karth lost Jorwen, but he still had Sevine. As far as he was concerned, she was the only one he needed to concern himself with keeping safe. He cared about his new friends, of course, but there was still a part of himself that was screaming at every fiber of his being to just pick up and leave, as he had always done when the local situation was unfavourable. He was a wanderer, not a mercenary. He’d only signed up with the company to begin with because he thought he’d be helping people in need and seeing Skyrim in relative comfort and security. Now he was being dragged across frigid seas and being thrown against snow demons that had such a horrifying disregard for life and the power to see it through that he didn’t see a way for the war to end favourably for anyone except for the Kamal and their damned Dunmer pets.

The ladle circled through the stew slowly, kicking up chunks that had settled and Do’Karth’s mind fluttered to Niernen and the whirlwind of emotions that had transpired since she came back from what Do’Karth thought was certain death. Could he be so cavalier about her fate if he’d left, what about Solveig? Didn’t he promise Jorwen he’d keep her safe? Solveig didn’t need him guarding her, she was more than capable of that on her own and she had Sadri, who was coming to Bleakrock with the ship and away from Solveig. And Niernen had more or less professed that she loved Do’Karth on their way back after her rescue, it was so sudden and unexpected. He’d shown her simply the same kindness and compassion he’d shown everyone, but did they have a bond from their fights in Windhelm, and did she just latch onto the most familiar and comforting person after her captivity? He wanted to help her, and he would, but they weren’t feelings he’d be able to reciprocate. Do’Karth smiled in spite of it all, a terse and humourless upturn of his lips. He’d courted the affections of two beautiful women, and he’d already decided on one at the detriment of the other.

This one cannot help them all. he decided, rounding out the general sentiment of the morning. The Khajiit simply could not be everywhere at once, and people were going to get hurt and he’d be powerless to do anything about it. It just left a sour taste in his mouth that there were promises he’d not be able to keep, and against his better judgement, he’d become rather attached to many of the company. He decided he was a fool for signing up to begin with.

Looking back at the tent flaps behind him, he thought, But had this one not, Sevine and Do’Karth never would have met. He clutched the amulet of S’rendarr about his neck, cradling it for comfort and reassurance. Once more, the divines made life much more uncomfortable and clear than he had wished, and they were silent to his prayers.

The growing light of early morning struck her as she pushed back the canvas flap. Her eyes squinted to adjust to the change in light, and so she stretched her aching muscles. When the sleep from her eyes had faded, she came join Do’Karth seated by the fire. She leaned into him, and rested her head upon his shoulder. Moments passed before she pressed her lips into his cheek.

“Good morning.” She said, only to turn her head away to stifle a yawn. “I had the strangest dream just now.” A playful grin spread across her lips as she gazed at him, one arm propped on her knee to cradle her chin.

“I dreamt that I was feasting in the great halls of Sovngarde. And there on the table were silver platters piled high with delicious foods. Sweet rolls, roasted goat leg, seasoned venison steaks, and the most wonderful tasting stews. I had plate after plate of food, and yet I couldn’t fill my stomach. I went through an entire platter of apple pie, and I still wasn’t full.” She let out a chuckle as she continued, “I think it was your cooking I was smelling.” Sevine returned to her early position of leaning against him, her head on his shoulder.

“This one is afraid that this breakfast is not endless.” Do’Karth said with an apologetic smile. “Do’Karth is but a simple Khajiit, the divines tend to show off when it comes to even the simple matters of breakfast.”

He tilted his head so it rested upon Sevine’s. “Do’Karth trusts you slept okay? How are your wounds?” he asked, concerned. She seemed to be limber and in good spirits, which was encouraging.

“Mmm, endless or not, at least my stomach will be full.” She said, “My wrist and ankle feel much better, the swelling has gone down considerably. There is little pain when I stretch the muscles. It is my side that aches still, the bruising remains, and when I breathe in deep, there is a sharp pain. But nothing that I can’t handle.”

“In terms of sleep…” Sevine shook her head, the startling news of the arrest of Daixanos and Tsleeixth left her angered, “I slept when I could. I am more frustrated than anything. I know that they are innocent, and I am more annoyed that I cannot help in this investigation. But… to Bleakrock we must go.” Her head lifted from his shoulder as she stared at the flickering flames below the stew.

Then, she cast a sideways glance at Do’Karth, “What about you? How do you feel?” She implied, hinting at the duel from the afternoon before with Leif. Her feelings were a mix of annoyance and pride; annoyed that Leif had let his emotions get the best of him, and proud that Do’Karth rightfully put him in his place. Or so she hoped. Sevine uttered not a word about Khazki either, now was not the time to mention a new friend she had made… if she could call her a friend.

The Khajiit paused stirring the stew and seemingly froze in place, wondering how much he should articulate. In the end, he decided it would be best to be open. “Do’Karth is uncertain about his path fighting this war, it was never his place to be involved in it. Had he not found people to care for, he would have left long ago. He fears losing those people, he is conflicted about how he should feel, about… well, everything. This one is trying to do right, but the path is not clear. He feels Dawnstar will not be there when we return from our mission, all because the idiots are too preoccupied in fighting each other than preparing for the Kamal. Everyone hurts, emotions are raw and volatile, and how are we supposed to fight a war when we keep losing more of ourselves and our friends along the way?” he asked, grinding his pointed teeth between each other in frustration.

“Leif attacks Do’Karth out of jealousy, one of our few remaining commanders was named after kicking a Khajiit to death, and every single day we’re thrown against the unknown and come back lesser each time. It cannot go on like this, it is as if we are buried up past our chests in sand, and each time we exhale, it collapses tighter so our lungs draw less air. Do’Karth thinks this entire ordeal is exceedingly stupid.”

His words left her silent. He had spoke openly, and his words were painfully truthful. What could she say? She could try to console him, or explain some of what he said, but in the end… Do’Karth words were the truth.

“You are right.” She said. A silence filled the air before the sound of her clearing her throat broke the void. “I will not console you, nor will I attempt to explain any of these conflicts. There is no need to do so.”

“Leif attacked you out of jealousy, and also out of heartbreak. I have to admit, never have I witnessed him act the way he did for as long as I have known him. I wish you to know this. I pity him, for his emotions will be his downfall. He has a fool’s heart when it comes to love. I would hope that he has some sense of decency to come and apologize. If he does not, I will not hold that against him.
“Even more so, you are also right about everyone’s emotions running amok. I am inexperienced too, by joining on with a mercenary company. To think I have signed my name in a contract for payment does not bother me. What does trouble me, is the sole fact that we do not have a sole leader to guide us.
“Sure, we have Ashav, but do we ever see him join us on these missions now? Not so much. We have Dumhuvud, who is not exactly a leader by all means, we have Ariane, and Edith, we had Farid, we had Daelin, but they do not work collectively as group. They do not work to lead us. They work for pay. This is what I have come to see. There is no leadership when those around you are concerned about their next pouch of septims. Perhaps… someone should step up, and become a leader to our rag-tag group. A leader in the sense of leading by example. Someone who is able to step away from situations and view our problems without bias. Someone...like you.”

That caused Do’Karth to blink, completely blindsided by the suggestion. “This one does not see your logic. Was Do’Karth not just explaining how he did not wish to be here, and it was only people he cared for that kept him?” He asked, taking Sevine’s hand in his own. “Do’Karth is not a leader, nor does he have a mind for the more intellectual parts of war. This one would never dare try to take authority away from the leaders we have, what we need now is more unity, not less. He just… he just thinks we need a break, away from the war. Let others handle the fighting for a change. Moreover, Do’Karth doesn’t wish to lose sight of who he is. This war reminds him more and more of the life he left behind. It scares him.”

For once, her attempt to inspire those around her… had failed. She had blindly stepped around the pieces he had said. A heat rose to her cheeks as her gaze shifted to the furred hand enveloping her own. She gave a tender squeeze before finding the courage to meet Do’Karth’s amber eyes.

“My love… I cannot run away. Even if I am afraid, I cannot. I cannot forsake those who would live to see another day if it meant that I stayed my ground and fought.” Sevine paused, withdrawing her hand from his grip.

“If you wish to leave… I will not stop you. But I could not go with you. My duty is here, contract or not. Even in these dire times, my country and my kinsmen need me.” Her throat tightened at the mere thought of fleeing Skyrim, or even to seek refuge far from the fighting. As some would say, it went against the very grain of her nature. While the retreat at Nightgate left her with doubts concerning her own morals, and weakness as a human, she knew she could not flee all of Skyrim.

Do’Karth’s head lulled back to look at the sky, perhaps finding some answers in the clouds that listlessly passed overhead.

“This one is not going anywhere.” He promised, closing his eyes and letting out a slow breath. “Do’Karth has learned long ago that what he wants and what he needs to do are entirely separate things. He could not abandon you, or the others. This one just wishes to be open, to let you know that he is terrified and has a lot of misgivings about his circumstances, but at least Do’Karth has Sevine.” he said, opening his eyes and returning to the stew. It looked about done. He began to dish it out with the well-worn wooden ladle into matching bowls he had laid out. He desperately wished to take a pinch of moon sugar, but given the circumstances, he decided he did not wish to give the wrong impression to Sevine. He just needed to clear and purify his thoughts and soul. “Do’Karth just thinks everyone needs to be given a chance to rest. We’re all suffering, physically and spiritually. Every day is a new battle, lost friends, more chaos and discord. He feels that we’ve forgotten how to live in our pursuit of trying not to perish to these snow demons.”

She readily received the bowl of stew, steam rose from its liquid surface, curling into the air. This time around Sevine did not speak at once, she let her thoughts form into coherent lines of speech. As a warrior, and a hunter, she saw much of the world in a different light. Yet, when it came to Do’Karth, she felt… well that was just it. Sevine, for once, could not identify her own feelings. She loved Do’Karth, that she knew.

Closing her eyes as she brought the lip of the bowl to her mouth, she blew a gust of cool air across the surface. Were death to meet her in these coming days, the last thing she wanted was to lose her sense of taste. Her mind ventured back to that evening spent in Leif’s house. The image of Do’Karth tending to her leg came in a flash, the soothing glow of the fire, his amber-orange eyes mirroring the flames, and even his tender touch as he focused on her leg. These were all welcoming in her mind’s eye. And if Do’Karth had noticed, or not, he would have seen her smiling.

She opened her eyes, and gazed into the stew she cradled. Her memory recalled their conversation shared under that roof of House Raven-Stone. Sevine revealed unto Do’Karth, how she became the Huntress. She revealed to him the guilt, and the shame she carried with the honor of having a Name. Her deed of slaughtering a man in cold blood while he relieved his bowels. There was no honor in that, no honor in killing a defenseless man. Even if he had nearly cost her her very life. When she opened up to Do’Karth about the truth behind her Name, he accepted what she had done, and did so without judgement. Much to her surprise, Do’Karth then revealed to her his deepest secret. And she, in return, had not judged him.

Now, her eyes shifted to Do’Karth, studying him as he ate. As she admired the straightness of his back, his words came back to her in a wave. Surely, being in a relationship was something that she was not experienced in. She had to bury her initial response as a soldier, and remember that Do’Karth was her lover.

“Forgive me…” she started, lowering the bowl of stew so as to address him properly, “I forget that… you are not a common soldier. I must remind myself to stop and think before I speak. I appreciate that you are being open with me, and sharing your thoughts. I hope that we have a break as well. War is exhausting. It is but a whirlwind of endless chaos. When I fought against the Legion, I often wondered if it was ever going to end. But now, I have you. And that changes everything that I’ve ever believed.” She then returned to her stew.

The Khajiit smiled warmly, but tiredly. “There is nothing to forgive. We each have a unique perspective on this world, for this one was once an assassin who has since sought atonement, and you are a warrior who has the rhythm of battle beating to your heartbeat. It gives you a dangerous beauty and sense of pragmatism Do’Karth admires, speaking of which…” he said, pulling a wrapped bundle from under a travel pack, offering it to Sevine with both hands. “A gift for this one’s Huntress.”

Her eyes widened at the sight of the gift he held towards her, causing her to set aside her stew in haste. “Do’Karth…” She began, taking the gift into her hands. A tight lump formed at the back of her throat as the weight of the object felt familiar. It had to be… With great care, as if she were unraveling an Elder Scroll itself, her fingers peeled back the canvas wrap. Cold metal gleamed in the morning light, and in her hands she held a new, steel axe.

Fingers curled around the shaft as she bent her head, her teeth biting into the flesh of her lower lip. “You… I…”

Her head lifted, she wanted to look him in the eye as she said this, “Thank you.” Sevine set the axe aside, and rose to her feet.

She quickly closed the distance between them, where she then threw her arms around his shoulders. “This is more than I could ever ask.” And so, she kissed him on the cheek.

Do’Karth wrapped his arms around Sevine, careful not to knock against his own bowl or the cauldron that still bubbled over the dying flames of the pit. “You would have a hard time being a warrior without a trusted weapon.” He smiled, burying his chin in her shoulder blade. “And what kind of partner would this one be if he didn’t do everything in his power to keep you safe?”

“I love you, Do’Karth.” She whispered into him, “Everything you do for me… have done for me… it has been out of genuine kindness. I cannot thank you enough.” Slowly she pulled away from him, and gestured to the food.

“Stew is best eaten hot, no?” She teased, and settled back down beside her new weapon, and reclaimed her bowl.

“Do’Karth once had to dine on nothing but beetles and grubs for a week. He decided a long time ago that cold stew is better than the alternative.” He chuckled, picking his bowl back up and leaning over to give Sevine an affectionate peck on the brow, already feeling much better about the day ahead, his misgivings fading like the morning sleep. “There’s much more that this one will do for you, until the end of our days. Perhaps he will find you a crown, or a nice cabin by the lake. For now, Do’Karth is thrilled that you humbly accept the gifts he can afford on his meager salary.” Her eyes twinkled at his words, her mouth full of food prevented her from replying, she hoped he would not take offense for her silence.

The look on her face was enough to make the small token of his affection, the simple but rugged axe, seem well worth every coin spent.

The two finished their meals and tidied up, and within the hour were down to the docks, the ship waiting to take on its passengers. Not fearing the sea as much as he had even a couple missions ago, Do’Karth stepped aboard with reassurance, his staff braced across his broad shoulders, feeling that whatever was going to come was something that Sevine and him could face together. Looking to the sun’s illuminating beams breaking through a stubborn cloud, he smiled, having found the guidance and reassurance that he so desperately needed.
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Hidden 8 mos ago Post by Dervish
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Dervish Let's get volatile

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Part Deux

29th of Sun’s Height, Sundown - Steelhead

In comparison to being aboard the Courtesan for her first time, the twisted knots in her stomach had seemingly disappeared. ‘Thank the gods.’, Sevine mused. She had emerged above deck just moments ago, one hand fingering the new axe Do’Karth had gifted her. The other toyed with the amulet around her neck.

