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I am Amaranth, witch of the wilds. Through shadow and legend I walk, haunting mortals like you. So... Are you a vulture , I wonder? A scavenger poking amidst a corpse whose bones have been long since cleaned? Or merely an intruder, come into this darkspawn filled page of mine in search of... a bio?

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Sihava let out a heavy breath, ballooning her cheeks as she lost herself in thought. The road was long, and the night was beginning to fall. Far too early. Again. Strange.

Inzoliah continued her travels in the western end of High Rock, around Daggerfall. In her travels as of late, she had noticed that it seemed to get darker faster in this area of the province. It was only around 4 pm, she had estimated, and yet it appeared much later. Strange. Just as strange was the presence of another Dunmer a few strides ahead of her on the road. The Mage quickened her stride and came to match the other woman’s pace at her side. “Tis strange to see another Dunmer so far from Morrowind, or even Cyrodiil for that matter.”

Sihava glanced to the side, a little smile lighting up her face as she nodded. Closing her eyes for a brief moment, she concentrated, biting the tip of her tongue. Through the magicka between them, she sent out a bright feeling of agreement and friendliness, and then one of the few words she could reliably communicate: Sihava. Following that, a brief feeling of inquisitiveness and the word name made it through. Hopefully the other woman wouldn’t find the thoughts too intrusive. She’d occasionally had a bit of trouble with that in the past.

As she turned more fully towards the much older woman, she noticed the faint shimmer of a huge stretch of illusion magic that covered nearly half her body. She raised an eyebrow, but made no other motion, refraining from gesturing at it. There was clearly a reason it was hidden, and it wouldn’t do to be rude.

The Mage Dunmer raised her eyebrow at the strange thoughts that entered her mind, but they were suddenly familiar. She recognised the strangeness as Mysticism magic, something she had seen other mages use many times back in the Synod in Cheydinhal. Inzoliah had only ever used it in the context of enchanting and soul gems, and that had been a lifetime ago, almost literally. “Ah, you speak through Mysticism?” Inzoliah inquired after feeling a thought wonder about a name creep through her mind. “My, that is curious. My name is Inzoliah, I’m somewhat of a mage.” The older woman smiled slyly at her own underplaying of her life’s work. She had learned that people generally found it off putting if you opened with ‘I’m a master fire mage, want to watch me burn this entire mountainside down?’ Inzoliah glanced up and down at the other Dunmer and tapped her chin as they walked, “I’m going to guess you’re a merchant? A trader of some kind? But, I wonder, what kind of merchant is a mute?”

Looking up at the sky for a moment, Sihava wondered how she would quantify the concept of a vow of silence. Again with the tip of her tongue between her teeth, she parsed together a few images: the temple of the Divines, in Solitude. The feeling of prayer and exaltation. And a priest, finger pressed to his lips as if to say shhhhhh. And then, feeling just a little bit put off--you can't just ask someone what kind of merchant is mute! How rude!--she barely restrained herself from asking about the illusion cloak that Inzoliah wore. But doing so would give away her skill as an illusionist. Best not to reveal that so willy-nilly; mystery was the best defense she had.

Although...however rude the question might have been, it was still a question, and Sihava could still answer. Who knows, it might even net her a coin or two if she was lucky. A few quick images of some of her wares--fine clothes, a very fancy Dwemer necklace she’d found someone selling on Solstheim, some rapid flashes of various potions and ingredients, a pile of semiprecious stones, and a brightly gleaming soul gem--the word general--a shrug. She pointed to her pack with a quick jab of the thumb and gave Inzoliah a questioning glance as if to say, want to take a look?

Again, Inzoliah felt images infiltrate her mind. A large room, a chapel maybe. Hope and longing perhaps? The last one was definitely a priest, shushing someone. The Divines silenced this woman? It seemed odd to say the least but they say the Divines worked in mysterious ways, so who was Inzoliah to make heads or tails of the Aedra. She had never put much stock in them, personally. She shrugged, “Well, if that’s what happened, it sounds terrible.” Inzoliah dismissively waved her hand before continuing, “I’ve never bothered much with the Aedra. I’ve always put more faith in the arcane. Fire mostly.” She let the topic drop. Probably best not to insult someone’s faith after having just met them.

The other Dunmer girl made a ‘look over here’ gesture with her thumb and made a curious face. She wanted Inzoliah to look at her wares, the Mage realised after a moment had passed. “If you have any scrolls, I’ll take a look at them, or even just some vellum. Sometimes I make my own scrolls to sell to other adventurers.” This whole situation made Inzoliah feel as if she was doing more talking than she had ever done in her life. One-sided conversations were like that she supposed. “Are you headed there too?” The older Dunmer asked, pointing at the rapidly approaching inn.

A puff of bemused and frustrated breath escaped Sihava. Clearly, she hadn’t quite managed to communicate what she’d intended: whatever Inzoliah thought had happened to her, it wasn’t a vow taken in faith. But, she reasoned, she was more or less used to the miscommunications, so no harm done. She’d correct her with writing once they reached the inn. Though she’d initially planned to keep traveling through the strange darkness, yesterday’s preturnatual night had prickled at her in a way that she didn’t trust, and she thought that perhaps she’d seen faraway eyes shining in the gloom. She was in no hurry to repeat that particular experience, and so when Inzoliah asked if she was also heading to the inn, she responded with an emphatic nod.

She was lucky with the sales, too: she did have a few spell scrolls stored up in her pack. Nothing spectacular--mostly restoration and alteration, which she found were the easiest to sell to common folk--but hopefully, at least one would be to Inzoliah’s liking. In addition, she carried a tight roll of vellum with her wherever she went for communicative writing, and she had enough that she could spare some scrolls’ worth. Never let it be said that Sihava Blackthorn would turn down money.

