Guest of Honour
A Shaft and Dervs collab6th Midyear, 4E208, Early Evening, Gilane Streets…
Even with the agony of a broken arm screaming at her with every step, Daro’Vasora felt the heat from the crowds and the conscious effect that their aggressive attention was hurling towards her. Her feet moved automatically now, conscious thought was fleeting, and being paraded through the streets by Zaveed and his Dwemeri entourage was humiliating and terrifying all at once; there was no escaping from this, and in her heart, she knew that running would only bring more pain and maybe even death. It was a prospect she didn’t care to entertain, as she very much wanted to live. Still, she tried to walk as upright as she could to maintain some air of dignity, even if her eyes refused to meet anyone in the crowd. She couldn’t look broken and defeated, there was an off chance that someone in the crowd would act, or inspire some act of defiance that would have this all worth it.Was it, though? Was any of this worth it?
Daro’Vasora thought, wincing as a hand shoved her from behind to keep her moving and jostling her arm. Roux had died in front of her eyes, and she had no idea what happened to Raelynn; she had failed them both, because she didn’t know how to fight. Now, presumably, she was being carted off to an execution and everything she was and held dear would be gone. Her mind fluttered fearfully to the thought of being soul-trapped, shoved into a gem to be used an extinguished to power a war machine. Her defiance deflated somewhat at the thought; she just wanted to run and hide and let everything wash over. She had gotten in over her head and now she was paying the price for it, her fate out of her hand.\
The feeling of hopelessness was insufferable. There was always a way out, wasn’t there?
“Try to smile, my dear; you’ve drawn quite the crowd.” Zaveed said behind her, waving at the gathered faces of the citizenry, Redguard, Dwemer, and everyone else alike. It was harrowing being the center of attention at the best of times, but the sensation Daro’Vasora felt wasn’t unlike accidently stepping on a pressure plate in a ruin and the moments of tense anticipation of what was coming next. She didn’t reply to Zaveed, instead staring directly ahead and trying to focus on just putting one foot in front of the other; she had to make it out, and she couldn’t do that if she lost her cool.
“Murderer! Blight!” A voice screamed suddenly from the crowd, and something warm hit the Khajiit on the hip. Soon, a chorus of yelling and incensed voices erupting from the crowd was deafening. The escort party formed a perimeter, weapons held at the ready, but it didn’t stop those in the crowd from tossing objects, usually rotten foot or even rocks at Daro’Vasora. Zaveed made a Tisk
sound between his teeth. “It seems you aren’t the most popular person in these parts. If only one of your friends was here to take your fall…” He mused, raising a hand and shaking his head to prevent a brick from being hurled in his direction.
“Fuck. You.” Daro’Vasora hissed, her teeth clenched as her arm jostled.
“Ah, there she is. Poor luck, about the arm. Usually they’re so much more robust. If only you had cooperated, you wouldn’t be in such a predicament.” Zaveed replied with bemusement. “It’s too bad, really, that you had to do something silly like join up with a bunch of terrorists. Only a few days here, and you’ve thrown your lot in with some extremists who terrorize the citizens and murder those who champion their causes. Did you ever stop to ask yourself what your Poncy Man would do if he won, hm? Do you think he’d be merely happy if the Dwemer were to be removed, or would he continue to seek vengeance on those who accepted them afterwards? The streets would just grow more and more blooded, and you have certainly had your hand in that pot.”
Daro’Vasora spat in the dirt. “You talk too much, murderer. The simple fact you exist and have any sort of power is a testament that what your friends are doing is amoral.” she said, voice dripping with vitriol. Her hatred for the other Cathay at least gave her something to focus on that wasn’t the crowds of people and the agony in her arm. It was hard to talk, however.
“Roux had served his purpose, and he was no longer required.” Zaveed replied, keeping pace with the younger woman. “Others had much more… creative solutions for disposing of him, but you were the final gift he gave us. His death was quick, and largely painless. More than the rest of you deserve, I might add.”
“Then why am I still alive?” Daro’Vasora shot back. “You parade me through this street, to what, put a face to the enemy these people can hate?”
Zaveed shrugged. “Your words, not my own. That said, can you not see how they look at you, the embodiment of why they cannot live in peace? You really are quite hated, and you are taking the brunt of the wrath that your friends should be rightfully sharing. A pity, but I will have them dealt with soon enough. That I promise.”
“If you’re after fear or defiance, you’re going to be disappointed.” Daro’Vasora replied tersely. “I just hope someone throws their shit in your face, you bastard.”
A familiar face caught her eye and she stopped dead in her tracks. It was the Dwemer child that had bumped into her the day she had landed, looking at her aghast. His mother clutched him close to her, her face contorted into a furious scowl.
“Mother, what are they doing with her?” he asked, fear tinged in his voice.
How dare you?” The woman shot at Daro’Vasora, who stared at her in an almost trace-like fixation. Everything seemed to be coming back in focus, and she felt an irrational sense of shame, as if she owed these people something better than she was. The Khajiit glanced away for a moment when a movement caught her eye followed by a sharp, immediate pain that flooded her consciousness. Blood trickled down between her eyes and her snout; the woman had thrown a brick, which lay upon the cobblestone at her feet..
“They should shoot you in the street, you bitch!” The woman screamed, tears were streaming down her son’s face. A guard stood between them and Daro’Vasora, cutting off her view, and she was moving again with a push.
“A real hero of the people, it would seem.” Zaveed remarked coldy.
The blood just ran down her face.
