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  1. 7 points
    You would have to go in an right click each image to save as. Today I started downloading the whole of TESA to my rig, which thankfully had enough room to store the sites. It will probably run all night and into tomorrow before it's finished but I'll update here once I can verify everything is secured, its actually downloading TESA's gallery right now.
  2. 6 points

    Version 1.21 FINAL


    Name: Insanity's Improved Armoury Compilation Version: 1.21 FINAL Date: 03/27/2012 Category: Armor Author: InsanitySorrow Source: TES Alliance ================= Requirements: ================= Oblivion 1.2.416 ================= Description: ================= InsanitySorrow has created a large number of high-resolution texture and normal map replacers for stock armor and weapons, compiled two ways for your convenience. The first package is a scripted OMOD that will allow you to install all the textures or choose only specific ones to install. This .omod can only be used or extracted by Oblivion Mod Manager (OBMM). The second package is a .7zip archive that contains the full compilation in one parent folder, so you can manually install the whole thing in the usual drag-and-drop-and-overwrite fashion. The alternate Elven and Glass textures are offered as well, in separate folders. This package is BAIN-friendly. Both packages include all of InsanitySorrow's high-rez armor and weapon retextures to date: Improved Armoury - Amelion Armor Improved Armoury - Arena Champion Improved Armoury - Ayleid Crown Improved Armoury - Blackwater Cuirass Improved Armoury - Blackwater Blade Improved Armoury - Blackwood Improved Armoury - Blades Improved Armoury - Bloodworm Helm Improved Armoury - Chainmail Armor Improved Armoury - Chillrend Improved Armoury - City Guards Improved Armoury - Daedric Armor Improved Armoury - Daedric Bracers Improved Armoury - Daedric Weapons Improved Armoury - Dark Brotherhood Improved Armoury - Debaser Improved Armoury - Dwarven Improved Armoury - Ebony Armor Improved Armoury - Elven Armor Improved Armoury - Golden Elven Improved Armoury - Fur Armor Improved Armoury - Glass Improved Armoury - Dark Green Glass Improved Armoury - Darker Green Glass Improved Armoury - Gray Fox Cowl Improved Armoury - Imperial Dragon Improved Armoury - Imperial Palace Cuirass Improved Armoury - Imperial Watch Improved Armoury - Iron Improved Armoury - Leather Improved Armoury - Legion Improved Armoury - Legion Horseman Helm Improved Armoury - Mithril Armor Improved Armoury - Mythic Dawn Improved Armoury - Orcish Armor Improved Armoury - Pit Leather Improved Armoury - Savior's Hide Improved Armoury - Shield of the Thorn Improved Armoury - Silver Weapons Improved Armoury - Spellbreaker Improved Armoury - Staff of Indarys Improved Armoury - Steel Improved Armoury - Thorn Blade Improved Armoury - Witsplinter Enhanced Normal Maps - Daedric Enhanced Normal Maps - Daedric Artifacts Enhanced Normal Maps - Dwarven Enhanced Normal Maps - Ebony Enhanced Normal Maps - Elven Enhanced Normal Maps - Glass Enhanced Normal Maps - Madness Enhanced Normal Maps - Spellbreaker ================= Installation: ================= BAIN (using the 7zip archive) 1) Move or copy the downloaded archive to your Bash Installers folder, no need to extract first. 2) From the Wyre Bash installers tab, select the archive on the left. Check the boxes on the right for Core Files and any alternate colors you wish to install. 3) Right-click on the archive on the left, and choose Install from the context menu. OMOD (using the .omod) 1) Double-click the .omod file from within Windows Explorer. This will open OBMM and automatically add the .omod to OBMM. 2) Double-click the .omod from within OBMM to begin installation. Follow the prompts to select which content you want to install. Manual (using the 7zip archive) 1) Extract the archive you downloaded to a temporary location. 2) Copy the contents of the "Core Files" folder to your ..Oblivion\Data folder. Click "Yes" to overwrite, if prompted. 3) Repeat step 2 for any of the alternate folders, if desired. Wrye Bash and OBMM both handle ArchiveInvalidation for you, which is required for texture replacers such as this to take effect in-game. If you don't have either of those applications, please consult your internet search engine of choice for other solutions. ================= Un-Installation: ================= BAIN Right-click the archive from the Installers tab and choose Uninstall from the context menu. OMOD Double-click the .omod from within OBMM to de-activate it. Manual Delete the files/folders associated with the mod. ================= Contact: ================= Please contact InsanitySorrow @ TESAlliance with any inquiries. ================= Credits: ================= Thanks to Bethesda for creating Oblivion. ================= Tools Used: ================= Insanity's ReadMe Generator Photoshop
  3. 5 points
    I'm not able to help financially right now but I shared the gofundme page on my Facebook page. I'm sure I have friends who are in a better position to help than I am currently. Best of luck my friend.
  4. 5 points
    Freshly graduated! We outty five hunnit. Hope y'all are having a great night. I'm gonna go get plastered.
  5. 5 points
    i'm out of school and throwing rent at my credit cards... but as soon as i get hired, i'll pitch in what i can
  6. 5 points
    Endar Endar's head was still spinning when he returned to Tamriel. In fact, he was so lost in his thoughts that he did not react in time to slow the five foot drop that awaited him. He plummeted to the earth like the Ministry of Truth itself, landing so hard on his side that he actually bounced on the rock. "Dun nchow!" Slowly, painfully, Endar stood up and cast a healing spell, all the while continuing to swear in the tongue of his people. At least the cursed wound is gone, he thought, looking down at the thin gray scar that stretched across his chest and down his right side. Clavicus Vile had kept his end of the bargain, and as far as Endar could tell, there had been no hidden agenda or downsides. His soul was still his, and he had lost nothing but time. And at the low price of just one girl's soul. He scowled, annoyed with himself for getting attached to someone he'd only known for a short time. It's not my fault she insisted on joining me. Besides, she never stopped asking those incessant questions. I'm well rid of her. Elara, on the other hand, was a rather tragic loss. Not since he left Morrowind had one of Endar's servants lasted more than an entire year and learned how to read and copy his notes. She had been one of a kind, and certainly deserved a better death than the one Rythe had given her. No, Elara was a star-eyed halfwit who voluntarily got in over her head and died for it. That's what happens to fools who aren't careful. The Legionnaire was no different, whatever in the blazes his name was. Gathering his shredded robes in front of his chest, Endar looked around. He wasn't lost, thank the gods. Vile had returned him to the plateau where the battle had taken place, though it was different now. The grass seemed a little greener, and the air, somewhat warmer. The corpses were still scattered around the ruined Oblivion Gate, though they were far from fresh as they'd been before. Most of the necromancers' flesh was either rotted black or gone altogether, consumed by what seemed to have been trolls. Apparently, Clavicus Vile had kept him a lot longer than it had felt. Unfortunately, Apotheosis was nowhere to be found, which led Endar to release yet another string of curses. He had spent a fortune on that staff, and was not keen on the idea that some imbecile was probably out in the world right now, most likely utilizing a fraction of its potential. All the welkynd stones Rythe had brought were missing as well, but at least he could mitigate that loss by creating his own. And I still have the journal, he thought. It was the one bit of good that could be salvaged from this situation. The book, and all the other belongings he'd brought for the trip, was safely stored away in a place that most mortals would find rather difficult to reach without first knowing that it existed. So why did he feel so uneasy? "Fingers of the Mountain," Endar said. "Bring it to me. I want to see it." He finished the spell, and a Dremora servant appeared in front of him, holding out the ancient, tattered tome. "Is there anything else, Master?" "No, nothing," he replied, snatching the book from the daedroth's hands. He waved dismissively. "Go away." The Dremora vanished with a bow, and Endar opened the book just to see that its contents still existed. They did. Well, that's one good thing, at least. And it's the most important one of all. He muttered his spell and sent the tome back to the safety of the hidden slice of Oblivion. Now it is time to finally go and make use of it. He lifted his hands and cast the recall spell that was to take him back to Cloud Top, only to find that it would not work. It was as if the mark had been removed, or was somehow being interfered with. "Of course." Swearing even more (by now, he barely registered that he was doing this), Endar made his way down the plateau on foot. A staff would be nice, he thought bitterly. Or a horse. I wonder what happened to ours. Or Rythe's for that matter. Probably eaten by trolls. Endar wasn't certain why, but he was really starting to hate trolls. It was strange. They weren't likely the ones responsible for his stolen staff, missing crystals, or any of the other misfortunes that had befallen him, but he found his mind illogically deeming the beasts guilty by association. It was not a concept that he relished, this emotion-driven lack of logic, but try as he might to be view trolls impartially, he simply couldn't. There was this negative spark that his mind linked with them now that simply refused to go away. It was a shame, because he had once been rather fond of the hulking shaggy beasts. This region of the Colovian Highlands was not well-known for being particularly exciting or lively. In most directions, a traveler could only see rocks and grass. If they were lucky, they might spot a boar or a goat. If they were unlucky, it would be bears, trolls, or ogres. Endar was neither lucky nor unlucky, because he did not detect any of these things. For him it was just rocks and grass. When nightfall drew near, Endar instinctively found a nice raised position to make camp, and lit a balefire, only to realize that this was not necessary. All the camping he had done since leaving the Imperial City had been for the sake of his companions. Scowling, Endar extinguished the green flames and continued his trek in spite of the darkness. The night was quiet and uneventful. He did nothing but walk and mutter spells, trying to ignore the accusing glares of Masser and Secunda. Obviously, the moons were in no way actually judging him, but like with the trolls, Endar could not shake the strange feeling of negativity that was now unfairly tied to them. He knew why, of course. It was the damned Skyrim girl and her damned lunar dagger. She had asked him numerous questions about the moons during the trip between Cloud Top and the Oblivion Gate: The very path he walked now. Well if the girl's spirit wanted to hold him in judgement, then fine. But he would not allow the moons to make him feel guilty over a decision that he'd been forced to make. Clavicus Vile had said it best: Endar's decision hadn't been based on emotions or morality. It was strictly pragmatic, as all great decisions should be. "How very un-mortal of you. I like it." That was what the daedric prince had said. He'd meant it as a compliment. And rightly so. Magnus was on the rise again when Endar finally reached the base of Cloud Top. Its golden light painted the rocky countryside in vibrant shades of orange and green facing east, and left dark shadowed patterns facing west. The 'mountain' itself was still shaded from the sun on the side that Endar approached from, and remained so as he followed the little trail for his ascent. He was less than halfway up when he first voices coming from above. Endar stopped, cast a spell, and listened. "-tomorrow, I think he said." "Good. We had mutton all last week and mutton all this week. I couldn't have done another week of mutton. I'd rather eat Yarf." "HA! He'd certainly last you. Bloody wood elf reminds me of this fat little dog my wife brought home. Thing never stopped eating." Endar rolled his eyes and continued his climb. Whoever these idiots were, they did not sound particularly dangerous. He knew that there were sixteen of them (plus horses) well before he reached the top. Of course, that was little cause for worry, as he'd laid a recall mark lower down just in case there was an emergency. When he did finally arrive at the old ruin, Endar found it surrounded by little red candles and littered with large tents and campfires (he realized that he would have seen their smoke hours ago had it not been nighttime). Sitting at the outskirts were two men, a skinny Imperial and a bearded Redguard, armored in steel and with their weapons laying behind them. They sprung to their feet at his approach, arming themselves as they did. Endar cleared his throat. "I take it you're the ones who deactivated my mark." That only seemed to confuse them. "State your business, Stranger," the Imperial barked. "My business is to construct defenses against Aldmeri super weapons," Endar replied. "What's yours?" The two men shared a look, then the same one spoke again. "We're studying these ruins." Endar noticed other men and women now emerging from their tents. Most of them were still in their sleeping clothes, but a few had taken the time to throw on some armor. All of them were armed. "You don't look like scholars." "They're not," said a voice from somewhere deeper in the camp. The warriors began to part, making way for a middle-aged Breton, still dressed in his night robe. "That would be me." He came to the front, smiling as if they were friends. "Dunard Moorsley. I'm a mage with the Synod." His eyes ran up and down Endar, lingering momentarily on the wide tear in his robes. "To whom do we owe the pleasure?" "Endar Drenim." He frowned at the man. "I do not like being scrutinized." "Well you are a stranger who approached our camp at the break of dawn," said Moorsley. "I think at least a little scrutiny is in order. Now what is this business you speak of with Aldmeri -what was it?- super weapons?" "That's right." Endar crossed his arms. "I was contracted by the High General to help with the war effort, so the lot of you can clear on out of my campsite." "Your campsite?" One of the warriors snorted. "Hush," the Breton commanded. His expression toward Endar remained unchanged. "If what you say is true, then we are all in service to the Empire, and there is no need for hostility. But I need to know for certain that it is indeed true." "Pfft. I will not be tested by the likes of you." Endar scowled. "If you don't believe me, then scamper on down to the Imperial City and ask the Emperor yourself. Or don't. I don't care what you think, so long as you are willing to leave me to work in peace." "Is this guy serious?" one of the warriors said. "You want us to tie him up, Dunard?" asked another. 'Endar,' a familiar voice spoke calmly into his mind. 'Just go along with the mage. You and I need to speak.' Endar did not show it, but he was genuinely startled. His eyes darted around the campsite, scanning each and every body. There were the Imperial and Redguard who'd been on watch. There was a Dunmer woman. There was a fat little Bosmer. Some more Imperials. A couple Nords... and there she was: the Altmer, with her perfect skin and bright golden eyes. She stood among them, dressed in plain robes and with her brown hair unceremoniously tied back, looking every bit the part of the underpaid mercenary. 'What are you doing here, Psijic?' 'I will explain later. Just humor Dunard. These aren't bad people. There is no need to kill them.' His scowl deepened. The monk could not have possibly known what he had done in Oblivion, but that did not lessen the sting of what she had said. 'Give me some credit.' "Well?" one of the warriors barked at him. "What's it gonna be then?" "What is what going to be?" "You deaf as well as stupid?" the man shouted back. "Be quiet, Felwart," Dunard ordered. He looked back at Endar. "My friends are losing their patience, and now so am I. You can either go back the way you came, or you can submit yourself to questioning. We cannot risk a Thalmor spy making away with our discoveries." Endar's eyes never left the Psijic. "Fine. I'll answer your damned questions," he then muttered, "Wouldn't want anyone here who doesn't belong." "Excellent." The Breton motioned for Endar to follow him. "Please, join me in my tent." Endar made his way through the crowd of watchful guards. It required a conscious effort on his part to remain composed and not to further indignifiy himself by appearing angrier than he'd already proven to be. These people couldn't possibly be worth his anger. Dunard Moorsley's tent was spacious. It had an actual bed, an oak work desk, an enchanting table, and several racks that contained magical tools which Endar knew were designed primarily for concealment and detection. "I take it your presence here is not public knowledge?" "It rarely is." Moorsley smiled and tapped the long metal rod that he no doubt used to light the candles that surrounded the camp. "You know your instruments." "Of course I do. I'd imagine every fool apprentice in the Arcane University knows what they are." "But you are no fool apprentice, are you? Those torn-up robes you wear, they bear daedric script. What does it say?" " 'The powerful define the standards of virtue.' There's not a child in House Telvanni who does not know the phrase." "So you're from House Telvanni, then?" Moorsley leaned forward, his eyes wide. "I've heard that the wizards of House Telvanni are among the greatest in Tamriel." "You heard the truth," Endar said. "You might also know that they have no affiliation with the Aldmeri Dominion." "Nor do they have any with the Empire," Moorsley pointed out. "At least, not to my knowledge." "I'm in Cyrodiil of my own volition. I have a house in the Imperial City, and my own quarters in the White Gold Tower - where I have spent the last year or two conducting most of my research." "I see. You are a long way from the Imperial City. And alone at that. It strikes me as passing strange that Emperor Krojun would send someone as important as yourself so far away without any guards." Endar grimaced. "I am not on some leash that the Emperor can reign in as he pleases. I left on my own when it became apparent that my work required resources outside the capital's disposal, and I shall return when I am content that I have gathered everything I need. Also, I did not leave alone. My servant and a Legion Forester accompanied me, but they died at the hands of a necromancer." "A necromancer? In the Colovian Highlands? Is this necromancer the one who gave you that scar?" Moorsley pointed at Endar's chest. "Essentially," he answered, annoyed at the way the Breton's eyes kept twitching down at it. "There were more than one. A whole band of them, actually. Give me a map and I'll show you exactly where the corpses can be found, about a day from here." "Amazing." Moorsley's shoulders seemed to relax, slightly. "Your journey sounds like quite the story. I would love to hear it." "Are you not interrogating me?" Endar asked, his scowl intensifying. "I am here for a reason, and it's not to regale you with tales like some common bard." "Of course," the scholar said, his pale cheeks reddening. "Forgive me... I suppose I see no reason to believe you have cause to do us harm. I will tell the Fighters that you are clear to come and go as you please." Endar started to rise, and the man spoke again. "I do have one last question, if you will humor me. Are you aware of any magical anomalies at this site late last winter?" It's not winter anymore... Interesting. "No, I am not aware of any." "How unfortunate. I was sent to investigate two successive spikes of magical energy that were detected by my order. I am supposed to send updates back to the Imperial City, but have so far had little to write. Oh well. Perhaps you will discover something I have not." "Of that, I have little doubt." Endar turned and exited the tent, discovering that three of the warriors were standing right beside the flap. Among them was the man who had challenged Endar's intelligence and the quality of his hearing. "So you're clear then," the man said, looking apologetic. "Sorry about what I said back there. 