“Yes, that’s my idea as well. I must confess, this early dusk doesn’t sit well with me. I’ve slept under the stars all over Tamriel and this is the only place where the dark sets my neck tingling.” The Dunmer Mage rolled her shoulders. “Well, if you do have some vellum, what say we conduct our business in the common room of the inn?” Seemed a little safer and easier than conducting a transaction while on the move, besides, the inn was only a little ways out now.

The smile returned to Sihava’s face, and she accelerated a touch, eager to get out of this odd shadow. She hadn’t eaten much that day, preoccupied as she’d been with finding an inn to stay at during the long night, so the prospect of a bowl of Daggerfall stew and a cup of hot spiced wine was welcome indeed. She was in the middle of fantasizing over soft, crusty bread by the time she clomped her leather boots up the wooden steps, stepping out of the rapidly falling dusk and finding a table near the fire to drop her backpack off.

The Loyal Hound was a nice place, she thought. Could’ve done without that many deer heads, but the decor was...charmingly rustic, she thought. It could have been nicer, and she would perhaps need to check the bed for bugs--one never knew at these roadside inns--but any kind of inn was a welcome sight after a day on the road. She was aching for the stew that she smelled wafting out of the kitchen. But business before pleasure, as the saying went. She wanted to be set up by the time Inzoliah came to her table, and so she rapidly dug through her bag and picked out what few scrolls she had, laying them down before taking out a tightly-sealed bottle of ink, uncorking it and dipping a quill pen in it before slicing off a piece of the vellum with her dagger, writing in elegant curling script:

My name is Sihava Blackthorn. I apologize for any misunderstandings on the road; I have taken a vow of silence in the name of…

She hesitated for a moment. Though Inzoliah had mentioned that she didn’t put much stock in the Divines, she still obviously didn’t want to reveal her true patron. Which Divine would fit the vow of silence best…?

...Arkay. In addition to the roll of vellum (I would rather not sell much of it, as I need it for messages such as this), I have five scrolls: one of Fast Healing, one of Heal Other, one of Waterbreath, one of Detect Living, and one of Ease Burden. 70, 90, 90, 110, and 80 Septim, respectively. You may make offers for the vellum, as I typically am not called on to sell it, and so I have no price for it.

With that done, she set aside the quill, corked the ink, and waited.

Inzoliah noticed the other woman’s pace pick up as she pointed out the closeness of the inn. She must be hungry. Or tired. Or eager to make some coin. Maybe all three. Regardless, she let the Mute Merchant pull ahead of her. Inzoliah felt no need to rush, a little more fresh air wouldn’t hurt. Especially if the inn was as packed as it sounded.

When she did finally make it to the door she lingered a moment before finally going in. She had no particular reason for doing so, but it made her feel better nonetheless. The first thing she noticed was every source of the hated element in the room. Every torch, candle, lantern and hearthfire she mentally noted where they were and then tried to triangulate the area in which she could linger as far away from their menacing auras as possible. Unfortunately the other Dunmer seemed to have decided they should do business near the fire. Much too close to the fire for Inzoliah’s comfort. She exhaled slightly before heading over to the mute woman, who had set up all of her scrolls. The Mage quickly sat down at the table, positioning herself across from the fire, so she could keep an eye on it at all times. “Twould be best if we conducted our business with haste. I mislike being surrounded like this.” Of course she left out that she meant being surrounded by fire and not people, though she wasn’t particularly fond of the types of people that were found in inns such as these. Local drunks usually. Travelers who kept to themselves were alright in her book though.

Inzoliah used her hand to flatten the note that the other woman had set up and read it silently for a moment. “Sihava, an unique name. I have never heard it before, your parents must be very interesting people.” she commented plainly, sincere in her words though dryly delivered. “Since you would rather not part with much of your vellum and I lack the funds to purchase the other scrolls I shall be brief. I offer you 10 septims for a single scroll of vellum. ‘Tis more than I usually pay in a city, but we are not in a city and I am willing to part with more because I like to support fellow Dunmer.” As she finished her sentence she reached into a pouch around her waist and pulled out 10 septims and stacked them in a tower on the table.

Sihava nodded and grinned. Unrolling the vellum, she settled on a scroll’s length of it before shearing it off with the dagger again. Sliding it across the table to Inzoliah, she counted out the Septims--ten indeed--and rammed them into her purse, which responded with a satisfying jingle.

Picking up the pen with whatever remained of the ink inside it, she wrote out a pleasure doing business, before tossing the note offhandedly into the fire and sweeping the rest of the vellum and the scrolls back into her bag with a flourish. She’d organize it later, but for the moment, presentation trumped exactitude.

Then, abruptly, she stood. Now then, Sihava she thought, grin only growing, let’s see about that Daggerfall stew.

Inzoliah watched the other woman cut the vellum into the proper length for a scroll. Her dagger seemed of unusually high quality for a travelling merchant. She put the thought out of her mind and was just grateful Sihava found the price acceptable. She was really not in the mood to haggle. The Mage picked up the blank scroll deftly and slid it into her knapsack, watching as the Merchant wrote out a note of thanks and then cast it into the fire. That seemed a very ill omen indeed. As soon as Sihava had stood up and left, Inzoliah had evacuated the table as well, eager to be rid of the fire. She needed a cool drink after that.

Done! Hopefully I didn't make too many mistakes as I banged this one out in one sitting, let me know if you spot any I missed.
Tentatively interested!
Hello, I’m Amaranth.

I’m not great with fancy formatting so I’ll make this straight and to the point. I’ve been wanting to do a Star Wars 1x1 featuring a Jedi and a Padawan and their adventures through our chosen era. You know, like Anakin and Obi-wan or Obi-wan and Qui-gon or Anakin and Ahsoka or Luminara and Barriss. Something like that. I’ve always felt like it’s a pretty obvious idea but I’ve never seen anyone suggest it. Anyways, we could choose any era we wanted, I’m not picky, each one would have its own quirks that would be fun to do. I’m even open to post-ROTJ legends if that’s what you’re into.