The day was going well enough. No Khajiit tailing him, no Dwemer putting him in cuffs, it was almost like the whole thing was a world away. At least for now, but nobody said he had to be back any time before curfew, so he would milk all he could from this. Currently, he was browsing the bazaar for anything he could get for Sora. She had the lead on him, two gifts from her versus his nothing. He just couldn’t have that now, he smiled.
He had already picked out a black dress that looked good enough for her in his eyes. How she would see it was a different question, but he would worry about that after. As he approached one of the vendors hawking different teas, wondering if he could find one that Sora would like, a group of children scurried last him. He caught himself from tripping and looked after their quickly disappearing backs in the crowd. It was then he noticed a bit of a commotion forming. He squinted his eyes to try to get a better look, but when that was fruitless, he took the first steps closer to the yelling mob.
They seemed riled, angry, hateful. Was this a protest? From over the top of some of heads in the crowd, he saw a troupe of guards escorting somebody through the street. He followed as best he could, slipping through the crowd until a feeling of dreaded, horrifying recognition caught his heart in a death grip. “Oh my Gods.”
Latro was then pushing through the crowds, shoving angrily and frenzied. He wanted to call out to her, but what use was it? That was the woman he loved, fur matted and caked with rotten food and blood. If the scene wasn’t all too real and happening before his eyes so helplessly, he would’ve been furious. He would’ve cut through this crowd wholesale and visited bloody violence on everything between him and Sora, animal, woman, man, child. As cruel and unlike him as it was, it called to mind a burning hatred he hadn’t felt in so long.
Finally, behind her was another Khajiit. A wicked looking cat with remorseless eyes. With evil in his eyes. Sevari’s words about his brother echoed in his mind and he found himself gripping the hilt of his sword hard enough to tremble under the tension. The Khajiit looked into the crowd and they locked eyes. Latro held his gaze, wondering just how quickly he could get to him and bury this fucking sword in his chest.
Someone apart from the crowd seemed to be moving against the ebbs and flow of the majority that caught Zaveed’s eye; a Breton face with enraged, passionate eyes stared him down with an intensity unmatched by even the most enraged of the crowd. Zaveed grinned at him and offered a wink.
“It would seem that someone doesn’t seem to share the enthusiasm for your fate as the others.” He mentioned to Daro’Vasora, taking his eyes off of Latro for a few moments to look at Daro’Vasora. “Tell me my dear, do you know him?” he asked, gently grabbing Daro’Vasora by the chin and forcing her to face in Latro’s direction. The look of shock that crossed her features was enough to tell Zaveed who this likely was.
“Ah, Sevari’s plaything. Marvelous. I had hoped to speak with him, but it looks like he is past that sort of pleasantries, would you not agree?” Zaveed asked Daro’Vasora, who starred at Latro, knowing full well what Zaveed was capable of doing to people she cared about.”GO! RUN, NOW!”
she screamed towards Latro as Zaveed grabbed her, drawing a pistol and holding it to her temple. There was no point in pleasantries at this juncture.
“Latro, was it? Why don’t you step out here, center stage. The audience would love to see their star performer make his entrance.” Zaveed called, the pistol clicked, the receiver glowing with soul gem essence. “Do it, or the girl dies.”
The crowd stopped around him, their eyes boring into the porcelain-pale skin among their swarthy selves. There was a palpable tension in the crowds and some looked set on throwing rocks at him now. A piece of him wanted them to. Eyes always locked on Zaveed’s, he stepped out of the crowd and breathed slow. The tingling numbness of a mage armor spell crawled across his skin as he regarded the Khajiit. “Your brother told me about you.” Latro spoke, voice flat and eyes blazing.
“Hopefully it was about my handsome looks and predisposition to getting exactly what I want.” Zaveed replied, appraising Latro with a quick scan up and down with his ice-blue eyes. “So tell me, Latro, what do you plan on doing? Are you quicker than a twitch of my finger, or do you think the crowd will stand by and idly let it happen? How about my diligent Dwemer companions, who are none too happy about the deaths that have been inflicted on their own? Do you feel talented enough to cross the space between yourself and myself without being gunned down, held down by a good samaritan, or killing your paramour? Think swiftly, because I have an appointment to attend to, and I loathe to be late.”
Latro looked to Sora and his eyes flashed with something more gentle, “I love you.”
He turned back to Zaveed, looking from him, to the Dwemer and the crowd. He already had his odds weighed out from the second he saw Zaveed and Sora. He wasn’t new to this but it didn’t take a professional to know he was on the shit end. As much as it pained him, Zaveed had all the cards. “Go, then. I’d hate to make you late.” Latro said, “We’ll meet again some other time if you’d like.”
“Perhaps I can schedule you in for this afternoon.” Zaveed nodded towards two of his escort. “You two, take him. If he doesn’t cooperate, kill him.” He said, forcing Daro’Vasora along. She planted her feet, shouting, “I’m not worth it, Latro! Fucking go!” Zaveed smacked her arm with the buttplate of his pistol, causing her to bellow out in agony. “Time to choose, Latro! Your skin or your girl!” Zaveed snarled, tossing Daro’Vasora to one of the other guards as he trained his pistol on Latro.
Wordlessly, and with eyes always trained on Zaveed’s own, he took the sword out of his belt. Still in its scabbard, he placed it on the ground. Arms held out to his side and grim-faced, under it his mind was racing for the next step in this game he’d been forced into. “I’ve been looking forward to seeing you in the flesh. Your brother and I already met and I’m sure you saw what happened with that.” Latro said as the Dwemer took his arms in their own, not having to wrestle him, “I’m not Raelynn.”
