Early Morning, 5th of Last Seed
Castle Dour, Chapel of the Nine
"It'll ease your nerves, at the very least."
"I really don't see how it's going to help. They never really have before, that's not their way-"
"But have you ever really done it with sincerity? Token offerings will be met with token blessings, after all."
"Fine, if you honestly think it'll do something..."
"I do. Come on, there's no one else here yet. We'll be done and out before you know it."
Opening the chapel doors let out a pleasant fragrance of lavender and incense, the caretakers just having set up everything for the day's services. The braziers still burned warmly, providing light where the still-struggling sun could not. Priests and priestesses wandered, performing their morning duties while chatting and praying quietly to themselves, though a few gave Sagax and Piper friendly smiles as they passed. Piper averted her own gaze as they went by, looking her best to appear like she was very interested in the ceiling. Sagax could tell his sister felt uncomfortable being around so many strangers and a definitely bit vulnerable without her armor, so he stuck close by as he would in their youth.
"So, who will you pray to today? Maybe all of them?"
"All? Uh, no...no. I don't think Mara would care too much for my prayers, and Dibella...I don't particularly enjoy the 'blessings' she's given me. No, Stendarr will be enough for me." Shaking the focus off of herself, Piper returned the question. "What about you? Mara like usual?"
"Of course. I haven't prayed to the Mother in a while." Adding jokingly, "I've been a neglectful child." he said as he smiled.
Letting Piper make her way to Stendarr's altar on her own without any further pressure, Sagax knelt in front of the statue of Mara. Yet something felt...wrong. No, he felt wrong. Looking down, he noticed that he still had his sword fastened to his belt. He'd grabbed it instinctively before leaving for the chapel, something he couldn't recall doing before; such a thing had never been so automatic before joining the company. He always remembered his personal rule: No weapons near Mara's places of worship, now it seemed his principles were starting to slip.
After very sheepishly setting the blade aside near the chapel doors, Sagax knelt again before Mara, the feeling of shame now gone. Sagax first and foremost apologized for his sacrilege before beginning proper.
"Lady Mara, across these past weeks I have begun to feel myself...slipping. Dark thoughts enter my mind, and I act out of anger instead of compassion. I...I fear that I may have pushed away a very close friend because I did not, could not, restrain my tongue and clear my thoughts of impurities. I left innocents to die, so that we could strike a blow against the Ice Demon invaders...and I do not know if the decision was right.
I feel that, as the days pass, I hold on to my blade ever tighter. I'm...scared, Mother. Scared that the darkness that has taken over so many men before myself will soon devour me as well. I do not ask forgiveness for my actions, I only ask that you guide me away from whatever dark path I may travel. Whatever happens, I hope that I will ever continue to follow your light." Pausing for a moment, he quickly added another prayer. "Ah, and as always...please, help my sister find happiness. It isn't becoming of her to be so bitter."
Letting a long sigh escape his lips, Sagax felt his anxiety drain away. With his next breath came a calming warmth that blanketed his body. He felt...well, he felt better, at the very least.
As Sagax prayed, Piper stood staring at Stendarr's altar, trying to think of something to say. She shuddered, feeling eyes upon her. Glancing around her, she saw nobody but Sagax, and heard only faint whispers coming from other parts of the chapel. Looking back at the altar, she couldn't shake the sensation of being stared at. The phantom gaze felt like it was expecting something, but it felt patient as well. Waiting for her to speak, to say anything at all.
"...I...I come to ask for your blessing, merciful Stendarr. So that I may continue to protect those I love from harm and help them lead healthy, wholesome lives." Piper stopped and went to turn around to leave, but she felt the gaze again. Her prayers ceased, but it knew she had more to say, that she needed guidance. In her head rang words that her brother had said to her frequently: "You just need to let it out, Piper. If you keep your feelings caged up, they'll fester into something horrible."
Sighing, Piper bowed her head and began praying in earnest. "Please...help me steel myself for events to come, whatever misfortune fate may bring to us. When hard times strike, let my mind be clear and my heart without bias, for without either I will tread the path of the fool. I don't want anyone to be hurt because of my negligence or ignorance. Above all..." she paused, looking back to Sagax. "Keep my brother safe. And grant mercy to my father and mother, for they have done no wrong yet they are punished as villains." As each word left her lips, Piper became more confident and emboldened, like a great fire was being kindled inside her. "If harm must come to anybody, let it be me. My parents, my brother, Varulae...they have done nothing to earn any of their suffering. If nothing else, just let them be safe. I can take anything the world could possibly throw at me."
