The Elder Scrolls: Resurgence of the Frost - IC

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by O|NoSoul, Jan 20, 2015.

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  1. Magnus’s Jewel, Sea of Ghosts
    3 miles from the port of Windhelm
    12 Frostfall, 4E208

    Grey water, grey skies. Seaspray washing over like cold chills, no land in sight. Valfioren looked all around him and all around him were clouds and water. Windhelm was still a few miles away but Alinor and the city of Eton Nir was even farther beyond where the horizon pinched the water and sky together in the distance. He felt the weight of his family’s absence in the pit of his stomach but he’d grown used to it, being a man of his station. The only reason he’d been given as to why he was to walk Windhelm’s streets to be looked at by the Nords like a bad insult was to offer a sum of gold to the Jarl and the Empire’s military governor as a show of goodwill in their celebration of their victory over the Stormcloaks and the retention of Skyrim as a province of the Empire.

    He knew politics and though goodwill and gold were always part of politics, he knew a different set of hands guided his own this time. He couldn’t say he knew whose, but he knew they were there. If this was his mission, he would do it, but as his time as Third Emissary of the Thalmor here in Skyrim taught him, everything he did made him the sheath to the knife. The silk hiding the steel. He hated being that. Seven years spent in the Empire’s capital with Tactus Mede, trying to keep the fraying threads holding Tamriel together to avoid the second Great War. He knew his superiors wanted him there for a reason and they wanted him in Skyrim now for a different reason, but all for the same goal.

    He heard footsteps behind him and turned to lay eyes on their owner. Teralfar, a man he never did care for. Truth be told, as peaceful a man as he tried to be, Teralfar threatened him without ever having to do anything. He knew the man was danger and trouble followed him. Some at the beginning of the Dominion’s conquests in Valenwood before the Great War would remember him, Valfioren was sure. A life of living the lives of all but oneself draped its stench over Teralfar like a cowl. Only when Teralfar’s eyes met his own did he notice that his brows were pinched together and his jaw was clenched. He cleared his throat and collected himself, he was the Third Emissary of the Thalmor, for Auriel’s sake. Teralfar was the only person who could make him lose himself, the only man who could do what mercenary captains, Khajiiti warlords, Kings and Emperors could not.

    And he hated him for it.

    “I can only guess why you are here.” Valfioren opened.

    “It’s easy to know why you are. You were in Cyrodiil with Tactus and Felix before him. I admire what you do, Valfioren and it is easy to see why you hate me for what I do.” Teralfar said. He had an odd way of making everything he said heard and cloaking his words in an air of ambiguity. Lesser men would have Valfioren think they were on the defensive but Teralfar sounded like a father explaining himself to his child.

    Valfioren frowned and glanced at the mer from the corner of his vision, “I saw the ones you took belowdeck before we departed from Solitude. Two Khajiit?”

    “You should forget their faces. Loose ends always have to be tied and our Thalmor would surely miss a Third Emissary should he disappear. Your daughters too.” Again, lesser men give threats but Teralfar only gave certainties.

    Valfioren swallowed, “And war would tear its way across Tamriel and leave its gouges in the dirt, bring down mountains like sand piles and burn us all with it without me. That’s what you would do, as long as Justiciar-Paramount Ferrolia commanded it.” He hardly thought the insult would scathe the granite skin of Teralfar, “I’m requesting transfer back to Cyrodiil after all is done today. Our presence here in Skyrim and the reasons behind it are as transparent as air. I want no part of it.”

    “Fair enough, but you are doing the Aldmeri Dominion a great service here.” Teralfar said, paying no heed to the obvious insult. He found it surprising how easily he could ruffle the feathers of an Emissary of the Thalmor.

    “I doubt I am. Be truthful to me,” The two of them shared a look, Teralfar raised a brow and pursed his lips as if to remind Valfioren of who exactly he was asking the truth from, Valfioren continued anyways, “Would you spill the blood of innocents? Not have you, but would you?”

    “You wear the same robes as I, it’s safe to say you took the same oath as I.” Teralfar said, “For those of the Dominion, I will do anything.

    Valfioren only closed his eyes and looked away. Teralfar knew his answer left a sour taste in the young noble’s mouth. He knew because he knew the taste himself, but he took the oath. He turned and walked away, back belowdeck. It was time to muster his assets. The time was nigh.

    Valfioren opened his eyes and he regretted having his boots on this deck, on this ship. His justification- unbeknownst to him- was similar to Teralfar’s; If not me then whom?

    Palace of Kings, Windhelm
    12 Frostfall, 4E208
    Military Governor Caius Bronnus

    As the saying goes, four years in the Legion changes your body, ten changes your thoughts, but twenty changes your soul. Caius knew what thirty years could do to a man and one seldom reaches his position without a good deal of skill at reading both the battle and the political snakepit that was the upper echelons of the Legion where the line between Imperial Government and Imperial Legion blurs. As far as Caius was concerned, he was very good at it and when he heard that Tullius had stepped down as per the request of those who will remain unnamed, it was no accident that Tullius nominated Caius to be the Military Governor in his stead. Anyone who knew anything worth knowing knew in the snakepit that was the upper echelons of government, nothing was coincidence.

    The banquet hall of the Palace of Kings was abuzz with the business of handmaids and servants, all dressed in the different colors of their Holds. There was the yellow of Whiterun, the purple of Riften, the dull teal of Winterhold and the red of Solitude among others. From the aristocracy of the Old Clans of Shatter-Shield, Battle-Born, Cruel Sea and the countless others to the Jarls, all were in attendance. Caius eyed the Legionaries standing guard at the doors make way for a robed figure. His hawk’s eyes didn’t struggle to see who it was but it didn’t take a hawk to notice the gold-skinned knife-ears walking in from the cold. He took a gulp from his wine goblet and watched the Third Emissary of the Thalmor make his way to him and Brunwulf. He ran a finger along the amulet of Talos when the Thalmor Emissary made it to them and stood at the foot of the dais. Caius’s brow furrowed and he narrowed his eyes, he knew this elf from the Imperial court.

    “Jarl Brunwulf Free-Winter, Military Governor Caius Bronnus, on behalf of the Aldmeri Dominion, I come bearing gifts. I am Third Emissary Valfioren of the Thalmor, but please, you may call me simply Valfioren.” The mer introduced himself and neither Caius nor Brunwulf made a move to address themselves. At least for a bit. “Surely, you remember the gifts outlined in the letter sent preceding my attendance?”

    “I and my people here in Windhelm and Eastmarch accept these gifts, thank you, Valfioren. Any help that I get is welcome.” Brunwulf spoke first, hiding the fact he had not read such a letter well.

    “We appreciate the monetary aid. It will surely make my job easier in making sure the former Stormcloak territories can be reintegrated into Skyrim once more.” Caius reassured.

    “Indeed. I must express my respect for this land you and your people call home, Jarl Brunwulf. It is beautiful, to say the least.” He smiled sincerely.

    “It has made my people strong. Living here was a challenge and we accepted it.” Brunwulf said, “We are still here.”

    “Was there anything else, Valfioren? Brunwulf and I have a meeting with the council to attend soon.” Caius lied. He simply wanted the elf to leave. No member of the Thalmor was trusted, especially not one bearing gifts and a smile. The last time a Thalmor representative walked into a high court with gifts, they turned out to be the heads of loyal Blades.

    “Of course, I would hate to keep you from addressing any pressing matters.” Valfioren nodded his goodbyes and turned around to leave. Caius and Brunwulf both watched him disappear behind the doors, the Khajiit carrying the chests of gold and the security detail trailing after him.

    “He didn’t have to deliver it personally.” Caius said, distrust lacing his words.

    “No. The elves rarely deal with these things personally.” Brunwulf noted.

    “He may not have recognized me but he’s been to Cyrodiil before. I have to wonder if he’s been sent here to follow me. I can’t be that important.” He smiled, looking away from the grand doors of the hall as the last of the Thalmor security detail left.

    “Coincidence.” Brunwulf offered.

    Caius shook his head, No. “I’ll be back.” Caius made his way through the hall and out of the doors, walking with a purpose. He made his way through the streets to the docks and found the ship flying the Dominion’s colors, it wasn’t docked, but anchored some distance away next to the Katariah. A little way down the docks, he found the two longships belonging to the Penitus Oculatus’s security detail for the Emperor.

    “Where’s your lieutenant?” Caius asked the first man he saw.

    “Here.” A voice came before the man who owned it stepped up to see who addressed him, he immediately saluted when he realized who he spoke to.

    Caius returned the gesture but wasted no time in asking his question. “That Thalmor ship, what do you know of it?”

    “It showed up half an hour ago. It carried some Thalmor official and some Khajiit. Their two boats were tied up over there,” his arm raised to point a finger at the rocking boats at just ten steps from them, “some other Altmer, dressed up nice. He must have been the security commander. He didn’t look like much. We’re not in charge of intelligence, we’re security, Sir.”

    “Just as well. Return to your duty.” He made his way from the docks back to the Jarl’s hall. He knew there was some reason why the Thalmor wanted a presence here. Was it because of the Emperor? He trusted the men of the Penitus Oculatus but after the incident seven years ago-

    His body hit another and he turned to look at whose it was and apologize. He opened his mouth but was stopped when he looked at the eyes of the Khajiit. Something was off about them, something dangerous. Blue and harsh, scars in his fur and a hard look all around with him.The Khajiit just turned around and walked towards the tavern, joining with a group that entered together. Anyone who knew anything worth knowing knew nothing was coincidence. Caius frowned and continued on his way.

    Nothing was coincidence.

    Candlehearth Hall, Windhelm
    12 Frostfall, 4E208
    Sevari Sev'ahmet

    Sevari was many things. He was a Khajiit you could trust to lie, to cheat, to walk out of a knife fight with another person’s blood on his shirt. You could trust him to do what he said he was going to do to you. You could trust him to take another man’s life and you could trust him to go to the skooma before a kill, the moon sugar after and any number of ways to get intoxicated in the meantime. He was also a brother, a good one, but he just made the wrong decisions some time ago and made all their gold forfeit. He would get it back and Teralfar said that he could help. All he had to do was sign on to the Imperial Envoy’s party and await further instructions.

    That was well and good, he could function with a clear goal outlined for him but he had accomplished it already. He’d sat through the Emperor’s speech, signed up and was now waiting to go with the Envoy a few days from now. A few days where he was left to his own devices, or vices, as it were. As he was sitting in the chair in a corner of his room at the Candlehearth hall, a bottle of alto wine with packets of skooma and moon sugar sat at the bottom, cleverly sealed with the ingenuity only an addict could call upon. He sniffled, his hard eyes even harder when laid on the bottle. Fa’azri had said that he was an addict, a good-for-nothing-but-killing and eating skooma and moon sugar was his only other hobbies. What in Oblivion did that spear-swallower know about him? What right did he have to say that? To say that to the person who did the most work to keep him where he was at?