'Bout you being stupid." "Okay," Endar said, walking on past the man. He doubted that a moron such as this one could genuinely offend him if he tried his absolute hardest. The Psijic was waiting beside the broken Ayleid pillar, sharpening a shortsword that Endar presumed was just for show. She looked up as he approached. "I heard your talk with Dunard." "Of course you did." Endar placed a hand on the white stone. The last time he had done this, it had been with the girl. The two of them had each touched the structure with electricity, and in doing so, received a small taste of what the Ayleids had left behind here. Endar had no doubt that those interactions were the energy spikes that the Synod had detected. "And?" "And I am glad to see that you are alive and well. When last we spoke, you were very enthusiastic about conquering the Thalmor's sunbirds. I still hope for you succeed." "It's been a long time since we last spoke," Endar said. "You approached me, named me your 'seliffrnsae', promised to help, and then disappeared without giving so much as your name." "I did not disappear. I left to attend other matters with the intent to return when I was needed. You, on the other hand, did quite literally disappear. I do not know if you understand how rare a thing it is for a member of the Psijic Order to fail in locating someone. What were you doing in Oblivion?" "I had business there of my own. And what are you doing among these... people?" "They are from Chorrol's Fighters Guild," she replied. "In friendlier times, someone from the Synod would have been granted Legion soldiers for protection, but the war draws them south. I joined the guild in the hopes of discovering what happened to you." "And how did you know I was here?" "The Empire's Synod use a Dwarven Oculory to locate traces of old magics. But we Psijics have even older methods. Greater, more precise. I did not know you were here until the human girl interacted with this pillar." She smiled and tapped it with her knuckles. "It wasn't long after that you and her both vanished from this world entirely. Even I could not find you at that point." The monk frowned. "I assume the girl did not survive." "That is correct." "A pity. She might've been the first person to produce such a response from the pillar in centuries. Dunard has spent weeks trying to do the same and has come up with nothing. I have done the same, in private, and yielded some results, but nothing of the extent that you two did. That was a similar form of power to Alinor's own magic of creatia." "Indeed it was," Endar confirmed, turning his mind away from Matilda. "The Ayleids called that particular spell 'Finger of the Mountain'." "Fitting." The monk cocked her head. "But nothing of the sort is written on this pillar. You've found a different source of information, haven't you?" "Yes." Endar looked around the camp, wondering which of these Fighters had the nicest tent. "And for now that's as much as I intend to tell you." "We're not enemies, Endar. I only seek to guide." "And what a splendid job of it you've done so far." He let the sarcasm drip through his words. "By all means, remain in the camp. If I decide that your help is warranted, I will call for you." "Sometimes, that is the best we can hope for. Thank you." She smiled. "And not that you've asked, but my name is Illorwe. The Fighters have taken to calling me 'Lore'." "I think I'll stick to Illorwe." Endar turned and walked off, shaking his head. *** Endar spent most of the day inside his new tent, studying the symbols in Fingers of the Mountain. Much of what had been unclear prior to his interaction with the pillar now seemed so obvious to him. In fact, it was so obvious that it almost felt strange. He had some of the great secrets of the world at his disposal, and now he could not comprehend why they had ever been secrets in the first place. He looked down over the pages at the little blue crystal that was sprouting from the rocky earth. By evening it would be a full-sized welkynd stone, and by tomorrow it would be several times more powerful. This is mine, he thought, his eyes filling with the gem's blue light. For the first time since returning from Vile's realm, Endar felt a sense of relief. Before now, he hadn't really had a chance to put his newfound discoveries to the test. He had not known without a shadow of a doubt that everything he'd been through had not been in vain. But now, he knew. Now, he had the stone to prove it, and he could make more. This was not alteration, as the Synod would call it, or even alchemy. This was pure creatia. The oldest magic of them all. I can improve on this... I can learn to do it faster. Why should I hold myself to the standard of the Ayleids? "Elara!" he barked. He would need to record the rate of growth. Endar waited several moments, and then frowned and hid his book. Right. "Illorwe!" Several more moments passed, and then the Psijic Monk appeared through the flap of his tent. "Yarf says you called m-" Her voice trailed off when she noticed the stone. "That... did you bring that with you?" "Irrelevant. You said you wanted to help me. Well I need a quill." "A quill?" the monk's usually amiable features soured and her cheeks darkened. "Do you take me for a servant? I have offered you the assistance of the most prestigious order of mages in Tamriel, and you answer that by demeaning me?" "Right now, the only assistance that I need is in acquiring a quill. If you won't do it, then send someone else." "I have heard stories of the Telvanni's arrogance, but this..." She took another look at the crystal, scowled, and then stormed off. A couple minutes later, one of the Fighters entered the tent with a black and white feather in his hand. "Lore said you needed this." The man's eyes fell on the stone, and he whistled. "That's a pretty gem. My brother used to wear a ring with one like that on it." "I doubt that," Endar took the writing tool and dismissed the Fighter with a wave of his hand. "Well just holler if you need anything," he answered, "within reason of course. Ain't like most of us've got much to do out here." The man disappeared through the flap, and then immediately poked his head back in. "Oh, and we've got mutton if you're hungry." His face became sullen. "Yep... Lots and lots of mutton. And not much else." He could still be heard grumbling as he walked away from the tent. Endar rolled his eyes, produced his journal, and returned his attention to the crystal.
  7. 5 points
    Hey Doc, Would you mind writing up a paragraph or two synopsis of the setting and what events are taking place as the RP begins? Or point me to that, if you already posted something like it.
  8. 5 points
    Solitude The races of man mer and beast had described to the Bosmer as best they could what the fear of heights was. It seemed like a simple concept to them, but to the Bosmer it may as well have been like an infant trying to explain to an adult why they were so afraid of walking upright. Even the least nimble tree dweller learns to traverse the trees and vines above by the time they learn to walk gracefully. It comes natural. But Maori had a different fear of his own in Skyrim, much like the Imperial City when he got too close to the White Gold Tower. The vastness of Skyrim's mountains never ceased to send chills up his spine, especially from his vertically challenged view. And it wasn't the cold, that much he knew. That he never got used to either however. To Daric, they were a silent comfort. The howling of the winds against their surface above, and knowing that it was far colder up there than it was down here in Haafingar gave him comfort as well. Made it more bearable. Even so, the two were running low on food and the cold was getting more and more intrusive for the two minuscule warriors. When they saw Solitude's awkward land formation in the red splattered horizon, Daric didn't even argue when the Bosmer changed directions heading straight for the city. Neither of them said much of anything on their journey, especially not Maori who was all to aware of the looks the boy was giving him. The battle of Windhelm was still fresh on both of their minds. They went through Riften Hold briefly on their journey, but hadn't ran into any Thalmor. Maori said that they wouldn't, scouts and Justiciar elites had cloaking and invisibility magic at their disposal from at least one of their ranks. That was all he'd said the entire time to him and Daric hadn't responded. It would have continued on like that even still except Daric kept picturing Baldur the day he told him about his intel, then remembering how dumbfounded he was when he heard of Ulfric's death. All of which he had to hear from this smelly elf who wasn't even a native to these lands, and somehow "The Ash King" trusted him more than Daric. "**** this, hey knife ears!" Maori didn't seem to hear him. "Hey. Hey! Carcass breath!" "I know what you're gonna say, you've been giving me the stink eye the whole time. It's too damn cold, wait till we get to the city." Daric kept yelling at him as the elf just kept walking faster. Turning backwards but still advancing forward, Maori said, "I'm serious, shut up kid!" As he did, Maori's point of view began to rise, the earth rumbling beneath his wrapped feet as though a mountain decided to sprout beneath him. Screaming and trying to hold onto the earth, he soon found himself atop the head of a glossy black chaurus the size of a horse, writhing and wriggling out of the earth. Daric had his swords in hand ready to reluctantly charge the beast, but the ground began rumbling once more, bursting forth with pale arms grasping for anything above the surface before revealing their full visage. Meanwhile Maori kept screaming his lungs out whilst the Chaurus kept shaking its great thorny head, spewing dank putrid acid wildly as it did. The things, elves or whatever they were must've been Falmer, Daric surmised from what the Stormcloaks and Nords about Skyrim had said about them, including Baldur. Their strikes were so quick that Daric didn't bother trying to see them. His body merely moved to protect the parts of him that were most vital. The neck, eyes, groin. They slashed wildly, which his cheap chainmail was decent enough at stopping, exposing himself to glance blows to try and find openings. His left sword found itself in the belly of one elf quickly, stopping its advances while the thing tried to gnaw at his neck. The funk of its breath was made visible in the cold, and was almost as volatile as the Chaurus's acid. He cut the thing's head off out of spite before he used his boot to remove his blade. Another elf tackled him as he was doing so, aiding the process, but knocking the swords out of his hands as he fell to the ground. As the others came to aid the slaughter, Daric closed his eyes, placing his hand over the Falmer's head. At once, heat seared its flesh as it screeched in agony and fled into the marsh with a permanent hand print on its skull, cursing the boy in whatever gurgled screeches passed for a language for them. Daric scrambled for his sword and did not have time to see how the elf fared. Running as more of the creatures pursued him, he cast small bolts of flame from his swords periodically to slow them down, then directly towards a partially frozen puddle to create a screen of steam to hide from the twisted figures. It didn't slow them down for a second, and Daric had no idea why. He had no idea that the things were blind, and relied only on their hearing to track him down like wolves. He had no idea how many of them there were or where they'd even come from. But he knew he was alone, with nothing but his father's spells and Baldur's teachings to keep him alive barely as ribbons of blood arched from his body every time one of the things got a blow on the quick but outnumbered fighting protege. Because of his preoccupation with the Falmer, Darin couldn't see the dingy fast approaching, it's occupants paddling hard for the shore. It wasn't until one of the Falmer cried out in pain from the firebolt that slammed into it from behind that Daric, and the rest of the Falmer, took notice. A few split off from their assault on Daric to meet this new foe. They found themselves facing an entirely steel plate clad warrior, wielding sword and shield. Their blows were quick, but their chaurus weapons did little to even dent the plate. The knight bashed and slashed the relentless Falmer, while the rest of the boat's occupants continued to let spells fly. Daric was about to thank the gods, but he'd lost a bit of blood by now and was unsure if the assistance he saw and what he saw next was real or him hallucinating from the bloodloss. Maori who Daric had completely forgotten about was still atop of the Chaurus head. Instead of swinging around wildly trying to keep it from eating him, he was comfortably striding atop of it into battle against what remained of the scampering elves. The sight of their monster mount turned against them and the arrival of the new fire slinging iron knight sent the rest of them in retreat beneath the frozen marshes to lands unknown. All but one remaining elf that began hurling lightning at the new assailants in frustration and desperation. Its leg was lacerated at the heel by Daric earlier, and wasn't going to be able to flee like the others. It cast a summoning spell that brought forth several spectral chaurus and charged the knight and his men in one final push. The knight stepped into the path of the first chaurus and cut it down in one swing, but that allowed another chaurus to clamp onto the knight's plate clad shin. That chaurus dissolved into the salty air when a young Breton man, slightly older than Daric and not wearing armor but glowing with the magical hue of an armor spell, stabbed it through the back with an ice spike. The knight was then free to confront the Falmer mage, who sent bolt after bolt into the oncoming knight. The knight absorbed them, slowing down only after the third bolt. The Falmer struck then, swinging its axe as quickly as possible, trying to find an opening in the knight's defense. It was for naught, though, as the knight knocked the Falmer to the ground with a powerful bash, where it was stabbed through the chest. The final chaurus dissipated, while the fireball aimed at it skorched the ground mere moments after it disappeared. The young Breton man stepped forward, his hands glowing orange with healing magic, and approached Daric. "Dame, guard that hole," he said to the knight. Then, to Daric, "Where are you hurt?" "Everywhere," said Daric before collapsing in the man's arms. Maori stuck a dagger under the bug's shell plate, revealing the soft underpart which he stabbed, killing the thing before his charms wore off on it. "The boy gonna be alright? I'd hate to have to tell Red-Snow his Breton brat got killed by rabid elves. Too soon, you know? Who are you lot anyway?" "He's Prince Roland Adrard of High Rock," the knight answered. She turned her helmeted head to look at the dagger before she went back to watching the hole. Roland was running soft orange magic over Daric, but he soon stopped. "We need to go. I stopped the bleeding but couldn't mend much else." Roland squatted and lifted Daric up, carrying him in his arms. Daric was slightly taller than Roland, but whereas the former was lean, the latter was brawny. As quickly as he could manage it, he walked over to the boat and sat him in, where the other two soldiers were already manning the oars. "Let's go, elf," the knight said, climbing aboard the boat herself. "The name is Maori..." he said, obviously irritated. "What are you lot doing here, yer highness? Where's the fa- uh, the fabulous illustrous King Theodore? You're here for the moot I take it?" The boat set off, with Roland still tending to Daric, though at this point that consisted of keeping his wounds sealed. Roland looked up and answered, "We are. I came in place of my father. What were you two doing out in the swamp?" "Attending to business for the Jarl of Windhelm," said Maori. He hesitated to answer. "Going just peachy already. I gotta get the kid patched up quick, we don't have time to waste here. Guess that means I gotta take him to the court mage. Help me haul him there, I'm sure you're hungry, and as allies to Skyrim, Solitude's Jarl should accommodate you until the moot is called." "That won't be necessary. We're here to meet with the Jarl, her thanes, and some merchants to check in on our trading contracts. We'll then do the same in Windhelm, and travel to the moot from there," Roland explained. They were almost to the docks, the soldiers rowing as quickly as possible. "But we will certainly help your friend. We have a healer at the docks that can better steady him until we get to the court mage." "Good," said Maori. Pausing a moment, then stepping towards Daric, he tore off the boy's blue sash and placed it in his pack. The moot was too close and Maori didn't want to take any risks with a Jarl who had bad history with his friend. Who knows what could happen up until the moot took place. The Thalmor's eyes were everywhere, and ambitious greed even moreso. "I'll run ahead, let the Jarl know she has guests, and make sure the court wizard is ready to assist him." "We'll meet you there," Roland said, his eyes only briefly lingering on the bag Maori put the sash in. It was obvious the reasons for hiding it weren't lost on him, or Dame LaViolette, whose eyes did the same. She nodded to the elf, relaying their understanding, and silence. They docked then, the knight hurrying to fetch the healer, the soldiers helping lift the boy from the boat, and Roland keeping his healing hands pressed on the wounds. Maori watched them briefly, wondering if it wise to trust Baldur's stray to these Bretons, but despite his unkempt wild appearance, he was kin to them. If you couldn't trust kin.... He stopped the thought, knowing all too well that one couldn't even trust kin anymore with the Thalmor's fingers in every pot. But the Bretons had little to gain in siding with Thalmor. The thought was pure paranoia born of simply not liking the disdain in the voice of the woman. In this land, she may as well have had pointy ears. "Pfft, the nerve." Maori had never actually been to Solitude. Aside from the crazy land formation it was on, it seemed like a bit of an extension of a Cyrodiil city. The Imperials had more sense than to build a city on such a thing. The Nords... well, no one ever accused the Nords of being fearful. That was always their biggest problem if you asked him. Instinctively Maori kept to the outskirts of the streets, with all the tall men and women stomping around from shop to shop. He was caught off guard by a pair of Altmer women staring at him, and instinctively grasped his dagger before realizing the two had noticed. "What?" "Where is it that you think you're going, little carnivore?" Maori's nostrils flared as his eyebrows arched. "As it happens, I'm going to see the Jarl and the court mage, butter elf." "In those? Like that?" said the first elf. "What are those?" said the second one, who Maori noted was a bit cuter than the first one, but barely. "Those are my feet." said Maori. The women's dual expressions said everything. "I don't have time for this, I don't care about the approval of two Altmer. I have to-" "Oh this won't take but a moment, and it's not our approval you should be worried about." "Yes, now quit fussing, it's for your own good!" The two worked in unison, one pushing him from behind and the other guiding him along. Before he knew it, he was being stripped naked in front of a pair of strange women and no wine was involved this time. Unfortunately for him neither was the sex and he wasn't doing the pricking either. "Ow, watch where you're sticking that thing!" "Stay still, and we won't prick you! Almost done. There, now, do us a favor and wear this when you go to meet the Jarl. She's far more likely to see you in our attire, compared to how you were before." Maori struggled as they brought him a mirror. He had to admit, after they cleaned him up a bit and combed his hair, put on the new brown elegant robes, he didn't look