L'Schaft as Latro de Couteau
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For the past few days the party had been traveling, Latro had slowly transitioned from mourning the loss of the many faces he once knew that milled about the archaeology camp and moreso to his instruments. Every night of camping on the road or hearing bards both terrific and horrifying play in taverns from Skyrim to the White-Gold city made him miss his instruments more every time. His fingers yearned for something to do and resorting to making grass whistles or fiddling with any small objects he could take up in his lithe hands was cutting it less and less as the days and nights dragged on. Once he and the others finally got paid for their time at the archaeology camp, he almost immediately rushed to the marketplace to peruse any wares.
Until now though, he hadn’t found something he liked. The lute that he held out before himself and appreciated was an extravagant piece of beauty, scrollwork along the body, small bits of gold inlay along the neck and head. “500.” The merchant grumbled.
Latro’s eyes went to the merchant’s, his eyebrows cocking at the price he just heard. “Take it or leave it.” The merchant gestured to a simpler designed lute, “This’n’s cheaper.”
“Ah.” He said, gently placing the lute down where it first lay, a finger tracing along a section of scrollwork before his hands finally left it. Whatever quarrels he had with the merchant and his attitude didn’t involve that little beauty.
Dejectedly, he resumed his walk about the marketplace, already knowing for sure that he’d be back for the simpler and more cheaply priced instrument. Having something is better than nothing, after all. He only hoped the presence of extravagant scrollwork and other such amenities had no impact on how sweet the notes played. Well, he knew it didn’t, but one could dream of owning an art-piece he could create art with.
“I was hoping I’d run into you.” Daro’Vasora called out, hurrying over to Latro as quickly as her dress would allow without making a total fool of herself. She stopped a few steps away from the bard, composing herself. “I ran into Brynja earlier in the day, she stumbled into my mentor’s shop in true Brynja fashion. You’ve been looking at instruments, I’ve noticed.” she said, transitioning from one thought to the other without it being too jarring, she hoped.
Latro heard the familiar voice of Daro’Vasora behind him. He smiled, another friendly face amongst this crowd. When he turned, his smile twitched a bit, not expecting Daro’Vasora to be the type to find herself in anything but her armor or the simpler, more utilitarian dresses she wore in camp. What she was donning now, though, well… it complemented her. “Yes.” He said, simply, before he cleared his throat after a pause even he noticed might not go...unnoticed, “Sadly, I’m not ready to part with as large a sum as the merchant was asking for. I would like at least something to play with at camp, or anywhere at all.”
His soft smile was back on his face, “I had no idea your mentor had his shop here.” He chuckled a bit, “Or that you had a mentor.”
The Khajiit smirked. Well, at least that was a reaction that was usually welcomed. She wasn’t the only awkward one around someone she was trying to keep in good graces with. Still, she maintained her composure, more or less.
“Where do you think I learned the tricks of the trade? I could hand a child a sword and they could probably figure out what to do with it, but to be good at something comes from somewhere. For me, that comes from Zegol.” she glanced back at the surly instrument vendor that had turned Latro away. “Don’t worry about him, or most of the vendors on this row. They mark things up to try and rake in some free spending nobility with impulsive shopping habits or tourists and travellers who feel like they need to purchase something from Imperial City, where only the finest wares show up without considering a lot of it’s junk.”
“You’re right, I’ve met a few before. It’s hard to give up a habit, especially when the habit factors so much into a passion.” Latro clucked his tongue and shrugged, “I don’t mean to forget the graves so readily, but, my instruments are under that mountain now. I haven’t played a song anywhere but my head and my dreams the past few weeks.”
“If you don’t mind me asking,” Latro looked Daro’Vasora over once more, the dress, the bangles, the ensemble. It looked as if she was about to attend a dinner with one of the Emperor’s courtiers. “What’s the occasion? I’ve, um, never seen you dressed as such.”
“Oh, you mean to say that in the ever so long time we’ve been in acquaintance, you’ve never considered that I have clothing that isn’t field garb?” She teased, grinning. “Welcome to the Imperial City, a wondrous place where people dress up for the sake of it and to convey social status. Very alarming, I’m sure.” she walked over to Latro, taking him by the arm, steering him away from the vendor alley. “But no, I usually don’t wear finery as a daily ritual. Just consider it my way to shed weeks on the road off and mentally tell myself I’m home.”
Latro’s brow quirked as Sora took him by the arm, leading the way in what was now their walk about the city’s streets. “Makes sense. I didn’t mean it how it sounded,” he smiled sheepishly, “I’ve only ever seen the nobility dressed as such. You see a lot of it in Camlorn and Daggerfall. It looks nice.”
He walked alongside Sora, eyes still able to appreciate the ancient architecture of this place. “Where should we go? Were you heading anywhere?”
