The Navigator and the ShieldBy Lemons, Stormy, and Greenie
Late afternoon, 19th Sun’s Height
Ivy had been infirm for most of the day, a headache weighing her down. The feeling was familiar, like all of the spinning she could do and achieve without feeling dizzy would hit her at once and her surroundings would whoosh in endless circles. A nagging feeling that ran the length of her spine and into each limb like a hot poison.
Eventually what had been festering was birthed from inside of a shell, an image, a sound, a smell. Just a split second for her to make sense and find the message within. From the birth came instant relief - like sinking into a hot bath on a cold day. The vertigo had gone and she lifted her head from her pillow, mulling over it… What do you mean?
she asked herself, looking up through the split ceiling of the tent - up at the sky as it was beginning to grow darker. The hum of sunset rolling through.
Her bare feet worked the rain-kissed grass beneath her as she let her senses carry her to where she needed to be - intuition pulling her in a hard direction. The Dunmer wasn’t able to leave - to venture beyond Falkreath and into the wild. As tough as she was emotionally, she wouldn’t fare well against any real foes. Not alone, definitely not alone. She had to find someone, and convince them that she wasn’t… well, that she wasn’t what people usually thought she was. Crazy.
She needed someone who could read the sky, and someone who could hold back fire.
The time for pacing was over, and she set off into the town centre, the new guests had all but settled in, and she could distinctly remember that at least one of them was shiny in the way that she needed them to be.
“Hey! Hey there, hello!” she called out after several minutes of flouncing around the town - her red hair tied in a bouffant and long, heavy plait. The woman in question had been just moving around. Without warning, Ivy slipped her own arm through the woman’s elbow so they were linked together - she didn’t want her to escape. Ivy recognised her as one of the new arrivals to Falkreath, and she looked to be either a Redguard or an Imperial… Maybe both. In any case, Ivy smiled up at her. “Good morning, I need your help.”
Sirine blinked. Four months previously she would have probably elbowed whoever took hold of her so easily and taught them a lesson, but her time in Scorpion' Song
had made her immune to that sort of thing. Still, she was surprised to see the exotic Dunmer woman, the one who had put on such a performance, to come and seek her out. Though the group had spent a long time together, she still felt like a stranger among them for the most part- she could only imagine what was probably going in Zaveed's mind when people interacted with him. Still, they had to try- she had to try. For all their sakes.
"Hello, good morning," she repeated. What was her name again? Ivy? She wasn't sure if that was simply a nickname or perhaps the woman's actual name, but that would have to do for now. A careful smile now set on her lips, Sirine gave the lady a nod. "You're Ivy, yes? I am Sirine. What sort of help do you think I would be able to offer?" Did this woman know her from somewhere, or was it just a hunch on her part that she could help with... whatever?
“I was hoping you might be able to help me find someone,” Ivy replied, her arm linked to Sirine, but her big red eyes tracing the sights in front of them, moving from left to right - then up and down. “I’m looking for an armoured man… Traveled here with you!” Then her head turned, and she looked Sirine in her eyes - having ignored the question of her name to jump straight into things. “It’s very important,” there was a frailty in her voice that wasn’t normally in her throat - but it gave her a croak that gave a clue as to the woman’s true age to someone with an astute ear.
“You see, Sirine - I have some tasks for you and your group and this one, this one requires a shield.” The Dunmer said, walking on - pulling Sirine with her. “A very timely task… Maybe the most important of all…” That made her stop, and she glanced at Sirine again - her flurry of movements and words slowing as she realised that she had been acting like an excited child, as opposed to a composed and mature woman. “Let’s just find the Shield, and I’ll explain everything.”
Unable to keep herself from raising her eyebrow, Sirine couldn't help but feel a little taken aback and more than a little confounded at the way ths woman spoke and acted. "Find someone?" It seemed rather odd to her that she
would be the one asked for such a task. Why not Megana who seemed to know everyone and their pets? Or someone else more familiar with the group? Well perhaps this woman did not know the divide that still seemed to linger. Yes, that had to be it...
Mentally, she chided herself, knowing that she herself with those sorts of thought was part of the problem.
