as Zaveed of Senchal@Greenie
as Sirine al-Nahel
And Leidenschaft as Sevari13th Midyear 4E208, Late Evening, Outside of the Scorpion’s Song…
“Well, here it is. Thank you for being the chaperone for picking up my date, Sevari.” Zaveed grinned at Sevari. The two were standing in the middle of the street outside of the dung-heap of a tavern that Sirine worked at and helped Zaveed clean up and replace his destroyed clothing. Looking at the place brought out a burning anger in his heart knowing that someone he’d put under his protection was forced into a life of indignity by some lecherous bastard who probably never been in a real fight in his life. The Khajiit was feeling much more like himself; axes sat on his hips, his hands resting on them in their customary way; pistols strapped to his chest to put down a man who wasn’t worth the effort, and of course his beloved elven dagger with the sapphire pommel sat at the small of his back. His armour was mended with new grey leather stretched over steel plates, his arms were bare, showing defined arms and black trousers sat bloused in his thigh-high brown leather boots. Upon his ears were a series of rings from different locales across Tamriel he visited, an alloy rainbow of gold, silver and copper, and most recently, a ring of Dwemeri alloy was higher up his ear. Finally, about his waist was a fetching purple velvet sash; it was about the only local flair he’d seemed to take a liking to. He was not the scared and broken man he’d been only hours ago; it was time to work, and Captain Greywake feared nothing but having his time wasted.
“A pleasure.” Sevari said. He was dressed completely different to what he usually wore. Buck-skin chausses over cloth pants and curve-toe boots in the Hammerfell style, a simple tunic and a coat. He adjusted his wide-brimmed ranger’s hat, one side of the brim pinned up with a moonstone charm, and stroked where his beard used to be, hooking one thumb into his sword-belt on which was strapped a bone-handle messer and a pistol not unlike Zaveed’s. He’d taken great pains to disguise himself as somebody else after the attacks. “Let’s get to it, shall we? Just look tough.”
The pair made their way in, Sevari pushed past the door and held it open, scanning over the patrons while Zaveed stepped up next to him. The tavern at this hour was filled with the usual rough, scarred and mean types. He’d seen it all and was bored with it at this point in his life. “Back in my day, outlaws had a certain flair. Now they just look the same.” He muttered, finding his way to the bar and fishing his badge out of his coat. Holding it up, he spoke, deadpan, “Sirine has the night off.”
The man, who he assumed was Sirine’s boss, looked at Sevari and Zaveed with disgust. He reached under the bar and the pommel of something came into view. “Fucking cats-“
The head of a Dwemeri axe split into the bartop and suddenly the man stood stock straight and forced a smile onto his face, forgetting all about the weapon under the bar, “Of course, of course!” Zaveed pried his axe loose and vaulted up onto the bar counter, pacing back and forth, his eyes locked on the man as the axe clicked against the counter, held like a walking cane.
“Mind your tongue, scum, or your head goes where the axe went.” Zaveed purred, the clicks accenting his tongue with a rhythmic, thunk, thunk, thunk.
“Thank you for complying.” Sevari spoke again, equally deadpan, as he put his badge back in the inside pocket of his coat. His eyes never left the man’s own as Zaveed hopped off the counter after seeing Zaveed casually hop off of the counter to retrieve their new friend. Sevari pulled a cigar from his coat pocket and lit it with a finger, small flame at the tip.
The privateer pushed the swinging door open with his axe. “Oh, Beautiful Sirine, you can come out, my dear.” He called out in singsong. “If you’re with company, you can tell them to finish themselves off, we’re on a schedule.” He said, opening doors as he went, often to abashed or irritated faces that were quelled when badge was flashed.
Sirine was in the midst of getting dressed when the door opened to reveal the khajiit man. Her face betrayed no look of embarrassment but a small hint of surprise. "Oh, you came." She pulled down on her tunic and grabbed her belt, eager to get going now that there was no need for her to stay in this place.
The man in her bed, a stocky Redguard, did not seem pleased at having the room he was resting in crashed into. "Wait!" he protested, reaching out to try and grab her arm. "You can't leave yet! I paid for more than that!"
“I came, clearly, he did not.” Zaveed grinned mirthfully, stepping into the room, offering Sirine a sly look before turning to the man. He hooked the man’s arm with the backside of his axe, shaking his free finger at the man. “Hands off; she is an agent of the Dwemeri secret police on an assignment. You should feel graced you are not being taken off in chains, you foul-smelling leech. Or maybe that’s what you’re into, hm?” He asked, foot on the edge of the bed, axe pushing into the man’s chest.
A twitch to her mouth showed that Sirine was appreciative of the joke. "Clearly," she agreed as she stepped away from the bed, watching the encounter as one might observe a fascinating play.
The Redguard man lifted his free hand, cringing against the pillows and sheets. One look at the Khajiit's face had him babbling apologies. "I will go!" he yelped, fear clear on his face. "Get that axe away from me!"
Zaveed shoved it harder, forcing the man down. He crooked his head, like he was toying with prey. “Are you making demands of me? Are you in any position to disrespect my authority in such a way, curr?” he growled, effectively pinning the man to the bed.
"What?" the man sputtered, his eyes widening as he further realized he was very out of his depths. It was amazing what the lack of pants could do to a man's confidence. "N-n-no! Of- of course not! Please, don't hurt me! You- tell him to back off!"
The last of his words were clearly addressed to Sirine. By this time she was completely dressed, belt cinched tightly. A smile played on her lips as she approached the bed. "Oh, but I can't. I work for him now. The best thing for you would be to simply ask his forgiveness for your disrespect and hope it's granted."
The Redguard man blinked at her with his mouth open, unable to come up with words. He then slowly looked back to Zaveed. "I... am sorry?"