to bad. "And what did I look like before, pray tell?" "Like a vagabond. Like you were here to start trouble. And that simply won't do, not for an elf in Skyrim." He eyed the two suspiciously. "You two often help random strangers that happen to look like trouble? For all you know, I could be." "You'd be doing us a favor," said one of them. "And, we're trying to do one for you. We know what happened in Valenwood. What's happening in Valenwood." Maori eyed the two suspiciously, but for the first time saw something more than snobby looks in their eyes. The Altmer actually seemed remorseful. His expression softened for a moment until his suspicion began rising again. "What's it to you two anyway? And how would you know? That isn't common knowledge, not here in Skyrim it isn't." "We used to be with the Dominion of course, both of us." Maori drew the same dagger he grasped earlier, its golden tint matching the skin of the one he held it against. "I knew it! I can smell your lot from a world away!" The elven women stayed calm, even as a trickle of blood fell from her neck. The other one stepped behind Maori with her hands behind her back and said, "We were not Thalmor. But we served them none the less. We thought it was the right thing to do, though you know we had no choice in the matter regardless." "Oh so you just had a change of heart when you saw the murder? Smelled the burning flesh? Is that it? Please. And you think some fancy clothes is going to change what happened? Make up for your roles in it? How many did you two kill, hmm?" "We killed no one. We only fashioned the uniforms of the Thalmor Justiciars. You can choose to believe this or not, accept our gift or not, but I will have to ask that you take that blade from my sister's neck. I won't allow you to kill her." Maori removed the blade eventually, licking the blade clean before putting it back in its place. "As if you had a choice in the matter. I'm out of here," he said. The two tried to say something as he left with his travel sack but he didn't give them any time to as he slammed the door shut. Blinking rapidly whilst wiping his eyes, the Bosmer's teeth ground together the entire way back to the Blue Palace. The guards stopped him at the bottom of the stairway before he could even make his way up, putting a hand on his shoulder as they took his pack. "What the hell are you two doing, I have business with the Jarl!" "Not right now you don't, and not until we've searched you." "Search away, the bag's filled with daggers and poisons, and here's my bow and arrows. I'm not an assassin, I'm a soldier for the Jarl of Windhelm, Baldur Red-Snow. I take it you've heard the news. The dumb looks on your face tells me... no? No. Great, where have you two been. Anyway, you know Ulfric has died at least? Ok good. Baldur has taken his place, not the Queen, Velara or whatever. I'm here on business for Baldur, and I need to speak to the Jarl but first I gotta speak to the court mage. Can you bring her here?" The two looked at one another a moment, then back at the elf. As the bars slammed in Maori's face in the Blue Palace's prison, Maori yelled, "You sons of sload sluts, I hope you choke on a blood sausage! Scullery whores!" The guards laughed as they walked away, leaving Maori to seethe to himself. It wasn't long, though, before he heard soft footsteps and cloth lightly dragging along the ground, both barely audible. But the prison was quiet, and somehow grew quieter still as the footsteps moved about. They reached Maori's cell, and the elf found himself looking upon a slender, blue robe clad mage. Her hood was pulled over her face, even though she was indoors. She stood, most of her weight on her right leg, her right hand resting on her hip. She looked at Maori, searching his face and body with unnerving eyes. She stopped the inspection and asked, "You aren't going to struggle, are you? Neither one of us would find it pleasant if you did." Maori hadn't noticed the woman at first and noticeably jumped at her voice. "Excuse me? What are you, an avatar of Molag? No, he'd like it if I struggled... Try anything and I'll struggle your head from your shoulders lady." "If only I had the time to watch you try and fail at that, it might be amusing. But I'm in quite a hurry." She lifted her hand, which glowed in a faint red and black magic, the tendrils it conjured reaching out towards Maori. "Oh yea, well I'll... I'll... what did you..." Maori could feel his eyelids grow heavier by the second. Whatever the mage did to him, he was losing his faculties fast. In fact, he was starting to hallucinate. He could have sworn he saw the young woman baring fangs at him like a khajiit... He drew a hidden dagger from his robe but lacked the strength to even hold it. As he fell to the ground, his only hope remaining was to use his people's birthright, hoping that some creature of the wild would hear his call. In a prison, beneath a palace. "Shit." Sybille Stentor entered the cell, her fangs bared, her eyes locked on Maori's soft brown neck. She heard scurrying behind her and stopped, turning around to see two skeevers running across the room toward her. She conjured up a ball of flame and reduced one skeever to ash. It shrieked as it died. The other skeever leapt into the air, its own fangs aimed at her neck. It never made it, as she caught it on an ice spike she held in her hand. She tossed it to the floor, but before she could feed, she saw a guard descending the stairs. "This had better be important," she said. "Uh..." the guard lifted a finger, pointing to the mer. "We need him. Jarl just ordered the prisoner released. Turns out he was who he said he was, a messenger for Jarl Red-Snow. What happened to him?" "Fainted. I've never seen someone so afraid of skeevers before," Sybille said, with a stare that dared the guard to challenge her story. The guard nodded and went to pick Maori up, lifting the groggy mer to his feet and waking him up. By the time he had, Sybille was gone. "Mmm, not so hard baby. Mmm, seriously." Maori started coughing, kicking his legs when he felt water hit his face, as though he were trying to swim. "Wake up!" The guard dumped another bucket of water over his head. "What? What's going on? Where's the monster?" "Shut up you crazy elf, and listen. For whatever reason, the Jarl has decided to have you for dinner." Maori cleared his throat and wiped the water from his eyes. "That woman I just met was the Jarl?" "Huh? No, that's just Sybille, the court mage. She's the one that healed your friend while you were away. They're probably eating now. I'm escorting you to the dinner table to speak with her, and her other guests. Show her respect or it's back in the dungeon. Got it?" "Aye." Maori was in no mood to be mouthy after what he thought he saw. "Good. Now get moving," said the guard as he tossed Maori a cloth. By the time the two did arrive at the Dinner table, the guests were all well into their meal and a conversation. The guard bowed to Elisif and said, "Jarl Elisif the Fair, I present to you your guest, the elf." "My name is Maori. Ack, damnit!" he cried when the guard hit him over the head to bow. "My name is Maori, Jarl Elisif. The Fair." "Guard! That is no way to treat a guest, apologize to him at once and be off with you!" The guard gave Maori such a look, especially when the mer started grinning beneath all his freakish tattoos. "Stuhn's mercy, elf I'll.... I mean... I'm. Sorry." "Don't beat yourself up too much, eyebrows," said Maori, mocking his accent, as well as his prominent brow. The Jarl snickering at him was all he needed to leave the scene. Maori seated himself once next to Daric, who whispered in his ear, "So, you took my sash but then just blurted out what your purpose was? How stupid are you?" "Not now kid, I'm not having the best day," he said between mouthfuls of rib. He almost choked when he realized who was sitting across from him. "Careful, Maori," Sybille said. "What would Jarl Red-Snow think of us if you choked to death at our dinner table?" Maori's eyes narrowed, the insinuation not lost on him. Though poison was one thing he hadn't needed to worry about, living in Valenwood. He spent his life building up immunities. The boy was another story, but judging from his plate, it was too late to worry about such things now. Seeing Sybille's own plate, Maori said, "That the food must not be very good. Excuse me my Jarl, I don't mean to be rude, I only jest. But I can't help but notice, of everyone here, your court Mage is the only one that hasn't eaten anything." Elisif eyed the court Mage, as if noticing this for the first time. It was of course, the last thing on her mind, as she was more worried about what Red-Snow wanted with her. Falk gave her a nod, and she reluctantly smiled. "Well you're right! Sybille? You always eat so little at my tables. Please." Maori shoved a bowl of fruits and squash her way while he wolfed down a bloody lamb leg. "Of course, Jarl Elisif. Excuse me if I don't have quite the voracious appetite of our guest, though." Sybille plucked an apple and began eating, taking a moment to wipe the juice from her lips. "Delicious, your highness." Maori frowned. He didn't know a thing about vampires but he'd have sworn they couldn't eat food. Wiping the bloody meat juice from his lips, the thought started to leave his mind. Perhaps he was just seeing things, she might've cast a fear spell to intimidate him for interrogation. Prince Roland interrupted then, breaking the awkward silence that had fallen over everyone else at the table. He cleared his throat and said, "Solitude is a beautiful city, Jarl Elisif. You and your people must be very proud of it." "We're more proud that we've managed to maintain its beauty despite the late Ulfric Stormcloak moving the capital of Skyrim to Windhelm, and taking a large portion of our coffers with him," she answered. "From what I understand, all that happened was that the late Ulfric, your husband, took his portion of the hold's coffers with him, which as High King was larger than yours, the High King's wife. And after that, traders started seeking to do business in Windhelm, the new capital, rather than here." Elisif was visibly annoyed. Maori looked at Daric as though he'd just spoken in draconic. Falk sat straight in his seat for the first time that evening. "Boy! You are a guest in our hold, and unless you want to end up the way these Bretons found you, I'd suggest..." "Enough Falk, the boy is right. That is what happened. Ulfric ended our marriage and left me here with my portion of gold to run the city, leaving with his. Gold that was only his because he'd claimed it as such after the war." "That is what tends to happen when one loses. Gold is lost, wives are taken." "What in the hell is wrong with you??" This time it was Maori's turn to speak up. "We shouldn't even be here," said Daric. "We-" "Are going to stay right here until Sybille says you're good to travel again. If it weren't for my hospitality, you'd be dead. Whatever business you have can and will wait until then, I'll not have anyone saying I treated Red-Snow's friends poorly with the upcoming moot. And since it's clear you two, or at least the boy has other things on his mind, and have no interest in me at all as it so happens, I'll have to ask that while our other guests remain, that you keep your mouth shut. Is that clear?" Standing up, Daric said, "May I be excused, your highness?" She signaled for Falk to take him to his quarters where Sybille was treating him. The stress on the young Jarl was clear to all that saw her. Especially when Daric called Ulfric her husband, though stress wouldn't be an adequate word for what she showed then. Neither was it anger. Disgust. "Are there going to be any more outbursts, Maori?" "Don't look at me, I'm just here for the meal and conversation. Something's always up that kid's ass if you ask me, gotta forgive him." "Luckily for you, Elisif the Fair isn't a name given in jest. Now, to our guests. I must apologize to you, I had not intended for such rudeness to intrude on the company of a prince." Lady Gaerhart, the Breton Dowager Queen, waved Elisif's concern away and said, "Young people are emotional. You have been quite hospitable, and kind, to take him in and save him. Hopefully he will soon recognize that." Roland coughed and said, "I can also assure you Breton merchants will always find their way here. Our trading relationship is a fruitful one, for all parties, and we don't anticipate that ending anytime soon." Elisif let herself relax, admittedly glad to hear that she still had support amongst the Bretons. "It will be especially fruitful, on the chance that I become High Queen," she said. Before anyone commented on the likelihood of that happening, she said, "I've already heard the rumors, why you're here. Word is spreading that Baldur is to break even more tradition than he already has, by inviting outsiders to a moot of Skyrim's Jarls. Fear not, I am not opposed to this. It's surprising, but it's a welcome one." Thane Bryling said, "Forgive me for butting in, but I think it's clear to all that the new upstart Jarl wishes to circumvent the authority of the other Jarls with any influence he can muster in the world. A bold move admittedly, but also an obvious one. And risky when the man he replaced was adamant on keeping outside influence out of Skyrim politics." Elisif looked to Maori to see if he would interrupt but the mer was simply listening between mouthfuls. "Aye, risky indeed, but even so, I am worried. This claim of his, this religious fervor that he is building... It's dangerous. I've met the man, spoken to him on occasion. He is charismatic, like his predecessor though not as much then. Still, I worry about what he can do to this land, and with word of more foreigners, supposedly Atmorans or something similar coming to Skyrim on his behalf, it's starting to look more and more like what he claims may even be true. That's what the simple folk will think. That's what some Jarls east of here will think. In that case, outsiders, no offense your highness, will not cause as much harm to his claim to the throne." Looking to them now, she said, "I remember what he said the day Ulfric left this hold with a new wife. The people did not respond to it well back then, certainly not in Solitude, but still, it troubles me, this move to the old ways. You must understand, what he is saying, it isn't dangerous for just me, or anyone else in Skyrim that may be potentially his enemy in his eyes. But to his neighbors as well. Hammerfell I understand, Cyrodiil less so, but High Rock even less. What allegiances do you have to him? There is no reason that you should feel obligated to siding with Baldur Red-Snow over another Jarl in this land." Prince Roland gave the Jarl a small smile, which she later realized was meant to take the bite out of his words. "No official allegiance, no. Our choice in siding with him is because, frankly, we believe he is the best option. There are more senior Jarls, yes, who have more experience governing, but we aren't looking to support a ruler. We want a leader, and Red-Snow is that. Skyrim is going to lead this alliance, and Red-Snow will be the general in charge. Him ruling Skyrim as well ensures that everything that can be done to defeat the Thalmor will be done." "If it is a leader you want," said Elisif, with hesitation. "Then... there is another you might consider. He's possibly the best person to be leading a war like this." "Jarl Elisif," said Bryling again in protest. "You can't seriously mean..." "Jarl Brund Hammer-Fang the Bull," she finally said, her brow wrinkled in tension. "If Jarl Brund Hammer-Hammer-Fang becomes high king, I am to be his second wife. Influence between Solitude and Windhelm will be spread evenly. That would mean more trade would come through Solitude as well, as a sister hold to Windhelm, and I will be able to grant High Rock unprecedented trading rights to Solitude after the great war, when we'll both need it the most. Baldur was not the only one who helped repel the Thalmor invasion, Brund's might was key to their defeat of a Sunbird. Under his rule, you get an equally strong war leader against the Thalmor, but with guaranteed benefits to your father's Kingdom afterwards as well. Brund is also the current Jarl of Markarth, and can grant you the same trading rights there with the Silver-Bloods." "I have heard of him. He cleared the Reach, no small task. But Baldur has proven himself at both Falkreath and Windhelm, had the support of the late High King and was his High General, and built a respectable town from nothing. We won't support anyone but him for High King," Roland said. Lady Gaerhart nodded and wiped her twisted old hands on her napkin. "Why not support Baldur yourself? It would endear you to him and the eastern Jarls, and, if you don't mind my saying so, save your dignity. The Jarl of Solitude should not have to be a second wife. I know there are eligible Breton noblemen who would leap at the chance to be your husband. Or maybe a Jarl or his relations." Bryling gave Elisif a look, but she gave one right back. Bryling clearly had suggested something similar. She gave a sigh that was rooted in frustration but faded in her defeat of the topic. She couldn't tell them the truth of why she resisted supporting Baldur's claim. Yes, she feared his claim not only to the throne but to High King Wulfharth's soul as well. But more than that, it was her only chance to wrestle back control from Windhelm to Solitude. Yes there would be the indignity of being Jarl Brund's second wife, but she had no intentions of remaining as such. Keep your friends close... I can't support that man and what he represents. It would be an affront to my husband, my true husband, Torygg. Who I've already brought shame to by not taking my own life when I had the chance. I must restore Solitude as the capital of Skyrim in his name. Instead of explaining her selfish desires however, she said, "I have a duty to Skyrim to stand against anyone as potentially dangerous as Baldur Red-Snow, against anyone that will bring more death and war to my people and my friends outside of Skyrim. For this, I'll suffer whatever indignities I must." "Oh please," said Maori. "Sir elf, I thought we had an understan-" "I understand only one thing, and it is that you are a fool." "You will watch your tongue! I am the Jarl of-," "You know DAMN well that whatever fears you have of Baldur pale in comparison to what Brund Hammer-Fang brings to the table! You know better than I, you've met the man! Are you seriously going to sit there and tell me that Brund seems like a better choice as High King to you than Baldur?" Guards were approaching the elf now as he erupted out of his seat. "I'm leaving, and I'm taking the boy with me. We'll be fine enough without anymore assistance from...her..." said Maori. "And here. I wasn't going to give you this, figured it was a waste of time. Baldur said that I was to give out these letters in case I came across any Jarls in my travels, to ask for your support in the moot. I still say it's a waste of time but whatever. Do with it as you will." The guard snatched the letter from Maori's hand before he could throw it at her. He protested of course, but the guard ignored him. "Read it please," she said. As the guard prepared to do so, the man parted the seal upon it, and it immediately erupted in smoke. Coughing, the man dropped the parchment on the table, where the smoke gathered before them, and eventually displayed the likeness of Baldur Red-Snow himself. "Well, this is certainly interesting," the smoky apparition said. Looking at the prince, he said, "I can see Theodore in you, but you're way too thin to be him. How goes the king? Couldn't make it I take it?" "What in the blazes??" said Elisif. "What is this?!" "Calm down, it's the workings of my own court mage. He calls himself a druid. Right now, we're all subconsciously communicating through something called a dreamsleeve transmission. It's something similar to what the Thalmor use to communicate, but less efficient since everyone can hear me instead of just Elisif. But no matter. This may be better seeing as how you've got important guests." "Impressive," Sybille said, speaking mostly to herself. Roland said, "No, Jarl Red-Snow, he could not make it. He and my mother are doing well. I'm Prince Roland, heir to the throne of High Rock. This," he motioned to his left, "is my