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6 mos ago
Current changing my major from psychology to "eating dirt and how to eat dirt properly"
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RIP Greg 2017-2017
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stor wors
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bah humbug


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

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.’

Finishing Seams

Early Afternoon, Last Seed 16
Used Sundries

To Saddi’s credit, he seemed like every ounce the successful bargain-hunter he boasted himself to be. Sent yesterday as an intermediary between Wylendriel and the town’s leatherworker, the Khajiit brought two untanned fox hides. While not a true leatherworker, Wylendriel knew well enough how to properly skin an animal as many Bosmer do, so the desirable fur was in pristine condition, and apparently Saddi was able to run with that well enough with the help of a few coins and other goods to sucker the trader into an awfully raw deal that resulted in the peddlar leaving with arms full of wool, furs, some scraps of leather, and even some feathers and, somehow and for some reason, a knitted white tablecloth. He insisted that they would find a use for it.

In the meantime, the fox meat was stewing in a pot over the fireplace, prepared by Saddi, and in junction with Marcel’s surprise treats and sweets, would prove to be a quite satisfying supper for those not attending the banquet or those too suspicious of what would be served. Though the meat was gamey, its toughness was reduced overnight and was as tender as butter, and the smell of the pot was enough to overcome the musty scent of the old building. It took some convincing from Gustav and Edith for him to not throw in a pinch of moon sugar while he was at it.

He also made sure that she understood the message that while he could make clothing, it wasn’t really his profession and that it wouldn’t be a perfect article of clothing -- but as confident as he was, he still assured her that it would still be pretty good, so honestly, who knows how it was going to turn out? But with only a day ahead of them to finish it, the pressure was on, and an apprentice plus a novice would be hard pressed to finish it on time even if the clothing was relatively simple and one had an in depth knowledge of the inspiring culture. That was, of course, until more help had arrived, and Wylendriel recognized her immediately as the crew member who she worked with to save others while on board the Tear at the Smuggler’s Cove.

Carrying lengths of measuring string, a sharp knife, and a few spools of black thread in her arms while under her arm was cloth sack with her own dress. Hair pinned away, dressed moderately light without gloves or cloak Maj entered Used Sundries. Complaining half heartedly, “It’s one fucking thing to mend a few holes but another to be fancy feast ready when you couldn’t give another shit about what a bunch of rich nobles pat themselves on the back-” She stopped herself seeing Wylendriel, “Oh, hello.”

“Didn’t realize you were needing help too, Wylendriel.” She said somewhat sheepishly.

Placing her tools down on the nearest table, “I can work pretty fast but this deadline is bullshit.”

Before the priestess could even get a breath out, Saddi had already picked up where Maj had left off with a burdened tone, “Ah, yes, the priestess needs lots of help apparently, but nothing that I am not thrilled to accompany her with -- damned Tree Pact--”

“Green Pact--”

“--keeping us from simply buying the clothes -- but I digress! Prima-- ah, naturalistic clothing shan’t be so hard, yes? And you, pirate? You say you work fast? Come, come! Help our chaplain look as ravishing as, well, furs and wools shall allow.”

Wylendriel sighed, shaking her head and trying to stifle a somewhat amused smirk before looking up at the redguard from her position sitting on the floorboards. In her hands as a rather long length of brown fur that would make up the lining of the dress, being punched through by a needle threaded with sinew. Despite her exasperation at Saddi’s eccentricities, she aimed her eyes to Maj with a humbled and inviting smile. While part of her wanted to ask her to pardon their new quartermaster, she opted for the more diplomatic approach of ignoring his forwardness.

“Maj,” she pleasantly greeted, “it has been a short while, hasn’t it? Join us, I don’t believe we’ve had the opportunity to appropriately introduce ourselves. I’m Wylendriel, the company’s chaplain. You can come to me for anything if there’s something troubling you.”

“Hi, yes.” She said a smile tugging at the corner of her mouth in spite of her sour complaints. “Yes, I’m Maj Noor. Apparently now a surviving member of the Corsair Republic.” Maj’s expression was pained, but she jogged on. “Meeting amidst a disaster is about as appropriate a place to meet new faces as it can get while at sea.”

Elbowing Saddi she said, “Complaining about working with leathers instead of silk? Let me tell you just how ravishing a set of leathers can be, my former Captain would adorn herself in feathers, bits of gold, and polished steel. Striking out against the backdrop of the sea.”

“Wearing metal out at sea?” Saddi questioned. “Little wonder then why she-- ow!

The khajiit was quickly silenced as a wooden and stew-covered soup ladle came flying across the room and hit him in the chin, stopping Wylendriel from nearly punching him in his arm herself, and a quick look around the corner showed Dar’Jzo standing in front of the pot and facing the others with his arms crossed and needle-like eyes glaring into Saddi. A quick rub on his chin to massage away the sting, and Saddi instead finished with, “...I’m a fan of cotton, myself.”

With a sigh, Wylendriel attempted to move on. “The idea here is that I will be attending as a Spinner to act as a mediator by Gustav’s invitation. I know all of the traditional designs and I don’t intend on it being complicated, but I’m not a particularly skilled tailor, so Saddi has been doing most of the ornamentation and complicated stitches.”