"Let me think," she decided to reply, holding up her free hand. "That is, of who you might be searching for." Whatever this woman wanted had her a little intrigued, but she really did have to pause and wrack her mind a little. 'Armoured man' immediately had her thinking of Gregor, but the 'shield' caught her off guard, though it was not too long before she figured out who Ivy the Dunmer might be talking about. "Ah, I think you mean the Imperial man, Gaius? I... hm, well I can surely help you find him if that's what you wish." Even if she hadn't really interacted with the man, she knew what he looked like and recognized his voice and mannerisms.
"Gaius…?" Ivy said, closing her eyes and letting his name sit on her tongue as she drew the word out. "Gaius…" she said again. The Dunmer reached out a hand, as if gently grasping at the air to find him, before opening her eyes. "Sirine, my sweet," she began, opening her eyes. "I will trust you to help us find him. Maybe let's see where we find ourselves…" she said hurriedly, turning them on the spot in a certain direction, toward the tents. "If we walk here…" then they were off - Ivy resuming an arm in arm way of walking with Sirine.
Like a child being towed, Sirine allowed herself to be led, though she made the effort to walk side by side with the Dunmer woman. Frankly, half of her wished to laugh out loud at how preposterous this all seemed, but she recognized the determination in this woman’s actions, and at the least of it, she knew that there was no harm or malintent in her. “I haven’t actually conversed with him much,” she mentioned, even though she knew fairly well that wouldn’t deter her. “He has the look of a soldier. We found him in a prison in the Alik’r Desert.” It seemed like ages ago when she had fearlessly made her way into that place with only a single thought in her mind: Save Bakih.
“Perhaps I’m simply projecting, but he seems the sort who may want some quiet… perhaps he’s chosen to rest somewhere further away from the cluster of the tents?” It was a thought at least.
"Dilly dally, shilly shally. Absolutely not!" Ivy replied with a laugh and a dismissive shake of her hand. "In the prison? Locked up was he? In that case he most likely wants to make up for lost time and get down to something important
!" There was a touch of strain in Ivy's voice, as if the weight of the task was pressing on her shoulders.
She lifted her head to the sky, raising a brow at the shade of blue, of the way that the sun was beginning it's descent again. "Also, it's afternoon. Maybe he isn't in the tent. Men have to eat, big man like your friend there - he would probably be looking for something tasty… Meat, probably grilled or smoked… Hmmm?" She stopped walking, and turned her head back to Sirine - oblivious to how her behavior was making the young woman feel. "We might intercept him on his way to the Inn…"
Sirine gave that thought a nod. He had seemed quite eager in the fight against the Centurions and had done quite a bit of damage by himself, and managed to fare better than quite a few of them. Perhaps the older Imperial did have some fire left in him which would be useful for… whatever this woman thought they could accomplish. As they continued to walk, her eyes swerved from person to person, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Imperial. At one point she thought she saw him, but it turned out to be somebody else carrying a shield, a Nord from the looks of it. Not that it was surprising- this was
Skyrim. However, it wasn’t long before she did spot the man Ivy was searching for.
“There,” she said quickly, pointing him out to Ivy before raising her voice, calling out for the Imperial soldier. “Gaius?”
The Imperial in question jolted at hearing his name from a voice that, even though he knew the name of its source, was still altogether unfamiliar to him. The long, half-eaten skewer of meat in his hand fell to the ground, and he gave it a cross look before picking it up again, turning to…
“What is it, Sirine? And...Ivy, was it?” He dipped his head politely to her. Now that she wasn’t dressed up, painted, and cavorting across tables and stages, he could see the wrinkles by her eyes that betrayed age that, in an elf, was formidable indeed. It would not do for a soldier of the Imperial legion to disrespect his elders (as long as they didn’t ban the worship of one of his gods).
It was unusual for Sirine to talk to this man at all, but that hardly deterred her- she was quite good at dealing with strangers and he wasn’t one, even if they’d had minimal contact. “I do believe her name is Ivy, yes…” She paused and gave a nod to the Dunmer woman before looking to the Imperial man once more. “She mentioned she was looking for you, it seems she has a task at hand for us, though what exactly I’m yet to learn of the details.” With that said, her dark eyes returned to Ivy, clearly waiting for further clarification.
