Greenie and Dervs
19th Midyear 4E208, near noon, Alik’r camp...
Things were starting to fall into place. After a morning meeting with various tribal leaders who wished to speak to the one who led Shakti’s group of friends who had done the Alik’r a great service. She calmly and rationally explained her goals and plans for ending the invasion, and while the leaders decided to confer with each other about what the Alik’r would do in response to that information, they did at least agree to help outfit the expedition to reach the border and provide supplies and protection for the group to make it to Skyrim. From there, it was anyone’s guess if they would pledge warriors to the cause.
It was, at least, a far more pleasant exchange than what had occurred as a part of the insurgency; Daro’Vasora vowed to herself that she would never let herself or the others become a part of anyone else’s cause, theirs would be their own and anyone they fell in with would be allies, not commanders or benefactors. What was at stake was too damn important to leave in the hands of strangers with unknowable agendas.
After packing most of her supplies, the Khajiit decided there was one more thing she wanted to do before being stuck with a caravan for weeks with little privacy or room to think. Daro’Vasora went to the market and found the woman who had given her her poncho and purchased a long green and gold scarf, insisting she wanted to support someone with such generosity. With the gift obtained, she set out to find Megana. There was a lot left unsaid, and she needed to correct that.
A few moment later she stood outside of Megana’s tent, stopping herself from knocking on the fabric when she realized how silly that would have been. Instead, she called softly. “Meg? Are you in there?” she asked.
There was a momentary quiet that followed before shuffling could be heard, and soon enough the tent flap was pushed to the side to reveal the Nord woman, peering out. One look at her was enough to tell she had clearly not had enough sleep the previous night, dark circles under her eyes, hair still rather messy and uncombed, though there seemed to have been some attempt to slick it back with water. “Sora!” There was a note of pleasant surprise in her voice as she held the flap to the side with one hand and ushered the Khajiit woman inside with the other. There was a small mess within, including clothes and empty bottles strewn about.
“Uh… sorry ‘bout the mess,” she intoned, sounding slightly embarrassed. “I’m still packin’ up, didn’ get back in last night ‘til late.”
Saying that, she hastily pushed aside most of the clothes and other items and picked up her bedroll, dusting it off before setting it back down. “Uhm, sit down! Please!” She fussed about some more with stuffing things in her pack before pausing, feeling the effects of the previous night summoning another headache. Deciding that perhaps a little break was in order for herself as well, she sat down on the ground, eyes on Sora.
“So… how’re you?” After all… that?
The Khajiit entered as gracefully as she could muster, carefully navigating the clutter in the tent before finding her way to Meg’s bed and gently setting herself down. “The day one has to apologize for having a messy tent on the day they are preparing for a journey is the day I stop treasure hunting.” Daro’Vasora said tactfully with a smile, carefully not letting her eyes linger on the empty bottles for long, as to avoid giving Megana the impression that she was being judged for coping with her troubles in a far too common way.
“I’m… as well as I can be, I suppose. That trial wasn’t something I ever wanted to go through, but I think it went about as well as could be hoped for.” she said with a resigned sigh, her mind wandering over everything that had happened yesterday. It had felt like it didn’t want to end and the mood was so foul Latro and herself hadn’t even attempted to engage in anything resembling lusty behaviour. They’d quietly gone to sleep holding each other close before sleep eventually took them.
“If you don’t mind my saying so, you seem like you’ve been having a rough go of things. How are you holding up?” she asked, suddenly remember what she was holding. “Oh! And I picked this up for you. I thought it was your colour, and you might like something nice when we go back to your homelands.” she said, offering the scarf to Megana. “It’s a small way of saying thanks, for everything you’ve done for me that I haven’t had the chance to say yet.”