“. . .I am a fan of cotton as well.” Maj said, not missing what Saddi had meant to say originally. “You got it, need some of the basics done to bring the pieces together.”

While the thought of missing Captain Sette hung onto Maj’s mood, she couldn’t help but continue her line of thought. “I used to help the Captain make those alterations, lots of details.” She scooped up the leather running a hand through the fur. “She was - er well, is a master illusionist, never missing a detail in whatever she crafted whether that was creating a intimidating pose of a cut-throat pirate, a speech to inspire fear in the target, or telling a ghost story. . . She always looked good while doing any of those things.” Maj said rolling up her sleeves.

Clearing space she laid out the pieces preparing a thicker needle for the leather, “We’re pulling off an illusion by dressing nicely, painting our faces and drinking to the defeat of those savage pirates.” She said through gritted teeth as her hands methodically began to thread the needle. “That’s how I see it.”

“Folks hide a lot with tiny illusions all the time.” She glanced to Wylendriel, “Clothing, the way the hold themselves, what they carry. I could go down a list that’s as long as a coastline.”

“That’s quite insightful of you.” Wylendriel commented, Maj’s words causing her to reflect upon herself for a moment. She’s been hiding quite a lot, but she wasn’t sure if she was so suave at it that she’d call it an illusion. It then made her question if the woman had noticed that and would begin prying, so she made the decision to turn the conversation around.

“It sounds as though you’re rather smitten by this captain of yours.” She said. “You must miss her quite a bit.”

Maj paused momentarily to laugh, “I was at first! Whether you fancy lads or lassies, you could be swept away as easily as the tide by Captain Sette.” She clarified. “She offered me a new life, mentored me. I miss her, I miss the crew but I’ve got this deep…” Her hand clenched around her stomach, “Deep as the marrow of my bones ache for Nephelle.”

Brow furrowing then softening as her thoughts shifted to her. Digging out from her pouch she quite proudly showed Wylendriel her sketchbook sketches of Nephelle’s profile, the narrow nose and cheeks, tall peaked ears signalling her Dunmer heritage. Written in Dunmeris below it was Nephelle’s name.

“I could go on for days about the Capn’ but Nephelle would take me an eternity.” Maj said as she resumed, needle prepared now and ready to begin piecing together the leather.

Wy listened and nodded on as Maj told her story, accepting a finished portion of the piece Saddi was working on and overlapped it with the fur, lining up the edges where it was appropriate, and pulled it over for Maj to work on while Wy got started on the other end. She found herself smiling fondly at the picture the redguard had drawn over her dunmer lover, and at the tenderness in voice as she said her name. She tried to think back if she, herself, ever had the fortune of being so close to someone -- then quickly retreated from such thoughts, knowing that only dismay had awaited her there. It sounded as though Maj was missing them sorely, and from the sounds of things, lost them in some tragic accident. Whether or not they were dead was yet to be determined, but there had to have been some turmoil there.

“There never is a true end to life.” Wy softly said as she worked at the stitches. “We simply change form. Us Bosmer believe we return to the Earth Bones -- the Ehlnofey, and our spirits are returned to Green, the land around us. Death, to us, is seen more as… a transition to a different phase of life, as it were, where we’re no longer bound by convention. Likewise, her spirit is kept alive through your art and love.”

The priestess huffed a sigh as she thought of her parents, then added, “Two wise Spinners told me once that your eyes are where the world begins. I’ve no doubt that there is a world beyond this one where Nephelle is waiting patiently for you and is eager to hear the exciting stories you have to tell.”

Kinder words than Maj expected and words she hardly felt she deserved to hear. “Th-thank you, Wylendriel, that is kind of you to say so.” Setting to work on the new pieces, sniffling under her nose she said, “Anyway I’ll try to finish this up quickly.”

“Thank you too.” Wy said again. The three of them worked together to finish the handcrafted robes just in time. Green-dyed wool was layered over the brown fur, Saddi taking care of the embroidery, and minimal stitching was used in favor of wrapping both ends around her torso and securing it to her waist with a stylized leather belt, accented by tuffs of strings and fur -- somehow Saddi figured out how to actually incorporate a tablecloth and some feathers into the dress while making look like it belonged there. Finishing up the dress, they scraped together some leather to turn some ordinary looking sandals into something slightly more fanciful by extending the straps to crawl halfway up to her knees. They'd then help Maj with the finishing touches of her own clothes.

Wearing non-traditional robes and masquerading as a Spinner sort of felt like sacrilege, and it didn’t have the same sentimental value to Wy as her old robes did -- but after hours of working with pleasant company, it had value all the same, and it still reminded her of home. With a new set of replacement robes, it was like she rediscovered her identity.

And she sort of felt pretty.

5pm, Last Seed 16
Rear Entrance, Evermore Castle

in collaboration with @Peik

Saddi and Cilo glanced at one another with some sense of apprehension -- this was not entirely unexpected, though certainly unfortunate and less preferred than a straight shot into the palace. Cilo, being more of the punching and kicking type anyway, had his eyes bouncing between Saddi and the guards with an expectant look. Saddi coughed and straightened his back, and with a smile, he turned the charm dial to five out of seven.

