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Current changing my major from psychology to "eating dirt and how to eat dirt properly"
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Maybe the real plot was the friends we made along the way. [Last Updated: January 18, 2019]

I'm 23 years old, a blue-collar worker, and my major is in Psychology! 4.0 baybeeeee

Obviously I enjoy reading and writing if I made an account on this website, and I like to think I'm not half bad at it. I first started writing and roleplaying at the start of 2010 and I've stuck with it ever since. I've had a couple of dry spells along the way, but I always seem to come back to it. I enjoy most genres, but if I had to pick a couple of favorites, they would be sci-fi and high fantasy, with the latter being preferred. Some of my favorite and best characters have come from Elder Scrolls roleplays! What can I say? It appeals to the D&D nerd in me.

Ask any of my friends and they'll tell you that the history sections of nearly all of my characters are obnoxiously long. Absurdly long. Probably too long. I probably definitely have a problem, and it's because I get so carried away with telling their story. I want my readers to know how their story influences them as a person and I love creating tragedy and watching a character overcome those tragedies and finding themselves, watching their identities shatter and coming back together. I've always been a fan of characters overcoming their weaknesses and obstacles and I try to make that show in many of my characters. You could say that I even try to write my characters in such a way so that they can inspire me, as pretentious as that also might sound.

I also try to research whatever it is I'm writing about so that I'm not just pulling shit out of my ass - unless that's what my character is doing, in which case I try to make sure that's made clear in my writing. Just because I'm a melodramatic piece of shit doesn't mean I don't try to write a compelling story. I typically enjoy writing characters with a grey morality because evil is cringey and benevolence is exhausting, so anything in between I think is the sweet spot. That being said, I still like to write characters who are outgoing and friendly. Even in the characters with a "positive morality", I try my best to incorporate flaws so that they still feel human. I've written an artist who loves being alive, is a compulsive flirt, and tries to see the beauty in all things. He is also a coward, a fool, and sometimes he's accidentally a thoughtless heart-breaker. I've also written a high-school valedictorian, who was a humble and intelligent young woman who wants to do right by the world and help others as they've helped her. This came after her depression post dropping out of Yale due to a bad drug problem. She's been clean for a while now, but her past haunts her. I've written a priestess who has suffered through an immense trauma and while she is typically a soft-spoken and compassionate individual, her trauma manifests itself through her buried frustration and bitterness, which stems from her crisis of faith.

So there you have it. Hope we can write together some time!

Prime Rib Boneheads
@He Who Walks Behind
@Ruler Inc

These Tickle My Funny Bone
You can find me in:

The Elder Scrolls: Fruits of Contention (Chapter 2) by @Gcold
The Elder Scrolls: Vengeance of the Deep by @Dervish
Mass Effect: Sinless by @Amaranth

Most Recent Posts

Meeting of the Minds

The week-long journey was an arduous ordeal for a multitude of reasons; though Aries had heard that the former Samara cell had held their trial for Gregor, they had excluded many affected parties who likely had every right to be in attendance. They were made to wait with bated breath until those who had broken out early delivered the news. Calen, for one, was not a person who could sit idly with a guilty conscience. So, when Aries discovered that the bard had left their trial early, fidgeting uncomfortably in his seat whilst cradling his head, she sought to console him in her pursuit of answers.

Calen looked at her with a feeling of uncertainty, though he wasn’t sure if it was due to his own emotional fugue. He didn’t quite feel certain of anything really, if he was on the right side or not or who he could possibly trust. The man he knew longest of anyone in this motley crew of mercenaries, adventurers, soldiers, cutthroats – and now an Imperial ambassador – turned out to not just be a necromancer, but one of the vilest entities known among all legends and lore? He didn’t know what the others decided to do with him for he left too soon, but not so soon that he didn’t hear a few of the others advocating for Gregor’s life – if such an existence can even be called life anymore.

Yet as he sat himself down on a cold boulder to steady his wobbling knees and dizzy mind, he looked up at Aries’ face which was barely made visible by the orange glow of distant fire light – from what he could discern, it was mostly characterized by dire concern with notes of sympathy. A voice inside of him was screaming for relief, to be relieved of the burden of knowledge. For so long his voice had been the one to soothe others, and his ears open to the words that weighed on others. He wanted desperately to have his own worries and burdens be shared, though the expectation of being the strong, kind, and wise listener told him otherwise. If he showed vulnerability now, showed himself incapable of coping, who then would the others have to turn to? Then a hand was delicately placed upon his shoulder, and Calen looked back up at Aries, who stood backlit by starlight.

“We need to know.” Aries said with a comforting softness in her voice. “For everyone’s sake.”

Calen hesitated for a second, weighing his options in his head. If not an ambassador of the Empire… then who?

The week-long journey through the Alik’r desert and into the mountains to the north was physically arduous, made only harder with the information Calen had given her. To think that this group, even with all their flaws, would still permit a lich to exist within their company. It would take every ounce of her willpower to not act on her own accord to torch Gregor where he stood, and she would not have hesitated if she was certain that the others wouldn’t have turned on her if she had her will realized. Many sleepless nights were spent wondering when his betrayal would be at hand or weighing out the consequences if she saw to his end herself. Would her potential death be worth the slaying of a hideous monster, or would her survival be worth Gregor’s hour of reckoning? It was as they said: it’s not paranoia if they’re out to get you.

There were a few times when Sevari approached her out of concern for her health, though she pushed him away and assured him that she was fine. She was self-aware enough to know that the stress was beginning to weigh on her and wear her down. Sleep never came easily and food was hard to swallow, but she had to keep up appearances, thus came one of the consequences of outing herself as ambassador. She had to be a leader for these people even if they didn’t necessarily care for her. She had to put up a strong and certain front, to appear sure, even if she wasn’t right. Even if Sevari was the closest person she had to an advisor, she still found herself stuck in the mindset of treating him like an outsider to the inner circle that consisted of only herself. She couldn’t help but note that it was all too similar to how she found the bard a week ago after Gregor’s trial.

Ordinarily, she wouldn’t have considered entertaining such a person – though some bards like those of Daggerfall were typically well acquainted with officials of the highest order, Calen was of humble ranking; from the threads on his back to his mannerisms, he seemed to her as the type that found himself more at home in a tavern than a court, no matter how proper his manner of speak may be. Still, having watched him (as well as a few others) along the journey, he had a way with speaking to people, no matter who, to get them to like him. She wondered if he would retain the same charisma and sagacity to go toe to toe with her.

“Calen,” she said to him during a brief stop along the Jerall mountains, her face weary and braided hair frazzled and undone in comparison to it’s usual elegance, “How little have we talked? How impermissible it must be to have avoided one another for so long.”

The bard looked curiously up from the rock he has seated himself upon, finding himself a sight all too familiar to him since a week before: Aries standing over him. It barely took him a second to remember the proper etiquette, and he immediately stood upon noticing her approach. Upon doing so, he couldn’t help but notice he stood a few inches taller than her. It wasn’t something he expected given the poise Aries had. Even so, her appearance has been distinctly disheveled since the day Gregor’s truth broke out as the bags under her eyes had indicated, and he was sure that she, like everybody else, was deprived of the luxury of a proper bath for quite a few days. Still, she held herself with a certain admirable grace that was difficult to ignore – Calen has fallen for, well, not less for he did not measure beauty in such ways… but simpler. Aries’ intensity was distinctly arresting.

“I can only assume that such might be the burden of your duties, ambassador. All the better that I have not distracted you from them, no?” Calen respectfully quipped back, quickly changing tact while still finding the opening to insert a subtle flirt.

Aries found herself with a smirk on her face, apparently satisfied that her expectations of the bard had, somehow, both been subverted and yet fulfilled at the same time. Calen was unexpectedly quick to adopt the level of deference appropriate to her station, and yet he was ballsy enough to attempt a bit of banter with her.

“You think yourself capable of such a thing, do you?” Aries replied. “That better men haven’t tried?”

“Men of higher station, perhaps,” Calen fired back with a wide smile, “but not better. How may I be of service, ambassador?”

“By relaxing, for one.” Aries said, a genuine and entertained smile finding her face. “At ease, bard. Take a seat.”

“Very well,” he said, finding his seat upon a stone facing the green light in the center of the Jerall mountains. Aries found the spot next to him and joined him in the apprehensive appreciation of the view. Calen felt the urge to ask what warranted this honor, but he knew better than to look gift horses in the mouth. It was better, he thought, to watch and learn.

“Absolutely dreadful, isn’t it?” Aries said, appraising the view.

“I’m more inclined to call it poetic.” Calen answered. “Without the context, the light might be considered beautiful or a sign of the Divines… but I suppose this goes to show that beauty doesn’t beget beauty, given what the Dwemer have wrought. Singular and happenstance, never promised.”

“Appreciate it when it appears, then?” Aries proposed.

“Indeed.” Calen agreed.

A tangible, quiet wave of melancholy washed over them. Aries was right about something though, and that given the context that Sora had given the group, there was a sense of dread that emanated from that mountain. It was a small chance that he would’ve found the group that was responsible for unleashing the Dwemer upon the world, and Aries herself had found herself staring daggers at the khajiit responsible. Yet, too little has been shown from them to accept that responsibility to make it up to the rest of Tamriel. All they had done thus far was run away from the problem they created.

“Someone ought to teach Daro’Vasora how to give a proper speech.” Aries said idly, though her tone had laced humor into her words. “That was… melodramatic.”

“We can’t all be thespians.” Calen joked. “Though such is the curse of the lone wolf. Never wanted leadership, doesn’t accept help – that’s just Sora, but combine that with a guilty conscience, and it’s no wonder why she’s forcing herself into the position. Maybe you could lend your expertise?”

“I’ve tried to talk to her once.” Aries responded. “It was after I saved her life and tried to frame our discussion as for the good of her friends. Still, she wanted to argue. The problem with clever people is that they think they’re cleverer than they are.”

“Is that why you’re talking to me? Because everyone likes me, and have your words come out my mouth will work better?” Calen pried.

For a moment, Aries’ brows furrowed and looked sideways at Calen with narrow eyes, who slyly peered back at her with a wide and toothy smile.