Surprised by the gesture but more than a little touched, Meg left whatever gathering she had been attempting and gave her full attention to Daro'Vasora, walking over to where the Khajiit woman sat and settling down beside her. She took the scarf very gently, as if it was made of glass and she was worried the slightest bit of force may ruin it. A smile came to her lips thereafter and she held it in a more familiar fashion. "Yer right, I love the colours, green's m'favourite… always been since y’don’ see too much of it in Skyrim, ‘specially durin’ winter." She paused in her words as she quickly wrapped the scarf around her shoulders, wanting to show her appreciation as soon as she could.
"Y'don' have t'thank me for anythin'," she replied, and without warning she reached out to give Sora a heartfelt hug. "You'd've done the same, no? Friends gotta have each others’ backs." There was a small sniffle and she pulled away, looking sheepish as she wiped a lone tear. "Looks like these bloody things don' know how t'stop bein' wet."
“I’d like to think I would, Meg, but until you’re put into that kind of situation, it’s hard to say.” Daro’Vasora admitted quietly, but she felt like she would have. As she leaned into the hug, returning it, her thoughts turned to Roux, how she had tried to save him, and Raelynn, in turn. She acted instead of hesitated; it wasn’t a question that she needed to try something.
“But maybe I would have done what you did, I hope I would. There’s been a lot on my mind lately, the acts of others, my own. Even with this whole thing with Gregor, it didn’t feel right considering casting him away after all we’ve been through… I couldn’t stop thinking how it must have hurt Raelynn. They both threw themselves at our mercy because they trusted us, because they are our friends and want to show that means something when it matters.” she sighed, pulling away slightly but pulling Meg’s hand into her own.
“All of it has got me thinking that you risked your life to save me when you thought no one else would. You didn’t even question it; I’m someone you barely know, and I sure as shit didn’t deserve the kind of love you all show me but I’m trying so hard to earn it. I couldn’t even say thank you when we met again, I was just so caught up in everything… Meg, I am sorry.” The Khajiit said, her words coming out in a torrent before she caught herself with a deep breath and closed eyes. “I don’t know how to repay this. I don’t know how to earn this.”
"No, no, no, y'don' havta say sorry!" Meg seemed slightly panicked, and she tightened her grip on the hand that was held by Sora's. She sighed softly before smiling at the Khajiit woman. "You've been through so much for us. Y'didn' have to, y'chose to. Rhea was gone, but y'kept us together, even when things were hard... shit was really hard..." Her lips curved downward, looking at their hands as she shook her head. "The decisions y'had t'make, when we left Gilane... last night even." Once more she shook her head. "None of that is easy... someone's always gonna be angry... I dunno if I'd be able to..." She paused, thinking of her own decisions and how blindsided she had been. "I woulda been shit at doin' half the stuff you've had to."
She looked up at Sora, meeting her green eyes. "We're the ones who should be the one's thankin' ya. Ain' like we've made it an easy job..." She sighed softly, attempting to smile once again. "'Stead y'come here an' ask me how I'm doin', an' sayin' thanks t'me." Her smile brightened a little. "Yer s'posed t'be all haughty an' order folks aroun', Sora! Y'need lessons I think!"
Daro’Vasora smiled at that and offered a chuckle. “Oh, live life like me and just be a selfish asshole for most of your life and being the bad guy in someone else’s story comes real second nature. I’m used to making people angry; the hard part is figuring out how to make it right again later. That’s where I’m at. But if you have lessons for how to be a haughty hardass, I’m all ears.” she said with a playful elbow to the ribs.
She said in comfortable quiet for a few moments before asking. “So, how have you been handling everything lately? I’ve been so caught up in my own thoughts and problems I never thought to check in on you. You seem… distraught, I’d venture to say? I’m here if you need someone who’s impartial and not in the middle of it all, whatever it is.”
Meg couldn't help but laugh at Sora's response to her silly remark, and her cheery look remained until the latter's question. Unable to help herself, she fiddled with the hem of her shirt, pulling at some stray threads that had probably been pulled out by getting caught in something or other.