grandmother, Lady Gaerhart, and the man next to her is Duke Theirry, our admiral. We've come in my parent's place." Baldur bowed his head in respect. "I'm very grateful that you've come all this way in his stead, especially you, Lady Gaerhart. I've heard that name before, even in Skyrim, though I confess I don't know the origin. I trust you've met Daric? He's... my ward, son of Maric." Roland bowed back. "We met him. My guards and I saved him and your elven courier. We haven't had much time to talk, unfortunately. He was injured and is still recovering." "I was saddened to miss you when you passed through Daggerfall," Lady Gaerhart said, before Elisif or any of the other members of her court could interject. "I understand you and your wife met my husband, the late King Dilborn. I know he did not give you any assurances of Breton support at the time, but I hope our attendance at this moot demonstrates our commitment to fighting the Thalmor. Even if my old bones may not be able to make it to the top of your mountain." Elisif was getting increasingly annoyed by the hijacking of her company, to Maori's great pleasure. Baldur smiled and said, "Ah, that must've been when I heard your name! So much has happened since... And please believe me when I say this indeed shows me your people's commitment to fighting the Thalmor. Daric has showed me first hand the fighting spirit of your people. It'll be an honor to have you with us. And if you can't make it up the mountain, I'm sure I can have someone carry you! This isn't something you'll want to miss... Oh, and when we meet, communicating may be a bit of an issue until after the moot, you see I...." Baldur's image began to fade as he attempted to explain and the Bretons and Elisif's court could hear the voice of an old man whispering in some forgotten language. "Can't go into detail right now. We're only speaking now because we're connected via our minds. This dreamsleeve transmission is usually maintained by a mage's mind, which I am not. And my Druid is attending business elsewhere. If we can, we must find more of these scrolls the Thalmor have and master the art ourselves. Cyrodiil might know more. In the meantime I must part, I..." "Enough of this! Jarl Baldur, you have shown this court the utmost disrespect! This...you...do you have anything to say for yourself and what you're doing? Ash King indeed!" Baldur turned to Elisif once more, visibly annoyed. Maori said, "She plans to side with Brund Hammer-Fang you know. She's to be his second wife if he wins..." "Really," he said. "Know this, I will be your King and neither Brund or you can change that. What you do now to delay this only serves the Thalmor and puts Skyrim and my family in further danger, as well as all of Tamriel. Think hard on those implications when you meet me." Standing abruptly she said, "You dare threaten me?! I am not afraid of the likes of you!" "It's no threat," he said. "I will not waste more than words on you. Killing you is beneath me. If you had any Nord pride, you'd do that yourself and end the sorrow I sense in you for your late husband. Rather than shame him further by laying with the Bull." He turned to Roland and said with a smile, "Ours I mean." Elisif shot him a look of venom very much unlike her that even made Maori nervous considering whose palace they were in. Her hand reached out as if she wanted to crush the little smokey apparition of Baldur, but it fell back. She wanted to maintain what dignity yet still remained. "This conversation is over. Yol." The word was thought, not said, but they all heard it anyway. Flame encompassed them all and their minds were overcome with Ehlnofex and daedric characters, then a series of 1's and 0's before ancient Draconic began corrupting the code. The last thing they heard before waking up was Baldur saying, "And thank you for protecting Maori and the boy. They are both very dear to me." "It seems the Nords have found magic yet," Lady Gaerhart said, eliciting a smile from Sybille and the other Bretons. The tension in the room didn't dissipate, however, and no one had yet started eating again. Roland offered a new topic for conversation. "Jarl Elisif, has news made it here of the Roscreans returning to Tamriel? We met one of theirs in Farrun, and are sending emissaries to their island. It's my understanding Solitude used to control the island. Will you start trading with them once again?" For a moment it seemed like Elisif hadn't heard them at all, and she didn't respond until Falk cleared his throat. That was the first time she noticed that he'd returned as well. He nodded, letting her know the boy was taken care of. "Trade with the Roscreans, yes I'm sure the sailors will be happy that they don't need to make any long voyages to do so. Occasionally they'd return with stories of their strange people, fantastical stories about talking giants and so on." Her eyes didn't meet any of theirs as she spoke. "There's no reason not to trade with them, and the goods would find their way here from other holds anyway if they're really wandering around Skyrim. We may as well be one of the first." "Do you see any sort of threat from them?" Duke Theirry asked, looking between Falk and Elisif. "If they took to piracy, they would be a formidable force." "I agree, they would be. And given how the Thalmor like to do things in the shadows, it's something that we should consider a possibility," said Falk. "Wouldn't you agree, Jarl Elisif?" "I think that not only does opening ourselves to such a risk seem stupid at this stage of our war prep with the Thalmor, it also seems that if we were going to take such a risk, the new Jarl of Windhelm should have consulted the rest of the Jarls before doing so. We don't know much of anything about them, and now they're fiddling with magic that is not our own, and using it so brazenly in my palace?" Falk cleared his throat again and said, "But I'm sure it wouldn't come to that. They are supposed to be Nords, of a sort after all. Solitude will lead the effort in assuring that these Roscreans will have no need to resort to piracy. In fact, an island nation could prove useful in guarding our trade routes, watching out for enemy ships and so on, if they're to help us in the war. High Rock should think about making an effort to speak with them as well I think, especially while you're in Skyrim. Don't you think Jarl Elisf?" "...of course," she said. "That would be wise." "An emissary is headed to Roscrea as we speak. He will help establish diplomatic relations with their rulers. But I will try and speak to this druid Jarl Red-Snow has employed. The man who visited High Rock did so in the druids' authority, but was not one himself," Roland said. "How are your people readying themselves for war?" asked Jarl Elisif, seemingly snapping out of her bad mood. "I'm curious, even if I myself am not taking an active role, the possibility of becoming Queen makes me want to look for out of the box solutions and be aware of what my allies are capable of." Duke Thierry said, "We spent several weeks clearing the northern and western waters of pirates. It was good practice for our marines and mages, as well as the many sailors who had little fighting experience." "We also recently partnered with the Direnni, so our mages can learn how to best combat Elven magic. And our levies are drilling as much as they can. Our knights, of course, are always prepared. We stand ready to fight once the war begins," Roland said. "These Direnni, I've read about them before. They partnered with Hoag Merkiller once upon a time to fight against the Alessian Cult. I suppose we can trust them then?" "That was a long time ago," said Maori, not so thrilled about the prospect. "Though, some of them may have actually remembered those days. Who knows with mages, and how long they live. Any thoughts on that, court mage?" Maori narrowed his eyes, gauging her reaction. Sybille sipped from her wine glass and licked the excess off her lips. "Everyone knows mages live longer. And Altmer have naturally longer lifespans. Not to mention whatever unnatural means they might use. The Telvanni are rumored to use necromancy, for instance. But the Alessian Cult was so long ago, as you so astutely stated, so chances are no one is still alive that was then. And even if they were, they would be far from human." "Elves are far from human. Or do you mean something else? Like a lich, or a vampire?" said Maori, smirking. "Obviously the latter," she said, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. "I should have expected a Bosmeri bumpkin to get caught up in semantics and completely miss my meaning. I meant that anyone who had lived so long would no longer be a whole person. Lich, vampire, necromancer, whatever magic they used to live from the time of the Alessian Cult until now would take something from them. Such a long and unnatural life has its costs." "Maori, maybe you should go check on your friend," Roland offered, as everyone at the table watched the court mage and messenger square off. They had all stopped eating by now. Lady Gaerhart said, "A sensible idea. He's had a trying day, after all." Maori kept his glare with Sybille for an awkwardly long time. Finally he smiled and said, "Perhaps you're right. I've lost my appetite anyway. Too much bloody meat in my diet. Here, perhaps you'd like to finish my plate," said Maori, dropping a very large portion of rare beef in front of her over the fruit she was slowly nibbling on, blood oozing from where he'd bitten it last. Grinning, he said, "In the name of the Jarl of Windhelm, I apologize for the state of your evening, your grace. I sincerely hope your color returns before you arrive at the moot. Ta-ta." Falk moved as though he was going to throw the Bosmer back into the dungeon, but Elisif shook her head. "Leave him be," she said. "The size of the snowberries on that mer..." he said under his breath. "I must apologize too," she said to her guests. "I came at you with an agenda, when I'm sure what you wanted most was a good meal and rest. I hope you can forgive me, my home's well-being is at stake, as is all of our homes. You handled yourselves well, and regardless of what happens, I do hope that Solitude and High Rock will continue to have a beneficial and friendly relationship with one another." "That is my hope, and my parents' hope, as well," Roland said. Lady Gaerhart added, "You and your husband were always good friends to our citizens and traders, and we would like that to continue. Best of luck at the moot." Elisif nodded, doing her best to smile. "My palace is open to you all, stay for as long as you like. If you'll excuse me I have a letter to write, then I'll be turning in for the evening. Sybille? Please see to our guest. Whatever differences you two have should be reconciled. I don't want to hear any arguing from you two tomorrow at the breakfast table." "Of course, Jarl Elisif," Sybille said. She stood, bowed, and then left at a brisk pace to the guest rooms. She cast a defect life spell and saw Maori alone in his room, so she entered without knocking and locked the door behind her. She said, "Insolent elf. You won't be so impertinent next time." Maori jumped at the sound of her voice, not hearing her approach once again. All of his weapons were gone, but he had a kitchen knife he snagged from the dinner table, coated with garlic. "There, you smell that, she-witch? I know I'm not crazy. I know what you are! Guards!" "No one can hear you, the room is muffled," she said, and with a wave of her hand sent the knife skittering across the floor. She raised her hands and pinned Maori in a chair. "You should know, I'm not going to kill you. Or even hurt you, much, though you likely deserve it. But you cannot be allowed to spread these rumors about me." "I'll come back for you someday, you snaggle toothed bitch. I always bite back. So just get it over with already." Sybille smiled to reveal her fangs. "I somehow doubt you will, this time." She waved her hand and Maori was knocked unconscious. She leaned over him and drank from the vein in his neck, taking her time and drinking him for every drop she needed. When she was finished, she opened his mouth and poured down a potion to stop his turning, then healed away her bite marks with a quick spell. And to ensure he'd never utter her secret, she placed one hand on each temple and began the spell. Red tendrils stretched between her hands and over his head as she muttered under her breath. She probed deep into his mind, searching for the memories and feelings of their previous encounters. She found them, laced with fear and hate, and pulled them out with the crimson tendrils. She conjured a bottle and stored the memories, which were always useful for certain rituals and spells. With that she dissipated the spells in the room and left Maori sleeping in his chair. Daric came barging in sometime later that night, brow tensed up and as always sporting a bad attitude. "What did Baldur say? What's going on?" He demanded, but the elf was out cold. Daric walked over, shook him like a rag doll, then heard the clammer of a mead bottle rolling over the stone floor. "Pfft, light weight. I thought you didn't drink our liquor though..." he said, but he didn't put much further thought into it. His tales of elven fermented meat juice always sounded like drakeshit anyway. Grabbing Maori by the collar, Daric lifted the elf and their gear he stole back from the guards and snuck out of the palace in the thick of night. On his way out he heard two things that gave him pause. The first, the sound of a woman sobbing down a dark corridor, and what he thought must've been a... chuckle? Either way, he was glad to leave the palace and Solitude behind for good.
  9. 5 points
    Albecias awoke, his muscles so stiff he couldn't sleep any longer. He had no idea what time it was, and the darkness of the basement left him nothing to reference. He had tried to feel around for something to aid his escape, but he felt nothing, and he wouldn't have been able to see whatever he found regardless. He guessed he'd been down here less than a day. He tried his best to stretch out, but the size of the cage left him only able to sit up with his back bent over and his arms wrapped around his knees. Practically the same position he'd slept in, only upright. He sat like this, wishing the High General had just killed. He wanted to be a martyr, not a prisoner. At least he had the security of knowing Marillan would release his work, as Fallaise would likely be stopped before she could. As Albecias sat there, awaiting whatever his fate was, he was blinded by a light from the direction he knew the staircase was. He cried out, "Who is it? Help me, please!" Suddenly he could see what appeared to some strange form of blue-white light shine from somewhere nearby, but hidden behind some wall of corner. "Hello? Albecias?" he then suddenly heard a male voice call out from where the light source seemed to be. "Yes? I'm here, down here," he called out, beckoning the voice and the light to come closer. Instinctively, he began to shake the door of the cage, trying to free himself, to go to his savior. He could tell by the voice it wasn't Ceno. Soon enough the source came into view, which he could then see to be a magic light orb. The orb was floating above the palm of the hand of some tall, man shaped figure. Though the light proved so strong for his eyes that had grown so used to the darkness that Albecias was forced to avert his gaze before he could get a good look at who it was. The man walked up to the cage and began to fiddle a bit with the lock. Albecias could get a half decent view of the man's clothes, which were somewhat colorful in red, black and gold, suggesting that the man might be some kind of nobleman. Then after a couple of seconds the cage was unlocked and the door hinges screeched lowly as the cage door opened. Albecias crawled out like some primordial creature, awkward and stiff-jointed and half-blind. He rose and stretched his back before rubbing his eyes. By the time the adjust, he could clearly see the man before him was none other than the Emeperor. His Nordic features were hidden in shadow and his long black hair, though he was easily recognizable from his scar and beard. Much more deferent than he'd ever been before, Albecias bowed and said, "Thank you, thank you Your Majesty. What has happened? Where is Ceno?" "A guard overheard his... confessions when he interrogated you. General Ceno is currently under arrest during further investigation." the Emperor said, sounding a bit troubled as he did. "Good news is that you are now a free man." he then continued with a more cheerful tone and outlook. "Thank you, sir. I knew the truth would be revealed soon enough." Albecias smiled, echoing the Emperor's own happiness, but like an inverse version he grew more dour. "But what about his meeting with you? Did he not tell you then about my 'crazed' ramblings?" "No." The Emperor looked a bit confused for a second. "He told me he had caught a spy from High Rock." "Well, my liege, I am glad this was settled. You can be sure the rest of Cyrodiil will soon read about his treachery. I feel obliged to mention I discovered his plot a while ago, and came to coerce a confession. It seems I did just that, though not how I imagined." "You did a good job. You should go home and celebrate. Though I would suggest laying a little low for a while as I'm sure Ceno had other accomplices within the Legion." "General Lithin and Retrius to be exact," Albecias said, a smug grin plastered on his face. "They both expressed willingness to support Ceno for Emperor, and I believe they are his accomplices to that end." "Hmm. I'll have to look into that." Krojun said thoughtfully. "Though your part is now done. Come. I'm sure you want to see the sun again." Albecias followed Krojun and realized he very much did want to see the sun again. He knew he hadn't been imprisoned long, yet it seemed an eternity since he'd been outside. But as always his fame, and thus his work, was chiefly in his mind. And so he said, "Of course, I am more than happy to be of service again should you need it. But for now, I think I will be content to see Cyrodiil saved." They soon came to the entrance to the palace, and there Albecias stood soaking up what he surmised to be the morning sun. "Goodbye Mr Albecias. Go home and celebrate. Now if you excuse me, I got some business to attend to." the Emperor said. As the Emperor left, and Albecias did the same, he wondered what all this might mean. He would undoubtedly grow more famous than ever, and he even imagined going down in history as one of the most important writers ever. He saw riches and titles and ever more important stories pouring in. So great were his fanciful notions his fame that he scarcely noticed he'd arrived before his apartment. There was a young woman standing by the front door, which only residents possessed the key to. She was pretty, with long brown hair and doe eyes, holding a copy of some book, dressed in a nice blue dress which seemed to be the color of the sky. As Albecias grew closer, he noticed it was his book she was holding, one of his first ones about some gruesome murders in Anvil. In her other hand was a small woven basket with a cloth covering it. She noticed him too, her eyes lighting up and her mouth moving but nothing coming out, so great was her excitement. "How may I help you?" Albecias asked, wishing he didn't look so dirty and dingy in his clothes. "Are you Albecias Plebo?" she asked with some self-restrained glee. "Yes I am. How did you find me?" he asked, excited to be meeting someone who was obviously a fan of his. It seemed as though this day was getting better and better by the second. "I wrote a letter to your book publisher." she said. Her gleeful smile unwavering as she stared at him with wide eyes. "Well, I'm certainly glad found me. What can I do for you?" "Well, that could take quite a while. Shall we go inside? To a tavern, maybe." "Yes. Know any good taverns?" "There's one right down the street," Albecias said, pointing it out. "If you'll follow me." Albecias led the way, and once they were seated Albecias asked, “What'll you be having?" "Some wine. Maybe some of that Skingradian Lifeblood, just like in your book." Albecias called a waitress over and said, "Two glasses of Skingardian Lifeblood." The server took only a few minutes to return, pouring their glass