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Kaleeth let out a sigh and shook her head. "I can't believe you told him anything else other than to avoid getting close to her like that. Whenever we come back here again, she'll surely have moved on with her life."

Finally, Kaleeth uncrossed her arms and relaxed, at least somewhat. "But, you might be right. He is young, and I doubt he's going to be like...us. Maybe I'll go talk to Juran-Selth. I feel like there is a lot the two of us should talk about, with the bad history we've had. Clearing the air, and everything. Maybe you should go check on Julan?"




Ahnasha hesitated a moment on how to phrase her answer. "I can make that promise...to the limits of what I know. In the moment. I can't promise to never be wrong, get bad information from scouts or spies, or anything like that, but no warrior is all-knowing. We can only fight for what we believe in, fight to defend ourselves and loved ones, and make the best judgments we can. I think you will make for a great warrior, Rhazii. You have strength, skill, and most importantly, a good heart. If there is one thing I trust you for, son, it is that you will do what is right."

"You do have a lot to learn, Rhazii." Ahnasha said, putting on a smile as she moved over close beside Rhazii and wrapped her arm around him. "But, who knows, maybe I can learn something from you too?"
Kaleeth crossed her arms, narrowing her eyes noticeably. "The worst that could happen? I'm pretty sure that I'm the example of what could happen. Obviously I don't regret what we have together, but...we shouldn't let it happen again. He's young, he's emotional. And now he's around Argonian girls for the first time in his life, he might not be thinking with his head. Yes, we should let our son make mistakes, but not when he could force someone else's to change forever." She argued, unable to say her meaning openly in the presence of her father, though Janius certainly understood.

Zharanthixil huffed. "Hal-Leeus? Probably shouldn't be a surprise that she's taken a liking to your boy. She's too curious about the outside for her own good, and her father encourages her too much. Letting her talk to the traders, teaching her Cyrodilic. She'd need to know more about the outside than most to take over his role, sure, but her focus should be on the village first and foremost. If Juran isn't careful, he'll end up raising her to leave, instead of as a hunter."

Kaleeth turned her head slowly towards her father. "Juran? You mean...she is the daughter of the Master-Hunter?" Kaleeth stopped and leaned in close to Janius, staring intently into his eyes. "This story is starting to sound a bit...familiar, isn't it? Maybe we should step in before it gets too familiar?" She appeared genuinely worried. It was not as if Leeus being related to the Master Hunter made the situation any more than a strange coincidence, but it did not take much for her to become protective over her son. Anything that she could point to that might strengthen her case, she would.




Ahnasha looked down, staring into the warm pot of stew that had been yet untouched. "There is a lot I wish could be different. I wish there had been no war to force this on us. But, maybe there won't be soon. The only real battle ahead of us will be against Daedra, not people. Then, for better or for worse, it will be over. Maybe there will be no more killing?"

As hopeful as she wanted to be that her statement was true, Ahnasha knew that she could not leave it on the flimsy hope that she would never have to kill anyone else in potentially hundreds of years of life. "But...I am not any different Rhazii, you know? For as long as you have known me, as long as you can remember, I haven't changed. This isn't anything new for me. The mother that loved you, still loves you. All those good memories you talked about were made by the very same person that I am right now. Maybe I will have to fight and kill again, but I am not going to go killing innocents. I am no murderer, no monster. No matter how I do or don't feel about it, I know that about myself."
Despite Janius' answer, Kaleeth's worries were not entirely calmed. "You already knew about it? I don't think it's something we should take lightly. I mean...are you sure Julan is ready to deal with that? Getting close to a girl that he obviously likes, then just leaving? Is he old enough? Mature enough? In this part of his life, he's probably nervous, confused, emotional..." She argued, her words quickening as she listed off the worries in her mind. "You told him the boundaries, but...what if he makes mistakes? Or did you tell him not to get too close to her? To just be friends?"