“Checkmate, is it?” Calen jabbed playfully.

“So it would seem.” Aries said, her guarded voice sounding as though he returned behind her defenses. “How strange for you to play the fool and for me to not pick up on the deception.”

“Oh no,” Calen quickly inserted, “there’s nothing fake about me, don’t take it personally. I’m just smarter than I look.”


“If it’s any consolation, I don’t disagree with you. Frankly, it’s upsetting that my word would be taken over yours. These people aren’t soldiers though. They’re not looking for people to tell them what to do or how to fix the problem, they’re looking for ways to ignore or forget about it, and as a bard that’s where I come in… and if the bard is speaking hard truths, then you know you’re in a quagmire of a predicament.”

“You speak like a learned man, yet dress in the threads of a commoner. Why, when you could be so much more?” Aries asked.

“Acknowledgement of my humble origins.” Calen answered. “I studied at the Bard College in Solitude, but I’ve never forgotten where I came from – but the more poetic answer would be that I am but a man, and you are but a woman. How much more could either of us be?”

Aries smiled and replied, “We could be heroes. Station didn’t protect the Elder Council any more than it did the peasant-folk. St. Alessia’s legacy, however… isn’t that something worth aspiring to?”

“That’s a lofty aim.” Calen commented.

“What can I say other than I’m a lofty woman?”

“Fair enough.” Calen agreed. “But someone will have to chronicle these legacies, so for me, a man is enough.”

Despite the light-heartedness of the conversation, the circumstances of their prior meeting had not left their minds, nor the minds of anyone, Calen rightly figured. One shared look and it was obvious that there was a certain elephant in the room that was waiting to be addressed. None of what they were just discussing really addressed the more immediate and supernatural concern troubling the group.

“I still can’t believe it.” He continued. “I’ve known Gregor for a pretty long time, and yet… has he been hiding this secret this whole time and I was too foolish to see it? Or is this recent, and I was too blind to help him?”

Aries thought for a moment about what Calen was saying, measuring her words carefully, before finally saying, “There’s an old Breton back home who was once one of my teachers, Lord Picard. A chess maestro. He said it’s possible to commit no mistakes and still lose.”

“That phrase sounds stolen.” Calen remarked.

“Possibly,” Aries chuckled, “but is it any less valid? Divines can testify on my behalf that I’ve done the best with the cards I was dealt, and yet here I am… having spent a week in the desert and without a bath.”

Calen laughed at that, grateful for the counsel that Aries was able to provide. It was an interesting conversation to say the least, and believed he at least left a lasting impression on the ambassador with his own quick wit and social graces.

“Tell you what,” Calen said with an air of finality surrounding his words, “if we make it over these mountains and into Skyrim, I know that place like the back of my hand. I can find you a good, clean river to get you all washed up as soon as possible before we get to the next city or village. And if we make it to Solitude, and it’s still standing, allow me to treat you to a dance if my lady has the time.”

“A dance.” Aries echoed skeptically.

“Just like in the Breton courts. I know the music, the steps; even if for just a minute, I can take you back to Daggerfall.”

Aries smiled blankly back at the bard and clasped her hands together. What a shame, to think that she had enjoyed his honest and insightful conversation up until this point, only for it to be spoiled by what she assumed to be the bard’s true motives. While on one hand it was refreshing for motives to be so simple for a change, it felt shallow and cheapened whatever wisdom he had to share, and that the bard’s talents were wasted. She cut off their discussion there, only saying, “I appreciate the gesture; however, I am not interested in returning to Daggerfall, but to the Imperial City and restoring the Empire. Thank you for the conversation.”

With that, she stood up and walked away to the bard’s dismay. He shook his head and sighed. Well, this wouldn’t have been the first time. His intentions might have been misinterpreted by the ambassador – he was simply just an affectionate person who showed his affection is somewhat unorthodox ways – but that wouldn’t have been the first time either. Given time, he was sure, she would thaw. On the other hand…

He was probably being a little too casual with the ambassador. Ah, hell, she’ll get over rank and file soon enough once everything goes down the chamber pot like it usually does.
Common Ground
with @Leidenschaft

Alik'r Camp, late night - 17th Midyear, before the trial

Aries had to spend a little time to herself after her chat with Sevari; a little time to decompress from the day’s events, from the news she had learned, from all of it. A little too much time, perhaps, as she did indeed have a plan in place to move forward with the information her agent had given her, but it was her woe to bear witness to the consequence of her late action. She had intended to speak to Latro herself; she knew Sevari had a relationship with him within some capacity, strained though it may be, but he was also lacking in delicacy. She knew how he spoke to his superiors, to his brother, his comrades, so she knew how he would speak to his friend. Their twilit silhouettes against the dusk horizon framed their gestures, so Aries retreated towards the center of camp where she knew they would ultimately return to. Where Latro would return to. Daro’Vasora’s tent was only a short distance away.

She found herself waiting by bonfire as the sun fell and the heat within the sand was sapped by the cool air. A curious feature of Hammerfell, she always thought, for the past two years she had to endure the blistering heat beating against her skin only to look for it again after sundown; but after a long day of wearing those stuffy robes in which she has disguised herself in, she finally peeled off the layers and exposed the skin of her arms and her collar, letting the sweat cool her skin like beads of ice against the breeze. The silks and cottons she wore, which has thus far remained hidden beneath her other layers, hugged her figure in a way that was more complimenting, even if they were still particularly modest, and likewise, protected her modesty.

The shuffling of the reachman’s feet through the sand eventually made its way through the center of the camp. Aries could tell by the weight of his footfalls alone that the conversation did not go the way Sevari had hoped, but Latro’s tightly clenched fists and the murder on his face sealed the deal. She didn’t have to be savvy to spot it. She did not stand from her seated position on the bench, nor did she seem hurried to stop his advance. She simply spoke softly, gently, from her seat around the fire, although loud enough for him to hear and pointed enough for Latro to know it was meant for him.

“I’m sorry, you know,” Aries said aloud, hearing him walk past, “for not being truthful with you when first we met.”

Latro froze for the second time that night, caught off guard by the voice of another. He still held the Dwemer box beneath the folds of his cloak and he only stared at Aries for a second before returning his eyes to the sand, “No one is.” He spoke quietly, shaking his head just the slightest, “Not really.”

He looked back up ahead of himself as if to be along on his business again but he stayed where he was. A few beats and he looked back at Aries and sat next to her. “Jaraleet. Sevari. Gregor. Raelynn.” Latro listed off the names like he grieved for them, though they still yet lived. Perhaps the tone was telling of his opinion of them now. He looked to Aries, “You.”

He sighed, lacing his fingers together and putting his hands in his lap, “Though I suppose you barely pretended to be anything but what you are. Gregor, though. He’s… he’s either not a monster or so good at hiding it that I can never trust or tolerate his presence again.”

He shook his head, putting his face in his hands, “Everyone, everyone lies in the end.” Latro whimpered, “Even me.”

“What are you? What are you and a spy doing in Hammerfell?” He asked. “Was it true, what Sevari said? Keeping the Thalmor out and trying to bring them back into the Empire? Or was that a lie too?”

Aries huffed a sigh. He asked a lot of questions in a short amount of time, and she had to figure out how to address all of them at once.

“I can’t speak for Sevari,” Aries began, “even as much as I’d like to. Ultimately, his decisions and actions are outside of my jurisdiction, even as much as I’d like them to be. I can only speak for myself.”

Aries finally turned to look at Latro directly. “My name is Aries Machella. I am an ambassador for the Septim Empire. I was originally in Hammerfell on a mission of diplomacy when the Dwemer invaded. I met Sevari when I arrived in Gilane after fleeing Sentinel, and I can confirm that we were working against the Thalmor.”

Aries paused for a moment and continued, “Fighting a war on two fronts… the fall of the Imperial City, the occupancy of Anvil and Skingrad… that is why I was so… cautious. I apologize we didn’t meet on the best of terms.”

Staring back into the fire, “As for Gregor…” She spat his name distastefully, “if it’s any consolation, I didn’t know for much longer than you did. I had meant to be the one to inform you, but Sevari had gone and done so soon after he informed me.

“He likes being direct.” Latro chuckled, a humorless thing despite, “If you knew how we met, you’d know how true that is.”

“I don’t know if it would’ve been any better depending on who told me. I’m only angry because I trust the people around me to be truthful with Sora and I.” Latro shook his head. “And now no one is. I fear there’s only going to be more secrets and lies hidden under this latest one. I’m afraid even to dig any deeper.”

“I’m sure you can imagine that there is great emphasis on my safety and remaining inconspicuous, and yet I’ve laid myself bare for all to see and put one possible future for the Empire in jeopardy. You couldn’t possibly uncover anything more from me, and I’m afraid any further distrust from this point on would be self-indulgent pity.” Aries replied nonchalantly, followed by a sardonic and humorless smile. “You see? You can trust me to be absolutely forward with you. It’s because I understand I should be less afraid of offending someone’s sensibilities than the threat we are facing this time.”

Aries stared back into the flickering flames that made the centerpiece of the campsite.

“So,” she continued with an air of finality, “would you do so well as to lend me your ear?”

Latro sighed, nodding his head once and then a few more times, more open, “Mm,” he grunted, “Fine. Go on.”

“If it were up to me, I’d incinerate him and his ashes and we’d be well on our way.” Aries said. “But Sevari had a point. If either of us killed him and waited to explain the situation until after the fact, it would sound like a weak excuse… but we can’t recklessly spread the word either and cause undue panic, tip off Gregor, and cause more harm -- we make a controlled leak of information to trusted individuals, and make sure that those of us who know are prepared to handle the situation accordingly.”

Aries peered back at Latro, and gravely added, “Sevari never saw you at the palace. When we met, you seemed like such a helpless thing. I know now that isn’t true; I knew that if I wasn’t the one to tell you, you’d very well march into the lion’s den and possibly get yourself or someone else killed; or maybe you’d succeed, but who among your friends would trust you then? The only way this ends favorably for you and all of your friends is if we make a proper plan of attack before we quarantine Gregor. So, as much as even I hate it, we need to be patient.”