Sevari stepped into the room and in a few steps, crossed from the door to the bed, grabbing up a fistful of the man’s hair and hauling him out of the bed. He booted the man in his arse and sent him stumbling out, “Are we finished? We’ve people to find, we’re not robbing the man.”
“Oh, thank you.” The man whimpered from the ground, prompting Sevari to whip the pistol out of his belt and point it at the man.
“Leave here and hope I never see you again. I’ve robbed meaner folk than you.” The man did as he was told, Sevari turning back to Sirine And spoke through a cloud of cigar smoke, “Don’t worry, I’m a bag of sunshine.”
Zaveed leaned over to Sirine, covering part of his face to whisper to Sirine. “He’s really not.” he said, offering a playful wink afterwards.
Sirine raised an eyebrow. "Oh? I simply thought the clouds were covering the sun." She motioned towards the cigar smoke, smirking slightly.
He reached into his armour, pulling out a neatly folded piece of parchment. “As I promised, I did what I asked. You may not like what I found, however.” he said, his smile turning to a frown as he offered the parchment to Sirine.
She took hold of the parchment, her smirk disappearing as she opened it and looked at what was written. Eyes darkening, she looked back up at the two. "I see... so he's not here." There was a tightness to her jaw, as if she was containing herself from speaking her thoughts. The moment passed and she turned around. "I have something for you as well." Heading to a chest in the corner of the room, she quickly unlocked it and pushed the lid up. Inside was her rucksack, and next to it was the roll of paper she had been keeping her notes in. She paused a moment before picking up the other two rolls that she had stolen from Jamir's dresser.
"Here you are." She returned to the others, holding out all three rolls. "That's the little I discovered, what good it will do, I don't know... as for these, I found them in the owner's dresser. Make of it what you will- they are names of insurgents I believe."
Sevari snatched up one of the parchments, cigar clutched between his grinning teeth, “Oh, say what you want of revenge, but it will be sweet.” His eyes flitting over the paper and committing each name to memory. “I know a few of these. Krennic’s men put Farukh al-Majhar and a few of these others in the pits when they were arrested for running skooma. I heard he was torn apart by an Orc.”
His hands went back to his side, ashing the cigar on the ground and placing it back between his teeth, “Do you know any of the whereabouts of the others? Any mentions of a Khajiit woman and an Altmer traveling together?”
Sirine shook her head. It was a little frustrating that she could not wield as much information about their sister as she had been given about her brother. "Unfortunately the patrons who visit here don't often have useful words. But there was mention of an Altmer by an inn I used to frequent when I was younger. The Sand and Pearl, it was called. It's quite near the harbour."
“Anything peculiar about this particular Altmer? It is not as if they are uncommon.” Zaveed pressed.
"Aside from him shooing a commoner away with a threat to kill him?" The former pirate shook her head. "From what Darric mentioned, it seemed as if he was standing guard, but it's the word of a drunk, I'm not sure how much weight you wish to put in that."
Zaveed looked to Sevari and shrugged. “I never said this was going to be easy, but at least it’s a start. Shall we go have a look, or go knock on a few doors in accordance to the list that Sirine procured for us?” turning to the Redguard woman, Zaveed regarded her for a few moments. “What would you like to do about your former boss? Want to follow the story I told your last client and scare the shit out of him? He looked like an utter ponce, five Septims says I can make him soil his britches.”
“It would be nice to scare him out of here.” Shireen’s eyes narrowed as she thought of the treatment the man’s employees had to go through, the indignities they had to suffer, the gold he stole from them. Perhaps it wasn’t a necessity, but she wanted to know that he would get what he deserved. “That man doesn’t deserve a roof over his head, even one as shitty as this one.”
“A list of insurgents, you mentioned…” Zaveed’s voice trailed off as he offered Sevari a grin. “Shall we put the fear of Merrunz into the man for collaborating with the enemy and letting his imagination run wild?”
“If it’s one thing in the world that I take pleasure in is watching a man whose evils outweigh his fortitude squirm under my thumb.” Sevari let go a particularly cruel smirk, “It’s a shame Sirine was in the employ of a man helping the insurgency launder money through his tavern and she didn’t even know it, did you, Sirine?” He asked cheekily, knowing she would get the gist of what he was suggesting.
"What, me knowing such nefarious deeds were taking place right beneath my nose?" She shook her head in an obviously exaggerated no. "I could never have imagine such a thing. I am truly shocked."
Zaveed took the list of names in hand, holding them like some irrefutable proof of villainy afoot. “Well then, let’s make sure your last day on the job is a memorable one. Shall we?” he said, leading the trio out of the room and back into the tavern. Jamir, Sirine’s former employer, was still behind the counter, fussing over where Zaveed’s axe had buried itself into the wood when he caught sight of the two Khajiit boring down on him, Sevari heading off the exit while Zaveed vaulted over the counter and grabbed the man roughly be the scruff of the neck. “Well, well… it looks like you were caught in our little sting operation, Jamir; this list of names, friends of yours?” he asked holding the papers aloft for the man to see. “Maybe you should be more careful about consorting with terrorists, after all, one wouldn’t want to give the impression that they serve such disreputable beasts, surely you agree?”
The owner of Scorpion's Song wheezed; for a moment he attempted to detach himself from the hand that caught hold of him, but it soon became very clear to him that wouldn't be happening. His dark eyes flitted towards the papers; recognizing his own handwriting, they widened considerably when he realized what
"Wait!" he protested, once more trying to free himself. "That- that's not what you think- I'm with the dwemer! I'm on your side!" There was a second's pause before he added, "How did you even find those?!"
A small sneer at her lips, Sirine looked away from Jamir and cast a glance at the rest of the tavern, eyeing the patrons as well as her former co-workers. Most seemed shocked and couldn't take their eyes off the scene at the counter; they were used to drunken brawls, not something like this. She could see a large, muscular Redguard she recognized easily, the bouncer of the tavern who for the most part usually let things slide; he seemed unsure of what to do, though his hand was reaching for the mace at his side.