An irritable itch clung to her, she blamed the weather, what with its overcast skies and eerie fog. She knew it was her nerves. The idea of fighting filled her with apprehension. Her thoughts circulated around the Battle of Nightgate. From Do’Karth, and the others, she had learned their stories of the Kamal, of the attack in open water, of those they lost. Would she meet the same fate on this voyage? She prayed not. Her eyes peered into the shroud of white vapor that swirled and danced across the surface. The waters were menacingly dark, almost black without the light of the sun.

Sevine headed to the side of the ship, one hand clung to her axe, while the other curled around the wooden railing. Her eyes narrowed into slits while her mouth sunk into a frown, there were enemies in the fog, shadows that were there, but weren't.

Do’Karth sidled up beside Sevine, resting his “elbows on the gunwale as he stared into the looming fog. He was starting to find his sealegs, much against his will. It seemed that the gods had deemed him to be one of the company’s go-to marines, which seemed to be somewhat cruel for one who was deathly afraid of the open ocean and freezing to death. Still, he was much more relaxed, understanding what a ship could and couldn’t do, and having been on ships that were on the verge of sinking, ones that were intact and deciding that residing above the surface was preferable weren’t all that bad.

“This one feels like he is looking into a mirror when he sees your expression.” he smiled, looking over at his partner. “At least we were not separated this time. It is much more reassuring to know where you are.” Do’Karth said, surprised to find his stomach aching for food rather than emptying its contents into the choppy waters below.

“This will hopefully go better than our voyage out to Winterhold.” he observed.

“Mmm.” She said with a nod of her head, “that was a disaster. Those mages brought about their own end. Even when there is chaos, order can still be found.” She clenched the railing harder, only to release it seconds later. Her hand traveled to his back, where she let it rest.

“The dark-elf… Niernen, I think her name is. She seems to avoid you. What happened? On the last mission…” Sevine turned now to face him.

If the Khajiit were capable of blushing, he would have. Turning away for a moment to compose himself, worrying that this question would have eventually found its way into the open, he reminded himself, No secrets. We deal in truths.

“It seems that Niernen had grown rather fond of this one after fighting alongside one another in Windhelm and the kindness Do’Karth showed her. After she was captured by the Kamal, she immediately sought this one out when she heard he was on the assignment. She expressed her feelings and thoughts to this one in confidence, and Do’Karth was rather flattered but confused about what to do in that situation. He chose to be with you, Sevine, and nothing is changing that. Niernen, bless her, accepted this and has decided, this one presumes, to give him space so she isn’t a disturbance between you and this one.” he said, staring down into the waves below. “Do’Karth cares about her, just… not like she feels.”

There were no words that would come, her tongue laid heavy in her mouth, like a pile of wet sand. Moments passed before she began to chuckle.

“Forgive me, my love. I did not expect you to be such a ladies man.” She teased, a smile forming for the first time that day.

“Who knows… if she has not had the chance, perhaps I will point her in Leif’s direction. Hearts scorned often have an uncanny way of finding friendship in unlikely places.” She sighed, “I do not jest… I know you have a good heart, that is why I chose you. And I am not mad… perhaps a bit jealous, but nothing more. I have other matters on my mind, and that is making sure you and I stay alive.”

Do’Karth’s fingers dug through the short fur on his cheeks and left impressions on his skin as he dragged them heavily downwards before they interlaced tepidly in front of him. “This one didn’t expect he was either!” he exclaimed playfully. “Perhaps he has found his true calling after all.” With a chuckle, he reached over and took Sevine’s hand.

“You have nothing to be jealous of, this one promises. This one is too simple of a Khajiit to wish to entangle himself with such complicated matters as love affairs or entertaining sudden crushes. He just feels bad for her, you understand.” he said, his face growing heavy suddenly as a heavy sigh filled his lungs like the fog. “Imagine being so far from home against your family’s wishes and being caught up in something like this war, and the only thing that kept you going was the thought of one’s kindness that wasn’t anything he wouldn’t have offered anyone else, and then deciding that that feeling was love. She needs time to heal, Do’Karth does not think she knows what she wants other than to have security and comfort with someone she trusts. This one doesn’t know if you were jesting about turning her towards Leif, but perhaps that isn’t such a horrible idea.” he said earnestly.

“I understand. Maybe not equally or wholly, but I can sympathize.” Her own hand moved to cover his. “But no… I did not jest about Leif. Who knows… maybe they have already met?” A half-lipped grin caused her eyes to crease at the corners.

“But tell me this… are you afraid? Are you afraid of these Armigers? I've fought them but once on the shores. What do you know of them?” Her thoughts turned to strategy, towards survival.

A much less awkward conversation. he thought.

“They are skilled, independent fighters that are certainly here because they want to be, not because they’ve been ordered to. They remind me of the Thalmor, if a bit rougher around the edges and more willing to put up with unpleasant circumstances. This one does not fear them; they have the same weaknesses as any other Mer, similar strengths. They probably will fight harder knowing they don’t have anywhere to retreat if they’re overrun, so perhaps there is a bit of fanaticism about them. After fighting the Kamal, they almost seem like a welcome break; Do’Karth can fight them and win, and he will win.” he said confidently, turning so he was leaning against the gunwale with the small of his back.

“Their biggest asset is they are united, ours is we have so many different kinds of warrior that they cannot possibly adapt to our tactics, and we’ve all fought alongside one another enough to trust each other. This one thinks that some of the others are looking to even the score. We all need a win.” he said, nodding towards Dax, who was pacing as if daring someone to confront him.

“That is good news, regardless. I’d rather not have to scale a Kamal like a tree anytime soon… as for Dax… what in the blazes is he doing here? Isn't he suppose to be in jail?” Sevine lowered her voice, loud enough for Do’Karth to hear.

“I've been too preoccupied to approach him.” Sevine confessed, which was the truth.

Do’Karth shrugged. “Best not to ask too many questions. This one isn’t fond of him after what happened with Farid, but better he is helping here than rotting in a cell unjustly. Do’Karth wonders if we’ll even have a Dawnstar to return to. We left it in a rather unpleasant situation.” he said, putting the severity of the brewing situation mildly.

“Aye… I didn't care much for Farid. Bit of an ass really. Too bad it wasn't Cat-Kicker, eh?” Her eyes wandered across the deck, “but you're right. I'd rather him be here than rotting away forgotten in some cell. Always better to have another sword. As for Dawnstar…” She turned back around to face him, a growing habit really. Sevine enjoyed gazing upon him whenever she got the chance.

“Well, let us pray that they come to no harm, and that our comrades can do justice.” She said.

“With that Khazki woman, this one isn’t so sure anything will be done right. She is… not reassuring.” Do’Karth remarked, noticing that the fog was breaking somewhat. A shout from the crow’s next informed them that land was approaching ahead. It was almost time to begin the mission. “Ready?” he asked.

As the prow broke through the waters, a jagged shadow, of what could only be land, appeared through the fog.

“Ready as I ever will be.” Sevine said, her shoulders squared and it seemed as if she grew another inch too.

As night fell, orders aboard the ship were to remain as silent as possible; even the most casual of conversations would carry across the waves and alert any sentries paying even halfway attention on the island. Do’Karth and Sevine helped with the preparations, loading the launch boat with supplies as instructed and soon were descended to the waves, where Do’Karth and a few others took of oars to silently ferry the team across the relatively still waves to the designated landing site, well away from where the Steelhead was last spotted, if it was at all.

After a relatively short time rowing, the bow of the boat dug into the thick debris-filled sands of the beach and Do’Karth and the others leapt out, pulling it ashore with almost practiced precision, carrying it when the waves no longer did, and soon it was squirreled away out of sight of the heights of the island, especially in the dark. Cat-Kicker called a briefing, to which the team gathered around. Despite the mutual loathing Do’Karth had between himself and the Nord, it seemed that at least they were both keen on keeping personal matters and feelings aside in favour of doing a good and proper job. Everyone’s lives were relying on each other doing their part, and despite Cat-Kicker’s terrible reputation, there had to have been a reason for him being one of the commanders, wasn’t there?

Sadri and Narzul were voluntold to take point, much to Do’Karth’s relief. He had been the scout his share of times, and the longer he could go without putting himself in the way of an arrow or bolt, the happier and healthier he’d be. A part of him felt guilty for thinking so, especially since Sadri hardly needed more scars. The two could handle themselves, he was sure.

Deciding to abate his guilt somewhat, Do’Karth followed after them, keeping a respectful distance, but close enough that his keen night eye would be able to spot threats before they saw him, he hoped.

Trailing not too far behind Do’Karth, Sevine fell in line beside Niernen. She cast a reassuring glance at the Dunmeri woman, better not speak a word until they broke their cover. And by breaking their cover, she hoped it would be by lopping some poor sod’s head off.
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by Frizan
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Frizan The One True Keeper

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@Dervish & @Frizan

An Unlikely Alliance

26th Sun's Height, Late Afternoon.

~ ~ ~

Try as they might, the guards weren't able to hide the massacre at the Iron-Breaker Mine for long, and keeping the crowd contained was neigh impossible. It was all they could do to keep nerves calm enough before the more belligerant sorts decided to take out their righteous indignition out on whoever they figured were responsible, and the likely candidates were just outside the gates.

Khazki was elevated up on the rock face, having climbed up enough to have a vantage of the bodies and a space away from the gathering crowd that was only a quick ignition from turning into a mob. Khazki had seen crowds like this before in more than one province. It didn't matter what race it made up the bulk of a crowd, mob mentality was probably the single most dangerous and stupid thing in all of Tamriel. People became exponentially dumber as their numbers grew, and it only took one pushy loudmouth to push things off the deep end. It was a good enough reason to keep some space away from those sorts, and Khazki wanted to see the bodies. She would have looked for tracks, but given the amount of feet stomping around the mine, whoever did the deed was well extinguished. The only thing for certain was that the distinctly reptillian imprints an Argonian would leave were conspicuously absent.

Looking up from the laid out bodies that weren't covered yet, she looked to the crowd, scanning faces to see if any looked out of place, or were reacting abnormally.

It wasn't very hard for Sagax to dig up the quickly-spreading news of the incident at the city mines. A few minutes making himself inconspicuous near a bunch of gossipers next to the inn tipped himself and Piper off to the growing mob at the scene of the massacre. As they drew closer, the crowd became thicker and thicker, until Sagax could barely see past the mass of bodies in front of him. They had to get closer, though.

His small size may have kept Sagax from peering over the heads of the mob, but it was a boon in sliding through the narrow openings between the arms of the angry cityfolk. Piper operated with much less finesse, simply shoving her way past people that were too stubborn for her to walk through; thankfully everyone was too interested in what happened inside the mines to give her a piece of their mind. Eventually the two were able to make their way to the front of the crowd, giving them a good view of the crime scene. Guards were marching around the perimeter, and investigators made their way in and out of the opening of the mineshaft.

Tilting his head up, Sagax spied a stranger in quite heavy-looking armor, peering down from a hill at the scene. Were they the culprit, admiring their handiwork? Not likely, but what were they doing then? Perhaps exactly what Sagax and Piper were doing...maybe they would aid in their investigation?

That didn't take long. Khazki thought, staring right back at the two Imperials who seem more fixated on her rather than the mutilated corpses laid out like fruit market stalls. They looked somewhat familiar, or so she thought; humans tended to blur together in groups, although Imperials stood out from Nords thanks to their complexions and angular features. She offered a little sarcastic wave at her new fanclub before turning back to the crime scene. Although she got roped into trying to figure out who a murderer was in a land filled with them, a rather pointless endeavor, she found herself growing warmer to the idea; it was like a puzzle to be solved, and it was a novel idea. The poor bastards who got butchered beneath the earth deserved better than they got, and in interest of not meeting a similar fate down the road, she decided she should try to do right by these folk. She was a guest in Skyrim, an unwanted one, and she had a boss that knew her motivations for being here were entirely self-centered. It didn't hurt to earn goodwill, did it?

"I don't like the look of them." were Piper's first words concerning the mysterious stranger. Words that Sagax did not hear, as he was already making his way back out of the crowd. "What the-Hey! Where the fuck do you think you're going!?" she yelled out as she went back to shoving hapless strangers into each other while chasing her brother down. She eventually caught up to Sagax; he had lead Piper to the rock the stranger was perched on top of. He was already within speaking distance by the time Piper got to the foot of the hill. "Sagax, what the fuck are you do-"

"Good evening to you, friend." Sagax said, greeting Khazki with a warmness one would normally reserve for friends. "You have an interest in the mine massacre too, don't you? My sister and I are looking to investigate, and we would appreciate the help." One wouldn't be able to see Piper's facial expression, as she had donned her helmet, but her frustrated groan gave a clue as to her feelings about the stranger and her brother's naive friendliness.

"Oh yes, a rather large interest in staring at dead bodies. It's a macabre art collection down there." Khazki replied dryly, looking at the Imperial man's face through skeptical slits. "What makes you think I'm investigating? I could just be admiring the view." she replied, drumming her claws on a raised knee, a tapping ring coming from the metal. "What's your interest? Your friend there seems a bit squeemish." she remarked.

"Admiring the view, huh? Bullshit." Piper retorted, her helmet adding a tinny vibrato. She continued before Sagax could interject. "There are three people interested in the murders down there: investigators scoping out the scene, guards trying to keep the peace, and gossiping civilians looking for their next object of conversation. You sure as shit aren't a civilian, and you aren't wearing a guard uniform, so that narrows it down quite a bit, sister."

"We're investigating the recent murders here, and we're thinking the perps were hiding out in the mines...until the workers found them. Poor bastards."

Taking advantage of his sister's pause, Sagax spoke up. "Um, yes, that's the gist of it all. Perhaps if we could get into the mines, we may find a few clues pertaining to the identity of the killers. I'm sure the guards are competent, but fresh eyes may turn up something overlooked! Wouldn't you agree?"

Khazki threw up her hands in mock defeat. "Oh you caught me, nothing escapes your notice, does it Bucket?" the Khajiit replied mockingly. "If you must know, Ashav's paying me 20% less than everyone else to clear the name of the company's resident walking leather deposits before Dawnstar tears itself apart to save the Kamal the effort. So it does seem like we have a similar goal in mind." she looked to Sagex, the more reasonable one.

