The Room Where it Happens
30th of Second Seed, 4E208
Gilane, eveningWhat a week it has been
, the Breton thought, as walked through Gilane’s beautiful streets in a loose linen dress, running her hands across her skin. She inhaled deeply pressing her palm to her arm - feeling the Magicka work its course through each of her fingertips and onto her skin. Her sore, dry skin. Even bathing upon arrival had not made her feel too much better. So many days had been spent cramped up on the boat. The ocean salt spray had at first been exhilarating, but the novelty soon wore off and it began to feel harsh and drying. Everyone had been in a state following the death of Rhea. When Raelynn had closed her eyes to prepare her body, she noticed that they still appeared pained, terrified, and in shock even after her death. It was how it was. One couldn’t die in such a way and not be immortalised in a dark moment like that.
Everything had once again been frantic and horrid. Luckily enough, she had been with Gregor when everything had happened. They had been forced to fight their way to the boat -- or at least, Gregor had. He had torn through the Infiltrators like they were made of paper. She had followed him and only him to the boat. It was really the last few moments that she had spent with him, they hadn’t talked on the boat. All they were able to manage to do was to exchange glances and knowing looks, the way that his body would tense up in anticipation if she walked by him excited her. If they got close enough to each other at a quiet enough time she would deliberately catch his eyes and send him a longing stare. She knew even that would be enough to stir him. Their distanced flirtation was the only semblance of joy she found on the boat. Everyone else was so incredibly morose and wrapped up in themselves.
The air outside was rich and balmy, the scent of sand and spices hung around. It was thick and beautiful -- Raelynn felt better to be in such a place, even if the overall atmosphere felt incredibly tense to her. It had been a difficult week and everyone had been dealing with their own pile of shit. One such person who had been faced with troubling and difficult situations, was the Khajiit from their party, Daro’Vasora. A woman with whom Raelynn had spent very little time with so far - in fact she could barely recall when she had said even a polite word to her. It seemed that now was to be her chance to make up for lost time. She could see her just walking up ahead. Really, Raelynn just felt rather unsettled to walk alone in Hammerfell. Everything felt all too calm to her. The Dwemer were here - as if they always had been. It wasn’t right
. A Khajiit would not have been her first choice as a quasi-bodyguard, but she was feeling in good spirits at least - to know she had a nice bed and dwellings for the foreseeable future in Gilane. Daro’Vasora was also unfortunately her roommate, as well as Judena and Rhona. She supposed that if she kept on the good side of her, she might be able to sway favour when it came to using the room.
She upped her pace to approach her, and as she came up behind the Khajiit, she very gently placed a hand on her elbow - just to let her know she was there, followed by a mellow voice; “Ahh, Daro’Vasora…”
The Khajiit suddenly tensed, ears folded back and teeth bared as she spun to face whoever had touched her, her claws bared as she prepared to slash for the face. When she realized it was Raelynn, her eyes widened and she pulled the offending hand into a cough.
“You startled me. Don’t sneak up on me like that, especially in a big city like this.” Daro’Vasora cautioned, resuming her stroll through the lightly shaded street. “Trying to find your way around?” she asked.
The Khajiit’s tense reaction did not go unnoticed by Raelynn, and she took in a sharp breath at her words, unsure momentarily of how to respond; “My apologies, I wasn't trying to startle you or sneak. I thought it more discreet than calling you. Well, I feel rather red faced for it now.” She lowered her head ever so, to attempt to warm Daro’Vasora to her. “I must admit, I am feeling slightly out of place here and just thought we could keep each other company for a little while…” her eyes met Daro’Vasora’s, and she offered her a friendly smile.
The last time she had really spent time with her had been while she was preparing Rhea’s body. The aftermath of her death. She could see then in the lines on the Khajiit's face she had been deeply troubled by it. She still bore the expression even now.
“I mean... “ Daro’Vasora replied, looking up at the blue sky above as if it could provide answers. Instead she let out a long sigh. “Sure, why not? Anything’s better than being left with my own thoughts right now.” she replied, continuing her pace without checking to see if Raelynn was keeping stride. She just assumed that the Breton would. The Khajiit needed a breather from being amongst the company, and a walk to both ascertain the occupier’s capabilities and motives gave her a handy excuse to bail out of the hotel at the earliest opportunity. She was trying to do well by others, to show an uncharacteristic patience, but damn was it hard. She barely knew Raelynn, but she’d seen how her and Gregor shot each other seductive glances. In the hold at night, when they thought their expressions could be concealed, the Khajiit could see everything.
