The Road Goes Ever On and On...Odin’s Birbs & Skadi
17th Sun’s Height - Morning
Meg let out a small groan as she slowly pushed herself to a sitting position, leaning heavily on her hands as she blinked away the drowsiness from her eyes. Morning's light was streaming through the boughs of the trees that kept vigil over the edge of Lake Ilinalta, where Meg and Zaveed had decided to stop for the night. It had been a long two days of travel, especially when the initial sense of victory faded to anxiety and fear that they may very well be caught. The paths they had to take were rough; perhaps they no longer traveled through daunting mountains, but rocky hills nonetheless were no easier to traverse, and by their second night Meg found herself rather exhausted. She tried to hide it from plain sight, not willing her only companion to see she was feeling some strain, but she was quite sure it was noticeable.
Still, this was actually familiar territory for her and that was something uplifting. Letting out yet another groan, Meg finally stood up, dusting the dirt and pine nettles off of her clothes before stretching out her stiff muscles; a smile came to her lips when she heard her back give a satisfying crack. With that done, she made her way to the lip of the lake, happy to wash the sleep away.
Carefully hunkering down, unwilling to slip and fall into the water or worse, hurt herself, Meg washed up. It was hard not to enjoy the familiar feeling of cold water against her skin, which did more than drive her sleep away. She cupped her hands together and gulped down a couple of handsfull before standing up once more. Turning around, she looked back to her sleeping spot, ready to retrieve her weapons-
Her mouth twitched downward. Oh, righ', they're gone. Well... s'pose it's better t'be alive without 'em than dead an’ with.
Zaveed had knelt beside Megana, placing his hands in the shallows of the water before completely submerging his head for several seconds, a steady stream of bubbles streaming and popping around his head. When he emerged, he let out a relieved gasp before sitting on his ass, beginning to pull his boots off of his feet.
It was funny how a shared ordeal brought two people together; ordinarily, Zaveed and Megana wouldn’t have said more than a few polite words together, but after Meg’s quick thinking and resourcefulness, both seemed to be home free and having slept alongside one another and taken turns on watch, as well as scavenging what food they could find, the Khajiit felt a closeness and fondness for the Nord and found her to be most agreeable company. Oftentimes companionship and being forced with one person for two days strained even the best of friendships, but if anything, they both kept each other’s spirits up. Zaveed doubted even spending time with Sevari would have been anywhere near as pleasant.
“So, how much further do you think? I dreamt of a sugar steak as large as my head last night, and I nearly cried for how divine it seemed. Then I woke up to the sound of two squirrels fucking before I could even take a bite.” Zaveed sighed, shaking a pebble from his boot and flexing his toes. “Should’ve killed the damn squirrels.” he muttered ruefully.
Meg's mouth twitched yet again, but this time into a smile that shifted to a laugh, finding the khajiit man's words a little too hilarious to simply stay quiet. "Looks like I gotta be used t'that sorta thing cuz t'was the sun tha' woke me up." She pursed her lips, trying to remember what she had dreamed of before shaking her head. "I can' remember wha' I saw. Maybe a good thin' though, no nightmares!"
Chewing on her lips and turning back towards the creek with her arms akimbo, she looked away from where they had come from and in an eastward direction instead. "Hrm... If I'm thinkin' right... we should pro'ly try an' find a safer plac an' wait awhile..." She cast an unsure glance in Zaveed's direction. "I'm thinking the others must be headin' this way too?" At least that was her hope, she really didn't want to think of them caught by the dwemer. "If we go on jus' a li'l bit longer, maybe a couple o' hours, we could reach Falkreath. I..." Again she hesitated before blurting it out. "I dunno if the dwemer's already took it down but maybe
it's still doin' fine. It could be worth checkin'."