Ahnasha was not at the point of wanting to lie quite yet, so she shook her head lightly. "I didn't. Killing is something...common for me. You have to understand about this war we've been fighting for, well, most of your life. I've seen, felt, experienced so many horrible things. I've seen people killed mercilessly by the enemy, by Vile's soldiers. People who serve him, worship him, and are determined to destroy us for who we are. I've witnessed them commit atrocities against us, but then, when I have the advantage on them...when it is me bringing the blade to their throats, they look just as afraid as that woman did. I explained it to you before, and I wasn't lying. I've experienced that so many times that it...changed me. Maybe it broke me, I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't be this way, but it's what war can do to you."

Ahnasha sighed. "I don't mind you training to be a warrior, Rhazii. It could be a good path for you, but I want to try to make sure that you never have to live through a war. Being able to fight, to protect yourself, the innocent, the people you care about, that is honorable. But, war can demand something else entirely, something that can be much worse."
"Kaleeth told me." Zharan explained. "I expected there would be some who would not take kindly to your presence here. Perhaps not him, but it also is not too much of a surprise. He is both stubborn and proud. A good hunter, loyal to his people, and well-liked, but not kind towards outsiders. But, Master-Hunter Juran has recognized Kaleeth, and now your son, as hunters, and Deerz has no right to show such disrespect. And you, my daughter, have every right to challenge his insults to your honor."

Kaleeth was not entirely dismissive of the idea, but she was also far from enthused about it. [i]"I know I can do it, but I don't know if I want to fight him. Deerz used to be my friend, and I don't know if embarrassing him would really make things any better between us. He'd probably just be even more bitter."

Zharan shrugged. "It's your choice, but I don't think you should let him believe he can just walk over you without you making him pay for it."

Kaleeth looked down with her arms crossed. "I'll have to think about it." She replied noncommittally. Feeling her father's eyes on her, she quickly looked to Janius to change the subject. "There was something I noticed...did you see how that girl, Leeus, was acting towards Julan? And how he was looking at her? It has me concerned."




"I thought you were." Ahnasha said, making a conscious effort to keep eye contact with Rhazii and avoid acting too ashamed. "You did do well, but...I don't know if it was fair for me to expect you to do it. My first kill was more dangerous for me; I was more afraid. I didn't make any major mistakes then, but knowing what I know now, I know that I could have made mistakes easily. I wanted to keep you safe. You're serving as a scout now, or an apprentice scout, rather. I know you mostly stay within the cavern, but you do go to the surface. Anything could happen up there. I know your duties don't have you seeking out fights, or looking for the enemy, but...it could happen."

Ahnasha leaned forward slowly, placing a hand lightly on Rhazii's knee. [i]"You have to believe me; I didn't want to hurt you, Rhazii. And I don't mean physically, though I didn't want to hurt you that way either. I just wanted to make sure you were ready, and I thought the experience would make you safer. Even if it's not very likely, and not the job that you're supposed to be doing right now, there's still the fact that you are at a point in your life where you could, conceivably be forced to defend yourself against someone who wants to kill you. I was worried about you, and I just...wanted you to be ready."
Thorantilth hummed a moment to himself. "Yes, the young ones always seemed to be surprised at how long a wound can bother them. It is often much worse later than it was when they received it. But, I am sure you know your son better than I. I will let you know when I have prepared the ink. Unless there are any delays, I should be able to have his marks completed just in time for our migration."

Once the three of them did take their leave, Zharan decided to bring up a point that had piqued his curiosity, almost as soon as they were out of the hut. "You said you two still fight? I didn't expect you to keep to a warrior's life after you left, Kaleeth. You always seemed convinced that you would forever be horrible at it. Do you mean to tell me that the armor you showed in was not just for show?"

Kaleeth was briefly hesitant, if only to try and think about how to avoid revealing anything she would not want to reveal. But, she could not delay too long without it seeming unusual. "Yes, I do still fight. Janius kept training me, and I kept getting better. I know I was never very good back when I was young, but...I guess I just eventually found the right motivation."

Zharan expression actually went as far as to show a smile, which was perhaps a first for Janius to witness from the man. It was more subtle on Zharan's face, but Janius could see something recognizable as pride for his daughter. "Hmm, suppose I should have guessed it, with all that muscle you have on you now. You look to be in peak condition, really. I'm just glad all the effort I went through to train you didn't end up going to waste in the end."