“My friends, this is no mistake!” Saddi declared emphatically. “This is Bi’Lamayz here with a special EEC offer! We are liaisons from the company itself to deliver its thanks and acknowledgement of your business with us over the many years. As part of that thanks, we have sent you free -- yes, free -- free shipment of goods after buying one already! For only nineteen septims, you can have this free shipment of cheeses, furs, and wines! Have I mentioned that it’s free? Because it is, for only nineteen septims. But wait, there’s more! Redeeming this special and exclusive EEC offer within the next two minutes, and we will also throw in…”

Saddi reached into his back pocket to reveal a small vial of a clear liquid.

“...A special, patented, and free male enhancement formula! Simply dab the liquid on the affected area and you’ll be pleasing your lover of thus-far indeterminate gender in no time! For only nineteen septims, you can become the hero of the palace banquet and save your marriage and/or scandalous affair with FREE products, as thanks for your continued business with the East Empire Company!”

“Tis true, good sirs! Very potent! Although, if I may,” Cilo added, seemingly going with Saddi's charade, as he leaned forward to whisper something to the guards. “You do not wish to use too much of it; I had a friend who used an entire bottle of it before meeting with his lover; we had to rush him to a surgeon for a quick amputation.” His candor about the possible hazards of the formula were not well-received, it seemed, for one of the guards raised his eyebrows in fear and disapproval. Not the sort of impression you want to make when you are trying to get your products in. Saddi shot him a similarly disapproving glance.

Cilo pouted sadly upon the realization. “Oh, please, they cut it from our salary if these extra shipments are not accepted. Normally it'd be just a single wheel of cheese or a bottle of brandy, but the new superintendent's a total ass kisser; he decided to send the entire luxury stock when he heard 'banquet'. He'll take it out on us if we bring these back... Hmm…”

He raised a finger. “Tell you what, you folks must be missing out on all the snacks and drinks over here in the rear entrance. Why don't you just take it and, uh, 'disappear' it?”

“Reserve it.” Saddi corrected.

“That way, everyone wins. We say they loved the package, you folks have your cake and eat it too. What do you say?"

“Well I do like free stuff…” One muttered to himself. The other cast his eyes around the front of the palace -- they were early enough that there weren’t so many people gathered around the entrance, before shooting a thumb off to the side. “Bring it to the back. We’ll make sure that these supplies are, uh… stockpiled with the rest of our reserves.”

“Thank you most kindly!” Saddi said, clapping his hands together and bowing his head. The pair continued to pull their wagons of crates past the gate, without the extra pocket money that Saddi had been trying to fish, he noticed, causing him to shoot a disapproving glance toward Cilo. He could’ve bought himself a fancy wine while the rest of the company was partying! He could’ve bought both of them a fancy wine! He hoped Cilo remembered that while they sit in Used Sundries later tonight feeling thirsty and sober.

“We really must work on your sales pitch.” He grumbled.

“Sure, but it's my sincerity that got them,” Cilo replied back. “And they'd be scouring through the city looking for you had I not warned them about your, uh, formula.”

“Do not underestimate the power of placebo, my friend!” Saddi said confidently and with a humored smile. “If the man thinks he’s potent, then surely he’ll behave as such, yes? Grandfather taught me that one, didn’t he?”

Mid-stride, with a hop and kick into the side of the crate, the cheeky khajiit marched with pleasure at the sound of a hissing and grumbling old khajiit inside one of the crates he was hauling around the castle.

“Besides,” Saddi continued, mimicking Dar’Jzo’s thick accent since there was nothing his elder could do about it at the moment, “this one now gets paid more than the others because of such, ah… privilege of executive decisions.”

Cilo seemed nonplussed when Saddi mentioned the power of placebo, although the Khajiit's next remark got some cogs in his head running. A slightly questioning expression took shape on his face. “...You mean it's not the real deal? Gods be damned,” he replied in well-contained amazement. “Damned alchemy, I tell you. I had this friend by the name of Priapus Magnus back when I was in the Legion. One day he came in with a vial just the same as yours, said he got it from a merchant who sold oils from Akavir. My lad told me it was dragon's seed; apparently you rub it on your pecker and then it's diamonds afterwards. He had this Dunmer girl, insatiable, I tell you. Anyhow, the two rent a room, and hours later the innkeeper breaks in because of screaming. The bed's broken in half, the lass is rubbing her nethers in pain, and our lad has gone unconscious with his tool standing this tall!” Cilo held up both his hands with about a gladius' worth of space in between them. “We rushed him to this magic woman, she did her, uh, magic, yet it's growing worse. We had to rush him to a surgeon to burst some veins; in the end it took the garrison executioner's axe to separate him from the thing. Can you believe that?”

Cilo began chuckling. “Damn bastard sold the thing to the Temple of Dibella afterwards, where they pickled it; got enough money to live the rest of his life a rich man. I wonder if it was worth the price, though. I wouldn't give up on mine for any amount of money, I tell you.”