Zaveed nodded tiredly, slipping his tired feet into the water. At least this
felt kind of like home. “We’ve no idea what the Dwemer have done with the cities here, or if they’ve even occupied, attacked, or razed them all.” he remarked thoughtfully, letting the water slip between his clawed toes. When was the last time he’d walked this much? Was walking always this exhausting? He couldn’t remember; there was only so much space on a ship deck to stretch one’s legs, and portside towns tended to have everything close enough for a drunk man to find his way from his ship to the nearest tavern or brothel without much fuss. This land of finger-sized bugs that were like irritatingly miniscule vampires and animals that screamed worse than gulls was taking some adjustment on his part.
“Way I see it, if Falkreath is unmolested or merely occupied, we’re simply a pair of travellers with a hunting knife that probably won’t arouse suspicion and we can get food and wait for the others… I assume that if they’re looking for us, they’d head there, or more likely, the last time we’d seen four walls was in Gilane. Supplies, food, and soft beds are hard siren calls to ignore, believe you me.” he looked over to the Nord with icy-blue eyes and a slight smile. “Besides, the two of us have been ducking and weaving from ghosts for the past two days. If the Dwemer were going to catch us again, they would have. I’d say we’re pretty good at this scouting thing; we can see what the town is like without anyone knowing we’re there. I say it’s our best bet.”
"Yeah." Meg smiled and returned Zaveed's smile, feeling somewhat sorry for the poor man. For his first time in Skyrim, it seemed as if the land had conspired to make it his worst time here as well, and that was such a shame. "I think we make a good team, eh? Me an' you, sneakin' 'roun' like no one's business." She gave him a silly thumbs up, though her cheery mood was interrupted by a low rumble that was discernible to both their ears. Sheepishly patting her stomach, the Nord woman scratched her head with her other hand.
"Tha' bein' said, how 'bout I go an' try t'find us sommat to eat? It's still a walk an' it's gonna be a painful one with empty tums." She looked away from him, shading her eyes in hopes to see something food-worthy around them. "Bah, if only I had my bow..." Scowling slightly, she glanced at Zaveed. "Yer missin' your axes too, sorry 'bout tha'. Kinda feel like I never saw you withou' 'em, t'be honest."
Zaveed returned the thumb’s up, slumping down, back into the grass. “I’ll get a new set, I’ve gone through a few axes in my time. Always end up calling them the same damn things, anyways. The Dwemer-made things were too heavy for my tastes, anyways.” he said, ignoring the rumblings in his own stomach. He was no stranger to hunger.
“I’d offer my services, but unless it has gills, I’m afraid I’m not sure how to catch food on land, and if you told me to find some berries or mushrooms or whatever the hell grows in these lands, I’d find the kind that give you explosive shits before killing you.” he chuckled, rubbing his eyes with his palms. “You’re from these parts, aren’t you? Your spirits seem to be high, despite everything we’ve gone through since crossing the border.”
It was nice to hear words that had her brooding over losing her weapons shift into a laugh. "I am!" Finally quieting her giggles, Meg was unable to keep the pride out of her voice when she replied his question. "I'm sorry it ain' been real nice to ya, but Skyrim's where I'm from an' been m'home 'til I left for the Jerall expedition." She stomped on the ground. "This here's not my usual wanderin' ground, but I've been 'round here 'nough not t'get lost I s'pose. The Reach though... I'd keep outta there. So maybe in a way I'm also kinda glad we're movin' east!"
She looked up at the sky before looking to Zaveed, giving him a smirk. "Y'know, it could be worse, like for real? There used t'be dragons
flyin' 'round these parts, shoutin’ an’ breathin’ fire or frost. Sure made wanderin’ hard. The Dovahkiin took care o' that though, thank Mara."
Zaveed had heard stories about dragons, but he had a hard time picturing massive lizards flying around. How would that even work, he wondered with a slight smirk. Then again, he never thought he’d see a ship fly, and the Dwemer sure cleared up that conception in a hurry. “I’ll have to take your word for it, something that flies around is hardly a sporting fight, is it?” he asked, regarding some puffy white cloud with fleeting interest, imagining the large winged lizard darting between the floating cream-like clouds.