"So happens I was up here looking to find if there's a way to slip in the mine without drawing much attention, but I'm coming up short. I know the guards are supposed to cooperate with us in finding the killers, but I doubt they're going to want a bunch of paid killers stomping around over the corpses of their friends and family that worked the mines. Part of me doesn't think we'll find anything obvious in the mines, but I can see in the dark. I can see things they might not. So what do you call yourself?" Khazki asked, staring back at the crowd.

"Oh, my name is Sagax. Sagax Speculatus, and this is my sister, Piper..."

"Fuck's sake, why not just give her our fucking house number and safe key, too?"

"...and I'm under Ashav's employ as well. My sister, though, she's been contracted by the Jarl as an independent." Perhaps Piper could get them inside, Sagax thought to himself. If they knew she was under the employ of Skald, then possibly the guards would be more willing to let their group investigate the mines. The walking mass of steel that was his sister must have been thinking the same thing, as she had pulled out her contract. It seemed to be worth the try. If their efforts ended up in vain, then they would just have to figure something else out.

"I mean, if you're offering..." Khazki mused at Piper's outburst with a bemused smirk. "Well Sagax, Bucket, sounds like you've a better idea than sitting around like a pile of horker shit." she balanced forward, rising to her feet without using her hands. With an exaggerated stretch and kicking out her ankles to work out the kinks, she gestured ahead. "Lead the way and see if the Jarl's writing is legible enough to be taken seriously."

"Right then, fine, follow me then." Taking charge, Piper marched back down the hill and started clearing the cloud for Sagax and Khazki. "Agents of the Jarl coming through! Move! I said get the fuck out of my way!" Piper was smart this time, and pushed her way through the part of the crowd she hadn't already annoyed with her constant pushing and shoving. Eventually the Imperial was able to make her way to the front where she was stopped by a guard.

"I've been hired by the Jarl to investigate the recent string of murders here, and I think the deaths in the mines are connected. Let us through!" It was clear Piper didn't have the word 'diplomatic' in her vocabulary.

"Yeah? And Queen Elisef was my betrothed. You think pushing yourself around for the past half hour and gawking like a child wasn't going to go unnoticed?" The guard sneered. "Get lost, go investigate somewhere that isn't here."

Khazki rolled her head back, mouthing an annoyance at the situation. She looked at the guard, who eyed her with an arguably less trusting gaze than toward Piper. "She might be a loud mouth idiot without tact, but she's telling the truth. My friend here," She gestured to Sagex, "And I are a part of Ashav's crew. We got the shitstick and are supposed to figure out who decided to murder a bunch of people in town. Now I know you guards all have warm and cozy feelings towards cats like me, but face it; I have better senses than you and the sooner you help us find some leads, the less you'll have to watch your townsfolk get butchered. I mean, I get paid either way, but I'd rather earn my pay by sitting on my ass and drinking than stomping around looking for fake Argonians who probably are trying to impress someone and embarass you by making you lot look utterly incompetent. Now can we please get this over with?"

"Why you puffed up furball...we have the situation under control! Any minute now, our men in the mines will turn up something, and we'll solve this thrice-damned murder, and we don't need you, that buckethead, or your lanky whoreson 'friend'! How dare you try to use the poor folks that have died as some kind of...leverage to get me to let you stomp around as you see fit? I ought to..." The guard would have continued his sputtering rant, but he was stopped by one of his more level-headed collegues.

"Torbald! That's enough, man! These folks just want to help, and Talos knows we need every bit of help the gods afford us."

"Don't give me that crap, Rundi! These murders are Dawnstar's business, we don't need a bunch of unloyal sellswords romping around our city and mucking up our efforts. We'll find something soon!"

"Torbald, we've been searching this place for hours, and we haven't found anything. It's a damned winding maze down there, and our boys can't see a thing...we could always use fresh eyes, especially ones that can see in the dark. Besides, if they've been contracted by the Jarl, we'd be going against orders by barring them entry..."

Looking between his fellow guard and the group of mercs before him, Torbald eventually threw his hands up in the air and stormed off, muttering curses all the while.

"Right...sorry about him. He's just on edge. We all are, really, but don't let that scare you off. We're all glad you've agreed to help us. You can head on inside, but watch your step, and I'm not just talking about the pitfalls."

"Thanks. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry for what happened here." Khazki said with unusual sincerity, glancing at one of the bodies being covered by an arriving blanket and then at the guard, Torbald, stomping off. "Small town like this, everyone knows each other. I'm sure your friend is just trying to cope best he can. We'll be respectful... and careful." She said, placing a hand on the man's shoulder as she passed into the entrance, her eyes taking a few moments to adjust to the darkness. The smell of dust was prevailant, as was a damp musky smell thanks to the mine's proximity to the coast. Also pugnant was the rusty copper smell of fresh and drying blood. Khazki wrinkled her nose, walking careful as to not disturb anything, and to rely on other senses than her eyes. When the three of them were well past the entrance, Khazki chirped up, "You mentioned you were siblings, Sagex, yet you said you work for Ashav and Bucket's under contract by the Jarl. Tells me you two haven't been together long. What's the deal?"

"Oh, that's an absolutely great fuckin' story. Go ahead, Sagax, tell the nice lady about what you've been doing up here while your poor family was worried sick about you!" Piper's indignation was most certainly not unnoticed by her brother; he could tell she was hurt by what she percieved as Sagax abandoning her and Equa. He hoped he would be able to mend that wound, in time.

"Uh, well, I left home a few months ago to find employ in a mercenary company. Find riches, glory, so on and so on. My sister stayed back home with our mother while I found my way to Skyrim, and eventually into Ashav's company." Sagax purposefully neglected to mention the why of him leaving home to enter into the mercenary life. With the recent article calling for his father's capture and execution, he figured it was a good idea to just keep quiet. "Piper got here not too long ago, just yesterday in fact."

"Yeah, I came down here to make sure this knucklehead doesn't get his dumb ass killed. Those snow demons...don't like the sound of them one bit." Deep down Piper wished they could just go home, that the demons would just go away and never come back. She knew, though, that she would need to spill a lot of blood to set the world right again...if she even could. Attempting to break from her own miserable thoughts, Piper decided to ask the questions for a change. "What about you, Kitten? What are you doing in the oh-so great frozen north?"

Khazki's lips upturned in a bemused smile at the obvious tension between them. She was ahead of them and looking in a likewise direction, so there wasn't much of a reason for Bucket to lose her shit, as if she required a reason. She sounded suitably worried about the Kamal, however. It was something even the most bitter of rivals could find common ground in. "Spent a few years living in Morrowind, been traveling for the better part of a decade looking for fame and riches, came out this way when the Dunmer decided that anyone who wasn't grey and dull was an enemy of the state. It's too bad; life was nicer out that way than in Coldharbour's gentle cousin." The Khajiit replied, finding a blood pool splashed over the rocks next to the boardwalk, crouching next to it. She ran her fingers along the sleek liquid, feeling its texture and viscosity, taking in its scent. It didn't smell or feel sickly; it was one of the telltail signs of the cruder poisons.

"So ditching your family, huh? I've been there. So if you're so concerned about ditching your family, why'd you chase after a brother that could have been very well dead?" She asked, standing and carrying on, looking for something that stuck out. "Neither of you are going to find anything worthwhile working for a mercenary outfit. Only thing I'm getting out of it is a spot on a boat when those Frost Fucks finally catch up to where I am. At least you two can say the same. Safety in numbers and all that feel-good shit." she mused, feeling somewhat subdued from her verbal sparring the night before. It was hard to keep a skeptical guard up and focus on tracking down signs of the marauders at the same time.

"Oh, trust me, I'd have left any another dumb bastard for the vultures. Sagax is a very special dumb bastard, though. He's family...and family is all you can trust in this fucked up little world of ours. Can't really afford to let one of the few I have left bite the dirt." Piper had a more selfish motive, as well. She wanted that journal translated, to read just what exactly her teacher had wanted her to know. It was a strange feeling, the curiosity that ate at Piper's mind. Her brother was always the more inquisitive one, while she took most things at face value. It was almost unbearable; she needed to get that damn book translated soon, before her own curiosity drove her insane.

"I love you too, Piper. Glad you're here." His voice carried sarcasm, but Sagax's words were honest. Despite his desire for her to have stayed back home, Piper's presence put him at ease. The friends he had made in the company were nice, but Piper was different. They grew up together, knew everything about each other. He could depend on her, and she him. "As for the mercenary life, I don't know...it's oddly fulfilling. It's given me some purpose, and I've been able to meet a lot of interesting people from many walks of life. Not only that, but I feel that I've learned more in these past months than I have in the past ten years. I don't know, maybe it's just that soldiering is in my blood, being raised a Legion boy, but it's not often I find my mind occupied by regrets." Sagax walked carefully as he spoke, wary of any pits, discarded tools...or worse. Torches were sparsely place along the walls of the mine, but it was still fairly dark. He didn't have the trouble seeing that perhaps Piper did, but he was certainly outclassed by Khazki. Khajiit were always so interesting to Sagax. Giant cats that could speak, had unparalleled eyesight in the dark, and made for both incredibly fearsome warriors and the most dastardly thieves in Tamriel.

"He's always been the sentimental type...it's so cute, kind of like a child fawning over a toy or something."

Sagax could only sigh.

``Trusting family, huh? Must be nice." Khazki replied tersely, her tail flicking in annoyance as she reflected on exactly she left behind. It would have almost been too perfect if the Kamal decided to land on the outskirts of Senchal, but she wasn't that lucky. "Glad you're liking marching to someone else's drum and being thrown into potentially lethal situations that someone else decided for you. I'll be hitting the road when I get somewhere that the people are too fat and stupid to realize there's a war on, but until then..." the Khajiit trailed off, reaching what looked like the end of the mine, or at least this branch of it. Something caught her nose, and she crouched down, feeling the ground by where there were two unique bloodstains. Only instead of looking at the blood, she was after something else. Her fingers brushed across something that was certainly off of the other pebles and debris and she picked up what she was looking for; a hardened chunk of ash. "Found something. Ash shell chunks. Thought I caught the scent of something familiar." she told the others.

Both Imperials peered over Khazki's shoulders, trying to find out what exactly she was looking at. It wasn't until the Khajiit had the strange ashen rock in her hands that Sagax and Piper could see what she was talking about. "Ash shell?" inquired Sagax, "What's an Ash shell?" Something familiar? What did Khazki mean by that? "Something native to Morrowind?" said the Imperial, giving his best guess. "Could...could there have been Armigers hiding in these mines?" If Sagax guessed right, it meant that Dawnstar was in terrible danger.

"The hell's an Armiger?" Piper asked. "Sounds like a kind of salad." Well, salad would certainly be much less threatening, thought Sagax.

"Here, I'll show you." She said, reaching over to hand the chunk to Piper. As the Imperial woman reached to grab it, the Khajiit grabbed hold of her wrist, her hand glowing with the pale green glow of alteration magic. Suddenly, Piper's forearm was steadily becoming encased with a shell of hardened ash, much like the rock that Khazki found on the ground. She released Piper, leaving her with a hard coated lower arm. "That's an ash shell, one of those Ashlander specialties they developed in response to their environment, they use it for immobilizing game, victims, and what I think happened was our killer used it to seal up a wound so they wouldn't drip blood everywhere." She explained, mostly looking at Sagex.

"Don't worry, Bucket; it isn't permenant. A particularly determined sort can break out of it with relative ease." The Khajiit assured her with an impish smirk. "So that's what I think we're dealing with, Ashlanders, but yeah, Armigers are likely, too. They're kind of like a vanguard mashed up with royal guard over in Morrowind, putting it loosely." she explained for Piper's benefit.

"FUCKING SHIT!" Piper's bellow seemed to echo for minutes off of the walls of the mines as she began striking the strange stone coating her arm. Eventually she started smacking it against a wall while Khazki explained the Ash shell and the Armigers.

"If it is Ashlanders, then these murders weren't just for murder's sake. If they were just scouts then they would want to be as inconspicuous as possible." Thinking back to Windhelm, it was remarkable to Sagax just how similar the two situations were. There was at least a shaky peace between the inhabitants, but then someone died, and then riots erupted. They were still at the murder part of the pattern so far, so maybe they could stop the chaos before it happened, giving the Kamals a nasty surprise if they assaulted Dawnstar: a unified populace completely ready for them. "We need to oust these killers as fast as we can, that much is very clear."

"Yeah, no shit, genius!" Piper had finally stopped swearing long enough to enter the conversation, it seemed she was able to break out of the stone surrounding her arm. "I read what happened at Windhelm, it doesn't take a gods-damned Moth Priest to put everything together. Well...when you've got all the info, anyway."

"All right, admit it, Piper, you're only able to figure it out because I told you about the Ashlanders last night."

"Shut up! I said 'when you've got all the info', didn't I!?"

Khazki let the two squabble for a bit, amused at the sibling rivalry that seemed to take precidence over the fact they were standing where around 8 workers died within the past couple hours. "If anyone had any sense in their thick Nord skulls, no one would be in Dawnstar when, not if, the Kamal arrive. Windhelm has massive walls and limited entry options, and from what I'm hearing even the fresh forces were ousted and forced to run for the hills within a few short days. What do you think Dawnstar has going for it?" The Khajiit asked rhetorically, picking up another piece of hardened ash, realizing that the guards outside would probably like to see it... well, more like need to.

"I believe its people have the will, spirit, and grit to beat back the Snow Demons. That's what Dawnstar has going for it. Windhelm had its walls, yes, but it was taken entirely by surprise. The Kamal attacked from what seemed like the Aether, their ships rolling in through the fog, hammering the city walls until they crumbled."

"Are you shitting me, Sagax? You need an army to fight off an invasion! You need troops, resources, and battle plans. What is willpower and spirit going to do?" Why couldn't her brother just face reality? All the belief and faith in the world wasn't going to beat back the Kamal, or any enemy for that matter. The gods weren't going to help, and there were no heroes to charge across the battlefield and secure easy victory. "When the Kamal get here, Sagax, we're fucking leaving, even if I have to drag you by your damn ear!"

"You need to learn to believe in people, Piper. They're capable of amazing feats, and every one can be more surprising than the last. Tamriel will prevail over the Snow Demons, I'm certain, now that we know just what we're up against."

Piper stared at Sagax for a few moments, her expression and whispers blocked by the hunk of metal over her head. It wasn't entirely clear what she thought of her brother's words, but one could only assume she disagreed vehemently. "Let's just...get these rocks back to the guards, tell'em what we think."

"People are also capable of slitting your throat for scraps of food, or your coin purse. They also tend to want other things if you happen to be a woman walking alone on the road, so don't put too much stock in the power of friendship and belief when people watch what happens to a body after sudden trauma, or when they get even the slightest bit hungry. Only thing separating us from the wolves is we agree to pretend to be civilized up until the point it no longer benefits us to play by the rules. Bucket's right; you don't want to put your theory to the test, or you're going to find out that the Kamal aren't the worst monsters you need to worry about." Khazki said, nodding at Piper's suggestion they return. They found what they came for.