    A deep scowl cracked and marred his face as his claws dug into the wood of the chair. He stood up, walked to the bottle of alto wine, grasped the neck in his callused and shaking hands, desperately wanting to steady them, knowing there was only one thing that could. He reared back with the bottle, ready to smash it into the wall, he gritted his teeth and something between regret and yearning wrestled inside his head and-

    He slammed it on the table. Even if his brothers weren’t there to chastise him, he still felt like the ghosts of their eyes were in the room, or that they somehow knew what he was thinking. He remembered how angry Fa’azri had been. And then he remembered that Fa’azri could get fucked by a water-drake out past Senchal’s port.

    He looked at the bottle of alto wine and then picked it up again. He turned it over, holding it up to observe it. He didn’t need it. He wanted it though, oh how he wanted it. He remembered everything his brother said, everything that spear-jerker, that sword-swallower, that limp-wristed, scum had said to him before he left. Money was all he wanted, his brothers were just there to get it for him. He knew that’s how he felt and he regretted being the one who looked the most like him. His hands began to shake again.

    He tipped his head back, drained a good portion of the wine bottle and smashed it against the wall, sure that no one could hear it over the loudness of the tavern. He kicked his door closed again, used his claw to dig through the wax and parchment of a moon sugar dose and tipped the content into his mouth. It tingled on his tongue and soon it spread to the rest of his face and neck, and shoulders, arms, his heart aflutter and body slow. He fell back onto the bed, feeling his legs buckle, and looked up at the ceiling. A feeling of weightlessness overcame him and for a little while, he remembered days in the caravan when everything was simple. He remembered and felt good. His eyes closed as he curled about himself, his hand gliding along the fabric of the bed, reminding him of the bolts of cloth kept in the back of the wagon. He remembered good times when life wasn’t bloody and tried to forget what life had become and moon sugar helped him do that to a tee.

    At least for this short while, he could pretend it was still fifteen years ago. Ironically pretending it was before he got a taste for the skooma and the sugar. He was happy now, or for now, but he didn’t want to think too far ahead.

    All that mattered was that it was nice now.
    #1 O|NoSoul, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
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  2. 12 Frostfall, 4E208
    New Gnisis Corner Club, Windhelm…

    “There were dozens of them, more than one could count with what sliver of moonlight was afforded between the clouds, shambling and making the most ghastly sound I could recall. Indeed, I’ve seen my share of the undead in my travels, but never before with such purpose, such malice.” The storyteller, a khajiit of various tones of grey fur, said to his captive audience of six, leaning forward conspiratorially. The candle, half melted from abundant use, cast fleeting and dancing shadows across the faces of those gathered around to listen to the animated cat who spoke clearly, without the usual infliction many associated with khajiit. Never mind that across Cyrodiil and beyond, generations had come and gone away from the tongues of their forefathers, and they spoke much like the neighbours of their chosen home. The khajiit raised a finger, as if to quell any voice that would attract the attention of the undead hordes.

    “It was then that I realized the old sailor’s tales of those waters must have been true, and that we had indeed floundered upon the shores of a Sload’s lair, and the twisted forms came to us like apparitions, sailors of all stripes like a cross section of time itself advanced to add us to their ranks. For what purpose? I dare not think it.” He said with a final wave of his hand, settling it above his tankard and tipping it ever so slightly towards him. “And it would seem that I am in need of replenishment. One does not recall the deepest horrors on a parched throat. Will one of you sign on and save me from the dire straits of sobriety?” he asked with a grin. A bosmer from across the table shot off and headed to the counter with all the grace one could expect from an intoxicated man. Zaveed offered the busty dunmer server who received the wood elf a flirtatious wink, and for once her expression wasn’t a mixture of disdain and disinterest, there was a slight spark, like that off of a flint. Perhaps it would catch, perhaps it would not. Elves and humans alike, although initially apprehensive towards khajiit, could often overlook the perceived bestial appearance when the coin and sweetened words rolled like honey from one’s tongue, and a good story always kept the drunks in line and their tankards full. Like a predator, the key was to wait for a moment to pounce.

    And regardless of sating other animalistic urges, the khajiit could take solace in the fact he had not had to drop a single Septim on a drink this night.

    The bosmer hurried back, two large tankards of mead sloshing and slightly clearing splashes of their content upon the table as the bosmer slid one over to the khajiit. “There you are, my friend! Tell us what happened, Zaveed.” He said with almost child-like wonder. The khajiit chuckled, raising the new tankard towards his benefactor. “My friends, a true gentleman. Now, I reached for my arrow, realizing I only had five remaining…” he began, leaning forward, two fingers pointed forward, as if he were preparing to notch an arrow.

    The truth was, he could have purchased anyone in the tavern a drink, and then more, with the 200 Septims that made up the forward pay for signing on with the expedition to escort the snow elf lady back to her home to find out what the fuss was about. A damned snow elf! Zaveed had been in attendance when the Lady Vylewen appeared completely unannounced, and really, who hadn’t? He didn’t have long to ponder the implications of the dead returning, which had prompted his tale in the Corner Club later, when he was approached out of the crowd by his handler, a Thalmor spymaster who went by Teralfar. It was in that safe house the night before that Zaveed and the others were instructed to sign up for the expedition that would be offered for volunteers the next day. As if he were clairvoyant, not only did the Imperials announce such a thing, but the small group under Teralfar’s thumb were ready to take advantage of the indecision of the crowd and secure places in the limited roster at separate times. Each had their reasons for working for the enigmatic altmer, but he assured them all that each of them would reap rewards that far exceeded their station and efforts if they were successful. And so it was that Zaveed was intending to spend his last night before some doubtless long and thankless expedition in the warm bed of some serving girl, assuming of course he played things right.

    “And so it was that we escaped the clutches of the vile necromancer, although without saying goodbye to men greater than any of us.” He rose his tankard. “A toast, then. To lost friends!” a collective murmur around the table signaled it was a time to make his escape. Zaveed drank deeply and flashed a winning grin at those gathered around the table. “Come now! Don’t look so dour, the lot of you. The dead would want us to celebrate life! And what better occasion to celebrate life than a phantasm returning from the frosty mountains of Skyrim? Now, if you’ll excuse me.” Zaveed said, raising up from the table, cracking his neck and strolling over to the counter to take a stool near a candle. He pulled a coin from his purse, concealed beneath his overcoat, and began to roll it between his fingers. If nothing else was accomplished this night, he would at least have a hot meal out of it. He’d been on enough ventures in his time to know that the meager fare on the road was hardly the stuff of inspiration. Tomorrow would prove to be rather interesting.
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  3. Jei-Tah sat at the far end of the bar and stared pensively at the two Septims he scraped together idly, unable to decide on whether he should buy a drink or not. Partially because his thoughts kept drifting back to the decisions he'd made over the past couple days. He'd just returned from his cabin in the mountains above Windhelm after retrieving the supplies necessary for the job he'd taken on. After packing his necessities he'd moved to the door, but something stopped him. A nagging itch in the back of his mind and a flutter in his heart, one that he hadn't felt in decades. With his hand still against the wood door, he looked over his shoulder at the stand in the far corner of the dim room, adorned with a dusty set of orcish plate armor, and an equally dusty greatsword, it's gently curved blade protected by a plain black leather sheath. He didn't need them, he already had his longsword and chainmail, but they seemed to call to him. As if they knew about the mission he was undertaking and didn't want to be left behind.

    He'd walked up to the stand and slowly ran his fingers down the pitted and scarred metal, drawing tracks in the thick layer of dust. The chips and lines gouged out of the orsinium plate keeping record of countless gruesome battles, and the men or mer who had their blood spilt at the argonian's feet. Those had been dark times, when Jei-Tah had been little more than an animal, a beast of vengeance who's lust for gore could never be sated. A warrior who never tired in the face of battle, only grew stronger as his weapon bathed in the entrails of his enemies.

    But he'd left that life behind, learned to control his anger and set aside his craving for war. These were relics of a time long past...
    still... they could prove useful... just once more...

    So now he sat in a dingy bar located in the Gray Quarter, not so far from his old home on Windhelm's docks, his breastplate and vambraces hugging him close like an old lover. The weight of the greatsword on his back like feathers, as if he'd never removed it. Until he tried to enter the city anyway, whereupon the guards confiscated his weapons. Jei-Tah had made sure to pay his respects to his brother once more before the expedition left tomorrow. He'd kneeled down and ran his across the smooth planks where his brother had left this world so many years ago and considered tossing him a few coins to use in whatever afterlife he'd believed in. But his brother would have wanted him to keep the coins, keep them and do something useful with them. So he dropped them back in his coin purse -which was the heaviest it had been in over half a century- and took his leave. Maybe I'll be seeing you soon brother, he thought as he'd made his way through the semi familiar city before picking a tavern that looked like it would be nice and quiet.

    He'd been mostly right. Aside from a boastful khajiit who managed talk free drinks out of everybody in the bar by distracting them with tales of grandeur, it was a quiet and dimly lit place that catered to his desire for solitude. And finally after fifteen minutes worth of internal deliberation, he signaled the bartender and sacrificed his precious coins for a bottle of mead. It had been a hard decision, but Blade decided it was worth it as the spiced liquor cascaded across his taste buds. The Septims he'd received for volunteering his service to Empire would provide him with supplies to last in the mountains for months if he spent them right. He could afford to splurge a bit tonight. The smell of roasting meat had him salivating as well, seasoned as it was with proper ingredients that he could rarely afford himself. He'd hold off on that though. He didn't want the food and the liquor interfering with each other after all.

    After taking another sip of mead, the argonian couldn't help but glance at the chatty khajiit from beneath the hood of his cloak and confirm his suspicion. Yes, it was indeed one of the other volunteers for the expedition. He what had brought him to the Gray Quarter instead of living the high life in the center of town. Perhaps he figured the audience here would be more gullible. Well, maybe he wasn't wrong. Jei-Tah hunched back over his bottle, hoping the cat wouldn't notice him in return.
    #3 Voltair, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
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  4. In a dream, a scrawny pup sat in the center of the Imperial Arena. Its coat was brown, its eyes were gold, and it was staring at the sky. Alone, it made no sound. Alone, it watched the sun turn. Alone, it felt pangs of hunger worming through its gut.

    Alone, it looked so small.

    Up from below, and out through one of the fighter's gates, came another dog. Old and battered, it moved with the slightest of limps. Its fur was matted, crossed with scars. One ear was missing; the other dropped pathetically over an eye as cold and gray as steel. It moved with quiet footsteps, and joined the pup in the center.

    "What are you looking at?" The old dog asked, in a deep and rumbling voice that was not unkind.

    "Nothing," the pup answered. "Everything."

    They sat in silence for a while, watching the shadows shift as the sun arced above them. Together, they sat, and thought about things that seemed different but were really just the same.

    Finally, the old dog broke the silence. He did not ask the pup how he had gotten there, to this place where no pup should be. He did not ask for reasons, or for histories. He would hear no stories, broker no memories. He only asked one thing. "What do they call you?"

    And the pup answered, with a name that had been forgotten, with a name that might have once been heard, but had since fallen into dust and disuse.

    The old dog offered a smile of sharp teeth and lolling tongue. "That is a good name."


