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"I would say you were right to have your initial assumptions, Calia." Meesei remarked after Marod went on his way. "I would not really say this is our natural state. Lycans have always led more simple lives, out in the wilderness. Larger clans mostly just helped smaller packs to find safe territory. Our organization has grown from necessity. Your son was infected before all of this, and has helped us grow into what you see before you."

Once they reached the base of one of the towers, Meesei stopped, now looking and speaking directly to Rossarm, instead of the group in general. "I made sure to have quarters prepared for you. I can take you to them now, if you would rather not carry your belongings with you everywhere. I could also give you a tour of our city, answer any questions, or let you have time alone to say goodbye to your wife, if you wish. Granted, it would not be an unreasonable burden for me to allow Calia to visit somewhat frequently. We should meet with the other armies' leadership soon to determine how best you can help us, but we are not in any immediate rush."




Hal-Neesa grunted, perhaps seeming moderately annoyed. "The legate, that Thalmor, your Khajiit, they are always...pestering me with their questions. What to expect from rare Daedra, what Vile's realm will be like, how to provide any forward scouting for the invasion. They want 'useful military information' out of me. So, I'm doing exactly what was asked." She said, gesturing to the Oculory. "Here is their 'useful military information'. Provided your people haven't damaged it beyond repair. They are like children playing around with fire salts."

Glancing over to a table on the far side of the room, Neesa telekinetically pulled over a glowing chunk of rock to her hand and marched up in front of Sabine, holding it in front of her. "Did you know they actually brought raw Aetherium in here? Lorkhan knows what they were even trying to accomplish with it. Aetherium is harmonically volatile, do you have any idea what can happen if it's exposed to the wrong kind of resonance? Don't answer, of course you don't. Point is, you and your people are stupid children breaking the adults' things, so I'm going to take my valuable time to get it working so we can use it. Assuming the parts exist."

Hal-Neesa looked down on Sabine, literally and figuratively. She did not seem too angry, but at no point had she even been pleasant to be around. "You should thank me, by the way. I do not normally put so much personal attention into projects for anyone else's benefit, so you should feel beyond honored that I am gifting you even some of my knowledge."
Despite Fendros' obvious discomfort, Meesei upheld her friendly attitude towards Calia. Rossarm, even if he chose not to acknowledge it, would still at least be hearing everything she said. "It used to be that way, at one time. Back before all of this. But, our struggle against Vile has challenged us, made us stronger. More organized by necessity. We've had to adapt in order to stay alive. Lycans may be half-beasts, but the half of us that is man or woman is still just as capable as before."

It was quite the long climb up the stairs to the Silent City itself, so Meesei kept the pace slow enough that everyone could comfortably keep up. Heading through the second gate into the main courtyard brought them into a bustling crowd, as it was currently the busiest time of day in the city. While the courtyard was used for many purposes in their clan, it was currently like an outdoor market. Nearly every day, traders from other clans would come through the propylon chambers to sell or barter with residents of the Silent City, or even other clans entirely. The city had developed naturally as a hub for the other clans as Meesei had expanded their network of propylon chambers to more and more of them. Although, few chambers actually led directly to Blackreach, so it could require transit through several chambers to actually reach it from any given clan.

"Marod, I thank you for your help, even if we did not end up needing it. You can get back to your work now if you like; I am sure we will be fine from here on out." Meesei remarked to him, stopping briefly in place after they stepped through the gate. Among the other sights around them, a Dwemer sphere rolled past them in its patrol of the courtyard, paying no mind to anyone or anything around it.




All of the scholars present obeyed Sabine's command without question, perhaps due to her authority, or simply because the prospect of not having to deal with Hal-Neesa themselves was an appealing one. Either way, all that was left was for her pack to head inside and confront the vampire. Do'rhajul slowly returned his sword to its scabbard, and instead kept his hand tight on his shield. He stepped up close beside Sabine, enough that they were almost touching. "If something should happen, I will be right by your side to guard you."

Just inside the large Dwemer doors was a lift that took the group up to the level of the Oculory. It was difficult to tell exactly how far up it was, but the mechanism did seem to reside close to the surface. They passed a few spiders carrying the scholars' assorted belongings back to the lift, but they did not disturb them as they made their way through to the Oculory chamber, and up the spiral ramp to the top of the device. There were two Dwemer spheres that rolled up to them as they reached the top, but they did not raise weapons towards them. Not by default, at least.