Now onto expectations and rules.

The basics all apply, no godmodding, no ghosting (at least without letting me know first), no real-life racism/bigotry etc etc. You know, the basics.

I’d expect this to be high casual to advanced. A lot of people say that but I’m going to try and define it. Basically I just want to know that you are at least capable of typing out an advanced post. I don’t want or expect you to put out five paragraphs every response but I’d like you to have some effort and thought behind your posts. I’d also like you to exercise at least decent grammar and spelling. That’s all really. Just put some thought and effort into your posts and I’ll be happy. As for posting rate, I’m not too impatient, just one or two posts a week is fine, though more is welcomed as well as long as you are putting effort and thought into them. I’ll try and match your pace if you’d like as well.

Some other miscellaneous stuff that may or may not be relevant.

Any species is fine, same with any gender, just no droids for obvious reasons. I’m up for paying either the master or the padawan so if you want to play the maverick Jedi Master that’s cool and if you want to play the hothead Padawan that’s also cool. I’d be open to trying an opposite alignment version but I’d need a pitch first. Mature themes should probably be expected but we should probably discuss how far that will extend once we have a scenario locked down.

Anyway that’s all I can think of for now. Send me a PM if you like the idea or if you have a question or if you want to talk :)
17th Sun's Dawn ... or maybe the 16th, who could know these things?
Daggerfall, High Rock

Frygga staggered her way from a tavern, clutching her glaive for support. She had spent the night drinking and brawling, as all good sellswords do, and was not the only one stumbling from a tavern. Some, she could see, supported themselves on greatswords as they puked their guts out on the streets. Others relied on large longbows as walking sticks as they swayed back to wherever their next job would find them. Frygga was not weak enough to lose her breakfast over some watered-down Breton ale and instead leaned on her glaive as she watched the early morning scenes unfold. She was getting out of here. On a ship, yes, she had booked passage on some Redguard's ship that was bound to leave today... or maybe tomorrow. Either way she needed to get to the harbour. She would sleep off the headache on the ship that was sure to come soon whether they left today or tomorrow. The large Nord hefted herself from her glaive and rolled her shoulders before stalking down the street towards the sound of gulls and the smell of fish.

It had been her last night in this forsaken city of greedy nobles and court schemes and she had properly celebrated her departure with rounds of ale for every man in the tavern, as well as plenty of impromptu wrestling matches over who could drink more. The answer was Frygga. It was always Frygga. If she could not out drink you, she would certainly convince you she could when she picked you up and threatened to snap you in half like a twig. But it was all in humour of course. Sellswords had an odd sense of humour and Frygga even more so. You had to in that kind of work. When your two greatest enemies are boredom and death, your view of things tended to become a little warped. So sellswords found it intensely funny when Frygga picked up a smaller man and told him he would be inside out if he didn't admit she could drink more than him. And it was even more uproariously funny when the man's Orcish friend told Frygga she would be in two pieces if she didn't leave his friend alone. And the best joke of the night was when both of them came to blows and ended up bruised and bleeding but convivial on the floor of the tavern. Frygga rubbed her sore neck at the memory. That was one thing she would miss about Daggerfall. The fights.

The docks smelled heavily of fish and it reminded the Nord of Skyrim. The cool air and creak of ships invigorated her and helped to wake her up a bit. She brushed off her fur and leather tunic and adjusted the one good sleeve of the thing- Don't want to looktoo much like she just woke up- and looked around for the ship she had booked passage on. It was a fairly distinctive ship and she let her animal instincts tell her the proper area to look.

It didn't take long for her to find 'the Kismet' and she thumped her way up the gangplank with her glaive, her free hand instinctively checking her baldric for her double war-axes. You could never be too careful with seamen. They were often as treacherous and fickle as the sea on which they sailed. Damned gods-above knew how many had attempted to rob her and had been counter-robbed in the process or how many nobles had paid her to toss unruly sailors into this very harbour. Still, she knew not to provoke the seafarers and so she patted her axes to make sure she still had them, and then dropped her hand to her side again as she stepped onto the ship. She recognised the Captain and he seemed to recognise her and, even though he was engaged in some no-doubt frivolous conversation with a blonde strumpet, gave her a knowing nod that was sea captain speak for 'Yes I saw you board my ship and yes, I am okay with it.' Frygga responded with her own nod that was Frygga for 'Thanks.' and dragged herself like a wounded wolf below decks to find a bunk to hunker down in.

The bunk she settled on was a corner bunk, chosen because for one, it had no items scattered around it, which suggested it was free and two, it was a corner bunk, which meant it was harder for anyone who wished to run her through to sneak up on her while she was sleeping. Not that she suspected anyone would want to do that to her here, but well, old habits.

Frygga lodged her glaive between the roof, the wall, and the floor so it wouldn't fly off and hack an arm off while the ship rocked back and forth and clambered into her hammock. She nodded at a passing sailor and removed an axe from her belt and began to dig under the nail of her finger for dirt with the blade. Her stomach growled and Frygga growled back. She really just wanted to slowly drift into sleep, rocked gently by the ship, but alas, it appeared her stomach would not permit it. She slung her axe back into her belt and swung her legs onto the deck. Rubbing the bridge of her nose in annoyance, the Nord stood up and set out to find the galley. She swayed slightly and took a deep breath in response. Nords were natural sailors of course, so it wouldn’t take her long to find her sea legs. The swaying wasn’t from the ship alone. Frygga started thudding down the cramped quarters, intent on interrogating the first sailor she encountered about the location of food on this creaking tub.