    In an afternoon warm with sunlight and cold with breeze, Paints-With-Blood navigated his courser down a crowded road towards the city of Windhelm. The cobblestones were filled with eager boots and creaking wagon wheels; It seemed as if the entire hold, a good portion of the rest of Skyrim and a not-insignificant portion of the world beyond had all converged here today. An exaggeration, perhaps, but a justifiable one. The gated bridge leading to the city proper was clogged with people, all clamoring to move through the laborious checkpoint and get inside before the festival started. Most were would-be revelers, some were merchants, a few looked to be nobility flung far and grudgingly from their home provinces. All were loud, and impatient, and all stopped to stare at Paints as he pushed his warhorse through, parting them like a sea.

    He answered every furtive glance and blatant stare with a warm smile. He could not fault them for staring. His clothes were bright among the masses of drab, roughspun fabric and worn leather. His head, un-hooded for once in the brisk air, was a a marker, held high above the crowd, adorned with a neatly trimmed head of feathers and polished ivory horns. His face was a splash of orange, impossible to miss. His eyes were full of life, gold irises shining like septims. He could hear those closest to him talk, thinking that their voices would be lost in the crowd, thinking he would not hear disparaging remarks. This too, was permissible. He would not allow his good mood to be broken. A young Nord woman passed by beneath him with a flower in her bonnet. Paints plucked it from the fabric, smiled coyly as she turned in confusion, then kissed its petals before tossing it back. A young boy reached out to touch the side of his horse, his fingers coming away lightly purple.

    "Best to wash those fingers quickly, child," Paints called to him with a warm smile, "lest your mother thinks you've been eating too many elderberries. I just painted her this morning," he said, patting the horse on the side of the neck, "and you don't want it to dry on your fingers. Trust me."

    At the gate, the guards looked him over with wary eyes. On duty for hours, no doubt, and they'd certainly never seen anyone quite like him cross that bridge. Paints took pride in that.

    "Do be careful with that," he warned, his smile never faltering as they relived him of his weapon. "Glass is sharper than you think. Good for trimming toenails, if you feel so inclined while it's in your custody." The guard holding the sheath just looked at him blankly before taking it away to be inventoried. His lieutenant eyed Paints up and down for what must have been the tenth time.

    "Here for the festivities?" He asked, unsure whether to be suspicious or genuinely curious.

    "Indeed," Paints replied smoothly, "And now that I'm here, they can finally begin."


    In a dream, the two dogs sat, and talked, and watched. They talked for a long time, until the sun had set, and a sea of stars had spread itself above them. And then longer, until the sun had risen and bleached the sky into blue. And then longer still, and longer after that, until the heavens moved fluidly above them in a never-ending, unrelenting arc.

    "What have you learned?" Asked the older dog, to a pup who had grown slightly larger, slightly tougher.

    "I have learned to fight!" The pup answered, baring his fangs in a mimicry of viciousness.

    The old dog remained ever calm. "Indeed. But in truth you have learned nothing." He leaned in close then, muzzle to muzzle. Gray eyes met gold, and held them. "Heed my words, pup. To fight without reason is to waste one's time, and one's life. Do you understand?"

    And the pup nodded, though he wasn't sure that he did.


    In a night cold with stars and surprise, Paints-With-Blood pushed apart the surrounding crowd in order to make himself seen. "I volunteer my services in this great and momentous endeavor!" He declared, his smile as bold and bright as the sun. The Imperial recruiter just stared at him blankly, obviously bewildered. "Perhaps I am mistaken, but I'm sure I heard one of your superiors announcing that able-bodied warriors were needed to escort a certain lovely lady?" Paints prompted the man on with a small gesture. "I happen to be able-bodied, a warrior, and good with women...or so they say."

    The recruiter managed to collect some of his wits, shuffling a few papers atop the makeshift table that had hurriedly been assembled to receive would-be volunteers. "Well you've got the armor...I think..." He glanced up at Paints again, as if unsure if he should continue. "Do you have a weapon? A suitable weapon?"

    "A scimitar. Glass. And a horse as well." Paints' posture was straight, confident. "I happen to be a knight, you see."

    "Uh..." The Imperial's jaw fell open slightly. "But you' Argonian."

    "Am I!?" Paints spun, wearing an expression of exaggerated surprise as he looked down at himself. "And all these years I'd thought I was simply a snake that had waited too long before hatching." That elicited a laugh from the surrounding crowd, much to his satisfaction. "I was knighted by Lord Austier Tulvayon, of Manor Brookspring in the lands north of Cheydinhaal." The lies came easily. "I assure you, the ceremony was completely proper. If you'd like, I can recite the oath for you now. I still know it by heart, as any good knight should."

    The recruiter mulled that over, the cogs spinning in his head. Finally he stood, gesturing. "I'm going to have you talk to my captain, if you'd step this way..." Paints followed with a smile, knowing that the deed was as good as done.


    In a dream, one dog sat in the center of the sands and watched his younger companion pace circles around him. "You have grown so much," the older dog said. And it was true. What had once been a pup had turned into a lean and fierce adolescent, with long limbs and sharp teeth.

    "Yes," the young dog confirmed, nodding as he paced. "You have taught me so much. And now I am ready."

    The old dog cocked his head to one side. "Ready for what?"

    "To leave! To live!" The young dog's joy was so sharp that it bordered on ferocity. He bared his teeth at the walls of the Arena, as if he could break them apart with a threat, break free from what caged him. "I do not need you anymore!"

    The old dog nodded slowly, sadly, for he knew it to be true. "Then it is as you say, child. It is your time." The old dog stood then, on shaky legs. His coat was turning gray, turning white. His voice was growing raspier, drier. "But first, you must fight me."

    The young dog stopped in shock. "Fight you!? What are you talking about? I will not!" But he too was growing older, muscles filling out as he reached adulthood in the span of a few seconds. His fur had turned from brown into a multitude of colors, shifting impossibly in the sun. His coat was painted, indistinct and vivid.

    "You will," the old dog stated, firmly, "You will, or you will die." He started to advance, hackles raised and teeth bared in a snarl.

    The painted dog backed away, ears flat. "No! I will not! I do not have to!"

    Through snarling maw, the old dog reprimanded him. "You must. It is the way of things." And then he sprung forward, latching his jaws around the painted dog's neck. There was a spray of blood, the brightest red ever seen.


    In a crowded tavern known as Candlehearth Hall, Paints-With-Blood danced and fought. He was flush with alcohol and the warmth of good company, and the promise of a new journey lying ahead. As such, it was in good spirits that he ducked away from another fist aimed towards his face. "Come now, all this for one spilled drink? I'd hate to see what kind of rage you go into when you're forced to pull a splinter from your finger!" The Nord he was fighting, an intoxicated young lad that was too big for his own good, gave a wordless cry of anger and pushed forward with another wide punch. Paints stepped away from it easily, turning to a nearby group of bards that were engaged in a lively jig. "Faster! Louder!" He besseched them, smiling. "I believe this man wishes to dance with me!"

    The musicians were happy to oblige, pushing their song into a heady rush of lute notes and drum beats. The crowd gave up a cheer as they formed a small circle, eager to watch a fight unfold. Soon they were stomping their feet in time. The whole floor was shaking when the Nord spun around for another attack. Paints caught that one at the elbow, blocking the blow and using his opponent's momentum to send him crashing into a nearby table. While the Nord struggled to his feet, Paints turned to the crowd with an unwavering smile, clapping along with the beat as he began to sing along with the everyone else.

    "Two lizards lying in a lovethorn tree/
    Why, oh why, oh can't you see/
    No one's living quite for free/
    One less lizard in the lovethorn tree!"

    Just as he started the next verse, the Nord regained his feet and pushed forward into a full body charge. Paints stood his ground, taking him head on...and managing to keep his feet as the man collided with his steel armor in a failure that looked fairly painful. "No, no, your timing is way off!" The man was reeling, dazed. Paints propped him up, holding him steady with one hand. "Now pay attention, it's one!" His fist collided with the Nord's jaw. "Two!" Again, this time a bit harder. "Three!" The man's lip split, spilling blood brightly red down his shirt. "Four!" A final blow sent the man spinning off his feet, unconsciously falling into the waiting arms of the crowd. Paints spun himself, turning on his heel to address his entire audience. "Well if that doesn't teach him how to dance, I don't know what will!" The crowd roared in equal parts approval and laughter. Paints found another pint of ale being pushed graciously into his hands as the other patrons surged around him, touching his colors and patting him on the back. He drank deep, without argument.

    It was shaping up to be a good night.


    In a dream, a painted dog bled out slowly, leaking red into the sands of an empty arena. Alone, it whimpered softly. Alone, it twitched without purpose. Alone, it felt a creeping cold.

    Alone, it looked so small.
    #4 Mosis Tosis, Jan 20, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
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  5. That rebellion had really done a number on this city, Drevin mused. He'd only been here a day now and it was still impossible to ignore how different everything was. Once a cold Stormcloak-infested metropolis of the north, Windhelm had been knocked down a peg to being just another city. The festival was full of irony which likely insulted any of those "True Nords" left in the hold. Almost comical, that... almost. Drevin pulled his hood tightly over his head, having forgotten how cold this gods forsaken hellhole was... Mephala was the luckiest prince around having an acolyte like him... It wasn't every dunmer that would come to such an idiotic festival just in case something happened. He was rewarded, though... With the re-appearance of the Snow Elves, this could be a turning point for the entire world... Perhaps they were on the cusp of the fifth era already. This city was packed for the 'celebration' and it made the dunmer's skin crawl, but he simply had to remember for whom he was here and then he could let it go.

    Crazy old spider-lady... I hope you're happy, He thought, closing his eyes and shaking his head as he took a seat at the counter. Candlehearth Hall was his home until they left with the envoy. As soon as the recruitment opened, Drevin's name was on the roster. He'd lived in Windhelm less than a decade ago and his references were still willing to vouch for his ability with a bow. He was further thankful that his parents had moved home to Morrowind; the dunmer cared deeply for his family, but he felt uneasy with them so close to somewhere like this.

    Drevin's hand reached out and he tapped the counter, "Scotch, Elda. In a glass cup, don't give me any of these cheap pewter ones - you know I they make it taste like shite," He requested, pulling his hood down and letting out a long-held breath. The tavern was so loud that it was hard to even think, but as the woman begrudgingly placed his drink in front of him, she gave him a steadfast look of 'don't call me Elda' before walking away. He smirked, having almost forgotten that she was one of the Nords that enforced the racist stereotype. He rolled his eyes and lifted the glass to his lips, sipping gently and rising. The tension over the counter was absolutely painful at this point. "Thanks," He said passively, tossing a few coins onto the counter before heading upstairs. He would do anything to get away from her before her other Nord friends came to freeze him out.

    Oh what in Oblivion was this? He asked himself as he watched an Argonian link four blows together to knock a Nord straight on his ass. Barbaric, he sighed as he watched the entire crowd give the lizard congratulations. Part of him wondered why he didn't just go to the Grey Quarter if he wanted to avoid this kind of behavior, but then he knew that questions about the last seven years from old acquaintances would take his entire evening. No thank you. The Argonian downed his new ale rather quickly and Drevin took a closer look. Oh... It was the guy who came in with all of his own fanfare - called himself a knight and joined the escort party. Oh god, how long was he going to have to be on the road with this joke?

