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Normally, exotic and potentially dangerous creatures were held in the stables outside of the city walls, but Leaps enjoyed a certain privileges, ostensibly based on his physical needs. As a cold-blooded reptile from Black Marsh, Leaps benefited from the warm air in the steam-powered city, compared to the cooler air of the cavern. Meesei had enchanted his saddle to help keep him warm when needed, but the wamasu was not going to tolerate wearing it all the time. He was kept well-fed, so he had never actually done anything beyond frighten some of their other beasts of burden, but nevertheless, the stablemaster had insisted upon some additional precautions. For one, he was kept out of the way of where most of the city's denizens would usually go, in one of the corners up against the city walls just to the east of the gate. As well, the stall he was kept in at night, and when not being tended to by his caretakers, was more like a cage made from salvaged Dwemer metal, rather than flammable wood.

Upon arrival, Julan unlocked the gate, though did not open it entirely at first. Rather, he slipped inside alone, claiming to want to check up on him first to make sure he was awake. It was partially true, but for the most part, he just wanted to make sure he was awake to give Narsi the biggest surprise.

Being that both Julan and Rhazii had been away for weeks, Leaps showed his excitement the moment he saw Julan. Even from the outside, the sounds the wamasu made shuffling around his stall would give some hint as to his size. He was not technically "fully-grown", since a wamasu could grow throughout their lives, but he was an adult. When Julan did finally open the gate, he threw it open all at once.

The wamasu would certainly be a new sight for Narsi. For first impressions, it was hard not to see him as a massive and dangerous predator. He was dark-green scaled, with multiple rows of spikes down his back and sides. Two of the spikes down the center of his head appeared almost like horns, and of course, he had teeth like a Daedroth, if not larger. Two of the teeth on the bottom row were long like tusks, not unlike those of an Orc.




"You have no idea how hard I have to try to resist the desire to slap you across your face." Ahnasha growled, narrowing her eyes at him. Though, it was only a few seconds before she closed her eyes and sighed. "I don't know why I'm bothering to argue this with you, though. There's no point. I might have to end up telling them everything, no matter what I want, because I'll have no choice. Like I said, I have no idea if they bought my excuses. I could see that doubt in their eyes, regardless of what they actually said to me. I can be pretty convincing...but you told them to their faces that I was lying."

Again, Ahnasha poked her finger into Fendros' chest. "If they don't believe me, it will be because you told them I was lying. If they don't accept the truth when I'm forced to tell it, and everything I've done for years to build a relationship with my family goes to waste, it will be because you told them. For all I know, you could be right. Telling them the truth might work, and it might be the best thing I could do, I don't know. But...it was mychoice to make, Fendros. You betrayed me. You betrayed all the trust I thought I could have for you as my mate, as my husband. Whatever happens now...it's because of the choice you stole from me."
Julan crossed one arm over the other and tapped a finger to his chin in thought. "Well, I'm feeling sore, and it would be nice to go to the steam pools...but I guess that would be more relaxing than actually fun. Maybe...we could go play with Leaps. It feels like forever since I've seen him. I hope they've been taking care of him alright. We could take him on a ride around out of the city."

Julan gave a quick glance to Narsi. "Unless you have some other idea of fun? I'm not sure what the city dwellers do. Seems like it would be boring in those walls."




"Because that IS what they want me to be! And I'm sick of you not understanding that!" Ahnasha shouted back at Fendros. "They couldn't handle the risk of me just hunting without nearly worrying themselves to death. Why do you think I had to run away? My parents are good people, they're incredibly stubborn in their own ways. And as for their faith...they won't bend their faith, even for me."

Ahnasha's voice became softer, but even more severe. "And need I remind you that my mother nearly killed herself when she thought I had died? What do you think is going to happen if she believes my souls is going to be damned to Oblivion for eternity? What do you think she is going to do? Are you really so confident that she will be able to handle it any better? Are you prepared to have her blood on your hands?"
"You really need to learn how things work in the clan." Julan remarked, crossing his arms, though he soon gave a shrug. "But I guess you did just get here not long ago, so...I guess it makes sense that you don't. Maybe you do just need time."