The first unfortunate soul was sleeping soundly and snoring unsoundly in a hammock a few rows down. Frygga knelt over him, and narrowed her gaze, focusing hard on his face, as if through sheer will she could wake him. No, but she was merely steadying her mind and her body. Instead she shook the man violently, speaking to him in an angry hiss that she used to wake up comrades when they were being attacked during the night. It spoke of imminent danger and a need to pay attention immediately. The poor sailor woke right up and his hand fumbled for his boots, but Frygga just barked harsh laughter and spoke in what passed as a normal tone of voice for her. "The Galley, man. Which way?" The bewildered seaman grumbled a curse under his breath and pointed before flopping back down. Frygga laughed another bolt of laughter and resumed her thudding down the corridor towards the galley.

The ship's galley seemed empty save for the presumed cook, a young boy, not yet fit to be called a man. But he did have the look of a Nord, which raised Frygga's opinion of him slightly. "Speak pup, are you the cook?" She thundered, already ransacking a cupboard for anything vaguely edible. The Nordic woman did not wait for an answer and was already eating a hunk of bread, ignoring anything the boy was saying. Despite her nonchalance, she clapped the boy on the back jovially with one hand, the other still holding the chunk of half-eaten bread. "Thanks, pup." Frygga stated as she allowed herself to crash back into one of the galley chairs, nearly instantly falling asleep.
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge..."

Alik'r gathering, sometime in Midyear, 4E208

"...Dig two graves." Or five. Shakti thought bitterly. She had emerged from the prison in a bloody haze, bone tired. She was drained mentally, physically, and spiritually. Yet, still the party had needed her to lead them across the Alik'r. Without her, they would surely be burned to death as if they were all going for a swim in the Deadlands. So the Alik'r girl called on a yet deeper reserve of strength that lurks in the soul of all men and mer and persevered. Covered in dried gore, sweat and gods-know-what-else, she successfully led them all to the resting place of her tribe. Though, what they found there surprised even Shakti. It was the Anseilak Hunding! The Gathering of the High Desert. She didn't expect it to be so early though. Had she lost track of time? It was possible. These past few weeks were quite hectic and even in the best of times Shakti had trouble keeping the days and nights straight. Either way, it didn't matter. The entire party was overjoyed to be out of the desert.

Shakti felt differently. Instead she stood, leaning heavily on her blade. She had missed her tribe, her people. But coming back... it felt strange. She had been gone, what? A year, two years? She felt like she had been gone for an Era, at least. What would she say to her family? Stumbling out of the Alik'r, covered in blood, bleeding from still-open wounds, leading a band of strangers, rogues, mages. What could she say? She touched the cut under her eye and winced. Wiping the blood onto Khesh's cloak, she sighed and followed the party into the tent city, looking for her family.

Dragging her sword in its sheath along the sand, she finally shuffled up to her tribe's campsite. Someone spotted her and their face lit up. She recognised the man as a boy she had grown up with, Domalen, though she called him Dom. He was a year younger than her and she always suspected he had a bit of a crush on her. He waved her over and Shakti- no, Tariyeh-smiled and headed over. Dom had already called to Tariyeh's mom and her siblings and they all had nearly sprinted over. Karayyah, her mother was nearly weeping and also close to slapping Tariyeh. "I told you to take care of yourself Tariyeh!" She exclaimed, half laughing and half crying, "You look like you just fought your way through half of Hammerfell." Her mother licked her thumb and wiped some blood from her daughter's lightly freckled face before pulling her into a tight embrace, the kind only a mother can give. Tariyeh couldn't help but smile over her mom's shoulder. When she was finally released from her mother's grasp, she pulled her brother and sister into a hug as well. They were both slightly younger than her but still exuded the same youthful exuberance that Tariyeh too, had exuded before she set out on her journey. Still, it's not like all of the light had gone out of her, and so she grinned involuntarily at the soft embrace her siblings gave her. In that moment, she forgot her doubts and worries and even her exhaustion and just bathed herself in the utter relief of being back with family.

Finally, she let go and collapsed onto the warm sand. Her mother and brother and sister followed suit and, after a lengthy begging process, Tariyeh finally relented and agreed to share most of her adventures. She started from the beginning and explained how she had trekked from the camp and met up with Israhal and spent some time with him learning new sword techniques and practicing already known ones. She explained how she had wandered into Gilane on the trail of Khesh and ended up getting captured, only to be rescued by her soon-to-be friends. She showed off the scar on her arm to the ooohs and aahhhhs of her siblings. She regaled them with what she remembered about the party (minus Calen making a fool of her), she explained how she had beaten Mazrah, the Orcish woman, in a contest of drinking, much to the amusement of all. She reenacted her duel with Sevari and how she had lost the trail of Khesh. She also revealed the scar on her side Sevari had given her. Her mother tsk-tsk'd her in response, "You always were too rash for your own good, Yehyeh." Everyone laughed at that.

Next, she told the tale (or at least her fragmented understanding of it) of how several group members ended up getting captured and Sevari and his brother ended up as turncoats and they mounted a daring rescue which involved Tariyeh heroically being stuffed inside a servant's gown and sneaking her way into the palace in which the prisoner was being held. Both of her siblings expressed doubt as to the veracity of the story, "Were you unconscious when they put you in the dress, Yehyeh?" Tarinah inquired. Tariyeh shot her younger sister a death stare before continuing. She explained the rest of the escape and the burning of their hideout and the subsequent escape into the Alik'r, proudly led by the one and only Alik'r Warrior in the party. She told them about how they had camped out for a few nights at the Mouth of the Alik'r Oasis. Her mother looked at her eldest proudly. "I always knew you could step up to the mantle of leadership if you needed to, Tariyeh. You make me so proud." Tariyeh modestly shrugged, but took the compliment in silence before she continued. Conveniently leaving out the encounter with Calen, she finally reported about the past days, about how they planned to save some lost comrades in a prison complex. She glossed over the more brutal parts of the story but recalled how she had found Khesh and killed him, showing off his cloak as a grisly trophy, and how Khesh had told her the Warden had also been a Knight and how she had confronted him as well, slaying that traitor and claiming his cloak as proof in addition to learning that the final knight of the cabal of traitors had fled to Skyrim. She detailed her plan to hunt down the last man and be done with her grisly task, confessing that it was wearying her.