In the middle of the Oculory, Sabine would finally see Hal-Neesa at last. She was leaned over one of the metal arms hanging down from the mechanism hanging above them, inspecting one of the joints and muttering to herself in a language Sabine could not understand. Though, it was certainly not Jel. She wore a long, flowing, and colorful dress with silk wrappings around her waist, curiously in a Redguard style. The vampire had a seemingly endless supply of elegant, expensive outfits, given that Sabine would never have seen her wearing the same one twice, despite all of the time for which she had been their guest. Neesa noticed the arrival of Sabine and her pack right away, but only glanced at her for a brief moment before returning to her task. "Hmph, the apprentice. Not the Champion, but I suppose you'll do. I'm guessing those fools you call scholars complained about me? Well, you should be sure to tell them to be thankful for my abundance of mercy. Normally, I'd kill someone for what they've apparently been doing to this machine in the name of 'research.' Indeed, despite my frustration, I made a specific effort not to cause any bodily harm to them, so they should be safe and sound, yes? Or did one of them find some way to hurt themselves on the way out? Which, given their middling intelligence, would absolutely not surprise me."
They had quickly received permission to land, so Eeruna wasted no time in bringing them down to the surface. From the quite limited information their docking instructions gave them, they would be landing in a place called Dantoo Town. Based on the view from above as they approached, it was, all things considered, a fairly large town, but the fact that it was also one of the larger settlements on the planet also painted a clear picture of how sparsely populated the planet was. The landing pads were simply out in the open around the edge of the town, and slightly elevated above the grass. Most of them were not in use, so there was no delay before they could land the ship.

Kresst, Mevenn, and Eeruna all walked down the loading ramp together. C2 rolled down just behind them as well, though the droid got to work immediately on inspecting the exterior of the ship for any additional damage their sensors might have missed. As for the rest of them, it was not terribly clear where they needed to go to actually speak with the port authority, but fortunately, they did not have to wait long to find out. It was only moments after they left the ship that a Human man came walking out onto the landing pad. He looked older, with a thick, greying beard, and a simple drab green uniform with few identifiable markings. His eyes naturally went to the ship immediately, and the visible damage on its hull.

"Looks like you all have been into some trouble. You weren't scheduled to be here, so I'm taking the guess that the trouble brought you here?" The man remarked.
"Of course..." Meesei began, closing her eyes to focus on piecing together the last parts of the spell. Finally, and with a substantial expenditure of magicka, the glowing red portal opened in front of her. "...then we may leave right away." She said, gesturing to the portal.

Meesei had to be the last one through, as it made it far easier to hold the portal open, but her pack led the way to show that her magic could be trusted. As usual, she brought them straight to the base of the tall stairway leading up to the Silent City, their home and fortress within Blackreach. And indeed, it did have the appearance of both. From what Meesei had seen of Rossarm so far, she was not expecting any signs of awe, or even any outward appreciation for their home from him, but she could at least still give a proper welcome to Calia. Indeed, there was, right away, much to see around them that almost certainly defied her expectation of what a lycan clan would be. There were properly constructed battlements around the perimeter of the city and professionally equipped warriors serving as guards for it. As imposing as the city was above them, the natural beauty of the glowing cavern around them could also be a worthy competitor for her attention.

"Welcome to our home; our...secret sanctuary in Tamriel." Meesei began, directing her words more towards Calia. "Granted, it is not as much of a secret now as I might like, but we've all had to make sacrifices in our struggle against Vile. Still, we only bring people in through teleportation, so the location of any physical entrance is still our secret to keep, at least. Indeed, the majority of my own people would not know how to get here otherwise."




Do'rhajul remained cautious, but kept his distance a fair few steps back from the scholars. They would have to know who he was since he was with Sabine, but he found that he tended to make members of the clan nervous just by being around them. He had kept his shield wrapped in cloth while in the city, but here, he kept Spellbreaker held in his off-hand. If the worst did indeed come to pass, an unbreakable ward would be a valuable asset in dealing with Neesa. The Breton scholar they had with them, who had introduced himself as Francois, only recognized the Khajiit after seeing the shield, and was now standing considerably closer to the Argonian.