"Skyrim is beautiful." Zaveed conceded before he gave up an amused snort. "It's funny, I have never been this far in land in my entire life. The world seems impossibly huge to me now I've walked a quarter of it." He held a hand in front of his eyes, inspecting his claws. "I didn't think it was possible to feel so homesick."
Meg returned her glance skyward, a look of understanding passing over her features as she thought over Zaveed's words. "Nah, it’s very possible," she finally replied, looking over at the Khajiit once more. "M'whole life I wanted t'go out an' see the rest of the world, not jus’ stay in one town an’ be like… someone who lugged crates of mead. Skyrim, treasure huntin’ an’ tomb raidin’, tha’ was jus' the beginnin', y'know?" She laughed, but it was one filled with scorn for herself. "When I left on this trip, I was thinkin' I'd be in for an adventure, that I'd come outta the dwemer ruins with loads o' shit t'sell, make lotsa septims, head out an' see what else there's t'see. Tamriel's so big, righ'?"
Half smile twisting her lips, Meg shook her head disdainfully at how naive her thoughts then had been. "We left the mountains after all that... disaster, headed to Imperial City. Didn't take more'an three days for shit t'go down. Honest, I though' I was gonna die. I never saw so many dead... so much blood..." Her lips trembled and her hands curled into fists, remembering how she'd barely managed to sneak through the streets of corpses before escaping with the rest. "We went t'Skingrad from there... that's abou' where we met up with a lot o' the others, Raelynn, Gregor, Jaraleet..." She paused, scuffing the ground with her boot before continuing. "Had t'leave again ‘cause of the Dominion forcin’ its neb there, headed for Anvil, took us wha’, ten days? Over there-"
Biting her lip, she shook her head vehemently, the memory of Rhea’s death still too raw for her to mention. "Sorry, didn' mean t'blather. Jus’... I know how y’feel, bein’ so far from what yer used to. It ain’ easy, y’feel like y’don’ know anythin’, y’feel lonely, alone… Guess tha’s why I finally feel a li’l free again. The land, the sky, the air, it’s all what I’m used to. Even if I havta go roun’ skulkin’, it’s still my home.” Damp green eyes met ice blue ones and she smiled. “I’m bettin’ when ya get back to the sea, you’ll feel good again.”
“Most assuredly.” Zaveed agreed with a wry smile, a sympathetic glint in his eye. Megana’s story was certainly one he empathized with, even if it was his own nation that was responsible for a large part in her personal tragedy. The Dominion, the Empire, whatever the Dwemer clans would one day call their union… they were all the same. The common person suffered no matter who held the yolk, and Zaveed knew all too well what that was like as a boy who felt his only option was to escape Senchal on a ship. What a choice that was.
Sevari, likewise, was a man who was twisted and used by the Empire, even if he thought they treated him better than anyone else ever did or would. ”Hey boy, want to avenge your family? Become our knife in the dark and slaughter more families for us and we’ll make it happen.”
they said, giving a grieving young boy a door down a darker, more insidious path. Zaveed doubted his brother had ever truly been happy, and he felt like Sevari would break if he ever allowed himself a moment to let himself be free of some ass-minded sense of obligation to an Empire that had already tried to murder him with his biological brother once already. Had he ever had companionship that he didn’t suspect ulterior motives or hostile intent? Did he trust anyone?
Maybe there was no saving the broken man who wore Sevari’s skin, but Zaveed wasn’t about to give up on him. Maybe one day Marassa and Sevari would make up, maybe one day none of them would have to pick up a blade again and actually be a family like they were supposed to be this entire time.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
Zaveed of Senchal was, if anything, a pragmatist. He didn’t truly believe in fairy tales, despite entertaining the allure, afterall.
He realized that his countenance must have had a dark cloud hanging over it, so he shook his head, and forced himself to smile. “Sorry, you just reminded me of family. Truth be told, I’m surprised you’re so accepting of who and what I am, Megana. Agent of the Dwemer, Privateer for the Dominion… the allegiances I’ve held have brought you no small amount of discord and horror.” Zaveed said, letting out a long breath, holding it as he collected his thoughts.