and leaving the bottle. Albecias took a sip and said, "You really are a big fan, aren't you?" "Yes, I am. Can you tell me where you got your inspiration? How much of the stories are based on real events?" she said, her eyes wide with anticipation. "I've done some extensive traveling, especially when I hear about a particularly heinous or unique crime. So many of my stories are at least inspire by true events," he said. He took a long drink of his wine, remembering the Emperor's advice to enjoy today. "Can you tell about your travels and those events?" "Well, in that book," he pointed at The Murder of the Fishmongers, which was sitting upon the table between them, "I tagged along with a guard captain who was intending to retire at the end of the week. Instead he found himself with a serial murderer prowling the docks for months, preying on fishmongers and sailors. It was a maze of a case, and eventually he discovered the culprit was a man seeking to attract the attention of Mehrunes Dagon with murders in his name. But they weren't sacrifices, as his mental faculties were too far-gone to accomplish that. He was so nondescript and at home on the docks, though, that far too many people for the description, and made finding him difficult." Albecias took another drink of his wine and refilled his glass. He had never talked to a fan like this, and was enjoying it as much as she was. "So what happened? How did you find him?" "We eventually took to stalking the docks at night, and were fortuitous enough to catch him in the act. He and the guard captain fought, and he prevailed. I obviously dramatized the events for the book, but it was nonetheless an exciting investigation." "What can you tell about the inspiration behind Blood on the Rose?" "Well, that one is obviously set in Evermor. I wasn't personally able to go to the city, but my acquaintance who lived there kept me well informed. As you well know, the disappearances started in the winter..." Albecias continued on this tale, relating the events of that story as his fan listened intently. As he did, and she asked more questions, he drank more and more of the wine. By the time he finished he'd drank his way through two bottles, and was more than feeling the effects of it. He tried to apologize, but his words were slurred. The second time, they came out correctly. "I'm sorry, I seem to have drank all the wine. My apologies." "No need to apologize. I can buy some more if you need." "No no, I've had plenty. It is delicious, though, one of my very favorites. That's why it made it into the book, you know," Albecias said. He reached for his glass to drinks the last drops still clinging to the side, but knocked it over in his drunken clumsiness. The woman seemed however unfazed by Albecias clumsiness. Though she had also a bit to drink, however not nearly as much as Albecias. "Waitress! Another round of wine." she called before returning to Albecias. "So how did you get into writing?" she asked. "Oh, I have always been great at it. Natural talent that once recognized has vaulted me here," he spread his arms, indicting the tavern, but more likely meaning the city. "Now I am famous, the greatest author in all of Cyrodiil. No! Tamriel!" "What got you into writing detective novels?" she asked as the waitress came and refilled their glasses. "The murder and mayhem make them ripe for drama! Especially when you're dealing with low level guards, who usually only seek to get home safely at the end of the day." Albecias took another drink and leaned back, closing his eyes for a moment so the room would stop spinning so much. "What is your next novel going to be?" "Oh, no novel. But I do have a story that will break soon, which will shed light on the greatest political plot since...well, since High Rock seceded. But it's even bigger than that, as you'll soon see!" Albecias took another drink, then looked out the windows of the tavern. "What time is it? We should be going, I think. You can come see my home! It is exquisite and tasteful, I assure you." "I'm sure it is quite big. You must be making lots of money from your novels." she said almost sheepishly. "Oh yes, I am quite rich. You wouldn't believe how much money I have. I'm positively swimming in septims." "Really?" she said with humorous disbelief. "Come to my house and you shall see." Albecias stood, but nearly fell. He braced himself against the table with one hand, and grabbed the bottle of wine with the other. "Can't forget this." "Cheer! To lots of money!" She raised her glass that still had a little left They toasted, Albecias drinking half the bottle of wine when he did. Then they walked back to his house. Though it wasn't far from the tavern, Albecias was forced to lean on his fan for support the entire time, so it took them considerably longer than expected. By the time they made it, Albecias had finished off the bottle of wine and threw it against a building. They went up together, and the last thing Albecias remembered was lying down on his bed and removing his clothes, and then his fan doing the same. When Albecias finally woke up, sometime afternoon, he had a splitting headache. He rose, rubbing his eyes, and walked into the kitchen. When he got there, it took him a few moments to realize what was wrong. There was nothing there. No food, no drinks, and when he turned around to face his living room, all his vases and decorations were gone as well. He ran back to his bedroom and saw the decoration there were gone as well. And when he threw open his wardrobe and chests, all his clothes, gold, and everything of value was gone. There was no sign of his fan, the obvious culprit. He felt so dumb to have allowed himself to fall for such an obvious scam. He went back to the kitchen and went through the cabinets again, looking for anything to eat or drink. This time, eyes less foggy and head throbbing less, he found a bottle of ale tucked away in a corner. He popped off its corks and took a drink. It was soothing on his sore throat, but tasted different than any ale he’d ever tasted. He turned it around to look at the label and saw it was a Nordic variety, with some berries he hadn’t heard of mixed in. It tasted fine, and he soon finished the bottle. He was about to begin formulating a plan to get his publisher to bring him some clothes when he started seeing flashing red and green lights. He rubbed his eyes, but when he opened them he thought he saw movement down the hallway. Then he heard the growling. It was a guttural, booming growl, like massive boulders splitting apart. When Albecias ventured a peak down the hallway, he saw a long limbed, sharp-clawed beast with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth crawling out from the wall. The wood stretched in an unnatural way as the claws dug out, but Albecias didn’t wait around to see the result. He bolted instantly from his apartment, sprinting down the stairs faster than he’d run in years. Every time he turned around, though, the monster was always right on his heels, and he could feel the claws swiping at the air just behind him. Albecias burst onto the crowded midday street, screaming for people to scatter, pleading for them to get out of the way so that he might flee the horrible creature chasing him. Instead, they looked at him in confusion and derision, and laughed at his mania and nakedness. He saw two guards and ran too them, grabbing them and pointing toward his apartment, yelling about the monster chasing him. Instead, one hit him with the blunt of his blade, and knocked the author unconscious. This time when Albecias awoke, he was clothed. He had on a roughspun wool tunic, and sat behind the bars of a cell in the Imperial Prison. Two guards stood over him, both reading several pieces of paper, pointing and laughing at things on the page. When they realized Albecias was awake, they looked up and turned their points and laughter upon him. “Albecias Plebo, greatest man, greatest author to ever live,” one of them said. It took a few moments for Albecias to realize he was reading from the article. “Presents to the noble citizens of Cyrodiil a tale so astounding, it is nearly unbelievable. And yet, all the things I say are, in fact, true.” “Are they true, Plebo?” the other guard asked. “Is the Emperor really an ancient vampire that used Amaud Motierre’s blood and the ‘power of Molag Bal himself’ to bind Dales’s soul to his own?” "After she drew up a bath filled with her father's blood while cackling like a banshee, of course," the other added. “Yes, mustn’t forget that part. Very integral to her ascension, that was,” the guard said. “And then of course High General Ceno, famously a harsh and cruel man, discovered this nasty bit of magic. And then constructed a plot of his own, wherein he and the Legion generals would overthrow the Emperor and Empress and Ceno would rule.” “Ah, how smart Ceno was to have Lorgar Grim-Maw write you, Plebo. You discovered the whole thing yourself, off of Lorgar’s accusations! You truly are a genius of our times.” The guards burst into laughing, and tossed the article into Albecias’s cell. He grabbed the copy of the Black Horse Courier and read over what was supposed to be his article. Instead it was…something else. Several details were there, but most of them were replaced with horrible lies or gross mischaracterizations of what the author had discovered. The Black Horse Courier had prefaced the article with a note that it did not support the views expressed by Albecias. Even worse, the following article was a tear down of everything Albecias had written, and threw the Courier’s full support behind the Emperor, Empress, and High General. Albecias threw it across the room and curled into a ball, not caring in the least what happened next, or whether he should even live a single day longer. ** Serivus Marillan Imperial City As Albecias Plebo was being imprisoned by High General Ceno, Serivus Marillan was in the midst of his own problems. His manor was still a mess, his furniture destroyed, and he had yet to remove all the bloodstains from the floors. Sibbi Black-Briar had brought nothing but trouble, and even worse, he had dragged the Elder Councilor’s good name through the mud by turning his manor into a war zone. Of course no one really spoke ill of Sibbi, as he had clearly been the victim of ruthless and bloodthirsty assassins, yet the other nobles could not believe an Elder Councilor could allow his own house to turn into such a slaughterhouse. After all, what kind of person allows their guests to be killed by brutes while they flee to the countryside? It made Serivus sick to think all of this had happened and he was being blamed for it. And his house was still far from being cleaned, even when he was ready to move past the events Sibbi had brought down upon him. As Serivus was bemoaning his fate, there was a knock at the door to his solar. “Come in,” he said, looking out the window where one of the assassins had supposedly jumped after killing Sibbi. One of his guards came in, the guard who Serivus had sent to tail Albecias Plebo. His arrival made Serivus remember his agreement with the author, to reveal his article in exchange for not being closely attached to Sibbi Black-Briar. But after Sibbi had died here, any hopes of keeping his distance were quickly dashed. “He never came out of the palace,” the guard said. “Thank you. You’re dismissed,” Serivus said. He then took out the article from his desk. Reading it, he realized it was even more ridiculous than he remembered. Especially how little he seemed to understand General Ceno. Without a second thought, Serivus walked over to the fire and tossed the article in. Though he couldn’t yet put Sibbi’s murder behind him, he could at least be rid of the author and his blackmail attempt.
  10. 5 points
    The new host will do a malware scan once TESA is uploaded and alert us to any potential problems. They are aware of the issue with our old host and if the issue arises on the new server, they'll investigate for free TESA is now sitting like a very large house guest on my hard drive. Images, posts, attachments and mod files are all safe and sound. This morning I started uploading the files. This could take a couple days as well. Its not likely at this point that TESA will disappear permanently, it's just a matter of upload time before she's cozy on the new server. The account here will suspend again sometime tomorrow night so Druid's forum is open for congregating in that middle area, but that's just a temporary situation. Now that I have the files in my custody, TESA's future is a lot safer. For security reasons we put each site on its own IP with its own directory/domain but that means I need to buy security certificates x4 so if you want to chip in to the cause, donations are welcome and can be sent through the donation block on the index. I will continue updating as long as TESA is up, and will update on Druid's forum if TESA goes down www.druidgameworks.com/forums
  11. 5 points
    Update: Ok so at this point I've downloaded 200,000+ files with about 30,000 to go. I think the deadline is about 2.5 hours from now I think it's going to interrupt my download. I DID manage to talk them into more time so they will lift the suspension again but right now it's automated, its going to suspend. In the meantime I've moved the smaller sites off the server reclaimsancretor.net is up on the new server, druidgameworks.com will be up soon, and witanlore.com as well. Takes about 20GB off of TESA at any rate. I will start uploading TESA as soon as the download process completes. We're probably looking at a few days of bumps. If you see the Account Suspended page, or if the suspension notice is still on our board index we're still on the old server. If you see 500 or 404 errors you'll know she's in transit. If you see TESA with no suspension notice, we made it. I really appreciate all the patience and support folks, it's a big help in dealing with a tough situation
  12. 5 points
    Huzzah! DarkRider you're really doing everything to save this community, That's some dedication right there.
  13. 5 points
    Modular Beautiful People 2ch-Edition (Unofficial English Translated Version) (This mod will be un-lore-friendly compilation pack of various cosmetic mods.) Previous BP 2ch-Ed (Latest version is 1.8.0 no English translation) became too big (281MB compressed, 1.3GB uncompressed lol), so I've decided to make Modular BP 2ch-Ed. It will consist of core and modules as I mentioned below. I aim to reduce the core file size to 600~700MB uncompressed or smaller and I also plan to provide English version. Please note, however, that I can't assure you that I will finish this project because I'm very busy IRL recently. =/ ***** Edit ***** There's a similar project and it already contains large variation of hairs and eyes and is obviously well-developed than mine. So I recommend using it, though I keep working on this project at a slow pase. =) - Cobl Readme - Cobl Races *** End Edit *** Well, here's a blueprint of Modular BP 2ch-Ed. * If you have any problem with this project, please feel free to let me know. Main Feature: -Esm & Esp Plugins Structure: You can easily create your own race, companion and npcs which use resources in Modular BP 2ch-Ed with TESCS loading Beautiful People 2ch-Ed.esm. -Core & Modules File Structure: You can choose and install your favorite modules. -Omod compressed modules with scripts to provide semi-automated installation. -Massive amount of eyes, hairs and races: In previous BP 2ch-Ed 1.8.0, 328 variation of hairs, 836 variation of eyes and 21+ races are included. -Custom Race Fix: You can safely begin MQ with custom races. -English Translation Additional Notes: 1. All hairs, eyes and races splitted into modules are Non-Playable in BP 2ch-Ed.esm itself. These're kind of tricky dummy data. 2. You have to install modules which contains data files and plugins to enable hairs, eyes and races splitted. 3. I'l provide a compatible patch with Beautiful People 2.7 which's size will be approximately 70~190MB uncompressed. Core (Full): - Races: Ainmhi, Carrier, Dremora, Elves of Lineage II, Horkew(Normal?Black?White), Human, Ice Elf, Lolita, LongEars Elf, Lycanthrope Elf, Mystic Dark Elf, Mystic Elf, Mystic High Elf, Orog, Robo Elf, Skyrim Khajiit, Tabaxi, Tang Mo, Wiera, White Tabaxi, Wolf Elf - Hairs: 2ch Hair, 2ch Legend Hair, 2ch Ren? Hair, AGS Hair, APPageBoy Hair, Babe Hair, Capucine Hair, Corean Hair, CTarg Hair, Bald, HS-Hair, Pr-ttyCure Hair, Ren's Hair, Saram Hair, Soya Hair - Eyes: Flonne's Ren Eye Recolored, Nequam Eye, Ren's Eye -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total File Size 1.35GB (301.7MB compressed) Beta Testing! Core (Lite): - Races: Ainmhi, Carrier, Dremora, Elves of Lineage II, Horkew(Normal?Black?White), Human, Ice Elf, Lolita, LongEars Elf, Lycanthrope Elf, Mystic Dark Elf, Mystic Elf, Mystic High Elf, Orog, Robo Elf, Skyrim Khajiit, Tabaxi, Tang Mo, Wiera, White Tabaxi, Wolf Elf... - Hairs: 2ch Hair, 2ch Legend Hair, 2ch RenKai Hair, APPageBoy Hair, Capucine Hair, CTarg Hair, Bald, Ren's Hair, Soya Hair - Eyes: Nequam Eye as vanilla replacer, Ren's Eye -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Total File Size 542MB (135.5MB compressed) Beta Testing! Modules: /Misc/ - Compatible Patch with BP 2.7 to solve the issues due to the different file structures Beta Testing! /Hairs/ - AGS Hair Beta Testing! - BabeHair Beta Testing! - Corean Hair Beta Testing! - HS-Hair Beta Testing! - Pr-ttyCureHair Beta Testing! - Saram Hair Beta Testing! /Eyes/ - Flonne's Ren Eye Recolored Beta Testing! - NeqEyeAi~ (Ainmhi Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! - NeqEyeAr~ (Argonian Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! - NeqEyeD~ (Dark Elf Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! - NeqEyeH~ (Humanoid Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! - NeqEyeK~ (Khajiit Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! - NeqEyeO~ (Orc Nequam Eye) Beta Testing! /Races/ - Nec High Elf Remake Beta Testing! - Chocolate Elf Beta Testing! - Chingari and Ismelda Demon Race (due credit will be included before release.) WIP! - Cute Elves Beta Testing! - Asharas Sirens and Tritons (due credit will be included before release.) WIP! Module Type: - Hair Module Type1: Includes all files Beta Testing! - Hair Module Type2: Includes only mesh, no Egm files (This feature is still under consideration.) - Eye Type1: Includes all files Beta Testing! - Eye Type2: No glow-eye Beta Testing! - Eye Type3: No one-eyed (=single blind) Beta Testing! - Eye Type4: No glow-eye and one-eyed Beta Testing! English Translation: - 0% Completed WIP! Credits: **This list isn't completed yet and will be updated before release. If, by any chance, you're not listed and you should be listed, please PM me. I gave my full attention to this. But if you don't want your mod used in this compilation pack, I'm sorry to trouble you but please PM me. Special thanks to: * Bethesda Softworks * Acidoangel for Cute Elves * AGS for AGS Hairs * Ahiru for AhiruMouth (????) * APmod for APPageboy Hairs * Babe for Babe Hairs * BlueBack5150 for Horkew(Black)'s tail texture * Capucine for Capucine Hairs for Argonians and Khajiits * Comit for CTarg Hairs for Argonians * David Moyer for Orog * Flonne for Flonne's Ren Eye Recolours * Grimdeath & Syko Fox for Tang Mo * Gunman for 2ch Gunman Hairs * HISSSSA for HS-Hairs * idkrrr for Corean Hairs & Saram Hairs * Kikaimegami & Slig for Improved Playable Dremora * Kozaburo for original meshes and textures of Babe Hairs * KyneTarse for the Vampire Hunter's Sight and Khajiit Night Eye toggles script & Custom Race Fix * kz for various 2ch Hairs * Lejardo & Treetop Smoker for Human Races and Face Texture * Luchaire for Tabaxi Cat Races & White Tabaxi * Nec for Nec Elves * Nequam for Nequam Eyes & Ainmhi * MidnightVoyager for the inspiration of Beautiful People 2ch-Ed * Miss Onatopp for Elves of Lineage II * Ozmo for Ren's Eyes for BP-2ch * Ren, Daeger & Ranma-chan for Ren's Hairs and Eyes & Mystic Elves * SM for Sm Cassandra & HighKingHair & Pr-ttyCure Hairs and more * Soya for Soya 4 Hairs Pack * tad for Wiera Race * Theodic Marthil for Skyrim Khajiit * Trigger190 for Bald hairstyle * XiNAVRO for Chocolate Elves * BP 2ch-Ed Developers (Hakaishin, Henkyo, RR?vI4I8.Yi2I) * 2ch Modders & People BP 2ch-Ed's just a compilation pack of great mods. Thanks to all original mod authors. Special respect.