Of the group that Sabine approached, the Altmer man was the one to stand to meet her, either as the leader, or simply as the most calm among them. Although, calm was a relative term, as his hands still shook slightly. It only took a brief moment for the Altmer to recognize the pack that approached him, especially given that they had arrived through teleportation. "Oh, thank Hircine! Yes, ma'am, of course. I'm so glad you're here. If anyone is capable of dealing with this, it would have to be the Dragonslayer." He smiled at Sabine. "It was that vampire woman, that...unholy reptile. She just appeared here; I didn't even hear her come through the door. We were all up in the Oculory, and suddenly she was there demanding we show her what we were doing. I was going to tell her to leave, but then she just...looked at me." The man explained, showing a familiar shiver.

"I did what she asked, but even just showing her around and explaining our experiments for a minute or two was enough to make her furious." The Altmer scholar continued. "I don't know why, or what specifically brought it on, but she demanded we gather up everything we have here and leave immediately."

Crossing his arms, the man soon glared over at the Altmer woman sitting on an overturned crate nearby. "Then my idiot sister just had to get the bright idea in her head to try to use the automatons: the spheres and spiders we have here to protect us, to try and threaten her into leaving us alone. What she did after that...I still don't understand. She just laughed, the vampire, that is. She laughed and spoke a few words I didn't understand. They might have even been Dwemer, but I'm not sure. She just said those few words, and suddenly, the automatons just wouldn't listen to us anymore. Then she turned them against us."

Do'rhajul gripped his sword tighter. "She attacked you with the automatons?"

The Altmer man scratched his head for a second, only giving a quick, cautious glance to Do'rhajul before returning his gaze to Sabine. "Um, no, they didn't attack us really. They just sort of ushered us out of the tower."

Soon after, Sabine would see some movement from the large, open door leading into the tower, just behind the scholars. A single Dwemer spider was carrying a rough cloth bag in its pincers, clattering with the sounds of whatever objects were inside. It released the bag next to the pile of items collected outside of the tower, then turned back around without interruption.

"She's also been having them drag out our belongings for some reason. Clumsy machines broke my alembic, too." The man added.
Meesei gave a nod in response to Calia. "Yes, quite far, in fact. But, that matters little when I can bring us there immediately." She answered, and it did not take long for them to move safely beyond the sight of the city for her to elaborate through action. They stopped just off of the road, in an appropriately secluded spot in the woods, at which point Meesei began to charge her spell to open the portal. Brilliant red energies swelled around her hands as her entire being was charged with the substantial amount of magicka required to complete the spell. Even with as practiced as Meesei had become, it still took some time for her to complete a portal. It was derived from the same sort of magic that had been used in the propylon chambers of ancient Dunmer ruins, so depending upon Rossarm and Calia's life experiences, the energy might even feel familiar.

"Forgive me if I am being too presumptuous, but I am assuming you are going to want to return to your home, Calia. Even so, both Fendros and Ahnasha trust you, and you have been sworn to secrecy, so I can still allow you to join us and see where your husband will be for the duration of his stay with us, if you would like. I do think that it is only right that you be able to see the company he will be keeping in the coming weeks. I can bring you back here at any time, just as easily and quickly." Meesei explained.




Based on his demeanor, Sabine's reply appeared to satisfy Saras. "Very well, then I will await your report once you return." He replied, evidently trusting that Sabine and her pack would be able to handle the situation.

The Breton scholar, meanwhile, still looked around nervously. "So, um, do you still need me to make a 'connection' to the tower for your teleporting? Or can I go now? Or, um...can I return to my duties, that is?"

Regardless of whether or not Sabine took the fastest possible option to reach the tower, she would still be unable to reach it ahead of Hal-Neesa. The vampire, too, evidently had rather quick means of travel. All of the scholars that had been studying the oculory were now outside, gathered around haphazard piles of their belongings and research materials. There were only a small handful of them: an Imperial, Redguard, and two Altmer siblings. Most looked confused, angry, or even frightened, but none of them would appear to be hurt in any way, at least.
"Wonderful." Meesei answered, albeit in a rather dry tone. "Then we should not waste any time. We should take our leave of the city so that I can speak more freely, then I can take us to...where we need to go."

Just as she said, Meesei wasted no time in taking the lead towards the door. Ahnasha stood up as well, deciding that it would be best to stay with the group to help in the unlikely event that there was any trouble, but she did intend to have Meesei or Sabine bring her back sometime within the next few hours. She did not want to leave matters with her own family as they were right at the moment. She knew she needed to talk with them, and she was not going to let them leave the city without doing so.