The trio emerged from the mine's entrance and into the blinding morning light to the same chaos they left behind. Khazki found the same guard who permitted them entrance, handing him a chunk of the ash. "Whoever did this was probably Dunmer. They were using a spell that originated in the Ashlands." she explained to the guard.

Rundi looked over the stone, turning it over curiously. "The Ashlands? That's the place with all of those whacked-out tribals, right? Worship sand or whatever." Beckoning over Torbald, the guard showed his colleague the group's find. "I told you they'd find something...take a look at this. Cat says it's from Morrowind."

Without missing a beat, Torbald started up his irritable grumbling again. "Of course it'd be good-for-nothing grayskins! We need to report this to the Jarl immediately. Unfortunately, we have orders to keep these mines locked down, so I suppose you lot get the honor." Looking over to Khazki and the others, Torbald left some friendly parting words before returning to his patrol. "We'd have found this eventually...don't feel special because you sniffed out a few stones."

"He's right...well, about the first part. You should make your way to the Jarl, or whoever it is you report to. This is one hot piece of evidence you all have come across...watch your backs."

"Always do." Khazki assured him, beaconing the siblings to follow her out of the sectioned off crime scene. It didn't necessarily get them closer to finding the killers, but at least they had an idea of what they were looking for. She handed the chunk to Piper via casual toss. "You're reporting to the Jarl, aren't you? Have fun. I'm going to see if the Argonian camp has anything that's relevant to what we're looking for." she said.

Flinching slightly at the sight of the Ash shell soaring towards her, Piper fumbled with it for a second before finally getting a good grip. "Yeah, you do that. I'll take this to the old gray-head running this shithole, maybe he can do something with the information in his infinite wisdom."

"After we're done over there, we can take the stone to Ashav, spread the word around about what we found. We'll have these killers in chains yet!" There shone again Sagax's great optimism, as if he was entirely oblivious to the possibility that the murderers may get off completely scot-free.

Khazki shrugged as she turned to walk off, deciding to let the man have his moment of hope. "Sure. You'll be the Hero of Dawnstar. I'll even let you take the credit." sticking a pair of knuckles under her chin, the Khajiit pressed until her neck cracked. "Just... yeah." she said, deciding against stating the obvious of be careful. Sagax seemed like he was too innocent for the hard, cold world in which they lived, and Khazki had seen so many promising people cut short from the most unassuming of circumstances. The killers probably knew that people were closing in on them; they wouldn't hesitate to put a stop to that. With a wave, she began to walk off. "See you later. You both owe me a drink."

"Yeah, yeah, we'll be fine, Kitten." Piper said as she beckoned to Sagax. "Come on, we've dawdled enough already."
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Hidden 7 mos ago Post by MiddleEarthRoze
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25th of Sun's Height

The day had not been a good one for Roze. First of all, the whole debacle with Sagax - and his 'charming' sister - had left both her body and her ego bruised. Following the argument, Roze had wandered sullenly around the village for a while, drinking more alcohol and emptying her stomach a few times before finally passing out in her room. During this inebriated wandering however, she had wanted nothing more than to find her imperial friend and apologise for her behaviour. But something held her back; Roze wanted to think it was anger, or desire to avoid Piper and getting thrown around like a ragdoll again. What with pushing down both guilt and shame as she avoided the Speculatus siblings, it was clear she was just being too cowardly to do anything about it. Roze had never had much in the way of good friends before; not like Sagax had been, anyway. As such, a falling out like the one they'd had hurt far more than arguments in the past with old companions.

Choosing to simply let things lie for a bit, Roze hoped the air would clear around Dawnstar, and her owns concerns would become a tad more alleviated as time went on... but as further events unfolded in the small coastal town, her stomach began to turn to knots of worry. First, the rumours of Ashav being attacked. While the Breton was hardly close to the esteemed leader of the mercenary group (In fact, she was sure the last time she'd spoken properly to him was back in Windhelm, during the first "suicide run"), her concern was more with the other rumours. That of the theft of various documents, displaying the names of those in the group. Roze could only guess that the attack and theft was the work of Armigers, or anyone else stupid or power-hungry enough to work for the Kamal... but it was still an odd thing to do, particularly while leaving Ashav alive. While he wasn't the best leader in the world, his death would shake the group to it's core. Struggles for taking the empty spot of leader would likely cause divides too - so what on earth did they find so valuable in this robbery?

At the point when these rumours reached her, Roze was in no real state to waste brainpower on possible theories. All she could think about was her name and description being spread around... particularly to the not so far away hold of Haafingar. Knowledge of her being sneaky and good at stealing was well known amongst the camp by now, but she hadn't made it obvious (other than to the few she could trust) about how professional her thievery was. Nor had she thrown around her bounty in Solitude - with employment documents possibly missing from camp, Roze feared it wouldn't take much for someone to connect the dots, particularly if they'd spent any amount of time with her. Solitude wasn't too far from Dawnstar, and thoughts of being captured and sent off to to the dungeons of Castle Dour kept circling around Roze's head for the remainder of the day. The rogue kept telling herself she was simply being paranoid, such thoughts being made worse by tiredness and alcohol - but this did nothing to help her relax, and she spent the night tossing and turning, trying not to throw up again.

26th of Sun's Height

Thanks to her drunken antics the night before, Roze was particularly dishevelled when reporting for duty at the docks. Many of the group looked tired what with the early hour they were up at, but all Roze wanted to do was find a warm, dark hole to crawl into and pass out. Or die - whichever stopped the thumping in her head and churning of her stomach. The gentle rocking of the boat wasn't doing wonders for her queasiness either, already making her dread for how much worse she'd feel when actually out on the real waves. Not really paying attention to Ashav as he spoke, Roze's eyes wandered around the group she stood with - half of them were remaining in Dawnstar, to investigate the murders. Normally she would have preferred a job like that, but being away from Sagax (and Piper) would make things easier. Hopefully, anyway. It would hardly be a walk in the park with Dumhuvud in charge.

Scoffing quietly at Ashav's finishing words before dismissal, Roze glanced at the Cat-Kicker's glowering and bruised face for a moment. "Glad? I think the prick would give himself a hernia if some poor soul dared to ask him about mission plans."

29th of Sun's Height

For once, Roze felt glad at arriving at their destination, even despite the likelihood of it being swarmed with Armigers. As anticipated, she had spent the first day sailing sick as a dog; throwing up what was left in her stomach over the side of the boat, and retching the rest of the day. The first night had brought her no sleep as insomnia kicked in, but she was thankfully able to force some stale bread down. Her second day would have been much better, had it not been for her lack of sleep - Roze had had to scurry away quickly from their glowering leader after she yawned one too many times in front of him. While no threats were given, his face of thunder was enough to relocate herself to the other side of the ship.

As the third day approached and Bleakrock Isle came into view, Roze was anxious to get onto dry land and get the mission over and done with. Thankfully, this job was more up her alley, what with being a sneak attack. It was amazing what you could get away with when being quiet and out of sight; one time she had shot and killed what she had once thought was a lone bandit out on the roads, only for his friend to come out of nowhere and start yelling into the shadows, his sword drawn. He gave up after just a minute, walked back to his friend sheathed his sword, and promised the corpse that he would be avenged. That was when she had put an arrow into the idiot who had just turned his back to her.

Getting back on solid earth was more pleasant than she first expected, and she stretched in a very cat-like manner to loosen up her taught muscles. While she had managed to snatch up a few hours of sleep before landing, fatigue was still very much set in her bones. At the prospect of enemies however, adrenaline began to flow and shake her weary mind back to full power. Bow in hand, Roze ignored most of Dumhuvud's barking orders, wondering why the hell someone as loud and obvious as the Cat-Kicker had been put in charge of a stealth mission. Watching on as Sadri and a new Dunmer to the group took point (Unwillingly so, poor sods) Roze kept herself towards the side of the group, silently casting a detect life spell to better see into their dark surroundings. So far, nothing looked out of the ordinary; but she remained vigilant, an arrow already loosely knocked into her bow as she walked parallel to the two Dunmeris at the front.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by Spoopy Scary
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Six of One Thousand Steps: The Hunt Begins
26th of Sun's Height, Late Afternoon

The news of Ashlander magic did not take long to spread. From those surrounding the mouth of the mine, the mutterings spread like wildfire. Through the town, through the docks, the taverns and shoppes, amongst the guard, and when the mutterings spreads amongst the guards, they’re inevitably carried to the Saxhleel camps just outside the gates by the patrols. While the tensions weren’t easy, that information was not shared with the lizard men of Black Marsh through love. No, the nords seemed to revel in taunting the refugees - perhaps if they are lucky, the argonians were next - perhaps their dunmeri masters would finally take them off their hands - perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. ‘Perhaps if everyone were lucky, the Ashlanders would kill every racist in Dawnstar,’ Wylendriel thought, but then she closed shut her eyes in shame. When will these intrusive thoughts finally end?

She sat alone with a few of the refugees in a tent, among whom was the Saxhleel warrior she had saved just the day prior, Vija-Nim. A raj-deelith, an elder or teacher, who was introduced as Wuska and was particularly grieving for Pakseech Tzinasha. She was with a third; a mother, named Inan. All four surrounded Tzinasha’s lifeless body, who lay on hay and soft mud. Like, the others, Wylendriel had the feather Tzinasha had given him laid out in front of her as she sat on her knees. Before, she was ignorant of the feather’s true meaning, but now she could see how significant to the Saxhleel it was.

Everyone who was present had one. Vija-Nim, a great warrior who had apparently saved his life on many occasions. Wuska, his best friend and closest confidant for many years. Inan, his daughter and mother to his granddaughter. Then herself… the savior. She had inspected the cuts on his body and hadn’t found any traces of residue. It had to have been done by a thin metal blade. The murderer aimed for vital spots that had soft scales, so they knew where in an argonian to stick the blade. They had to be well acquainted with their physiology, especially to assassinate one adorned with robes. The rest seemed convinced it had to have been a dark elf slaver, or at least they were a slaver at one time. It was only more damning when one of the lowliest of the Saxhleel claimed to have seen the glint of red eyes escaping the scene, but there was no proof otherwise.

For a while now, the four had sat in silence in honor of the saxhleel who had so much love and wisdom to give, but soon that silence would have to be broken if they were to ever find out who was responsible for Tzinasha’s murder.

“Wuska, my sweet Wuska, there is no need to cry,” said Inan, “Tzinasha was my father, and your egg-brother, xhu? He had the marsh in his veins, surely he has rejoined the one.”

“That is not the problem we face.” Vija-Nim said, looking to Wuska knowingly. “We all rejoin the one in the end, that is a clear river. But Tzinasha was swept away by dark currents run with poison - murdered, and more will follow if we let the murderer go unpunished.”

“It is not the death he deserved.” Wuska sobbed.

“We will bring the wrongdoer to justice, this I promise.” Vija-Nim assured solemnly. “Our sun-blessed friend is here to help us. She has once before, she promised she will again.”

Wylendriel bowed her head before the others once more like she had when she first saw them upon entering the tent earlier ago. She raised her head and gave Tzinasha’s cold body an endearing look with reddened eyes that were long dried of tears before even today. She hid the burning seething she felt inside her chest well, but those well familiar with it could find it leaking out through the piercing gaze. Her lips moved, with at first nothing coming out, but managed to contribute to the conversation after some hesitation.

“He was a soft old leaf, to be sure.” The priestess agreed, facing Wuska. Then she looked to Vija-Nim and nodded to him brusquely, saying, “Let us get to the matter at hand. The ash shells the guards were speaking of, do they mean anything to you?”

Vija-Nim shook his head. “Perhaps not to me, but to Wuska…”

Wuska followed up on the warrior’s cue, “Ashlander magic. I have seen it many a time in Morrowind.”

Then Inan spoke, “My father was not found with any ash shells. What does that mean?”

“It could mean two things.” Vija-Nim suggested. “One, there is more than one of them, which would mean the dark elves have followed us here. Or two, the enemy didn’t use magic for your father, they stabbed him in his softest scales. Many dunmer know where to kill us.”

Wuska hissed, “They killed him from behind, xuth, like a reeking thin-scale.

“There’s a third possibility.” Wylendriel added, prompting looks from the other three. “There could be a murderer among us and a dunmer taking advantage of it.”

Vija-Nim held his chin for a moment, absorbed in thought. He looked back and nodded, “That too is possible. The deaths began with an elf girl, then Tzinasha. The nords make no effort to hide their hatred for us. No reason for an Armiger to target them, but the iron mine? That’s where weapons and armor are made. Indiscriminate slaughter by a trained warrior. A Thane was also killed, part of Dawnstar's leadership.”

“But the girl and my father… if an Armiger is here, couldn’t they have also taken them, spin the locale into chaos? Jazechniim saw red eyes.” Inan asked.

“Whatever the case, we know that there is a dark elf in the Pale.” Wuska said. “If we find them and deliver them to Seth, we will know for sure after a time.”

“You would wait for more to die?” Vija-Nim questioned.

“That is all we can do.” Wyledriel answered. “If there’s a second murderer, then we’re looking for a nord who hates non-nords in a nord town that hates non-nords. We know there’s a dunmer. We ought to start there.”

“Forgive me sun-blessed,” replied the warrior, “but when we met - when you pulled me back into the river - you swam in pure streams. If the passing of our egg-brother has poisoned that river, then I would not see you swim in these rapids for your own good.”

“You misunderstand me.” Wylendriel rebuked. “My devotion to Kynareth is as much as it is to Y’ffre. Murderers take more than they need, they harm the natural order. If wolves kill without eating, we cull the wolves. Us bosmer believe life is a cycle, not a river from here to there.”

“That is quite a bloody religion.” Wuska commented. “You believe what you will. The Hist watches us all.”

“Ah-- anyways,” Inan began, attempting to change the topic to something far less offensive and back to what actually mattered. “There was evidence from the high elf girl’s murder. A bone dagger.”

“Bonemold.” Wuska immediately answered. “A traditional dark elf weapon.”

“That depends on what kind of bone it is. Some nords like to use bone for their hilts and handles sometimes.” Vija-Nim proposed, but Wuska remained unconvinced.

“Nords also like their weapons, especially when they have bone in them. Give them names like Mead-Licker or things stupid like that. Wouldn’t leave them inside the girl like that.”

Vija-Nim nodded and looked to Wylendriel with confidence. He said to her, “It’s looking more and more like these deaths were by the hands of an Armiger. It would moisten my scales to know there is no second killer.”