“Baan Dar, you weren’t joking back there.” Saddi muttered to himself, looking at Cilo with mild horror. He looked straight ahead and pressed on.

As the pair followed the road they were eventually led to a backdoor where servants and kitchen staff were either in a hurry as they performed chores like taking out garbage or cleaning old pots and pan, or taking a tobacco break rom the preparation. The smok, hickory smell of a mouth-watering roast wafted through the air, mingled with spice and a plethora of other dishes. As they approached, the servants’ eyes went crestfallen as Cilo and Saddi brought even more crates to them.

“Hello, all!” Saddi greeted cheerily. “Bring these to your cellar, would you? These are live animals for maximum freshness, so don’t go sticking your face and fingers into them, alright? We've had enough people lose fingers today.”

“Oh, yes,” Cilo added. “We've got giant snapping turtles in some of these boys. Makes for great soup, but, well... not the sort of beast you want to mess with!”

“Who eats snapping turtles?” Saddi whispered to him with an incredulous and confounded expression on his face as he shook his head. He looked to the equally confused staff of servants, and put his hands out in a calm demeanor, “He jokes, he jokes! You know how roosters can be, always such assholes. Should’ve heard the ruckus they were making in these crates before we hired an illusion mage to muffle them. Anyway, the payments have already been sorted out! Have a wonderful day!”
Loose Ends

w/ @Leidenschaft

Within the past couple of hours, there have been more than just a few things that gave Aries pause. First came Gregor and his cute little doll in tow. Were time not of the essence, she would’ve questioned him right then and there and motioned to leave him to the proverbial wolves. However, the soft hearts of Samara would’ve forbade that and were simply grateful to see his face again. Regardless, her own line of questioning need not be said, for she was sure that questions would be asked eventually whether it was from her or not given time. Then not long after trekking the desert, an exercise not taken lightly even if her enchanted ring had protected her from some of the sun’s heat, they had come upon a grisly scene of blood soaked sand and mounds of buried people surrounding a caravan. Standing front and center were two khajiit, neither of which she had any hope of seeing any time soon, and another woman.

Not only was she faced by a ruthless killer, a traitor, and their accomplice, it would seem that Dar’Vasora had also broken her own word to keep them warned of the dangers ahead. What good was a scout if they could not relay to the others what awaited them? Even Calen, the bard who was supposed to be the outrider between the main group and the scouts, was caught off guard after learning who the khajiit were. So to say that even he was surprised goes to show the opaque leadership that Samara was following. Then it became clear why they had been so incompetent thus far: they never had any real leadership to begin with. Had the attack on the palace really risked so much for so little? There was something to be said for the comfort of sheep, but not a lot. Not enough to justify losing Gilane.

Regardless of logistics or reasoning, no matter how much Aries might've agreed to the plan should she and the others been consulted, the fact remains that a lack of trust in leadership ultimately undoes all authorities.

Despite how she felt about Sora, she kept her eyes trained on Zaveed and Sevari, her eyes narrowed and lip curled with suspicion and disgust. She didn’t trust Zaveed to uphold any sort of bargain given his brutal and savage history of whoring himself to the Dwemer, and Sevari less so given his now discovered penchant for betrayal. When he approached her, her hands were tightly clenched into fists and she did not utter a single world back to him. She had little to say that would’ve been any business of the others to hear, and besides that, the simmering expression of rage in her eyes said everything to Sevari she needed to say. She would keep herself on guard until they reached their destination. One wrong move, and she was going to unleash absolute hell onto them.

Zaveed, Sevari, Gregor, Jaraleet -- she was quite possibly surrounded by treachery on all sides. Though there was nothing treacherous confirmed yet for the latter two outside of stupid decisions, she didn’t want to take any chances. Who else was at her back? Daro’Vasora and Latro just made liars of themselves, Judena had a fish’s memory, a bard, and a spineless nord and altmer girl. Those who were left, while capable, she felt were foolish. Even when she reached the cavern and cupped handful of water in her hands to drink from, she did so with her back facing a wall and eyeing the others carefully. Surely enough, like Sevari warned her in the desert, she watched him approach once again. Very few people have been able to provoke responses out of her in the past, but it was as if he was an hearth, the way she felt her blood simmer and boil with each step that brought him closer.

And it practically singed him to stand near it. But he stood, face not betraying any apology nor malice. He simply sighed, “At least fucking yell at me for something… Janelle.” Sevari shook his head, “I can’t stand this fucking silent treatment.”

“I'm sufficiently professional as to not debase myself in the presence of company.” Aries responded coldly. She stood to her full height, though still finding herself looking up at the much taller khajiit. Her hands were still tightly clenched into fists. “It's the same reason you're still alive right now. So, was that your plan all along? To rid of me and your so called friends by having Irranhu cell do the coward’s work for him? Or did you simply abandon your post and leave everyone to die? Convince me why I shouldn't burn you alive.”

“Janelle.” Sevari’s face twisted into anger for but a second before he calmed himself, “Do you even remember why we had to take refuge in the Haunted Tide? Irranhu cell attacked my convoy. They were going to kill Latro and probably the rest of Samara after. You know the game of spies and politics, who would benefit by having you dead?”