“Cooperate and you will not share a similar fate to her. I see you are not entirely stupid, but love does strange things to one’s mind, no?” Zaveed said, nodding to the soldiers, one of whom scooped up the discarded sword and checked Latro for more weapons. They escorted him to the front of the column, to the cheers of the crowd. “One day, four key members to this little insurgency dismantled by yours truly. I had anticipated this to be more difficult.” He grinned, and the procession continued. “My brother has a soft heart and an idealistic mind; had he wished to lay you out, he would, so I would be interested to know what kinds of games of his own he is playing. Forgive my saying so, but you do not appear to be formidable in the slightest.”
“Latro… why did you do this?” Daro’Vasora weezed, tears soaking her eyes and fur along with her own blood. “You should have ran. Fucking… urgh.
” she grunted, from frustration or pain it was hard to say. She looked crestfallen; she looked up to look into his face. “I can't keep you safe. I didn't want this, why?” she pleaded.
To be honest, Latro didn’t have a plan. If Zaveed was right about Sevari, about him having a heart, perhaps he Khajiit would be loyal enough to him to free him. Perhaps he’d be loyal enough to free Sora as well. This was his gambit, every other option thrown to the wind. Latro swallowed, trying to play up his own panic he had hitherto been trying to suppress, “I don’t know, Sora.” He said, offering a sorry gaze at her, “I couldn’t. I couldn’t fucking watch this all without doing something. We’ve survived a lot together, I can’t leave you.”
“I'd hoped you'd have a better plan than this… we're going to be swinging by a rope by tonight, I fear.” she replied, struggling with a lump in her throat. “I didn't tell you where I was going in case it was a trap, I… I wanted to protect you. After everything, I can't deal with the thought of losing you.”
“How touching.” Zaveed sneered behind them, his pistol held casually to their backs. “You were always going to be fine, my dear; Governor Rourken requested you personally. Your lover, however… hm, perhaps she'll have a use for him yet. Maybe the pits? I do love a good mystery, don't you?”
“Fuck you.” Latro tossed over his shoulder, “You’d best hope I die in those pits or I’ll come back for you.”
“Ah, empty threats. A personal favorite of mine.” Zaveed chuckled, jabbing Latro in the back with the pistol barrel. “Your actions thus far make you far too easy to predict. You cross me in any way, she pays the price. Would you like me to demonstrate what I did to Raelynn for your benefit? That is what would happen. It is not an empty threat; my words are ironclad.” the Khajiit promised.
Latro decided to keep his mouth shut. It wouldn’t do anything any good to trade insults with this Khajiit. Now that he was firmly in the Dwemer’s clutches, he’d have to tread lightly. He could say any hard words that came to mind when this was over with and had his hands wrapped around this Khajiit’s neck.
They had arrived at the governor’s palace without any further incidents, and a few of the city guard had joined the escort, having rightfully figured that the prisoners being escorted were very important to the Dwemer, and despite some odd glances at Zaveed, they wisely elected to keep their comments to themselves. The outer gates were opened at their approach, a fixture once kept open now closed off to the outside world since the crackdown began, and Daro’Vasora once again found herself climbing the long and gilded steps to the entryway, Dwemeri soldiers stationed along the steps and through the courtyard to act as a deterrent for attacks. A pair of sentries opened the double doors to allow them inside, and before long, and ascending an elevator of Dwemeri construction, they were escorted to the Governor’s office. Rourken’s aide was ever present at a desk outside of the doors, and once he recognized Zaveed, he hurried inside. The doors were opened to permit entry.
Zaveed led the way and reaching what he felt was an appropriate distance, knelt in front of the Governor’s desk. Kerztar was there, unsurprisingly. The Khajiiti privateer still felt the rumours between Rourken and Kerztar were legitimate.
“Your Excellency, Master Kerztar… may I present to you Daro’Vasora and Latro… something or other. She is the leader of the insurgency group that has recently come into your city and caused irreparable harm this past week, including the murder of Administrator Nblec Mrazac, the freeing of political prisoners and terrorists, and assaulting the city garrison and releasing all sorts of unsavory criminals back into Gilane’s streets. As requested, I present her to you, and Latro here happened to come along for the trip. Something about being in love with her, it’s very sentimental, I assure you.” The Khajiit grinned, looking Rourken in the eyes.
Rourken stood from behind her desk, wearing a green and black dress this time, but the jewelry was the same. Daro’Vasora wondered if they had sentimental value, or even enchantments. “Exemplary performance, Zaveed.” she said, taking notice of Daro’Vasora’s arm. “What happened to her arm?”
“She resisted, so I persuaded her.”
“I see.” Rourken said, studying Zaveed’s face for a few moments before turning to regard Daro’Vasora again. “We can mend that easily enough. Jnand, please fetch a healer for Miss Daro’Vasora, if you’d please.”
“Yes, your excellency.” Her aide said, bowing before hastily departing the room.
“You may take your lead, Zaveed. I am sure the Major would like to debrief you. Your partner, Sevari, also has news to report today it would seem. You have served Volenfell well today.” she bowed respectfully. “Please take the time to refresh, you’ve been busy.”
“As you wish.” He said, rising to his feet and adjusting his waist belt. “Until my services are called upon once more, I am at your disposal.” he said, turning to leave the room. Offering a wink to his two prisoners, he strode out of the room with an arrogant smirk and soon had departed. The four escorting Dwemer remained, however, although they stepped back to take position up near the walls.