    Drevin stepped up to the Argonian, studying him, looking him over. "Evening... Quite the party animal, it seems," He observed cautiously, taking another small sip from his powerful drink, savoring the burn as it passed through his throat. "I suppose you signed up for the envoy too. We'll be comrades for Akatosh-knows-how-long. Drevin Sarandas," He introduced himself, giving a small, non-committal salute in greeting before lifting his glass once more.
    #5 BKenScout, Jan 21, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2015
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  6. Candlehearth Inn, Windhelm
    12 Frostfall, 4E208

    Men and Mer alike respond to impending doom much the same way. Whether known or merely perceived, the reactions rarely differ. The long road and promise of nothing more than hard ground on which to lie your head has a way with you. For two nights the simplest of sods turn proper poets. Perhaps a gift from the true Poet, such honeyed words slip freely and with particular power loosing coin purses and warming beds. Introduce drink and a pinch of the sugar and you have a recipe for the final stage. When the Poet's gift recedes and your vision aligns once more you find the world solemnly awaiting -- perhaps a bit duller, if you indulged in the sugar. As high as you climbed before you must fall. Melancholy and the grim paints what, before, was simply your reality. The promise of hard ground under your head no longer seems a bed, but a grave.

    Juin grimaced at the storytellers and the rumblers. Amongst the drunks leaned against the wall sat the hooded dunmer. As he ignored their mindless mumbles, others ignored him, and so an unspoken deal was struck. Instead of fretting over anyone observing him far too closely as to discern his nature, he was instead able to take in the festivities. Modern examples to old memories in his mind, he could almost see the faces of Imperial comrades drinking and fighting and fucking -- or at least trying. He watched as a colourful argonian bested a drunken Nord, too quick and too light for Imperial or Stormcloak hands alike. A smart fighter, if a touch too willing to show his strengths. Others flirted, perhaps in hope for a drink, and still some others sat alone, likely having already reached the final stage.

    People watching was enjoyable enough, but the dunmer had not come without his own agenda. Juin was on his feet as soon as the Nord fell into the crowd. The drunken bunch caught the man as a tree might catch a leaf in the wind. Once the force behind the Nord diminished, they simply allowed him to slump onto the next. A burden for the next man, a burden everyone was too drunk to assume. Juin reached the fallen brute only after he'd been abandoned to left to the floor. He took the Nord's hefty arm over his shoulders and stood as best he could. By chance his eyes fell upon the bar and the curious maid topping off an ale. Her brow furrowed as if to gauge the situation. Tipping his head to the side, Juin gave an anxious smile and mouthed the words, "I got it." The dunmer paid a nod toward the commotion near the painted argonian, which the barmaid followed, and shrugged.

    By the time the Juin manoeuvred them outside the inn the sun had already set. With the Nord's arm wrapped around him, he managed to simulate walking, but drag the unconscious fool to the gates separating Windhelm proper from the docks.

    "Brightest candle and all that, aye?" came a deep, throaty laugh.

    Suddenly, the second voice sounded closer "Be respectful! I used to drink too before I --"

    "Sod off!" the first broad shouldered, deep voiced guard laughed. "Now, ain't no homes this way, lad. Just where are yuh takin' the poor bloke?"

    The two guards narrowed in on Juin and the unconscious, yet heavy breathing Nord. Nerves lowered the dunmer's hooded head ever forward slightly and in the back of his mind violent thoughts took root. How quickly could he sink his teeth into the smaller of the guards? Would he be able to knock the helmet off the louder, actually, should he begin with the louder in case he called out?

    "This poor bloke," Juin groaned, partially from the weight, mostly from the hunger. "Sailed in for the festival. Was told his captain remained on the docks and thought it right to deliver him personally before he return with more than the bottle flu."

    The louder of the guards rested his hands on his hips, one dreadfully close to the hilt of his sword. Juin made out sharp eyes behind his grey helmet, and then a small grin.

    "Quite right indeed, a kindness in fact. Hurry back and I'll see you enjoy an ale on me," the guard laughed.

    Juin wasted no time passing through the gate and finding a dark corner along the docks. By now few remained aboard the ships, most out and enjoying the taverns, the women, or below deck with their own devices. Of course, the dunmer glanced about often rather than just assume. Despite caution and his concern, however, the hunger no longer beckoned, but commanded. Juin held the Nord upright against a high stone wall in a corner dark as night. As one might a lover, he bent his neck beside the man's, and like a lover with a penchant for sadism, sunk his teeth into the soft flesh.

    Satisfied, Juin filled and capped a few vials with the fresh blood. These would serve as a snacks for a day or two, good enough to contain the hunger a little while at least. He wiped his mouth on the Nord's sleeve and left him slumped in the corner unconscious and bleeding from the neck. Whatever guards found him the next morning would likely not speak to the night's watch until much later. Juin tidied himself before walking back to the gate and to the festivities.
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  7. If one were to look through Paints' eyes, it would seem as if the tavern crowd had dissolved, smudged themselves into a heady blur of warmth and ale and laughter. All the colors of the world turned more vivid as he watched, from the glimmering orange of candles arrayed on the dark stone hearth, to the frothing white atop his newest tankard of ale.....and how those colors seemed to pulse now, brighten and dim in patterns, in a rythmn that was the same as the beat of the bard's drum, the same as the beat of his heart. He was approaching the perfect level of drunk, the point at which he swore he could feel the blood rushing through his veins, rivers of fire that set his muscles alight as he danced and smiled.

    A Dunmer materialized out of that colorful, wonderfully loud blur and addressed him. Paints had been on the receiving end of more stares and glances than he could count, so he was no stranger to the look this elf was giving him now: suspicious, confused, perhaps a touch derisive. Paints could only smile in return. Take a good look then, he thought, draining the last of his tankard, and pray, for your sake, that you can get used to the sight of a little color.

    "Aha!" He shouted in place of a greeting, not struggling at all to be heard over the music or hum of the crowd. "And here I was, worried that my future companions would be dour, miserable souls!" He gestured grandly at the surrounding chaos. "It's good to see that at least one of them can respect the finer things in life! I know there is a good chance that I need no introduction, but if you would oblige me..." He took a step back, clearing a small space in the surrounding people. Then, with one foot extended, he leaned into an overly-expressive bow, the smile never leaving his face. "I have the honor of being called Paints-With-Blood, though many know me as the Knight of Colors! For obvious reasons, as you can see!"

    Laughing, he straightened and threw an arm around Drevin's shoulder. "I love the face paint, very dashing," he commented with a coy wink before turning to roar out to the surrounding crowd. "Someone get my new friend another ale!" He glanced down at the glass in Drevin's hand, one eye ridge cocked upwards, and then corrected himself. "Errr...another...whatever he's drinking! Scotch! Yes! Bring him another scotch!" He dug through the loose folds of his fabric-patched attire and produced a few septims, which he handed to a nearby server with a charming smile. "Scotch, if you would. No friend of mine should go thirsty on a night such as this one! Not when there's so much to celebrate!"

    When he turned back to Drevin, he removed his arm from the elf's shoulder, sober enough at least to see it was making him uncomfortable. Instead he clapped the man on the side of the arm with one strong hand, ever-smiling. "An interesting drink for an interesting man, yes? Come, come, I'd hear all your stories, if you'd tell them...but first, a table!" The room was packed with festival-goers and local drunks; every available table seemed to be occupied. Smiling, ever smiling, he reassured his companion. "Never fear, this will only take a moment!" And then he was gone, a flash of color into the thrash of people.

    He returned a moment later, with two very intoxicated young Imperial women hanging on his arms. "Camilla, Justine, this is my good friend Drevin," Paints introduced, gesturing at the elf and neglecting to mention that he'd met this "good friend" about ninety seconds ago. "Drevin, these two ladies have decided that no good night at the tavern is complete without dancing, and have graciously allowed us to guard their table for them while they enjoy the music! Splendid, yes?" After the women shrugged away from him and moved to the dancefloor with bright peal of laughter, Paints elbowed Drevin in the ribs. "And perhaps after we are done talking, one of them would like to dance with you, eh?" Laughing to himself, he fell into a nearby chair and threw his thick steel boots up onto their newly-acquired table, sending a few empty bottles crashing to the floor as he did so. Paints didn't seem to notice; he saved all of his attention for his newest acquaintance.

    "So, you too have volunteered your services for this very epic journey, yes?" His voice was light, tinged only slightly with an accent that belied his exotic origins. "What was it that made you pledge your sword? Loyalty to the Empire? Fame, glory?" His smile grew wider. "Perhaps the dreams of fat, towering stacks of gold keep you up at night, eh?"
    #7 Mosis Tosis, Jan 22, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
  8. The sun was setting.

    Allectus watched through the old window as daylight retreated beyond the Western wall of this ancient city. Sounds of merriment and festivity already swept down the cobblestone streets and into his small room. Blue eyes shifted, their focus no longer on the swirling clouds of mist that clung to the distant mountains and an instead on the dust collecting at the seams of this window, stained by time. A stubborn pane of glass that had likely lasted generations, surrounded by a sturdy home of wood and stone. Nord craftsmanship did have it's charm. The room he had rented was one of many in an old house belonging to one of Windhelm's more noteworthy families.

    A number of things must be arranged when the Emperor graces a place with his presence. The route to-and-fro must be plotted months in advance and cleared of any obstacle. The streets must be cleared of trash, both inanimate and living, and the meals must be planned among countless other preparations. Allectus would know this, he had been on the planning Committee for Emperor Felix. One of the many things to be taken into consideration is the make-up of the Emperor's entourage and who will be following him from the Imperial City. Guards, advisers, counselors, servants, cooks, and horses. All needed to be accounted for and given quarters. A number of local families had been "convinced" to lend their homes for the many visitors as the inns filled up with common-folk, and Allectus had been quick to secure a fair residence with swift timing. Two rooms, one for Allectus himself and another for the two servants he had brought with him on this venture.

    The Imperial sighed, closing his eyes and feeling the last rays of sunlight bathe his eyelids with their warmth. He turned around and looked again, scanning over bundles of equipment and food that had been prepared in the days past. Prepared for what could possibly be the venture of a lifetime. Rory sat beside the fireplace, burning stray strands of cloth off the satchel with a lit candle, humming quietly to himself. The young Redguard boy always seemed to have his mind in the clouds, but he did the work assigned to him with an enthusiasm that was hard to match. Allectus was thankful he had plucked the child from that orphanage, the boy was a quick-learner and would make an excellent long-term addition to the Valeres household.

    "Is the horse ready boy?" Allectus asked, receiving wide eyes from Rory as he froze in place and snapped his head to look to his employer. A silent nod was all the answer he would give.

    "Good, and my sword?" The same polite nod, the boy's eyes locked onto him as he smiled warmly. "Good," Allectus replied, having already known that everything had been prepared since yesterday. Rory had saddled and groomed the one Bay they had brought with them from Cyrodiil, loading the sleeping bag and camp kit onto her back. The rapier, too, had received attention, the boy being escorted into the armory to sharpen it's fine edge under supervision. The laws in Skyrim were indeed a haste, but appropriate given the savages that called this place home and Allectus was glad they were enforced with such vigor here.