“We still cannot let our guard down.” Wy insisted. “You cannot be too eager to believe it is a dunmer alone behind it.”

“Why can’t I?” Wuska hissed, standing to her feet. “Because of some preening mammal licker sings a song of justifying hate or racism? Because I’ll be the first to admit it, I hate the dark elves! I’d see them battered against jagged rocks before I believe they aren’t evil!”

Vija-Nim and Inan both stood to their feet along with Wuska, raising their hands gently and bringing Wuska back down to relax. Vija-Nim gave Wy an apologetic look while Inan shot an irritated glance her way, likely for getting the elder woman so worked up in the first place. The priestess sighed. Tzinasha’s death was taking its toll on everyone, even her. Normally, she wouldn’t be so…

“Inan,” said Vija-Nim, interrupting Wy’s thoughts, “who was outside when Tzinasha fell?”

Fortunately, Vija-Nim’s words gave inspiration for new thoughts. If Tzinasha was outside, then...

“Just a few.” Inan answered. “I will see if our egg-brothers saw anything else last night. I will let you know if I find anything.”

“Vija…” Wy started, “have you checked for prints?”

The warrior paused for a moment, then the spines on his head wilted as he hung his neck low. “...No, I did not. I stayed to protect the camp.”

“Coastal village, summer night - there’s bound to be mud.” Wy said. “I’ll look for prints and track them if I can find them, see where they--”

“Vija-Nim!” Blurted out a voice of a Saxhleel that came from outside the tent. The warrior inside rolled his eyes and stood up.

“What?” He answered, annoyed.

“There is a khajiit outside asking to see Tzinasha’s body. Says she’s part of the investigation for the mercenaries.”

“And?” Vija-Nim pried further, looking at Wylendriel with a questioning look. The priestess shrugged. She had no idea there were any khajiit in Ashav’s service.

“I don’t trust cats.” Replied the argonian. Vija-Nim sighed and placed a hand on Wylendriel’s, standing up with her. He nodded with respect to the elder and the matron and looked back to the priestess.

“You too work with the mercenary now, xhu?” He asked. “My egg-brothers and egg-sisters have been hurt enough as it is, I do not wish to risk their safety any further. See if this khajiit is who they claim to be. Work with them if so, find justice for Tzinasha. My place is here, protecting my people.”

“I understand.”

“Our nest is yours. Rains at your back.”

She had bid her farewells to three argonians and carried Tzinasha’s feather with her, sticking the plume back into her braid and left the tent to face the ebbing daylight - had she truly be gone for so long? Ah, still, she saw an armored khajiit out in the road waiting expectantly. If she were not the only khajiit nearby, she would’ve been given away by the nervous darting of the eyes of the refugees between herself and the cat-woman. She did not know her temperament and warrior-woman did not likely care for hers, as small as the priestess was, but even so, she’d only approach with so much caution. If she was lying about who she was, then she’d find that she had very little patience left.

She stepped forward, her robes brushing against the tall grass, and looked up at the much taller khajiit.

“Good afternoon! I hear you’re working for… who?” Wy asked. There was a bit of a challenge in the tone of her voice, like she was expecting to hear the right answer instead of asking a real question. Her face was still, but her fingers were twitching in anticipation, though not nervously.
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Hidden 7 mos ago 7 mos ago Post by MiddleEarthRoze
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26th of Sun's Height, 2AM

While many would have been irritated at the early morning wake-up courtesy of Dough-Boy, Rhasha'Dar was simply thankful for the distraction. Ever since his arrival back in Dawnstar he had been quiet and out of everyone's way, simply wanting to recuperate and dwell on his thoughts in peace. His only breaks from the Windpeak Inn's darkest corner table were to nearly empty the local alchemy store of it's potions supply, and to share a few words of farewell with Daelin when the Bosmer had left. Night hadn't brought him any sleep, not while he was in such a contemplative mood. As the Khajiit brewed potion after potion, he had pondered on what he had to do. There were two clear choices laid out before him; Go home, or remain with the group. The option to reunite with the twins and his old caravan was a tempting one, but he knew that would only make things harder; leaving the mercenaries in Dawnstar would leave him with the only desire of going to Riverhold. The twins would likely want to remain travelling, but he couldn't bear to leave without them. Rhasha's other two options weren't giving him any clear answers either. Stay and help his friends, but worry for his family - or leave the group behind, and make the treacherous journey back to Elsweyr alone, feeling guilty about his departure.

After going over these options for hours, brewing potions in a numb, automatic sort of fashion, the breathless orders from Dough-Boy were a welcome distraction from this alchemical reverie. He didn't get much out before rushing onto the next person to tell, but Rhasha could clearly see that whatever it was, it was an emergency.

Upon arriving and listening to Ashav with the others, Rhasha could understand the urgency. While he was unfamiliar with the list of victims, the apprehension of their Argonian friends was quite disturbing. Although obvious that this was just racial discrimination courtesy of the Jarl in the town (Rhasha wondered what the stance of Khajiits like himself would be, now that such obvious racism was abound), such actions were just going to make things more tense between the non-humans and the Nords of Dawnstar. Not that the Jarl was bothered about tension in his nice, safe hall. Swiftly passing the fake tail along (He could tell that while treated like any piece of leather would be, it had come from an actual Argonian originally - plenty of gruesome thoughts about how that could happen ensured that he didn't want to be holding onto it for very long.), he finally realised the other Khajiit in the room. A new member to their group, it would seem. After all the stories that circulated about their mercenary group, Rhasha'Dar considered it brave for anyone new wanting to join.

As the group disbanded, Rhasha made his way back to the quiet spot in the inn, the potion he had left still bubbling away in it's calcinator. The victims chosen were very... odd. From what he knew, they had nothing in common. An Argonian leader, a stuck-up Altmer and her less-than-intelligent goon, a Captain who doubled as Thane, and a male prostitute? Victims of opportunity? From what he could recall, there weren't any mentions of the victims being robbed. If that were the case, it could be that the murderer was simply targeting people who looked like they might have money. A Paxseech was highly regarded amongst Argonians, and so might carry riches; Vurwe acted like she was rich even if she hadn't necessarily looked her best around the time of her death; Gordo worked for her, so would be paid; a Thane would likely have money; as would Almad, if the size of the line outside his tent was anything to go by.

"Hmm. Pointless to consider this - these weren't robberies." Rhasha pondered silently to himself, clawed fingers gently tapping the wooden table top in contemplation. "So what is the link? What makes them such good victims?" If there was a serial killer about, they clearly had no qualms about who they picked. So far Nords, an Altmer, a Redguard and an Argonian were gone. Wracking his brains, Rhasha tried to think of past events similar to these. "There was Windhelm... a few tragic murders. But they had links, they were all young girls..." Now, Rhasha seemed to return to his contemplative state, although this line of thought was certainly less about him. He couldn't understand why someone would feel the need to kill so randomly or mercilessly, but then, he didn't have to understand. Just try and stop it happening again. As the Khajiit sat back and lit his pipe, he thought that his delay in deciding on going home or not was worth it around this particular topic. Although procrastination, he didn't feel quite as guilty while playing detective.

26th of Sun's Height, Midday

Rhasha'Dar had spent the remainder of the early morning hours dozing fitfully, still sat in the dark corner with his pipe dangling from his mouth. His tobacco had run out around the time the sun came up, but he continued to chew on the bit, finding it somewhat comforting. The morning light brought with it the returning hustle and bustle of the inn, and after a few hours to sort through his thoughts, Rhasha finally remembered something that could be worth looking up. And the best place to go to ask questions? One's local Inn, of course.

"If you're finally wanting a room from us, then you're out of luck. We're full." Were Thoring's first words to Rhasha'Dar as he approached the counter, sounding unusually gruff. Likely because the Khajiit had spent the last 24 hours in his Inn, buying nothing but minimal food and drink. Splashing out on alchemical ingredients and some miscellaneous first-aid equipment had left Rhasha without much more to spend on himself. He was thankful that the Inn was allowing him to brew the potions without paying for a room, but the welcome wouldn't be permanent. Unless Thoring had an ailment that needed curing, though he certainly hadn't let that on to anyone, let alone Rhasha.

"Ah. No - while this one has appreciated your hospitality so far, Rhasha would just like to ask some questions." He replied as politely as possible, hoping not to get on the bad side of the Nord. While Thoring seemed more accepting of other races than some of the other townspeople, emotions were still running high thanks to the refugee camp and murders. Thoring grunted as he began wiping a glass clean, and Rhasha took this as permission to continue. "Rhasha'Dar was wondering if you recalled anything about... strange happenings in your town a few years ago. Something to do with a plague of nightmares?" Recognition dawned on Thoring's face, and he nodded stiffly, a shiver visibly running through his body.

"Aye... I remember that. I don't know what sort of terrible magic was involved during those dark months, but I was just happy to find out they stopped." Thoring paused as his daughter Karita approached the bar, only continuing once she was out of earshot. "Why are you asking about that? There weren't any murders during that time."

Rhasha felt slightly crestfallen at that statement, as it had been his next question. "Do you know how it stopped?" He asked instead, hoping to find some sort of connection to report back to the others.

"No idea. Some Priest of Mara was in here... Dunmer chap, Eran- something. Erandil? Nah, that's not it." After attempting to recall the Dunmer Priest's name a few more times, Thoring shrugged and continued. "Anyway, he was here asking questions about the nightmares, when this treasure hunter came in and offered him some help. They go off, disappear for a few days, and the treasure hunter pops back in for a drink, alone. Looked quite pleased with herself. The nightmares had stopped, and she'd left town before anyone could get an answer out of her. Never did see that Dunmer fellow again though..." While certainly making for an interesting tale of mystery, it gave the Khajiit nothing. There weren't any clear connections between the two events, and while still good that nobody had been murdered during this bout of nightmares, it blew his theory of a returning serial killer out of the water. Thanking Thoring for his time with a dejected sigh, Rhasha made to go back to dark corner before pausing, turning back to look at the barkeep.

"When you say they "go off"... where exactly did they go?"

"Tower of the Dawn, I think." The quizzical look given by Rhasha indicated to Thoring that he hadn't even heard of the place. "The ruined tower, just on top of the hill above Dawnstar? You must have seen it coming in." His tone was that of a patronising obviousness, but Rhasha didn't particularly care at the moment. "It was abandoned for a good long while before this Priest showed up. Don't know what he was planning on doing with the place, but it's still abandoned now."

"So - if someone were to need a hiding place, it would make for a good one?" Thoring answered with another dismissive shrug, but some cheer had returned to Rhasha'Dar. Collecting his weapons and newly brewed potions, the Khajiit made his way outside, walking to the edge of the town border to get a better look at this tower. There it sat atop a snowy mountain, partially obscured by low-hanging clouds. It looked like an abandoned fort more than anything, and that meant it would be large. Large enough for a murderer to hide in and pick his victims from afar. With one hand clasped around his spear, his other hovered over his chest, where his newly healed injuries lay. Potions, healing and time had done wonders for them, but he was still weak. Rhasha would be unable to make the journey up the mountain alone, let alone search through the entire fort. He could only hope his fellows could offer their aid.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Mortarion
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Late evening, 25th of Sun’s Height

After his chat with Daixanos, Tsleeixth stayed in the inn drinking for a little while longer. The conversation he had with his fellow Saxhleel troubled the spellsword greatly, and he couldn’t help but feel that -despite the fact that he had managed to get Dax to give more thought to his idea to march straight towards Morrowind at the head of whatever Argonians he could gather from the refugee camps- something terrible was going to happen soon. Shaking his head slightly, Tsleeixth went into the room that he had rented at the inn after paying for his final drink. There wasn’t much for the spellsword to do at the moment, except for finding a suitable replacement for his armor that had been damaged in Bthaamz.

With nothing else to do, Tsleeixth picked up the damaged cuirass and began making his way towards the residence of Dawnstar’s local smith, exiting into Dawnstar’s streets seeking to replace the damaged piece of equipment. It took him a while to find the resident smith, and a bit more time to convince the aforementioned smith to allow him to buy a new cuirass but, in the end, he had managed to replace his old iron armor with a new steel one. With that particular errand done, his funds now severely depleted after buying the steel cuirass, Tsleeixth made his way back to Windpeak inn and his rented room, depositing the newly purchased piece of equipment at the foot of his bed. With the business about his armour taken care of there wasn’t anything else for Tsleeixth to do except for going to sleep, yet something bothered the Argonian and sleep didn’t came easy for him.

Early morning, 26th of Sun’s Height

In the end, after a scant few hours of troubled sleep, Tsleeixth woke up shortly before the sun rose. Throughout the night he had felt a sense of dread for some unexplained reason and that had stopped him from having a restful night of sleep. Having the feeling that he wouldn’t be able to fall asleep again, he got dressed quickly and quietly exited the inn hoping that a short walk would help him shake off the feeling of dread that had accompanied him through the night. “I’m just probably worried about what I talked about with Dax.” Tsleeixth thought to himself, trying to calm himself down.

It was only after a few minutes, and when he was far enough away from Windpeak so as to not make a commotion, that Tsleeixth’s feeling of dread turned from a mere feeling into reality as he found himself surrounded by a squad of four guardsmen. Without giving time for the Argonian to protest, one of the guards handcuffed Tsleeixth’s hands with a pair of manacles; the Argonian thought for a moment about struggling against the guards, summon a creature and try and head back to Windpeak where the rest of the company was, before deciding against that particular course of action. Whatever was the reason for his capture, unknown to him as it was at that moment, escaping from the guards and running towards the company would only worsen the situation, furthermore running away would only worse the situation of the Argonians in the refugee camp in front of Dawnstar and Tsleeixth wouldn’t make life for his fellow Hist brothers and sisters any more difficult than he could.

Accepting his present situation, he began walking with the group of guards towards Dawnstar’s dungeon and the cell that surely awaited him. Tsleeixth didn’t pay much attention to the trip towards wherever Dawnstar’s dungeons were located, his thoughts turned inwards and his gaze more focused on his feet than on the road towards the place where he’d be imprisoned, and only finally registered that they had well and fully arrived to the dungeons when one of the guards took off the manacles that had bound the spellsword’s hands before promptly closing the door of the cell.

Looking around the cell Tsleeixth couldn’t help but notice that a few creature comforts were present in the cell, something that struck as odd to the Argonian and gave him some hope that -at the very least- there were a few people within Dawnstar’s town guard that believed that he was innocent of whatever it was that he was being accused off. Indeed, thinking on his trip to the dungeons, Tsleeixth found that none of the guards had insulted him nor had they displayed any signs of violence towards him, asides from handcuffing and a few pushes here and there to steer him on the right path when he became too self-absorbed in his thoughts. Yet whatever thoughts might have been going on in Tsleeixth’s head stopped all of a sudden when the door of the cell opened once more and Daixanos was pushed inside of his, or more appropriately their, cell.