Rourken studied her two prisoners with interest, gesturing for them to take the seats at her desk as she gracefully returned to her own chair, setting down as lightly as a feather. “It is good to see you again, although I had wished under more pleasant circumstances and without your regretful involvement with the unsavory elements of this city. I had hoped that you’d have had sympathies for what we are trying to accomplish here, and I feel that perhaps in time you still may. It is why I had personally requested you, and miss Hawkford. Curious how Zaveed has failed to apprehend her.” She pondered aloud.
“Oh, he kidnapped her, alright. He also murdered my friend in cold blood after cutting off and mailing his fingers to me.” Daro’Vasora spat back. “Do you understand the kinds of monsters that work for you in this gilded tower, Governor?”
Razlinc cradled her fingers together, considering Daro’Vasora’s words. “Your appraisal, Major?”
“While it is true I’ve never paid into the business of sending saints to capture sinners, as the saying goes,” Kerztar said from his seat next to Razlinc’s desk, sighing, “I never intended for such grievous injury and insult. Zaveed was always less… professional
, than his partner seemed. The ends we are after don’t sit well and justified with me.”
Latro bitterly huffed, Kerztar responding, “Professionalism in all things. You find this laughable?”
“Was it professional to slaughter a city? Did the ends justify the means then
?” Latro said through gritted teeth.
Though the guards along the walls seemed to stir subtly, the Reachman didn’t go any further but bore holes through Kerztar and Razlinc’s eyes. Kerztar frowned, “You’ll have to take those grievances up with Governor Fallinar. We may share Clans, but no different a mer in ideology and beliefs from mine will you find.”
“Mhm.” Latro responded simply, spiteful sarcasm lacing it.
“Conduct will be reviewed, I assure you.” Rourken promised, looking her guests in the eye. “But extremist actions require extreme counter measures. Until your group arrived, we had attempted to handle things tactfully and root out these elements without causing much of a scene. It is regrettable you have been caught up in it, but surely you understand that there would be repercussions. How many Dwemer have died at the hands of the Poncy Man and his deplorable followers, do you think? Far too many.” she said, her face darkening somewhat. “Nblec Mrazak was a good mer who only wanted our peoples to find peaceful coexistence. He loved Redguard culture and actively participated in it; he spent his own coin and time trying to eliminate poverty and actively campaigned to use our technology and expense to provide clean and purified water for the entire city. It was to be his legacy and his way to show that the Dwemer had much to offer this province.” she sighed, shaking her head as her gaze fell upon Latro.
“As I’ve explained to Daro’Vasora the first we’ve met, Clan Kragen is not our own. My administration can do little except for admonish them for their conduct, and this is exactly why I am trying my damnest to ensure that Volenfell becomes a beacon of progress for all of our people so warlords like Fallinar do not become the norm.” She turned to Daro’Vasora. “You are a historian. You know of the Snow Elves’ fate, and it was not
my people who had anything to do with that. Do you know how easy it would be for us to simply order the entire might of our technology to strike down like Volendrung itself upon resistance? What happened to Imperial City disgusted
me. Give me a chance to prove to you that my intentions are pure and my motives are transparent; I simply cannot control every aspect of what happens in this city, and sometimes elements under my authority act outside of what I would consider tasteful behaviour. You are a link between my people and your own, help me find a better way. I loathe the idea of the streets filling with blood because extremist elements grow emboldened.”
“I…” Daro’Vasora began, turning her head and looking to meet Latro’s gaze. “I want to believe you, but all I see is your creature puncturing Roux’s heart in front of me and the torture he inflicted on Raelynn. You want to start making things right? Arrest Zaveed. Take him off of the streets. Show that his actions are not what you represent.”
Kerztar’s eyebrows went up at that as he frowned in thought. He finally nodded, “Rest assured that he will be reprimanded. I’ve not yet decided what action should be taken, but I have considered that route now that I know the extent of his strategy. I’ve known for some time he took a crueller and more hard-handed way to things.”
Latro let it go unsaid that he already had several actions being considered as to what should be done to Zaveed. It was not a usual thing to come across men like him, but now, every fiber of his being wanted to match Zaveed. Evil for evil, until they found out just who was better at it. Even now, he felt his breathing becoming more rapid, heart almost beating its way up his throat. He swallowed, sighing. Kerztar again looked to him, “Have you something to add? To suggest?”
To Latro’s surprise, Kerztar didn’t seem in the least bit patronizing in his questions. “No, Major.” Latro’s frown remained ever-steady, “It’d be best if you didn’t ask me for suggestions.”
Kerztar considered the man before him, his face, posture. He nodded, “No doubt it would be.” Kerztar said before turning to Razlinc, “The verdict is yours, Madam Governor. What should happen next?”
She considered the line of questioning for a few moments, her fingers separating as she placed them upon her lap. “He has done his duty as requested and without hesitation, and I am not in the habit of punishing subordinates who had done what they felt was within their authority. It is a failure on our part that we did not monitor their actions closely, so for now, take him off of the assignment and give him leave. You will have to discuss his conduct with him, is this agreeable?” she asked Kerztar.
Kerztar nodded, “Of course. Perhaps pairing him back up with his partner for the next few weeks will help set an example for him.”
“Oh, so much better.” Daro'Vasora replied sarcastically. “Two psychotic murderers can plot far more efficiently than one.”
“Do not mistake our cordial disposition as acceptance nor this meeting as an attempt at reparation. You are both my prisoners and stand accused of engaging in terrorist activities; I just happen to believe you can be rehabilitated, Daro'Vasora, and Latro shall be handled with the same grace you will be afforded. His safety and comfort should keep you satisfied enough to cooperate, should it not?