For the first time since the duel started, Julan finally turned his attention back to Rhazii. "But we've been training for long enough already. And I just got back from Black Marsh, too. I feel like everything has just been all serious for me for weeks. Why don't we do something fun?"




Ahnasha's ears flattened on her head as her eyes narrowed, and her teeth showed plainly. "Did you not listen to a word I just said? I'm not bothered that you disagree, and if you wanted to argue about it, we could argue about it. It's going to be months still before the portals are complete, and Meesei can always bring us down to Leyawiin in an instant. If you wanted to change my mind, then there was time to argue about it later. So I want to know, Fendros, why you think you had any right to ignore me, ignore my warnings, and force me to tell my family what you wanted me to tell them?"
Julan lifted his arm up off of Narsi's throat, finally allowing her to breathe freely. "Fighting someone straight up is the only way to not be a coward." He paused a moment, also allowing himself a few seconds to catch his breath. The fight had not gone on too long, but he had exerted himself more than he had expected, though that partially may have been due to his recent transformation.

"How do you not understand this yet? You're acting like you failed or something, even though it's just training. Don't you know how this works? I lose fights all the time, especially to my brother. But that's how it's supposed to be. We fight, we lose, and we get better. That's training. So just...stop acting like a little kid. Stop yelling at everyone, stop acting like you're better than everyone. And stop acting like you don't need our help. Lorag said we're supposed to train you...but if you keep acting like that, I'm just not going to do it. It's just a waste of time if you keep acting like that." Julan said, glaring down at her. However, after a few seconds, his mood seemed to shift, in only slightly, into a thin smile. "But, if you do actually want to start training smart, then you could actually be pretty tough. Then I wouldn't be embarrassed to have you as a sister."




"I don't care, Fendros!" Ahnasha shouted, though not because she was not listening to him. She heard and understood every word, but her anger went beyond the mere fact that he disagreed with her. "I don't care what will or won't work on them. For Hircine's sake, you might even be right, but I don't care. That's not what this is about."

Ahnasha stepped even closer, bringing her face almost uncomfortably close to his, given her mood. "If you don't agree with me lying to them, that's fine. If you think it would be better to tell the truth and try to convince them like we did your family, then that's fine. If you want to try to convince me, to argue with me to try to see it your way in private, then that's fine. But...the second you started saying the things you did out loud, contradicting the story I was telling right there in front of my parents with no warning...that's when you started making my decision about my family for me." Ahnasha growled, pushing her finger into Fendros' chest. "You did not have that right!"

Despite all of Narsi's resistance, the fight was now clearly in favor of Julan, and the outcome seemed all but inevitable. However, it had also been far closer than it would have seemed to have any right being. Julan had just about every advantage from the start. He had height, strength, weight, experience, and training all in substantial excess of Narsi, but she put up far more resistance than Julan would have ever expected, even to the point of making him worried at points. She was certainly dedicated, and the potential she showed made Julan realize why Lorag was actually putting in the effort to train her now, of all times. Aside from the fact that she was his daughter.

But, inevitably, all of the dedication in Nirn would not change some fundamental truths about the match-up between the two fighters. Once he had her in his clutches, Julan could throw her around almost as easily as Rhazii had. The smack to Julan's ear sent his head ringing, but it also allowed him to get a grip on Narsi's only free arm. From there, it was easy for him to shove her over onto her back and pin down her arm at its elbow. He did the same to her other arm as he pushed himself up to his knees, then used one knee to hold down the arm he had been laying on so he could free up his arm, which he quickly pushed up against her throat.

Narsi had managed to hurt him. Julan would be sore and bruised after this, but it would have taken a miracle for Narsi to actually defeat him in a hand-to-hand fight at the current point. For the moment, though, Julan had her in a grapple and was in complete control. "It's over! Do you submit now?"




"I kept the excuse up as best as I could. Maybe. Who knows if they really bought it after what you pulled?" Ahnasha practically growled back at Fendros. Her feet stomped against the wooden floorboards with each step she took as she marched straight up to Fendros. Her volume was not quite enough to be considered shouting, but it looked like she was only barely able to keep herself under control.