The Argonian spellsword shook his head, as if willing the image of his fellow hist brother imprisoned alongside him to be a mere conjuration of his tired man, unsure of what to do. Part of him wanted to approach Dax, ask him if he knew anything about why they had been apprehended, yet he could feel that his fellow Saxhleel was agitated, as if he was on the brink of snapping suddenly. He was unsure of how to help Dax, and the conversation they had had the previous night proved to Tsleeixth that he and Dax didn’t see eye to eye on certain things a fact that only added to his hesitancy, and so Tsleeixth sat on the cell, mulling to himself on what he should do.

Evening, 26th of Sun’s Height

The silence that had settled between the two Argonians was finally broken by the sound of the cell's door opening. Tsleeixth turned up to look at the now opened door and saw a small group of guards, about 5 or more of them, enter the cell in which they had been imprisoned. He looked in astonishment as Dax was picked up by the guards, the small group of Nords leading Daixanos out of the dungeon. Once he had overcome his shock at this new turns of events, Tsleeixth stood up and approached the door of his cell “Hey, what’s happening? Why are they leading him out?” Asked the spellsword, motioning with his head to the spot where Daixanos’ had been but a few moments ago, to a nearby guard, fear creeping into his mind as he wondered what’d happen to Dax. He hoped that the guard would answer him, both he and Dax had been treated -relatively- well for being prisoners and he also knew for a fact that a few guards thought that both him and Daixanos were innocent.

The guard seemed indecisive for a few seconds, debating with himself if he should share what he had heard with Tsleeixth or not, before he finally approached the imprisoned Argonian. “It’s just a rumor going around the guards here, Skald hasn’t issued any official statement or anything of the sort, but it seems that your friend has been exiled, some say that the company you and your friend work for managed to convince him to allow that Dax fellow to join them on a mission or something.” Spoke the guard, shuffling somewhat awkwardly “Sorry but all I can say for sure is that your friend is being exiled, the rest was mostly gossip between some of the other guards.”

Tsleeixth let out a sigh, shaking his head slightly. He dearly hoped that the company had managed to strike a deal of sorts with Jarl Skald and that Daixanos wasn’t being merely exiled, but he couldn’t know for sure due to his present circumstances. He was about to go back to the corner in which he had been sitting previously when a question popped in his mind “Excuse me, but, why were we arrested? I don’t think anyone told me the motive behind my, and Dax’s, imprisonment.” Said Tsleeixth to the guard at the last second, the company had just gotten back from their respective missions and when they had arrived at Dawnstar there hadn’t seemed to be any trouble apart from the one with the Argonian refugees, so Tsleeixth couldn’t help but wonder what were the charges that they were falsely charging him with.

“Uhhh…..you two are, or rather you are, under arrest under the suspicion of having murdered three people.” The guard said while looking quizzically at Tsleeixth “A dunmer man, some Altmer brat, and some sort of Argonian elder amongst the refugees.” Continued the Nord man “Honestly I can see the first two happening, your kind doesn’t has much love for the Dunmer’s after all and it’s not like there’s too much love around for the Altmer either, but I don’t see you, or that Dax guy, murdering that elder.” The man continued, scratching his chin as he thought “Plus, weren’t you two on a mission recently? You two were the only Argonians allowed into this city, and you are with that mercenary company to boot. I dunno, the whole thing just seems fishy to me.” The guard said, shaking his head slightly and giving a shrug, before returning to his post.

Tsleeixth nodded weakly at the man’s words before sitting in the corner of his cell. He didn’t knew who the Dunmer and the Altmer were, but he knew that the Argonian who had been murdered had been the Pakseech of the community of refugees. His guts twisted with dread as he realized that, with the Pakseech dead, the situation between Dawnstar’s population and the Argonian refugees camped next to the city would only get worse.

Late Morning, 27th of Sun’s Height

Tsleeixth woke up at the sound of footsteps echoing into the dungeon. After he had received the news of the death of the Pakseech guiding the refugees, the Saxhleel spellsword had grown quiet his mind turned inwardly into trying to figure out who had murdered the Pakseech and why they had done it. The answer the the latter question was obvious, the death of the Pakseech -along with the Altmer woman and Dunmer man- was merely a ploy to sow further discord in Danswtar, yet the question of who had been the assailants still plagued him; he doubted that the Kamals’ were responsible, it would be rather hard to miss them after all, but apart from that deduction Tsleeixth still didn’t have any thought about who could be the mysterious murdered. “Could it be the same people who destroyed the College of Winterhold?” He thought to himself, frowning slightly in frustration at the situation.

Any further thoughts that he might have had were interrupted when the door to his cell opened, one of the guards stepping inside “On your feet Argonian, you are free to go now.” Said the Nord man, motioning with his thumb towards the stairs that led to the upper parts of the dungeon and, from there, to the exit.

“Just like that, I’m free?” Tsleeixth asked in disbelief after he stood up, eyeing up the staircase that led out suspiciously.

“Well, we’ll keep an eye on you but there had been some developments that made it rather clear we had been….somewhat hasty with our initial conclusions.” The guard admitted, with Tsleeixth nodding in understanding “So, if I might ask, what was it that changed your minds?”

The guard was silent for a minute, causing Tsleeixth to wonder if he had made a mistake in asking, but in the end the Nord man let out a sigh before speaking “Some freelancer, think it was one ‘em Khajiit’s, found proof that there’s some Dunmer afoot, something about spells or what have you.” The man said, waving his hand dismissively.

“Ah, I see, thank you for telling me.” Said the Argonian spellsword, making his way out of the dungeon shortly after. Once he was a safe distance away from the dungeons, Tsleeixth couldn’t help but punch a wall in frustration “Damn it, while that fucking jarl had me and Dax arrested that Dunmer probably had enough time to lay low.” He muttered to himself, gritting his teeth as he tried to calm down. “There’s nothing to be gained by bitching, I just need to focus and help the rest of the company find whoever this murderer is.” He thought after a few seconds once he had calmed down, making his way back towards WIndpeak inn where he hoped to find whoever of the company remained in Dawnstar.
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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by Peik
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Way to Fall

A collab by @Peik and @Hank

Night, Sun's Height 29
Bleakrock Isle

"…And we’ll roll the o-old chariot along, we’ll roll the o-old chariot along, and we’ll all hang on behind."

Sadri bobbed his head back and forth to the rhythm of the shanty he muttered to himself, as he and Narzul walked on, a good twenty meters forward from the rest of the group, just in the perfect distance for the others to notice and take cover safely if anything bad were to happen to the duo. He couldn’t help but admire Dumhuvud for his brilliance in consigning him and Narzul to the front. Not only did it make sense, since Sadri was practically half-undead and Narzul was covered head to toe in plate, but it also was a perfect way of getting rid of two folks he didn’t like, should things go south. Plus, despite his conversation with Niernen, Sadri wasn’t sure if he was able to trust Narzul. Maybe he just found that ebony blade far too intimidating.

In short, it wasn’t a fun situation. Thus, he went on with the shanties, trying to find some solace in their rhythm.

"Oh, a night in the jail wouldn’t do us any harm…"

The group’s march through the aptly named island (it truly was a bleak place, with naught but tree lines, rugged rocks and tall grass all around) was quite steady and silent. At the front, Narzul and Sadri had not fallen victim to any unwanted attention or unexpected arrow fire, and the main group, led by the charming Cat-Kicker, followed their guidance cautiously, as their position did not exempt them from Dumhuvud’s suspicion.

They had just passed by the Crossroads leading through to Hozzin’s Folly to the right, and the Wayshrine to the left, sneaking through on the edge of the road as to avoid possible detection. They had already stumbled upon one patrol of ten armigers with matte armor on the path. Thankfully, the Armigers had been walking in a different direction entirely, and busy with hauling carpentry pieces - a relief for Sadri, who certainly did not want to come to blows in hostile territory of all places, a sentiment that he hoped was shared by the rest of the party. The best outcome in this case would be a quick retreat, which would still be a failure of the mission.

He looked back and saw Dumhuvud and the group laying prone amidst the rocks and the tall grass, hard to make out despite knowing that they were there. He breathed out in relief, and patted Narzul as to move further. "You think there are any stragglers behind them?" Sadri muttered silently as he gathered himself from the ground and prepared to move. There was a bridge just up ahead, and beyond it, the Wayshrine. The group could gather up again there.

"Possible," Narzul replied in a flat grumble, barely more than a whisper. It was the first thing he'd said in more than a day. "They're not real soldiers. I wouldn't be surprised if they lack cohesive unit discipline." That went for the mercenaries too, of course, and the Redoran sighed silently into his helmet. To him, it would be nothing short of a miracle if Dumhuvud managed to keep the rest of the party behind them in line. He followed Sadri up onto his feet and cast a glance behind him, spotting Niernen amongst those who emerged from the tall grass. The two siblings looked each other in the eye for a second. The look on Niernen's face was enough for Narzul to avert his gaze quickly. Just focus on the objective, he thought to himself admonishingly. She'd never forgive him if he got himself killed out here.

Despite his heavy and unwieldy suit of armor, Narzul moved with speed and grace that bespoke of his skill and experience. His ironclad feet barely made a sound on the soft soil and the upper half of his body was stiff as a board so as to prevent his armor from rattling and clanging against itself. His head pivoted left and right as if attached to a swivel, scanning the horizon, the grass, the shadows of the large rocks, and back again. His hand was on the pommel of his sheathed war-blade.

Suddenly, he came to an abrupt halt. "Did you hear that?" he hissed.

Upon the cautionary remark, Sadri gave Narzul a flat look, half judging his words, half actually trying to hear something. After looking blank at his face for a moment, and noticing nothing, Sadri turned the earless side of his face in Narzul’s general direction, put his hand behind the ragged scar where his ear had once been and raised one of his brows, as if attempting to hear his words better over a distance. There was some actual attempt in the effort, but mostly, it was his way of showing to Narzul that he didn’t hear anything, and poking at the fact that maybe he wasn’t the best man to ask the question. Nonetheless, the situation wasn’t one for snide remarks, and nor was the person, so he just nodded his head back as to show his disagreement.

His able ear weighing every single sound he heard, as to not be proven wrong by the Redoran as he moved on behind the thankfully tall and unkempt bushes, Sadri found to his and likely everyone else’s relief (not to mention his ego’s) that there was no other Armiger on the last fifty meters to the bridge. Beyond the old wooden bridge, which was marked by an empty signpost that seemed to be recently erected, he could make out the silhouette of the Wayshrine, and another signpost facing the other way around on the opposite end of the bridge. He wasn’t sure what to make of it except to tread even more carefully. Were the Armigers renaming landmarks as to cement their presence?

After some moments spent in a bush next to the bridge to confirm nobody was around, Sadri cautiously moved out along with Narzul. Walking to the edge of the bridge, he looked back into the tree line, waiting for Dumhuvud, but all he got was a dismissing gesture as to move on forward. It seemed that their leader did not want to cross the bridge without a force on the other side. Sadri nodded for Narzul.

"Let’s go, then."

Narzul narrowed his eyes in annoyance when Sadri sarcastically cupped his hand to his absent ear, though he had to admit he should have seen that one coming. The Redoran shrugged imperceptibly inside his armor as no further noises came his way -- and he was glad of it too. He followed Sadri after Duhumvud clearly shooed them ahead, well aware they could be walking into a trap, and once again cursed his current situation. Less than a month ago he was sitting in on meetings of the highest national importance and here he was now, conspiring against his own country in a foolhardy attempt to save his sister.

The pair of Dunmer began crossing the bridge. Narzul did so somewhat hastily, eager to get to the other side as fast as possible. Bridges were notorious hotspots for ambushes after all. He got about halfway when the same sound he heard earlier reoccurred, now -- rather alarmingly -- from beneath his boots.

Creaking wood.

"Aha," Narzul said sardonically and picked up speed.

Sadri had not expected Narzul to pick up the pace and even actually go beyond him, thinking that the Redoran would not want to make himself the primary target to anything laying in ambush in front of them when the half-dead low blooded expat was already occupying that position, but it seemed that he had perhaps judged him a tad too unfairly. There the lad was, boldly moving forward, no doubt given confidence by the armor covering all his body as much as his well-drilled training.

Then the Redoran started running, and Sadri realized why all too late.

A moaning, well audible croak led to Sadri deducing that perhaps this bridge wasn’t the safest for crossing, and when the planks started to visibly show that they could not support their weight, Sadri actually looked back to see if he could return back to terra firma, but then one of the abutments lodged into the rocks split open with a loud crack, and the bridge suddenly toppled to the left, the floor sliding from underneath Sadri’s feet.

Latching onto a railing on his right with unexpectedly fast speed, Sadri thought of looking up at Narzul to see whether or not he’d made it to the other side, but his eyes were too well-fixed on trying to locate the crumbling support to act his care. He thought of using the railings like a monkey bar to support his feet in an attempt to get off the death trap, but before he could put the idea to test, the middle support crumbled further.

"Oh fuck."

Before he could gather his thoughts and actually do something, the bridge decided to hold its demise further no more. He felt his stomach hop as the bridge floor swiveled even further towards the ground in an imbalance, and following this, the rest of the supports cracked, causing a couple of large rocks to dislocate themselves to set them free, which led to the bridge sliding off into uncertainty with the two Dunmer still on it.

Sadri felt his stomach hop as if he were on a swing, and realizing the impending impact, closed his eyes in denial.

Even though the freefall was about twenty five feet at most, to his closed eyes it felt like an epic, mythical representation of an unending abyss, with the wild cacophony of smashing rocks and crying carpentry providing a musical tension to the scene, until the moment when it all reached a climax, and Sadri himself hit the ground with a rather disappointingly mundane plop amidst the majestic chorus of boom and krak and thwuks.

Sadri opened his eyes about fifteen seconds after his landing, after realizing that it wasn’t death that kept his eyes close but just his reflexes. Looking around, he found his clothes not bloody but dusty and muddy, and the pain that jolted his body was not unbearable but in fact rather mild. He’d fallen on his right thigh, and thankfully, the padding of his robe and the soft density of the soil had kept any bones from breaking, although the chainmail had smashed into his clothes on impact, and hurt like Oblivion.

Surprised at the fact that he was relatively unhurt, he let out a silent praise to whichever deity that had a part to play in it, and slowly, he led his battered body back up on its feet. While the pain and the force of impact kept him from acting with agility, he nonetheless managed to walk around in an attempt to try and find the Redoran.