“Typically, I would sentence him to fight until his sentence has been fulfilled. It would seem that is disagreeable for both of you, so here we are, at an impasse. We are reining in a valuable asset out of good faith, not because you demanded it. The rest of your group will be regretfully dealt with in an appropriate fashion. You two, plus miss Hawkford, stand to be granted immunity and pardons for your part in these affairs should you cooperate.”
Daro'Vasora scowled. “Ever so generous. You'll do anything to shrug accountability, won't you? That perfect image you seem to want to project to the world while others get their hands dirty under your watch. I suppose we'll see your true colours soon enough. Let the others go, permit them to leave the city. They were coerced into action because they had nowhere else to go.”
“We both know that's impossible. Do you think I am so foolish as to not recognize that your companions seem to keep throwing themselves at my people and wish for revenge for Imperial City's fate? There was never going to be a diplomatic resolution, you and I both know this.” Rourken responded tersely.
“So condemn him!” Latro’s voice rose, “Do something to keep your peoples from slaughtering Thousands!”
“And risk war, Latro? Risk enmities that will grow like weeds years down the line to engulf our childrens’ Tamriel?” Kerztar asked, “Has this world not seen enough of that yet?”
“You saw to it that we saw more than we had ever wanted since the Great War, you fucking bastard.
” Latro growled between bared teeth and wild eyes.
“Perhaps this was the wrong time to choose to have a civil discussion. It will not compromise our hospitality, I assure you.” Kerztar rose a single hand and the guards grabbed Latro and Sora up, “Since this healer is running late, we’ll bring you to him.”
He turned to Latro, the pair sharing a lop-sided gaze of hate-stoic professionalism, “As for you, you may wait in one of the suites for your significant other there.”
With a nod, Kerztar’s guards gently but firmly guided them out of the room and to their respective destinations in the Palace. When their paths finally diverged, Latro left his gaze on Sora, eyes sorry and pleading. He was determined as ever to make sure she was safe, albeit at the cost of throwing his own safety to the winds. When they’d made it to the suite, one of the guards opened the door and pushed Latro in. With clumsy, near-fall footsteps that pounded off the ground, he collided with the wall in front of him. He was still bound in manacles so it was a very unpleasant thing to hear a familiar voice behind him.
“What the fuck have you gotten yourself into now, Reachman?”
The medical wing was a very tidy place that seemed to have no shortage of material and machines that Daro'Vasora had never seen before and could spend years studying. She was instructed to lay down on a padded slab, and a medical assistant helped her lay down with her arm held for her. The assistant told her that she would be back momentarily, leaving the Khajiit to her thoughts, namely a fear that Latro was being interrogated by Zaveed as she lay there helpless.
A few moments later, the assistant came back and came with a few bottles. She held one up for Daro'Vasora to see. “This one will help your pain. This one will be to help heal the bruising and bleeding you are enduring, and this one will help your bones mend while you are in a cast. I will caution you; they have an unpleasant taste we cannot dilute.”
She wasn't exaggerating; the second bottle had a chalky taste and a poignant aftertaste that nearly made Daro'Vasora gag, but the others went down easily enough. Within seconds, her arm no longer hurt and she didn't feel the cool cloth wiping her face. The assistant measured her arm, and came back shortly after with a brass sleeve that she slid over the Khajiit’s arm and using a pump with a hose, she clamped the cast shut and screwed it in place, fixing the hose to a fill nipple and soon the cast was being filled with a soothing sky blue fluid that felt warm against her skin.
“Two or three days, and you should be good as new.” the assistant promised. The whole procedure was quick, and the medicine was unlike any she'd seen before.
“This is incredible,” Daro'Vasora said with genuine awe, looking over to the assistant, a pretty girl with silver hair. Roots suggested it was dyed. “What else can your medicine do?”
“Well, diseases are a thing of the past and we can regenerate damage or corrupted tissue. We've eliminated scarring, burns, and infections. Without an immediate cause of death or a hyper-aggressive infection or poison, you'd be hard pressed to find a physically ill Dwemer. We needed to prepare for the strange climate and diseases we weren't accustomed to back on Nirn.” she smiled apologetically, shaking her head. “Sorry, that must have been rude.”
“Not at all. A few centuries of isolation would make you vulnerable. I can't believe that didn't occur to me.” Daro'Vasora admitted before a thought crossed her mind. “What about something like mental illness and brain injury? It's a rather vexing problem without a solution here.”
“A broken arm hardly means a damaged mind, but I assume it's not for you that you're asking.” the assistant smiled. “There's been some progress, we can mend the damaged tissues, but the connections are much trickier. There are machines we've been trialing with various degrees of success, perhaps you have someone who would be a willing volunteer?” she asked.
“You know I was arrested, correct?” Daro’Vasora queried.
“Of course, but it's not my business to fret over anything other than my patients’ health. This is a good opportunity to study Khajiiti physiology. I could just go ahead and do it, but I would like consent first.”
“Knock yourself out, as long as it isn't invasive.” Daro’Vasora conceded, realizing she might have stumbled on a way to help Judena and Gregor. The assistant returned with a syringe.
“This might sting a bit.”
“You understand I have two choices now?” Sevari asked, casually swirling a glass of liquor. The bottle it had come from, which was a piece of art itself, squatted on the table he was sitting at.
“You and your fucking choices.” Latro frowned, eyes rolling, “Fuck it, just tell me.”