Sevari huffed, “Not me. I didn’t abandon shit, either. I was arrested. There were Thalmor in the Palace, they were working with the Ministry of Order and had every file of every Penitus Oculatus Agent in Hammerfell.” He added more quietly, a bit more worriedly, “Or even Tamriel. They said they raided the headquarters in Chorrol, that’s how they knew who I was and what I was doing here.”

“Fingalto and Erincaro Syintar, and every Thalmor spy in Tamriel, want us and everyone who knows us or has ever known us, dead.” Sevari said, “This would be a shit time for me to enlist my would-be murderers to murder you. So burn me, Janelle, to ashes. Burn everything here. Do their job for them.”

“I ought to, for the audacity of thinking I’m a fucking moron.” She retorted. “Your convoy was attacked because you were still posing as a dwemer mercenary! And as if I’ve forgotten your outburst in that escape tunnel? Yet you still dare to call yourself an agent! Add to that, somehow, that someone of your caliber gets arrested, but when you’re released, where do you go? You run away, out of town with your murderous, whoring brother. But he isn’t, is he? Not really. So what reason is there left for me to trust you?”

Aries refused to let herself be intimidated by the much larger Ohmes and stepped forward herself, her eyes staring daggers into his. “If you think you can get away with lying to me, then you’ve clearly forgotten who I am.”

“He isn’t.” Sevari said, gravely, “But he’s the closest one I’ve got. I’m in Hammerfell because of him, he’s the smuggler I paid for before all this happened to get me here in time to kill Erincaro Syintar and force his father out of hiding. The last step before the grand finale of the mission that’s been my life.” He sighed, jaw set as he looked away from Aries for a moment, looking back at her as he continued, “His name is Zaveed, I’ve known him since I was a boy and before my time in the Bhaanu Sasra where I was flipped to the Imperial Cause. His sister, the other person I’ve lived with long ago and had feelings for had been placed just rightly by fate,” he frowned, “to be on that ship. I failed because of that. There.”

Aries crossed her arms and gave Sevari a dry look as she shifted her weight to one leg. She didn’t look very impressed with his admission. “That’s it?” She asked, expecting more. “Did your childhood fancy happen to neuter you? I’ve stabbed my fiancée’s foot to the floor after I exposed his house for fraud and conspiracy. Then I immediately denounced the most powerful family in Daggerfall into poverty. Out of spite.”

“Mm.” Sevari let that quip about his feelings for Marassa go. Like a great many things, it was something he should let go. It only made him weak, but was that not a good thing, in that moment? For Zaveed? Now wasn’t the time, “You’re right. I’ve no excuses, no sorrys. What now then? Have me prostrate myself and beg forgiveness, or…?”

“Don’t be so dramatic.” Aries sighed as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “That still doesn’t explain why you just left Gilane while the rest of us were fighting for our lives. I held them off, you know that? Irranhu. I’m the reason why Samara had enough time to escape with their lives. I assaulted a damn castle by their side. I got everyone out of the city. There’s no question who they would trust more between us. Where were you through all of that?”

Sevari sighed, “Latro already has made it very known he resents me for my absence. I was trying to get the blueprints of the Palace back to Samara when I was apprehended.” He shook his head, “The only reason we’re having this conversation and you’re not wondering after me while I’m on my way to be hanged in Alinor is because of that childhood fancy. The Caliph’s escape tunnel leads outside the city walls, I went to the only other place I knew to. Risking entry back into the city was too dangerous.” He frowned and shrugged.

“If they wouldn’t have shot me at the gates. My brother and his new… girl,” he said, eyes going to Sirine milling about the camp, “found me there.”

“You know what I would’ve done?” Aries rhetorically asked. “I would’ve turned back around and got back to work. Incinerating everyone in my way if I had to. The burden of leadership… remember?”

Her eyes bounced from Sevari to Zaveed and Sirine on the other side of the cavern. She continued, saying, “You’ve seen me frustrated. You’ve seen me annoyed. But you haven’t seen me pissed, and you haven’t seen what I’m capable of. Least of all, what I’m capable of when I’m pissed.”

As if to show her meaning, a single spark arced between her fingers before the friction in the air around her hand settled down. She glance returned to Sevari, but once simmering and wrathful, it was now cold and dispassionate, even if it did eventually warm up just a little bit. “If it really did come down to the three of you against me… your window of opportunity would only last a second. I just want you to understand that, and that you don’t have a choice but to make it all up to me. I… I would rather have some decent help again. I’d prefer that over the alternative.”

Sevari frowned at that, watching the magic flow from her fingers. He responded with a decidedly less threatening act of fishing a cigar from his coat and lighting it with some magic of his own, “If you’ll accept it, Janelle,” he said, puffing on the cigar to get it lit for a moment before continuing, “You’ll have it.” He hooked a finger on his collar and dragged it down enough to see the tattoo of the Red Diamond, dark upon his brown skin, “I still am what I am.”