Truthfully, 'weary' was an understatement. Ever since the prison and the two traitors, she hadn't been able to sleep peacefully at all. Her mind and body ached, not just from the exertion of the past few days, although that surely had something to do with it. She found herself waking in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat and reliving hazy memories of things that may have happened or may not yet have happened. Through some unholy combination of shame and compulsion, she felt sick when she thought about finding her friends. She felt feral, like a wild animal that did not belong among civilised people. So she sequestered herself away in a tent among her tribe, praying to all the gods of the desert and the Alik'r that none of the party would come find her. Her only guests were her brother and sister and mother, occasionally coming to check on her. She waved them off by insisting she was merely exhausted by travel.

At dusk she emerged to bathe herself and hunt down some food. Most were already asleep. She crept through the maze of tents and bodies who had not made it to tents before passing out. Thankfully, it was a short jaunt to the springs that the gathering was based around. There were a few evening bathers, cleaning up after a day of revelry, but Tariyeh thought nothing of them and disrobed before submerging herself in the chilly water. It was a nice contrast to the heat of the air. Despite the sun slowly disappearing over the horizon, the air had not lost its warmth. She slid down into the water, her head momentarily disappearing beneath the surface before re-emerging, her hair sopping wet and draped over her face. It felt nice to be clean again, at least physically. She really wished she could pour some water into her brain and clean it out. It felt mired in the same dust, blood, and sweat that had pervaded her body a few minutes before. She lacked the clarity of purpose she possessed at the outset. Every action now had to penetrate a layer of emotions and thoughts before she could make sense of it. She felt fear, anxiety, shame, and darkness, but perhaps also hope. She allowed herself to float on the surface of the water for a bit, staring up at the now-darkened sky. She exhaled and sank down, the lack of fat on her body or air in her lungs causing her to gently descend in the water. She waited for a few seconds, blinked and rose again. Why didn't she want to see her friends again? Or anyone? She somehow felt like she should be happier about seeing her family again but... The thought of seeing the rest of the group churned her stomach. Her voice was sore from so much talking. She floated about the pool again while sinking deeper into her own thoughts. She knew she couldn't hide forever, she'd have to find them eventually. She hoped they weren't too worried about her. They probably weren't. She had talked about how much she had missed her family, so they most likely assumed she was just doing some catching up. Although, it was strange that none of them had tried to seek her out. Tariyeh shrugged it off. It didn't matter. She listened to the sound of the pool in her ears, the strange calm of the waters mixed with the sounds of the gathering dying down.

Tariyeh emerged from the pool, brushed a few tresses of her hair from her face and grabbed a robe to dry with. She didn't bother drying her feet, they were already covered in sand, but she patted herself down and replaced her own tunic and leggings. She didn't feel like heading back to her tent just yet, but she had already dried off, so instead she headed a bit further from the camps and sat on the sand, drawing elaborate concentric circles in the still-warm sand, just like she used to do as a child. It was more comforting than she had expected. Still, she felt less alive than she did back then. Her mind and heart and body seemed to be enveloped in a stiffness not unlike that which she had seen in corpses many times before. But why? What had slain her heart and left her mind to harden into a corpse?
Sisters of the Sands

15th Midyear 4E208, after sunset
Alik’r Oasis...

It seemed like no one in the camp was happy with just about anything that was happening around them. Between the desert heat, the crippling losses in Gilane, the sudden presence of two very hated individuals, it all weighed down on everyone in different ways it seemed. For Daro’Vasora, she was no different, but she had to look like she knew what she was doing. In reality, she had expected the criticisms and anger for her and Latro’s decision, but it still hurt to reflect upon it. They went through all of that trouble to save me, and I immediately pull a stunt like that. she thought, a miserable weight clutching her throat. She decided that she needed some air to think straight, maybe gaze upon Jone and Jode and reflect upon what she’d experienced and what she’d done.

The Khajiit had put on her customary tunic and trousers, but she eschewed sandals or boots, preferring to feel the natural world under her bare feet, a small comfort when everything else seemed so tense. She passed by Zaveed without acknowledging his existence, and soon was out of the mouth of the cave and she took a moment to appreciate the endless sea of the stars above, the twin moons looming like a comforting blanket above Nirn’s night skies. Were her ancestors looking back now? Did they have advice she could use?

I need to do another Moonpath, she reflected, stepping out into the cooling dunes and seeing a familiar shape sitting and staring up in an appreciative wonder. Shakti, her young friend who accompanied her in the palace to get the medical supplies, seemed to be more in her element out in the wilds she knew so well rather than the relative comfort of the cave. The Khajiit could appreciate that.

“Good evening, Shakti. You look more at ease here than when we had first met in Gilane.” She said, taking a seat next to the young Redguard, sand sliding down the dune as it was disturbed. “So, this is your home, is it?”

“Yes it is.” Shakti answered softly, not taking her eyes off of the stars for a few moments. The Alik’r girl looked over and saw the eyeshine of Sora the Khajiit sitting next to her.

“I used to think that all of Hammerfell was my home, but after spending so much time in the city I have realised that the Alik’r is my home. I feel I can breathe here. The city was so suffocating. I have walked these dunes. The sand knows me.” To accentuate her point, Shakti sifts her hands into the warm sands. “What brings you here?”