    Walking to the bed and running his hand over the rough sheets, Allectus turned to Rory again, tossing two septims at the boy and watching the youth catch them between his palms. "Fill the water flask," he ordered, "then you may be free for the night." The boy jumped and failed to contain the smile spreading across his lips as he hastily grabbed the metal flask and vanished into the hallway. A sharp whistle from Allectus and a new figure sauntered into the doorway. Adorned in Legionnaire armor painted red to differentiate between active soldiers, the tall man tilted his head at his master, eyes looking at everything and nothing at the same time. This, was An`ton.

    Eight years ago, Allectus had paid a visit to the Imperial Jail and found this curiosity of a man. He had just been freed after a decade of incarceration, his head shaved with blue veins bulging, eyes hungry and distant, and his tongue long-since removed. Antone was the perfect candidate as Allectus's bodyguard, and after years of service he had evolved into his personal steward as well. He was dull, but he would do anything you asked of him to the letter, and he would do it well. That hunger still lingered in his eyes, and years of training with every number of weapon had made him larger and even more intimidating, well worth the investment.

    "Walk with me," Allectus picked up his leather gloves and threw a maroon cloak over his evening-wear as the two of them headed down the stairs and out into the brisk night. This had been quite the vacation already, the three of them arrived by carriage two days before the fleet, a safe ride guaranteed thanks to his contacts within the Black-Briar family. Imperial City's Minister of Trade had to arrive in style, and he rode across the dark stone bride before he could truly take in the essence of man's oldest surviving city. "What a dump," he had said to himself. Days of strategic socializing were soon thrown into the wind however as destiny made it's own plans for Allectus. This Snow-Elf, or Falmer, as he preferred, represented a momentous occurrence for both Allectus and the Empire he so willingly served. He had sprung at the opportunity to oversee this expedition, volunteering as the diplomat before any of the usual vultures could take this glory from him.

    This was the chance Allectus had been waiting for, his time in the field, his epic adventure sure to secure him a seat at the Elder Council. He would ride to the aid of these Falmer alongside a company of knights, streamers fluttering in the wind. They would contend with their petty issues and return to the Emperor with terms for a new relationship between man and mer. Allectus Valeres, that was the name of the man who would be the first to open contact with the Snow-Elfs in 4,000 years! He would be praised and remembered for ages, and all fate asked of him was a simple ride into the exotic Skyrim winter. It was perfect.

    Well, near-perfect. As Allectus had been attending parties and receiving praise for his courage, he had gotten wind of some rumors of the men attending him on this mission. The list of names was...disappointing. They sounded foreign, two Argonians for sure and either two Khajiit or two unfortunately named men. An entourage of beast-folk would hardly send the right message to these Falmer, what the hell was the Emperor thinking? Letting, volunteer was a mistake, but Allectus was a fair man and he would give them a chance. It would suit him to forgo the wine and cheese tonight in favor of the local taverns, to scout out these mercenaries on the advent of their quest.

    But of course, he needed a proper entrance first, his companions would need to know who was in charge. And Allectus knew how to get that point across right way. Allectus and his silent manservant walked first to the guard barracks, two men talked outside in their uniforms with wide swords sheathed at their hips. As Allectus approached they cut their discussion and faced him, puffs of breath clouding their faces.


    "No," Allectus shook his head but offered a friendly smile to the two Nords before him, "a request." The eldest of the two put his hands on his hips and raised a bushy eyebrow, propting the Imperial to continue. These men were likely at the end of their shift, the only reason for them to loiter so close to their quarters. A nod of a head and Antone tossed a brown bag into the hands of the younger guard, making a jingling noise. The two Nords looked around instinctively before he pulled the string to reveal the septims held inside. "Don't bother counting," Allectus continued, "it's 40."

    "And for what do we owe such a donation?" The elder asked, both men glancing up at Allectus now, the younger slowly lowering the bag below his waist.

    "All I ask is an hour of your time, to follow me and look intimidating. I'm sure you can handle that." The two exchanged a look and nodded in succession before the younger stuffed the bag of coins into his armor. With a wave of the hand, the elder guard motioned for Allectus to take the lead, and soon the small party found it's way to Candlehearth Hall. Antone held open the door and Allectus walked into the hall flanked by two guards and an intimidating mute at their backs.

    They would all know who was in charge here.
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  9. Sevari awoke with what felt like an extra bit of weight pinning him to the bed, or perhaps lacking the strength to lift himself. He grimaced as he rose up to sit on the bed, cradling his head in his hands. How long had he been out? There were times where he disappeared for what felt like a few hours and what ended up to be a couple days. His brothers were always worried about him, but he never got into trouble when he was on the moon sugar. He could barely stand, so the thought of him trying to start fights or otherwise get himself into trouble was laughable. The skooma, however…

    He eyed the balls of wax on the table, spread across it in a puddle of wine. He’d have to clean that up. He looked around himself and felt cold. It was Skyrim, so it was bound to give him a chill. Contrary to popular belief, a Khajiit’s fur was not for insulation, it was more for shedding heat away and that purpose was also why they had large ears. They had to bundle up like any man or mer to keep from freezing in this Divines-forsaken tundra. Of course, he doubted the heat was what made him shiver. It was always like that after. Cold. He hadn’t had enough to buy any potions before, but he had been given a handsome sum for volunteering for the expedition. Potions of strength were good for times like these.

    He reached inside his travel pack and plucked a coinpurse out of the few that were there. He reckoned there would be enough for a potion of strength. He knew the barkeep outside would have some on hand for those who were prone to wake with headaches fit to split stone. They were good enough for his condition. He stood, regained himself and swept the wax spheres into his travel pack. The wine could be explained by drunkenness, but should the guards find contraband in his pack ten his Empire gold would be just as forfeit as his blood gold.

    He hid his travel pack under the bed, just out of reach of a guard who’d be more concerned with ending his shift than upholding contraband laws. He entered into the drinking hall to see men and women writhing together as bards played together. He skirted the dancers and made his way to the bar, unnoticed by most except those who turned their heads at the familiar scent of sugar. A faint sweetness that leaves itself on you but takes but an hour or a rigorous exercise to do away with. He slapped a handful of septims on the counter and ordered Nord mead. Colovian Whisky or Yoku Rum from Stros M’kai would be too expensive. He also didn’t feel like dulling the senses while strangers had eyes on him. He knew in places where hard faces and hard eyes like his could be found, so too could sharp edges. Only fools think theirs the sharpest before testing it.

    The mead came and he brought it close to him, holding the metal tankard by its handle. Before he could lift it to his lips, a hand came down over the top of it, the precious liquid running down the sides through the white-skinned fingers. He felt his old anger rise and choke a breath from him before he breathed it back into himself. Fuel for a flame that never extinguished, only guttered sometimes. He looked up the arm to find a smug smile hidden beneath tangles of beard.

    “I thought Khajiit weren’t allowed behind the walls of cities.” A rough grumble from the Nord’s throat came.

    “They are when the Emperor accepts their help in important matters.” Sevari said, turning away but keeping the Nord in his peripheral as he attempted to lift the tankard. It was forced back down by a thick Nordic arm. A thick Nordic arm he wanted to rip out of its socket.

    “I didn’t know the Empire employed sugar eaters.” The Nord sniffed at Sevar to press his point.

    “No, but I don’t eat sugar. I eat Nords alive and spit their blood in their wife’s faces.” Sevari growled, standing quickly enough to send his chair clattering to the ground but unnoticed by other patrons. In quick flashes of movement, Sevari splashed the contents of his tankard into the man’s face, putting him off guard. The Nord’s head reared back, exposing his neck and Sevari drove the tankard’s handle into the spot spot hard. The Nord fell back and made to leave but Sevari slammed his Nord hand on the bartop and drove the open lip of the tankard down hard on the bones of his hand. The Nord would have a hard time using that hand for much. A hoarse gurgle erupted through the Nord’s lips and Sevari left to his room, grabbing his things and making haste for the door lest more attention come to him and it ended with his drug’s discovery.

    He left the Candlehearth hall and wandered the streets, the entertainment of Dunmer dancers and Nord musicians putting on shows, as well as peddlers in their stalls selling their wares at marked up prices were still out in full. People crowded around shows and lines formed around vendors’ stalls. Sevari slipped through the crowd, weaving and slipping, rather than pushing, finding it easier to get from one place to another when he didn’t have to force a Nord’s teeth down his throat to chase after the mead. He was still tired and his foggy head did little to help his mood. He’d managed to avoid confrontation long enough to stand at the doors of the New Gnisis Cornerclub. This establishment was bound to be filled with the crowd more akin to Sevari. Those who couldn’t afford to stay at the Candlehearth because they didn’t have two hundred gold provided by the Empire. Sevari did, but it didn’t change him.

    He entered the place and found a wide array of faces. Grim-faced travelers, rough looking vagabonds, salty sailors and even some girls floating from table to table to ply their trade. There were more tables arranged around the main drinking hall to accommodate the influx of travelers into Windhelm. At the bar, one figure caught his eye, a brute of an Argonian who didn’t look too unfriendly, but the familiar air of danger wafted from him and could be caught by the right type of person. Off to another table, a fellow Khajiit awed and entranced a diverse group of travelers with tales about whatever they would listen to. He looked to a few more places and a couple of unsavory characters loomed in the shadows of the far corners.

    A woman came close to him in a show of skirts but subtle enough to surprise him, her breasts for display in a corset, and her painted face was thankfully of the type that wouldn’t look too bad if you took half of the makeup away. A pretty one, for sure.

    “I haven’t seen you around here, my handsome,” She slid a hand across his stomach and left the other on his shoulder, her words close to his fur, “Where’s your smile?”

    Sevari paid no heed to her and instead made his way to the bar on the far side of the Argonian hulk, ordering another Nord mead. He got it and he gulped it down, slamming the tankard on the bartop and wiped his mouth on his sleeve. In a bit, he was feeling a bit more receptive, but not enough. Another mead later, his mood was better. The next time the wench came around and draped a hand over his shoulder, breathing words into his ear. He didn’t smile then either, but grabbed her by the wrist, squeezing a bit and keeping her face close to him, a look of surprise mixed with a little reluctance from her, “Tonight, your name is Sorosi and we can find where my smile is.”
  10. “What can I get for you?” the dunmer barkeep said, brushing an errand hair from her brow. Zaveed drummed his fingers on the hardwood counter in consideration. “I hear the salmon isn’t bad here.” He replied, offering an inquisitive glance. The barkeep nodded. “Fresh from the river, the argonians who work the docks sometimes set up nets or lines and sell us the surplus… or use it to barter for drinks later.” She replied, with a smile, although her eyes hinted at fatigue from the bustling business of the week. “Shall I tell the cooks that mister storyteller wants the special?”