“I didn’t ask for the life I’d been put on, and my loyalty was always to my brother and sister before anything, no matter what colours I wore. I needed to survive, I had
to survive. I’ve had so many people call me a coward or a traitor or any other colourful turn of phrase to describe me for doing just about every choice I’ve made. I’ve tortured and murdered, I’ve plundered and destroyed so many lives along the way, I can’t say I blame them. I was never truly loyal to the Dominion; it was something I was born into and then forced to serve. Why question the source of your income and food when you grew up without?” he asked, sitting up, placing an arm over his knee as he stared out over the water.
“Then Sevari came back into my life and complicated it all, his job he gave my crew that ended up losing my ship and everyone I’ve served with for years and years notwithstanding. People have called me craven for taking the Dwemer’s deal; serve them and maybe I could earn my independence and have a place in this new empire. Thing is, all I did was hand my leash from one master to the next, and I cared not for either of them. I’m still that scared, starving young cub in the streets of Senchal who would gladly break the law if it meant going to sleep with a full stomach. I would have still been with them had the Dominion not come back into my life and my stupid brother decided his idiot agenda of vengeance was more important than what family he had left.” Zaveed’s voice was terse, his fingers flexing irritably as he stared unblinking ahead.
“Sevari would have died, and he blames the man my sister took as a lover for his father’s crimes. He refused to carry out his personal vendetta because of that, and that is what ended up having him tossed in a cell… and he still thinks Marassa hates him even though she was the one who gave him the fucking key to get out. I don’t know what to do with the man, but if he keeps walking this idiot path of his, he’s going to die miserable and alone and I’m going to lose him again!” Zaveed’s voice reached a crescendo, nearly shouting, before he caught himself and he seemed to deflate. He leaned forward, his arms wrapped around his knees as his chin rested upon them, letting out a heavy, defeated sigh.
“I try not to let people see that their hatred and distrust wear me down, what do I care? I am Zaveed of Senchal, the creature in the dark that hunted and tortured so many of you, took so much of it. It doesn’t matter if I feel guilt for what I did, even if you lot were my enemies, nothing I say or do will ever remove the taint of who I was from their eyes.” Zaveed sniffed, wiping at his nose with a thumb. “Look, Megana… all I have left is Sevari and Sirine and I am so scared to lose them, but a part of me knows I’m never going to have my family back, and that I can never rest easy or be appreciated or trusted by these people. Alkosh knows what the hell they’re thinking about us right now; they probably think I murdered you and cooked you for breakfast or some shit. It’s just who I am to them.”
Unable to stop herself, Meg wordlessly walked over and wrapped her arms around the Khajiit man, ignoring her own sniffles and tears as she held him tightly. It hurt her deep inside, hearing the way he spoke and knowing that deep down it was probably true. Who could blame the others for thinking that about him? She herself had been skeptical about the man, but the last one month, and most especially these last two days had proven to her that it was unfair to keep looking at Zaveed with narrowed, doubting eyes.
"Yeah- well-" She sniffled and swallowed, the lump in her throat hard and painful. "Well, I
don' think tha'. Y'didn' havta stay an' help us, y'didn' havta come all the way t'Skyrim, y'didn' havta do lotsa shit y'did with the group, but y'did." She let out a breath, shaking her head. "I tol' Jaraleet, I tol' Sevari, an' I'mma tell you too- y'all aren' bad people. When- when I got t'Gilane, I didn' know what t'do, I didn' know who or what I could trust, I didn't know anythin'
. But one thin' I learned real fast was tha' I couldn' let m'self be taken down tha' dark road of mistrust an' hate.
"What y'did was bad... but it ain' any worse than Jaraleet, Sevari... Gregor... an' I think it ain' right t'judge you an' look at you with narrow eyes when it ain' like the rest o' us are squeaky clean. We all had diff lives an', well, I don' wanna be the kinda person who's gonna forget m'own deeds an' point fingers. At least… at least yer hones’ an’ never hid anythin’ from us."