Sirine had no love for him, but she also saw no reason in particular for him to get involved and potentially hurt. Crossing over to him in quick, confident strides, she smacked his hand away from the weapon. "Don't, Salim. I assure you you'd rather watch than get involved." The man named Salim frowned though his hand fell slack.
“Just act like everything’s just fine, Salim.” Sevari had a cruel-looking smile upon his lips, the tip of the cigar glowing brighter for a moment before Sevari spoke with a cloud of smoke, leaning towards the bouncer and adding quietly but tone none too reassuring, “Because it is.”
Even so, at some point, he’d drawn his pistol unnoticed by Salim from its holster and the barrel was resting on one forearm of his crossed arms, pointed at Salim, just to be sure. He turned back to Zaveed, “What’s the verdict? I say his crimes call for summary execution.
” Sevari growled, “You look pretty guilty, Jamir. Best speak up now if it’s for something else you’d like to say sorry for, before my partner gets to it. Chop-chop
,” Sevari made small chopping movements with his hand not curled about a pistol to accentuate, “Quick-like.”
Accentuating the point, Zaveed placed the pachments on the counter, and pulling his axe from its hoop, dragged the blade across the counter, pushing the papers in front of Jamir.
Sirine turned her attention on Jamir and Zaveed now that Sevari had his pistol pointed at Salim. The owner was shaking his head hard enough that his hair was whipping side to side, clearly in a state of panic. "No, no, you've got it all wrong! I'm not with the resistance! Those aren't my associates, you fucking cats!"
“And yet they weren’t disclosed to us, traitor.” Zaveed snarled, shoving Jamir’s head down into the counter on the papers; the axe was inches from his nose. He looked up at Sirine. “So, agent, what should we do with this piece of skeever shit? Take his hands…” he leaned down so his muzzle was inches from the Redguard’s ear. “...his balls? Or maybe we just keep taking pieces until he tells us everything? I’m sure there are some mutts on the street that haven’t had fatty meat in some time, yes?”
"No, no, no- wait- please!" With each word Jamir's panic seemed to increase tenfolds, the man struggling to pull himself from Zaveed's grasp. "I didn't do anything! Please! Don't hurt me!"
"Pathetic." Sirine made her way to the counter and stepped behind it, contempt in her eyes as she looked down at the struggling man. "You're very quick to beg when the tides turn against you, hm?" Without warning her fist shot forward and she dealt a blow to his gut, causing Jamir to slump in pain. Glancing at Zaveed, she continued. "No need to sully your axe with his rotten blood. Since he's so keen on begging, that's what he should be. A beggar. Toss the whole of him out."
“Such a pity.” Zaveed mused, pulling the man off the counter and to his feet once more. He shoved him to get him moving towards the exit, where Sevari had the door propped open. Grabbing the man roughly before the entrance, he held the axe up to the man’s throat, the sharp blade nipping at flesh to ensure his compliance. “Alright you lot, show’s over. Let it be known that this man is no longer the owner and operator of the Scorpion’s Song
, if he is permitted back on this premises by anyone, or if anyone is caught aiding him, it will be constituted as treason and the offender will be executed like this sack of shit should have been.” Suddenly, the Khajiit grinned and winked at the crowd. “Enjoy your evening.” he said, dragging Jamir out of the tavern and then booting him in the ass to have him scamper off in the dark. “Go find a hole to die in, coward! If I see you again, I’m hanging you with your own entrails!” he shouted after him before returning to the entrance and delicately closing the door behind him.
It felt as if someone had been lifted a burden off of her shoulders. With Jamir's presence no longer looming over her, Sirine felt light, she felt free
. Letting out a small breath, her hand lifted to her neck, fiddling with the coin, as had become a habit in the last three days. It wouldn't be long before she could meet Bakih again. But before then, there were other affairs to be taken care of, an immediate pressing one being who would be the new owner of the tavern.
She looked out at the crowd, her eyes searching until she found him. A blond Breton man, her former roommate now. "Him," she said. "He can take care of the tavern. Fairly good, and he won't bother the girls."
Sevari frowned, shrugging, “Alright.”
He made his way outside to stand with Sirine and Zaveed. He dusted his hands, ashing his cigar, “So, valiant cohorts, whatever shall we do now?”
“Follow our lead. Come on, we’ve had our fun, let’s get to work.” Zaveed said, placing a hand on Sirine’s back. “Get a good look at this place; it’s the last time you’ll ever have to step foot in here.” he said, stepping away to depart the building with a whistle.
Sirine looked up for a mere second before turning away with a shake of her head. "The faster I forget about this place, the better." She did spare one last glance though, silently wishing the others in there better luck before before she too stepped away from the wretched place. "Well. You kept your promise, you found my brother and you freed me from there... I'll keep to mine as well. Whatever you need me to do, I will."
Running a finger up under her chin, Zaveed smiled. “Fair is fair, you looked after me, and I will look after you. For now, we’re going to have a fun night on the town looking for my sister and possibly paying some terrorists some house calls. Sound like a good time for a lady such as yourself?”
"Lady would hardly be the word, but if you insist." Sirine's lips twitched as she nodded. "And yes, sounds like a wonderful
Something caught his eye, glancing down, Zaveed noticed the chord about Sirine’s neck and his eyes traced down to what it was connected to. A wide grin crossed his face as his took the coin he’d given her between his fingers. “Defacing currency and holding something I gave you as a momento? And I thought I was the charming one.” he said, looking up to meet her gaze. It was an oddly stirring thing, and something that made him feel important in ways he never really experienced before. Such a simple and harmless gesture had meant a lot to this girl, and it reminded him of his earlier thoughts of how choices that mean something to one person could mean entirely different things to those it affects. “You were miserable there, weren’t you?” he asked quietly.