“I wasn’t going to.” Latro said, just louder than a whisper. He wrapped his arms around himself and sighed, his eyes closed and his head low until he looked back at Aries, “I’m very angry. But I’m not going to charge off and try to handle this on my own. I’m not who I was.”

“I wish to convene with Sora over this. Perhaps we should put this to a vote, have Gregor’s peers decide his fate.” He said, pausing and thinking, “I don’t want him killed. Does that make me horrible? To not want someone I held up as my friend dead?”

Aries sighed. There was once a time where she would’ve disregarded Latro as spineless, despite what she has seen from him in the Gilane palace. The answer was simple to her: condemn him to the executioner’s block as per Imperial law, it was a no brainer… but she also didn’t have any attachment to the man, Latro, being a reachman, likely had little respect for Imperial law, and this wasn’t Imperial land -- granted, it was Redguard land, and necromancy was especially taboo to them. What Latro wanted ultimately didn’t matter, but that wasn’t what he wanted to hear. Then again, that also wasn’t the question he was asking.

“It’s a difficult truth to confront.” Aries replied somberly with a nod. If nothing else, she could join him in his melancholy. “I was engaged once, you know. Their family was ready to happily receive me into their family. We both belonged to noble families, and such affairs were considered quite important matters in Daggerfall. Then I learned that his father was the one who payed to have my father killed by pirates when I was just a girl. I found evidence too. I thought about burning their house down, but I didn’t. I knew them for too long. Maybe my fiancé was innocent. So, I brought the evidence to court instead.”

Aries knew she was lying a little bit by leaving some parts out of her story, but it would get the point across regardless. She continued, spitting out the next few words as if they were an insult still fresh in her mind, “Then, of course, my very own fiancé had the audacity to challenge me to a duel. My father was murdered, but he was more concerned about defending his family’s honor and was willing to kill or hurt me to do so.”

Her eyes then fell back on Latro.

“This isn’t so different. You’re not wrong to hold yourself back, but you should know that it takes a certain breed of desperate men to resort to necromancy. I’m willing to wager that he has had to hurt or even kill a lot of innocent people to even still be here today. Imperial law is harsh on necromancy for a reason. You might not want to hurt him, but I don’t know how much sleep he will lose over hurting you.”

Latro sighed at that, as if Gregor was already plunging a dagger into his ribs. The thought of Gregor disregarding every pleasant interaction they’ve had put an ache in his chest. He wondered if any of it was true, or if he was being strung along by a soulless monster. “You’re right. I know.” He said, nodding, “I’ve seen the Traitor’s Cross put to Grave-Singers before. I’ve done it myself, only once.”

“But if it comes to that… I’m not going to do it.” Latro shook his head, unflinching in that decision.

“That’s your prerogative.” Aries said with a nod. “I just wanted to be sure where your mind is at. I won’t discourage you from talking to Daro’Vasora, I think that might even be for the best -- but if you would, could you get her to see it our way? We just want to minimize the collateral damage.”

“Of course,” he nodded, “We’ve got enough of that already.”

Latro’s sigh signaled the start of the quiet spell between the two, sitting beside each other. He looked sidelong at the woman next to him, thinking on how he didn’t know her at all. He knew the spy better than her, which was still fuck all of an amount, but it may as well have been the man’s life story in comparison to how well he knew Aries. “Who are you?” He asked, “Really? A noble from Daggerfall ends up in Gilane with a spy.”

“I prefer to think that my role as Imperial ambassador has elevated my station even above nobility, but in short, yes.” Aries replied with a humored smile. “I was in Sentinel when the Dwemer first arrived and put the blade to the King of Hammerfell. They had undone many hard years of diplomacy with one swipe… so I was forced to retreat, fighting my way out until I reached Gilane where I found Sevari. I had hoped Gilane to be the place where I, representing the Empire, and the Redguards could have a foothold in Hammerfell. Perhaps the shared effort could not only force the Dwemer out, but reunite our people… you know how well that ended. It was nothing I could have prepared for, but it’s the first failure of my career all the same, and the cost was an entire nation...”

Latro nodded along, looking to Aries as she finished. When they had first met, he thought her a woman carved from stone, who could weather any storm and spit back its fury ten-fold. But a woman like any other human sat beside him. Maybe stronger than most, but not as strong as he thought. “I’m sorry.” Latro said, “A man named Francis once told me that not all things hinge on one failure.”

Latro paused, it seemed a dumb notion to be lecturing Aries of all people about anything. “That is to say, not all is lost.”

“Of course not.” Aries quickly agreed, as if the melancholy of the subject before was suddenly no longer there. “We’re heading north. Whether we head toward Skyrim or High Rock, we’ll have options. Solitude and Markarth are heavily fortified cities, I have pull in many of the Breton kingdoms, and even Orsinium can be a safe haven if I play my hand properly.”

As he tried to give her some console, however misplaced it might have been or so she felt, her mind, too, fell back on the time she had met Latro. There wasn’t much time for impressions, but the one she gave was ripping an arrow out of Sevari’s gut, searing the wound shut, and later threatening him in the tunnel after the Ohmes-raht started getting cold feet. It was slightly humorous in retrospect, but there was nothing funny about the circumstances they met under

“I am beholden to many responsibilities, Latro, and they yield much greater consequences. That’s what I meant.” Aries said, looking back at Latro. “About the burden of leadership. I am not a military commander, but it is my duty to see the Empire’s interests fulfilled. Would you not whet a fine blade with the same care if it made the difference between life and death?”

“Mm.” Latro nodded, “If given five hours to fell a tree, spend four sharpening the axe.”

He looked at Aries, seeing her differently, but in no way meek. He thought he’d like to have the same mindset as her, the strength to shoulder the burden of leadership. He was the son of a Chieftain and yet had never been a leader of men. He could learn something from her. Perhaps she’d be a good person to get council from. “We’ll be going through the Reach.” He said, “I’m the son of a Chieftain. I told Sora that if they will not accept me, I will change them. With words or my steel.”

“It might not be a Breton court or an Imperial senate, but we have politics of our own. Perhaps I’ll have need of your council if it comes to words.” He offered, cocking a brow.

“Perhaps,” Aries replied with a smirk, “I've never worked with the Reachmen before, admittedly they're somewhat of a mystery to me. They’ve been underneath the Empire’s notice for quite some time, given the lack of diplomatic or adversarial potential. I imagine we'll be working rather closely together from this point on -- to make up for the other’s shortcomings.

“I must warn you though,” said continued, mocking a feigned coyness with a gentle hand delicately placed against her chest as she rolled her eyes, “I’ve apparently developed a reputation of being difficult to work with. That’s even been said by politicians of the highest caliber.”

She simply shrugged, “Giving them hell is half of the fun. I’m sure the worst among them would challenge me to a duel if they thought there was a chance of winning.”

“That’s pretty much the extent of our politics. We’re not much different than the Orcs, the strong rule. We take what is owed, and strike down any who would disagree.” He nodded, “You’d probably do well.” He smiled.

“Think of it, though.” He shrugged, “You have a Chieftain friendly to an Imperial ambassador ruling. You’d perhaps be the first to have a chance to whip the unruly Reachmen tribes into shape. It’s about time my people have a home for themselves, and maybe you and I could be the strongest voices to call for that.”

He cleared his throat, too much dreaming, “If you’d have me.”

“I’m not left with many other options, am I?” She asked rhetorically. “Frankly, we could use as many allies as we can get our hands on. I’m in no position to be picky, and you’re the only one who could provide any sort of counsel.”

Then she smirked, and added, “By the way… trying to appeal to my sense of grandeur, plant the idea of a lasting legacy, and aspersing an entire demographic to promote their implied need for a savior? You’re beginning to speak like an actual politician. It needs polishing, though.”

“You think?” He chuckled, laying back and propping himself up on an elbow while he ran his fingers through the sand. “I never really thought I’d had a tongue for politics, but if you say so.”

He shrugged, “I’ve tried at a life of peace, but this war dashed it against the rocks.” He sighed, “My mentor told me that all good people abhor violence, and should abstain from it until all other options are exhausted. He wasn’t against a duel here or there, traveling and testing himself against the fencing masters all over.”

“You’ve won duels, I take it?” He asked, looking at Aries, “I learned everything I know from a famous duelist. Francis Martell, former Table Knight sworn to Prince Narcisse in Camlorn. Who taught you?”

“I’ve won a few; Bretons are quick learners though, so eventually I received fewer and fewer challenges.” Aries began thoughtfully. “First it was my father who taught me, before he passed. Then I was taught by a Direnni, an Altmer named Aurelia. They’re certainly an esteemed and talented bloodline, even if their name is no longer at the forefront of the minds of non-mages. I’m familiar with Sir Martell; you were lucky to have him. Many of the Glenumbra lords mistake famous names for being competent teachers, but I’ve come to appreciate what a few hundred years of elven neuroticism has done for my riposte.”

Latro laughed at that, “I’ve only heard of them by name, never met one.” His eyes grew wider at her mention of Francis, “Have you met him? Francis, or Sir Martell, as he was once?”

“I believe he once accompanied his prince during a summit in Daggerfall, and I, my mother, as she made her presence known within the court. I don’t recall speaking to him at length though, I was young and mostly listened and studied. I do recall, however, that he was one of the few young men who didn’t make any attempts in courting me. He’s a respectful and chivalrous sort devoted to his code, and I did hear a tale or two of his exploits, though he wasn’t boastful of them as many of the lords were fond of doing.” Aries explained, looking up thoughtfully as she recounted her memories. She slid over on the bench she was seated on and expectantly gestured to Latro to sit beside her.

“Does any of that sound familiar?” She asked.

“That does sound like him.” Latro chuckled, recalling Francis and how even if his oaths to Prince Narcisse had been broken, he still acted every bit the knight he once was, “He’s a good man. He taught me everything I know, perhaps a master of no weapon but my hands, but enough to fight well with any.”

“We should spar sometime. Nowadays especially, and with the company you’ve decided to keep, it’s a good thing to know how to be handy with some steel.” He shrugged, “How about it?”