Daro’Vasora took the compliment in stride. “I’m glad you approve. The cost of trying to look presentable is you lack practicality, so thank you, I do take pride in my appearance. And I have something I’ve been meaning to give you, actually. A gesture of appreciation for keeping me from being eaten by the Falmer, or worse, taken. I’d like to think you are the reason I’m still alive to dress and go for fancy walks in the capital.” She explained, perhaps a bit too cordially considering the topic at hand.
“Ah.” Latro said. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, he was only doing what anyone would. He liked Daro’Vasora, but the idea of even her feeling like they owed him somehow… to say the least, he was not used to the idea of that. Even when things went bad for him in Markarth, he didn’t feel as anxious. A fleeting thought that the man in search of a place he belonged and just enough coin to get him there would ironically be so uncomfortable with the idea of people treating him like he belonged right after he got enough coin to get him somewhere. He silently cursed at himself, he hadn’t run as many circles in his mind like this since, well, for some time, “I do appreciate it.” He hoped she wouldn’t sense his apprehension.
Even above his dislike of feeling like he did in this moment, he didn’t want to feel like he would in the moments after he refused a gift from someone who thought he was the reason she was alive. He did have to admit though, Daro’Vasora’s words made him feel something. She was alive and well, and seemed to like him. Everyone he traveled with, well, most everyone, did.
A man dead to the world named Finnen could feel his heartbeat quicken and a soft smile curl up at the corners of his lips. Even so, “I was only doing what anyone else would. If anything, the person getting a gift should be me, admittedly. The others may not have ever seen me again had you not been there with me every step of the way.” And that was something he did not wish to think on, despite his few but climatic brushes with death in the past. “I am sorry I couldn’t use my magic to heal you. That poultice was all I had. I hope nothing scarred.”
The Khajiit snorted derisively “Oh, you’d be surprised. I’m pretty sure ‘anyone else’ includes the likes of Durantel, who I’m pretty sure would cut your heel if it meant buying himself five extra seconds to escape. And please, don’t even worry about it. Hands are fine, see?” Daro’Vasora said, showing her palms. Only faint lines brushed across her padded hands from where the cuts had happened. They looked like old scars, at this point. “I was well looked after when we got back to the others. Besides, you had quite the scare, yourself. You did what you had to to survive, I respect and agree with that.”
They continued on, and they were headed down a less busy alleyway towards Curious Curios some blocks away, where a lot of the more niche speciality shops resided in the Market District. It was a warm, sunny day with a gentle breeze. All considered, it seemed like a perfect day that didn’t care about what happened in the North. “But if you feel so inclined, I’m not adverse to being spoiled on occasion. Consider it a trade, if you must.” she said after a few moments with a smile. “How are you enjoying the city so far?”
Latro nodded at the faint reminders of what had happened northward, “I’m glad.” He said.
To her comment about being spoiled, he gave a chuckle, “I might have to do that, then. As for all of this? I feel like I must have been on the roads too long, even Daggerfall and Anvil pale in comparison. I ventured to those places with someone you could call my
mentor. I thought they were large cities.” After a bit of walking, he asked, “Are you from here?”
“Leyawiin, which I would heartily recommend you give a hard pass if you are given the option to travel there. It’s been ransacked during the Great War, the climate is swampy and humid, and most of the architecture is pretty run down. It feels like an outpost against Khajiiti incursions that never evolved with the times. I’ve been here since I was in my mid-teens when trouble finally caught up to me.” she explained. “I was always fond of Anvil, the ocean’s always been something that captured my imagination, the salty air, the warm sun. I hear the Dominion has some incredibly coastlines, but I’m not in a hurry to go find out what I already know about those lands.”
“Trouble?” Latro asked, almost not surprised. He figured anyone with skills like hers had to have picked them up and honed them somehow and for some reason. After all, he was living proof that a first glance, or even weeks spent around a person, could never show them the truth if you didn’t want them to see it. “Of what kind?”
Daro’Vasora was quiet for a moment, eyes darting about as she mulled over her answer. Ultimately, she decided the truth was harmless enough. “I was always a well-off child, both of my parents work very lucrative lines of work compared to most so growing up, I had everything I could ever need. Problem was, it wasn’t everything I wanted
. I, like most children, pushed the boundaries for what I could get away with. And, unlike most children, being immensely spoiled meant pushing the boundaries way further than anyone should.” she allowed herself an impish smile, her eyes settling on a pair of pigeons roosting.
“First it was small things, seeing what I could pocket and not get caught. When I didn’t get caught, I kept upping my game. Seeing what I could skim off of merchant ships or caravans, taking things people just left laying around for a few moments. Eventually I was caught when I was on a merchant boat and decided to make myself known before I ended up somewhere I couldn’t get home. Hence the honourific, Daro. It loosely means swift fingered, clever, thief.” Daro’Vasora explained, turning down the street to the shop.