That earned a smile and no small amount of surprise as Megana embraced Zaveed. He let her hold onto him, and even leaned into it somewhat, the sudden physical contact something that felt more comforting and reassuring than words ever could be. “I didn’t realize how much I needed to hear that. Thank you.” he said sincerely, the dark cloud lifting with the Nord’s forgiveness and sympathy. “I promise you that I am trying my best to be someone I can be proud of, and the only way for the rifts to heal, even if they scar badly, is for everything to be spoken truly and honestly. It’s funny how nearly dying puts life into perspective.” he said, squeezing Megana’s wrist.
“Truth be told, a big part of me still being around is because I know Sevari wouldn’t give up this little adventure of ours, and I’ll be damned if I’m ever turning my back on him. The other part is Raelynn.” Zaveed admitted. “I still don’t know why she chose to spare me when she had every reason not to… she told me it was compassion, and that I should earn it…” he suddenly let out a laugh. “I suppose I let down her last condition for my salvation; she asked me to leave all of you alone. And normally I’m so good at honouring terms…”
"Yer welcome," Meg replied after a moment, tightening her arms for a moment before loosening them, though she maintained the embrace nonetheless, feeling as if Zaveed needed it... truth be told, she probably needed the hug as much as he did though. Dealing with feelings and hardships rather than ignoring them or drinking them away was still a new turn for Meg, and if a hug or two could help, then by Mara, she would give and take all of them.
"Well, I'm glad you, Sevari an' Sirine stayed," she added, smiling. "Sevari scared the shit outta me, I though' he hated me t'be honest, but turns out I was wrong. Sirine... she seemed so tough, intimidatin’, but turns out she's actually kinda nice, what with teachin' me how t'write better. An' you yerself... it ain' been ideal traipsin' 'roun' here but it kinda reminded me of when I used t'wander with my friend."
Her smile wavered as she finally let go, leaning back to look at Zaveed. It was hard for her to imagine all he’d had to go through, the decisions he’d been forced to take, the choices that lead him to live his life the way he did until finally finding himself at death’s doorstep. If she looked back at her own upbringing, despite the lack of a mother, a busy, haggered father, and the slums she’d spent her time in to abate loneliness and boredom, she had to admit she was lucky. Stendarr had shown mercy on her time and time again. Even now… despite all the troubles caused by the dwemer returning, there was so much to be grateful for. Would she have stayed with her companions and created such bonds otherwise? Would she have grown and learned more about herself without the trials and tribulations the group had gone through?
“Sometimes I wonder if it was all meant t’happen,” she said quietly, looking to the water. “I know, it seems stupid t’think like tha’...” The last part was added hastily as she recalled Sirine’s words on the matter a few days earlier. “Still, I look at all the good an’ the bad an’... even if some things still hurt so much I can feel it inside like a rusty knife stabbin’ me in the-” She paused sheepishly and then continued. “I know I’m not alone, y’know? Not anymore.”
Zaveed smiled, pulling his feet out of the water to let them dry out. “No, you are not. And I’m not, either. But I try not to worry too much about fate or destiny or any such thing because what purpose does a life where you aren’t accountable for your own actions serve?” he asked. “Every mistake I’ve made, or bad thing forced upon me, it was the result of choices that I or someone else made for me. The afterlife is more of a scorecard for how noble or dastardly you were in life rather than how well you dance to a master’s beat, for the most part… I’m sure Daedric cultists would disagree.” the Khajiit laughed, standing up and stretching so his shoulders and back would begin to pop a bit.
He turned to look at her with a shrug. “But I’ll tell you what we do have control over; finding something to eat. Come on, show this scourge of the sea what he can do to fill our bellies.”
“Say, ‘it is a pleasure to meet your acquaintance.’” Zaveed said, enunciate each word before slipping another blackberry between his teeth. Megana and him had made good time from Lake Ilinalta and were closing on Falkreath, and to their pleasant surprise, no signs of the Dwemer, or conflict for that matter, disturbed them. They walked a bit more freely along the road, caution giving way to fatigue and the promise of a long journey’s end.