"So..." Zharan continued, his fleeting, heartfelt pride quickly giving way to a much harsher, more familiar attitude. "Why in the void haven't you challenged that kuuda Deerz yet and broken his ugly snout? You're still a hunter, you still have that right."




Despite all of the preparation Ahnasha had made, thinking of what she might say to Rhazii when he returned, she still took a short while to respond. There was little effort for her to hide her own regret. "I do not even remember the pain anymore, Rhazii. I have been hurt in so many ways, so many times, that it is just a vague blur to me. All that I am going to remember out of this is the fact that I hurt you."

"I never want to hurt you, Rhazii." She added.
Julan did exactly as his father instructed and thanked Thoarantilth before leaving with Leeus, though Kaleeth did seem to show some amount of concern as she watched the pair exit the tent. However, she did not say anything out loud at the moment, in their present company.

Thorantilth remained polite and friendly towards Julan until he left, and continued to remain busy working on his potions afterwards, but his words lost much of their obvious emotion as he continued. "I can make something for you to give to Julan if any pain happens to return to him later. I have to say, I am somewhat flattered by your apparent faith in my abilities. I have had to treat such wounds from rites like these before, and their parents are usually less...contained."

Finally turning back to face them, Thorantilth smiled at Kaleeth. "I suppose you do take after your father after all, Kaleeth. At any rate, as I said before, there does not seem to be much to worry about for Julan. Considering the depth of his wound and for how long he was fighting on it, he lost much less blood than I would have expected. And those spells must have healed him significantly as well, for as much as the lacerations had already closed. He is remarkably durable."




Ahnasha's time was mostly spent, as she had told Fendros, cleaning herself, then preparing some sort of a dinner for them all, in the event that Fendros did actually return with Rhazii. By this point, there was not too much meat left from the bodies that Ahnasha would still consider to be in a state to be eaten. Strictly speaking, werewolves, being disease-immune, could eat even the most foul, rotten carrion safely. However, that was not something that Ahnasha, or any sane lycan, would willingly do outside of the most desperate situations. Fortunately, the bandits did have enough preserved meats and vegetables stored for a decent meal, and Ahnasha had actually started to butcher some meat the last time she waited in the camp, though had left it behind when Rhazii did not return to her. She decided to throw it all into a stew, in order to make the more heavily salted meats seem a bit more pleasant. However, she did not eat one bite by herself, and instead just kept feeding the fire enough to keep the pot warm while she waited for Fendros and Rhazii.

For Ahnasha herself, she, of course, had much time alone to think, but tried to avoid it as much as she could. At this point, she was not completely sure what kind of a problem she had, or if she even had a problem at all. Rhazii certainly seemed to think so, but there were realities of the war that he could not understand, and that she hoped he never had the misfortune of understanding. Whatever the right answer was, she did not think she was going to reach it alone.
Leeus only served to make Julan more nervous with the attention she was placing on him, and he was still anxiously picking fruitlessly at the dried mud caked onto this scales. The blood might not have been so bad by itself, but he wanted to slap himself for slipping in the mud afterwards. Everything about his reaction to Leeus' kiss was embarrassing in the worst ways for him. Though, at least she did not seem to be making fun of him for it.

Leeus actually seemed briefly confused, tilting her head slightly to the side towards Janius. "Helping him? I mean, I don't know if I've really been trying to do that, he's just...fun to be around. We've all been getting along with him." She answered before quickly returning her attention to Julan. Although, she did notice the anxiety that he was doing a poor job of hiding, and was observant enough to see him trying to wipe away the mud.

"It was kind of funny how you fell like that, but...it wasn't your fault or anything. You just hurt your leg, is all." Leeus remarked.

Though initially embarrassed about it being mentioned at all, Leeus' approach did help Julan to calm down. "I, um, yeah, that was it. I could...really focus to fight through it during the duel, but it started to hurt a lot afterwards. I'm, uh, tough enough to handle some pain, obviously; I just got a little distracted for a second."

Leeus laughed for a moment. "I guess so. How bad is it? Can you walk around? Why don't we go get you washed up? I can even help you wash your back." Leeus smiled.

