Nanine and Sevari, 16th of Midyear, afternoon
Nanine approached Sevari, pistol in hand. She couldn’t learn how to use this strange new weapon without training, and there were only two people in the Oasis who knew how to effectively use these weapons. She certainly wasn’t going to go to Zaveed, the khajit who had tortured her friends and then turned on the Dwemer at the earliest opportunity. That left Sevari, the one who had offered to help and then disappeared. At least she could be certain he hadn’t been actively working against them. They weren’t strong allies, but at least he wasn’t an enemy. She could trust him to teach her how to properly use this weapon. If he agreed to do it, that is.
She kept the end of the pistol down, unsure if it would go off in her hands at any moment, and knowing first hand exactly how dangerous it was. “Sevari?” She called out, stopping a few feet away from the khajit. “You know how to properly use this weapon, correct?”
“I do.” The Khajiit said, looking up from beneath the brim of his hat as he sat at the mouth of the cave their camp was made in, “What of it?”
“Could you teach me how to use it as well?”
Sevari cocked a brow at that. Should he? Come a time where they might decide Sora’s good words about them meant shit, he didn’t exactly want to get shot in the back of the head while he was out taking a piss. Or he could earn their trust. Latro might like that. “Sure.” He shrugged, “Have you used a crossbow?”
“Thank you.” Nanine smiled gratefully. She had half expected him to refuse, given how tense things were between the two groups. She shook her head. “No. The only weapons training I have is with swords and melee combat. I’m talented at destruction magic, if that affects anything.”
“The short of it is that it’s like a crossbow.” He said, pulling free his pistol from his belt, “Except you have to account for far more recoil. You’re holding an explosion in your hands. Less dangerous than it sounds, come.”
He waved the woman on and got to his feet before he made his way from the mouth of the Oasis’ cave. He’d grabbed up an empty bottle that had once held whiskey as he stood. They were outside the entrance and Sevari nodded to Nanine, willing her to watch him. He reared back with the bottle and sent it hurtling through the air. As it sailed, he took aim with his pistol, taking but a mere moment to perfect his aim and pulled the trigger.
The gun in his hand jerked, throwing out a plume of fire and smoke. In almost the same instance, the bottle shattered mid-air and Sevari turned to face Nanine as the shards made landfall. He finished with a flourish, a single twirl of the pistol as he put it back in its holster, “Like so.” He said, no hubris in the words, “Moving targets are harder. We can start you off with stationery ones.”
Nanine only gave a slight eyebrow raise at the mention of ‘holding an explosion in her hands’. It sounded almost exactly like destruction magic with none of the mana cost. She followed the khajiit out, watching intently as he first threw the bottle into the air and then shot it a second later. She was impressed, nodding in appreciation of his skill, despite herself. If aiming the pistol was anything like aiming spells, it took considerable talent to aim that quickly and hit your target. She gave a slight smile. “I would hope so. I very much doubt I’ll be able to hit many things that aren’t moving, much less things that are.”
She offered her pistol to him, stock first. “Could you show me how to tell if this is loaded and operational? I picked it up off of a ministry agent I killed and haven’t been able to figure out if it was broken in the fight, or even discharged.”
He nodded, grasping up the handle and placing his thumb on the pistol’s lever, “This here is the lever that lets you reload the pistol,” As he depressed the lever, the weapon broke open on a hinge, revealing the inner workings, a soul gem was held in place inside a chamber in the main body of the pistol with the barrel empty, “Well, there’s no cartridge in here.”
He took one off of his belt and placed it neatly in the hole of the barrel, folding the pistol back up with a mechanical click. His index finger brushed along another lever, this time jutting from the bottom of the pistol’s body, close to the handle. “This is the trigger. From there, it’s like a crossbow. Squeeze this with your finger hard enough and you’ll activate the soul gem. It heats the fire salts inside the cartridge and propels the bullet from the casing, spitting it out far faster than any arrow or crossbow bolt.”
He held it out to her in the same fashion she handed it to him, “Here.” he chewed his lip looking for a suitable target for Nanine to practice with. Not seeing one, he held a finger up to her, “Wait here.”
He returned with yet another bottle, sparing no thought to her judging his drinking habits, and sent it flying yet again until it landed in the sand some ways away. “That little bump at the tip of the pistol,” He held his own weapon out to her and pointed to the front sight, “Needs to be between this groove in that raised portion.”