    The khajiit rewarded her with a grin. “If you would be so kind. I figured I should at least spend some coin after being so graciously hosted.” He took a drink from the tankard as the woman disappeared around the back and took a moment to gaze at the other patrons. Most were dunmer, the locals or visitors who felt more at home amongst their own people, but more than a handful were from any of the other races, likely lured by the promise of cheaper alcohol and to get away from the booming tourist trap of Candlehearth Hall, the pride and joy of the Nords of Windhelm, an establishment older than any of the men in the city, but a minor occurrence in the lives of elves. Perhaps it was why there were far more elves, including some altmer and bosmer here, Candlehearth simply was not a place worth reverence, a place that eschewed proper fare and hospitality because of a reputation. It was part of why Zaveed chose to come here instead, the patrons were more of his class, not bewildered wide-eyed buffoons who gazed in wonder at old buildings as if they were special precisely because of their age. People stood in awe of places simply because something happened in history that apparently gave it significance, as if the past was something to be celebrated instead of understood that people were people, no matter when they were born. Zaveed was almost certain there was some filthy hovel in Anequina that people claimed the current Mane was born in that had become a holy pilgrimage site of sorts, an otherwise unremarkable place of squalor that wouldn’t be regarded for more than an instant if not for the fact that people thought the fact someone of historical or religious importance once occupied it. It was absurd, of course. A place wasn’t changed or given additional value because so and so happened to be there at some point any more than the New Gnisis Corner Club was enriched by Zaveed having been there. The thought of idolizing somebody because more than a handful of people knew their name was the height of absurdity.

    The barkeep returned a moment later, having taken a few orders and gotten a few patrons their drinks. “So, was any of that true?” she asked.

    “The tale of my daring escape from the sload?”

    “Yeah. Was it?” she pressed.

    “I’ll tell you what; you give me something, and I give you something back. I think I’m up by a point or two, my enraptured audience had been more than a little generous with their coin.” The khajiit replied. “How about we start with your name?”

    “Melisi. And yours?”

    “This One has the pleasure of being Zaveed.” The khajiit said, mimicking his Elsweyr cousins, his accent shifting to match. He grinned. “A pleasure, my dear.”

    “Not J’Zaveed or M’Zaveed? Seems every khajiit I run into has a prefix of sorts.” Melisi countered.

    “Many do, it’s true, but it’s not ubiquitous, as they say. I’m sure that the Ashlanders of Vvardenfell have different names and values from the mainlanders, and perhaps those of Solstheim. Besides, I’d fit in about as well in Elsweyr as I would on Ulfric Stormcloak’s council, I’m sure.” He said with a laugh.

    “Point taken. So, Zaveed, the story.”

    “Parts may be embellished, but would you wish to ruin the magic on my audience’s faces if they found out which parts may have been a fable? No, that information is for your ears only, if you’re willing to take this somewhere more private.” He grinned. “There’s many things a fetching man such as myself could share with someone as lovely as yourself, if one were feeling adventurous enough.”

    “Not so fast, khajiit. You aren’t the only man who’s tried to take me home with them.” The dunmer replied tersely.

    “No, but I suspect I may be the only one who would succeed.” Zaveed said, his expression unwavering. “Besides, would you ward off the most pleasant company you’ve had this evening, to let him suffer out of doors for the night? I would not take you as someone so cold! Besides, if the idea did not have merit, I’m sure I’d be wearing my drink right about now.”

    A shrug. “Maybe you aren’t so bad, but I don’t think so.”

    “I can make you the nicest breakfast you’ve had in years. After all, I may be the Gourmet.”

    Melisi laughed, and the smile didn’t immediately fade right afterwards. “Right, and I’m the Nerevarine!”

    Zaveed faked astonishment. “My word! First you save Morrowind, and now you’re committed to the more noble purpose of quenching patrons’ thirst and appetites! Truly, I stand blessed in your presence.”

    “Oh, shut up.” She said with a laugh, before something at the back caught her eye. Her expression soured. “Oh, Mephala. That fetcher’s the last thing we need tonight. We aren’t a bloody brothel.” She said venomously. “This festival’s brought a lot of entitled shites to our door.”

    Zaveed turned to meet where Melisi’s gaze fell, and a table near the corner sat a brutish-looking argonian with crimson tattoos crossing his rather unappealing, scarred façade. More discerning was the dark khajiit with the commoner’s clothes and fur hat with a busty dunmer girl on his lap, who made a brave showing of looking receptive, but her eyes hinted at something more akin to discomfort, apprehension, or even fear. It was a look Zaveed had seen far too many times. “Friend of yours?” he asked.

    “That’s Maryon, she’s of the sort to make herself as fetching and alluring as possible with the hopes the men are more generous with coin. I keep telling her she’s asking for trouble, and I really don’t like the looks of that cat.” she replied.

    “So, would saving Maryon from the clutches of the greatest threat since Dagoth Ur appease the lovely Nerevarine?” Zaveed asked.

    “You may get more than a name from me.” She said, more than a hint of suggestion from her voice. Zaveed rose from his stool, finished what remained of his drink and dropped another few coins on the counter. “Best arm me appropriately, then. Four cups and a bottle of wine should pierce even the most dour of souls.”

    A few moments later, Zaveed strode confidently across the floor, setting the cups and the wine in front of one of the unoccupied seats before slinking into it himself. He poured himself a cup, and then the three others. “My friends, this is rather the most tense and uncomfortable looking table in the entire tavern. My brethren smells of sugar, and clearly isn’t quite the nobleman he should be because of it.” Zaveed said, sliding a cup to the other khajiit and the empty spot next to him. “I couldn’t help but notice you being rather forceful with the girl, and that simply is no way to treat a lady. Give her some space, my friend, and gather your senses. You wouldn’t want to give khajiit an even worse reputation in this city than they already do, would you? Besides, large numbers of us aren’t even allowed in the gates already! Don’t think because people are here to drown their issues with a tankard or five they don’t notice things… or talk. Worse company than I may find you if you attract the wrong kind of attention. Besides,” Zaveed slid the other cup to the argonian to his left. “It’s clearly making this man uncomfortable, and he clearly is a man who’s endured his share of hardship. So what do you say? Let the lady decide if she wishes to be your companion for the night and treat her as if you wish to keep her, it’s what I do.” Zaveed drank from his own cup. “And it hasn’t failed me so far.”
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  11. “Are you going to ask me for a smile again?” Sevari asked, the Dunmer woman’s weight in his lap was a nice change of pace for how the day’s events had progressed so far.

    “A drink, perhaps. Or something else you have?” She asked, suggesting what Sevari knew she was suggesting. She could smell it on him, even over the other smells of the tavern. Even so, Sevari figured she would have more luck coming to him than some of the others in the shadows. He was still liable to cut men’s throats but he’d rather be getting gold or settling something. He wasn’t a murderer, just a business man. He plied his trade like anyone else.

    “You know This One has it, no? Sevari does not give it freely.” His voice was devoid of any suggestion or playfulness. He didn’t lie. He never gave it freely.

    Suddenly, a voice he knew boomed far too loud for his liking. This was an establishment meant for drinking and sometimes meeting those you could make a night better with. This fool could woo and awe all the others in the tavern and Sevari would be fine, he could have ignored him throughout the entire night until they finally left to accompany whatever Imperial emissary they would have to and Sevari would be happy. Zaveed went on about the virtues of using a silver tongue to charm women into one’s bed and something about worse company than a Khajiit pirate coming to see him. At the time, Sevari couldn’t think of worse company, unless the Dunmer in his lap morphed into a dreugh and ate his eyes.

    “Why would This One seek to ruin a night of another with unwanted company?” Sevari watched as Zaveed poured a cup of wine and then raised a corner of his lip in contempt, turning to the Dunmer, “If you want your sugar you will sit and say nothing of it.”

    “Another who has volunteered to take part in the journey! I doubt you could afford to buy anything without the forward payment given upon putting your name on the line. A Khajiit must do what he must, no?” Sevari smiled, narrowing his eyes and taking a drink from his tankard, the last of the mead. He could order another one and spend more coin or maybe Zaveed could make himself a good drinking partner. He was sure it wouldn’t hurt his chances with the Dunmer to get her to drink too.

    “What is it to you how I take my women? Sore that this one approached me and not you?” Sevari asked, leaning forward around the Dunmer and speaking so that only he and Zaveed would hear, “And what is it to a Khajiit like you to care about the reputation of ‘our’ people? I wasn’t even born in Elsweyr.”
  12. Jei-Tah was trying his best, he really was. But he could feel his muscles tighten as his patience with the two khajiit began to fray. He hadn't payed the sugar addict any mind when he took a seat nearby, at least not until he began slamming his tankard against table like a child seeking attention. Jei-Tah had no interest in rising to the cat's passive aggressive antics though, so he ignored the grating sound of the metal banded mug cracking against polished wood. He'd thought salvation was at hand when the elven woman swung by and grabbed the khajiit's attention, hopefully she'd take him away. Or he'd take her away, as it seemed. In either case the bar would be that much quieter. But then the story teller approached bearing gifts and a somewhat self congratulatory speech.

    Oblivion take you, the argonian thought irately as the story teller distracted the addict from his catch. The jab at his appearance went unanswered as he silently accepted the free drink. It wasn't often he got liquor after all, and he wasn't under any illusions about his looks. He'd accepted long ago that he was 'battered' to say the least. But aside from taking the offered cup, he largely refused to acknowledge the others' presence. At least until the addict replied crossly. Jei-Tah's icy gaze flicked up when the drug dealer mentioned the story teller's role in the expedition. So they had both volunteered. But how did the addict know the story teller was part of the group? Jei-Tah hadn't seen him nearby when he'd took note of the story teller signing on, and he was very observant. Strange.

    The reptile stopped thinking about it, writing the situation off as unimportant. Then he took another sip of wine before sighing loudly and placing the cup back on the table with a definitive 'clack' as the addict finished his retort. "Y'know," Jei-Tah began rhetorically with a low growl as he stared into his cup. "I entered this tavern with the hopes of enjoying a bottle of mead or two -the first I've had in almost a year mind you- in the peace and quiet of a more relaxed setting than the center of town. That's all I wanted. So..." At this point the argonian lifted his frosty glare to the intruders of his personal space. "... If you feel that you must continue this conversation, this spat, or possibly this altercation, then I would ask that you please take it elsewhere. Go to the other end of the room. Go outside. You could go to Oblivion for all I care, as long as it's away from me. Otherwise, I may lose my temper. And believe me when I say, nobody wants that." He let the warning hang in the air and closed his eyes, calmly lifted his cup back to his muzzle and took another delicate sip, relishing the gentle notes of fruit that flavored the beverage.
  13. “Ahh, such wasteful habits.” Zaveed chuckled. “With such a vice, is it any wonder why the khajiit of Elsweyr have always bent the knee to others who thought themselves their betters?” When it was brought up he was one of the members of the expedition, he bowed his head slightly and turned up two open palms. “And yes, I admit I will be the dashing rogue of our expedition. It is part of why I approached, after all, I like to know what company I keep. It was not the coin that spurred me on to scribble my name on some Imperial parchment, although that rarely hurts lift one’s disposition, but a curiosity. After all, one wonders what could possibly be dire enough for a race of elves, arguably the purest of them all, to break thousands of years of isolation. The danger is rather tantalizing.” He grinned, waving a dismissive hand.