Julan rubbed the side of his neck. "I'm, uh, not sure if I can leave yet. Can I?"

Thorantilth hummed a moment, focusing his gaze on Julan's wounded leg. "Normally, I would not let you move around so soon. But, your body seems to be healing...unusually quickly, if I am being honest. I have no reason to keep you here." He answered, with his attention firmly on Julan's parents by the end.





"Yes, what's done is done." Ahnasha repeated. "I guess we'll see what we can do to help him cope once you find him. I'm going to get myself cleaned up properly once we're at the camp, and maybe cook up something for us to eat if I have the time afterwards. Still, take your time, once you find him. I have a feeling he could really use his father right now. Just do what you can for him. Only worry about bringing him to me if you think it's a good idea."
Janius' permission was plenty enough to rush excitedly into the room and over to Julan. While Julan had not been in the best state to respond to Leeus before, she evidently had not lost any of the excitement from seeing him win. She rushed over to him as quickly as she could in the confined space, grinning the whole time. "I can't believe you won, Julan! Argrei might not have been the best, but he wasn't the worst. None of our friends could beat him. I didn't think anyone could just break a spear in half like that."

Leeus sat herself down beside Julan, looking him over, and even going as far as curiously squeezing his bicep. "I know you look strong, but how in the Void did you get that strong?"

Strangely enough, even before Leeus put Julan on the spot with her question, he was acting somewhat unusual. He was looking away from her and breathing a bit more quickly. It could have been interpreted as a result of the conversation he had before about her with Janius, but the fact that he was subtly trying to cover up or rub away the mud and dried blood covering him suggested he may have simply been embarrassed to be in such a filthy state in front of her. "I, um...my father taught me how." He answered.




Ahnasha shrugged lightly. "I did not think it would be so troubling for him. He has been training to be a warrior, so he had to have expected this to come eventually. He has already killed Falmer, whose kind at least used to be people. It just seemed like a natural progression of his training, and I made sure to select opponents who deserved their deaths. I just wanted to make sure he was ready, and wouldn't put himself in danger in a real fight."

"Very well, as long as we take an appropriately cautious approach, I suppose we can simply drop out of hyperspace somewhere along the way, without too much of a detour." Kresst agreed.

Kresst did not have anything more to discuss with Mevenn, but he was not finished quite yet. He turned his attention to Mach, taking his time to observe the Human clone's features. "I suppose we could all use some rest, but Mach, you have been mostly silent thusfar. And yet, you are just as bound up in all of this as we are. I would like to hear your thoughts."
Kaleeth looked down at her arm and ran a claw over one of the vines. "Well, I don't know how it all works, but I remember them using this really sharp reed to...well, 'stab' the ink into my scales doesn't really sound right. I know they use the reed to get the ink under the scales to draw the marks. They also use some magic to make it all go faster."

Thorantilth briefly interrupted them by bringing Julan a small clay bowl filled with a light red liquid. "Please drink this. It will last a while, and help your body recover." He instructed before joining in on the conversation as well. "The magic is not strictly necessary, but quite helpful. It could take weeks of sessions to finish marks as large and detailed as those without it. And do not worry about the pain; a mild potion can numb you enough that you will hardly feel it."

"Wow, this all sounds like...a really big deal. I didn't even think about all of this before." Julan commented, still seeming somewhat nervous.

Soon after, there was another interruption, this time from the hut's entrance. Peering in around the door's curtain was the face of Hal-Leeus, who spoke somewhat hesitantly. "Hello, um...can I come in too?"




Ahnasha had been anticipating the question to come up eventually. She might have told Fendros on her own beforehand, were it not for the general regret she felt at the situation as a whole. Regardless, she answered quickly and directly. "Yes, one man. He did not take it well, I believe because he was frightened and trying to flee before dying. The bandits were not terribly disciplined. They did not have lookouts, and between my arrows and atronachs, I killed most of them in just the first few moments. Rhazii performed well, and did not hesitate when in the midst of a fight, when he was in danger. But, I could see he felt guilty. I did talk to him after that, explain things, and it looked like it worked. He calmed down, until I killed the Khajiit."
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