"Guess I am," she finally admitted, looking away from the thread and back up to Sora once more. "I can't help thinkin' 'bout m'family back home... an' what might've happened there. Any time I do, all I can see are the streets of Imperial City an' all the people jus'-" She stopped, knowing full well Sora would know what she meant. "On top of that..." Her eyes shifted as she looked away to the side. "I... well..." She let out a huge sigh. "After the meetin', Jaraleet came t'talk t'me, 'bout what happened, 'bout his own past. It wasn't really a... happy chat. But he also saing he loved me. I should've been happy, but I... was sad. Angry. I couldn't say it back. I know I must've hurt him."
The Khajiit blinked slowly. “Huh. He said he loved you? I didn’t think Jaraleet was capable of complex emotions…” she muttered, shaking her head. “I know you guys have been getting closer, but didn’t realize it was to that stage for him. Question is, do you feel the same way, putting aside all of the complexities going through you right now? Why are you sad and angry, towards him, or something else?” she asked.
Meg couldn't help but sigh yet again, feeling childish yet unable to keep herself from talking now that there was someone who might be able to... something. She wasn't exactly sure what she wanted truth be told.
"I like him," she finally replied, looking embarrassed but continuing nonetheless. "More than a friend... but..." She looked down at her hands, unsure how to continue, whether it was fine to mention who he really was. "He never tol' me 'bout his past 'til last night... Righ' now, I feel like I don' know anythin', that everythin' I knew was jus'... not true." She chewed on her lip for a moment before wincing, having bitten a little too hard. "He knew Gregor was a necromancer, but he never said anythin', he said he didn' want Gregor t'hurt us, t'hurt me. But tha' kinda secret... I dunno, Sora. I'm jus' really confused right now."
“It’s like finding out the person you knew was a stranger all along.” Daro’Vasora nodded in understanding. “It’s hard to say if you can really love someone if you don’t know much about them in the end… it’s just infatuation otherwise.” she said gently, filing Jaraleet’s knowledge of Gregor’s condition away but deciding not to bite into it now. Meg needed support.
“It’s like this… can you even name anything about him that most people would know? What are his hobbies, his aspirations, his goals? What’s his favorite colour, food, just anything at all?” Daro’Vasora pressed with a frown. “You cannot love someone unless you know their heart, the essence of who they are. For all we know, Jaraleet isn’t actually his name and he’s allergic to mammoth fur or whatever people in Skyrim like to line their blankets with. You might not like the truth when it comes to light, whatever it is. Are you willing to risk all of that?” she asked.
“I…” Meg paused, unsure of herself and her thoughts. Once again she was playing with the stray threads on the hem of her shirt, pondering over what the Khajiit woman was telling her. She knew Sora was trying to help and looking out for her, and she knew what was being told to her was true. What did she really know about Jaraleet before last night? There was so much they had done together due to the dwemer forcing them into a group, and as such she felt affection for him, especially since he had approached her when she was the most lost and loneliest since the invasion. But what he had told her that day hadn't been the truth, even if his intentions were kind and sincere.
Was caring for a person enough? Would that help solve all differences and ultimately help prevail over all obstacles? She had spent more than a year with J'raij and had known him better than herself, yet hadn't been able to confess to him. Why had this been different? Because she was lonely and death seemed only an accident away? Meg didn't know, and the lack of this knowledge made her want to curl up and hide somewhere no one could find her. But… she couldn't. She couldn't ignore this and hope it would never resurface.
“What do I do then?” she finally asked, her voice low and filled with uncertainty.
“You need to figure out what exactly it is you need, what's important to you.” Daro'Vasora replied with confidence. “It's clear to me you need honesty and trust in a partner, and that secrets and deceit hurt you… which is healthy, truth be told. I think you need to figure out of you like who the real Jaraleet is, if you feel you can trust anything he tells you, and ask yourself if that's someone who can make you happy when life goes back to normal.”
Daro'Vasora hesitated, looking at the scarf about Meg's neck and wondering about her own fears about Pale-feather and Latro's mortified talk with her the night before, about him being afraid he was going to hurt her. “The thing is Meg, we were all brought together because of a war and we didn't have anywhere else to go. Most of us wouldn't have even looked at some of the others in this group in our regular lives- me included.” The Khajiit admitted, no hesitation or remorse in her tone.