“Yes, yes,” the Dunmer replied with a wave of her hand - as if introductions were unimportant when time was of the essence. “I’m Ivy, that’s correct.” Her intense red gaze shifted between the two, and she wriggled her fingers almost nervously. “Maybe we should find a quiet place to discuss this…” She scanned the area again, clearly frazzled by something, her eye kept twitching - which wasn’t helping at all in her desire to not look like a madwoman, but then she marched onwards, knowing that curiosity would have them follow as she headed towards a dip on the hill, surrounded by a number of trees, a crater of grass shielded by oak.
The Dunmer perched herself up on a boulder there, waiting for Sirine and Gaius to catch up.
Gaius had spent a great portion of his life as a soldier. There was a great deal of risk in his line of work; risk of death, risk of capture, risk of any number of things. It was nigh-genetically burned into his brain and body to never
follow a strange person off from inhabited ground to a place that’s ripe for an ambush. Not unless there was a very
good, concrete reason. So it was perhaps a testament to the trials of the past few months that it only took him a few seconds of deliberation to give vent to a sound that was simultaneously a sigh, a grumble, and a grunt of affirmation before turning to Sirine and jerking his head in the direction Ivy had taken. “Well, shall we?”
He didn’t wait for an answer before following, finding her waiting on a boulder, looking for all the world like a statue. “So. We’re in a quiet place. Discuss.”Should I tell a lie? Would that be easier?
she mused to herself in the pregnant pause that hung over Gaius’s words. Or just dress up the truth to be more palatable for them…?
“Several days ago, we sent out a group to collect supplies,” she began - trying to appear as serious and business-like as she could. Her back straight, ever if she was cross legged on her seat. Her hair catching the sun. It burned brighter. “They have not yet returned from this mission, and those supplies are very
important. We need to get them here…” Lying felt awful, she thought. It felt like a horrible taste in her mouth, but one glance at Gaius’s severe expression knew that to speak as herself might bring undue attention to the cause. And if that happened, all would be lost.
Her face scrunched up and she heaved a great sigh. The taste was too awful to bare afterall. “That was a lie,” she confessed, and relaxed her posture. “I…. I need you both to promise me that what I’m going to share will be kept secret, and that you won’t go blabber mouthing to everyone.” Ivy’s eyes then danced between Gaius and Sirine’s, but her expression was no longer that of a confused woman - no, her expression was natural and the red in her eyes was enough to command attention. The energy in their circle shifted too, it became quieter, as if there were a wall around them, bringing them closer.
"I can't speak for Gaius as I don't know him well enough, but I'm not one prone to divulging that which has been told to me in confidence." Sirine had her arms akimbo, fists resting against her sides as she watched Ivy. "What is it that you want us to do, Ivy? I believe I can
also speak for Gaius if I say just about nothing could shock us at this point in time."
A nod from Gaius. “I may be a soldier, but I’ve done a bit of wordplay in my day.” He nodded sharply. “Unless keeping it a secret would directly jeopardize those that I’m here to protect, you have my silence assured. So,” he exhaled heavily as he ran his hand down his beard, “what is it?”
“The opposite, in fact, Mr Gaius,” Ivy said, her eyes narrowed as her voice quieted. “Last night I received a vision of sorts,” she confessed, not sitting on the point for all that long. They would either believe her, or they wouldn’t. But the very fact that they had already answered her call, was reassurance to her that they would believe.
“I saw, felt, heard… It’s more of a feeling-” Ivy added, placing an open hand to her chest, “a feeling in here.” There was a grave tone in her voice, and she rubbed her thumb in small circles over her fingertips. “I felt the heartbeat of a horse, I heard a scream and I felt absolute fear and then nothing
.” Even sharing the vision - vocalising it, brought back it’s lingering sensation and she squirmed, visibly recoiling - her toes curled. “Something is happening, somewhere beyond these walls. What it is, I do not know - I only know that my heart pulled me to Sirine here, and then to you…” her eyes locked to Gaius and she pushed herself from the rock. “We cannot risk another soul from your group knowing about this - the situation is already balanced on the edge of a knife and to rock it too much… Well, the outcome may well be horrific…” The Dunmer turned her intense gaze to Sirine. “I am asking a lot of the two of you, but something tells me that you’ve both been asked to do stranger things… What say you? Will you investigate this?”