He pointed to the rear sight as he spoke the last few words, “Try to hit that. Close one eye as you aim, easier to focus that way,” he spoke as she readied herself, “Your breaths should be slow and even, only firing at the peak of the inhale or the very last of the exhale.”
Nanine nodded, ignoring how many empty bottles he seemed to have on hand. He was sober when it counted, and that’s all that mattered. She took the pistol in both hands, looking carefully down the barrel as he instructed, taking slow even breaths. She closed one eye and took her aim. When the sight was over the bottle, she squeezed the trigger, unconsciously flinching to brace herself for the recoil.
A puff of sand to the right and beyond the bottle indicated her miss and she brought the pistol down, looking over at the khajiit, waiting for his critiques. She hadn’t expected to hit it, truth be told, but it was still mildly disappointing that she hadn’t even come close. “Do the gems have to be recharged, like with staves and other enchantments?”
“They can be,” he nodded, “It’ll take hours of shooting though. It takes less power from the soul gem to heat the small amount of fire salts than it would a stave to cast whatever spell is bound to it. Running out in the middle of a fight is the least of your worries.”
He smirked, changing the subject back to her shooting. “You’re expecting the recoil and pulling the trigger, you want to squeeze it with an even pressure. Just let your hand absorb it, keep your wrist and your grip strong.” He nodded, “You’ll get it. It’ll just take practice. Nobody is a master in a day.”
“Wouldn’t it be nice if that was the case? Just master things in a day and then move on to the next?” Nanine joked lightly, taking another bullet from the Khajiit and loading her gun. That, at least, she could do. “So what is an agent of the Empire doing in Hammerfell? I can’t imagine that with the capital destroyed, the Dwemer pushing from the north and the Dominion pushing from the south that the Emperor has the resources to spare to be concerned about the strength of dwemer forces here.”
“Important things.” He smirked, “I was here before the Dwemer arrived, focusing on the older enemy.”
“How descriptive.” Nanine replied dryly. She took a deep breath, aiming the pistol back at the bottle, tightening her grip. Her arm absorbed the impact of the recoil when she fired, but the puff of dust was even father to the right than last time.
He watched Nanine shoot and miss again, frowning slightly. “What exactly is it to you?” He asked good-naturedly.
“Curious. Last I saw and heard of the Empire was the Dominion taking over Anvil by force after adroitly taking over Skingrad. I figured that if anyone had news about the state of the Empire it’d be an agent.” She gave a small shrug, reloading the pistol once more. “But I’m going to guess that you know about as much about the situation outside of Hammerfell as I do.” She glanced at him, half-joking, “Unless you have a secret system of messages that feeds you information that you’re hiding from the rest of us.”
“If only,” he grumbled, “Intelligence networks are black right now, dead. I was working off of orders given months ago. We have a cell system, much like the insurgency. It was a directive in case the Thalmor ever managed to do what the Dwemer did.”
“The Poncy Man and I had a working relationship, let’s just say.” He sucked his teeth, “You talk a lot of warfare and politics to be a simple adventurer. Legionnaire?”
“Our little group came along and shattered that relationship didn’t we?” Nanine noted, taking aim with the pistol again. She slowly squeezed the trigger and the puff of dust was closer to the bottle, but short. She looked over at Sevari and nodded. “Family trade. Served in the tail end of Skyrim and helped flush out the bandits, necromancers, falmer, Stormcloak remnants, so on so forth, that had sprouted up and dug in during the civil war.” There was an unusual amount of heat on the word ‘bandits’, a brief flicker of anger. Nanine continued, “Left the Legion and became an adventurer for hire, was in Imperial city as it fell to the Dwemer, and the rest is history.”
“What’re the odds that the Dwemer will bother to track us down, you think?”
“High.” Sevari said, simple.
Nanine nodded. She had expected the Dwemer to try and chase them down, but had hoped the chaos of an all out assault on the palace would let them be forgotten, at least for a while.
“I was in Skyrim around then too, after the Emperor got assassinated. There was a lot of heat on the bureau there for letting that shit happen. There’s a reason you don’t hear anything about the Dark Brotherhood anymore.” He said, smirking as Nanine was slowly inching her shots closer to the bottle, nodding at her progress, “You’re getting better at that.”