"Uh..." Meg rubbed the back of her neck before bringing her hand up to her face, patting it vigorously as if that would help her pronounce the words exactly as he said it. "It- it's a pleasure t'meet yer 'quaintance." She perked up after that, eyeing Zaveed in a fashion that would remind anyone of a child waiting to be praised. "How's tha' then?"
“Closer! You need to enunciate every syllable.” Zaveed replied kindly. “‘To meet your, and it’s your, ah
"Hmm..." Meg cleared her throat rather audible before taking a deep breath. Slowly.
"To... meet..." She paused- did she really pronounce it any different?- "... YOUR... ah-quaintance." She pursed her lips a little, letting out a puff of air like something slowly deflating. "Okay, lemme- LET ME- try again."
Clearing her throat yet again, this time tapping at her collarbone as she did, she once again put herself to the test. "It IS a pleasure to meet your
AHquaintance." Her eyes widened and she looked at the khajiit once more. "Was tha' better?"
Zaveed grinned widely, clapping his hands together. “Well done! You’ve improved quite considerably since we started, I admire your tenacity and ability to see it through. It can be rather difficult to buck off certain habits and experience you’ve taken for granted, but here you are.” he said with an encouraging pat on Megana’s back.
“Just remember to take your time when you speak, mean every word. I never received a formal education, but I quite enjoyed books when I learned how to read, and I was constantly surrounded by men and women who were masterful orators and could sway a man’s heart with nothing but his words and how they spoke them.” the Khajiit said, balling a triumphant fist in front of him. “I wanted to learn how to do that for myself.”
"I'mma try," Meg promised, realizing she probably just said that wrong too, but much too excited by the praise and encouragement she just received. "I know that lotsa people don' really take me seriously 'cause of how I speak..." She scratched her head again before forcing herself to slow down and continue. "I never read much? Mostly just scuttled 'round as a kid, an- and
when we moved to Whiterun again, I was working lots before I left home." It was a struggle to have to actually think and weigh her words rather than ramble on as she usually did around someone she was comfortable with.
“Reading is invigorating, but start off with something short and easy; it’s easy to get discouraged or frustrated if you find a tome that’s thicker than my arm and absolutely dense. I will help you find something you might like, if that strikes your fancy.” Zaveed promised. “I wish I could say the manner in which you present yourself doesn’t matter, that it’s about the content of your character, but unfortunately we live in a world of very shallow and vapid individuals who you only have a few moments to leave a favourable impression. I’ve negotiated trade or a parlay quite a few times where both parties came around to my line of thinking; a favourable outcome for all, as it were. Other times, I’ve prevented bloodshed through nothing more than words and the infliction in which I drove them into my would-be enemies!” he declared with striking enthusiasm, driving a fist into his palm with a meaty thunk.
Zaveed paused for a moment, glancing at the sky above. “Nords are a people of oral traditions and stories, are they not?” the Khajiit asked, side-glancing at Megana. “I’m sure Ysgramor in particular must have been quite the powerful speaker if all he had to do to convince 500 warriors to leave their lives behind, sail to a largely unknown continent filled with brutal, savage elves who called that land home, and then fight to take that land from them in bloody retribution. Likewise, we’ve heard stories down in the Dominion about how Ulfric Stormcloak murdered the High King with his voice… some debate lingers over how literal that is.” he said with a mirthful grin.
"I dunno if I want t'lead so many people anywhere," Meg replied with a little laugh, though she shook her head. "I'm jokin', I know what you mean. Even my Pa talks really well. He never told me much about his parents but I know they were much fancier than my Ma's folks. He pro- probably
had lots of books when he was a kid." Speaking of her father brought up unwanted thoughts, and while they were valid, Meg didn't want to darken the light and cheerful mood, so she focused instead on what Zaveed was saying.