As for Narzul, his sprint to reach the other side of the small chasm, while admirable, yielded no fruits. The wooden planks gave way beneath him as the support posts on that side also collapsed and the whole bridge came tumbling down just before the Redoran had reached his goal. A final leap of faith ended up with him smacking into the cliff side, the gauntleted fingers of his free hand scrambling for support mere inches below the edge, carving gouges into the soft rock as he inevitably slid down. Weakened by the wooden support posts being torn out of their places, the edge of the cliff disintegrated into a tumble of loose rocks before Narzul's muscles gave out and he entered the same freefall his ash-kin experienced a ways behind him. Thinking fast, Narzul angled his shield towards the ground.

The loud and painful crunk that Narzul made when he hit rock bottom was certainly more intense than Sadri's comparatively soft landing. Narzul's decision to land on his shield was a wise one, as otherwise he might have landed on one of the rocks that came down with him which could have dented his cuirass in ways that would have been wildly unhealthy for the constitution of his torso. Even so, the fall wasn't kind to the ramshackle suit of armor and Narzul, rattled like a fish inside a tin can, groaned in fierce pain. Dust obscured his vision from within the helmet and he rolled on his back, gasping to regain the breath that had been knocked out of him. He was alive, that much was clear, but what was the damage?

After nothing continued to happen for some time, Narzul sat up straight, yanked his helmet off his head and quickly patted himself down. There were some dents in his armor now, mostly in his greaves, but nothing severe. More annoying was a dent in his helmet, which had scraped his brow and blood slowly trickled down and into his face. He ignored it for now. One of his boots had somehow come loose in the descent and Narzul spotted it a few yards away from him, lying in the middle of the chasm -- and there was Sadri, wandering around like a lost soul in the Cairn.

"Beleth!" Narzul hissed and waved his hand above his hand. After grabbing his fellow Dunmer's attention, he pointed at his iron boot. "Hand me that," he added.

To his surprise, the Redoran had been quite deep in the wreckage, and not far away like Sadri had been looking. He turned and blinked in surprise to see the blueblood out of his helmet and sitting on the ground like a duck. For a moment, Sadri could have been quite happy to see him alive, but the Redoran’s attitude quickly reminded him of whom he actually was. Sadri looked straight at Narzul for a moment, to show him that he wasn’t taking it all too fast, then actually went and picked up the boot to deny the Dunmer a reason to be properly irritated, and thus, irritate him even further.

"You forgot the magic word," Sadri told Narzul as he walked closer to the sitting Redoran, with a faint, battered, yet still smug smile on his face. He handed over the iron boot, and then moved further up to see the Dunmer’s wound. "I’d have checked to see if the shoe fits, but you aren’t exactly Cendrillon," Sadri quipped as he pulled his sleeve back and dusted his hands off.

"Lay your head back, would you?" Sadri said, in a more serious tone.

Narzul scoffed at Sadri's little quip, but accepted the offered boot without further comment. Before he had a chance to pull it on the other Dunmer leaned in to inspect the injury on Narzul's brow, which he promptly raised slightly in surprise. He hadn't expected Sadri to care, or to know anything about battlefield first aid. Narzul obliged, staring down his nose at Sadri.

"How does it look?" he asked languidly.

Sadri’s grin widened upon seeing Narzul’s derisive expression, but he didn’t carry the banter any further. "Well, I mean, it shouldn’t be nothing some magic fingers can’t fix, but it looks like –" Sadri stopped with an abrupt, silent but nonetheless concerning gasp, his movements paused. "Shit."

Immediately on alert, Narzul tried to turn his head to see what Sadri was looking at but the tight fit of his cuirass and his position on the ground prevented him. He swiftly pulled the iron boot onto his foot, rolled over so he was facing the direction of Sadri's cause for concern, stood up and unsheathed his sword. His helmet -- an integral part of his disguise -- was still on the ground. Narzul's blood ran cold.

Sadri internally cursed at Narzul for making a sudden movement, but there wasn’t much he could do to stop him. He put on the most non-confrontational expression he could as he raised his head further at the edge of the collapsed bridge and gazed at their surprised and newly arrived onlookers.

Ten Armigers, clad in loosely fitted armor and wielding pickaxes, hammers, shovels and long strands of rope, looked down at the two unfortunate Dunmer as they scratched their chins on what to do. Sadri’s eyes gauged them and the rocks and pieces of wood next to him, hoping that he could outmaneuver them and get to cover before any possible projectiles could reach their position.

The tense situation lasted for a few moments before one of the more presentable of the bunch stepped forward. The spokesperson, a rather young and sharp looking Dunmer with his hair worn in braids, rested his open palm next to his mouth and began shouting aggressively in what Sadri assumed to be Dunmeris before another wearing glasses whispered something in his ear. The braided one stopped and glared at him for a moment before nodding in agreement and turning back to the duo below.

"We’ll set up a rope, get up here!" He shouted, before turning to the more tribal looking one next to him and saying some things that Sadri couldn’t make out. Sadri smiled sheepishly.

"Shor’s bones, those idiots!"

Dumhuvud was furious. Not only had Sadri and Narzul collapsed their only way forward, but they had also gone and attracted the worst kind of attraction possible, and the Armiger patrol that had passed by them earlier had now arrived again to the commotion. Thankfully, they seemed more prepared for maintenance rather than actual battle, and more concerned with fixing the wreckage instead of looking for intruders. His angry frown turned into a bloodthirsty grin as an idea turned up in his head, while he watched the unsuspecting Armigers try and do something about the bridge – slowly he turned back to the group and began speaking in a hushed, confident tone.

"On my mark, we rush them. Try to keep some alive for information," he informed as he turned his head back and waited for a proper moment to charge. For some reason, they were busy trying to prepare a rope for to pull something, or more likely, someone from down below. Were the two still alive? Had the Armigers mistaken them for allies? Or worse, were they really allies?


With his own command, the Cat-Kicker jumped out of his crouch into a sprint, his weapon held at the ready, and smashed into the rear of the group. True to his name, he transferred the momentum of his short distance sprint into a kick, which landed itself true on the back of an Armiger. The Armiger who took the impact screamed in fear as he flew into the one with the rope, and together the two fell down along with the two they had been trying to pull up moments ago.

Before the element of surprise could properly subside, Dumhuvud sprung his arm back far and swung his axe overhead, inevitably crashing into the head of the closest Armiger and lopping half the Dunmer’s head off in a bloody and hard swing. The remaining Armigers pulled back and readied themselves, with one swinging his pickaxe against the Nord's head and smashing its tip into the side of his opponent's helmet, as the rest of the party followed suit into the bout, right behind a disoriented Dumhuvud.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by MiddleEarthRoze
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MiddleEarthRoze The Ultimate Pupper

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A nightmare revisited

A collaboration of @Peik & MiddleEarthRoze

"Thank S'rendarr it is summer." The Khajiit thought to himself as he gazed up towards the tower. Winter could be hard enough in most places, but in Skyrim it became especially treacherous. In such a northernly town like Dawnstar, the snow drifts and potential blizzards would have made his trek up the snowy mountain nigh on impossible. Not to mention the monsters who flourished in the snowy tundra-lands. Still, even in warmer weather the hike towards - and exploration - of the Tower of the Dawn was no small task for the injured Rhasha'Dar.

Still walking along the path slowly, Rhasha shuddered lightly as his fur suddenly stood up on end. A strange experience, but one that had happened before - not in the face of an enemy, but a comrade.

"Marcel!" The sudden appearance of the Breton man wasn't quite as jarring as their first meeting, perhaps due to the possibility that he could help Rhasha. "We haven't spoken for a while; how have you fared since our battle at Nightgate Inn?" He seemed to recall seeing Marcel almost completely covered in blood, but through the haziness brought on by his own injuries, Rhasha had not had the chance to learn if he was hurt or not.

Whistling to himself as he picked berries by some bushes on the side of the trail, the Breton was quite startled by the sudden exclamation of his name. From his reaction one could guess that midst the vivid, if not untamed greenery of Skyrim’s forests, the last thing Marcel had expected to come face-to-face with was a giant cat... man… who talked. It took the man a moment to shake himself out of his sheltered and homogeneous childhood memories and realize that he wasn’t in his parents’ garden, and that he was not facing down a tiger but just a Khajiit.

''Oh, hello,'' Marcel replied to the familiar fellow, glancing down occasionally at the berries and the thistles he’d gathered in the woven hand basket. ''I’ve been… fine, really, fine. I’ve been just gathering, uh, information,'' he excused. Could he really make anything that would help the investigation with the berries he’d been picking? Better slip out of it. ''And, well, failing. So I just took up something I’m more competent at instead,'' he continued, showing the Khajiit his basket.

''So, what have you been doing,?'' He asked, eager to get on the questioning side.

Rhasha smiled at Marcel's reply - at least the man was being honest. And picking berries had never been a pointless task considering the usefulness of the various fruits. Potions, poisons, salves... or simply just a treat to eat. What with their current situation however, the Khajiit wondered if Marcel would be interested in abandoning this task for a more murder-investigating one.

"This one hasn't done all that much, he must admit. However, some possibly useful information has been dug up." Turning slightly, Rhasha'Dar motioned towards the tower in the distance, still partially obscured by the low-hanging cloud. "The Tower of the Dawn has been abandoned for several years now; This one believed it could make for a hiding place for our elusive murderer. It offers protection, as the townspeople seem too superstitious to approach it; one would also have a decent view of the town from the top, which could be how the murderer picks his victims." Rhasha paused, looking back to Marcel with a shrug. "That is, if this one's hunch is correct. It may just be a crumbling old building, but it's worth a look. Would you care to accompany Rhasha?"

While Marcel had been enjoying his latest task, it would have been impolite to refuse the Khajiit’s request for the Breton to accompany him. Not only that, but as a recently contracted member of the Company, it could cause even bigger problems down the line. And, truth be told, he felt it rather cruel to leave off and investigate the tower alone. He had heard some unsettling rumors about the place, the kind of rumors that kept a Witch Hunter’s pocket full.

''Ah, of course, of course, I would be glad. It would not be a hospitable thing to let you go there alone now, would it? Plus, I myself have heard some… bad things about the place. Even if it does not keep the one we’re looking for, it may hold worse secrets.'' Marcel said, grabbing the basket off the ground and walking back on the road next to the Khajiit.

''Back in High Rock there are so many half-abandoned castles you would be surprised. And so many of them go unattended and without proper protection, often bad things take hold in them where torches do not shed light,'' Marcel said as he walked. ''I had once visited a castle where a giant slug lived in its storage. Its owner was too poor to hire someone to clear it out, so the man had simply barred all entrances in there. It was a rather interesting creature, and nobody had bothered to slay it back then, since it was able to do no harm. It was only after when a landslide tore down a portion of the storage walls did the slug manage to get out and attack cattle in the fields below. Thankfully a charitable Baron set up a bounty for the beast and a group of men burnt it to death.''

Marcel bobbed his head forward after the end of the story, looking at the Khajiit with a heartfelt, faint smile. ''Interesting story, is it not?''

The expression of Rhasha's face was wonder mixed with a touch of disbelief and revulsion, as Marcel recounted his tale of High Rock's carniverous slug monster. While he liked to believe he was an open-minded fellow, Rhasha always took stories of strange beasts with a pinch of salt - living in the caravans, one always heard fantastical tales of beasts and monsters, both real and very made up. This slug certainly sounded like one of them, but then again, if the Ice Demons could exist, why not a giant slug?

"Hm... yes, interesting. This is one is glad all it managed to harm was animals." Rhasha replied somewhat haltingly, his mind drifting back to what Marcel had said previously. "While this one is certain you have a trove of interesting stories and their creatures, Rhasha would like to hear more of what you know of this tower. The innkeeper was glad to drop the subject, so Rhasha could not find out as much information as he would have preferred. Something to do with a plague of nightmares, but that is it." Marcel seemed like the kind of person who would know the dark histories of old forts and castles, even in a land foreign to him.

''Ah, well, I’m glad you like the story,'' Marcel replied, smiling intently. ''I’ve got plenty like it, so our trek should be rather entertaining. But, back to topic, you want to know of the tower and nightmares, hmm…'' Marcel rubbed his bearded chin with his free hand as he gathered his thoughts together. Eventually, he found a place to start, and began speaking.

''You see, I’ve been told by an acquaintance that this place was once frequented by Daedric Cultists. Now, some of them are not all that bad and in fact one of them inducted me as an honorary member a few years ago, but what matters is which Prince they are worshipping, and also how. Now, I think this place was a gathering ground for cultists of Vaermina… I think, I think remember my acquaintance mentioning that, I am not sure, but since you speak of nightmares, I guess it must be true,'' Marcel said with a somewhat solemn tone.

''Just hope that we’re right and it doesn’t have anything to do with Molag Bal. Trust me on that matter,'' Marcel said in a more reassuring tone.

When it came to Daedric Princes, Rhasha'Dar was hardly an expert. He'd met with plenty of people who had their fair share of stories about Daedra, and of course he had read books telling tales of their actions - usually to the detriment of any poor mortal in their vicinity. As for their particular domains, again, Rhasha wasn't very well-versed, though knew about a handful of them. Mehrunes Dagon was something to do with destruction (The Oblivion Crisis two centuries ago made sure he remembered that), Hircine was linked with hunting and Werewolves, and Vaermina clearly was to do with dreams and nightmares. He wasn't entirely sure what Molag Bal was the Daedric Prince of, but clearly, it wasn't anything good.

"We Khajiit worship some Daedric Princes. That is not how we see them of course, but as Khajiiti deities. There is also some crossover with the Nine Divines. Alkosh and S'rendarr to us would be Akatosh and Stendarr to you. Then we have Azurah, Sheggorath, Hircine, Sangiin and Namiira - you can no doubt guess who their counterparts are amongst the Daedric Princes." As he rattled off the names of the various Gods of his people, his mind once again drifted to Azurah. He still felt guilty at leaving behind his pendant, but after some contemplation, realised it was more the sentimental value of it that he missed, rather than the token of his Goddess. It had been a gift from his parents, and every member in his family had one. With it now gone, Rhasha felt apart from his family... this particular chain of thought was not helping in his deliberations on whether to go back home or not.

"Is there a particular deity that you worship, Marcel?" Rhasha asked quickly, not wanting to get mired down in his homesick thoughts once again. The tower was growing closer (And with no wild animals to contend with as of yet, much to his relief), so distracting thoughts could prove far too dangerous at this point. "This one confesses that he does not know much of High Rock, and whether the Breton people follow their own pantheon."