“Are you suggesting I could learn a thing or two from you?” Aries scoffed, finding humor in the challenge. Truthfully, she didn’t care much for indulging him, but building rapport with the company didn’t work the classical way -- playing politics worked well with other politicians, but common folk responded better to acts of good faith. So instead of trying to manipulate him, Aries fired back and said with a confident smile, “Perhaps I might, if for nothing else than to provide you with a demonstration.”

“Indulging a commoner.” Latro chuckled good-naturedly, “Careful, they might not let you back into high society if they ever find out.”

“They can try!” Aries replied with haughty laughter, subconsciously placing a hand delicately in front of her mouth, masking it. “I’m a Machella; we know things the others do not. For instance, how to keep our manor the only one left untouched when the commoners had enough and burn the rest of them down.”

Leaning toward the flame, Aries let herself feel comfortable in Latro’s presence now that she was certain she had placated his emotions -- that he wasn’t about to become the same savage he was back in the palace -- and the cautionary thought of unleashing fiery magic was dispelled from the back of her mind.

“Truthfully,” she began, “this job of mine has given me perspective once I began travelling the world and immersing myself in their cultures. The politicians back home… they’re like rats, scurrying about for the slightest sliver of power, and have nothing to do once they have it except to defend it and build stagnant wealth. To be fair, it was how I earned enough power to become recognized by the Elder Council. It’s quite curious how power becomes the prerequisite for more power, but now I can do something with it. Affect nations, create change -- meaningful change. I’m out of high society’s reach now. Nobles cannot guarantee an audience with foreign leaders, but I can.”

She sighed and rubbed her forehead -- she was talking too much when she usually prided herself on keeping her cards close to her chest. Perhaps the recent events were beginning to wear on her.

“I suppose,” she continued with an air of finality, “this is my way of reconciling with recent events. There will continue to be opportunities ahead of us, despite the ones we’ve missed.”

Latro smiled and nodded, appreciating the rare display of her sense of humor before it vanished before him once again, but also appreciative of the insights Aries was able to provide.

“I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. For Sora. For us.” Latro said. “I also appreciate our conversation. I’ll keep everything you said in mind when I talk to Sora.”

Aries watched him and his disposition carefully before reflecting his smile back at him. “Of course,” she said. As she watched him turn his back and walk away, she felt a flutter of satisfaction in her chest. It was a pain to pick up after Sevari, but in the end, she felt it was worth it. Breaking him down left him disorganized enough for Aries to find the pieces and reorganize them to her liking and let him get into Sora’s head. Which meant that she didn’t have to be the one to worry about convincing the prideful khajiit that made herself this motley group’s leader -- but there was more to all of this than just having it fit her narrative. She found herself looking forward to her next meeting with the young Reachman after a few minutes of meaningful connection. Not that it was a surprise to her by any means, but she welcomed the feeling she thought long lost since the days spent in Sentinel.

The ambassador looked into the fire once again and was felt renewed by a sense of ease. Whatever problems facing them now or what lies ahead were going to solve themselves.
<Snipped quote by JunkMail>

I elect Bobbi. While Kashmira is an inch shorter she's much more thicc so all those curves won't fit in there.

Plus she has experience with hiding drugs in assholes, so

Beach Festival
@JunkMail @Ruler Inc

We're at the festival. By the tables writing our wishes. Red and blue balloons. Just shout when you get there.
Matthew Detmer

Okay, Matty.

Of the few good people Israel got to know around here, Matt was one of them. They weren’t what one would call as being “part of his circle” – he wasn’t much of an intellectual and their interests were somewhat disparate, save for skating – he was kind of a nobody who Israel had met by chance; but he was good people, good enough that he was willing to show the newcomer around Charity Beach. The only question as of right now was who was we? Israel opted to not bother thinking about it too much; he’d learn more when he arrived.

The thing about the festival that was actually worth thinking about was the entertainment this year. How was a local festival able to afford a high-profile pop star? It was no big secret that the mayor managed to pull some strings to attract some media coverage of the city. Promoting the city for an economic boon, that was one thing, but where did the city get the money to begin with? They certainly weren’t putting it to use in Los Costas, or even some of the roadways. It was likely to just keep getting funneled into the touristy sections of the city, the businesses of which being the most likely to gain from the whole fiasco. What then will development do to the costs of living in the area? Likely perpetuate an even greater economic divide between districts.

Israel rolled his eyes and sighed. Open eyes made a man tired, but to rest meant closing them. There’s never an easy answer.

His footsteps brought him closer to the festival; the crowds were gathered, and the singer was standing on stage and making a scene. As he pushed his way through the crowd, he looked for his crazy-tall friend, but his own shorter stature made it hard to find him over the rest of the crowd. “By the tables,” he said, sure, but so was everyone else. As he pushed his way through, he heard a commotion somewhere else in the crowd – he didn’t think much of it, as everyone were letting go of their balloons, and someone probably someone throwing their beer around – until the pop singer interrupted her own song and began to yell, “Holy shit people, there's a fucking monster running around! Get the fuck out!"

As if on cue, one of the monsters bulldozed through the crowd, toppling them over like dominoes until a man was pushed into Israel, who, likewise, felt his back strike the sandy beach. Hearing the impact of someone land next to him, he turned over to look – only to see a pair of legs, the upper half of the body missing from the waist. Immediately, he squeezed his eyes shut and turned his head away. One of the monsters roared, though he couldn’t tell from where – his heart was racing, pounding painfully against the inside of his chest as gasped for shallow breaths – he clawed himself out from underneath the dogpile of people. He kicked sand to get himself back up to his feet, and soon after, kicked off his flip flops and began a mad sprint in a blind direction – if it was away from the center of the crowd, he didn’t care where he was going.

However, running blindly had him collide with another, taller person. Fear gripping his heart, he looked up almost expecting another one of those tumor-ridden monsters – but instead, he saw Matt.

“¡Coño!” He exclaimed, unable to think in English in his current panic. “¡Asere, vámonos!

Background Checks

As she always did, Naryxa had left the dossiers unopened in her inbox. She always found it much more revealing and interesting to get to know a person - nowadays, it was as if everyone wanted to get to know each other beforehand based on information they could skim from the extranet and through hacking possessions. Was there really anything so bad about genuine connection and intuition?

Well, unlike some of the others on the contract, Shy had no such qualms with violating the privacy of her coworkers. Aside from pure and simple curiosity, there was of course also the matter that she was now collecting framed offense after framed offense on her growing resume of galactic violations. Developing AI, okay, that she could admit guilt to – but being responsible for it going rogue and killing hundreds of researchers, or blowing up an interstellar barge? No, no, no, no! She might’ve been callous in some respects, but she wasn’t evil. So, she resolved herself to finding out the truth and clearing her name, so what better place to start than her newest associations? Sure, maybe they wouldn’t have incriminated themselves, or maybe they were just that dumb and dragged everyone else down with them; or maybe it was their employer who wanted to frame them and collect an easy bounty. One way or another, she had to research new “friends” to see if she could rely on them to pull their weight. Who better to be the investigator than the tech-wizard?

When they had finally docked on the station, Shy was the last to get up, preferring instead to watch the others as they left. Gauge their faces, listen to what they said, and carouse through the ship without anyone watching her. She made a beeline toward the cockpit and browsed around before opening the interface from her omni-tool and linking it to the ship’s navigational computer. She still felt annoyed that the pilot wasted the opportunity to trace the signal that sent the transmission, so part of her wanted to know where this ship had been to New Syrtis before. After she finished downloading what she wanted, Shy cracked open one of the compartments and attaching a small recording device underneath the console for safe measure.

After a few minutes, Shy finally walked down the boarding ramp of the ship. She peered over to see Ardan and Naryxa still in the hangar and in conversation, and as she walked past she heard, “You’re… well, not like the others.”

Shy snorted and rolled her eyes. That’s what they always said.

She had been taking it easy on Omega for a while, so of course she had her own room. Her drones were stationed right around her door just in case some two-bit bounty hunter thought they could collect her while she went to work on her console. The dossiers were hardly telling; they had a pilot from the quarrian fleet, an asari xenobotanist and ex-huntress (Special ops agent? Intriguing,) a vorcha (ugh, gag.) merc and ambusher, a human… ninja? Weird. Then there was the batarian merc, veteran, and shock trooper, and the turian blowhard soldier who likes to blow up soldiers hard. If there was anyone among them who could’ve done the damage to the ship, it would’ve been Ardan. The only problem with that is that nobody seemed to know what the job was or where they were going, and there wouldn’t have been any time to prepare beforehand. Still, at least that meant she knew for sure that the others couldn’t have done it even if she didn’t totally trust the turian.

‘Let’s see what everyone’s up to.’

With just a few commands, Shy tapped into the extranet and began browsing through the local networks. With as big as Omega was, there were quite a few of them floating around, but Afterlife had by far the most connections. Aria would probably blow a gasket if she found out that someone had been using her club to spy around, but this wouldn’t have been the first time Shy hacked into the network. It was as simple as finding the line of code that gave users administrative permissions and rewriting her own address with it, and she could walk straight through the firewalls like a ghost in the machine. One would think that hacking into technology in the era of space travel would be a little harder.

So… who was connected? There were a few familiar names she recognized, none from her “allies” – but perhaps if she simply just… ah, yes, the bar. Of course. A collection of identification numbers associated with different names and credit chits was stored in a database in afterlife. Fishy? Yes, but mostly useless unless you knew how to get there and how to interpret the information. On top of that, it normally required a password. Fortunately for Shy, she knew how to read zeros and ones. Their employer, Cherk, was nowhere to be seen in the database. Either he didn’t call Omega home, or he’s been around the block and knew how to hide his trail. Fishy, but she at least appreciated all the credits he sent her way for compensation… even if it only was ten percent of what she was promised. Working down the list of suspects, she looked up their pilot, Kori. Nothing. To be fair, she seemed a little immature and probably wouldn’t drink in the seediest bar of Omega, assuming she drank at all. However, it only took a minute to find the turian, “Ardan Parvius.” Judging by the history of transactions made… he was kind of a regular here. Huh. Who would’ve known they’ve both been squatting on the same shitty rock for a while? The thought sent chills up her spine before she shook it off and glanced at the ID of his credit chit.

“Yeah, I think I’m just gonna write that down for future reference.”