"Honestly? I don't think Ulfric shouted anything to death." Meg grinned and shook her head. "Then again, who knows? Maybe he did get trained... he was no Greybeard or Dohvakiin though. But I never got into that sorta shit. Imperials, Stormcloaks? I stayed far away from that sort've thing and did my treasure huntin' instead. Besides, Skyrim for the Nords? Nah. I don’- don’t
like that. It’s boring
just having the same people around. That’s why I liked Riften, there were all sorts there even though it was shady and stinky even."
Zaveed caught a slight change in Megana’s tone when she spoke of her father; he knew it too well, it was similar to the anger he felt when thinking about his mother. He didn’t try to offer reassurances or pry, but took her cue and kept moving forward. “Curious how you wouldn’t think any part of the civil war would be in your interest to support… sure you had some opinions of what your province would have been like if one side or another would have won?” he asked. “You said it yourself,” Zaveed puffed out his chest and beat it with his fist, poorly mimicking a boisterous Nord accent. “‘SKYRIM IS FOR THE NORDS!’ sounds dreary and awfully stagnant. What would you have done if they had one, and what would it have meant for your former partner? As I understand it, at least through the lens of Thalmor propaganda and reports, Khajiit are barred from Nord cities and often butchered on the roads by bandits or agents of the Stormcloaks.”
Hesitant to say something, Meg’s eyes shifted to follow the path they were taking rather than looking at Zaveed. While she loved her home, it was far from perfect and she never very well that what he had said he'd heard wasn't completely false. "I didn' think it had anythin' to do with me then," she admitted, fiddling with the hem of her tunic as she walked, kicking a stray rock to the side when it caught her eye. "I think I though' maybe if I ignored it, it'd all just go away an' not touch me." Her mouth twisted, a despondent half smile lingering there. "That's kinda how I spent most've my life... I thought bein' nice an' keepin' away from complicated things would make things easier. J'raij was safe by himself, an' he was with me, so what could go wrong?
"I learned the hard way that I was wrong." She finally looked away from the ground and up at the khajiit. "Not about him- that was diff... but..." Meg gaze turned rueful. "About Jaraleet. About Gregor. How I just ignored even when I felt there was somethin' more there. Or even 'bout the invasion. I never got myself involved in somethin' like we're doin' now, to stop the dwemer from takin' over an' occupying lands. I love Skyrim, I love my people and I want Skyrim to be free... but that doesn't mean I don't want others to be able to stay here, live here."
She let go of her tunic and let out a loud breath. "It's stupid, I know. Ain' like that kinda thing could happen anytime soon. But I think I know know if I wanna see some change, I can' just ignore shit. I gotta do what I gotta do, even if it's hard."
"What was that again?" Meg smiled, green eyes brightening a little. "It is good to be brave."
Zaveed looked at Megana quizzically. “You’re familiar with the Ahzirr Traajijazeri
? I didn’t figure you for one to empathize with nationalist Khajiiti crime syndicates.” the privateer remarked with a wry grin. He changed tact, his expression and tone taking a much more serious tinge.
“Look, one of the hardest things to do in life is experiencing it. Every new experience can bring about joy or hardship, and sometimes it can be overwhelming and suffocating… but it’s still worth pressing forward and rewarding your curiosity. Look how much you’ve grown, Megana.” Zaveed said, stopping in his tracks to place a hand on Meg’s shoulder, stepping in front of her.
“Every mistake you’ve made, every bit of misplaced trust, every time you didn’t listen to your gut, it’s like wearing down your skin, but from that grows caulouses. You aren’t soft like you were before, but you still retain the essence of who you are and never let go of that. I don’t think you’re stupid; not in the slightest. You’re learning lessons that take many a lifetime to realize, and you didn’t have to go through what I did.” Zaveed frowned, looking to the side with heavy eyes, his tone softening.