For the moment, however, Ahnasha followed the group out of the inn, then out of the city through the nearby west gate. Meesei was on alert the entire time, watching and listening for anyone unexpected that might be around them. She made particularly sure that they were safely beyond the city, and that no guards, citizens, or anyone else was close enough to hear before she continued to speak. "Once we are somewhere that is sufficiently private, I will take us to my clan's home. It is the neutral ground on which the Empire, Dominion, and my people are staging the...final phase of this war against Vile. Once we are there, we will get you settled in with you own chambers, and I will arrange for a meeting between you, myself, the Empire's Legate General, and the Dominion's commander to determine where your skills can be put to the best use."




Again, the scholar was slow and nervous in his response. "Yes...well, relatively close, compared to a lot of the other ruins. It's just an hour or two walk from here, right along the road south just outside the city. It's patrolled by our automatons, so it's safe to walk."

Saras quickly interjected before Sabine could reply. "I take it you have been to the tower in question, yes?" He asked the scholar, who replied with a somewhat confused nod.

Saras turned his attention back to Sabine. "I seem to recall that the teleportation that you and the Champion use requires a...connection with the destination. And that you can use someone else's connection to make the portal as well, yes? If so, then his memories should be sufficient for you to simply teleport directly to the tower, hopefully ahead of Neesa. There is just the matter of deciding who, if anyone, you wish to bring. It is at your discretion if you wish to bring any number of warriors or mages to assist you, but if I could give you my counsel, I would like to point out that this is just as much a diplomatic concern as it is a security concern. Hal-Neesa does represent Molag Bal's interests. The vampire did brazenly spy on us, just as she has been doing from the very day she arrived here..." Saras said, revealing a hint of resentment in his voice. "...but, by his description of events, she is yet to make any sort of threat against anyone. That is a fact you may wish to consider when making your decision."
Kresst took the clothing that Mevenn offered without any argument, and indeed, his tone was still somewhat upbeat. "What fortune for us. Perhaps, even with all that has happened, the Force is still with us. I shall go change and ready myself to act the part of diplomat. Though, thinking about it, perhaps I should not be a diplomat for Mrlsst, specifically. The planet is on the exact opposite side of the Core, after all...with a population of non-Mrlssi over five billion strong, and several universities of galaxy-wide fame. There is a non-insignificant chance that someone here might be familiar with it."

As Kresst left the cockpit, Eeruna spoke with the port authority at one of the planet's few cities, though "large town" might have been a more accurate description. The whole of the planet was only sparsely populated, especially by galactic standards. She had sent the ship's ID codes, and as of yet, there did not seem to be any unusual delays or anything else that might be considered suspicious. But, only time would tell if they were going to have problems sooner rather than later.

Eeruna looked back over her shoulder towards Mevenn. "Whatever story you go with, I need to talk with a parts trader. Luckily, all the parts we're going to need are pretty standard, but still...let's just hope this middle-of-nowhere little town actually has what we need. And that we can still spend these Republic credits we have. I mean, I certainly don't think that the Empire would go and invalidate their own currency, since that sounds like a stupid idea. But, I also wouldn't have thought that the Senate would vote to install an autocratic Empire, so what do I know?"

It did not take long for Kresst to change and return to the others. He had simply selected whichever set of clothes he felt could be passed off as the most expensive, though none of them had been particularly lavish by any means. For the role he was meant to be playing, he at least needed to be able to give the appearance of being moderately well-off. He was wearing a long, blue shirt with simple red an orange patterns that looked intentionally loose-fitting and somewhat covered his comparatively plain trousers. He also wore a thin red shawl wrapped around his neck and shoulders, which looked to be more for decoration than warmth. Anything that might look out of place on him, most notably his lightsaber, he kept on the belt he was wearing under his clothes.
Meesei stood up alongside Fendros, though with a look of considerably more calm than he. It was far from the first time that she had needed to deal with a powerful "ally", so even the palpable tension in the room was not enough to break her composure. At the very least, the fact that Rossarm was present at all should be encouraging. Meesei doubted that he would walk all the way to the city just to refuse. She had no problem breaking the silence, and being the first to address him.

"Rossarm Avarul..." Meesei began, giving a polite nod in greeting to him. She had yet been given no reason to break from formality. "...it is a pleasure to meet you. I am Meesei; I take it your wife has informed you of the...matter we came here to discuss? Have you decided to accept the offer?" She asked. They were still in a public place, so there was a need to speak discretely.




Following Sabine's question, Saras gestured to the scholar. "If you would, please."

