Morning, 30th of Second Seed, 4E208
Hammerfell was different than Anifaire expected. The climate was warm enough to remind her of home, but still felt stranger and drier. Her clothes from Cyrodiil, though ragged, were still thicker and warmer than she would like in this weather, but she clutched the remains of her only, ever paycheck tight to her chest. The Altmer dared not use it on anything but food. Fortunately, this time, her accomodations were at least taken care of this time.
This ‘resistance’ business. Anifaire wasn’t sure what to make of it. She wasn’t a fighter; she was next to useless to this cause - and she was afraid. She didn’t even see the point of it, anyway. Life in Hammerfell didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary, aside from the fact that the Dwemer happened to be
She had few items to unpack at the inn, so she simply left to see more of the country she’d barely been paying attention on her way in because of her nerves. Once she knew what she was in for, she both wanted the space and was curious to see more real, live Dwemer.
Not wanting a repeat of the many times she’d lost track of the way back to her lodgings, Anifaire was sure to wander in sight of the inn. Still, in her limited wanderings, she found herself almost as entranced at watching the locals as the Dwemer she saw. They were foreign in a similar sort of way. Eventually, she sat down on a bench at the edge of the street near the inn, just watching people come and go. Her clothes were hot, and she haphazardly tried to roll up her sleeves. Once, she would’ve considered it indecency, but… it seemed standards she had once considered to be of the utmost importance didn’t matter as much anymore.
Meanwhile, Alim had taken to acquiring some breakfast without having paid for it. It took him awhile, as he made sure he stole from a high end Dwemer establishment. He was fortunate that the ancient race did not look so
different from other Elves, or even men for that matter. He had to admit the Dwemer and the Redguards had a very similar look in the way of facial hair. Pointed beards or well groomed goatees seemed to be the fashion, the only main difference being that the Dwemer enjoyed their sideburns.
Alim had taken his sausage links and fruit from a carriage, the notable Dwemer within having been distracted for a moment by the sights and sounds of the day on the opposite street. A quick peek, sly fingers and silent movements, and Alim found himself with a full breakfast. He now needed a place to enjoy his meal, and as usual he was going to choose an elevated position so he could look over the marketplace and the Inn. That is, until he caught a familiar sight.
His approach was hidden from within the crowds, as well as the sweptside cloth he wore over his chin, mouth, and nose to keep the sand out of his airway. Though Gilane hardly had that problem, it was more of a fashion statement. Suddenly, Anifaire would see Alim just as he sat down beside her, offering her an apple. “Hungry?”
Anifaire turned her head in surprise, immediately eyeing the apple. She hadn’t noticed before, but her stomach felt rather empty.
“Definitely,” she replied.
Alim handed it to her with a smile, his mouth already full (and closed as he chewed, he didn’t want to be rude). He bit into his apple again. “What were you out doing, Ani?” he asked. The day was already getting hot, but the apples were able to cool them down somewhat. Akatosh, he’d forgotten how tall she was.
“Need to find something in particular? I’ve passed through this city before a few years back.”
“I’ve never been to Hammerfell,” she replied between refreshing bites. She thought for a moment of Cyrodiil, and of home. It was different here. “I was watching the people.” She pulled at her sleeves again, wishing the skirts of the dress were a thinner. “I’ve never been anywhere, really. It seems like you’ve travelled everywhere.”
“Not yet,” he chuckled, and finished his apple. “I’ve been to…” He paused, making sure he got it all correctly. “Highrock, here, Cyrodiil, Elsweyr, Blackmarsh for a short second but only so I could pass northward. I’ve never been to Skyrim or Morrowind. I’d love to go someday. The Summerset Isle as well.” Mentioning that last bit, his eyes turned to hers.
“You never really think about all the places you’ve been until a few years pass, then you realize you’re different than who you were.”
“I…” she paused on his final comment, considering where she had been, even only a year prior, or two. “I’m different, now, I think. Since I left Alinor. Uh- Summerset. Even just since the expedition.”
Her apple was finished, but she spun it around, looking for any spots she might be able to get a last bite. She frowned, not finding anything but core. “I’m afraid,” she admitted.
Alim blinked, wondering what she meant. If it was the rough culture of hammerfell or any particular person he’d get the knife, but he got the feeling that wasn’t it. “What do you mean, Anifaire?”
“I’ve never left home like this.” Anifaire rummaged around for her sack of gold and pulled it out, weighing the last few coins in her hand. “I’m not… Alim, my family has money. I’ve never… this is… new. I’m not good at this. I can’t fight. I get lost.”