Sirine was caught off guard- she had forgotten to shove the coin back under her tunic when she'd been dressing up. "It's not-" She had a hard time keeping the words straight in her mind, let alone on her tongue. And truth be told, it was
exactly that. A memento, a reminder, a focus and a beacon of hope. "Miserable would have been fine. I was hopeless, I was resigned." It felt like she had to yank the words out of her, but she felt he deserved to know.
“Then no more. You’re free now, free to make your own choices and walk your own path. Never again will you be forced to lay with someone for coin for another’s profit. Walk this path with me for a while, discover what you are truly capable of.” Zaveed said, taking her by the shoulders. “One day, I’ll find my way back to sea again, and I’ll need a crew. It would be an honour if you’ll be the first of many to share in that vision, but for now, the air is sweet and there’s blood in the air. It’s a perfect night to see the town.” he grinned mischievously, dangerously. “How about it, Beautiful Sirine, care to join Sevari and I on our entirely off the books misadventure for family?”
Sirine's hand grasped her coin once more. Return to the sea? That was something she dreamed of every night. But right now it seemed like a true possibility, not just a pipe dream. "I said I would, and I do keep my promises as well." She looked to both Zaveed and Sevari, nodding her head once, a smile playing on her lips. The look in her eyes had changed; where they were once grim, they now seemed on fire. "Lead the way."
“The Sand and Pearl.” Sevari said, immediately walking in the direction of the docks. “How many Altmer guarding Redguard-owned taverns in Hammerfell have you seen? Something’s in that inn worth protecting by the Dominion.”
They made their way through the streets without any problems. Sevari headed their trio all the while, all up until they made it to the docks. The Sand and Pearl was not a hard establishment to find, planted almost right next to the docks so sailor could make a straight line from the gangplank to the front door. Sevari stopped in his tracks at the sight.
If Sirine’s contact only said there was one Altmer, then he must not be able to count. The Sand and Pearl was crawling, Thalmor and what he knew were Ministry Agents. Among them, he saw Marassa and Erincaro being escorted out of the front doors. It brought him relief that she was safe, but a sour feeling still tainted it when he saw Erincaro alive. “I can’t go.” Sevari said, voice heavy, “Damn it.”
Zaveed knew what the Thalmor would do if they recognized Sevari, prompting a sigh. “I’ve got this.” he said, his heart still pounding with excitement as he saw that Marassa was alive and well; Sirine’s tip had really come through. “You lay low for now, I’ll try to get her somewhere safe where we can all have a chat. I promise.”
Turning to Sirine, Zaveed said, “Just pretend we’ve been working together on assignments for a while now. I’ve been finding myself rather unpopular for… liberties I’ve taken on the job recently. And thank you; a promise means something to you.” he said with a smile, gesturing for her to head forward. He looked back to Sevari. “What will you do now?”
“I’ll go ahead of you, make my way to the archives.” He said, still looking toward Marassa and Erincaro with a look of something not quite malice or hatred, but softer, “I, um. I’ll look for any reports on Sirine’s brother.”
Zaveed clasped Sevari on his shoulder with a reassuring smile. “This is what it’s for, brother. She’s safe. We’re okay.” he said before adjusting his axe harness and strolling down to the gathered guards from both the extremely tense and irritable Thalmor and the Ministry agents, of whom Zaveed was only passingly familiar with them; their names didn’t stick.
He approached, holding up his badge to be permitted entry when one of the Dwemer approached. “We have this under control, this doesn’t require your task force, officer.” the Ministry agent said. Zaveed rolled his eyes and ignored the man.
“Marassa, it has been quite some time. I never figured you’d find your way this far North, but then neither did I.” He called out, stepping away from the confused Dwarf.
She turned to look at him, slowly blinking as she registered what she was seeing. “Zaveed?!
You’re here? That means…” she said, her voice trailing off, not voicing to the others anything about Sevari. Zaveed simply nodded. They both knew that admitting their relationship to Sevari to the Thalmor was inviting trouble for all of them.
“It’s good to see you, sister. The armour suits you.” he said with a casual gesture. She crossed over to him quickly and threw her arm around him, the other holding the sword.
“Damn, Zaveed, it’s good to see you. I always figured you were still around, I’d just never known where to find you.” she said. He returned the embrace and grinned as she curiously looked him over and his familiarity with the Dwemer.
“Oh, you know her Majesty’s penchant for sending deniable assets here and there. And before you ask, I had a… career change recently.” he said, giving the Dwemer Ministry officers a side-eyed glance. “Our Dwemeri friends decided they didn’t like ships that much so sunk a lot of them and hired me on after a storm took mine. But the sea was never going to be the end of me, it’s too good of a mistress.” He glanced over Marassa’s shoulder at Erincaro. “The ambassador?” he asked.
“Emissary Erincary Syintar, at your service.” The Altmer said, approaching the reunion tepidly. “I apologize, Zaveed, I only know you from reputation. It has been an understandably trying period of time for us, I did not think to meet you here of all places… forgive me for saying so, it’s been years for you two, I would have expected something more…”
“Emotional, sentimental?” Zaveed finished with a shrug. “It’s never been our way. When you only see your sibling once a decade if you’re lucky, it takes time to warm up, especially when there’s quite a crowd and a bunch of terrorists trying to murder your eminence and my blood.”
“How did you find us?” Marassa asked, looking at Zaveed’s companion with curious amber eyes. “And who might you be?”
"Siri Nahel," the former pirate replied, deciding not to give her complete name. Looking over at the female khajiit, she had to admit she was a little surprised as well; like the Emissary, she would have expected a more emotional meeting between the siblings. Then again, with all these Thalmor and dwemer surrounding them, she could see why not. "This one's partner." She motioned with her head towards Zaveed.