She wished she hadn’t.
“So. First time in Hammerfell?” she asked, about as neutral of a conversation starter as she could muster.
“Actually yes, I seem to have been experiencing many firsts recently” spoke the Breton as she moved alongside her companion, having to keep up with her pace. It wasn't quite as ladylike and dainty as she would have liked. “I hope your thoughts aren't troubling you too much. I understand that we-- that you
have been through a great deal in the past weeks of our journey. I can't say I understand your pain exactly, but you have my sympathies…” her voice became quiet as she walked alongside Daro’Vasora.
“It is most certainly a beautiful place to be, isn't it? A true feast for my eyes. I look forward to exploring it.”
Daro’Vasora’s eyes flicked down for a moment before she offered an agreeable nod. It felt strange to be sharing sympathies with someone she barely knew. Still, the words and intent were kind enough. “We’ve all lost someone, I don’t hold myself unique in that regard. It’s just perhaps more fresh than most others, is all. Everything else, though… one step at a time. No sense in dwelling on things you had no control over.”
She allowed her eyes to take in the city streets once more, and the more she walked, she picked up on irregularities. The subtle tension when Dwemer or city guard patrols passed by in the body language of the populace, the idle chatter of how late in the day it was getting with some urgency, the number of bazaars and shops that seemed to have out of place shopkeepers, it all started to paint an unflattering image when you started to get close enough to look at the canvas’ brush strokes.
“Never been in Gilane more than once myself, my travels seldom took me this far East. I always liked the culture and the cuisine here, though.” she agreed.
Raelynn felt that the mood called for her to extend more comfort to the Khajiit, she placed her hand gently on the woman's arm again, giving it a slight squeeze of acknowledgement - hoping she would appreciate the contact. “It feels like it makes no sense, but it can be healthy to let grief run its course. You don't have to hold it in for the sake of saving face.” She let go, placing her hands together comfortably.
The Khajiit tensed at the sensation of the woman’s hand on her arm, but otherwise didn’t react. She hated physical contact in general, even if it usually came from a good place. Regardless, she held her tongue and appreciated the sentiment. “I’ve grieved long enough.” Daro’Vasora replied evenly, sparing a glance for Raelynn. “No sense in looking back when you aren’t going that way. He wouldn’t want me to mope like a mewling kitten over him, he’d want me to be decisive and at my best from what he taught me. So that’s what I’ll do honour him by putting his lessons to good use.”
Raelynn inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of warm spices drifting across the air. “I must say, the situation seems… Off. There's an atmosphere, something bubbling beneath the surface. It worries me, I don't like to tiptoe and skirt around danger, Daro’Vasora. I for one, am glad to be with our company. It has been some time now, quite some time since I first arrived in your group during…” she sighed, letting her voice trail off, not needing to remind the woman of the events in the Imperial City.
“Don't worry, it was still a shitshow before you stumbled across us, I suspect that trend will continue for as long as we’re all together. However, there’s a reason everyone's stuck around, and it isn’t largely affection. We stay with what we know, and so far, it’s it’s gotten us out of a number of perils. I just wish I knew the secret for keeping it that way, for everyone’s sake.” Daro’Vasora admitted, letting a long and slow exhale out of her nose. “The situation seems off because this is an occupation by a foreign power. It looks a lot like my father and mother describing what Leyawiin was like under Dominon rule during the Great War.”
“My my what a way with words you have…” she said in response to the Khajiit’s blunt manner. As they walked, she let her fingers run through some beaded fringe curtains hanging as a shroud around a market stall. The delicate chime was a pleasant sound in her ears. “I wouldn't be so hard on the company, there is plenty of friendship there - well, even some camaraderie too from what I've seen. We all had our chance to break free and go our own ways. Give them more credit, but don't carry the weight of our safety on your shoulders alone.”