Sevari sighed, throwing back the rest of his glass’s contents. There was a bit of a pause as Sevari rose, arms crossed, and walked to the opened balcony doors. The sheer pale pink silk sheets billowed in the breeze on either side of him, framed by the gilded double doors and the cityscape beyond. “You know a lot about why I’m here. If you even uttered a wrong word, it would jeopardize this house of cards I’ve worked so hard to keep from blowing over in this damned storm.” Sevari said, “Believe it or not, the Dwemer arriving actually made my job somewhat easier
. Now you and your friends
come along and start stomping and shouting and having a grand tantrum around my little house of cards.”
“I would do anything to ensure that those cards don’t even shift a fucking hair.
” Sevari turned to look at Latro, who regarded him with the same kind of defeated indifference he’d had the day they first met, “Anything.
So my two choices are deciding if what I mean by anything
is good or bad for you.”
“So?” Latro asked, distrust and fear making his palms wet and heart pound.
Sevari turned to Latro, making his way over at an easy pace. With one hand, the Khajiit placed it on his back and led him over to the balcony. Latro could feel winds, the temperature change. It was slightly colder than when he was at ground level with Sora. He also took in the cityscape, the domed buildings, the sea. Sevari spoke, “How tenuous do you think my position and safety is here, Latro?”
Latro was going to say something but he felt Sevari’s hand press into his back and he involuntarily stepped forward, closer to the parapet. “I’m among my enemies and they have no idea, but a single mistake, a single fuck-up.” Latro took another step forward, his stomach pressing up against the parapet now, “Do you think that people pushed to the brink and without choice will choose the safety of the person next to them over their own?”
Latro’s hands struggled against the shackles they were in, every fiber of will put toward not looking down. It wasn’t long before he felt himself start ever so slightly bending over the parapet. He bit his lip as hard as he could, eyes welling up and then the cityscape was a blur of tears. “They’re polite, but do you really think they’d go through the pains of investigating the death of a terrorist?” Sevari asked, lips agonizingly close to his ear, making him flinch back from them. “You’ll just be another corpse.”
Suddenly, Latro’s stomach left the parapet, with a hard push. His arms and legs flailed, the descent pushing his guts up into his head. He could feel the wind through his hair. He made to scream but the impact was too sudden.
“You wouldn’t have even heard me before a garrote was wrapped around your bird-neck.” Sevari stared down at him. He’d been tossed back from the balcony and now Latro saw the sinister looking smokey tendrils of magicka in Sevari’s hand. A fear spell. Not that he ever needed it. “My brother is going on administrative leave soon, as I hear it. You’re going to be put under my custody.”
The external door bolt disengaged and Daro’Vasora was guided into the room by one of the sentries and the door shut behind her. She felt like she’d accumulated one hundred years worth of filth and grime upon her person in just a few hours, and at that point she wanted nothing more than to bathe and find Latro to make sure he was safe. Stepping inside the room, her eyes adjusted and she saw Latro sitting on a chair with someone looming menacingly above him. When she saw that Latro was unharmed, at least physically, the tension subsided a bit, but she still was on edge for who this stranger was and what he’d done to Latro. “Who is this?” she asked at last, stepping closer to show some form of solidarity with her lover. Her mind was still somewhat hazy from the ordeals she’d suffered when it clicked.
“Sevari.” she breathed.
“Daro’Vasora.” Slowly, Sevari stepped back from Latro and the Reachman could breathe that much easier. He didn’t like his mind toyed with by spells and the like, but that fear was real, no matter the source. He swallowed, looking from Sora to Sevari and back. He couldn’t tell what was going to happen in the silence between them. Sevari simply retook his seat and poured out three glasses of the liquor he had been drinking before either of them came. “I’m tasked with watching over you. This will be your room for the duration of your stay here. You’ll notice the bath, the bed, the assortment of alcohol I’m currently enjoying.”
“The balcony,” Latro narrowed his eyes to lethal slits at Sevari’s smirk then, “Don’t bother, you’ll die in the attempt if you try at it. Drink?” He pushed one of the glasses towards the two of them with a finger.
Daro’Vasora didn’t hesitate; she grabbed the glass and drained it in a single go, none too gently setting it down. “I met your brother. He’s a piece of shit.” she replied indignantly, grabbing the bottle and topping up her glass once more. “I see Latro isn’t covered in blood and broken fingers, so what do I owe the pleasure?”
“He is, isn’t he?” Sevari smiled at Sora and then nodded towards Latro, “He and I are fast friends. I would never hurt him if I didn’t have to.”
“Fuck you.” Came Latro’s voice from behind Sora. Sevari leaned to meet eyes with him.
“You want those shackles off or…?” Sevari raised his brows and frowned. Without an answer, he stood with two of the glasses he’d poured, brushing past Sora and waved Latro to stand. When he did, he turned around to offer Sevari his shackles. They finally clinked and snapped open, tossed carelessly onto the bed.
Sevari placed Latro’s glass down on his chair and retook his seat at the other end of the room, next to Sora. “See, we can all sit here and talk like civilized people.” He turned to Sora, “So, did my brother talk about me much?”
She drank about half the glass, more thoughtfully this time, and replied in Ta’agra. <Civilized people do not break people’s arms with a smirk, stab a prisoner through the heart, and torture a girl whose only crime was getting caught up in some insane shit; she’s never hurt anyone. Zaveed never asked any questions, just tried to force me into an impossible choice. Why are you working for them?> she asked, looking the Ohmes-raht in the eye.