  14. 4 points
    I don't know if everyone else knows but Colonel and Doc paid the bill this time around, and I've got to say I'm very appreciative. This site has been our home for a while now and I'll definitely be keeping a closer eye on things so another shutdown like that doesn't happen. I went ahead and made a donation too to stave off any future troubles. Thanks so much to Doc and Colonel for bringing us back online, cheers to y'all
  15. 4 points
    So here's something I just finished up. I've always wanted to have some form of map of High Rock as I envision it. I say as I envision it, because a look at the few maps from the games and the other fan made maps, the location of High Rock's cities and geographic features isn't quite settled. My own vision takes from several of those sources and incorporates some geography mentioned in books about High Rock but not explicitly shown on the maps. Anyway, since I don't know how to create a map from scratch, I took an existing map and just put some lines over it to divide up the lands into the 8 major kingdoms/city-states, though they aren't quite that independent now. The map isn't perfect due to the crappy editing tools I have available but I still wanted to share it, in case anyone was curious about how the land was divided up. The two noticeable areas that don't have a ruling city in them are the center, where Orsinium was and where it is too mountainous and rugged for someone to have effectively laid claim, and the Reach, which is home to the Reachmen. Even though not all the mountains or lakes or rivers or what have you are in the right place, I'm glad I went ahead and gave myself a visual, since I like have maps to look at when I'm writing about an area. Edit: Oh and I almost forgot, not only are the geographic features unsettled but so are some of the names. What I call Shornhelm is Sharnhelm in this map, and what I call Jehanna is either Jelhanna or Jehhanna.
  16. 4 points
    "So how was it, boy?" "How was what?" "Oh you know what, don't act like no one's ever asked ya." "I have no idea what you're talking about, elf, and you're breaking my-," "How was the Bathory woman, boy. Even I know about Magdela Bathory, and the way Baldy tells it, you got yourself a pret-ty big sip of that blonde ale." The way Daric kept his eyes in his book, Maori could tell he had no plans on sharing the details. Sighing, he said, "You know, for an apprentice of Baldur, you're rather stiff. Nothing like 'em at all, come to think of it." "Well, I wouldn't know, haven't seen him lately, since he'd rather just order me around with elven man servants than speak to me directly." "Elven man servant? If you plan on keeping your mug on your neck I'd suggest you stow that talk, boy. Now that I think of it, that doesn't even make sense. Wouldn't I be a mer servant? Though saying elven mer servant would be redundant I suppose, but-," "DO YOU EVER SHUT UP." "Not when I'm bored, lad, no," said Maori. "I hate traveling in these parts, barely any trees around. Forced to walk on the ground." "Well if you're so bored, elf, tell me this," said Daric, closing the book his father gave him and looking at the elf directly for the first time. "You're so close to the Jarl of Windhelm, tell me why I gave him information of this attack long before it actually happened, and his Necro-Nords were nowhere to be found? Tell me why he went to the city alone, and why Ulfric and so many innocent people ended up dead? Why he sent an elf to babysit me on a job I've been doing for months now without his meddling, to keep me from seeing him face to face?" Maori just stood there, eyes downcast. "Silence, finally," said Daric. "I don't know exactly what's going on, but I think I'm starting to understand. I dare not, but gods help me, I think I see. What's more is he thinks me not trustworthy enough to know what he's up to. And there must be a reason for it. He let Ulfric die, didn't he?" Maori looked up at him finally, which would have amused Daric any other time, as he wasn't used to having anyone look up to him, especially adults. But there was no amusement to be had now. "Kid, you'd best keep your voice down when you talk such nonsense." Daric's eyes almost bulged out of his sockets at the audacity of the elf, hands moving to draw his blade. He found Maori's arrow notched and pointing at his eyesocket before he could draw. "Calm down, brat. You only just got your wounds healed from Solitude and you’re itching to go back into another sick bed. Now listen. I'm sorry he chose to keep you out of the loop, but this isn't exactly something light, understand? He has his reasons. You know more than me how much he loved that Ulfric fellow. Please for now, just trust me when I say it'll become clear later why Ulfric had to die. I'm sure he'd rather tell you face to face, but he sent me to find you and head to the Reach because time is of the essence." Daric's face was full of hatred for the elf, even after his sword was sheathed. "I don't want to hear the excuses. How am I supposed to look another Stormcloak in the eye, knowing what I know? How can I still even wear this blue sash? But fine, I'll get my answers, you're damn right about that. For now, just tell me what business we have in the Reach." Maori placed his arrow back in his quiver, breathing deep to let his nerves settle. "We're spying on the one they call Brund 'The Mountain' Hammer-Fang." Daric stopped walking, knocking Maori on his ass as he walked directly into Daric's back. Before he could moan about it, the boy turned to him and said, "Please tell me you're joking." "No jest," said the elf. "Why, he tough?" "Is he tough?" said Daric. "He's downright terrifying." "Well," said Maori, "I guess we'd better not let him see us." This time Maori took the lead as Daric watched him walk by. "No ******* kidding." *** "Tell me who she is, Priest." "It's not really important, what is important is-," "I'll tell you what's important, now if you don't want to end up like the rest of the Reachmen, you'll tell me right now what it is you know." Smiling, the Priest said, "Of course, of course. I don't know much, all I know is what me pa told me. It goes like this, the Reachmen weren't always as mixed up as they are now. They were once just like Bretons more or less, and every now and then, the Nords would come into their territory to raid and take wives for pleasure. Their blood being half theirs already, made some of the children look more like their Nordic kin. And some of those kin were raised in Nordic society, learned Nordic things. Like the thu'um. Your hagraven is one of those offspring." "I take it you are as well," said Brund. Smiling again, the priest said, "Aye. But my kin hailed from Roscrea, not mainland Skyrim. Our ways were never diluted by the Imperials like yours. We used to often sail to mainland Skyrim in search for adventure and something more beyond that accursed Island." "And your ways, they told you to serve willingly huh.." "Aye, a ritual of fortune telling, hawk bone and hawk blood. It showed me the face of one of her children, and I saw your ugly mug. I knew when you found me, I was to help you become strong! See, the Reachmen? They are not the only ones that know what the Briarhearts are. They are seeds, gifts from mother nature, lady Kyne. In ordinary men, they give immortality and minor strength. But in a Nord, and one chosen by her?" The Priest's hands wrapped around Brund's cheeks. "Well, you already know. The hagraven saw what I saw. She had the knowledge, but with your spirit, and this seed in your chest, you could draw from the bones of the earth and the trees, the water and air magics that most men have long forgotten. There is magic all around us, and it is this power that the hagravens tap into, much like the taproots that give Lady Kyne's trees life. This is old magic, nature magic born of Kyne, Brund. Don't fear it, but don't let yourself be lost in it either." Brund pushed the man from him and yelled, "Not so close, fucker." Other than that, Brund was mostly silent for a time until he finally said, "Why is she tied to me?" "I do not know truly, Brund. Perhaps upon death, she anchored herself to the seed. Like a soulgem. It draws power from all life around it, and yes, there is life in Earth. Earth is made of the bones of spirits, and our dead flesh. It would not be hard for someone with the knowledge of these seeds to trap themselves in one, I imagine. And its power flows into your spirit to keep you alive." "Well, ****," said Brund. "But fine. At least now I can somewhat better understand what the hell is going on with my body. I don't understand it all, and I don't know what to make of your ramblings about Kyne. The idea that Kyne has any sort of connection to these savages is insulting." "There's no connection to them directly," said the Priest. "Kye isn't the only one with a connection to Nature. Hircine manipulates it as well, Hircine hunts below our lord's bone spheres. And the Reachmen worship him, and other daedra as well." Standing, he said, "Whatever. Anyway, that old bastard may have weakened me, but it may be a blessing in disguise. I can't afford to lose control at the moot. I have work to do. As do you, Priest. It's time I speak with the Silver-Bloods again. Summon Thonar Silver-Blood to my palace." Brund was seated in the Mournful Throne when his guest finally arrived. Thonar Silver-Blood was not a handsome man. His black hair had receded near to the point of baldness, and his thick, clean-shaven face was weathered and pockmarked. Even so, no argument could be made that he did not radiate power. The guards in the hall ducked their heads as he and his steel-clad mercenaries strode past, and even Brund's steward hurried to step aside to allow the two of them to have their privacy. Of all his court, only the Priest seemed unfazed in the presence of the wealthiest and most feared man in the Reach. Thonar's eyes glared up at his Jarl with none of the fear or anxiety that so many others did. Brund respected that, just as he did the man's methods in keeping down his enemies. "Thonar... It's been some time since we've spoken," said Brund, his voice uncharacteristically low, as though he were expecting eavesdroppers. It's true that one's voice did carry, and in Markarth, who knows where the underlying paths could take a man's voice. "We have a lot to discuss and little time to discuss it." "I had wondered when you would call for me." Thonar answered, his voice lowered in kind. "Go on, then. I would know where you stand in light of all that has happened." Approaching Thonar, Brund towered over his fellow Nord kin, the dim light of the throne room making his brutish features more pronounced, more exaggerated. Smiling with a grin that did not suit him, Brund said, "There has never been a better time than now for your family to seize power. My stance is a simple one, you need me and I need you. I have a vision, you see. One that was revealed to me very recently. I see a Skyrim overflowing in silver, a Skyrim with a strong king, one powerful enough to rival Ysgramor, or better yet, Talos himself! I see Skyrim, not just restored to its previous glory, but a Skyrim at the head of its second Empire... With an Emperor that carries the name of Silver-Blood... You following me so far?" "I follow ramblings." Thonar said, his tone flat, though a look of amusement did cross his pockmarked face. "You seek to become High King instead of Red-Snow, that I understand. But what is this talk of an Empire?" "High King is just the first step. Don't you see?" said Brund, his eyes animated with the enthusiasm of a child. "Being raised in the Empire, as regrettable as that is, I grew up with stories of Talos' greatness, even moreso than Nords here. That would be blasphemy on any other day, but it's the truth. The Empire loved that man, once upon a time. I grew up not loving Tiber Septim, but being jealous of him. Seeing how revered a Nord could be in the eyes of even an Imperial, all the while they looked down on me as though I was a dog." Brund put up a hand and said, "But I'm getting beside the point. Basically, I've always been a fighter, hungry for more. Of a purpose. Like a warrior in peacetime. But now I know my purpose, and it's a purpose given to me by the gods. You think I'm mad. But I will show you. What does this have to do with you, you're asking? Look at you, your family. You have all this wealth, but it was built on silver, like your namesake. But your flow of silver has been slowed, like a clot in the veins halting the blood in a fat noble. Why? Because of my rival, Baldur Red-Snow. Baldur Red-Snow stands in your way, and mine, with his Grim Ones monitoring your men's every move here, giving care to these dogs that I've put down, these savages. Wouldn't you like to see that changed?" "Of course I would." Thonar replied. "That is why we gave you my niece to marry like we're damned Bretons. But now half the kingdom wants Red-Snow on the throne and the other half doesn't exactly favor you. If you can change that, great. I'll help. But first you'll need to explain to me how you expect to win the moot, let alone outshine the greatest of Emperors?" "One thing at a time, my new Uncle-In-Law," said Brund, sucking his teeth at the mention of the girl. "That niece of yours, she's a fiery Nord girl, and I'll make a woman of her yet. It will pay off, I promise. Let's see... first, Baldur. What does one need to be king? He needs power, yes, but there's many forms of power. There's power in the most literal sense, there's power in the form of money, which you're most familiar with, and there's power in the form of military might, and influence. Money brings influence. Baldur has military might, as do I. But something he does not have, is the coin that I now possess, and that you now possess. We are at war, we'll need more money than we have at our disposal. Stand back, say... All the way by that door," said Brund, as he began stripping off his breast plate and gauntlets. Thonar moved back as he commanded. He still wore a scowl, but Brund could see a hint of curiosity in there as well. The man had brought his family to a new level of greatness thanks by exploiting opportunity when it reared its head his way. He may have harbored his doubts as any wise Nord would, but Brund could see in his new ally an ambition only matched by his own. Unlikely as it may seem, he would not refuse to hear out something this big. Smiling, Brund's hands clasped together giving off an echo that reverberated throughout the room, as though a large stone had fallen within. With a thundering shout, Brund cried almost as if angered, his veins protruding in his neck and arms, sweat pouring from his pores in streams, and his ruddy face growing redder by the second. It sounded as though the man were dying. This went on for a time, before the bandages around his briarheart began to bleed. Only then did he echo the ancient words of the thu'um, followed by his boot meeting the stone floors with a solid thump. “FUS. GOL. STRUNMAH!!!!” At first, nothing happened... but then a small but visible crack snaked its way from the throne to the center of the room, growing, and growing until it seemed that it would reach Thonar even at the distance that he stood. It halted, just at his feet, and then the floor began to give way to a small hole between the two men. Before Thonar could speak, an explosion of rubble and silver silenced him, and in its wake... bodies... decaying bodies began to crawl forth, heads adorned in deer hides... The room was now sprinkled in silver ores and flakes, and clinks and clanks from beneath the hole began to drown out the moans of the vile things that crawled from that pit. "Shor have mercy." Thonar gasped. He took another step back and lowered a hand to he hilt of his sword. The decrepit Forsworn ignored him, of course. Brund had already commanded them to. "They're... these heathens are alive. What did you just..." This may have been the first time in his life that Thonar Silverblood had been rendered speechless. The noble watched Brund's slaves climb one after another from his secret pit and display themselves like the whipped mongrels they were. When the initial shock of what had transpired left the man, he finally dared to approach the pit and look down. Brund could tell from his expression that Silver-Blood was impressed. Finally, after some time, he looked back up at his Jarl with new eyes. "So you've built a new mine... And your thu'um has gotten stronger." He gestured at the motionless abominations that could barely be called men, many of whom ignored various wounds across their ravaged bodies. "How many of them are down there?" "Hundreds," said Brund between labored breaths. In truth, his thu'um had grown weaker, and already he could feel the influence of the Hag clawing at his mind. He bit his lip to calm himself before he lost it; it was like constantly having to keep his head above water without proper footing. "I plan to wrestle control of this hold from the high throne, until that throne is mine. The Reach will continue its pursuit of silver, unhindered by outside threats from this lot, or Baldur. With the upcoming war, no one will argue with the silver we produce, or our methods, not with the likes of these savages. And while other lands falter under the weight of expense, we will prosper." Brund sat back down, taking a swig of mead as the undead forsworn sluggishly crawled back into their pit to command his slaves. Signaling Thonar over, he said, "And when the time comes, when the Thalmor are defeated, I will make the elves our slaves as well, and on the sweat of their backs, I will begin to build the foundation of another Empire. I've never much given a **** about what the gods thought, they could be dead for all I care. But they've finally done something right. I won't give you too much detail, you don't need to know everything, but Talos had a secret weapon to defeat the elves, and now, so do I. I AM THAT WEAPON! BRUND! I'LL GRIND THEM INTO DUST AND BECOME A LIVING GOD! Will you help me, Uncle?" Thonar looked down at the pit, and then back at Brund. There were very few things any man could say in response to what he had just witnessed. "Aye," the noble finally said. "If Skyrim continues to back the strong as we always have, your ascension is a certainty. I will back you, my King." Brund stood from his throne to embrace Thonar, grinning from ear to ear. "Good. Then lets discuss our pl-," The sound of a pot shattering from behind them brought their attention to the corner of a room suddenly. Brund's eyes focused on the shadows beneath a table. Without saying a word, his Nordic Pendulum swung downwards, crushing the table and whatever might be under it. But there was nothing, at least not anymore. The sounds of scuffling and a closing door turned their attention away once more. Chuckling, Brund said, "Well well, looks like we've got a game of cat and mouse on our hands. Thonar, we'll discuss the moot further in a moment. But now, I need your help trapping the intruders before they can escape. Force them into the bowels of Markarth, I'll be waiting for them on the other side." "Gladly." Thonar turned to the soldiers of Markarth who flanked the entrance. "Follow me. We'll show them Markarth's tolerance for spies." With that, the Nordic nobleman led the soldiers in pursuit of whoever it was that had dared to attempt sneaking up on Brund Hammer-Fang. *** Few hours prior "Why are we scaling the walls? You do know the city has gates," said Maori. "You saw the way those soldiers were looking at us. Isn't it obvious? They were told to look out for us." Maori scratched his head with his free hand as they dangled from individual ropes. "They were looking out for you, must be. That Brund fella don't even know what I look like, don't know nothin about me!" "Perhaps," said Daric