“Oh, I just needed some air, some clarity. To feel the ground beneath my feet in a receptive manner.” The Khajiit replied, pulling her knees up to her chest and keeping her eyes to the skies above. “I think the more you travel, the more fondness of home you have, but you should always take time to appreciate where you are. Where I am from, Leyawiin, it’s a swampy humid place near sparkling turquoise waters and the open sea, but go in land a bit, and you find the deserts of Anequina to the West. If I go far enough North, I’m still in Cyrodiil, but towering mountains and snow-capped peaks exist, lands that don’t exactly breathe warmth and comfort. This land is harsh, but there’s something comforting about a featureless sea of sand. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”

Shakti laughed softly, “You all keep saying this, ‘featureless sea.’ It is not featureless to me. It is more familiar to me than the winding streets and alleys of Gilane or Sentinel. It’s… It’s…” Shakti struggled with the right words. “It’s like my sword, or something familiar to you. You just know the feel of it because you’ve touched it and used it for so long. I’m sure you could say the same for this Leyawiin, or maybe Cyrodiil.” The Redguard squirmed her bare feet into the sand as well and looked back up at the stars.

Daro’Vasora nodded knowingly. “My apologies; perhaps it was an indelicate choice of words. It’s just very new to me, I just don’t know what to look for yet.” she conceded. “Everywhere I’ve been has always had something that stood out to me, this just feels like the sea, just a lot more static and eternal. I always felt more at home in forests and meadows, somewhere where there’s so much green and the sound of birds. This place seems so quiet to me, like it’s asleep or hiding the life.”

“There are birds here in the desert. Though I suspect there are more of them in the forest. Sandsparrows flitter about, snatching bugs from early morning skies. My father used to call me a sparrow, because I was always running around at the crack of dawn.” Shakti felt a slight wetness around her eyes as she heard the sound of his voice in her mind, though it was somewhat fainter than she might have liked.

She shook herself out of her reverie and continued, “At night dunerippers prowl beneath the sands for desert foxes and snakes and anything else than can latch on to. It is like you said, there is life here, just hidden.”

The Khajiit caught the shift in Shakti’s disposition, feeling a pang of remorse for her own family. “Maybe you can show me all of this, or teach me how to look. I’d like to understand you and what you hold dear, because that’s what friends do, isn’t it?” she chuckled quietly, shaking her head. “It feels strange to call anyone that. I’ve never been very good with people, but for you, it seems so effortless.”

Shakti nodded, almost sagely. “I can show you life in the Alik’r. Remind me when next we travel, I will point out to you the signs of life.” The younger girl smiled at Sora’s compliment. “It is effortless because I don’t put effort into it.” Shakti elaborated, heedless of the redundancy in her statement, “A Redguard has no time for social games. I am honest. Honest to everyone. At least, I try to be. If I have to hide something or lie, then I have failed somewhere. I should not be ashamed of my actions.”

The Alik’r girl thought for a minute.

“I was upset when Judena the Argonian told us what had happened, and about how the group had set the Dwemer free. Only because you were not honest with me. I felt that you thought you could not trust me. That I would not understand it was an accident. I do understand though. I realised that you were only afraid I would be angry at you. I just want you to know I’m not angry at you.” Shakti gingerly placed a hand on Sora’s shoulder.

“I will say that I told you poking around in tombs is trouble.” She added wryly.

Daro’Vasora had expected this to be coming, just not what came after. She reached up and placed her hand on top of Shakti’s with a slight smile. “You know, you have the wisdom of someone five times your age. I am sorry for the deception, the lies, I just didn’t want these people who came after to feel betrayed or feel that we destroyed their lives. I know we did, but that’s why I’m trying to set things right, you know?” she asked, closing her eyes and breathing slowly.

“Everything else I’ve told you about me has been genuine, on my family I swear that. That single mistake cost me so much, and I should feel crushing guilt that it cost countless people so much more. Is it not enough I’m trying to rectify that mistake, that I am willing to put my life at risk to do so?” Daro’Vasora asked quietly.

“I trust you. I have trusted you ever since you returned my sword to me.” Shakti affirmed, again patting Sora’s shoulder. “If you make a mistake, the only thing you can do is try to fix it. That’s all anyone can expect from you. I suspect that’s why the others have stuck around for so long as well. That, and you. Besides, the only people who have ruined my life are those cursed traitor-knights that killed my father.” She picked up a rock with her free hand and threw it into the darkness. “I swear I shall carve repentance from their souls when I get my hands on them. They are worse than the deep elves.”

The Khajiit smiled warmly at that. “Like I said, you are an abundance of wisdom. Thank you, for staying by my side when you had no reason to trust me. I’ll earn it, I promise.” She watched the rock sail through the air before thudding into the sand, her ears folding back as Shakti’s disposition changed suddenly. “For what it’s worth, if their trail crosses our path, I will be by your side as you hunt them down. I lost my uncle to the Dwemer, and the vengeance I sought only brought me to more ruin. I think it’s important to not shoulder burdens alone, and it was a lesson I learned far too late. And Shakti?” she said, turning to face the young Redguard better. “You aren’t alone.”

Shakti looked over at the Khajiit, meeting her gaze. “I understand. But I do not deny that my heart tells me this is a task I must finish alone. I will accept any help getting to the traitors though.” She couldn’t say why her heart told her it was a solo quest, but part of her did feel that such a deeply personal thing should be completed alone.

“Far be it from me to deny your heart what it tells you, but at least let me help you get to the door.” Daro’Vasora said with a wry smile. “It’s the least I can do after your heroics earlier. You looked a bit silly in that dress, I must admit.”

“I can accept that much.” Shakti said, grinning. “Yeah I’m not cut out for dress-wearing. I’ll leave that to Raelynn and the High Elf girl.” She rubbed the back of her head, dredging up the painful, if humourous memory of her being forced into a servant’s gown. She still had it, bloody and torn to ribbons, but it was only fodder for her to patch her tunics up with now.