Sevari’s brows raised at that. It had been a long, long while since he’d met another speaker of the language. It was good that being in the Penitus Oculatus that they kept him refreshed if he ever needed to pose as a Khajiit he was not. He looked at Latro and then to Sora <I had nothing to do with that. He didn’t learn that shit from me so don’t go spitting acid in my face over some shit that wasn’t my lead I was pursuing.> He frowned at her then, mood gone sour, “Your friend here might have been roughed up the first time we met but I told him I wouldn’t have fought if he didn’t.”
Sevari breathed, still frowning at them both as he downed his liquor. “I’m not his keeper, I’m sorry for your friend, though.” Sevari poured himself another one but didn’t move for it for the time being, “I’m only working for them because I have to. If you really need to know, I’m sure Latro has answers.”
He stood, coming closer to Sora, <Not everything about my allegiances are cut and dry, friend. But that knowledge is dangerous to anyone who bears it.> he said in hushed tones. Sevari looked at Latro then back to Sora, <Nothing of that is to be discussed here.>
Daro'Vasora looked over at Latro, intent on picking up that particular thread in private. When Sevari approached, she stood her ground; he likely didn't intend on harm. <Do you really think any Dwemer can speak our tongue? Our people rarely, if ever, crossed paths and they probably thought us to be illiterate beasts. What allegiances are those? You keep hush about them, and your actions tell me you don't have any loyalty to the Governor or her lackeys, so why approach Latro? You don't seem enthusiastic about our detainment or your psychotic brother. So, level with me, with us.>
<You think they won’t find the fact that we aren’t speaking plainly in a tongue they understand to be a little odd?> Sevari narrowed his eyes, sitting back down and sighing, <Zaveed was hired to bring me here to fulfill a task given to me by people far away from here. I was forced into service when they found us after we were shipwrecked. It just so happens that your Poncy Man is a piece in a game that’s been playing out since before we were born. Empire against Empire. Man against Mer.>
Daro'Vasora nodded. At least Sevari wasn't entirely closed off; it was something she could work with. <We could merely say we were eager to speak our mother tongue since we are so far from home, and return to Cyrodiilic in a moment. I am sure Latro is probably lost and annoyed.> she replied, smiling at him from behind her glass.
<Look, Sevari; I’m an Imperial Citizen. I don't have any love of the Dominion, and I don't think you do either. You help us out, we help you out. We're in a bad spot now, but playing along with Rourken’s game might be an advantage. You could have killed Latro many times, and you didn't. For that, you have my gratitude. Please consider what I am asking; there's no need for this cloak and dagger nonsense when we are willing to cooperate willingly.> she said, filling her glass once more and finding a seat next to Latro.
“It's been a long while since I spoke my mother tongue, thank you for humoring me. These days, that is in short supply.” she said conversationally. “If you told me I'd be a Dwemer prisoner in a place a month ago, I would have told you to lay off of the Skooma and get away from me. So, are you and your bother close?” Daro'Vasora asked.
Sevari frowned even deeper at the question, “No.” he shook his head, “Believe it or not, he used to be a young boy who wanted nothing more than to entertain, to make people smile.”
Sevari had a smile of his own thinking back on the memories before it dropped, “But I failed him a very long time ago. I failed him and our sister. Put us on opposite sides.” He shook his head, downed another glass, “But the past is for the dead, no? What of you? Or Latro?”
“I’m an only child.” Latro spoke simply, “Your brother is a piece of shit.”
“So I’m told.” Sevari said said dryly, “Daro’Vasora?”
“Both of my parents and my sister are still back home, it's been a few years since I've seen them, but I have written.” Daro'Vasora replied, omitting details just to be on the safe side. She frowned, trying to imagine what had gone so wrong to turn the boy Sevari described into the bastard she met. “My sister was supposed to visit me in the Imperial City this month. I was going to show her around, make up for lost time. Now I don't even know if she's alive.”
“I would think so. Kerztar has never mentioned having to make trips farther south than Bruma. I doubt the Dominion would be any worse, coming up from Anequina.” Sevari said, “Latro’s Reachmen have enjoyed their recent time though, I hear.”
“What?” Latro asked, perking up immediately at the mention of that. “What do you mean?”
“The Western Reachmen have moved east, the Forsworn have been driven deeper into hiding, put to work in Cidhna mine or put to the headsman’s block. Many of the Clans who had been at war with the easterners are at peace and they’re positively licking the asses of the Dwemer for it.”
Latro shook his head. No doubt, his clan was among them. His lips worked at the words but nothing came out for a bit. He finally worked up the courage, “What of the Crow-Wife clan? Does Witch-Mother White-Horn live?”
Sevari shrugged, “I’ve no idea. Hammerfell is Kerztar’s jurisdiction since his disagreement about Fallinar, the fair-ruling Governor of Skyrim, marching his army south and parlaying with the Empire.” Sevari frowned, “I haven’t even been to Skyrim for years now since Titus was killed. I never liked dragons either. Forsworn less.”
Latro winded down. Part of him wanted his mother to be alive, his father too. All so he could ask them why, ask them how they were, even. Maybe just his mother on that last one. He was sure Sevari could understand resentment lasting for a very long time. “Oh.”
Daro'Vasora's heart skipped. This was the first she heard of Dominion campaigns since Anvil. Reaching out to take Latro's hand, she asked, “Do you know what lands the Dominion has taken, or what fronts they opened? We've been in the dark ever since escaping Anvil.”
She squeezed Latro's hand in her own, hoping to offer reassurance. His past was certainly becoming reanimated, no matter how hard he tried to leave it behind. They were both quite so far from home.