    “Sore, me? You mistake me for a man who would slight another so. You wound me.” The Mohawk-wearing khajiit winked at his counterpart. “No, if I really wanted the lady you seek for companionship, chances are she’d be leaving on my arm within five minutes, but that’s not my intent. I simply am here on good faith to ensure that you, a man I will be facing uncertain peril with in short order and a lady of clearly refined taste are finding mutual enjoyment from such an arrangement. After all, like honey, a night’s companionship flows so much further when there’s heat, a passion if you would. Although I wouldn’t recommend being out of your mind on illicit substances,” Zaveed said, leaning conspiratorially close towards the woman. “It will rather affect his performance when it counts.”

    Zaveed now turned his attentions, amused, to the grumpy argonian. “My friend, a man should never drink alone, especially after such an absence. My friend and I are simply here to see you through such a triumphant occasion.” A smile crossed his feline features rather mischievously. “And you won’t lose your temper, the ambience is far too pleasant, and if what my friend here claims is true, then you wouldn’t foolishly risk your work for the Imperials on something as silly as not enjoying my company, an impossibility, as it were. Besides, your temperance towards us has yielded you a free drink, surely that is worth a momentary lapse in your brooding, no?” Zaveed winked, checking the bottle and splitting the remainder amongst the 4 glasses. He leaned back, fingers bridged, turning to Sevari. “To answer your earlier inquiry, no, I don’t particularly care for the pious hubris and the selflessness of our ancestral homeland, but how Elsweyr and khajiit are perceived tends to colour the minds of those in far-off lands for their own encounters with khajiit. After all, it is exiles from Elsweyr who make up the caravans that are barred from these Nord cities, not a proper representation of khajiiti values. Do the Nords care? Not particularly. One feline is enough to judge the rest in their eyes.” He paused, picking up his cup. “I’m fairly certain I’ve been mistaken for a saber cat at some point, for instance. Regardless, neither of us would be sitting here right now, enjoying such exhalted company if not for the fact it is the Imperials who decided to give us a chance. No chance, no work. It’s that simple.” Zaveed shrugged.

    His eyes fell upon the dunmer across from him. "And you, my dear, are you from Skyrim or the homeland? I'm sure you'd find no difference in your treatment, regardless, so we are more alike than one would initially assume, what with your fair complexion and rich hair and all. A mutual friend of yours and mine would like to remind you to keep in mind that mistakes can be irreversible, and to think before you act, lest you regret the morning after." Zaveed smiled innocently.
  14. An Argonian with a mouth wider than a serpent's maw. It didn't seem that getting him to be a bit more... tame would be an endeavour worth anybody's time. To each their own, Drevin supposed, giving a curt nod at the introduction. The man was not unfit for either of the names he had shared, but the dunmer could already feel venom on his tongue for them... but dammit if this scaled 'crusader,' as it were, wasn't charismatic. Drevin looked to his glass and swirled the ice cubes around. It was already nearly finished; that always seemed the case with his first drink. It was down the hatch before he'd even found a table. Either Paints-With-Blood was one truly cocky son of a bitch or he was simply theatrical. Despite the blurred line on the argonian's morality and self-awareness, the sellsword found himself actually beginning to enjoy the company as he threw his head back and finished his first drink. It reminded him of a time he'd spent more than a little coin on drink in Falkreath's capital - the glasses they prepared were small, but their impact was unparalleled.

    Drevin was more than willing to accept the next beverage placed in his hand, vowing to make this one last at least a little bit longer. The Argonian spoke with a surprisingly silver tongue and it was not long before he was able to secure them a place to sit and relax in the loud tavern. He took his seat, nodding to the ladies politely - they were not ones for standing around for conversation tonight, it seemed. Perhaps later, Drevin mused, but for now he'd had not near enough drink in him to revel deeply in the nightlife.

    "Flattery will get you everywhere, 'Knight of Colours.' Be careful with that Speech Loom you call a tongue," He retorted with a small smirk.

    He turned his seat so that the table was at his side before bringing one ankle to his opposite knee, letting out a small breath of relief. Paints-With-Blood made it seem so easy to speak over the crowd when in reality, that was the farthest thing from the truth. He couldn't keep himself from giving a slight laugh at the question which followed. Why was he joining the expedition..? Gold, fame, glory... Loyalty. Answering outright with the fact that he was a devout Agent of Mephala for the Morag Tong and as such his job was to be ready whenever something world changing was on the horizon could prove overwhelming for the Argonian. The man sat for a moment, clearing mulling over his answer before setting his glass on the table. Simultaneously he wanted to avoid lying to his future companions, whether he enjoyed their company or not.

    "Loyalty," he answered honestly. "To my country, I suppose. I've spent my fair share of time in the ruins of our ancient friends the dwemer... I feel I owe it to my distant cousins to at least act in a representative envoy for my own home. Skyrim is, after all, home to me too. Not to mention the curiosity of it - the falmer, no longer feral? Something you have to see with your own eyes," He added, deciding it was a satisfactory answer.

    "And what about you? What brings you to the expeditionary force?" He asked in reply, "And, by the way, I'd like to your real name... To be perfectly honest, I abhor the nomenclature based on one's behavior. Surely you weren't named 'Paints-With-Blood' as a child, yes?" He observed just before a man came through the door with his airs on and his chin higher than it deserved to be. Dear god...
    #14 BKenScout, Jan 28, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2015
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  15. The "name game" was not unfamiliar to Paints; many he met swapped awe for curiosity when confronted with his aliases and expressed a desire to know more. Do you think to find enlightenment, a secret truth? Do you really think you'll find it if you know what I was called when I was on the tit? He stayed silent, however, taking a quick gulp of ale that was half tactful and half instinctual. He allowed himself a few seconds to feel frustrated, enough time for the bards to start another verse, enough time for the suds to settle in his tankard. Then the brightness returned to his smile, a genuine friendliness. He had been right about Drevin: the man was good company, and interesting to boot. He wouldn't let a little bit of natural curiosity ruin what would otherwise be an entertaining evening.

    Smoothly ducking the question for now, Paints signaled for another tankard before he turned a toothy grin on Drevin. "Loyalty, eh? But not to the a province. Two provinces, in fact!" His laugh was loud, tinged with the scent of ale. "Now there's a noble goal! Representing the virtues..." he paused, glanced theatrically about the room, "...and the more attractive 'vices', perhaps, of your homelands. I'm sure you do honor both to your people, and to this damned cold chunk of mountains the Nords have claimed. And you know what they say, eh? 'A man with many homes never has to walk very far!'" He chuckled, thanking a server with a smile as his next tankard was plopped down onto the table.

    "And it is quite a story, yes?" He suddenly splayed his fingers out, his voice dipping slightly lower as if to set ambiance for a story. "The legendary Snow Elves, locked far away in some icy sanctuary...driven by need to seek help from those that once warred against them, the very races that strove to wipe them from Tamriel! And in the middle of it all, a couple of handsome warriors, soon to find their mettle tested and their heroics matched!" Paints winked over the top of his frothing mug. "I can already hear the songs they'll sing about us, my friend! Just wait and see!"

    He paused to wipe some flecks of ale off of his muzzle with a sleeve of purple and red. "Yes, I am very curious to see how this will all play out...but even if my curiosity did not bid me go, I would be bound by oath to face these coming trials. I am, as I said, a knight, and a knight is sworn to protect the weak and help the needy!" He spread his arms wide, grinning. "And now there is a whole civilization begging for help! Would anyone dare anger the gods by refusing to lend aid? No, certainly not I!

    "As for the subject of my name..." The words trailed off in his mouth as he noticed Drevin glance up at someone entering the room. Turning in his seat, he was greeted with the sight of the grumpiest looking man he'd ever seen, flanked by only slightly less-irritated guards. "Now that's what I call an interesting man!" Paints exclaimed, slamming one claw down on the tabletop in excitement. "And he's even brought some interesting friends!" His smile flashed when he spun back around to Drevin. "With armor like that, he must be part of our most chivalrous endeavor, yes? Shall we invite him to sit with us? I'm sure he's got quite a few stories, eh?"

    Without waiting for answer, the Argonian twisted around in his chair again and waved towards the door. "Greetings, my Imperial friend!" His voice cut through the raucous sounds of the tavern. Paints was easily the most colorful thing in the room: he had no doubt the frowning man he was trying to flag down could see him. "Here to blow off steam before a long journey, yes? Come, come, have a drink! We can call it practice! Drinks are much easier to share than roads, yes?" He saluted good-naturedly with his tankard, smiling all the while.
    #15 Mosis Tosis, Jan 29, 2015
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
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  16. The hired escort seemed to be having the desired effect. Upon Allectus's arrival into the dimly-lit establishment, he instantly had a multitude of eyes fall upon him. Allectus strode through the double-doors, followed by his entourage, the two guards silently clearing the path before them as they moved to the bar. He kept his chin held high, peering at the collection of patrons in this part of the inn with his cold blue eyes. Their sudden silence betraying the thoughts most likely on their minds, that he was some kind of officer or guard there to ruin the night's fun. As he walked, the Imperial rose his arm, the maroon sleeves of his cloak falling back slightly as his hand spread out. He showed a warm, if tight smile to his audience and spoke with his usual air of authority "carry on my friends."

    With that he turned his attention back to the barkeep, unaware and uncaring of the reactions of those patrons. The faint return of chatter behind him would be all the confirmation he needed that his escort was providing the attention demanded by a man who held his position. Allectus leaned his neck to the right, speaking to the elder guard without looking at him directly, his voice low, "I'm looking for anyone involved with the upcoming Falmer expedition." The polite smile on his face hid his disdain as he thought about the company he would soon be finding himself with, "I want to know if any of them are here tonight."

    The older of the guards responded with a rugged grunt and nodded, heading in the direction of the bar. Allectus assumed that grunting was what passed as acknowledgement in this part of the world, but dismissed the thought and turned on his heels to look around the whole of this tavern. He spotted Atone out of the corner of his eyes, facing out from his master in his imposing armor, hands resting at his side as if a weapon were still there. The other, younger guard still stood close, hands on his hips but exchanging smiles with a table of locals. Yet still, most of the visitors here had some amount of attention on Allectus as he scanned the crowd for anything matching the descriptions of his quarry. The attention afforded by his local escort and his dark-red attire was not meant to impress the locals or the revelers, no, it wasn't meant for them.

    Just as soon as Allectus sensed the older guard returning to his flank, he heard that voice, the unmistakable grating noise of an Argonian attempting to speak as it called out to him. The collection of colors that assaulted his eyes as he turned made it unmistakable, this was the "knight" that had made such a large splash within the emperor's inner-circles. The one who's name had once passed across his desk back when he was in charge of approving arena advertisements. Of all the souls who had signed on for this quest, this was the one he would run into.

    "That table," came the ever-helpful voice of the elder guard, "two of them there." He must have been referring to the Dark-Elf accompanying the Argonian, wearing a scowl that could only match Antone's. As the party walked forward, silently accepting Paint's warm invitation, Allectus flicked his wrist at the two guards, but still they continued to walk at his sides. A slight turn and a bend of his neck and the older one seemed to understand, elbowing his companion, they then doubled back to the bar. Allectus had gotten his use out of them, but perhaps it was for the best that they remained here, even if they took this time to enjoy the fruits of their labors. The imperial stood at the ege of the table, absently fixing one of his sleeves before turning to the Argonain.