As the Imperial left, she didn't feel the gaze any longer, as it had been replaced by a feeling of strength that went all throughout her body. She felt...happy? Yes, happy. What a strange feeling.
"Ah, all done then, Piper? Honestly, I'm surprised you didn't finish sooner." Sagax said as he came to his feet and followed his sister back out of the chapel, not forgetting to grab his sword of course.
"Well, I just was thinking is all. You told me to be sincere, so I was."
"I see." he said, pleased with his success. "So? How do you feel?"
Well, that's what she would have said if Piper hadn't stopped herself. She didn't see the need to give Sagax that level of satisfaction. "...okay. I feel pretty okay now."
"Well...better than nothing. I certainly feel better."
"Lovely. Feel like expending any of that energy helping me move those boxes? That Gustav fucker is having us unload his whole damn house it seems like."
"Oh, I'm sure you've got that covered, sister dearest. Besides, there's a few things I need to see to."
A few hours later, 5th of Last Seed
City Streets of Solitude
It felt like he had perused every shop in the city, but Sagax found nothing he needed that he could also afford. A peddler tried selling him a necklace made out of Ysgramor's teeth(which in all actuality was just a useless bit of string holding together smashed up skeever bones) which he said would grant the Imperial limitless strength, but he "politely" refused. Sagax had also come across a jeweller's stall selling amulets of the Nine. Unfortunately, being the delicately-hand-crafted pieces of art that they were, the amulet of Mara Sagax had been eyeing was simply too expensive. It would have been trivially easy to swipe it as the stallkeep turned around to advertise his wares to passersby, and it would have been incredibly dishonest for the former thief to say that the thought hadn't crossed his mind even for a second.
Store after store, stall after stall, Sagax passed by every place in Solitude that conceivably sold somethig. Hell, he even looked at shoes, but he found nothing, neither valuable supply or friendly face. Yet there was one man that looked vaguely familiar, someone that the Imperial swore he had met before. Giving his best guess, Sagax gave a stab at greeting them.
"Frald? Is that you?" he asked cautiously, afraid he was about to make a fool of himself. As the man turned around, their eye widened with pleasant surprise.
"Well, look who it is. One of the Furies of Windhelm graces me with a visit!" It was Frald indeed, but he looked so different! Or perhaps a better word would be clean. The guard's hair had been tidied up, and his face was relatively dirt-free. Most shocking of all he looked, well, awake. A far cry from the man Sagax parted ways with in Dawnstar, with heavy bags under their eyes and soot and dirt dominating their body.
"Furies of Windhelm?" Sagax asked, a quizzical expression on his face. "That's a new one."
"Aye, it's a name we decided to give you and your Breton friend...hasn't spread much, but a few others have taken to it. I think it's catchy myself!"
"So, What brings you to Solitude, short one? Here to join the force?"
"I'm afraid I won't be joining you here, no." Sagax said, shaking Frald's hand firmly. "My company is here from Dawnstar. We set sail at noon. Heading to a city in High Rock, I believe."
"Ah, I see. A shame, we've got a lot of yellow-bellies here...could use someone with your level of..." Frald's face froze in thought, trying to find a more polite word. "...of courage. Yes, courage." Sagax grinned knowingly; he understood full well what his friend meant.
"Well, at least they'll have you here to whip them into shape!" However, taking note of Frald's civilian clothing, he withdrew his assumptions. "Oh, um, or am I mistaken? I'd imagine after Windhelm, you weren't too eager to jump back into things..."
"No, no, you're right. I tried retirement for a few days, but it just didn't feel right. You know, with those demons out and about right now. Though I am on leave at the moment. Alarik's in the training yard, I believe, and I'm sure Vori's pacing along the walls somewhere."
Ah, Frald's fellow guardsmen. Sagax remembered them. Alarik had the look of a brute, but was very soft-spoken. Vori was, uh, the drunk one. The very drunk one. "I had a feeling you guys would keep together. I should probably see Vori, I don't imagine she'd be happy if I stopped by and never said hello..."
"Ah...about Vori..." Frald said slowly. There seemed to be a hint of embarrassment in his tone. "Well, what you have to understand about Vori is that she's...hm, how do I put this? She's very skittish, I guess you could say. Remember before we left, I joked to Vori about the tavern wench she was infatuated with before you?"