Sirine didn’t really put much faith in anything, especially not visions, even if she didn’t shun them or say they were false and just figments of her imagination- just because she didn’t trust in something didn’t mean it wasn’t true. She hardly cared for divines or daedric princes, but that didn’t mean they weren’t there, meddling in the lives of mere mortals. Still, how could she simply leave without telling anyone anything, especially on what might be a wild goose chase? “Let me think this over,” she muttered, resting a loose fist against her mouth, eyes narrowed and lowered towards the ground.
“Do you at least know where about this… investigation should take place?” she asked after a moment, raising her eyes to look at Ivy. “An hour from here? A day? Or more perhaps? While I don’t particularly mind heading out, if it’s something that will keep me away for the entirety of the day, I don’t think I’ll be able to leave without telling someone
Glancing sidelong at Sirine, Gaius knuckled his eyes. “I’m fine with investigating on something like this; Divines know that there’s been stranger things I’ve been tasked to do in the Legion. But I would
like to know what I’m investigating before I start investigating it.” He shrugged helplessly. “The heartbeat of a horse doesn’t tell me much, Ivy. If I’m going to put my trust in you, I need more to go on. Where am I going? East? North? West? Perhaps south, even? What am I looking for? A dead horse? People screaming?”
He gave a little shake of his head, sighing. He wanted to trust Ivy, he really did, but there were so many variables, and so much unknown, that he just couldn’t bring himself to move on such little detail.
The Dunmer brought her thumb to her lips, gently pinching at the skin with her teeth. Trying to make as much sense as she could of her vision. What they wanted to know wasn’t unfair or unreasonable. After a drawn out silence, she eventually spoke. “You follow the Steed,” her heads tilted upwards. “He settles in this direction now…” she mumbled, pointing a hand in the direction of the constellation. “He will guide you to where you need to be,” there was a certainty in her voice - the certainty that she was indeed correct. The energy around her shifted again, as she looked at Gaius and Sirine both.
“As for time… Time is just sand, slipping through the glass until it’s too late, Sirine. We’ve used so much already. Our moments will collide, and you both have to be there, soon
. Or it’s too late…” If only Ivy could make them feel, or even see what she had - the urgency might register with them both. But right now, they were looking at a woman telling them to go out into the dark on naught but a hunch. Someone they’d only just met, no less. "I will tell someone, we can't risk you being followed by worried friends…"
Sirine let out a sigh, looking down at the ground, arms crossed over her chest. It was difficult to simply up and leave, to trust this stranger, somebody she knew nothing about… Her lips tightened and she bit down, a niggling reminder poking at her conscience. Hadn’t she decided to trust a complete stranger, and vice versa? Hadn’t fruits been borne from that trust, lovelier than she could have ever dreamed of? Perhaps it was her turn to help someone in need?
Another breath escaped her lips; her hand reached up to lightly grasp the coin around her neck. She nodded. “Very well then. The Steed, hm?” She looked up to the sky, and though it was still too bright to see the constellations, she was more than familiar with following them rather than maps on land. “What do you say, Gaius?”
Gaius dropped his head, taking a deep
breath and fiddling with the knife strapped in the small of his back. “I don’t know how much help I’ll be in this,” he picked at the haphazard set of mismatched plates that covered his body, “but if Sirine is up for it, then it’d be a shameful thing if I let her walk out alone.” He nodded sharply. “I’ll come.”
"Alright then…" Ivy said with a relieved sigh, feeling a knot of tension leave her body. "I'm going to fetch you a horse and cart… You're going to need the cart…" she said, pinching her chin thoughtfully as she looked over to the stables. "Take some time to gather what you need -- but be quick about it, you must leave before dark and there isn't much time before then now. And remember, say nothing
The Dunmer gave them one last look before she made her way to the horses. A pang of guilt struck her, she knew what was out there, she knew the dangers. Were they ill-prepared by her withholding what she knew. When Ivy was out of sight she cast her gaze on the horizon - the sparse and desolate plains, wartorn and ravaged. They would either make it in time, or die on the way.
All that she had was the faith and hope that they wouldn't.