“I don't.” The Khajiit promised, ignoring Raelynn’s jab at her uncouth tongue. “That was Rhea’s job and look where it got her. I just leveraged old relations and managed to find a way to get everyone out before things got any worse.” she said, eyeing a jewelry stall that they passed by. “Speaking of relationships, I’ve noticed how you and Gregor eye each other, and I’ve caught both of your scents on each other. And don’t give me that look, it isn’t my business what you two do with your time. However,” her tone shifted to something decidedly more serious, and she stopped in the street to look the Breton in the eyes. “He spoke to me in Anvil the first night there, and he keeps it well hidden, but there is something dark and dangerous about him that you should be wary of. His carefully groomed mask slipped for a moment, but he is a man possessed by something. The way he spoke of finding a Dwemer on their own… it gave me chills. It isn’t revenge or duty that drives him, I don’t think. It was a hunger.” Daro’Vasora gripped her own wrist, rubbing her arm as she broke eye contact. “Look, I don’t know you well and maybe I misread him, but just… be careful, alright? I’ve seen that look before and it rarely ends up benign.”
Raelynn instantly became tense in her posture when Gregor was mentioned, her hands instinctively landing on each hip as she looked the Khajiit in the eyes, with an intense stare of her own; “you’re right. It's not your business.” She suddenly felt compelled to raise a hand to her, to reach behind and smash something against her face - something hard and quite possibly sharp. But she restrained herself and after a single deep breath she relaxed her composure some more. “I will… consider your observations, but perhaps after all of this trouble and strife, maybe innocent things are starting to seem sour as well. Maybe you just need to relax and get some proper rest… I can see that you're incredibly strained. You may have… a nose for the unusual, but I have an eye for ill-health.”
That was expected, Daro’Vasora thought. People seldom wished to be informed that their dirty laundry was noticed and aired, and having what was barely an acquaintance warn her about the potential danger was often taken as offense. It didn't matter if Raelynn listened today, but the bug was now in her ear. It would likely be a matter of time before something reminded her of the Khajiit’s warning. The barely concealed vitriol about Daro’Vasora’s health and appearance mostly amounted to a flowery way of saying, fuck off, cat.
“You’re the healer,” the Khajiit replied calmly with a shrug. “I will take your words in advisement.”
As she moved her hands from her hips, as if to lead them walking once more, Raelynn would feel a hand on her own shoulder -- from behind, and then a man's voice spoke out to her “the forests of High Rock sure have changed…” he said in a sultry tone, a tone that she recognised. Her eyes grew wide and she responded to his call “-- but the owls are still around.” She turned on her heel to face him, could it be? Immediately her face lit up and she wrapped her arms around him. The tall man in the purple waistcoat, with the silver hair and neatly trimmed beard. “Papa!” she exclaimed in a gasp - a voice that was the voice of a child who had missed her father dearly.
She noticed as they held each other that he had gotten ever so slightly larger around his middle, and that his hold on her was not as tight. Age. “But, what are you doing here?” in his presence her demeanor changed. She was softer, innocent almost. “I could ask you the same thing my darling, but praise be that you are -- that we are here together.”
His eyes travelled to his daughter’s Khajiit companion, who must have been rather befuddled by the situation. To ease her confusion, he held out his hand, requesting to shake hers, and he bowed his head politely. “You must forgive me Madame, how rude of me, my name is Salosoix Hawkford, but you may call me Sal… It would be my pleasure to know your name…” He offered a smile to Daro’Vasora, sincere and warm - and with a twinkle in his steely blue eyes to compliment it. The same eyes as his daughter.
Reflexively upon seeing the relation between her companion and the newcomer, Daro’Vasora straightened her posture, placing her hands together behind her back. She smiled politely as the man introduced himself and offered an apology, she bowed in turn. “There is nothing to forgive, my lord. You and Raelynn obviously have spent considerable time apart, but the fondness we show for our kin should never be concealed beneath decorum. It pleases me to meet your acquaintance, Sal; my name is Daro’Vasora, formerly in the court of the Count of Leyawiin. You may call me Vasora, if my honourific is cumbersome to speak, should you prefer. My services are at your disposal.” she replied in turn, her voice clipped and proper, a sense of regal bearing to the Khajiit’s tone. She wasn’t watching Raelynn, but it was certainly a side to her that the Breton hadn't seen before.