“But you have to ask yourself what bonds were formed out of genuine warmth or a response to the stresses and high emotions. Take away the common cause and what remains, what was even genuine and real? I know most of us are going to drift separate ways back to our old lives, but the question is who is going to remain close because their bonds went beyond a shared hardship? I am so used to people abandoning me and me then that I cannot tell what's real for me or not for the most part, but I feel more sure about Latro than I have about basically anyone in my life since I started adventuring on my own. I feel like Judena and I will remain close as family for the rest of our lives because of the bonds we shared beforehand, and I have no clue about everyone else.” She admitted, looking to meet Meg's eyes. “I just know I'm still trying to rationalize that people cared enough for me that they risked their lives to save me. Doesn't make much sense, but I am humbled.”
She squeezed Meg's hand and leaned her head against her shoulder. “You need to ask yourself if Jaraleet is someone you can imagine yourself settling down with, starting a family, living in a home. A life past war and adventuring. Can you see that future, or do you feel that these feelings and attraction is based entirely on a shared hardship and feeling like life could end tomorrow, so might as well find pleasure and comfort where you can?” She asked.
"Tha's the scary part," Meg mumbled, letting out a breath. There were so many hard hitting questions she knew she needed to answer. She could take advice from others, but ultimately finding out what she wanted- needed- was her own journey she would have to take up on her own. She was alone in this matter; it was a scary thought, and once more the urge to curl up and hide crept up on her.
"And that's when you should be bravest then."
"I'mma havta figure all that out," she let out after a good moment of silent contemplation. "I dunno the answers to any of that..." She looked to Daro'Vasora, feeling pitiful, ashamed. "I told Sevari last night that I wasn' a child... but maybe I really am. Hearin' what yer sayin', understandin' it, it's all easy. Actually doin' somethin' an' not just... feelin' sorry for myself is the hard part." A scoffing laugh left her. "Fightin' off a frost troll seems easier than havin’ t’deal with this sorta shit.” Once again she was chewing on the inside of her lip, thinking to the two separate conversations she’d had the previous night, one completely sober, the other anything but. “Maybe it’s my own fault, y’know. Preservin’ my innocence? More like feedin’ my stupidity.” She paused realizing Sora wouldn’t know what she was talking about. “Somethin’ Gregor said t’me at that party… he’s said if Jaraleet hadn’t told me anythin’ ‘bout his past, t’was ‘cause he was preservin’ my innocence.”
“Respectfully, that’s not his choice to make.” Daro’Vasora replied, perhaps a bit more tersely than she had meant. She sighed, pulling away somewhat. “What I mean to say is it’s not his choice of what innocence is to you, or what he needs to ‘protect’ you from. If he’s not willing to let you in because of that, it’s not because he sees you as a partner, it’s because he sees you as a dependant that needs to be shielded from the big-bad shit he’s done.” the Khajiit said, rolling her jaw.
“You’ve travelled, been in danger. You’ve killed people, for fuck’s sake. You aren’t a child; you have just as much stake in this fight as anyone else. If he wants you to be someone special to him, then he needs to see you as someone he can trust with the burdens he carries, and that you’re strong enough to carry them. It goes both ways; give and take. It’s what I told Latro when he told me he was worried about his own demons coming back to hurt me; he could never hurt me, and if this part of him does, it was my choice to be there for him because he shouldn’t have to face them alone. Jaraleet shouldn’t have hid all of that shit from you, and certainly not with some toothpick-thin reasoning.” Daro’Vasora said.
Nodding rather slowly, Meg couldn’t stop herself from sighing once more. It was hard not to feel as if she was responsible for this situation, though she had to agree with what Daro’Vasora was telling her; as much as the words were hard hitting, she knew they were true. Did she want to live her life always wondering if there were things she didn’t know about her partner, whoever he may be? No, that was an obvious, as Sora had pointed out earlier. If she had been fine with it, then she wouldn’t have been feeling so shitty and conflicted right now.