Marassa stared at Zaveed. He shrugged in response. “Not that way.”
“Uh-huh.” She replied, turning to look at the Redguard woman. “Marassa, twin sister of your charming friend here. If he gets under your skin or says something inappropriate, feel free to punch him in the face. Auri-el knows I’ve been tempted a few times.”
“This is well and good,” Erincaro said, interrupting suddenly. “But the palace will be a much more secure and comfortable place for this sort of reunion.” he sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I also understand my fallen soldiers are being kept there. I would like to pay my respects as soon as permissible.”
Marassa nodded. “He’s right. Given your new job
, I imagine you were heading that way anyways, Zaveed.” she said, and she moved to help make preparations to depart, leaving Zaveed standing with Sirine. He had a slight smile on his face.
“Would you believe me if I told you she was always that warm and inviting?” he asked his companion.
"I imagine there had to be someone to balance you out." Sirine let out a dry laugh before offering the khajiit man a slight wink. "I've taken her words under advisement- please be warned, I have quite the punch."
. “How could you ever want to maim this handsome face? It would be like defacing a monument, simply dreadful.” he teased, returning the wink. “Come now, time for you to see how people with disgusting amounts of wealth live. I can probably arrange to put you in a nice room for the night in the palace.”
Sirine's eyes narrowed for a split second before returning to normal, a placid smile finding its way on her face. "Sounds like a plan."
He’d made good time, all things considered. Surely, the reunion Marassa and Zaveed had had bought him a little time. Only a little, though, as he slipped between the large palace doors he could see them coming up from down the street past the large gates beyond the courtyard. It was an uneventful walk towards the archives and Sevari immediately set to work. The archives themselves were kept in a huge library, dusty tomes intermixed with newbound books on shelves that reached up almost towards the heavens it seemed, row upon row. He couldn’t imagine what history this place held, but he wasn’t here to try at it. He had a job.
Within the hour though, his search lit only by the sparse windowlight, candles and his own magelight spells, sorting by date and time of the reports, he’d found the dossier on one Bakih al-Nahel. Nodding, he had one more thing to do. Search for the blueprints of the Palace. A favor for a friend.
Friend? He smirked and shook his head. When did he decide to start calling that Reachman prick a friend?
He continued on his way, interrupted by one of the clerks in the archives clearing their throat. He turned to the source and found a small lady swaddled in silk robes smiling awkwardly, “Major Kerztar has requested your presence in his office. Urgent.”
Sevari nodded, his face an iron mask, but under the exterior cogs were working and his mind raced. He even found his heart quickening pace. He knew what that meant, or thought he knew. Either way, with Thalmor here, he had to tread cautiously. Tread he did, all the way up to the upper floors where the Senior Officers of the Ministry of Order in Hammerfell had their offices. He stood before the door, unable to move. He could leave. Now. Just cut and run with what he’d already had from the archives.
But he knew they’d only follow him. It seemed fate let them follow him all the way to Hammerfell too. It was useless. He sighed, Three knocks on the door. It opened and he saw Kerztar at his desk, a few Thalmor officers as well as Ministry Agents. Even Erincaro and Marassa were there. No doubt he had reported the events of that night he’d infiltrated their ship to the Thalmor officer that’d come to recover him after the attacks on the streets.
But he knew they wouldn’t be able to know it was him. Unless… his gaze went to Marassa. Kerztar spoke, the doors behind him creaking shut to reveal two more Ministry Agents he hadn’t seen coming in, “Sevari, do you recall my single rule for working alongside me?” Sevari made to open his mouth but Kerztar continued, “Never, never lie to me.”
“I don’t know what you mean, sir.” Sevari said, as deadpan as he could.
The Thalmor officer laid a dossier on the desk. He wouldn’t have been quite as nervous if he hadn’t seen the seal of the Penitus Oculatus emblazoned on it. “After the attacks, Kerztar and Fingalto Syintar decided to pool resources. Fingalto proposed that after the reported infiltration of his son’s ship, coupled with the attacks on his son’s troupe, that the insurgency was being funded, trained and perhaps maybe even staffed by… Cyrodiilic elements.”
“We raided Cheydinhaal. It was easy with the state of the Empire being what it is. We found so much to learn, Sevari.” The Thalmor said, “We even learned that you aren’t the only Penitus Oculatus spy here. But you are the only one in this office.”
He flipped open the dossier, spreading documents about the table and as he moved to each, he read them aloud for the room to hear, “Dar’Sevari, Bhaanu Sasra agent in Senchal, flipped by Inspector Cristus Aurelius. Responsible for the massacre of the entirety of Senchal’s Bhaanu Sasra training camp at Aeliel’s villa, crossed the border into Cyrodiil illegally to murder Aeliel himself as well as his security detail.” He went to another, “Dar’Jango, infamous assassin in Valenwood, responsible for countless murders of Thalmor sympathizers and Justiciars, as well as several high-ranking Thalmor. Accomplice to several drug-smuggling syndicates, money launderers and countless other crimes.”
He flipped to another, “Reassigned to Skyrim when Emperor Titus was murdered for your expertise on assassination, participated heavily in the retaliatory purge of Dark Brotherhood in the region and I have no doubt that the spike in missing Justiciars during that time was no coincidence.” He sighed flipping to one more, “Savian Kastav, notorious outlaw in the Elsweyr Confederacy, leading his gang on several robberies targeting Thalmor interests, culminating in the Great Caravan Robbery, in which you and your gang made off with a sizable portion of the Dominion’s funds. And finally, you’re here.”
The Thalmor officer smiled his toothy grin, “With me.”
“Never lie to me, Sevari.” Kerztar echoed.