“Don’t doubt yourself and who you are; it’s the one thing in life you know you can rely on. You never have to wonder if your heart and intentions are true and working in your best interests, and you cannot help the actions of others. What they do with your trust says more about them and nothing about you. You’re a good person Megana, far more good than I can ever hope to be, but you’re in a place where you can be that change you want to be for your home now. This isn’t the time to look back; your destiny is ahead of you.” the Khajiit said with a smile, letting her go and going to place his hands on his axes, momentarily forgetting their absence as his thumbs found the hoops they normally resided in, prompting a blink and an embarrassed chuckle.
"Ye- You're a pretty damn smart person," Meg replied, rubbing a little at the corner of one of her eyes, having felt a treacherous drop of salty water trying to escape. Stendarr really did have mercy on her it seemed, introducing her to people who had sound advice and could help push a little at the fog that would often cloud her thoughts. "Mistakes are hard an' they hurt but I guess you're righ'. What I can do, I should, an' leave others deeds to themselves."
Her mouth twisted a little as she looked out at the trees before them, though her mind was elsewhere, remembering memories from years earlier. "When me an' Pa left Riften for Whiterun, it was 'cause of me. I'd fallen into the wrong crowd, an' even though Pa himself wasn't all too clean himself, he knew it wasn't what he wanted for his li'l girl. I really hated him then, y'know? Draggin' me away from the place I felt most me
. I knew why he was, but it was like... he had all the fun an' didn' want me to. He did teach me how t'figh' then, told me about my Ma, how she used to be a Companion. I guess he wanted to inspire me? And he did, really.
"When I left home, I wanted
t'be somethin' like that. A champion, people'd know me when I walked into town. I used to bounty hunt for a while, but there was a whole lotta competition an’ dishonesty. So instead, I went back t'bein' a thief, just I stole from tombs instead, usin' the skills Pa taught me to wail on draugrs." She sighed a little as she shook her head, looking away from the greenery and back at Zaveed's striped visage. "I do still wanna be that person- I will
be that person. Someone to be proud of."
A laugh left her, and she looked a little embarrassed. "I babbled, I'm sorry." Meg scratched the back of her head before letting out an "Oh!" Quickly reaching to her belt, she pulled the elven dagger and held it out for Zaveed to take. "Here, you're well enough t'use it now."
“It’s not as if you cannot follow that dream still.” Zaveed observed, taking the dagger back into his hands with appropriate gravity; his bloodstains still marred the blade, but the moonstone blade and the sapphire pommel still shone brilliantly. “Thank you for holding onto this for me, it’s… probably the most important thing I have that ties me to the past. It represents when the young boy in Senchal gave way to the man I grew into, the death of innocence and all of that other melodramatic sentiment. It proved I was a part of the crew, and the price was the lives of six monsters that were supposed to have taken care of me.” he said solemnly before shrugging. “Oh, well. Such is life.”
He slid the blade back into the sheathe at his back. “Maybe when all is said and done, you can find the Companions yourself and offer your sword. Afterall, I quite imagine someone who had a hand in ending the Dwemer invasion would be quite well regarded, would they not?” Zaveed asked, continuing down the road.
Ahead, a rooftop was visible through the trees, and Zaveed’s heart was elated. “Well, we made it. Warm food and a bath… I’d kill for that about now.” he said dreamily.
"Hopefully we won't havta do any of that," Meg replied, lips turning into a grin as she nudged the khajiit with her elbow. "I dunno when was the last time I've been so happy t'see a city." She was having a hard time forcing herself to remain still, tottering on the balls of her feet as she looked to Zaveed. "Still, if we have
to..." She looked to the ground, brow furrowed as her eyes shifted to and fro until finally landing on a large rock, which she kicked up and caught with a hand. "I'm ready t'help. Let's go see how Falkreath's doin'."
“After you, my dear.” Zaveed said with a theatrical bow. The two continued along the road, knowing their destination was not far off. With luck, they would find the others and be able to tell them all that had transpired, and perhaps find that food and bath Zaveed had dreamt about in bated breath.
In the foliage, however, a set of eyes watched them pass, and with the silent movement of a predator, methodically began to close the distance to the duo.