“You’re not out of the woods yet.” She added with a warning. “But at least I can trust you’re more capable than these louts. I’m beginning to question if my gamble on Samara had any payoff.”

“We’ve spent a lot of time cultivating relationships with some of them. Latro and Jaraleet are closer with each other, and they’re close to me.” He said, “Sora might trust me the most out of the three of us she found on the road if only because I’m not my asshole of a brother.”

He took a puff of his cigar and let the cloud linger before blowing it away himself, “And we’re all headed in the same direction. From what Sora says, we’ve got a tool to end this threat.”

“Jaraleet?” She repeated incredulously, needling Sevari for information. “The argonian, yes? The one credited with taking liberties and torturing Nblec to death? The very thing that plummeted Gilane into chaos?

“Uh huh.” He answered, nonchalantly, “After my first meeting with him and Latro, I put his skills to use on Hassiim. He’s good. Very good. Better than any amateur assassins and hitmen you’d find in a roadside inn.” He shook his head, “I think he’s working for a foreign power. But as for torturing Nblec to death? He could do it, but why? He doesn’t seem barbaric enough for the task.”

“Foreign power? Hm. Duly noted.” She commented. While she was suspicious of Sevari for her own reasons, which were somewhat emphasized by his association with the argonian, Nblec died before his turncoat. Plus he was willing to give information on his new friend, one, which, he seemed friendly enough with to be certain of his innocence and to attempt defending it. As disturbing of a thought as Jaraleet’s allegiance was, she didn’t linger on it for very long in the shadow of a much more foreboding implication. One that was beginning to confirm a much earlier suspicion she had for a certain Imperial. “Who does that leave us with then? The bard, Latro, and Gregor, along with his little tart. As far as I see it, it comes between Latro and Gregor. Watching the Reachman fight was like watching an animal, but honestly? Rumor has it that the bard got hurt while trying to protect him. So look who that leaves us with…”

That necromantic fuck, Sevari thought, keeping the burning malice off his face. So, he might be responsible for fucking not only his brother up, but near everything else. “So,” he asked, drawing out the word in a low growl, “What’s to do then?”

“As much as I'd like for him to simply drop dead…” Aries returned in her own, seething voice, “we should bide our time. Given camaraderie complications, plus a man prone to impulsive action, it would be best to take care of such business outside the company of others. Let’s see if we can’t pressure a confession out of that one, first. I would sleep better knowing I didn’t choose mistakenly."

Sevari nodded wordlessly in response, looking back up at Gregor, watching the man talk with Zaveed. Ever since he first arrived in Gilane, he felt as though the city itself was trying to drink his blood through its gutters. Now that he left, maybe it was just all of Hammerfell. “Oh, trust me, I’ve my own reasons to make him drop dead.” He let that thought simmer until he spoke again, “But I agree. I might have bloody hands, but I like to think I go after the right ones.”

He turned to Aries, “Jaraleet, Latro, maybe I can leverage them. Get them to talk about what happened in that safehouse with Nblec.” He nodded over to the other bars, Calen, “Him too. They all know Gregor. Let’s see how well.”

"This won't change the past, but it will give the past some deserved justice." Aries admitted solemnly. "We tied off our loose ends for now. Let's see where we can't cut a few more."
Days before…

A few candidates were already checked off the list.

Cherk was orderly, methodical, and most of all, efficient. He went down the list of recruits to see who was left. Most of the crew was already accounted for, there were just a few left to collect. They still needed an engineer other than Kori’andh to do the actual maintenance while she was flying. Of the two on this list, one was clearly more qualified. One was more of a soldier, and would probably make for a decent mercenary, but he needed a specialist. Self-taught mechanics couldn’t fix spaceships or decrypt computer code. A bona-fide engineer that could create automatic robotics and program a VI? That’s the type of person he needed. What sealed the deal was that they already had a little bit of experience with contracts like the one he had in store for her.

Her name on the record was Cheyenne Jung, apparently wanted for questioning by the Citadel regarding the Luna incident. However, word around Omega says such a woman went by the name Shy.

She stuck out like a sore thumb the Afterlife Club of Omega. The woman was the only one at her table next to the stage of dancing asari, and unlike the rest of the lowlives who called Omega their home, she didn’t look like much of a killer. In fact, she didn’t look like much at all. She wasn’t wearing armor or openly brandishing any weapons, but this didn’t keep him any less on his toes. According to the dossier he created based on floating rumors, she might have been odd and peculiar, but she also had a reputation for being a pretty efficient bounty hunter. As he closed the distance, her appearance became clearer underneath the neon lights. The saturated colors bounced off her buttoned up shirt printed with palm trees and pineapples, and her blonde hair adopted the lights’ pink and blue hues. Her feet were propped onto a metallic dome, a device of some kind, which was set onto the table. As he approached, she turned her head toward him, giving him a glimpse of her slanted eyes. They looked bored and unimpressed, even if there was an amused smile on her face from the performance of the dancing asari. This must’ve been what counted as a relaxing evening he had just interrupted.

“Shy Jung?”

“Did I finally get my own bounty?” She asked.

“No, I--”

“Damn. Was hoping to collect on myself.”