The number on its own was mostly useless, anyways. Mostly. Ardan wasn’t going to miss anything. Much.

Maybe a few drinks.

But from the looks of things, it seemed he only made a transaction a few minutes ago. If there was someone next to her, she would’ve offered to bet a hundred credits where someone could find him. Thinking quickly, she moved through afterlife’s network until she found the security cameras. A mute image popped up on her screen, an overhead view of the crowded bar that made it hard to tell who was who; but a quick scan over the barstools showed a turian and an asari in conversation. Focusing the image, sure enough, it was her two crewmates again.

Seriously? Naryxa fell for it? What good did living a few hundred years do her if she fell for one of the dumbest lines in the book? She noticed the computer on the counter, something that could put in more orders for drinks while the bartender was busy somewhere else. Shy’s fingers a blur, she tapped into the computer, and soon, audio was playing through her console. It meant activating voice features, which might’ve shown on a small indicator light on the computer next to the pair, but it was Omega – the computers here were largely shitty pieces of malfunctioning hardware half of the time. Shy wasn’t worried about it.

“…my master is myself and my code is my own.”

“Okay, cringing now.”

Shy was pretty late to the conversation, and was only able to catch the tail end of Ardan’s story, where he said some kind of garbage about making the galaxy safe for other people – yeah, if his conduct on the ship was anything to go by, she didn’t really buy it and just assumed he was saying it just for Naryxa – and it seemed the energy was beginning to wind down. Whatever it was, it doesn’t sound like either one of them admitted being a mass murderer. Well… that depends on what one considered being a mass murderer given this line of work. Any one of them could technically qualify. When Naryxa began speaking, Shy listened intently.

“…I think I will stay at the safehouse tonight.”


Shy stopped herself, and swiveled her head to look bug-eyed around her dark, computer-lit room. Turning back to her monitor, her chest tight and face flush with embarrassment, she severed her connections to Afterlife’s network, shaking her head and forcing herself to forget what just happened.

Whatever, at least those two weren’t up to anything… like explosions and framing and bounties, or…

Wait, what time were they supposed to be meeting at that safehouse? Looking at the mail again, there wasn’t really a time, but shit, it would probably be wiser to rest her head there instead of the apartment from where she made herself known. It was best to lay low until this all blows over. Downloading all the contents from her console and onto her omni-tool (just in case), she then shut everything down. She grabbed the bag containing her gear; armor and guns and whatnot, then rallied her drones together for a safe escort through Omega.
How to Plan a Murder
A Big Sweaty Posse
Campfire Politics

ft. @Leidenschaft

17th of Midyear, Early Evenine
Alik’r Desert: Nomad Camp, Hammerfell

The march out of the prison was an estranging experience. Whence before under the identity of the an innocuous merchant woman, it was simpler to engage with others, but as Aries greeted the open warm air with her first few steps onto the sun-baked sand, she didn’t have much time to enjoy the space and light -- even as oppressive as she knew it would later be, for she did not relish the ambiance of dungeons -- as she felt the dozens of staring eyes on her back. There would be a few who would try to speak with her, and she would humor them briefly before turning their attention to the horizon ahead. Then the stares of the few she knew would land on her, and those were not as easily brushed off. Of those whose glances she accidentally met, she simply faced ahead and continued their trek onward. They were fortunate that the young Nord man had hid their wagon and horses under the cover of some rocks and met with the rescue party as they had exited. It almost made them look like an organized company. Almost. Doubly so when they had met with the Alik’r nomads, with whom Shakti was able to communicate with.

Aries had done her own fair share of talking with the nomads; though she obviously wasn’t able to as quickly build a rapport with them as Shakti could, but with her help in creating a baseline, Aries knew about their people well enough to create communicable relationship with them and organized the starving and injured prisoners and/or members of the company appropriately. For some, the mission ended as soon as the nomads pitched their tents for them. For her, it ended by around sundown, after the last of starving were given food, the last of the injured were seen to and treated, and everything on today’s checklist was checked off. She had little time to entertain the questions of her comrades, at most only humoring them with a brief quip or the standard Imperial facade of bravado, “The Empire is alive and well.”

It was exhausting.

By the time sundown came, her neatly kept hair was frizzed and sticking out in places, dirt and grime was packed under her fingernails, the last few rays of orange sunlight glistened off sweaty skin, and she resigned herself to sitting on a small stone just outside of camp to catch her breath, and have a brief moment of isolation. But then the sound of approaching footsteps came, and she felt herself tense once more.

“Here.” Sevari offered a cup of water to Aries. She looked a damned right mess, but he figured they all did about now. All rough and stinking in their own way from the day’s events. Sevari took a seat next to Aries, the both of them having their eyes on the expanse of desert swallowing the falling sun. Aries silently mouthed her thanks as she accepted the cup.

Sevari looked into his own cup, taking a few gulps of water and wiping his mouth on the back of his forearm. He may have been shirtless before, but he did replace it when he came to talk to Aries. He figured she’d appreciate the modesty. “I heard what you did.” He began, “That’s… well, it’ll go a long way for these people.”

Aries, even as tired as she was, listened carefully to his words. This was a moment that she wasn’t particularly looking forward to, so she kept an ear out for things such as tone and inflection, underlying assumptions, and unspoken sentiments. Part of her perhaps hoped that things would be simpler if she could just stop pretending, but she never really expected it. Moments like this reminded her that there were plenty more to come. Trying to decipher what people wanted from you or what they were trying to say to you was a different kind of headache than pretending and building trust. In Sevari’s case, he already knew the truth. He also rarely made any attempts in hiding his displeasure with her, which is why she found his insinuation unsettling.

“That was the idea.” Aries agreed softly. “I sense that you don’t agree with the decision.”

“We have a job. When the Penitus Oculatus told me to protect you on top of everything else they shoved my way when they told me to come to Hammerfell, it was under the same pretense they always give me.” He shrugged, swirling the water around in his cup, “Whatever it takes and however I want. I’m sure that extends to you too. It’s not that I don’t agree with it, I just didn’t know it was going to happen this soon.”

“That’s fair.” She said with a nod of her head. “Neither did I.”

“But there’s something else.” He said, shaking his head. He wondered how to begin, but found himself coming up short. If anything, Aries knew he was honest. Whether or not she liked it was a different matter, but there was no changing how he handled things. Quick and brutal honesty was ironically his way of doing things, being an Inspector. “Gregor.”

Aries sighed, gulped down her cup of water, and offered a dry look to Sevari. “I'm growing awfully tired of hearing that name. Right then, what did he do this time?”

“We had a necromancer trapped inside. Sirine killed him but Gregor had already soul-trapped him. He shook the woman to her core, should have seen her after she realized what she’d helped do.” Sevari shook his head, only then realizing that the fist holding his cup was shaking, “I was ready, Aries. I had my gun pointed at his damned head, but who else but my fucking shit of a brother stopped me.”

He breathed out a long sigh, eyes closed and calming his nerves, “If it was just me and Gregor in that room…” He looked at the sand as if it could give him worthy advice, “Should I have?”

At first there was silence, occasionally interrupted by some far off laughter from the camp behind them, but it was like the initial silence of a brewing tea kettle given all that Sevari knew of this woman. Soon enough, as the brew began to steam, there came a rattling of the ceramic cup against the rings on her fingers as her hand shook.

“Without hesitation…”.

Then abruptly the cup flew from her hand and shattered against a rock embedded in the desert sand, sending shards flying in every direction. Aries growled to herself, no words, just her throat rumbling in aggravation like an angry dragon as she stood to her feet and glanced towards the camp.

“Soul trapping…” she snarled, “to think I’ve been foolish enough to have suffered a necromancer in my presence this whole time!”

If Sevari was startled by Aries’ outburst, he hid it well under his stoic exterior. “It’s only a matter of time, Aries. Who knows what he’s doing with the souls, or how many he’s trapped over his years.” He planted his hands on his knees and pushed himself up to stand, grunting, “I wouldn’t be surprised if Mrazac was his doing. My brother can testify as to his powers. I can as well, Jaraleet, Sirine and her brother.”

He hooked a thumb in his belt next to one of his holsters, “It’s only a matter of just what sort of justice he’s in for.”

“Why would Zaveed protect him?” Aries demanded. “Why would he give a single damn about any of them, especially Gregor?”

But before Sevari could answer, Aries huffed a sigh and began pacing.

“Maybe that’s a question for another time, but we need to take care of Gregor. Spreading the word might work, I doubt the others know… unless they do? Have they knowingly been harboring a necromancer? No, no, haven’t I heard from somewhere about them condemning the Dwemer’s use of soul gems? Perhaps they wouldn’t… Shit, but if Zaveed really is defending Gregor, then what happens if we out him? He’s a dangerous enemy, and that would also put that other pirate tart on their side, and… you? What about you? What does that mean for you? Would you defend your brother if it also meant defending Gregor? Divines, damn it, why would I even bother asking you if I wasn’t sure?”

Sevari’s frown grew more and more deeply set as her tirade went on. He could see the stress of the day was getting to her. Here he was, thinking she was a stone-face, iron-heart lion of a woman. He never stopped to think that if life could sink its jaws around his throat and choke him, it could happen to her. He held a hand up, “Aries.” He tried getting her attention, “Listen. If my brother is willing to harm me over this, he isn’t my brother anymore. Regardless of what Gregor did to my brother, he’s still one of those necromantic pieces of shit.”

“I’ve seen what they do, in Skyrim, way back. There’s nobody here who could stop me without killing me if it meant putting down one of those crazed fucks.” He chanced a step closer, “Loyalty is what matters here. You and me, we were in Hammerfell before all this, we know what happened. It’s been you and me for a while yet.”

“You really want to know the truth of it?” He said, letting the weight of everything so far seep back into him, working under his skin like thorns to his bones. With dark eyes he looked to the camp, “If it meant being a step closer to finishing all of this, a step closer to toppling this enemy to get back to the original order of things, back to something I knew…” he folded his arms, “I’d burn this all clean and move on with my night.”