Raelynn watched Daro’Vasora take good posture with a raised eyebrow. Suddenly wishing she wasn't here, so that she could spend time alone with her father, but she already knew what he was about to do. “Vasora, you must be hungry. It would be an even greater pleasure to invite you and my Raelynn to my table for dinner. Good company has been too hard to come by for me here. I simply must hear your stories - formerly in the Court of Leyawiin you say? You can't tease me with that glimpse. Do join us for dinner.” Salosoix stood back up, wrapping an arm around his daughter's waist, looking down at her with a smile. She was not returning one, “Papa, I'm sure that she has far more important things to do than sit at your table and amuse you for an evening…”
A smile crept across the Khajiit’s lips; Raelynn was going to hate every moment of it, the choice was obvious. “You honour me with your invitation, and I humbly accept. I have always had a curiosity about the man who raised such a compassionate and selfless healer, and it would be a delight to hear the tale of how Raelynn became the remarkable woman she is today.” she said, glancing over at the distraught face beside her. “If it would not be too much of a burden, I would be beside myself with such a courtesy.” Daro’Vasora said, beaming.
“Now now now, Vasora, please! You and I both know that is not the case for my Raelynn. I have no doubt she is remarkable at her craft, but you don’t need to pretend she is warmer than she is in her manner. I lived with her for many years -- ah, perhaps I can tell you that story when we are seated.” Salosoix watched the Khajiit’s smile grow, if he would do anything tonight it would be to regale her with his own stories, and learn something about her too.
This was one of those opportunities that seldom came, but was worth every single moment of discomfort that Raelynn would endure. What sorts of embarrassing little family secrets would come out? The Khajiit savoured the prospect, and besides, what better way to get to know your companion than forcing her to dine with one of their parents?
The Breton mage pursed her lips and narrowed her eyes. Of course the Khajiit would relish the opportunity, and her father would also delight in laying on his facade for her. But for what purpose?
. She needed to know why he was here, how long he had been here -- when he planned to leave. All of those were questions she couldn’t be asking around Daro’Vasora. This was Hawkford business, and she had no right to know. She managed to dress her face with a smile at last. Accepting that this is how the evening was going to play out, hoping that this was part of a larger plan by her father and that he didn’t actually want to spend time in the company of a cat.
“Well, it seems that you two are very excited about this, and I for one am quite hungry for some real food. I trust you have quite the spread readily available Papa?” Her tone was clear, but the look that she met her father’s eyes with was vaguely threatening. “Ahh, dear daughter don’t look at me that way. It has been such a long time since we had a friend of yours around our table. If we ever did of course, you were notoriously friendless…” his own sentence ended with a chuckle, and Raelynn’s nostrils flared. God’s, not a sip of wine in him and he has started.
“I am staying in a made up room at a local Hookah den, it’s not quite as luxurious as some of the inns around here but it’s surprisingly quiet and allows me to carry out my work. If you ladies would be so kind as to follow me.”
And off they went.
Raelynn had her hand firmly clasped around the copper goblet, tightening her grip with every word that fell from her father’s loose lips. He was halfway through the tale of her almost
arranged marriage to Lazenne. “-- he was a nice boy, a little slow, and rather rotund of figure, but he was nice.” Salosoix paused in his story to take another bite from his plate. Roast pork and vegetables, hardly a local cuisine. “He was beyond excited at the prospect of marrying our daughter, she was one of the most beautiful young women in all of Daggerfall. Now that -- that she gets from her mother…” he sighed, thinking about his wife back home, his eyes looking off into the distance as he pictured her. “He would bring her flowers, so many flowers. But our Raelynn, she was not having a lick of it. She decided she would rather study the arcane arts than to be the wife of --” suddenly Salosoix was interrupted by his daughter, with a tone in her voice sharp enough to cut through glass “that borish and brainless butcher's boy. Papa, instead of reliving my stories, perhaps tell my friend here about some of the things you have discovered. She has sticky fingers and an eye for value - she’ll like those stories.” She slammed her goblet down on the table, visibly irritated that Daro’Vasora knew this story now, she had always deliberately kept her past in the past - yet here she was, her skeletons hanging out of the closet - bare and exposed. By her father no less.
“You watch your temper, don’t you forget who’s table you are at. We have an honoured guest. Perhaps you should hold your tongue…” where Raelynn could shoot a retort, Salosoix was faster at it, his words held more power. He was right, it was his
table. She lowered her head and continued to pick at her food. “My apologies Vasora, the women in my life all share the same hot blood.” The iron in his voice melted immediately when he returned to acknowledge his guest, and the twinkle had returned to his eyes.