“So mother more or less kept me under house arrest in Castle Leyawiin, where she served the count. I more or less became an indentured servant at that point, toiling away at housekeeping duties and often under watch so I’d stay out of trouble. They let me into the library and I spent a lot of my downtime in books, where I yet again decided to up my game and go find these relics I read so much about. I told my parents I wanted to leave, and up the river I went to Zegol, where I promptly became someone else’s problem.” she concluded, looking over and meeting Latro’s eyes.
“It suits you, the honourific. You struck me as ambitious from the first time I saw you at camp.” Latro said, not breaking eye contact with Sora. Part of him wondered how she would take that and he wasn’t one to shy away and blush when speaking the truth, as easy-going as he was, “There were stories in camp. Some ridiculous, like you breaking into the White-Gold Tower to swipe an Elder Scroll or even the crown jewel itself. At least most of the stories are better than the ones about me.”
Daro’Vasora laughed, a light and flighty sound. “Normally when most people find out that the prefix of my name treats thievery as somehow noble, they start getting very protective of their coin purses. Can’t say I blame them, but I appreciate that about you. You don’t let prejudice get in the way of learning who a person is.” she said earnestly. “And that particular story is a half-truth, but I figure stories are more fun when your imagination is involved. So what of you, where does Latro the Bard hail from?” she asked.
“I was born in Camlorn. I never was close with my father. So, I pushed boundaries like you, just not with the same things.” The best liars drip truth into their lies. It just didn’t help that the truth dripped into this one was something he didn’t truly like, “I left Camlorn to find myself. My family said it would be good for me. I haven’t been back since.”
He felt a frown making the muscles in his chin sore and forced the soft smile back onto his face, “I met my mentor some time after that. He was the one who helped me the most. I learned a lot from him. Not so much how to fight but when and why
. Violence is the first tool of simple minds. I don’t like violence.” He shrugged and decided to turn the conversation back upwards, “He even introduced me to some of the finest bards in High Rock and Skyrim to hone my talents. I even know a few ballads from Hammerfell.” He smiled, sincere, this time.
The Khajiit could sense when there was something bordering on discomfort for Latro and his origins, so she decided not to press the line of thought. If he wanted to share that part about him, he would in time. Regardless, she didn’t mind. His company didn’t require strings or conditions, and it helped make her feel a lot more at ease with him than the others. She didn’t even have the urge to bark snarky retorts at him like others. Gods, I’m getting soft.
“He sounds like he was a good compass for you, Latro. This is a world where you need to know how to fight, but I’m glad you’ve found a purpose for it. I’ve never liked killing, although fighting can be fun. It took me a few weeks to get over the first man I killed, but it was life or death, so you know how it goes.” she said, gesturing to a sign above. Curious Curios
dangled above. “Well, we arrived. Please, follow me.”
The two entered the shop, their eyes taking a few moments to adjust to the dim compared to the bright day outside. Zegol was assisting another customer, who was looking at a daggers, so Daro’Vasora didn’t want to bother him. Instead she gestured towards the orc. “That’s my mentor, Zegol. He’s a big softie.”
“I haven’t met much Orsimer you could attribute that word to.” His head dipped in a slight bow when the Orc cast a glance towards them but continued on with the hardy man he had been attending to, “So, I am your guest here. Where to?” He smiled.
“Upstairs. And no, not for that. I’ve got something I wanted to show you.” She said, heading to the stairs and pulling up the rope barrier. “I’ve probably been responsible for about a quarter of all the relics you see around here. As you can imagine, I’ve been very busy the past few years. However, there’s something I know you’ll be interested in.”
Latro smirked and he was hoping not to be blushing at the mention of [i]that[\i]. He was always bashful in that aspect. He’d fought, he’d killed, he’d survived a perilous life, and it was ironic to him that that was where he drew the line. “I wouldn’t dare presume you the type.” He chuckled and followed after Vasora, “That’s quite the feat though, I’d no doubt you had adventures under your belt but somehow this surprises me.”
Daro’Vasora headed up the stairs with a cheeky grin. “Oh, I’ve had my share of fun. Life’s too short to be squeamish about what everyone wants to do anyways, you know? You’ll find I’m full of surprises, probably comes from the fact I’m a respectable and learned woman when I’m not skulking around someone’s eons old vanity project in an attempt to have their identity immortalized for something I can pawn off for considerable coin.” she said, leading Latro up the stairwell.