She gave a grim smile at his mention of the Brotherhood. Those bastards had gotten what they deserved. She only hoped they had suffered when they were exterminated. “So that’s why you and your friend were able to track us down and capture Sora, Latro, and Raelynn so quickly. Hard to hide from a man who helped tear apart the premier assassin group in Tamriel.”
She glanced back over at the bottle, somewhat skeptically. “Yeah, I’m sure in a year’s time I’ll be able to hit a charging mammoth from six feet. At least I’ll be able to intimidate most people who know what this is. Until they see me shoot, that is.” She loaded the pistol once more, taking slow and steady aim again, and fired. The puff of sand was short and to the left, but still closer. She looked over at Sevari, curiously.
“What did ultimately give some of us away in Gilane? Apart from Mazrah we were all fairly careful, as far as I knew.”
“When you hide in Gilane’s most prestigious and opulent Hotel there really isn’t any work involved.” He chuckled, “There was a man named Roux. My brother and I tore through his ship like a quiet storm and he spilled everything he knew because I’m good at getting information I want.”
He clucked his tongue, “Keep at this and you’ll be able to put a bullet through a fly’s arse at forty paces.” He smiled, “After spending some time finding people who didn’t want to be found and burning their hiding holes to the ground, you lot were easy, always using the same routes home, being sloppy.”
“I’m sorry to say, but even as he was working with the Penitus Oculatus, the Poncy Man deemed Samara a sacrifice he was willing to make.” He shrugged, “It’s all part of the game. Politics and spyrings. Even so, I took Latro and Jaraleet as contacts and assets, should the Oculatus have need of them or all of Samara.”
“I don’t think I have to remind you that telling this to anyone is treason against the Empire for sharing classified information.” He smirked, “We’re both in the conspiracy now. Do you feel special?”
Nanine wasn’t surprised at the Poncy Man’s decision to sacrifice them. They had royally screwed up two of their very first missions, and things hadn’t gone any better from there on out. It was a simple decision to cut weak links. Her eyebrows rose slightly at the name drop of the Emperor’s bodyguards. Impressive connections indeed.
Nanine snorted. “Oh yes, very special. Never mind the fact that, aside from you, the only person who would currently be affected by this information being shared around is the Poncy Man and he was brutally murdered. And you’re on the run from both the Dwemer and the Insurgency with us.” She smirked back at him. “But worry not, conspiracy leader. I won’t betray us to the Dwemer or Insurgency.” She looked back at the camp, seeing the supply wagon again and everyone moving about it.
“Why did you agree to share your supplies with us? Very few of us trust you after your disappearance before the Palace assault, and none of us trust your brother. Putting yourselves among so many people who are one bad move on your part away from becoming violent against you seems...counterintuitive.”
“I don’t run.” He said, simply. He crossed his arms and shrugged, “And because we need you and you need us. We both need these supplies, we both need to get into the same place. It’s a win-win.”
“It’s all part of developing assets and living with the people you’re developing. There has to be trust, respect, some common ground.” He frowned, “Savian Kastav, an outlaw in southern Tamriel managed to take over a group of brigands and lead their two-bit outfit into notoriety, infamy, and wealth the likes of which they never dreamed of. The Dominion was getting robbed of their supplies and payroll with impunity.”
“Dar’Jango led a guerilla army and earned their respect in Valenwood. A guerilla army that tripped up Thalmor supply routes and assassinated some important people the Empire would’ve liked to have off the board.” He sighed, scratching at his beard that had been growing back over the past few days. “Sevari is teaching somebody he met a couple days ago how to shoot. You have to develop a rapport. That and I like Latro and Jaraleet. When you develop assets, sometimes they become friends. All the better.”
“Fair enough. War has created stranger bedfellows than us before. I sincerely hope our plans go better this time than the last time we plotted a prison break.” She loaded the pistol once more and took aim. As the sight fell over the bottle again, she fired. There was the slight tinkling of broken glass, and the puff of dust was just behind her target. The bottle still stood, however. Nanine peered at it in the distance then gave a small smile of satisfaction. “I believe I’ve clipped it.” She looked over her shoulder at Sevari, still smiling.
“Maybe I’ll be shooting a fly’s arse sooner than expected.”