“I actually quite like dresses, I always enjoyed being the talk of the town… or at least trying to.” Daro’Vasora chuckled leaning back into the sand dune to stare directly up at the endless expanse, her eyes darting across the craters on the moons above. “So… you and Calen?” she asked after a few silent, but comforting, moments.

Shakti grimaced and looked away, embarrassed slightly. “Word travels fast around here, huh? I guess that’s what I get for traveling with a band of assassins and rogues.” Never off-balance for long, the Redguard quickly regained her composure and went on, “I do not even know if we are together, truth be told. He mentioned another girl named Rhona. Is it bad that I feel slightly jealous when he speaks of this girl? I know I have nothing to be envious of, I don’t even know the other girl, but still…” Her voice trailed off as she looked off into the night, hoping the stars would give her the words to express herself better.

“No, jealousy’s a pretty normal feeling when it comes to people you have a thing for.” Daro’Vasora said, her hands behind her head and she imagined being weightless as she watched the stars above. “It’s hard when you like someone, but they’re with someone else, or having feelings that aren’t exclusively for you. I just think the thing with Calen and Rhona was a fling, she ended up having a pretty traumatic experience after beating her abusive ex-husband half to death with a staff after he tried kidnapping her from Anvil. She kind of went quiet after that, barely spoke to anyone other than Brynja… I hope they’re doing well.” the Khajiit murmured.

She turned her head to look towards Shakti. “I didn’t even know you had an infatuation with Calen until today. It’s sweet, I think; just give it time and attention and maybe something will come out of it. Ever had a boyfriend before?” she asked.

“I tried to be subtle. Ever since the party back in Gilane I realised how… how cute he was. Even when he was making up a tale about how he was injured I found it hard to look away. M-Maybe that was the alcohol. And no, I’ve never been with anyone before.” Shakti articulated in a slightly meandering way. “I’ve always been so focused on martial pursuits.”

“It’s funny how drink can do that to you. One minute you’re a stone-cold bitch, the next you’re making an ass of yourself because you noticed some guy you’ve barely acknowledged has dimples to die for and his grin actually has all of the teeth and you don’t realize you’re staring. We’ve all been there.” Daro’Vasora said, propping herself on an elbow to face Shakti better. “Want some good-natured advice from someone who was pretty sure she wasn’t going to live to see another sunrise two nights ago?”

Shakti was slightly surprised to find that Sora seemed to understand what she was talking about perfectly. “Oh. Well it’s a relief to know that I am not the only one who this has happened to.” The nomad girl twists to face the Khajiit, mirroring her own movements. “I will take any advice I can get, because I really don’t know what I’m doing.” Shakti added on with a laugh.

“Well, happens to most girls, some boys, I think.” Daro’Vasora replied. “But we live in a really dangerous time where anything can happen that’s sudden and life changing and outside of our control. Take the time to live, find happiness when you can and don’t be ashamed of taking a chance because there’s a small chance you like somebody.”

She sat up, taking her tail in her hand, smoothing out the fur with even strokes as she broke eye contact. “When I was in the palace, they came and took Latro away. A prisoner exchange, they said. Word came back shortly after that the convoy was ambushed and Latro’s body wasn’t found; I’d thought I’d lost him. After that, I’d suffered through so much grieving and guilt, I couldn’t help but think of all the things I could have done differently to have made the most of the time I had with him.” she frowned, her brow furrowing as she reflected on the experience.

“It was the same thing at the party with everyone; I saw Anifaire kept stealing glances at Alim so I kind of forced her hand to have him ask her to dance because she was never going to do it on her own and I wanted them to be happy. Now he’s in a prison, and I hope it’s not too late for him but I have to keep telling her he’s okay because hope is what keeps people going. Raelynn and Gregor get it; I’m sure you’ve been kept up at night as much as I have from them being more beast than I am.” The Khajiit observed with a tired smirk. “And yeah, Rhona and Calen had a bit of a fling and I’m sure he’s hurting from her being gone, but I don’t think it was really anything serious. A brief window of joy and comfort for them, I think, but sometimes that’s all people need. I used to sleep with a lot of my expedition partners before all of this, and I’m not saying you need to be inclined towards that, but we all have different needs. Don’t be ashamed for wanting something.” she reached over, placing a hand over Shakti’s and offered a kind sisterly expression. “Just be yourself and spend time with him, compliment him. The rest kind of happens on its own.”

Shakti stayed silent for a while after Sora had finished, carefully considering her words. She felt the Khajiit’s hand on hers for a few moments before speaking up again. “I see what you mean. I never thought of it that way. I always just focused on the day and task at hand, except for matters of romance. But I see now that what you are saying is similar. We must enjoy all that we can in the present moment, even if it is fleeting.”

The Redguard girl drew patterns in the sand with her finger as she spoke. “I will do what you suggest. I will compliment him and be myself, and continue to seek out his company.” Her words resonated with the same sureness that they had contained when she had vowed to kill her father’s betrayers; the same clarity of purpose was present now as in most other tasks the Alik’r girl put herself to.

“No reason devotion to the blade can’t always make room for actually enjoying the simple and sweet things in life.” Daro’Vasora replied. “A healthy mind and heart does wonders for the more serious pursuits, you don’t want to be the kind of person who just does one thing really well and then discovers that there was regrets of opportunities missed. You remind me of my sister, La’Shuni. She’s your age, been dating boys… she was actually supposed to come visit me this month in the Imperial City. I haven’t been able to write her since this all started happening.” the Khajiit’s smile faded into an expression decidedly more sombre. “Now how am I supposed to give her good natured advice and pick on her about her choices in boys? I don’t know if I’ll ever see any of them again, the way we’re going.”