Sevari shook his head, “Our intelligence networks that are that far south in Tamriel went dark after the Dwemer attack.” Sevari’s head hung as he shrugged, “I’m working off of orders given to me more than a month ago. I don’t even know if the Directors or the Intendants are alive in Chorrol.”
Daro'Vasora considered this. “You're with Imperial intelligence, aren't you?” she asked quietly. He was being very upfront about his situation, so Sevari must have felt it safe to talk in the room regardless.
Sevari nodded once, slow. “I’ll try to do what I can about your situations. I can’t have my asset within the Insurgency cooped up where he can’t do his job.” Sevari narrowed his eyes and smiled suddenly, “You fucking smart ass.”
Latro shrugged. Sevari pointed to Latro, finger wagging as he let go a little chuckle, “Daro’Vasora, you have a risk-taking, blind-lucky Reachman.” Sevari took a step forward, serious as if somebody had snapped their fingers, “But be more careful. Don’t think just because Zaveed is on leave that he’s poofed into thin air. If I was still young and held no qualms, I would’ve just killed you. It’ll take a few more times of me having to pull you out of the dirt to put you back in now.”
He looked to Latro, then Sora, “Be thankful.”
Daro'Vasora let out a long sigh. “As much as one can, given their circumstances.” she agreed tepidly. “It could always be worse, and while things aren't ideal, at least we're not completely on our own. If I hear anything of interest, I'll pass it along. In the meantime, I'll play her game and see what shakes loose. Just promise me one thing, if you'd entertain a bruised and broken treasure hunter for a moment longer.”
“Within reason.” Sevari nodded.
“Do everything you can to keep Zaveed from killing any more of our friends.” she said softly, her eyes drifting towards the floor, tears beginning to well up in her eyes. “After today, I can't lose much more than I already have.”
Sevari opened his mouth first before said anything, closing it back up before speaking again, “Of course.” He said, nodding, “Everything I can.”
“Thank you.” Latro said. Sevari nodded and offered his hand out, Latro taking it and they shook.
“It pays to protect your assets. They’ll do the same for you sometime down the line.” Sevari said. “I have other things to do, tell anybody Sevari of the Ministry of Order will have their balls on a necklace if they do so much as speak too harshly to his prisoners.”
The door shut behind Sevari, leaving Latro and Sora alone in the room. It was a few moments of silence before Latro spoke, “I’m so sorry, Sora. I couldn’t leave you when I saw you paraded around like that.” He threw his arms around her and kissed her forehead softly.
She buried her head against his chest, her injured arm keeping her from returning the gesture. She sniffed, fighting back the emotional weight that pressed against her like a dam that was ready to burst. “I know… I know. Normally, it would have been the most romantic gesture, but I couldn't lose you, too. After what happened today… I can't. When they took us separate ways, I feared they gave you to Zaveed or someone like him.” she paused, suppressing a sob. “...I thought I lost you.”
“Never.” Latro smiled, looking at Sora and taking in her expression. To be honest, he didn’t have a plan when he saw Sora, throwing himself on the mercy of the Divines to keep him safe. Odd that Sevari would ultimately be his savior, “Never, Sora, not ever.”
He leaned back from her, chewing his lip before he spoke again, “I’m sure you have a lot of questions about Sevari and I.”
She shook her head, wiping her snout with an arm. She didn't care it was gross at that particular moment. “I just figured you two came to a compromise. He's not what he initially seemed and he's trying to leverage you for his own goals. Is that about it?”
Latro nodded, “I would think so. But I know he’s working for the Dwemer on account of his brother, I knew he would have to do something about me in this situation.”
“What did he tell you, exactly? Last I heard you were going to get the drop on him. Now we’re locked up in a rather fancy suite, I have a broken arm, and we might not be getting out of here alive. Funny how life turns out.” she replied.
Latro smiled sheepishly, “Yeah,” he said before working at the words he continued with, “He told me about as much as he told you. Jaraleet and I, we took a man to some safehouse.”
He leaned forward and talked in hushed tones, “He’s working for the Empire here in Hammerfell. As odd as it sounds, he is on the same side as us. The Poncy Man has deals with people in Cyrodiil.”
That didn’t surprise her; he did claim he was a member of the Merchant Guild; it all but necessitated cross-border trades. “Well, I suppose we’ll see what happens next… I’m sorry, Latro.” Daro’Vasora apologized, a sigh heavy on her breast. “I should have told you about the note I received, that I was going off alone. I knew it was a trap and I went anyways. I couldn’t leave him.” she said softly, as if admitting something with guilt.
Latro nodded, quietly sighing, “I get it, I know.” He cooed, stroking Sora’s hair before chuckling, “I just did the same for you.”
She groaned, although not irritably. “I guess we really do deserve each other. Well, since we’re in the kind of prison that would bankrupt a working stiff to stay a night in, care to help me into the bath? I need to wash blood, sweat, and rotting vegetables out of my fur. And please don’t tell me you’re into that kind of thing.”
“Only when it’s you.” He winked and then laughed, a good thing he did after all of this business. It told him he still had a sense of humor, and if you could laugh, things aren’t as bad as they could be, Francis had told him. “Now come, let’s get you into that bath.”
She couldn't help but smile as she accepted his help standing and walking over to the washroom with its polished brass fixtures. “Well, almost looks be enough for two,” she purred as she turned the faucet. “I think tonight needs to just be about us, tomorrow can wait. I'll tell you everything about who I am, what Roux was to me, the things I've done. I want you to know who I was before all of this, and then we can decide who we will be after it's done.” she reached over, cusping his face in her hand delicately. “This isn't the end of our song, my love. It's only just begun.”