“I wanted to offer you a job.” He declared confidently, pointing his finger at her.

“A job?” Shy parroted back with an amused huff. “No thanks, I can’t dance. Ask one of these ladies.”

“I represent a group of mercenaries looking for someone skilled enough to patch together a hull just as well as an AI.” He explained.

“Don’t feel like it.” She was quick to answer.

The volus was left momentarily speechless before he tried to continue his sales pitch. “Are you quite sure? I think I can provide you with an opportunity to--”

“Look little man,” Shy interrupted, “why are you so dead-set on competing with the Blue Suns and the Blood Pack?”

“I’m more interested in smaller game at the moment…” He explained further. “The job pays well.”

“And why should I be interested in a low-paying job where I work with other small-fry mercs?” Shy challenged. It was hard to tell with her face unchanging, but she didn’t seem sold on the idea of working with others. “And why me?”

“Well, I understand you have some history. I don’t know the whole story, but perhaps with enough time invested, we can help you take care of that. As for you? As I understand it, you haven’t had the opportunity to finish many jobs. But despite that, I hear you’re a brilliant tech. That’s untapped potential.”

“The best.” Shy asserted nonchalantly.

“We could use someone like that. I assume you can support that claim?”

He wasn’t sure if Shy could’ve narrowed her eyes even further, but somehow she did it. Did he sabotage his own recruitment by doubting her? His concerns were lifted when the slightest smirk appeared on Shy’s face.

“Of course I can.” She said. “How about I finish a job right now?”

“Are you serious?”

“Never.” She said as she removed her feet from the table. She sat up in her seat and righted the metal dome in front of her before flipping it over and cracking open its casing, exposing the wiring inside. “But shit, it’s no skin off my back. Why not?”

After rewiring whatever was inside, she slapped the casing back on and rolled the dome around and hitched on some kind of magnetic device that was previously secured to her belt, then screwed off some kind cap on top of the machine and plucked the wiry antenna right next to it. One of the omni-tools on her wrists were taken off, and as if she was simply changing a battery, plucked a chip from inside of it and inserted it into a slot within the dome before taking the centerpiece of her tool and twisted it into a port that the cap was previously covering. She slid the antennae back into its port and screwed the cap back over the centerpiece before returning to the omni-tool on her other wrist. The volus looked over her shoulder and saw that she was waiting for a signal. ’Drone connection secured.’ Then with a swipe of her hand, she turned on the device and the sphere began to lift off of the table. Another port opened and out came a barreled lens -- video suddenly came to live on a projected monitor from her omni-tool. As if she was showing off, she swiped around on the interface and the drone spun around, its camera sending video feedback to her tool.

“Now who would be a good… aha. This guy. Smallfry. Babo, collect a bounty on the human, Sten “Deadeye” Eysenck.”

In response, the scouting drone hummed and buzzed, as if processing the request before the computer floated away above the crowd. Shy turned to look at the Volus and smirked. “Check this out.”

Sten was enjoying a relaxing sip of a Full Biotic Kick from his cocktail glass in the Fortune’s Den. He blended in well with the seedier crowd, even for a human among aliens. It was the best place a man with a bounty could get a decent drink, and compared to some of the big-leaguers surrounding him from all sides, he was small fry. Even if he was one man, nobody was going to open fire in here. Once one person starts shooting, everyone does. That’s how it worked here. Nobody was taking any chances. And to think it all started with a little bit of desertion! Pfft, fuck the Citadel. Fuck the Alliance. There wasn’t any way in hell he was going to face off against an entire Geth fleet. It was suicide.

He set his drink down and dealt his hand, much to the chagrin of the aliens around the table. Which a cocky laugh, he punched a few buttons of a computer installed into the table and he saw the number of credits to his name swell.

“Someone ought to knock you off your high horse, as you humans say.” One deep-throated krogan grumbled. “Or kick you in the quads, at least.”

“Learn to play better and you just might!” Sten goaded, leaning back into his chair. “That’s why you don’t mess with the best.”

“The best, he says,” remarked a similarly disgruntled turian, “the one who spends all his time hiding out in shithole clubs like this one. Maybe if he could keep a crew of pirates together, then he wouldn’t have so much free time on his hands.”

“Oh please,” Sten drawled, “that again? Look, if I said it once, I said it a thousand times: I didn’t need those lowlives. Amateurs like those can’t even hold up a--”

“But mutinies aren’t usually consensual on the captain’s part, are they? They threw your ass into a pod and jettisoned you out into space like they were taking out the trash. Nobody cares about you, Sten. Your bounty isn’t worth shit, and for as long as your annoying ass has been here, nobody has even bothered to try and claim it.”

...Sten rolled his eyes at the memory of the exchange, recounting the moments that lead up to this point. Looks like he ate his words.

It wasn’t but a minute after that did that blasted scouting drone buzz through the crowd, stopped in front of him, and a little red light by the top of its head turn red before deploying two holographic drones of its own and a sardonic, feminine voice demanded that he turned himself it. Immediately alarmed, Sten had just jumped away from the table before they opened fire on his chair.

His lucky chair.