Giving Sevari the platform to speak gave Aries time to breathe and ruminate over what he was saying instead of getting distracted within her own tangled weave of thoughts. The day began with her being on guard around Zaveed and Gregor and keeping her identity hidden before she delved into a dungeon, kill a few deep elves on the way there and back, free prisoners, reveal herself, organize them on the way back, endure the attention and questions all the while, and seeing to everything and everyone being seen to until sundown all under the desert sun -- enchanted ring or not. That didn’t even cover the last week or so; the weight of Gilane’s failure still weighed on her shoulders.

She stared toward the camp beside Sevari.

“I wonder about that.” Aries admitted. “By Akatosh, I know I’ve the means… I would light so tall and so hot a pyre, the resulting Dragonbreak would make the Warp in the West look like a footnote in history.”

But then she sighed, and said, “But I’ve a responsibility to uphold… I’m supposed to represent them; to be the best the Empire has to offer… Sevari, I’m used to having the bird’s eye view... Safe in my roost, moving the pieces around, maneuvering my way through politics. Living in Daggerfall made Council politics look like child’s play to me… but this? Here? There are too many pieces, too many sides, and I’m on the ground… not in my roost. I can’t see the whole picture from where I’m standing, and I’m tired of guessing. I’m tired of looking over my shoulder.”

Aries noticed a slight crack in her own voice, reminding her to steel herself and resolve. She took in one deep, large breath and slowly let it loose. A moment passed, and then she asserted to herself, “I need my control back.”

“You should keep in touch with the realities of being on the ground.” He said, watching the camp’s goings on with Aries, feeling her energy gutter out, “We get through this, we can put you back up in that gilded tower. If there were more Chiefs of Station with a grasp of what it was like to be in the shit, I’d probably be less stressed.”

“That roost will make you soft if you let it, Aries.” He glanced sidelong at the woman, “But being here, on the ground, it’ll make you hard. Hard and brittle, and it’ll break you all to pieces if you don’t find some kind of rest.”

He downed the rest of his cup and wiped his mouth off on his sleeve. He sighed, watching the people going about their business, “These people are reunited with their families because of you. It’s a victory. Let’s take these where we can.”

“You're right.” Aries conceded, a slight smile sneaking into her face at the mention of the people and their families. For a moment, she appeared deep in thought before looking sideways toward him. “I had a team of advisors with me when I landed in Sentinel; they were slaughtered by the Dwemer. To think I'd find myself now taking the counsel of an assassin… but I suppose security is also under an Oculatus’ purview. Taking that into consideration… how do you think we should handle Gregor?”

Sevari frowned, nodding. It wasn’t long ago that he had a team, however loose it was. It wasn’t long ago that there was an entire bureau in Gilane, a Chief of Station, everything he’d need to retreat to if things went bad. Now they had ascended so far above bad that there was nothing. Just him and Aries. But Valenwood was much the same, alone amongst enemies and living a very finely crafted but brittle lie, with a handler he knew only in dead drops and secret messages. “There used to be an entire bureau here, filled with Inspectors and Intendants. It was like a small safety net. I had a team, eight of us at first.” He sighed, scratching at his beard, “Lost contact with one after another until there was only four of us. Now there’s me, and you.”

He cleared his throat, took his moment as he tossed his cup to the sand and hooked his other thumb in his gun belt. “Who knows when we’ll be able to get any other kind of justice that isn’t just you and me taking Gregor out to a field like a lame-legged horse and shooting him in the back of the head.” He chuckled, “Or you make a bonfire out of the bastard.”

“I could go straight to Sora, tell Latro first, start building momentum in his head. If I can get her lover riled up then I can get to Sora.” He nodded, “Then they’ll handle it. We can let them keep him under their custody for us, after this is all said and done with the Dwemer, we can bring Imperial justice on him.”

He hooked his finger in the trigger guard of his pistol and lifted it from its holster, dangling it on his finger, “Unless you want me to…” he said, “I could wait until he’s sleeping, got a knife. Done it before.”

“Tempting.” Aries admitted. If there was any hope of justice being had in an Imperial court of law, it would be in Skyrim or High Rock, assuming the Dwemer hadn’t already left their mark there. Taking the time to travel to either of those places already opened them up to several days worth of risking trying to keep him under custody. There was still the concern of a necromancer’s involvement in Nblec’s death, what it meant, insulting Governor Rourken to her face, and being absent for the assault on the palace -- he must’ve been desperate enough of a man to have the balls to try escaping custody in the dead of night. Even a trained team of escorts would probably have their hands full. But a few refugees? Some without much combat skill?

“He’s... unpredictable.” Aries said after some thought. “Most desperate men are. Most necromancers are desperate men. But to just kill him would mean having to justify ourselves to the others. Maybe that’d go well, maybe it won’t. It’s difficult to say since I don’t know who his friends are. I’d rather not meet the same fate as him. If we can reach a consensus with the others and let them do most of the work for us, we won’t be the ones with a target on our backs. We need to leave this desert alive.”

“It’s what I’m hoping on doing, leastways.” He said, replacing his pistol and his thumb in his gun belt. He sighed, puffed out his cheeks as he blew it out, “Going to Sora it is then. We can’t let Gregor know we’ve had plans for him since Gilane.”

“I can take care of Latro. One more thing, Sevari…” Aries said before hesitating for a moment.

“I'll make an exception for when it's just us. Around the others though? You'll have to address me correctly from now on, now that I'm back to having to posture myself before the masses.”

There was a difference in her voice and disposition from the first time she scolded him for speaking out of turn as she put it, even following it with an uncommon chuckle. A genuine smile and a hint of humor was a rare treasure, but in the midst of her normally severe demeanor, it gleamed and glittered brighter than her jewelry.

Sevari smiled and nodded. When she reverted back to her place as a politician and a strong figure he was put at ease. If there was one person here that could keep him on a straight path through everything that had happened in Hammerfell, it was Aries. He looked at her, “Fine.” He said with a nod and a smirk, before replacing it with an air of duty, “Ambassador Machella.”

Charity Beach: Los Costas_

The apartment was somewhat dirty, though not cluttered. The ground was vacuumed, belongings were neatly squared away, but years of cigars and cigarettes had yellowed the walls and an inattentive landlord refused to replace the peeling wallpaper or cracked windows. The carpet was stained so many times over the years, it retained a brown color even if it was technically clean. The furniture was cheap, and that included the fold-out futon sofa and the small coffee table in front of it, the wood chipped in places. It faced a television that was probably made in the ‘90s and had poor resolution, and a young Latino man stared stone-faced at the images flashing on the screen.

It was the news.

His mother stopped watching the news long ago, she said, since they only played depressing content most of the time. She wasn’t wrong, but he fond it important to stay up to date on what nonsense they were peddling this time. But most importantly, it looked like he was finally getting someone’s attention. The image of a crowd of people surrounding a pavilion displayed on the television, and a masked figure in a grey hoodie stood above them before a podium with their fist raised. Israel smiled. A woman’s voice narrated the video as a brown haired woman appeared next to the cropped and shrunk video.

“…At 7:00 PM yesterday, a flash mob appeared in Downtown Charity of all places, adding one more to a long string of protests that have broken out over the past five years in a local anti-corruption and injustice movement. The protest was led by an anonymous spokesperson of the movement, calling for justice on behalf of the city’s impoverished. One of our reporters attended this rally, and here is what was recorded…”

The video ballooned once more, and Israel heard his own voice being played back to him.

“…We will not be kept down! We will not be held accountable for the injustice that they did unto us! We will not allow ourselves to be farmed like human livestock, taxed and siphoned to line the pockets of capital interests, or the bought-out politicians like—”

The video was interrupted before they got to the good part, and the brunette appeared again.

“This protest comes just days before the annual Beach Carnival, and has been a cause for concern among local business owners if this unrest will affect the tourism attracted by the carnival. Now tuning into one of our reporters covering the event, Bonnie Lauren. Good afternoon Bonnie, how are you doing?”

A live-feed from a camera downtown revealed a blonde hair woman in a shiny red dress standing next to an older, heavy-set African-American man in a fishing hat and Israel immediately frowned. He knew both of those people. The reporter, not personally, but the man…

“Doing great Danielle. I’m here today in front of the admission gate to the Beach Carnival, the skies are clear, the sun is shining, and I’m with one of the long-time local business owners Tyrell Jackson. Tyrell, you were just telling me that you’ve been working with this carnival for the past… twenty or so years?”

“Twenty-one,” Tyrell said with a nod, his voice was rough and gravelly. “Never missed a year, in addition to my regular business.”

“Which is the Snake n’ Boot Bar and Grill, right?”

“That’s correct, ma’am.”

“So, in your experienced opinion, what do you think these protests mean for the carnival with them happening so recently?”

Tyrell cleared his throat and gave his take, “I just wanna say to all o’ y’all out there to listen – you can protest any time o’ the year y’all want, with three exceptions: the fourth of July, nine-eleven, and around the Beach Carnival. Businesses up by the beach like mine rely on the crowds it attracts to stay afloat, and anything that makes Charity Beach looks bad makes the carnival look bad, and that means less commerce for all of us. That’s is, normally… but these kids protestin’ the law, and the mayor, and police? Capitalism? It’s all part o’ this whole socialism craze takin’ the younger generation. Listen to what they be sayin’… defendin’ the downtrodden? Defendin’ themselves, defendin’ what’s theirs? The sounds just like the gang talk comin’ from The Boyz. Its just another gang, that’s all they be.”

“So you think that this might mean another gang like The Boyz or Red Crowns?”

“Maybe, or maybe they really are just The Boyz, and this just be some crazy new strategy they got goin’ on.”

“That’s all for today Tyrell, thank you very much.”

“Thank you for havin' me.”

“Back to you, Danielle.”

“Thank you, Bonnie…”

The television abruptly turned off.

It was bullshit, all of it.

It was no coincidence that Bonnie Lauren sounded and looked so much like Tomi Lahren; they were essentially the same person. They were a pretty mouthpiece with no brains to be used by corporate media. If she was good at anything, it was finding the right people to peddle their bullshit to the public. Tyrell was an old-fashioned black man like Bill Cosby, who fed into the idea that they had to conform to what was desired of them. They severed themselves from their colored identities long ago, and Tyrell fell into the trap of black conservatism. Not to mention all that he said was a lie; there was no way in hell that his beachfront bar in the nice part of town would suffer without the carnival. Even without it, he'd be able to support his grandchildren all throughout college.