The gold she’d been so proud of days before was running low, and she was beginning to wonder how she would be able to contribute to their endeavour here. “A resistance…” She frowned. “Why?”
His eyes downcast as he digested what she said, he opened his mouth to speak, but then zipped his lips. For once. Just when it seemed that he wouldn’t reply at all, he grabbed her hand. “Come on.” he said, pulling her up. When she gave a puzzling look, he just winked. “I got something to show you.”
With that, he led her up the street and then turned, leading her deeper into the maze of slums and buildings that was Gilane.
Anifaire followed along in surprise, both nerves and a hint of excitement bubbling inside her stomach. It seemed like her mood had gone from high to low, but the distraction and curiosity was enough to lighten things up for the time being. Her eyes wide as she took in the streets of Gilane with curiosity, she hurried along behind Alim.
As the cobblers bartered with foreign merchants, men and women danced and sang. A few entertainers juggled as others dangled swords down their throats for extra coins from passersby. One redguard, his pants and sash belt unassuming, wore a bright crimson vest and seemingly juggled fireballs for the amusement of a small gathered crowd.
“It wasn’t what I wanted, me leaving Highrock.” He said to her as they traversed through the crowds. “It was sort of...forced on me.”
After they turned down the next alleyway, they were suddenly alone save for two men who sat within cloaks, obviously using this as a resting place with shade. “But if I could do it all over again, I would.” he said. The dashing spellsword didn’t fully pass through the alleyway, instead opening up a makeshift curtain that had been placed along the ruin of a wall, and with a nod of encouragement, he led Anifaire up a vast and winding array of carved stairs.
“Watch your head,” he said with a care. There were some lower hanging bits of wooden scaffolding, and she was taller than he. The going was a bit arduous, but soon they made it to the very top.
And with a flick of his wrist, a knife appeared in his hands. A quick cut, and a dirt ridden curtain fell to reveal the entirety of Gilane reveal itself before Ani in all of its splendid beauty. The sea covered the entirety of the southern field of vision, with the Arena and the Governor’s Palace standing tall as if erected by titans of Old. Sea gulls swooped and cawed, and the exquisite architecture merely added to the already impressive scene. “And this is one of the reasons why.” He said with a grin.
Anifaire stepped farther out, attempting to get a better look. She gasped in amazement, her eyes sliding across each detail of the city one building at a time. Cyrodiil hadn’t truly impressed her; next to Alinor, it seemed colourless in a way. This, though, held its own exotic beauty and charm. Since arriving in Hammerfell, she’d been intrigued by its own culture, but she hadn’t yet realized its full beauty. Moments later, she turned to Alim, looking down at him with an expression of wonder on her face. “It’s amazing!”
“It is beautiful,” he admitted, simply gazing out for a moment to truly appreciate it himself. He turned back to Ani, and realized that he was helping her here more than the fact she was a teammate, or that she was pretty. He remembered how scared he had been, leaving home for the first time. He might have been a bastard, but he still had wealth back then. Luckily he learned how to get some of his own.
“And somehow, the Dwemer are here.” he said, changing the subject for a moment. “And they’re occupying it. But they won’t occupy many places in Tamriel. They’ll conquer and destroy. It’s only by the grace of Akatosh or Talos or someone that it’s still standing...But the Imperial City is not, anymore.”
He’d stepped onto the ledge, standing even taller than Anifaire at the moment. His tousled dark hair flowed in the wind. A gold coin slipped out into his hand, and he flipped it with a flick of his thumb. “You can do a lot of good with us, Ani. And you can learn a lot too. See the world…” He flipped the coin again to fall into Ani’s hands. Only because her eyes were on him did she catch it before it fell off the building. “I’m sorry, I talk too much. My point is, I’d like you to stay and I’d like to help you. If you’d let me. I know how you’re feeling, but I think I can help. Do you trust me?”
He held out his hand to her, smiling.
“I don’t think you talk too much,” she blurted out. She blinked for a second in confusion but brushed it off, nodding and taking his hand. He had a point, about the Imperial City. Occupation, well, it didn’t look strange to her, but what she’d seen back there… That was something that needed to be avoided. Something she didn’t want to see repeated.
Alim blinked, and his heart skipped a beat. He smiled, and squeezed her hand. “I’ll take that as a yes.” he said.
He stepped down, and suddenly realized they’d held eye contact for awhile. He tried to play it off cool. “Now, let’s get you some new clothes. Those shoes with that top?” He shook his head. “Tsk tsk, Scandalous.”