It had been a chase through Omega since that point, but with all the time he spent here, he knew this place like the back of his hand. A well placed proximity mine was enough to stir up enough dust and debris for the bots to lose his trail, and from there, it didn’t take long for him to find a shortcut to the Kima district. One way in, one way out. If there was someone after him, they’d be easy pickings. He set another proximity mine on the stairwell to keep anyone from sneaking up on him from another angle, and upstairs, he comfortably positioned himself next to the window with his sniper rifle. The Volkov X; this shit was top of the line, and he didn’t earn the nickname Deadeye ironically. However came across that bridge was as good as dead.

Surely enough, someone came.

They looked like a young woman, blonde, and wearing a black, lightly-armored suit. She was flanked by her three drones and casually walked across the bridge without a care in the world. Dumb bitch. He knew well enough that taking her out meant taking out the drones too. He carefully lined up his shot as she made her way across, making sure to remain patient, allowing her to get closer for an easier shot and to build up her confidence. If she felt safe, then she wouldn’t be as on guard. As the next minute passed, and the woman made her way to the end of the bridge, Sten smirked.

‘It’s the end of the line for you.’

With bated breath, he pulled the trigger, and a explosion roared from within the chamber, followed by the shattering of glass and an energy projectile ripping through the air and through the woman’s head.

Yet she still stood.

In that very moment, static arced across her body before turning to light, a hologram, like the two defense drones that were at her side, before disappearing. Sten barely had time to react before the two drones unleashed a barrage on his location. He immediately took cover behind the piece of wall below the window as more bit of glass rained down on him. His mind racing for a solution -- he still couldn’t believe he let himself get baited like that! Then, amidst the hail of fire he was under, he heard a thunk! from outside. Did they just launch something? He looked up as a piece of metal soared over his head and onto the floor behind him. It slid across the ground for a few feet and coming to a halt. From the device, a sentry turret was raised, a jet of exhaust allow it to hover in the air as it, too, began to assail him with energy bolts.

Sten cursed and swore as a bolt hit him in his gun toting arm and another in his leg, having just enough strength left to dive behind a large piece of furniture and corner himself. He was desperate for a plan and a way out, and all he had left was his pistol and a shitty old tactical cloak that would buy him a few seconds at best. He winced as he heard the drones outside blow apart the entrance downstairs. He had the mine still situated by the staircase, so that should also…

But as he waited for the sound of the explosion, none came. The sentry turret ripped apart his barricade had suddenly ceased fire, and what would’ve been the ideal moment to come up with a plan thanks to the silence, was spent wondering why his mine didn’t go off and dreading whatever was coming next.

The sound of the woman’s voice echoed through the room, sounding clear as day, “Oh, look at that. Looks like you’re cornered.”

‘Shit.’ Frantically, he attempted to activate a device on his harness. Expecting his form to camouflage, he instead found the device exploding into sparks. ‘Fuck!’

With a last act of defiance, Sten stood on his good leg from behind the furniture and aimed his gun at the drones positioned around him, but as he pulled the trigger, no shots came. He watched sparks fly out from the battery pack and the vent was exhausting out more steam than a pistol should ever have to. He looked up helplessly at the drones cornering him. Did these things remotely sabotage all of his tech?

“Where are you?!” He shouted through the room.

In response, the tool atop the mother drone’s head created an orange-colored holographic display. On it was the video transmission of a blonde-haired woman -- not in armor, but a Hawaiian-printed shirt, and a volus looking over her shoulder. There were asari dancing in the background.

“Hey there.” She said with a smirk on her face. “Looks like you’re in a pretty tight spot.”


Kori’s piloting needed some work, Shy thought. All this tossing and turning, one would think she flew them all through an asteroid field. She even had plans for giving the quarian shit later, something along the lines of, “is this how quarians fly?” or “It’s a wonder the migrant fleet isn’t orbiting around some planet like debris.” But the truth of the matter was far less humorous. To think she just wasted the brain power to cash in on a bounty without even getting off her ass just to get shoved into a pod of dysfunctional squares and a B-list horror monster and get framed for something she didn’t even do. Again.

She looked around the ship, eyeballing to see if there was anyone who actually could pull something off like that and get the rest of them in trouble. Zaash? She doubted he was smart enough. Naryxa? Heavens, no, too… uh, so anyway… Kyo? Possibly, ninja boy could probably sneak on board, but maybe too smart to get himself in trouble too. Ardan? Possibly. He does seem like the type to blow people up, possibly not smart enough to not incriminate himself. But that was the problem: all six of them were incriminated. Who wasn’t? Kori and and Cherk?

As Kori’andh explained the shituation, Shy seemed unfazed, still sitting in her chair with her feet propped on top of the table. She gave the people in the room another once over, and even seemed to give an appreciative nod at the accuracy of her own depiction.

“Fucking sweet.” She simply said. “Clever. So, what’s next then? You and shorty are turning us in? Haha, jokes on us, that was the plan all along? Get six chumps on your ship and frame them for an easy bounty?”

Shy scratched her head behind her ear. “Huh… I should’ve thought of that.”
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