Soon enough, they found their way to the landing and there were four rooms breaking off from the hallway, including a fairly well furnished living area. Heading down the hall to an emerald green painted door, Daro’Vasora opened it and inside was a small, but well-used room with plenty of shelving with all manner of knick-nacks, relics, and books lining the walls, as well as a surprisingly sparsely stocked wardrobe. Mounted to the wall next to the semi-made bed were a trio of lutes. Pulling one off of its padded mount, the Khajiit propped a foot up on her bed to support the instrument and nimble claws began to pluck the strings, in succession, the other tuning the instrument. In a few moments, she was strumming a tune that may have been familiar to Latro, Home by the Way of Topal
, which was a popular folk song in her hometown. Having strummed through a couple verses, she offered the instrument to Latro. “This one’s a third era find of mine that belonged to a trader in Anvil. No real history for it other than it’s been refurbished and restrung a few times, but it has a nice deep tone that I’ve always been fond of. It’s yours now.”
Latro’s eyebrows found themselves going up when Daro’Vasora surprised him yet again with a beautiful rendition of a folk tune he did indeed remember the tune of by the second half of the first verse. He sat listening to her play the rest of what she did with a content smile, tapping his foot along with the beat. When she told him of the quaint history of the lute, he listened with the same content smile before it dropped off his face to be replaced with mild shock when she told him it was his. “Sora…” his bottom lip twitched and he bit on it lightly to mask it before speaking again, “You don’t have to.”
“I don’t have to do anything. You don’t have to make a big fuss out of it; I already could tell you were lost on the way back from the Jerall Mountains without your instruments, and friends don’t let friends buy overpriced crap lutes from street vendors. Seriously, it’s nothing; I have five of them. It’s not even my favorite.” She said, extending her arms out with the instrument, as if offering her sword to his cause. “Take it.”
Latro took his moment, looking from Sora to the lute and back and forth. “You really think it was a crap lute?” He smirked before plucking it from Sora’s hands and immediately set to plucking out the jaunty [i]Wayward in Wayrest[\i]. “I’m still going to get you a gift.” He said, smirking while carrying on with the tune.
She set herself down at a desk, listening with a smile. “Oh yeah? What could you offer me that I haven’t pillifered from some dead guy’s stash already?” she countered coyly, her hand making slight motions as she took in the rhythm. It wasn’t a song she was all too familiar with, but like a word that stayed at the tip of one’s tongue, it was something that had been present in her past, she just couldn’t place where. “You know, part of me’s being selfish here. I was quite fond of your playing back when we all met at the fire how many moons ago, and I admit I’ve acquired a taste for it. You’ve quite the talent, Latro.”
“You said it first,” Latro paused to bend the strings upwards to produce a higher pitched note during the song’s closing riff before ending it altogether, “to be good at something comes from somewhere. Who knows, you could’ve stayed at an inn I played at on the roads and never stopped to notice just where the melody was coming from.” He smiled.
He held the lute out before him. It was just as pretty as the one he held in the marketplace but the fact it came from the hands of a friend meant all the difference. His eyes met Sora’s again. “Thank you.” He said softly, quietly grinning. “As for the gift… I’ll figure something out. In the meantime, care for a drink?”
Daro’Vasora clasped her hands together, rubbing them together conspiratorially. “Now you’re talking. It would be nice to drink somewhere that has a roof and a grasp on basic hygiene. Spot a place already?” She asked, standing with some manner of grace, the dress not inconveniencing her motion in the slightest. “You could impress a few of the locals for coin with your new instrument of mass seduction.” she pointed out, gesturing to the lute.
“There’s only been a select few in my life I’ve cared about impressing with anything.” He smiled, “Coin though, I’ve accepted that from anywhere. How about a stroll and you can show me your favorite establishment? I’m new in town, after all.” He shrugged.
“I’m of the mind to go where the winds take us. When has being impulsive ever led to bad ideas?” Daro’Vasora grinned, grabbing her coin purse from the desk and her family dagger, which was quickly belted about her waist. “I don’t know about you, but I’ve felt a bit peckish as well. Shall I use this big nose of mine to find what doesn’t smell like baked rat, or at the very least a very well spiced baked rat?”
“I’ve eaten worse things.” He grinned and gestured for the door, “You’ve done a good job leading me where I want to be so far.”
With that, they spent a good amount of time meandering the streets. Latro smiled and cast a glance to Sora with the few compliments he got on his lute. Good conversation about the history of each place they passed filled the space between her bedroom door and the Merchants Inn. Latro pushed open the door and the tail end of his laugh was drowned out at the cacophonous cheering pouring out onto the street like a wall of water from a broken levy. Brynja had just pinned a man’s hand to the table and then met Cassius before going to the bar. If Latro didn’t know better, it seemed she had slipped into a mood more befitting a funeral when she was left alone at the bar. He sighed and made his way through the crowd with Sora. “Hello, my friend.” He said to the Nord, an easy smile on his lips. It would seem his night was only getting started.