The Ministry Agents behind Sevari grabbed him by both arms, jostling him more than needed in their task of putting shackles on his wrists. One of them jerked his arm out in front of him and “accidentally” pushed his elbow the wrong direction, prompting a grunt from Sevari. As the shackles closed around his wrist, Kerztar spoke, “I have arranged with Erincaro to have you transported back under heavy security to Alinor to stand trial for your crimes.”
“So be it.” Sevari said, eyes not having left Marassa all the while Kerztar told him his fate.
Marassa’s stare didn’t waver and she expressed nothing.
As far as dungeon standards went, the palace in Gilane wasn’t entirely awful. A small brick-sized window on each cell allowed some light in and air, and the beds even had mattresses. Sevari had been deposited in the cell while the Thalmor agents arranged for resupply of the Indrik
so they could take their fallen, and Sevari, back to Alinor. Two Dominion guards stood outside of his cell, both of whom snapped to attention at the latest visitor.
“Leave us.” Marassa ordered. Despite her lack of affiliation with the Thalmor, her rank demanded respect and with a salute of a fist against the breastplate, both guards filed down the hall and out of the door. Marassa carried with her a plate of lamb hocks, and she slid it under the bars of the cell as she sat down against the frame.
“You know, I thought you were being paranoid about the Dominion finding out about you and what you’d done. I didn’t realize you’d been so busy in my absence, Sevari. I’m still having a hard time reconciling the man who’s slaughtered, what, hundreds? With the boy I loved back in Senchal. I bet you wish you’d told those men who came to take you to fuck off, huh?” she said, not looking at him.
“I did.” Sevari said. “Several times.”
His voice was quiet, racked with sadness. In the space of a handful of days, everything he’d worked toward in his entire life had come crashing down like a falling mountain. With similar weight. He knew this would come one day. That there was going to be a reckoning for all the things he’d done, and no amount of reconciling with Zaveed, pleading for Suffian to put down his sword and walk away, forsaking his duties to focus on himself and Zaveed… none of it would stop fate.
Nothing ever does, “You don’t say no to the Bhaanu Sasra. When I told you that if I had a choice, I would have stayed with you forever, I wasn’t kidding. What’s another street-urchin found murdered in Senchal, Marassa?”
“Nobody will get an apology for anything I’ve done in the name of collecting the debt the Thalmor made when they took a child’s normalcy away from him. My father may have made the wrong choice, but my mother didn’t do any crime. She was too busy loving me when no one would.” He spat, “My brothers, mean and rough as they were, were killed because of me. Because I, like my father, listened to Men I shouldn’t have. I’ll never forgive myself. There was going to be blood until I felt it right to stop in avenging everything the Thalmor took. Looking back on it now, though? I don’t think I ever would have.”
“So, no, Marassa. I don’t have to wish that I could tell the Bhaanu Sasra to fuck off. I only have to wish that my mother was still alive and a child never lost their way. I only have to wish that I could go back and die with her.” He said, voice growing heavy again, “So stop trying to reconcile, Marassa. It’s done. Those days are over, as sure as there’s bars between us.”
“Oh, is that what I was doing here?” Marassa said with a sigh. “I think that went out the window when you butchered two of my men on the deck of the ship and were plotting on assassinating my boyfriend, Sevari. We’re strangers now, and whatever chance we had to find out if we could have reconnected and ignited the embers of whatever we had in our youth died when those men did. I’m just here to say my goodbyes, and that those days weren’t meaningless to me so this is a courtesy. I hope you didn’t drag Zaveed into your hair-brained schemes; he’s a daft bastard, but he’s still my brother and he still has a future ahead of himself if he chooses it. I don’t much care for your self-pity party, Sevari.
“At least you had a family, my mother was a useless whore who left Zaveed and I to starve on the streets, and who knows who in Oblivion my father was. I just had my brother, and then you. You abandoned me, I was taken, and Zaveed ended up living through a nightmare for years until he learned how to murder people who wronged him.
“Life is such a fairy tail, isn’t it? Well in my case, my knight in shining armour was a bookish Altmer who didn’t look at me like I was some degenerate beast to be whipped into sword fodder, who fed me properly for the first time in my life and gave me a future.” she turned to face him, grabbing the bars in front of her. “And yeah, I fell in love with him and I fuck him. Does it hurt you to hear me say it? Good. If you’d even touched a hair on his head, these bars wouldn’t save you. I’d put an ash shell in your fucking throat and watch you choke to death in this wretched cell, your eyes bulging as you shit yourself in your final undignified minutes. So be glad you didn’t, because I’m here for one final mercy.” her voice was low, menacing. She meant every word.
“Mm.” Sevari grunted, still not looking at Marassa. Truth be told, it probably would’ve hurt more if this was the first nightmare marching straight out of his head into reality. He’d held his brother as he died, giving him the mercy of his own estranged brother’s knife in his throat before the poison could make him vomit up his own liquified entrails.
He’d watched his comrades die in the streets like dogs. He’d killed an innocent man in his own home, left him to be discovered by his elderly wife or his grandchildren or some other sappy bullshit. He’d been faced with just how much his life had withered like unattended crops while he was away chasing either death or vengeance. He watched the person he used to love restrain herself from killing him.
At this point, he didn’t know what hurt more- that she wanted to, or wouldn’t.
“Why?” Sevari said. “Is this vengeance? To leave me fucking alive?”
He stood, walking up close to the bars, close to Marassa. “Do it.” He said, firm. “They’re going to do it anyway, in Alinor. I’ll be hanged, you and I both know. So just kill a stranger.”