"Of course, though I don't think she thought it was all that funny admittedly."
"Well that's because it wasn't a joke. Really, I suppose it was an honest question, but I know her too well for it to have been anything other than rhetorical." Pausing for a moment to gauge whether or not the Imperial understood, he continued. "She's found someone else. In truth, she's forgotten all about you.
Sagax was...surprised to say the least. Vori seemed really genuine in her words and actions. Was she truly so flighty? "Um, I see...that's a little disappointing, honestly."
Frald shrugged. "That's just how she is; always been that way. Trust me...I ought to know." He ended his words quite bitterly. Sagax didn't have to think very hard about why.
"Oh well, I suppose it can't be helped. As they say, there's plenty of fish in the sea. Do you know who she's with now, out of curiosity?"
Sighing and rolling his eyes, Frald's tone changed from bitterness to frustration. "Some damned milk-drinker who says he killed a dragon. Vori goes crazy for stories like that, she was so enamored with his stupid story that she didn't even look at the idiot's 'proof'. For Talos' sake, it was a mammoth tusk! He tried passing it off as a dragon's fang. Bought it hook, line and sinker though."
"Wow, really dodged an arrow there then." thought Sagax.
"She's a decent friend, but gods above she can be very shallow. I wouldn't feel too bad about it, Sagax. You deserve someone more loyal anyway. Maybe a bit less crazy than you, though." Frald smiled and lightly slapped Sagax's arm. "Someone has to hold the leash, right?"
"Ha! I don't know, I don't think many women would be able to handle my tendencies to hurl myself at danger like I did back at Windhelm. My sisters tries, but Mara knows even she has a hard time with it."
Their banter continued for a while, talking about the various events happening around Tamriel until the sun reached high into the sky. Remembering that the company was going to be taking off soon, Sagax once again parted with Frald, and they wished each other good fortunes as they went their separate ways. Frald made his way back to Castle Dour while Sagax headed for the docks and the Kynes Tear
Noon, 5th of Last Seed
"Need a hand?" quipped Sagax as he whisked one of the two boxes out of Piper's arms. "Sorry I'm a little uh, late."
"Pfft, a little late? These are the last to be loaded, you dork!" Piper responded with a sarcastic roll of her eyes. "Well, I don't think you would have been able to help much anyway. I've been hauling some pretty heavy stuff." Shifting her grip on the large, clanking crate, the Imperial woman continued. "Where've you been, anyway? You said you had things to do?"
"Oh, just to a few shops. Nothing I needed, and the things I did need I couldn't really afford..."
"Right, you guys didn't get paid."
"Yeah..." Deciding against getting onto the reliability of his employers, Sagax shifted the topic. "I bumped into a friend after my little shopping non-spree. Name's Tsleeixth, he's a pretty nice guy. Well, there's Keegan, too, but he's kind of a 'true' Altmer."
Glancing at the Argonian and elf for a brief moment, Piper snapped her head back with a scowl on her face, but not entirely directed at Sagax. "You shouldn't hang around that kind of crowd."
"What? Why? I just said, Keegan's alright and Tsleeixth's really nice..."
"Sagax, one's a High Elf, so that should say enough-"
"What about Varulae?"
"An exception to the rule! And the other one is..." Piper paused to make a sound of disgust. "An Argonian."
"Piper, if you would just take the time to talk to him, you'd find him to be pretty pleasant-"
"People are always nice at first, Sagax. But then they take off the mask, and you see them for how they are in the dark..."
Sagax just shook his head. "There it is again. You don't know what you're talking about."
"Whatever you say, but the first damn thing out of you mouth when I save your sorry ass from getting mugged better be 'oh thank you Piper, you're the best sister in the world and you're always right'!"
"And if that happens I will definitely say that...but it needs to happen first."
"Oh, it will, I'm sure of it." By then, the two had gotten to the Kyne's Tear
, where they set down their cargo with the rest.
"Sweet merciful Stendarr, finally done..." Piper said with a sharp exhale as she wiped a waterfall of sweat from her face. "Come on, let's get our stuff, I think we're casting off soon."
Hauling their own gear on board, the siblings found a comfortable place to chat on the top deck before the company finally set sail. Hopefully where they were going, the grass would be greener so to speak.