The Khajiit maintained an erect, proper posture, and she had her utensils laid out in a makeshift fine-dining arrangement, where she delicately cut into the pork in thin, dainty slivers as she tried to maintain an interested and humble bearing, although beyond superficially, she was internally cackling at Raelynn’s misfortune of having a chatty father who enjoyed oversharing with strangers. Manners opened so many doors, and it would provide entertainment for days to come.
“It is as they say, fire and hot blood bring passion. Forgive me if this is too bold, but it must have been a part of what made your wife so alluring, apart from excessive beauty. If Raelynn is anything to go by, well, I would say your family is blessed with exceptional bloodlines and ambition.” Daro’Vasora said with a polite, if somewhat coy smile, as she allowed herself a bite and forced herself to pace her dining slowly and lady-like. Had she been in an expedition or the group, she would have inhaled the meal in a decidedly unflattering manner. “I can see why your daughter had a number of suitors, out of all the viable candidates for marriage, the Hawkfords must have been something else entirely.”
“Ahh it brings me such joy to speak of my family. My Roxada is such a beauty, and she did Tamriel a favour by gifting that beauty to our only daughter. Nobody quite so feminine could ever have given me sons…” there was a sadness in his voice as it trailed off, and he picked up his goblet to sip the wine from within. “But alas, I jest at her expense, Raelynn is ambitious, you are correct. She is intelligent too, she would read for hours and hours about Tamriel and its rich history. She could tell you a thing or two about our Dwemer friends I’m sure - although she would not admit it… She is not at all like me in that respect, I will talk for hours of treasure and relics and adventure! I think my daughter prefers to quietly live and observe it.” As he spoke, he reached out and stroked the back of Raelynn’s hand with his thumb, knowing that he must placate her temper with kind words. She raised her head again and raised her cup ever so towards him. “Thank you Papa, you are correct. I do keep things to myself. It’s not a bad thing to be humble, no?”
“Oh, won’t you let me indulge our new friend in one last story?” he asked, digging his thumb into her skin ever so, his eyes showing mischief in their glimmer. “I think that’s enough stories for one night. I think maybe Daro’Vasora can share something of her own with us. It is privileged to hear the private intricacies of our lives - I wish to finally hear about this Count of Leyawiin.” Her eyes turned to the Khajiit, with a stare so intense - demanding that she be the one to quieten her father at last. “Come Daro’Vasora, spin your tale for us before our dinner is done.”
Raelynn studied the Dwemer? That was an interesting bit of information that had never come up before, Daro’Vasora decided, offering a curious glance towards the Breton woman with the death glare before returning her attention to the father. “But of course, it certainly would be improper to hear such heart-warming and intimate tales of your family without volunteering something of my own. My mother’s name is Ko’Juzuni, she is the personal scribe to Count Caro and has been since before I was born. My family has been close to the court for generations, my mother’s mother, and hers before hers, they all faithfully served. I was being groomed for such an event, and I had been sent to attend to the library and catalog all of the books and scrolls.” Daro’Vasora explained, helpfully not adding why
it was that she was trapped working in the library, nor that it was the nice part of cleaning the entirety of the castle as a part of her punishment.
“The access to the tomes I had helped catalog only helped invigorate my imagination and wonder of this world we live in, and it prompted me to study history to such an extent that I have since become a fairly well-regarded acquisition specialist of artifacts of historical importance for clients, be they private collectors, cities trying to have something tangible from one of their great rulers, and a number of others. History should not be trapped beneath the dirt, forgotten by all. From our past can we grow, and find inspiration in our contemporary societies.” The Khajiit concluded, allowing herself another couple of slivers of pork. “Past that? I am afraid I am not so remarkable, just a humble woman who has dreams and ambitions like any other, just on a more peculiar spectrum than most.”
“I must say, this is like music to my ears. Had I been a younger lad again - we may have been rivals or colleagues. I don’t think I’d like to be on your bad side Miss Vasora, I have no doubt your knowledge is incredible.” Salosoix moved in closer to Vasora, just ever so, his eyes on hers. He gave her a sincere smile, and a slight wave of his hand as he stretched back into his chair, exhaling loudly as he did so. Indicating to his company that he was tired. “If it’s not too big of an ask Vasora, I may have work for you while you are here. I will pay you good coin, of course. I just… think it is too good of an opportunity to pass up. I assume you did not arrive here just the two of you. I will have work for you Daro’Vasora, and your skilled company, if you choose to accept it.” He watched as the Khajiit cleared her plate of food, he would not be so impolite as to send her away without finishing her meal.