It took a few seconds for the short, somewhat nervous Breton man to register Saras' request in his mind, after which he spoke at a slightly rushed pace. "Oh, sorry, I...well, yes, she did. Or, not in detail or anything but...sort of. See, I was returning to my workplace after going to retrieve some Dwemer oil. I needed it to test a theory I had about the Dwemer spiders and their...um, sorry," He interrupted once he realized he was getting sidetracked. "Anyways, when I got back, I saw the vampire there reading some of my research notes. I didn't recognize that she was the vampire at first, and I was about to start yelling at her to get away from my things, but then she turned and...looked at me."

The Breton scholar actually seemed to shiver when he recalled the memory. "I don't know what happened, but I just sort of...froze up. I couldn't speak, until she started asking me questions. She asked about the Dwemer machine we found in the Tower of Mzark: the one to the south, I think, of the Silent City. She demanded to know why she hadn't been told about it, then I told her that no one had told us to tell her about the oculory...then she berated me for about a minute straight for calling it an 'oculory'. After that, she demanded to speak to the Champion. I told her I would try to inform the Champion, but then she stormed off. I followed her outside and, I could be wrong, but I think she went ahead towards the oculory anyways. I...think there are still some scholars researching there today, so..."
Kresst gave a concerned look towards Mach as Mevenn was voicing her opinion, to which he, regretfully, nodded in agreement. "Yes, while it would make me more comfortable if we could all stay together, I think the cautious approach may be the best one here. You may also wish to stay away from the comms, Mach. If something does go wrong, and the Empire does find us here, we don't want to risk you being given the same order that forced your comrades against us." He explained, letting out a soft sigh. "I still don't know what it is that causes it, but whatever it is, whatever implants or...psychological conditioning you have, we will do whatever we can to help free you from it once we reach safety."

Breaking up the rather severe mood of the situation they were in, Eeruna was scratching her head and giving a few, seemingly genuinely confused looks between Mevenn and Kresst. "I mean I...doubt I have anything better for him than you do. All my clothes would be a few dozen sizes too large for him. I...let's see, I'm sure there's plenty enough cloth around if you wanted to make something, but I don't know how to sew. Do you know how to sew...because I don't." She repeated, dropping her arms down to her sides and shrugging. "What would your kind even wear? Something with...feathers?" She asked, though after a few seconds, she realized that it probably sounded like a rather stupid guess.

Kresst, however, merely laughed. "I think I have plenty enough feathers on me already, I don't think I shall be needing any more. No, I don't think the people of Mrrlst wear clothes that are too different from many other places. I think bright colors are in fashion right now, if I recall correctly." The simple subject of what to wear seemed like such a trivial, or even silly matter to worry about at the moment, but perhaps that was not a bad thing. With everything else that was going on, having something that was not life-or-death to focus their energy on, even if just for a short time, might help to clear their heads.
Eeruna looked back over her shoulder towards Mevenn. "You're probably right on that. It's a guarantee that the Empire is going to be tracking us. It's easy enough to lie about who we are and what we're doing, but we can't lie about the ship's ID codes. Still...this place is remote, and there are plenty of places like it we could gone to from where we jumped. Even if they've put out an alert on this ship, I doubt word of it would've gotten here yet. Best to get in and out quickly, though, unless you just love tempting fate. The ship isn't exactly in danger of falling apart or anything, but unless we at least get that engine fixed up, we're not going to be surviving another encounter like that."

Kresst, by this point, had managed to walk off any soreness from the battle. He had strapped himself in as suggested, but as with so many other things in the galaxy, his seat's restraints had not been ideal for one of his size. Nevertheless, he was unharmed and focused on their current task: survival. "You both make fair points. We likely should not plan on staying here for too long. This is a vessel for Republic diplomats, so we should follow the most reasonable explanation. We were returning from a diplomatic mission and were beset by pirates, but managed to escape with some minor damage. And I do agree that it would be wise not to associate ourselves with the Jedi Order in any way."

Pausing a moment, Kresst too looked up and down Mevenn's clone armor. "Though, I think the same might be said for the Republic military. It would not be unusual for diplomats to receive a clone escort, but to the best of my knowledge, there are not any female clones. We may both wish to disguise ourselves. Although...I do not actually have any clothing with me that are not Jedi robes. I don't suppose you have anything in my size, do you?" Kresst's beak was not exactly capable of forming a smile, but there was some recognizable humor in his tone.
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