“Thanks,” she finally murmured, looking to the Khajiit woman. “I mean, for sayin’ all tha’. I dunno wha’ I’mma do… bu’ I needed t’hear tha’ an’ I dunno if anyone else would’ve tol’ me all tha’ y’have. Maybe it ain’ so bad t’be alone for a while more… ain’ like I don’ have friends, righ’?” Even if nothing was to pan out for her, it didn’t mean that she had to lose a friendship, right?
“Well, you aren't alone with me, provided you don't expect there to be kissing.” Daro'Vasora smiled, playfully patting Meg's arm. “You don't need intimacy to give yourself worth in people's eyes. You're someone with a big heart and a lot of courage, it inspires me when I sometimes lose my way.” She admitted.
“So, enough of that. Are you happy to be heading back to Skyrim? Who's waiting for you back there? I never asked about your family before.” Daro'Vasora said.
“T’be honest, I'm kinda worried,” the Nord admitted, her smile from Sora's previous comment lingering for a moment before wavering. “I have my Pa, my step ma an’ my li'l brother, Sylven. I'm sure they're alright…” Her voice trailed to a small pause before she continued onward. “The whole time we were in Gilane, I jus’ couldn’ wait t'head back t'Skyrim, an’ that want was even more in the bloody hot desert… knowin’ the Dwemer are there, guess I'm just scared that wha’ happened in Imperial City happened there too. I dunno if Pa's alright… Sylven's jus’ a kid...” She shrugged. “Guess I shouldn’ worry 'bout that's jus’ yet though. We gotta get t'Skyrim first.”
Daro'Vasora nodded, her features resigned. “I'm not going to pretend like everything is going to be okay. But thing is, this whole mess is on us and if we can't protect the ones we love, we sure as shit are going to avenge them. You just can't worry about what you're going to find when we haven't even reached there yet.
“My sister was coming to visit me, a couple weeks after the expedition. I pray to S'rendarr she wasn't on the road when the invasion hit, that she was still in Leyawiin when the news reached her. There hasn't been a day I haven't thought about her, and I'm worried if I think of her and Roux and Zegol at the same time, she shared their fate.” She shook her head, barking a rueful laugh. “What a stupid, irrational thought, right?”
Meg shook her head. “Maybe, but I can get ya. So much has happened, ain’ a surprise t'just end up paranoid an’ think anythin’ can cause somethin’ or other.” There was a small frown on her face as she thought of the various misfortunes that had fallen upon the group since they had first met on the expedition. And with that, she ended up smiling. “I guess we jus’ gotta remember the good stuff too.” She nudged Sora gently. “Like you findin’ yerself a lover, eh?” She allowed herself a cheeky grin before continuing. “An’ so much more… guess sometimes it's hard t'remember, but maybe that's just means we gotta try hard to.”
“Daro'Vasora, finder of relics and men with exceptionally peculiar standards. Lucky me.” She smiled somewhat bashfully. “We're going to look back at all of this as some grand adventure, I'm sure. But Meg? I've been thinking about this whole thing for weeks now and I don't know if it helps, but I have a suspicion the Dwemer massed for a massive attack on Cyrodiil because they knew it was the capital. Nobody heard any rumours or had any idea what was going on, right? It was a big shock. But that's what doesn't add up; if they came from the North, if they invaded Skyrim first, there would have been refugees, messengers, the Legion, all of that. Why wasn't there any?” She asked, looking to Meg to see if she could come to the same conclusion.
"Huh..." Unable to help herself, Meg brought a finger to her mouth, chewing at the tip as she thought over Sora's question. "That's... That's bloody strange. Nords wouldn've just let a buncha mer walk all over 'em... there shoulda been a whole lotta noise... Gods knows Ulfric knew how t'make people regret bein' in Skyrim..." She blinked, thoroughly confused. "D'you think they were subdued somehow? Or maybe they joined forces with the dwemer." Both seemed unlikely to her, truth be told.