But to compare the cultural revolution of Charity Beach to The Boyz was an insult. Israel lived in Los Costas, he was exposed to plenty of their kind and knew the differences. The Boyz used the same message in their outreach for support and gain more members to make money. Drug trafficking, gun trafficking, it was all about gaining power and controlling through fear abuse. They used addiction to ensure brand loyalty, the threat of violence to ensure cooperation.

No, the revolution was bigger and better than that. It was about change. It was about making a difference, opening opportunities, and exposing those who would do everyone harm. It was about fulfilling the promises that was made to every young American when they were children.

But it was a long road ahead, and as much as he loathed to, he had to play the part of the citizen until then. Israel slipped on his shoes and headed toward the front door. He called out to his mother, “Mama, I’m heading out to the carnival! Me piro!”

“¡Chao pescao!” She called back.

“¡Y a la vuelta picadillo!”

Israel opened the door and stepped out, letting the thick, heavy wall of Florida’s humidity hit him. In his striped tank top, sandals, and the hand me down fatigues, he was well accustomed to the weather. He combed his fingers through his hair, threw on a pair of cheap aviator sunglasses, and huffed a sigh as he double checked his pocket for his phone and wallet.

“Well,” he muttered to himself, “it’s back to pretending I’m a capitalist.”

with @Dervish

Early morning, 15th of Midyear, 4E208
The Oasis, Alik'r Desert

A night in a desert cavern wasn’t particularly restful. Even if spare supplies had been fashioned into pillows or blankets, it couldn’t save Aries from the fact that she was more accustomed to fine linens and grand, plush beds in a cozy room. A blanket draped over sands was was hardly a fair comparison and her choices for head support was to roll a bundle of fabric and rest it against a rock or flat against the ground -- hardness or a lack of support? Then chilly drafts of wind that would also sometimes kick up the sand wasn’t so pleasant, and factor into that her own suspicion of someone slashing her throat as she slept, and she was in for a restless night where the Breton woman would sleep in half-hour intervals before waking again. She had slept in somewhat poor positions before since the Dwemer invaded Hammerfell, but she couldn’t say that she ever had to resort to sleeping in a cavern.

Sevari was a cause for concern, and his change of heart made her wonder if he actually intended to return or if he was simply trying to get on her good side. And if so, then for what? But there was one good thing that came out of their conversation: aside from their conclusions about Gregor, it was the argonian: Jaraleet. She had separate worries about her potential loyalties, but if Sevari was truly indebted to him like he suggested, then surely he wouldn’t try to endanger him. Sevari also wasn’t stupid, though -- he would’ve known that suggesting Jaraleet’s potentially ulterior loyalties to her also could’ve put his friend in danger. That meant at some point throughout their conversation, he must have felt that she forced his hand to reveal that information. One way or another, whether it was to drive home the fact that Jaraleet was innocent -- mostly -- or sacrificing that piece of the argonian’s privacy, knowing the risks involved, to set her on the right trail, the argonian likely ought not to be the subject of her worries. That meant she felt at least somewhat comfortable taking an eye off of him for now… as well as having him be the one to keep watch throughout the night.

While Sevari also could have simply said what he did to protect Jaraleet if he was guilty, then letting slip his loyalties was a dangerous liability anyways. Being a Penitus Oculatus, that man would’ve been more… cautious. The lizard was safe for now, even if he did have to pay for his executive decision later.

As the morning sun rose above the sandy horizon, her eyes scanned over some of the still-sleeping figures and over a trio standing by the mouth of the caverns. Meg was still injured and the bard had finally awoken from his heat-induced stupor, and like Sevari suggested, he seemed like he was close to Gregor. From a distance, one would be forgiven for thinking the Imperial was like any other man. That was a pressing matter to be handled later, but first and foremost, there were the people like Calen and Meg who had to be taken care of. Travelling throughout the day was only going to slow the group as a whole down. It’d be better if they rested here some more and resumed their travels at sundown. But that meant she had to speak with Daro’Vasora.

Despite her conflicted feelings regarding that one’s rescue, she had a form of power over this group that Aries didn’t have, a certain level of respect. Aside from the matter of simply getting to know the woman she risked so much to rescue, it’d also be beneficial to cultivate a relationship with that one. Perhaps, in doing that, she might also be able to cultivate her ability to lead. This disorderly band of ignorant louts weren’t the type who would follow her lead if recent history was any lesson to be learned, but perhaps through Sora, she could actually help to direct them in an efficient manner; or at least help the khajiit learn how to direct them. Sora had a debt, after all, however small that thread was. All she had to do was tug at it.

That being considered, it was time that she settled into her disguise. There wasn’t an immediate threat anymore.

Aries pushed herself to her feet and stretched the sore muscles in her back and neck and brush off the sand from her clothes and body. The Hammerfell-styled robes she was wearing was thinner last night and this morning than it had been during their travels. The need for a protective veil was no longer necessary and so her figure now was less obscured by the baggy articles she had converted to a blanket last night. One more scan across the cavern had set Daro’Vasora in her sights, who seemed to have waken only a few minutes ago. Her fur was still slightly damp from whatever bath she had given herself in one of the ponds the night before, and she was up, even if she was still groggy and in the process of waking up.

Perhaps in a more domestic setting Aries would’ve been more considerate of this, but giving the situation, courtesy wasn’t much of a pressing issue. The assumed merchant slipped her feet into a pair of sandals and she didn’t hesitate to approach her.

Reaching her hand down as a gesture to help her to her feet, one courtesy she had not opted to abandon, she looked at her with a polite, if a bit serious expression.

“Good morning Daro’Vasora,” she said curtly, “we have much to discuss.”

The Khajiit blinked the sleep out of her eyes and regarded Janelle for a few lingering moments, feeling the sudden burden of responsibility after what was the most perfect night she could have hoped for. Daro'Vasora stretched and yawned, taking a few moments to shake the fog out of her mind before taking the offered hand and springing to her feet with grace.

“Janelle, if I recall?” she asked, hoping she wasn't mishearing the name in the chaos earlier. “I suppose we might, considering all I know about you is you helped rescue me without me even knowing your name, your illusion magic saved lives and got us out of Gilane without causing a scene, you're an associate of Sevari's if I read the two of you well, and you have the bearing of someone who frequents the upper rings of Imperial society. Politician, socialite?” the treasure hunter probed, more curious than prying.

Sharp, but Aries kept her wits about her. With a sheepish smile, she placed her hand against her chest and dipped her head to feign some modesty. “Merchant,” Aries lied, followed by some truth, “and I was raised Breton. Though I can see why you would think that; Breton politics are woefully more complicated by leagues, and I would’ve been poorer off by not learning it. Shall we walk?”

“Ah. Forgive my assumption; I've called Imperial City home for a few years, you have the bearing of a number of people I've been acquainted with.” Daro'Vasora bowed her head slightly in polite acknowledgment. “And my mother holds court in Leyawiin, so I've seen a number of people of all walks of life petitioning the count in my younger years. Please, lead the way.”

“Is that right?” Aries said with a tilt of her head. She made the first step, careful in its placement as she lead them away from the others so to set the pace. Their walk was more like pacing, like they were taking a relaxing walk through the Arboretum in the Imperial City. She did not want to cause undue stress by pressing the urgency of a situation, so instead she sought to make her comfortable first. Aries continued, “I’ve done quite a bit of business with the Imperial City during and after the Skyrim Civil War. Depending on which sector your family worked in, it’s possible I’ve done business with them. In fact, I suspect I might have even done business with a Sibassius at one point -- a relative of your acquaintance, I assume.”

Daro'Vasora's gait was much looser and informal, one acquainted with being limber and light on her feet as to not disturb anything. She shrugged, slipping the well-gnawed bit of bone between her teeth. “You have me at a loss. My father is a household name merchant in the Topal Bay region, even trades with the Dominion when the political climate allows. Only headed up to the big city once in a while, mostly following demand. Only business partner of his I knew about was my recently departed uncle, who I lived with on and off until the city fell.” she glanced at Janelle. “Never even heard of Gregor's family until I met him a couple months back. Jewelry crafters, if I recall.”

“That makes sense.” Aries replied, not failing to take notice of her unfamiliarity with Gregor’s family. “I took care of the logistical business in Daggerfall and hired third parties as intermediaries, but I suppose it's possible that I may have done business with him. It wasn't until contacts began going dark did I set out to Hammerfell myself only to find there were Dwemer. I can't say for certain what High Rock looks like now.”

After a brief pause, Aries continued.

“How are you finding the burden of leadership?”

Ah, there was the bread and butter. Daro’Vasora wasn’t sure how much she should divulge to Janelle, but it didn’t hurt to air out some of her thoughts, did it?

“This isn’t something I thought I’d ever be caught dead doing, but I suppose I’m making due. The others seem to look to me for direction, and I kind of loosely find a path to follow and say I’m taking it one way or another, and so far they’ve stayed with me.” Daro’Vasora replied with a careless shrug. “I can’t say I care much for being responsible for the wellbeing of others, because every time one of them gets hurt because of some decision I made, it eats away at me. I honestly try not to overthink things too much, or else I’d be paralyzed with uncertainty. I’m trying to do right by them, even if it doesn’t make me popular.” she said, slipping a well-gnawed bone between her teeth.

“That’s something I’m rather used to, after all.”

“It’s a difficult responsibility.” Aries agreed. Daro’Vasora’s admission seemed to have confirmed some of her earlier suspicions. Then she looked as if she caught herself, and feigning nervousness, she quickly added, “It’s not one that I’d so quickly take upon myself, of course! Now that we’ve rested for a night, though, do you have a plan for what happens next?”

“That’s guarshit, you carry yourself like you’re used to having retainers and people following your beck and call.” Daro’Vasora replied, glancing sidelong at the Breton. “Like I said, I’ve met a lot of people who you remind me of. You only get that way if you’re accustomed to some measure of influence and power. I don’t expect you to give me a story about who you are and what you’ve come from, but no need to try and be humble around me.” the Khajiit said evenly, turning her attention back to the camp.