Anifaire paused, confused. “I’m wearing a dress.” She considered it’s torn state. “Sort of.” Her eyebrows shot up again. “Is it that bad?” She frowned, looking down at the messy fabric.
Alim stopped for a second. “N-No, that was a joke.” he said. “I think you look beautiful.” He decided to talk quickly after that to change the subject. “But you’re obviously really hot. In the dress I mean! Hammerfell clothes would suit you better, right?” He said as he led her down the stairs again.
“It is warm,” she agreed, a blush colouring her cheeks from the compliment. She considered her low funds but didn’t say anything; she didn’t want to embarrass herself.
As they made it into the alleyway again, Alim stopped for a second and told Ani to stay quiet for a moment, until the sound of music wafted into the alleyway. “There it is,” he breathed, and led her out of the alleyway and into the street, past the flute players, and into one of the many catacomb-like shops that filled Gilane.
Immediately the shade blanketed them, and the breeze actually felt slightly cool for once. Out of the back popped a woman of middle years, a redguard of course. Her face was veiled by what looked to be embroidered blankets, and her form was covered in a similar fabric save for her midriff.
“Yes, hello friends!” She greeted them, her hands splayed out and beckoning them forward. “Welcome to Ferona’s fabrics, how shall I please you?”
Alim produced a precious gem, the small fragment of the diamond glinting off the vendor’s eyes as she gazed at it hungrily. “You are going to help dress me friend for the weather, and do whatever she requires. Do that, and you get this as payment. Understand?”
“Yes, of course. Yes yes...come, darling. We shall go in the back…”
Anifaire didn’t even have a second to consider what was happening before the vendor led her by the arm, beginning to chatter away.
“What colours were you thinking? A nice green would…”
The Altmer shot a wide-eyed glance over her shoulder, back at Alim. Excitement bubbled in her stomach: real clothes. Alim was out of sight in moments and she was led behind a screen. Used to these types of processes, Anifaire quickly began stripping of her ragged dress. She tossed the fabric aside, hoping never to wear it again. Traveling from the Imperial City had really done a number on it.
“Darling, what did you decide?” the vendor asked, an array of fabrics now piled in her arms. Anifaire shot her a quizzical look over the screen; she hadn’t been listening. She blushed as she realized. That hadn’t been polite. “Colours?”
“Oh, um, greens will do nicely. Thank you.”
The vendor beamed, holding out some billowing skirts which looked just as hot as what she’d been wearing before. “These are more similar to what you’re accustomed to,” she said, “but they won’t be in style. If you’d like them, I can adjust them.”
“No, that’s fine,” Anifaire replied. A measure of confidence leaked back into her. She was accustomed to tailors and fittings. “Give me something in fashion. That won’t be too warm.”
The vendor agreed. She waved over an assistant who helped her search through the fabrics in her arms before she finally settled on a few garments which she hung over the screen. Anifaire took them wordlessly and began sorting out how to get them on. It truly wasn’t difficult, even the scarves. The pants were billowly and long; they almost looked like a skirt until she actually put them on. The silky material was comfortable, if odd. The shirt was strange. It showed more skin than she thought she’d ever seen in her life but, who was she to complain about what was in style? The vendor was right. She’d seen others in similar clothes.
Once she was dressed, the seamstress fitted the clothes to her. Anifaire held still as she was accustomed to doing, and the process was over soon. She wondered if Alim was waiting outside - and how he happened to be able to pay for this kind of treatment.
As she was led back out to the store front by the vendor, she found herself feeling more like her old self than she had in ages. It had been too long since she was clean, well dressed, and proper. Her hand strayed to her neck, where her mother’s necklace used to sit. It had been one of many, but her favourite, and held sentimental value. She had none left, though parting with the last one had been a particularly stinging defeat. Even without it, she felt that she carried herself more confidently.
Alim leaned against one of the inner stone pillars. In fact it was the only pillar in the store, but it was one of many in the vast complex of shops that kept the entirety of the building aloft. He was worried if everything in there would turn out ok. He heard the footsteps of the two women behind him, and he turned just in time to feel his jaw drop.
She looked...really pretty. It was very high end but comfortable Hammerfell clothing, form fitting yet simultaneously loose and poofy. He realized he was staring. “I love it.” he said.
“Thank you,” Anifaire replied quietly. She wasn’t sure if she was thanking him for the compliment, for paying, or both. It was all of it, she supposed.
“Hey,” he said, nudging her. “It’s what friends are for. We’re a team. There’s plenty more where that came from.”
“How did you get that diamond by the way?” Anifaire asked.
“I do a lot of odd jobs an- oh that one? I stole it.”