    "Ah, this must be the colorful knight that's making quite the splash within the Imperial court." Allectus bowed slightly, a customary greeting, wearing a thin smile as his eyes darted to the dunmer. He had not been lying, this lizard had been the topic of much chatter in the last few days, but not all of it had been positive. However, Allectus was sure this was the one that had been plastered over the walls of the Imperial City a few years back. "And your Dunmer associate, another volenteer I hear," he said with another bow in Drevin's direction. He stood straight, already aware that Anton had already given both of these men his customary scowl before turning around to face the crowd, as if quartering-off this part of the tavern.

    "Allow me to introduce myself then gentlemen, my name is Allectus Quintus Valeres, Imperial ambassador and leader of this adventure of ours."
    #16 Cpt Toellner, Jan 30, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 30, 2015
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  17. The dunmer took his time navigating the streets of Windhelm on the way to Gnosis Corner Club. Since turning Juin uncovered a sense unlike any other he'd felt in nearly five decades of life. Vampyrism introduced a hunger deeper than what one's stomach might muster. Where the mind may dull as their body craves nourishment, the Hunger built up until the mind simply stopped. He remembered his first experience feeding as if outside himself. This is why he kept the vials. Collecting blood might seem a grim business, but losing oneself for a time with only a sinister yearning to lead them was, undoubtedly, a darker thing entirely. Yet, while this primal feeling surfaced with the disease, it was something else that struck the dunmer as deeply foreign and new. Juin guarded himself when preparing to feed. A careful eye and constant watch served him well thus far. However, even after feeding, a lingering sense of unease followed him a while longer. During those times, as he did now, Juin sought a stiff drink to weather the ethereal feeling. Once the club appeared before him, the dunmer could not help but smile.

    In the time sense leaving Windhelm as a youth the club had changed little. The Grey Quarter remained a less manicured place than elsewhere in the city, but the club was comfortable place nonetheless. Strangely, there seemed more furrier folk about than he remembered before. Perhaps the bar served catnip. Grinning at the thought, Juin made his way inside.

    Upon taking a seat at the bar, Juin raised a hand to signal the bar maid. The woman was a dunmer, like him, but spared the scars earned from professional combat. She was pleasing to the eye with high cheekbones running down smoothly from her lit, if fatigued, eyes down to her full lips. Her top lip was more voluptuous than the top and a deep purple not unlike wine.

    "Sir," the barkeep asked, tapping the hardwood table in front of Juin. "Anything for you? Besides my portrait, of course."

    Juin blushed and pulled back his hood. "Forgive me, madame. The night has been long and I suspect the road ahead shall be even longer. A cup of spiced wine and some bread would do me well."

    With a nod and a smile, the barkeep turned to a shelf filled with various bottles. A young breton boy scurried about behind the counter, bringing meals to each table with the nerves of a new hire. Juin watched as the barkeep scolded the boy before nodding toward the dunmer, likely telling the lad of his order. Finished the boy, she returned with a fresh bottle in one hand and two cups in the other. In a single, practiced motion the dunmer woman uncorked the bottle of wine before filling both cups just short of the rim. Juin nodded to her finesse and placed two coins on the table. Once more, distracted, the dunmer woman left the coins be and raised her cup.

    "You mentioned a long road. I take it you'll be on the expedition? I do believe that table might interest you more than a tired barkeep," she gestured toward two khajit sitting together along with a rather exposed dunmer. Other volunteers, he gathered.

    Juin looked over the motley crew then returned his gaze toward the barkeep. "I wager sharing the road will offer many a chance to acquaint ourselves. Besides, the cats seem to be having a rather pointed conversation. Better I watch from afar, perhaps."

    "Perhaps," the barkeep replied as the breton boy came with the bread. "A rather bold one, he is."

    "The one with the exposed lass on his lap?"

    "A pig's more like it. No, the one with the mohawk. Quite the storyteller. Right now he is preventing that tramp girl from further shame, but if you're looking to relax you might speak to him once he's finished. The tongue on that one," the barkeep's words trailed off then into a soft murmur then that Juin could barely hear, perhaps for the better.

    The barkeep finished her cup and returned her attention to the bar. Meanwhile, Juin turned his seat with a bit of bread in hand and watched the two khajit.
    #17 Pellegrino, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2015
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  18. "Noble, indeed..." Drevin said with a hint of sarcastic teasing, swirling the drink in his class. He wasn't a hero looking to help, he was a meddling traveler looking to get some jollies out of the chaos sure to ensue. The Empire, Skyrim, Elves, and Nords all traveling to meet the first civilized society of falmer in ages - yeah, what could possibly go wrong? "I do not know if I do honour to them, but I do know that I'm a traditionalist in most ways... So long as I stay that path, I'm sure I'll do my people well," He explained flatly, omitting his definition of who "his people" were. "But in contest, a man with many homes has them only because he has walked far - I've done my fair share of it, but I don't care to have many homes. I'm comfortable wherever I place my bedroll at night. And I'll drink to it, too," He said with a grin, holding up his glass before taking a small sip, letting the burning hot alcohol rest on his tongue for a moment before slowly swallowing it, his eyes closed. "Oh... that's good."

    And just as Paints-With-Blood was about to share his real name, he found an excuse to up and leave. Was it shame? Or simply discretion? Either way, it was barbaric, holding on tight to such a ridiculous title. Knighthood meant nothing to a dunmer with no claim to nobility or rank, but it sure seemed to make the Argonian a flashier person, as though he needed it. Drevin tapped his leg rhythmically as he took a moment to catch his breath. Finally, the lizard and his new friend returned, but Drevin didn't move as he looked the Imperial over with skeptical eyes.

    "It's an honour, Ambassador Valeres," He lied, not sharing his own name as he watched his alcohol more than their newly found companion. "I'd say the term volunteer is one to use lightly for the expedition. People don't volunteer for things like this simply to be good people, thus a word like seeker or adventurer is more fitting, wouldn't you say? After all, I'm sure we've each something to gain from it. Fame, spoils, whatever we find or do... Hell, it's pretty dangerous... Maybe there are one or two joining just to approach your unconscious body as you lie dormant... Take the edge of their little dirk or dagger or what have you, then drive it straight through your temple, only to run off with your coinpurse and whatever else they like."

    He waved his hand dismissively at the thought, "But of course, a good magician never reveals his secrets," He pointed out, looking to Paints with a small grin and a wink. That Argonian had made him more talkative than he liked to be, but watching a man like Allectus with such stature made him feel as though he needed not to assert dominance, but to show the arrogant personality that he had no intention of being a lap dog for somebody with an insignificant title. Drevin wasn't joining to make relations between the falmer and the Empire, he was attending to meet them himself.
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  19. The table shook when Paints laughed, a cacophony of creaking wood and hearty bellowing that somehow made an impression in the surrounding din. "Drevin, my friend, are you always so suspicious? I'm sure our party is mostly composed of honest men and mer looking for honest work. And if any prove to be less sincere or less scrupulous than the present company, well..." He paused, cupped his chin with one claw as if deep in thought. "This is a righteous deed we've decided to undertake: whatever the motivations of our compatriots, we can all take solace in the fact that ultimately, their ambitions serve a good purpose, yes?" His smile was light and teasing as he continued, "And all this talk of thievery and murder! Dark words belie dark thoughts, my friend! I pray that it is only the liquor on your tongue that I hear, or the road ahead will be quite a gloomy affair." He clapped Drevin on the back, laughing again. "Perhaps in the fresh air and warm sunlight, your spirit won't seem so clouded, eh? Just something else for me to look forward to!"

    Smiling wide with a maw of sharpened teeth, he turned back to the Ambassador. "I hope my friend here has not added any more stress upon your shoulders, m'lord. I'm sure planning this expedition has been quite the task. And in only three days! You must have a mind sharper than an Akaviri blade...or a will as strong and stubborn as a charging minotaur!" He rolled his eyes and made a lazy, dismissive gesture with one claw. "But you have nothing to fear. Even if there are any naer-do-wells lurking in our midst, you can sleep easy knowing that my vigilance, and the vigilance of my good friend here, will keep you safe." He drained the rest of his tankard, and tossed the empty vessel over his shoulder into an empty corner.

    "I'm sure we need no introduction, especially to the likes of you, but I make it a point never to miss an opportunity to say my name. So here it is: I have the pleasure of being Paints-With-Blood, though I'm sure you're familiar with my unofficial title as the Knight of Colors." He didn't stand to bow, instead offering a simple nod and a smile. "And my brooding companion here is Drevin, Drevin Sernaada.......Drevin. We were simply enjoying a good-spirited chat while we savored our last chance at revelry, but little did we expect someone of your position to come join us!" He slammed an open palm down onto the tabletop, making all of the cups and candles jump. "And now that introductions are out of the way, you must join us for a drink! A dignified man like yourself, you must prefer wine, yes?" He flagged down a passing server, and soon a carafe of wine was resting at the center of their tiny table. Paints was quick to start pouring portions out into pewter cups.

    "Come, come, sit and drink! Your intimidating friends can join us, if they'd like, the more the merrier!" The wine had hardly been poured before Paints took his first swig, closing his eyes briefly while he savored the sweetness on his tongue. "Ah, perfect. Now, we have so many matters to discuss. Drevin, for example, brings up a very important point: just what should we be called? I quite like 'The Envoy:' simple, elegant, has an air of professionalism and just a dash of mystery. Perhaps a bit too professional though." He took another gulp, seriously mulling over the options. "Are we truly volunteers? Adventurers? 'Seekers' does have a nice ring to it, though that lends itself to confusion. Are we seeking something in particular, or simply guarding a very important elf? 'Guardians,' perhaps? 'Vanguards?'" That bright smile broke forth again. "Might we dare to simply resort to calling ourselves 'heroes?' It is so very tempting."
    #19 Mosis Tosis, Feb 5, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2015
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  20. “Take it in that Sevari is one of those exiles from Elsweyr the smooth-skins so hate,” Sevari said, his eyes and a hand gliding down the smooth arm of the Dunmer, “Their judgement has already been made. Sevari is not a diplomat, it is not his job to change it. After all, his job- and yours, after all, you too are an exile of sorts- is to kill anything that wants to kill his Imperial emissary.”

    Sevari looked at the Dunmer on his lap and her eyes went from Sevari to Zaveed and back again. In the market of foreign-accented, exotic, dangerous-looking men, she was not at a shortage at this table. The Dunmer woman, loving the attention she was getting from the pirate and the outlaw, had a smile stretching from ear to ear. Sevari had to admit, girls only find these encounters in books in the same vane as The Lusty Argonian Maid and The Swarthy Redguard Corsair.

    “So, say This One does not want the night to end with an exchange of nasty words between us, I lose my temper and the resulting storm between us leaves more than half of this cornerclub bruised and bloodied. Say Sevari also wants to help a certain Dunmer girl help him. This One has pre-journey nervousness,” Sevari pulled the Dunmer close with a grin, “Even a Khajiit such as myself needs companionship.”

    Sevari raised a cup poured by his fellow Khajiit and nodded, “I might as well drink with you. It would not do to have squabbling cats among the journey, no? Even our big friend here would like to drink with us, hm?” He spared a glance at the hulking Argonian that loomed like a mountain over him.
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