“Stop being a crybaby. It’s unbecoming.” Marassa said dryly, staring into her former lover’s eyes impassively. “So is giving up on yourself like you don’t have a choice in the matter.” she turned away from him for a moment, collecting her thoughts. “If our past means anything to you, then live, and make this world a better place than you’ve left it. You’ve got a lot of work to make up in that regard, and I’ve got enough people I care about, good people, to grieve over who died because of this fucking city.” Marassa said bitterly, thinking of the ambush and the soldiers she’d known for years just picked off like gnats by terrorists in the streets, dying in peacetime in a country that they had not expected to travel to, nor be harmed. It left a bitter knot in her guts. “This is farewell, but maybe not goodbye. I hope you find me again when you learn to stop fucking hating yourself and learn to accept that I’m not the same girl you knew back then. Maybe you can open your eyes and see me for who I am and accept that I’m in a good place now; isn’t that what family’s about? Celebrating each other’s happiness and supporting it or some other sentimental bullshit?” she asked harshly, gesturing at the lamb. “Enjoy your meal. I left something for you to pick your teeth with at the end of it.”
Sevari snorted, a humorless chuckle coughing past his lips. “Fuck,” he said, “You know I could have? I could have fucking killed him, but you were there. My brothers died because of me back in Senchal, Zaveed and I almost died and he lost his ship on our voyage here.”
He sat back down on the bed in his cell. “I didn’t kill him because you were there. I hate him, Marassa, with every evil bit in me, I want to choke the life out of him and I’d smile and laugh while he struggled under me.” He unclenched his fists, “But not because of some stupid fucking reason like jealousy. People fuck. It’s more than likely happening somewhere right now, it’s what they do. I didn’t kill him because it would mean you failed him. It would mean your career would be dust.”
He looked at his hands, scarred and scuffed and scabbed, “It would mean that you’d lose the first man in your life that you loved and stayed with you. I do hate him. With everything.” He said, “But you’re the most undeserving of the things my showing up does to people’s lives. I didn’t leave because you fucked up my mission and mounted a defense I couldn’t get through without dying. I left because I didn’t want to tear down everything that was once good in my past.”
“So sentimental. Thanks for respecting my career choices, if nothing else.” She replied, standing at last, posture erect and authoritative. Even though she was shorter than him, in that moment, she positively loomed over him. “I don’t know where that line is between you and the you I used to know, but I hope you start to see it more clearly. All I know is that people don’t become rotten to the core after a single bad choice; it’s many, consciously made, over years. I’ve accepted that Zaveed is one of those people who got a taste for power and blood to solve his own problems, and instead of stepping away from it, he bathed in it.” she said, her tone terse and her stare hard as she put her hands behind her back, a distinctly military posture to her bearing.
“I still love him, but it’s different now. Maybe you two can still find time to figure yourselves out, but I won’t have a part in it. You didn’t sacrifice my career, that’s a first step. There’s a lot more to go, and do it for yourself, not for me.” Marassa said, pointing an accuatory finger towards Sevari. “Just looking at you from across these rods all I see is someone who hates himself to the point he’s spent decades looking for the perfect way to die to make the pain stop. Maybe you’ll realize that’s not who you want to be one day.” She shook her head, looking towards the prison door. “And when you figure that out, come find me. I’d like to talk to the Sevari I know again, not whoever the fuck you are. Farewell, and stop giving up on yourself; it’s boring.” she said, stepping away from the bars and heading back down towards the exit, her steps a perfect cadence of years of intense drilling and practice.
Sevari didn’t watch her go. He just listened to it. He looked at the lamb, sighing, wondering if he could even reconcile with himself who he was now with who he used to be. He shook his head, pushing the tray away.
The door opened with a satisfying click of the Dwemeri-made lock, and Zaveed presented the suite to Sirine with a bow. It was a spacious room, meant for dignitaries, with its own private bath chamber, dining area, study, and balcony and a bed aligned so it could look out over the bay. “For your service to me and keeping appearances with our hosts, please accept this gift of actually having somewhere pleasant to set your head down.” he grinned. “For a little while. As soon as Sevari gets us what you’re looking for, we can start planning for what comes next. Is this to your liking?”
Sirine took a step inside the room, blinking a little as she took all of it in. It reminded her of her parents room at their estate, except much more gilded. It was a very far cry from where she had been living since the dwemer arrived, or even her ship before that; the expression on her face was enough to show that. "I should think so," she replied, glancing back at Zaveed. "Thank you." Her gaze lingered for a moment as she looked the khajiit man over. "Hm. You look anything but that bedraggled cat from the docks now."
He stepped in the room with her, taking a view out of the spacious window to the sea dancing in the moonlight. “Turns out that a bit of compassion from a stranger and entirely too much to drink in a few short days can do wonders for a man’s disposition. It also helps that I no longer have a literal hole in my heart and punctured lung, so that tends to put more of a spring in my step.” He chuckled, turning to face her. “I do have to thank you, for everything you’ve done for me. Not many people would have stopped to talk to someone in my condition, let alone agree to help them without much reservation. You helped Sevari and I find Marassa, which is a debt I sincerely hope I can repay in kind with Bakih… it feels strange to have gratitude for someone, but I think I would like to get used to it. Thank you, for your compassion and devotion to your word.” he said kindly, taking her hand and kissing her knuckles with a smile.
"You're welcome," Sirine replied, a small smile on her face. Why had
she helped him? She had thought it was on whim the first day, a distraction from her usual habit, but deep inside she knew it had been more than that. Sirine wasn't a good person; how could she be after all she had done? But something had stirred inside her, something she both hated yet yearned for. Perhaps compassion was
the right word.
"You reminded me of myself when my ship went down," she finally replied, turning her eyes away from his to glance at the sea beyond the window. The waves looked so beautiful and inviting- it was hard for her to believe that people could actually be scared of sea. Her smile remained but there was now a lingering sadness to it. "Swimming to shore with nothing but the clothes on my back..." Her voice trailed for a moment before she snapped herself out of it. "But that's the past and here we are."