Ahnasha stopped just short of shoving Fendros into the wall. "What got into you back there? I did not agree to tell them any more than we already had, and thanks to you, they might not end up believing my story."
Since Narsi had to push back forward after stumbling back, Julan had a few brief moments to think about his approach. She had somehow managed to recover from his aggression, but she was showing no sign of stopping her own aggression. So, he decided to put into action some of his own training once again. This time, Julan did not meet Narsi's attack head-on, but rather set himself up to move with her momentum. He intended to deflect her first jab with the least amount of movement of his own arm as possible, but as his technique was not terribly refined, he ended up taking the jab directly to his gut regardless. But still, it meant his hands were still in a position to receive her main attack.

Guarding his head with one arm, Julan shot out with the other as quickly as he could and managed to successfully get a grip on her forearm. From there, he pulled rather than pushed to take advantage of her forward momentum. He knew he did not have the balance to keep his footing at this point, so he twisted his body so as to force her down underneath him and make her take the brunt of the fall. He left his torso open and legs open to a few hits, but there was no question that she was going down now.




After Fendros left, it would be about another hour before Ahnasha would rejoin him in their room. However, even with that time passing, he would be able to tell the moment she stepped through the door that it had done little to temper her anger. If anything, it had given it time to fester in her mind while she was putting on her act to appease her family.

Ahnasha practically slammed the door behind her, starring daggers at Fendros and ever so slightly baring her teeth at him. "What in Oblivion is wrong with you?"
Julan, to start, guarded with his arms. She was not putting enough force behind her flurry for the strikes to matter, until she finally committed fully into one at his side. However, Julan could react on training, instead of just instinct. He was not skilled enough to block her attack entirely, but he had decent enough footwork to be able to move and lessen the impact. At the same time, committing fully to a strike had finally left Narsi open enough for him to strike back harder. He did take a hit, but she took one even harder, and right to her gut.

Not only did Julan land a hit, but he followed through as well. It was, perhaps, not elegant, but he had been taught not to let an advantage go to waste. He hooked one foot behind Narsi's heel while simultaneously shoving forward with his shoulder. Being that he was clearly bigger than her, Narsi no doubt expected to be at a disavantage in terms of strength, but it would not be until she attempted to resist an attack with his full weight behind it that she would realize exactly how easily a werecrocodile could overwhelm her, even out of beast form.




"There's nothing to say, husband." Ahnasha replied in an equivalent tone. She had precious little time to think about how to elaborate, but keeping her mind focused on the topic of teleportation did help for inspiration. She looked away and let out a long, slow, sigh, which bought her just enough time to say something. "I know what supposedly happened to your great-uncle, but Meesei doesn't even use that kind of teleportation."

S'nashi looked almost frightened, leaning in closer to Ahnasha. "Dear, please, if there's something dangerous about it..."

"There isn't mother, I promise. But...if it really does worry you, I can also promise that we will stop using it after we get home. If you really want us to." Ahnasha answered back immediately. Nothing in her voice or demeanor so much as hinted that she was being anything but genuine. It did speak to Ahnasha's ability to lie that she was able to keep it going this long, and even turn it to her advantage in a way. However, Fendros, at this point, had a choice to make. For as clever as she was, Ahnasha was unlikely to be able to keep going convincingly if Fendros persisted. But, Ahnasha's opinion on the matter was made abundantly clear. As soon as she looked away from her family, she mouthed a single word towards that concisely explained how she felt about his suggestions: "Leave."
"Oh, sure, now you say you want to fight. Just a few seconds ago, you were refusing to even challenge me." Julan retorted, with him too taking up a fighting stance. Narsi had successfully pushed his agitation over the edge into outright anger. Although he was no longer under the influence of his beast spirit, the time he had spent in his beast form had certainly made it easier for her to get under his scales. "Have you ever even fought anyone other than your mother? Or did all the other kids back in your city just run away?"

Despite his taunting, Julan was at least not acting too overconfident. The stance he took was more than simply raised fists, it was one that he had practiced and drilled with his mother. In Elsweyr, Ri'kalesh had trained both Kaleeth and Janius in his unarmed fighting techniques, and as such, the Khajiit martial arts had been a part of his own training. He was, of course, very much a novice, but he was still trained beyond just throwing punches on instinct.