The Redguard smiled at Sora’s comparison. Partially in appreciation and partially to express her feelings on the matter of whether she would see her sister again. “You will see her again, I am sure of it. If there is anything I have learned from traveling with you Sora the Khajiit, it is that your people are quite resilient. We have now three of them who have seemed to survive everything life has thrown at them, including the Deep Elves.” Now it was Shakti’s turn to offer a comforting hand on the other woman’s paw.

The gesture was returned appreciatively, gently squeezing the fingers around her own. “It’s what keeps me going, and I’m doing this so my family doesn’t have to know what this is like. I just don’t want my sister to experience war, or losing her home, or someone she loves. I’m sure it seems kind of silly to you, a full blooded Alik’r warrior where your entire society more or less embraces this sort of thing. I just rather she have the choice and not have it made for her.”

“I will not pretend to understand cultures that are not my own, but I understand that you are doing this to protect your family. Not everyone can or will fight, even Redguards.” Shakti responded, hoping her admission of non-understanding got a pass in this situation. “It is a noble cause.”

“Somebody always has to, might as well be us, huh?” Daro’Vasora replied, setting herself back down. “Who knows? Maybe they’ll write a saga about us. I’d settle for a song, or even a mention in a book. Maybe then I’ll feel like I can go home.”

“I’d like that. A song written about me. I think they should wait longer though, I intend to do many more things than just kick the Dwemer out of our land. I am still young!” Shakti casually said with a laugh. “What about you, would you rather have a song or a book written about you? Oh, I know. Maybe they will put you in a great big tomb and your ancestors can stop by to rob you every once in a while!” She tried to suppress a giggle and act like she wasn’t just pulling the Khajiit’s tail, but a muffled chuckle still escaped.

That earned a heartfelt laugh. “Oh, there's an idea. We Khajiit would find that to be a waste of perfectly good stone that a dead person has no use for, nor all of their vanity treasures. I could buck the trend and be known as ‘Dra'Vasora-Daro the Excessive.’” Daro'Vasora replied with a cheeky grin and wink. “Well, Latro already wrote me a song, so I'd have to say I want a book so some little over achiever like younger me could be inspired to do something fantastic with their mundane lives.

Shakti clicked her tongue at Sora, “Tsk tsk, don’t you care at all what happens to your soul after death? Even after death the soul has a connection to your body, you can’t just leave your body laying around for all eternity. You know in the Alik’r the first thing we do after someone dies is consecrate and mummify their body in the name of Tu’whacca to protect the soul on its way to the Far Shores. What if some necromancer tries to raise your body a hundred years later?”

“Oh, we care, but we interpret our souls as separate from our physical bodies. The reason many of us Khajiit speak in third-person pronouns is because our physical bodies are simply avatars we inhabit temporarily, like a suit your soul wears for your physical life in Mundus. It is simply the first part of our lives before we journey to the Sands Behind the Stars. Why would we care about physical belongings or the tattered old suit we discarded when we died? We no longer have use for them, let someone in need claim possession.” Daro'Vasora explained with a polite and inviting gaze. “I speak to my ancestors when I walk the Moonpath, so I know what awaits me when I die. Please do not think you are respecting me by burying my body with my belongings; they would no longer be of use to me.”

“You do not speak in third person. Does that mean you do not believe these things? Also I am not sure what a moonpath is but it sounds wonderful if you can speak with your ancestors. We Redguards believe that the only way to escape the cycle of life and death on Mundus is to make it to the Far Dunes when you die, and I would certainly not want to be trapped here in a decaying body, so that’s why we take every precaution against necromancy. It is a vile thing that can doom one’s soul.” Shakti continued on, asking questions and giving explanations of her culture as she drew patterns in the sand.

“An understandable fear.” Daro’Vasora replied with a nod. “I think most Khajiit fear necromancers more while we’re alive for the reasons I’ve explained. But yes, I’ve always held these beliefs, but it’s more of a cultural thing of how one speaks. When I was young, I spoke in third-person; this one, La’Vasora, that kind of thing. I was raised out of it coming from Imperial society where my mother held court, but my father has been interchangeable, depending on his clientele. I slip sometimes when I’m sentimental or extremely stressed.” she said.

“The Far Dunes, it sounds like you make the journey in your afterlife with the body you had when you die?” The Khajiit asked, blinking slowly as her mind ran over what was being prompted. “I certainly agree that necromancy is vile and I think it’s fundamentally wrong to use someone’s body like that or deny them an afterlife, but please explain this process to me.”

The Redguard girl paused for a moment, thinking back to what she had learned as a child. “I am not sure how one travels to the Far Dunes, only that our bodies are mummified in Tu’whacca’s name. He helps Redguards get to the afterlife and protects them from necromancers. I’m sure someone in my tribe knows more.” Shakti suddenly laughed ruefully, “I’m sure my father knows. If only we had some way to talk to him”.

“I'm sorry about your father.” The Khajiit replied sincerely. “I won't be able to bring him back, but I can at least try to stop anyone else from losing their family to this madness.”

Daro'Vasora leaned over, embracing Shakti. “I'm not going to give up until we've made a difference. Thank you for standing by me, despite everything.”

Shakti said nothing but embraced Daro’Vasora back. Somehow being back in the Alik’r had reopened the wound her father’s death had left on her heart. The desert reminded her of her childhood, before her father left. In Gilane she had been distracted. There was so much going on and she found herself focusing on the needs of the group and their battle against the Deep Elves. But here… Here, when the sun was down and the moons were out. She felt that she could see her father and it tore at her soul. She loved the Alik’r, but there were painful memories here.

When she left Sora’s shoulders, Shakti was slightly embarrassed to discover she had dampened the other girl’s clothes with her misty-eyes. She wiped her tears and looked at the Khajiit. “We’ll see this through. To the end, all of us.”

Daro'Vasora smiled, wiping Shakti's tears away with the back of her finger. “Together.” she promised
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