through struggling breaths as he neared the top. Ducking his head again as a soldier passed, he whispered downwards, "Either way, it's better to be safe than sorry." "You call this safe," said the elf. "I like climbing and all but I like climbing trees. This stone is slippery for my feet." "Then use your arms and climb the rope, stop complaining already," said Daric, finally climbing to the top when the Nord sentry passed. Maori swung from left to right on his rope until he was able to hop up the rest of the distance, landing next to the Breton boy with slightly labored breaths. "Getting old, enjoy your youth while it lasts, kid. Now, you know this city better than I do. Where we going?" Daric looked around a while until he eyed one of the brass sewer grates that poked out of the mountainside. "See that over there? That sewer leads straight into Markarth's palace. We've gotta make our way into it from here, the walls are the only way to reach it. See, you'd have been climbing anyway. Maybe you should try eating less. Or drinking less of that weird beef beer shit you brought from Valenwood, smells like you're drinking beef stew." Maori took a swig from a bottle he had fastened to his belt, burping in Daric's face to spite him. "Don't knock it till you try it. Don't even tell me you like that swill these Nords call mead, you forgot you're a Breton, lad?" "A Breton born in Skyrim, elf. Now lets go, and be quick about it!" The duo quickly scaled the mountainside, as quickly as one could before another sentry caught them running atop Markarth's walls. They were surprisingly light considering how populated they were before, but the war in the Reach was over, Forsworn hadn't been spotted near the city or in it, for some time. Hooking the grated doorway as water fell below, Daric signaled with his fingers to watch him. Before he attempted to go inside, Daric pulled on his hook until the metal grate popped open. Quickly, Daric told Maori to climb up with him, until Maori was atop the boy's back. "Now, jump up! There's a lever inside that will pull up a dam, hook it and pull!" Maori seemed unsure but listened to what he was told, jumping up the grate and atop the Dwemer pipe, being careful not to touch the water lest his feet get slippery. Dangling upside down above the cascading water, Maori swung his hook counter clock wise and tossed it inside before jumping down, dangling under the Breton again. His weight wasn't enough to pull the stiff and rusting lever apparently, however. "Blast it, maybe you should keep eating after all! Wait, I got an idea!" said the Breton, yelling to be heard above the rushing water. "Wait, don't do that!" said Maori. Too late. Daric jumped on the elf's back to make the lever give, and give it did. The water finally stopped falling, but Daric and Maori didn't. Daric didn't see but Maori noticed the rust on the lever, which is why he threw another hook with a second rope at the grated door in case it broke on him. He hadn't planned on that happening with twice the weight however. As Daric and Maori fell, the rope finally caught them, but its tautness was at the very limit. The grate swang back and forth, slamming shut and reopening as they dangled underneath. "Hurry up and climb!" said Maori. Daric didn't need him to say it twice. Carefully, the Breton Boy waited for his chance to climb up towards the middle of the grate before it slammed shut again, jumping back and just barely landing inside. An arrow flew past his cheek, hitting the metal surface of the pipe inside behind him before he just barely managed to grab it, noticing the rope at the other end. The rope Maori was on had snapped, and the one in Daric's hand now held him almost literally by a thread, before he was close enough that Daric could drag him inside. "Who the hell made this ******* rope?" said Daric. "We should've gotten some from Rebec, this shit is pathetic!" "...Sorry," said Maori while he tried calming down. "It's just meant to support my weight, didn't think I'd be scaling for two!" "Who the hell makes rope only just barely strong enough to support a load? Whatever, just follow me, and be careful," said Daric. "Lest you want to meet your kin." "What kin? In here?" said Maori, walking closely behind the boy now after drinking a night eye potion he gave him. "Aye, those things we saw in Solitude, those freaky elven monsters are in these Dwemer places beneath the city. We're not under obviously, but take a wrong step and fall down a pipe, you might end up there. So be. Careful." "I get it I get it," said the elf, rolling his eyes. Elven monsters, indeed, he thought. "What a bunch of nonsense. Those things couldn’t have been elves.” It took them another hour, or perhaps more, before they both finally realized that Daric was lost. Already on their last night eye potion, Maori was starting to get frustrated. "Listen, kid, I don't want to get on your case, but if you don't find the way soon, we're gonna end up living down here!" "Keep your damn voice down, you idiot! We could stumble into the palace at any minute!" "Stumble into the palace, you couldn't stumble your way into a maiden's pants if she were laying on her back with her legs over her head right in front o-," before Maori could finish, the elf slipped and fell down a hole, and grabbed Daric's tunic, trying to save himself. He dragged them both down a tunnel, until they hit another much smaller grate, which now popped open, sending them flying out into an open room. "****," said Maori, rubbing his head. Daric did the same, rolling from over the elf onto the stone floor. After he realized where he was, he heard loud footsteps coming from a hallway nearby. "**** is right! Hurry, elf!" Daric dragged the elf by his leg, throwing him under a table leaving him to crawl behind a large pot beneath it. There wasn't anywhere for Daric to hide however. Looking around, he realized finally that they'd stumbled directly into the palace throneroom... not only that, but Brund's unmistakable figure was sitting right on the very throne the room was home to, along with who he knew for sure was Thonar Silver-Blood. Quickly, Daric scrambled over to Maori, shoving the elf aside to make room for himself as well. "What are you doing, go somewhere else, we both can't hide here!" "Just shut it, we don't have a choice! Be quiet and listen..." And listen they did. "Boy, this Brund guy is something else. He really is full of himself eh?" "You got that right," said Daric. "I can't believe this, he really thinks this is the time to make a power grab for the throne? No one will support him, I can't believe Thonar's even considering it." "Well, you fought in the war against the Reachmen yourself, a lot of people may be grateful to him for ridding them of those lot." "Yea but... wait..." Daric and Maori stopped whispering when Brund started screaming. When the ground literally began to crack however, both of them were so shocked that they forgot where they even were. The things that crawled from within started walking around the throneroom until one was almost close enough to the table to spot one of them behind the pot. Daric was so terrified by the display that he didn't even grip a blade. He just sat there, shivering. Once Brund had them crawl back into Markarth's new asshole, Maori said, "There's no way in hell he can get away with that. Undead? If word gets out about that, he's done for as far as the moot goes. The Nords wouldn't support such a thing." "I don't know, Maori. He's using the Thu'um. They might not see it as dark magic like you're thinking... This is insane, this is insane!" said Daric. "This explains everything! This.. we gotta get back to Baldur. He has to know..." "I'm up for getting out of here whenever you are Daric. We've seen enough. We..." They didn't realize it, but all the shaking and rumbling on the floor moved the pot just enough that it was no longer perfectly seated on its wooden circle to protect it from the floor. So when Daric pushed it aside just a bit to study their surroundings to make a move for an exit, the pot tipped over completely... That's when the Breton and Elf made a dash for any door they could find, leaving nothing but a smashed pot in their place. *** "Have every exit sealed off," Thonar commanded the guards around him. "All but those leading to the ruins. I want the sealed ones to be opened up. We'll hound them inside." "The ruins?" The soldiers looked visibly chilled. "But sir, that place ain't safe." "Which might be why our Jarl wants to force the spies down there, don't you think? Now go! You are wasting time." Thonar did not have to tell them again. The guards in Markarth were used to obeying his commands. He and his remaining four men continued down the great passages of Understone Keep, moving in the direction the spies had taken off. The Dwemer castle was massive. Even without considering the city below it, most people believed it to be the largest seat of any Jarl. While that did mean lots of places to hide, it also meant lots of guards. Even now the Nordic soldiers were running too-and-fro, room-to-room, working their way towards the ruins of the Great Dwarven City: Nchuand-Zel. The city's excavation was massive. Even after two eras, it's stone roads were held securely aloft by great stone pillars. Thonar had been here on a few occasions, and he knew the Markarth's underground better than most Nords, but once those roads were taken into the Dwarven city proper, his -and most everyone else's- knowledge of what awaited beyond ended. Of course, it was not Thonar's intention to funnel their enemies into the main excavation site. There were other ways into the ruins from Understone Keep. Some of them secret. Some of them as obvious as large brass doors that had been sealed off, and it was through one of these that Daric and Maori had already been forced to retreat into, and it was at this door that three more guardmen now stood when Thonar arrived. "I opened the door as you ordered, Sir." He pointed to his companions. "And Tuslaf and Vor chased them through." "And you didn't follow them?" "Well, we did for a bit, but... it's dark in there." The guard pointed into the abandoned Dwarven hall as if to prove his point. "Well, it's too bad no one ever thought to create some kind of portable light source then," Thonar growled. "You know, something easy to carry, like a stick with fire on the end. That would solve all of our problems." "I'll get some torches, Sir." "You do that." As the guard disappeared, another one spoke his mind. "Are you sure about this, Sir? I mean, we've already got them trapped underground. And they say the Dwemer machines are still alive down here. And worse, Falmer." "I am well aware of the machines," the noble answered. And he was. His own Cidhna Mine was huge and complex, and in some of its dark corners, the earth actually broke into the vast, interconnecting Dwemer ruins that ran through these mountains. But they posed no threat, for the Dwarves had been kind enough to leave their automatons behind to defend those breaches. "As for Falmer, I would suggest you stop believing the tales your mother read to you as a child. You think we wouldn't know if we lived atop an entire city filled with ancient elves? We're going to push down just a little further. Make sure they get as far as our Jarl wants them." The first guard returned carrying a bundle of torches. They each took one, lit them, and proceeded into the city beneath the city. To the first guard's credit, it was dark down here. The halls reached a point where they became so wide that their torchlight could not reach both sides, which forced their group to spread out. "What's that smell?" one guard asked. "Probably chaurus shit," another answered. "I'll bet those things have infested this place. Another thing to worry about." "Quiet," Thonar commanded. Looking ahead, the noble could see only darkness. And as far as hearing, well, there was no mechanical movement or hissing of steam. That meant that whatever marvels the Dwemer had built here were long past their days of functioning. "Hey, the walls are gone," said the guard on their right. Sure enough, a portion of the Dwarves' smooth stone walls had crumbled, giving way dirt and earth, and a single black hole. Something had tunneled there. "I'll bet this is where the Falmer come out." "He said to shut up with that nonsense," a different guard said. "It's probably just the chaurus. They won't bother a group as big as ours. Now come on." They proceeded deeper and deeper beneath Understone Keep, until finally the sound of machinery started to pick up somewhere above them. "Sounds like we're beneath the city beneath the city," a guard joked. But nobody laughed, because that very moment, his torch fell to the ground, and they all turned to see him clutching an arrow wound in his neck. "Archer!" Thonar barked, "Form a circle!" The Nords tossed their torches out in front of them and drew their shields, forming a defensive circle that faced fire and darkness in all directions. Thonar was in the middle, his own silver longsword drawn. "Did anyone see where it came fro-" one man said, just before another arrow immediately thudded into his shield. "Shh!" Thonar and his men went quiet. And then another arrow whistled, hitting the man's shield again. And then things went bad, fast. A slumped, white-skinned figure emerged from the darkness like a beast summoned from Oblivion. In its hand was a gray axe that looked like it had been fashioned out of some larger creature's bones. The creature leapt up and slammed against their shield wall, and then suddenly, five or six more of the things came from each direction. Thonar drove his sword into one's belly, and watched as another went down from a guard's axe. Unfortunately, for every creature they slew, two more took its place. A bone axe cracked against a guardsman's helmet and knocked him to the ground. Thonar tried to cut at the beast who'd felled him, but he wasn't fast enough to reach it before his ally had been dragged off into the darkness. "Tsun protect us!" another guard shouted, just before he and the man beside him went down as well. Thonar picked up his shield and joined the remaining four in a tightened circle. They hacked and slashed at the red-eyed creatures, until finally it seemed that this random spy hunt was going to be the death of them. And then something heavy crashed into the ground deeper in the hall. The Falmer (as Thonar now had to assume they were) started to back away, sniffing the musty air in sudden alarm. Next came footsteps, slow and heavy. That was apparently enough for the creatures. They broke away from Thonar's group and scampered back off into the darkness, leaving the Nords alone with the footsteps. There was a long pause, though only to their perceptions. Amongst the sight of dead monster elves and their fallen comrades amongst the encompassing dark, a second seemed like an age. The stench of the creatures was noticably faint, and it was clear that they were truly alone with whatever beast was approaching them now. One of the guards could make it out, a lumbering hulk of shadow visible before the barely visible blue illuminiscent growth on the stone walls before them. It had a spiked head, that much was clear, or at least it was before it seemed to have removed it entirely. "What are you idiots doing, where's the rest of the men?" said Brund. Stepping into the light, revealing himself covered in what was clearly a crude assemblage of chaurus exoskeleton. Looking around, he finally seemed to notice the dead bodies half visible from the torches in their hands, the others stomped out by the Falmer themselves. "Put those out, and drink some of this. And try not to die, tracking two people in this place alone will be difficult." The Nords stared at their Jarl in stunned silence. Even Thonar, who had only witnessed Brund's powers less than an hour earlier, was surprised to see him now. But he was also the first to recover. "You heard him," the noble barked. He then stepped up and took the bag Brund was offering. Inside was a large bottle that contained some sweet-smelling liquid. He took the first drink, shivered against the tingles the potion sent to his brain, and passed the bottle. It was a night-eye elixir, and it instantly drove the darkness from their visions, turning the blackness of the caverns into a dim gray. Silver-Blood looked at Brund and nodded. They would all feel safer going forward, with a man like this leading them. "We're right behind you." "No, you go down in that direction. I'll be watching. Close by." "Alright." Thonar nodded. Knowing that Brund was watching was still enough to make the Nords feel more secure than before. The nobleman jerked his head toward the pathway and started off, and the remaining guardsmen quickly formed up around him. *** "Boy. Boy. Please, stop your incessant breathing. They're going to hear us." "Did you see?" "I saw. Gods help me, I saw." "He's a monster. Even amongst monsters." "He's mortal, is what he is. But you're right. He's... we need to go." Maori hopped down from his recently captured chaurus, grabbing Daric's hand, beckoning him to come along. He was shaking like a leaf. They both were. "It was a good plan," he said. "You're a smart lad. Leading them to the Nords, it almost worked. But we couldn't have known..." "You're right, we should just stop talking," said Daric. "Focus on finding a breeze. Even if it's the tiniest opening to the surface, this thing can help us dig our way out." Maori closed his mouth and nodded. But he couldn’t help but think of how deep the shit they were in. They had an advantage in this place that the Nords hadn’t. Maori had picked up the talent long ago of sneaking around in dark places. They found the Falmer long before they found them. And the Nords with their big voices, footsteps and bright torches… It couldn’t have been more simple to send the Falmer their way. The first arrow that killed a guard, that was his. The rest after that, was the Falmer’s way of sensing. After that, it should have been nothing to just watch them all die. They heard the footsteps of Brund only after the Falmer almost trampled them in their hiding place. Seeing whatever it was, so close to them, then realizing their hunter himself was an arms reach away from them in the dark… They had no idea of knowing what time it was, how long they'd spent there underground. Had the foreigners come already? Was Baldur King? The only good thing that came of their predicament was, Brund needed them dead, so that they couldn't give Baldur their intel before the moot commenced. There's no way in hell the Jarls would elect such an evil, crazy individual, no matter how scared they were of him, or the elves. Right? Every now and then, the pair would hear scurrying, especially when their path took them to a great open chasm so large, and so bright with more luminescent mushrooms that for a time, after being in complete darkness, and lead by a man sized stinky bug, the two were more blind than they were without it. The scurrying never lead to anything more than the occasional jump scare, but that was worrying in it of itself. They knew eyes were on them. Fearful eyes. Eyes that knew they were prey to something worse than themselves. After the sting of their eyes readjusting left them, the two finally had time to be struck with awe at what they saw. Ruins, buildings of stone and intricate bronze metalwork, further than their eyes could see, and then some, likely. Towers, spires, hanging giant chandeliers holding spheres of light, exposing dust and dirt hovering over the work of the Dwemer as though to protect it. "It's... a city. A city beneath a city?" said Maori. "No... I think Markarth and this place, it may all just be one great big city. I've... never...." "Not even the Imperial City could match such wonder. Who knows just how far this