"It’s not abnormal that your race would worship Daedra – it’s not like all of the Daedra are horrible,’’ Marcel replied. ‘’I mean, the Dunmer worship Daedra almost exclusively, and they’re not all that bad, even though some stuff they worship is plain weird. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, I mean, I have Dunmer friends too." He paused for a moment before deciding to move on, not wanting to bog himself down further into incomplete and awkward explanations.

"As for Bretony, the religious lore is somewhat of a mishmash of Altmer and Imperial deities. My family’s line of work was finance and trade, so they kept an Altar for Zenithar in the house, and offered milk and honey to it weekly, and idols of Julianos were common in our rooms. As for I, it would not be wrong if I said that I’m not a fervent worshipper to one particular deity. I have seen miracles from almost all Gods, really, so I do not think that worshipping one and one exclusively makes much sense."

He took a breath in a pause before continuing. He did not want to force his lungs, after all, talking while moving uphill could consume one’s supply of air quickly.

"Say, many amongst us Hunters of High Rock worship Daedra alongside Aedra. Meridia is a common deity to call upon, and I have invoked her name with great success myself, while some more unscrupulous and active Hunters claim their bounties in name of Hircine, for it brings them much strength and resolve. Taking things too far in either case, however, is an easy way to bring ruin in my opinion. Some amongst us have the exclusive duty of putting down those Hunters whose prayers to Hircine got addled with blood and were answered all too directly, and they pray to Arkay, for example. It is not easy work. To be honest, you never know whom you have to ask help from.''

Marcel put on a smile. ''Best if you never anger any one of them unless you have to, really,'' he said, chuckling.

What Marcel said made sense to Rhasha, in that serving one God alone was a bit odd. Perhaps not so much as with certain Daedra's, in which two different Princes hated one another - but for any other instance, it would seem to make more sense to worship as many as possible. What better way to increase your chances of divine intervention than worshipping dozens of different Gods?

"This one has never been particularly vocal in his faith - Azurah once held a warm place in Rhasha's heart, but recent events have changed this. As for other Gods..." At this, Rhasha paused. His family had never been the most religious, so beyond the almost automatic worship of Azurah, he felt no pull to any God, be they Aedra or Daedra. However, Rhasha had learnt to avoid certain ones. "Other Gods he feels no hate or love for, except perhaps Hircine. His creatures, the Werewolves, are foul enough to make one avoid his worship. One of the beasts attacked Rhasha's caravan many years ago. He escaped with just wounds, but many friends were lost to it." To this day, Rhasha still felt regret over not being able to fight better, or faster, to save the other Khajiit. He had been much younger back then, and without the experience he had today - but the harrowing experience was just as permanent in his mind as the scars on his body were.

Marcel’s expression took a turn for the gloomier upon hearing the Khajiit’s words. While he was not the most faithful person himself, Marcel still believed that faith was a surefire way of finding hope or resolve in situations where there would be none otherwise, amongst other things. The Khajiit’s words expressed his crestfallen demeanor well. He wanted to comfort the fellow and try to help him make his peace with those up above, but, never having been an eloquent speaker or a smart thinker, he could not find the words to try and pull the Khajiit from the pit of disappointment that he seemed to be in.

‘’I’m sorry to hear that,’’ he murmured, eyes pointing down. ‘’But do try to keep your head up. Faith or not, it’s a comfort to have something to help you stand.’’

"Hmm." Was Rhasha's response, sounding somewhat absent-minded as his mind wandered. Faith was a curious thing, and the Khajiit pondered that maybe it shouldn't have a place in his life if it had never done anything good for him. Would the comfort of Azurah ever return? He supposed only time would tell.

At this point, the pair had finally finished their trek up the hill. It would seem the approaching warmth of summer had driven the frost trolls and ice wraiths away from the slowly thawing Dawnstar, and so their journey had been a thankfully safe one. The outside of the tower didn't look particularly cosy, but then, if one was looking for a hiding place while they killed people, cosiness was hardly going to be a driving factor in choosing a place. Gripping the rusted handle of the doors, the partially rotted wood loosened from it's frame and opened after a few hard pushes, and Marcel and Rhasha entered at last.

Amidst the rubble strewn around the stone floor, Rhasha was surprised to see what was clearly an attempt of a make-shift chapel; wooden pews, and a modest podium facing them on a stone pedestal. Books were thrown around here and there, most of them severely water damaged due to the holes in the roof; braziers lined the room, though it was clear that none of them had been lit in a very long time. In short, it didn't look as though anyone had lived or even been here in a few years. Rhasha felt crestfallen for only a moment before realising that this was only the opening into the fort... where were the rest of the doors?

Eyes scanning the room, Rhasha's gaze finally landed on a huge carving behind the podium. He didn't recognise the insignia upon it, but that wasn't what caught his attention; at first glance, it looked to be glass - translucent. Because of how dark the room was, it was easy to miss at first, but he could make out outlines behind the carving, ones that didn't match the room he and Marcel stood in. Pausing as he draped his heavy winter cloak over a pew, he approached the carving cautiously, staring at it only for a moment before pressing a hand against it.

"Hah! Look at this - some kind of illusion magic. There's nothing here at all." As his hand passed through the carving, an incredulous laugh left his mouth, simply because he hadn't seen magic like this before. The opening before them wasn't covered at all - or maybe it was, and even more complicated magic was at work - but the carving had no substance to it whatsoever. They could pass through quite safely to the other side... though he could only hope that whatever magic this was kept working until they exited out the other way. Rhasha had a feeling that this was the only entrance in and out of the Tower of the Dawn. "Shall we begin our investigation?" He asked as he turned to smile at Marcel, a curious glint in his eye. An entrance like this one was bound to have some surprises behind it.

Marcel smiled back in courtesy while nodding rather dismissively, not wishing to put any more clouds over the mood with further pessimistic pondering. The spell, while not very complicated to prepare, was not very common either, and its presence did not bode well to Marcel. This was not something a simple assassin would know.

As they got closer, the illusory wall in front of them seemed somewhat perturbed by Marcel’s presence and began rippling like torn fabric facing a stream of wind. While this allowed him to see somewhat further within, he was nonetheless unsure whether if any more complicated magic lay behind this seemingly simple yet uncommon trick.

"After you," Marcel thought to say, but then decided to spare the Khajiit any possible horrors lurking behind the façade.

"Let me do the honors." Marcel said with unexpected confidence, and for once he did not wait for an answer. After unsheathing his silver sword, he plunged through. Rhasha followed through behind him without hesitation, spear ready and waiting for whatever lay before them.
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Hidden 6 mos ago Post by Dervish
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Dervish Let's get volatile

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A Tower of Nightmares...

The Tower of Dawn was a location that had all but been willfully ignored by not only the people of Dawnstar, but Skyrim in general. Although it had originally been constructed for some benign, albeit forgotten, purpose eons ago, it now would forever hold the taint of the Vaermina’s cultists and the unending nightmares they caused a few years ago. That particular event was in the past and life had carried on as usual, but there was an unmistakable scar that had been left upon the citizens in the Pale, and people were still reluctant to allow themselves to sleep. Insomnia was common, and many forced themselves to stay awake as long as possible. This made the people of Dawnstar inattentive, forgetful, and worst of all, quite prone to flights of fantasy.

That was what Valyne was counting on. A Dunmer in her mid-40s, she was still somewhat young but nevertheless accomplished, sporting a very utilitarian and no-nonsense appearance and disposition that served her well for the Tribunal and more recently with the alliance with Akavir. Her and her group of specialists were dispatched to destabilize the Northern coast town of Dawnstar, a hole that was barely worthy of the term in all fairness, using as little resources and manpower as possible to create a beachhead for the Akaviri forces coming in from the East. Despite their overwhelming superiority to the mainland Tamrielic forces, the Akaviri couldn’t be everywhere at once, and when it came to the subtle work of a dagger in the dark, the Dunmer had no equal. Although the Morag Tong was a rather infamous order across Tamriel that everyone knew by reputation, there was no shortage of skilled agents working for the Tribunal that were just as proficient in the art of murder. While the Kamal were a hammer that struck with irresistible force, Valyne’s team was a scalpel cutting away the rot with precision and a steady presence.

Their operation in Dawnstar had gone largely according to plan, relying on a string of murders that would sow discord between the Nords and their Argonian refugees, and keeping the guard so busy with seemingly unrelated deaths that they were spread thin and unsure of where to begin looking. The attempt to blame the Argonians by using clever disguises was never a permanent solution, one put forth and executed by Malur to throw off the scent, but when he returned with the tail missing it didn’t take long for the guards to figure out that the taxidermy tail didn’t belong to any living Argonian. The other evidence that their grip was slipping was Hlavora’s gaping wound that she had hastily sealed with an ash shell when her and Bovis had gone to slaughter the miners. One of them, an Orsimer, had lived up to their beastly race’s reputation for violence and had managed a solid hit that had buried deep in Hlavora’s organs. Five health potions and periodic application of restoration magic later, the young assassin was losing strength fast. She wouldn’t likely survive the night, barring some miracle.

The citizens of Dawnstar were starting to get wise, and Valyne knew that her window of opportunity, as unideal as it was, was rapidly closing. They’d move tonight and complete their mission. There was no other alternative.

Suddenly, the heavy oak door swung open and Bovis came in, concern furrowing across his handsome brow. “Serjo, we’ve been discovered.” He reported succinctly. “A Khajiit and a Breton from the looks of things are investigating the tower. They’ve found their way through the false wall.”

“Then time is of the essence.” Valyne reported, rising up from Hlavora’s bedside, brushing the folds free from her brigandine, her fingers brushing across the elegant handle of her Ebony blade fashioned to her hip. Malur rose from an end table, having spent the past thirty minutes polishing a potent poison into his twin daggers. “You both will go ambush the interlopers, do not permit them to escape. I will head into Dawnstar and finish our mission. Do not wait for me; it very well could be a one way trip. Report to Commander Droril and inform him of our efforts. Do not prematurely celebrate our success; you would not wish for my failure to prove you both to be liars.” She commanded. The two males nodded, leaving through the door, leaving it ajar knowing that Valyne was soon to follow. She looked down at Hlavora, whose brow was covered in sheen of feverish sweat. The younger woman looked up and him imploringly. “Do not let me hinder the mission. Do it.” She requested softly, closing her eyes and trembling.

“Your sacrifice will be venerated by your ancestors and our people. I will never forget your bravery.” Valyne promised, unsheathing the blade on her hip and drawing it quickly across Hlavora’s throat, taking her hand in her own and holding onto her as she began to fade, blood pouring from the wound with each beat of her heart, slowing ever so slightly each time. Hlavora’s lips curled up into a smile for the briefest of moments before her grip grew slack and the brilliant light from her sunset coloured eyes dimmed. She had left this world behind, Valyne reflected, releasing Hlavora’s hand and cleaning her blade with a cloth before sheathing it and leaving through the door.

For Bovis and Malur, they quickly and silently located their much more clumsy footed intruders in short order, hiding in dark corners as their quarry approached. With blades drawn, the two Dunmer descended on Rhasha and Marcel, Borvis with his poisoned blades after the Khajiit and Malur with a glaive after Marcel, leaving the pair with only moments to react.

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Hidden 6 mos ago 6 mos ago Post by MacabreFox
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MacabreFox Master of Poor Life Decisions

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A Taste For Blood


At Dumhuvud’s shout, Sevine bolted from their cover, following close behind the Cat-Kicker. She held her chitlin shield at ready, with her steel axe drawn. The distance between the line of Armiger’s gathered at the edge of the now crumbled bridge and the mercenary company was short. Dumhuvud’s shout garnered their attention, forcing them to face the charging company. Sevine picked her target, a Dunmer on the far end wielding a shortsword and a shield. She veered off to the left, her shield poised to cover her vital organs.

Seeing the fiery haired Nord woman racing towards him, the Dunmer met her halfway where they fell into locked combat. Sevine had intended to use a shield bash to knock the Mer off his feet, but she soon learned that he shared equal experience in shield play. As she powered into her shield, the Dunmer dug his boots into the ground, and put his full weight into his shield arm. Sevine bounced backwards, taking only seconds to recover her lost footing. And it was in those seconds that the Dunmer took his chance to advance on her, shortsword swinging through the air.

Sevine stood her ground, and fended off an attack that would have left her headless. She returned the attack with one of her own, her axe sailing upwards in an upper-cut motion. The Dunmer’s shield deflected the gleaming steel blade, and swung at Sevine’s now exposed midsection. Her experience in battle shone through as she dipped out of the way, this time she charged the Dunmer, and caught him off guard. Her shield bash knocked him off his feet, he hit the ground on his back, sword falling free of his hand.

Moving in the for the kill, Sevine hefted her axe up, where it soared in a downwards motion at his head. The Dunmer had not lost his shield, and again deflected her attack. She swung again, and again, the axe swinging faster and faster as she aimed to kill him then and there. Yet his shield prevented her from finishing him off.

Without delay, Sevine drove her foot up, catching the lip of his shield, and knocking it away. Not off his arm, but the move left his torso exposed. Fear flashed in his crimson eyes as he struggled to free himself. Her lips curled over her teeth into a snarl, her axe rose up to deliver the killing blow when a burst of iron-hot fire erupted in her knee. The Dunmer had retrieved a dagger at his belt, and drove it into the tender muscles.

“Hyargh!” She bellowed, and sank to one knee, freeing the Dunmer. He took the newfound freedom, and reclaimed his sword.

A gleam of metal sailed over her head as he misjudged his strike. Sevine lurched forward and tackled him to the ground, her axe falling away as she straddled his hips. Her hands curled around his windpipe as she sought to choke the very life from him. His crimson eyes were wide, bulging in their sockets as his ash-grey hands clawed at hers. He tried to buck her off, but she squeezed him tighter with her thighs, riding him like a bucking horse. The snarl on her face turned into a bloodthirsty grin, she squeezed tighter when the muscle around her wounded knee seized up. In the midst of fighting, Sevine had forgotten to remove the blade. When the Dunmer had tried to buck her off, the blade shifted, tearing more flesh as it cut through her knee like hot iron. She hissed in pain and recoiled.

Taking a chance again, the Dunmer bucked again, this time sending Sevine rolling off him. He gasped for air, welcoming the sensation of breathing. As he tried to gather himself, Sevine retrieved the Mer’s dagger in her knee and lunged for him, this time wielding the bloodied blade in her right hand. She fell atop him again where she drove the blade into his backside. He screamed a scream so terrible, some might think it were a woman. A boot kick to the side of her face knocked her off him, and this time it was the Dunmer holding her down. Sevine’s instincts kicked in as he tried to do the same to her, choking her to death. She caught one of his hands while the other one squeezed. With her free hand, Sevine swung a fist at his temple. It did little to faze him, and there they lay, locked in a death struggle, each had a taste for blood.
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