Aries presented Sora with a forced smile, but her face otherwise didn’t betray her sense of annoyance at crassness of her conduct.

“The result of a lifetime of petitioning Breton and Imperial courts.” She replied simply, though she deliberately held herself in such a way that a more scrutinizing eye would discern she was holding back offense. She continued, “You are entitled to your beliefs and preconceptions. If in the future should you decide you’re interested in my truths, then I would happily share them with you. So then… your plan?”

“Agreed. Next time, then.” Daro’Vasora said with a nod, returning to the business at hand. “I’ve got the phantasm of a plan, but there’s no way to really make any of it concrete until we actually get there. Rest up for a while, regain our strength and morale, and then head out in the dark when we’re all more or less back to our usual selves. It’s going to be a hard journey, but I’ve seen some maps, and with our guides, I think we’ll make good time without missteps.” She explained, going over the rough form that was circulating in her mind like a fog.

“It’s actually getting into the ruins that’s troubling me, but I’ll work that out when we actually see what’s there.” Daro’Vasora admitted, grinding her teeth into the bone. “I’m usually one to plan out my expeditions carefully so I just have to follow the correct steps to mitigate risk, but we’re kind of going into this blind out of necessity. But don’t worry, Janelle; if there’s anything I’ve learned about this lot, it’s that improvising in the face of unspeakable odds is what we’re good at.”

“Good improvisational skills is important.” Aries agreed. “I hope we don’t need to use them, though. I agree it would be best to leave at sundown.”

She turned back to the group and craned her neck around. She found one by the mouth of the cave, though the other was found easily enough in the presence of the non-robed male argonian. She continued, “If I’m not mistaken, two of your friends are Nords, yes? Young as they are, I’m familiar enough with Bretons and Imperials to tell the difference. The boy wasn’t faring so well under the heat, horse or not, and the girl even worse so with her leg. Giving those two the extra day’s rest and leaving at dusk might allow us to move faster and further in the long run. It’ll be cooler, easier, and our water supply will last longer.”

She turned to face Sora again with a smile. “It’s not much different from charting a course for a caravan.”

The Khajiit scratched the back of her head thoughtfully. “Seems the only ones of us who aren’t suffering from the heat are us Khajiit or the Redguards; this is a bit different from the swampy coastal climate of Leyawiin, but at least my fur keeps me protected from Mundus.” Daro’Vasora said, looking towards where Jaraleet was tending to Megana, Calen not readily visible from where they were standing. “I’m inclined to agree, everyone needs rest. A few days to try and forget their troubles and heal… get used to sleeping during the day. That sort of thing.”

She decided to change tacts somewhat; it was refreshing to speak to a new set of ears that had a fresh perspective. “So, what do you think of the group so far? It still is hard to come to terms with what they did for me. Ever feel like that, that you don’t deserve something that’s way above you?” she asked suddenly, looking at the woman full on for the first time.

“They’ve done a lot for you.” Aries agreed, though she felt a little crestfallen as she remembered the loss of Gilane. “At the cost of a lot of people. I suppose if it were me, I wouldn’t feel like I deserved it either, no. If I had found myself in your position anyways, then I guess I would simply have to look past that do what I can to show that I was worthy of that price.”

She looked up at Sora and put her hands up, giving her an apologetic smile paired with an awkward laugh, “Of course, I’m not asking you to prove yourself or anything! Your friends helped you because they loved you. I suppose, being surrounded by the pragmatism of an insurgency, I was driven by a very different motivation. I didn’t know you.”

“Still don’t, truth be told. But there’s time to work on that.” Daro’Vasora said with a reassuring smile. “Thank you for what you did for us back there, by the way. It wasn’t your fight but you still came anyways, and that matters, I think. It’s when you start to lose sight of people being people that you end up with fanaticism like the other cell.

“It’s why they came for me, we have a history together, the past two months have probably been the most heavy and formative in our entire lives, and the things we’ve been through… it’s hard to see anything past just us and our mission. The difference is, we’re not beholden to causes or factions or what have you, just doing what we think is the right thing.” Daro’Vasora sighed. “Hopefully we know what that is when we see it.”

“I hope it’s not too out of place for me to say,” Aries began, tapping a finger against her head, “but an open mind, I like to think, is one of my strengths. For all of Irranhu cell’s flaws… and believe me, there were many… there’s always a reason driving every decision. The Poncy Man was very calculating and I don’t think he made the decision to target your friends lightly -- and understand, I say that as someone who held them off so that you all could escape safely.”

Aries sighed. “But it does disturb me. If I had to wager a guess, they feared that at least one of you was dangerous enough to risk everything… but they didn’t know who, so they felt that their hand was forced. I say this because it’s easy to forget that those insurgents were people too, not just fanatics. Gilane was their home, and you and your friends could just as easily become what you’re accusing Irranhu of. You might not believe in causes or factions, but at the root of every cause is a group of people believing they’re doing the right thing.”

The Khajiit thought on that for a moment before letting out a soft sigh. “Trust me, if I didn’t believe in that to some degree, I wouldn’t have accepted Sevari and Zaveed’s offer. I heard it said that we’re all the villain in someone else’s story, I cannot remember where. Despite everything, I still see the Dwemer as people, and I hold out that after this war is finally over with, there can be a chance at peace. No matter what we decide to do, someone’s going to get hurt, or it’s going to be us. I choose to look after the people who matter first, that’s all.”

“The dwemer?” She repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Please. Their society has developed within a vacuum, a literal realm apart from this one. They’ve forgotten how to live alongside the men and mer of Nirn, just like the Falmer. If their leaders wanted to integrate with the new Tamriel, then they’ve lost that chance.”

“It’s anti-intuitive and frustrating,” Aries preemptively explained, “but language is inherently subjective and receiver-oriented. The validity or truth behind an argument is determined by the audience, however ignorant the audience might be. If the majority of Tamriel sees the Dwemer as unfit to coexist with them, then that is simply the truth.”

“All societies went through that pain at some point. The Falmer thought the same about the Atmorans. The Ayleids looked down upon the humans in their domain until the slave revolts. The Argonians invading Morrowind. History is just a big wheel, just sometimes the actors change. If I believed that people couldn’t change, or individuals were responsible for the deeds of their government, I wouldn’t be who I am today.” Daro’Vasora explained. “Look, I know it sounds off and naive, but actually seeing Dwemer families in Gilane gave me hope that that’s what the future can be like, it was so normal. Even the Governor, I think, was a woman with honourable intentions, just a very misguided way of going about achieving them. The thing is, let’s say the Poncy Man won, the insurgencies triumphed, do you think it would have been better or worse?” the Khajiit asked, looking back towards Janelle. “More often than not, rebellions and insurgencies that form in a power vacuum don’t exactly restore what people hoped for.”

“St. Alessia didn’t obediently obey her masters.” Aries refuted. “And as a result, thousands of slaves were freed and they created the first Imperial Empire the world has ever seen. But this conversation misses the larger picture; you can not, and should not, invade someone’s home, kill their people, and expect them to become complacent under a tyrannical rule.”

“No, and in that, we are in agreement.” Daro’Vasora said, noticing the pointed shift in Janelle’s tone. “But it’s important not to lose sight of the people who are caught up in the same umbrellas as their leaders and armies. Why should a woman who is trying to care for her child be held to the same accountability as a soldier who puts another to the sword?” she asked.

“But we can say the same thing about the Empire we both call home, Janelle. It was forged in conquest and subjugation; my people never asked to be Imperial Citizens, and yet we stared down the Numidium and fell under Imperial law all the same. In 50, 100, 200 years someone like me is going to be scouring old historical records and trying to make sense of all of this.” Daro’Vasora shook her head, her expression grim.

“I think you need to know that the Dwemer killed my uncle and destroyed my home. That is why I am here, trying to find a way to stop this invasion permanently knowing it could kill thousands of people who are innocent of any crime other than being born under a different nation.” She said grimly.

Aries paused for a moment, catching herself in a heated moment and reminded herself to not forget her purpose here. She took this chance as an opportunity to recompose herself and decide to take a step back and remove herself from the situation. Perhaps in the future she would have time to address the facile pseudo-intellectualism, but now wasn’t the time.

“Pardon me,” Aries began after a brief breath, “losing my temper, however brief, was… unbecoming. I’m afraid you weren’t the only one to lose a lot recently, so forgive me if I am too close to the situation. It isn’t my place.”

As if to show that she was alright, she flashed a smile and said, “I mean I’m a businesswoman, after all, not a politician. What could I possibly know about international diplomacy?”

“Uh-huh. Perhaps I’m stereotyping, but you’re Breton; it’s in your blood. I say this as a glorified grave robber with a tail and fuzzy ears.” Daro’Vasora replied with a wry smile before rolling a kink of out her shoulders. “There’s nothing to apologize for, political discussion aside, it’s important to have checks and balances and a fresh new mind to pick. I’m not going to pretend I know everything, or even feel confident with what I’m doing, but at least it won’t be a dull journey.”

“Stereotypes indeed, Daro’Vasora. I suspected better of you!” Aries playfully admonished as she clicked her tongue. “Anyways, I just wanted to meet the woman I’ve worked so hard to help. I must admit, it feels gratifying to see someone so earnest. You may not feel worthy of the honor, but I suspect you’ll accomplish some great things before war’s end.”

Aries bowed her head and finished, “I’ve many more people to meet; good people, I imagine, if they were willing to risk their lives for you. Good friends. I’ve yet to make proper introductions with them since the chaos of planning an attack. I have much to catch up on.”

“For that, you have my gratitude and it’s an honour to have you at my side.” Daro’Vasora said, extending her hand. “Give them a chance; they’ll grow on you.”

“Likewise, and I’m sure they will. Like a rash, right?” Aries responded jokingly with a smile, taking Sora’s hand and giving it a firm shake. “I look forward to seeing a stronger future for Tamriel with you.”

With that, Aries turned around and began walking off towards the rest of the group. With her back turned to the khajiit, her smile dimmed as she repressed the urge to sigh or alter the pace of her gait. Setting her sights on the others, she couldn’t help but feel a tiring burden set on her shoulders.

Walking away from Sora, she thought to herself, ‘Finally.’

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