Both of Ahnasha's parents showed their confusion in the silence that followed Fendros' comment. Ahnasha did everything she could to think quickly, though S'nashi still had time to question what was going on. "I'm...not sure I understand. What is he talking about, dear?"

"Fendros, you...really don't need to frighten my mother like that." Ahnasha began, frantically piecing together her story in her mind as she spoke it. "Mother, he has always just been somewhat dubious about teleportation since Meesei first told him about it. Supposedly there have been some mages that have made mistakes using it, but they weren't Meesei. I assure you that we are perfectly safe, mother. She's teleported hundreds, if not thousands of times, with no mistakes."

S'nashi took hold of Ahnasha's hands. "I'm sure she has, but if there's a chance it could be dangerous, maybe you should..."

"It's alright, mother." Ahnasha interrupted. "If you really are worried, we can make sure to only ever use it sparingly. I promise."

Ahnasha's web of lies were becoming more and more twisted and complex, and it did not seem that she was stopping. The look she gave Fendros as soon as she turned away from her family made her anger quite apparent. "Fendros, maybe you should head back now. You know your mother is expecting to meet up with you before heading back home, and it is getting late."
Julan was taken off-guard and was unable to speak for a few moments as he was catching his breath. Despite being younger, Narsi was certainly able to throw a punch, though it was nothing more than anything Julan had to endure before. By the time Rhazii was finished berating her, Julan had recovered with only his anger left to show for the attack. And there was no mistaking that he was indeed angry.

Julan marched up and stood over Narsi, practically growling and locking eyes with her. "Then maybe I should just do it instead? You hit me with a cheap shot, then just run away and hide when it looks like you're going to have to actually fight? You're definitely not from a clan. You're just a soft little city-dweller. So I'm challenging [/i]you[/i]. Come on, fight me, coward!"




Between the two of them, Ahnasha was the one who tended to be better at lying, and in this case, she did at least have something in mind before the silence grew too long. As usual, it was to mostly tell the truth. "Well, he's really only good at wards right now. The protective magic, the one that guards against incoming spells. He had a lot of trouble learning as a child, but he did know enough that our friend Meesei was able to help him with wards. Fendros is an Atronach. Or, um, born under the birthsign of the Atronach, that is. It means he can't replenish his own magicka very easily, but apparently, Atronachs are naturally good at absorbing magic. Like with wards."

The specifics of magic and the celestial influence of birthsigns was something that went far above her family's heads, which was what Ahnasha was counting on in this case. It made them more likely to just accept what she was saying at face value. Most of what she said was true, even if it was not the full story, so they could not easily contradict her.

"Right, your mage friend." S'nashi replied, still looking visibly nervous as she spoke of her. "I'll be honest, the whole idea of her...teleporting you all across the world still terrifies me. But...if she can really let you move so far, so quickly, then maybe you can come visit us more often? As long as it is completely safe, of course."
"You're just going to have to deal with not being the best around anymore." Julan remarked, following Rhazii's lead and stepping up in front of Narsi in the training area. "You were trained by your mother, right? So when you were in your city, it was just her that was better. But now it's most of us. You try to laugh at me, but do you know what I had to do for my rite?"

By this point, Julan's agitation showed, at least subtly, through his slightly barred teeth. "I had to fight someone older than me who had been fighting longer, with real weapons. I had a spear put through my leg, and had to just keep fighting if I wanted to win. You just gave up as soon as you thought you couldn't beat me, and I hadn't even hurt you yet. I...guess it's good you at least want to get better, though. And you are tougher than a lot of others your age. It might not take as many years for you to become a warrior."

Julan gave a quick glance towards Rhazii. "Maybe we should see how she does with fists?"




It was not immediate for any of Ahnasha's family to pick up on Fendros' lie, but he did not get away with it. It was actually Vasiq who commented on it, though by his tone, he did not even realize what he implied until he had already said it. "I suppose it makes sense that you would've gotten a lot of practice back then. I don't know why your father was so surprised when you were able to cast a ward."

Ahnasha shifted nervously. She wanted to come up with some excuse, on Fendros' behalf, but she had to be careful on what she said, and when. If she just leaped into making excuses for him right away, then her parents would know to be suspicious.

Gwindir raised his brow at Fendros. "Yes, didn't...your mother say you had trouble with magic?"
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