The Khajiit smiled. “Well, if I had a fancy airship armada that can fly over mountains and make trips in hours that would take a marching army weeks, why wouldn’t I bypass a bunch of rustic stone cities with no strategic value and instead go to rip out the throat of my enemy? If I know that the Imperial City was the center of everything, the crown jewel of Tamriel, somewhere I could stage and protect my fleet that can reach all corners of the continent from the most easily defended city of all, why not surprise my enemy and take it when they aren’t expecting it? It would be a lot easier to topple such a prize if you take initiative than to slowly work your way slowly hold by hold.
“With the Dwemer, we can’t think like a traditional army; they don’t have to worry about chokepoints or passes or leaving cities unchallenged. They can go wherever they want and nobody can do a damn thing to stop them from doing it. So with that in mind, I think there’s a good chance that most of Skyrim’s avoided the worst of this invasion and at worst, they probably had time to react to what they saw and plan ahead. Your people are Nords; give you a day, and you can turn your dining room into a barracks. Give your people a week, and your dinner table just turned into a battering ram. Give it a month and your entire house is now a siege tower. Never before has there been a people more enthusiastic for a good war.” the Khajiit grinned at Meg.
Meg's finger dropped from her mouth as easily as it had found its way in, landing in her lap as she gaped at Sora. "Huh!" She blinked a few times before shaking her head in bewilderment. "I didn' even... I didn' even think of that. Of course... that makes a whole lotta sense! They could've just flown over like dragons an' headed to wherever they wanted... and in the meantime, givin' Skyrim the chance t'prepare, jus' in case."
She breathed out, feeling a sudden spark in her light up once more, one she had thought had been diminished for good the night before. "Pa, Marne, Sylven... could be they're doin' alright then." She looked to Sora and spontaneously clasped the Khajiit woman's hands, hope seeming to light up her eyes despite the dark marks around them. "Thanks, Sora. For everythin'. The scarf, yer words, an' all the rest." Her grip tightened. “Yer a true leader, an y’can count on me t’follow ya ‘til the end.”
Daro’Vasora smiled slightly, squeezing Megana’s hands back. “And here I was coming to thank you for saving me and all of that, but I suppose we both have things to be thankful for. I promise that whatever this end is, I’m going to do everything I can to get us home safe. You better introduce me to your family if we find them, alright? You’ve got a pretty new scarf to show them.”
Meg let out a chuckle at that. "Pa's gonna be wonderin' what's gotten t'my head, wearin' pretty things; he's used t'seein' me dressed up like a boy since I was just a li'l kid. Still..." She lowered her head a little so that her nose was pressed against the scarf, hiding her lips though the smile could still be seen in her eyes. "I love this an' I'mma treasure it. An' I'm sure Pa'll be happy t'meet ya. Sylven will for sure." She hoped anyway, she had plenty of stories to entertain her family with about the motley group she had spent time with.
“Take it from me; you can still be rough and tumble without losing feminine charm.” Daro’Vasora said, patting Meg’s thigh as she stood up. “I never thought you looked like a boy, just practical.” She reassured her friend with a warm smile. Her gaze turned to the tent’s opening. “I’ve taken up enough of your time, we have a long journey ahead of us. But if you need to talk to someone who isn’t an emotionally stunted murder-lizard, I’ve always got time and two very large ears.” the Khajiit said, rolling her shoulders back and cracking her neck. She began to leave the tent before turning back one last time. “The green, it suits you. I look forward to seeing you somewhere that feels like home.” she said, and soon, she was gone back into the tent city.
Meg watched Daro’Vasora leave before returning to her previous task of putting away her clothes. Looking to the bottles, she blinked before deciding to hand them off to the Imperial Redguard pirate, who seemed to have a thing for storing water in them.
The scarf remained loosely wrapped around her, a reminder of good things, past, present, and future.