“That said, if you do not mind my new friend, but I wish to speak with my daughter alone, and it is getting quite late. I’m sure an explorer like yourself has other things to spend the night hours on.” He stood up from his seat, making his way to the door.
“But of course.” Daro’Vasora smiled, gathering her belongings and preparing to depart. “Your hospitality was most generous, thank you for the illustrious company this evening. I will consider your offer, and let you know my decision when appropriate.” Turning to look towards Raelynn, she said, “I feel enriched and privileged to be in your company. Until we meet again.” she said as a form of farewell, she allowed herself to be shown out of the door, waiting until the door was closed to fish her dagger sheathe from her back and fastening it to her wrist once more. A curfew was coming soon, and she had to hurry back before she got caught out in the middle of that. Hopefully it wouldn’t be difficult to find the hotel.
With the door closed behind her, and Daro’Vasora on her way, Salosoix let out a long and pained sigh. “Fucking Khajiit…” were the words he muttered out under his breath. Raelynn heard. She was also ready to confront her father, and she stomped to him, feeling the blood rise in her face, her fists clenched into a ball -- “how dare you speak of me like that to her. How dare you embarrass me in front of her --” Salosoix turned on his heel to face her, grabbing her by the wrist of the hand she was waving at him in anger. “No. How dare you
. You should be grateful for what I have done.” The joy and warmth had evaporated from his tone and what was left was ice cold - like his eyes. She immediately shot back at him, her temper flaring “what you’ve done? And what, pray tell, is that?” she snatched her wrist from his grip, and watched his true face slip out. Foreboding and severe, the age lines suddenly appeared to look more harsh against his skin. “I have just spent an entire evening endearing your friend towards you. Which it appears you have not done in the entire time you have spent with her. Which I am going to assume has been a while now. A grave mistake to make, I thought I had raised you better.” His tone annoyed and impatient, he took his seat again, commanding her to do the same with a wave of his hand.
Raelynn could see her father was stressed, much more so than usual. He wasn’t ever
this way. He could be serious at times, but this was another level. It would have much to do with the situation and his reasons for being here. “I don’t live like you do father. I have my own methods…” her voice had softened as she sat, placing her elbows on the table. “Are you going to tell me what’s going on?” she asked him, looking at his face - trying to make eye contact, but he was too busy rubbing the coloured stones on each of his rings, deliberately refusing her gaze.
“Ahh yes, your methods. I wonder what they may be
. Acting like a common tart is not looked upon highly.” He spat the words accusingly at her through gritted teeth. “All I ask is that in times like this you play your cards right. Make the right allies, and try not to make enemies. The world is in disarray and people like us have to do all we can to remain at the top. Even if that means socialising with peasantly Khajiit…”
“You are my only child. I wish to see you safe and looked after by any means necessary.” She sat quietly for a while, they both did.
“I have missed you, I’m sorry… I don’t mean to be harsh, forgive me, my Sunlight.” He reached across to grab her hand with his, “I can’t tell you everything just yet, I will send for you when it comes time. I am playing my own cards here.” He smiled at her, a little friendliness appeared on him once more. “I am both glad and distressed by you being here. But we can make this work, we Hawkfords must remain many steps ahead of our foes. I will catch you up soon enough.” Raelynn smiled at him, and placed her own hand on top of his.
“Alright, I’ll wait for that then. We will reunite properly soon. I…. missed you too, and mother.”
They finally said their goodbyes, and Raelynn made her way out into the darkened streets too. Confused and angry - both at her father’s words and strange manner, and at Daro’Vasora for indulging him in it. Now the damn woman knew things about her that she had kept secret for so long. It was mortifying. Her lip trembled as she let thoughts of punishing her run through her mind. But maybe her father was right, maybe she ought to warm up and allow others to see more than her stand-offish nature. But it made things so difficult for her
. She hadn’t even spoken to Alim since their last meeting.
She sighed in frustration, and made her way through the night.