The Khajiit nodded knowingly, stepping towards the balcony. “Our experiences are similar, at least in that regard. Merruhnz’s Wrath
was a beautiful vessel, I had a 50 man crew and we were a scourge of the sea. I was known as Captain Greywake, and my name carried weight and fear across the Southern seas, and I was the bane of any who didn’t fly the Dominion colours… and sometimes even then.” he smiled ruefully, leaning against the railing as he let the salted air fill his nostrils. “Gods, it was freedom. I was respected, people flocked to join my crew, to shower me with drink and food and gifts for a chance to earn my favour, to contract me for jobs that they knew only I could do. It was all taken from in in a single night, a bloody storm and gales of the likes I’ve rarely ever seen in unfamiliar seas. I hit a reef, and it tore the Wrath
asunder. Most of my crew perished in the waves, and everything I’ve ever worked for in three decades, just… gone. The Dwemer picked me up shortly after and offered me a choice; become their knife in the dark, or die in a fighting pit. You can see what I chose.”
"You've loved it as long as I have then," Sirine replied, feeling her sympathy rising for the man as she listened to him. "Like I told you when we first met, I was born out there, at sea- the waves were more a lullaby to me than my mother's voice." It wasn't usual of her to think of her childhood, not before others anyway- that had been something she kept for herself to forget the deeds of the night.
She looked at the khajiit. What could have lead him to a life at sea? "I didn't have many, not like your crew... I had to start over more than once. But it was enough, I think. I didn't need more than my brother." She let out a breath before looking back out at the wave, hands resting lightly on the balcony top. "That boy followed me everywhere. He gave up a good life for me." Her grip now tightened around the railing. "That's why I hate them. He was nothing to them, to their plans. Neither of us were. And yet-" She frowned, a crease marring her forehead before she relented once more. "I should be happy you chose to become one of them. I'd thank a god if I felt they were worthy of it."
“I’m not one of them, not really. I’m forced into their service at the threat of death, and I’ve gotten the last thing I’ll ever get from them. Sevari and I are going our own way, away from all of this, and starting over. I’d rather hoped you would come along.” Zaveed said, smiling at Sirine. “I can’t replace what the Dwemer took from you, or me, but one thing I’ve learned in my life is if you dwell on wrongs that happened in your past, you’ll never look forward again. I had a second chance at life from someone who had every right to kill me and send me to Namiira to be one of His… creatures. But she instead chose compassion, and only a few hours later, someone else comes into my life and continues this trend. Perhaps it’s a sign that it’s what I should try, too.”
Sirine wasn't all too sure about that. "Try, perhaps. Sparingly. I probably haven't sailed as far and wide as you have, but every experience has taught me if there's one person in the world who will show compassion and kindness, there are ten more who will do the exact opposite. Even one's own blood with turn their back on the other when it's for their own betterment." She turned away from the balcony and faced Zaveed, arms crossed loosely over her chest as she contemplated him. "Maybe I'm a fool, but I don't think you will double cross me, Captain Greywake. If it's to the sea you're planning on returning, then I am more than willing to come along for that journey. Once I know my brother is well and safe."
The Khajiit nodded. “We’ll find out soon enough, with luck. I’m confident he’s alive, or the dossier I found would have likely indicated he’d been… you know.” Zaveed said, glancing over. “But I am a man of my word, as few morals as I have left, that still means something. And I give my word to you, it is my goal to find myself a new ship and pick up the life I’d lost. Perhaps it will be a way for you to collect what you’d lost, yes?”
A knock came at the door, and instead of being ushered in, one of the palace guards entered. “Pardon me, sir. This couldn’t wait.”
Zaveed grunted in annoyance, the spell of his mood broken by the intrusion. He stepped away from Sirine and approached the man. “What could possibly be so important to intrude?”
“It’s about Sevari, sir. He’s been arrested by the Thalmor; they aim to take him back to Alinor and make him stand trial for his alleged crimes.” The elf said, looking sheepish as Zaveed gnashed his teeth in response.
“Is that right?”
“Leave us. Now.” the Khajiit commanded. The Dwemer nodded curtly and departed as swiftly as he came. Zaveed began to stroll around the room, like a firestorm ready to break out. “Damn it, damn it all.” he growled, kicking a chair hard, forcing it into a wall. He looked to Sirine, his blue eyes like glaciers ready to shatter. “In Merrunz’s name, I am not leaving my brother to that fate. I lose him, you lose your own brother in the process. Are you willing to help me free him from bondage?” he asked.
"There's no need to ask," Sirine replied. This was most unfortunate news, and while she wasn't showing any obvious anger, her mood was soured. "I gave my word to you, and as it were I owe a debt to Sevari as well for his part in helping me out of the Scorpion's Song. Tell me what to do, I will do it."
Zaveed nodded, pleased at her willingness to see it through. “We do what a scorpion does; we wait for the right moment to strike. We play by their rules until we see an opening, then we take it. No stupid heroics, no fighting the entire garrison. I aim to have all three of us walk out of this building together none the worse for wear.” he looked at her with a sense of finality. “I will leave you to your privacy, if you wish. We all know it’s probably been some time since you even knew what that word meant.”
Sirine nodded, and with the smallest hint of hesitation reached out to place a hand on his arm. "We will get him out," she replied. "I aim to prove myself true." She wasn't sure if the Zaveed would be able to rest- she certainly hadn't been able to when she lost her brother- but there was the hope he was more sensible than she had been. "For now, I bid you goodnight."
Reaching out, Zaveed gingerly took Sirine’s cheek in his hand. He smiled softly. “You’ve never given me cause to believe that your word isn’t law nor your heart untrue. Until the morrow.” he said quietly, lingering for a few moments after sharing a gaze before stepping back and departing the room, the predatory spring to his step subdued as he closed the door behind him.