place stretches underground!" "It could go on for leagues. Scores of leagues...." said Daric. He didn't sound so enthusiastic anymore. "No matter, we'll just keep following the bug." "And how do you know the bug knows we want to get to the surface?" "I know. Trust me, pup. I know what I'm doing." "It's not you, I'm worried about, but that damn skeever shit with legs. One thing's for certain, we're not as likely to be found down here. In fact, I'd say Brund doesn't stand a chance. It's like a needle in a haystack." "Aye, which is why we should make camp. Get some rest." Daric eyed the elf with suspicion. "You're nuts. We've wasted enough time as it is! We've got to..." "We will die of exhaustion before we find the way out. We're gonna be here a while kid, unless we have some sort of divine intervention, we're as good as fucked, unless we sit tight, collect ourselves, rest and be ready for anything. I want out of here as bad as you do, but this Brund fella has given us the break we needed. These things... elves. They're not coming out while he's down here." "Four hours, that's it," said Daric. Maori nodded, and commanded the bug to turn into a nearby stone quarters that was small enough to have only one compartment to it. Daric's eyes gazed upwards at the overpassing mushrooms, their hanging tendril growths reaching out to him, intent to take him away, swaying in the air, a jellyfish deep at sea. Fitting then, as sinking deeper and deeper beneath a dark sea was exactly how he felt things were going. Sitting at the entrance, Daric marveled at how quickly the elf fell into a trance, cuddled up with the thing that wanted to eat him not too long ago. Relatively speaking. The walls, and the complexity of the layout gave him some peace of mind. And as the adrenaline settled, so did his mind, making the scared child with the burden of men finally succumb to his weariness in the dark. *** High Hrothgar Paarthurnax, Baldur "Drem, Yol, Lok!" cried Paarthurnax, with a mighty roar beset in flame. Flame so strong, it knocked Baldur on his ass, leaving him sitting in a puddle of melted snow. Paarthurnax did it on purpose, he was sure. Somehow the old dovah took great pleasure in randomly setting him on fire, knocking him over. And this was the leader of the pacifist tongues? Bellowing something that resembled laughter, Paarthurnax said, "Your thu'um is strong, your fire burns bright! Oh how it pleases me to be able to share Tiinvaak with someone new again! Yes, it brings life to these old bones!" Baldur slowly sat up, brushing the snow out of his wool robes and beard. This was a daily occurrence but every time, Paarthurnax flew in from somewhere different as he walked up the pathway to the throat of the world. The air here was thinner, much thinner than what he was used to. Shouting, even normal speaking would be difficult here. Even so, Baldur echoed a question to his elderly tormentor in his ancient tongue, before collapsing to the ground to catch his breath. "Ahhh, a fine question, my Ashen companion. Jurgen Windcaller, I remember him well. Come, come closer so that you can hear me clearly. I sense suspicion in your thu'um, and as always, man is wise to distrust a Dovah, just as Dovah are wise to distrust the Joor. Mortals." Baldur sat up after recovering his breath, sitting criss-crossed in the snow. The question he echoed roughly translated to "Jurgen. Elderly Dragon. Your doing?" With all the effort it took to echo a simple question and series of words up here, Baldur came to understand just how powerful Paarthurnax truly was, especially in comparison to himself. It was humbling, but more than that it was maddening. He was a flake of snow in the wind, wind created by a gust from his wings. The thought angered Baldur to no end. He planned to stay atop this mountain for the remainder of his stay, day and night until his strength grew. Even if it meant suffering the Tinvaak of this old dragon the entire time.... Speaking of... "It was a long time from now, in your eyes. A time where the Joor still spoke with the power of the voice, the Thu'um. All around the mountain, I could feel their voices. Bellowing out, sending color of emotions through the sky. Usually red. In the distance, to the east, I felt a new color arise, heard the Joor speak a new shade, this one grey. A color of defeat in a time of much strife in this land. Two wars had begun to consume your people. None of this concerned an old Dovah such as myself, I was alone and reflected only on what had concerned me, my past." Baldur's expression lightened suddenly and Paarthurnax nudged him with a wing. "You look as though you wished to speak. But your voice is burdened with too much effort. This thu'um you wish to learn. You do not understand how it works, do you?" Baldur looked frustrated, then shook his head. "It relies on intrinsic understanding. It is a shout of my own creation, the one I used to teach the Joor long ago. Language, to communicate, relies on the relation of feeling, memories. And to associate them in new patterns, groupings, labels. This shout speaks to the mind, pulls thought that already is within, and brings them to the surface, forcing the one at the receiving end to think of what the speaker does, with their own associations. Tinvaak, manipulates those around you the same way the voice does the world. Every time we speak, we are bringing thought forward." Baldur didn't seem to understand what the Dragon was saying. He got the concept, but he didn't see how it helped him. "Arngeir has been using this shout on you, and you've been using this shout enough that words from my tongue should be within your mind already. A cipher. Think, Joor. And pull them out." Baldur still seemed puzzled, but he tried what he was told anyway, closing his eyes to concentrate. Nothing came to mind however despite what Paarthurnax suggested. Frustrated, Baldur wrote in the snow what he was trying to say. It read "The wars of which you are speaking of, they remind me of today." Paarthurnax's throat let out noises that resembled laughter once again. Confused and agitated, Baldur bellowed out an angry battlecry that made the snowfall leave them for a second. Not being able to speak was so unbelievably frustrating. For him, a bard, it was like having an itch he couldn’t scratch. "You have eyes to see, but still you don't. Bex Hi Hahdrim." Baldur wanted to say he was trying, and then suddenly realized that he understood what Paarthurnax had said. He didn't know what the individual words meant, but he understood its meaning. He looked down then at what he wrote in the snow, just before the snowfall returned and made it fade away. It was in draconic. "Now you see. This is the shout that brought power to your kin. Those that did not worship the Dov, and those that did. This is how your kind discovered kin of our own in their form. Dovahkiin. They quickly learned our tongue with the help of this shout." Baldur eyed him curiously and tried to speak in the tongue, but again nothing came to mind. More time was needed, evidently. "Meditate further and it will come. You Nords are Venkiin. Believe yourselves born of wind. That makes it easier to teach you. This was the same for Jurgen, who already knew much of the Thu'um when he finally made it atop High Hrothgar. I was surprised, as was he." Baldur sighed, glad that the Dragon knew to get back on topic all on his own. "Jurgen began debating with me furiously, and it wasn't until the next day as he was still initiating Tinvaak that I realized he was trying to kill me rather than talk. I unleashed my thu'um then and left him humbled. Curiously, he then spoke of the gods and said they must've brought him here to learn. And so he stayed, listening to me and learning of my way of the voice." Baldur stood then and pointed a finger at him. His face warped with anger, he continued pointing his finger at the dragon as he said Yol in his direction. "Pruzah," said Paarthurnax as Baldur began coughing after saying merely one word. "This is a perfect example of why Jurgen spread my way of the voice. Why the Dovah became lost, and why your people soon followed. You overuse your voice, wastefully, even moreso than we. You Joor, you do not know restraint as we do. If the Dovah used the voice as wastefully as you Bron, Nords, the world would have flooded over eras ago. You were right to suspect me of helping Jurgen subdue his people. I gave your ancestors, those that fought the dragon cult the voice. It was mine to take back once more." "KAAN OFAN BRON THU'UM!" Cried Baldur. "Perhaps, perhaps not. But your Kyne also did not prevent your defeat. She did not prevent the Dov's either. Our doom, our own doing. As will yours be, if you continue your path. Curious, you do not seem to realize why Arngeir has decided to help. You do not sense the rising power in the west. It is an old power, one I recognize. It is your duty to study our way of the voice. To teach your people restraint. If you do not, the other power will consume them just as it did in the past. Keizaal is giving rise to power of old, and being lead like a snake with two heads. One must be cut, the one that is blinded by rage. But I cannot see which that is at the moment..." Baldur knew what he spoke of. Brund. "Despite what you might think, I did not force Jurgen Windcaller into my way of the voice. I only made him hear it. It was his decision to agree with it once heard. And it will be your decision as well, but if you are going to stay here, you WILL hear it, just as my kin will. The voice is spreading across the land once more by forces unknown. It is up to you and this other, how it will color Keizaal's skies." "Interesting conversation, the parts I could understand, at least.” "Who is that?" said Paarthurnax. “Another guest come to seek Tinvaak?" Baldur bolted up in surprise. He didn't see anyone at first, but then an old robed man came forward, walking out of the snowy mist. His hair was short, dark grey. His eyes bright icy blue, and his face covered in a deep poorly healed scar of what certainly was a mortal wound. His beard was short and neat, and beneath his robe was a red armored kilt with the drake insignia of the Empire. "It's been a long, long time, my son. Too long." *** "Yooohooo..." Daric's eyes cracked open ever so slightly, before bolting open as he rushed towards the elf. "Maori...Maori!" he said, whispering low and daring not to make a noise louder than that. Maori's snores threatened to give away their position already. "Huh? I'm up, I'm..." "Yoooohoooo....." called Brund again, though they couldn't tell from where the voice was coming from. The underground chasm seemed to be making his voice echo from all directions. But this hardly sounded natural. The strange Nord known as the priest was channeling a spell through Brund, surrounding him in a green aura as he kept speaking. "I know you're here, boys... our guide here took us straight to you..." Brund pulled on a chain in his hand attached to one of the monstrosities that passed as a snow elf nowadays. "Come to me, or we'll come to you. Now! No? Fine then." At that moment, Brund released a cry from his throat that both Maori and Daric would have sworn was a thu'um, but this was an ordinary cry. And yet, it was enough to make the hiding Falmer scatter like cockroaches. They had no idea what was going on, no time to prepare. Before they knew it, the elves were crowding into every Dwemer dwelling, crowding the streets. They panicked, slashing at the first creature they saw, forced then to run amidst the chaos. Brund grew tired of waiting, and began shooting boulders at the stone houses, gathering gravel into his mouth like a hamster, or a frog with a large fresh kill. “FUS, GOL STRUNMAH!” As buildings collapsed, one after another, Maori pulled on the boy again, pointing upwards to a case of stairs. There was an elven mage atop the staircase blocking their way, along with a dozen other falmer trying to rush past the creature. It blasted them back with fire again and again, angered with their cowardice perhaps? It didn't matter. One arrow to its head and the crowd overcame her, Daric and Maori amongst them. Before they could reach the top however, a large boulder fell before them, trapping them off from the rest of the way. They turned around slowly... "Here, kitty kitty," said Brund with a grin on his face, twisted and showing off his crooked yellowed teeth. Daric drew his blade. "Jarl Hammer-Fang." Brund pushed the priest aside and said, "You know what they say, boys. It’s better to burn out… hahahahaha! The two rats are mine. Priest, go get the Thonar and the others.." "Hello there," said someone from the dark of Black Reach. Brund's head turned sharply, eyes searching for the owner. Frowning, he said, "Bardok." Bardok came forward, with a necklace of elven ears, and a blade freshly bloodied. His wild long mohawk hang over his shoulders, which he brushed aside, pushing it behind the fur collar of his Nordic Carved armor. "The one and only. You two are hard to find. Hows it going?" "How in the hell did you find us?" said Maori. "It wasn't too hard, all I had to do was follow the bodies. I was already looking for a way in the city through here, I've been following you two for a time. Stopped by Solitude, they said you snuck off after getting yourselves almost killed by Falmer. Figured some of them may have had your scent still. I was worried you might have gotten into some trouble if you’d been stupid enough to come through these parts." “That’s not why we’re down here, and the Falmer were the least of our troubles." Maori pointed a finger at the grinning Brund. “This one…” Daric interrupted and said, "Brund's got Forsworn slaves under the palace floor attached to the mines, he's using them as leverage to get the Silver-Bloods to stand against Baldur! They're gonna try and kill him!” “He’s got Forsworn slaves under the palace floor? What? I don’t understand what you’re talking about but we’ll get to it later.. Don't worry, you'll be able to tell this to Baldur in person. I'm your backup." "Priest, handle it." "Hahahahaha, with pleasure!" "Run!" said Bardok. "I'll kill this freak, and then I'll kill Brund, but you gotta run for now!" Brund turned his head to Bardok, cocked sideways. "You'll do what now? For that, after I kill the brats, I'll kill you slow. In fact, I won't kill you at all. You'll be my slave!" Bardok lifted his greatsword to his shoulders and said, "Try it." When he did, the ground around him shook and gave away as shifting undead arose to the surface, all wearing blue sashes of the Stormcloaks. The priest grinned with glee as he watched the look on Bardok's face. "Go Brund, get them! I'll kill this one." "You... what have you done to our brothers?" The Priest rubbed his hands with delight as his fingers began channeling various spells over his minions. "Their souls are in Sovngarde. But their bodies belong to me. These are all that remain of my berserkers who have died in battle. They served me well in life... but they'll serve me more in death. Observe." Bardok prepared himself as the first skeletal thing, blonde beard still in tact charged him with a roar, while three more came from behind. Something grabbed his feet from below before the head of a man missing an eye popped out, laughing as Brund watched, satisfied the situation was handled. "Now, where was I." Daric and Maori were gone, but Brund could hear their footsteps. Brund smiled, knowing all they were doing was exhausting themselves. Daric knew it too, as did Maori, but what they also knew was they couldn't win against the Jarl of Markarth. Running was their only option. They ran down another flight of stairs, turning sharply to climb to another level of the area near a waterfall and a cluster of red noisy plants that resembled what Daric thought might be Nirnroot. They used these to get the grip they needed as they scrambled up. They heard thuds against the stone walls below, as if Brund was trying to make the whole thing drop. But when they got to the top, a large Dwemer watchtower with a massive Dwemer construct at its center suddenly collapsed on itself before them, the top of the tower pointing directly at them both. Brund marched over its remains, his helmet containing a chaurus maw that made him resemble a dremora in the shadows, and Alfrvega in hand as he brushed the dust of recently devoured earth from his chin. After clearing his throat, Brund said, "Now, who's first?" Bardok jabbed his blade in the direction of the three approaching undead behind him, impaling two of them as the third slashed at his armored back. With his hands free, he grasped the man's head by the eyeless socket, crushing his skull with an explosion of dust and bone bits. The thing behind him gave him a boot in the ass, sending him to the ground in push up position before jabbing downwards towards the back of his exposed neck while more undead closed in. He tilted his head to the side, spun to his back, and kicked its head clean off before jumping back to his feet. As he evaded, he crushed the exposed necks of any shamblers that got close, but he couldn't evade all, letting his armor take up most of the abuse. As the priest expected. He was using old magic on Bardok, weakening the integrity of his Nordic carved armor, rusting it slowly as the Nord fought. Before he knew it, his plated mail was chipping away, and the undead Stormcloaks he impaled, the great sword stuck in their tough rigor mortis ridden hides were standing behind the crowd that pushed harder and harder to reach their singular target. Meanwhile the priest continued to channel his magic as he cut and slashed amongst his slaves, diving away to avoid Bardok's powerful hands. Every time Bardok turned, he saw the Priest’s wild eyes peering through him, waiting for an opening. It was unnatural… crazy… was the Priest in his head? Finally Bardok's armor clasps gave away and the entire thing fell to the ground, snapping a dazed Bardok out of whatever trance or train of thought he was stuck in. Seeing his chance, the priest had the creatures try and tackle the Grim One, the first of the lot being knocked away by his large fists, and then grasping at his legs. "Haha, die! Then serve me!" cried the Priest as he took a sword from one of the dead Stormcloaks. Charging with his blade pointing at Bardok's heart, the Priest's was crying with glee as blood splattered across his face. But it was not Bardok's blood. The Priest was still laughing even as the Daedric greatsword continued to solidify through his ribs. He inched closer, and closer still, reaching in a pouch on his waist before drinking a mixture containing skooma. "What in the **** are you?" said Bardok, disgusted by the display. "What do you even gain from helping Brund?" "A god," said the Priest. "My clan was born in the bowels of the Reach. A mix of Roscrean and Nord, and enslaved Reachmen wenches! We know of things the rest of Skyrim doesn't. Brund? Baldur? They are like Masser and Secunda. Body and mind, split. Space and Time. Two halves of a whole. You think it coincidence that they rose to power at the same time? Think it coincidence Brund stumbled upon these abilities of his?" Bardok shook his head, not sure what the man was going on about. Humoring him anyway for more information he said, "And just how did Brund stumble across his power? Who trained him in the Thu'um?" "I do not yet fully understand the how, the who. I only know that she is old, and that Brund was drawn to her, destined to seek power because of what he is. Just as your Jarl and mine are destined to fight, and become one in the process. They always have been! I've seen it in the Sithis Shaped Hole! Padomay, Anu! Lorkhan, Auri-el! Sheogorath, Jyggalag! Wulfharth, Zurin! Talos, Emperor Zero! Even the First and Last Dragonborn! This fight will happen, and Brund is destined to be the victor! I made sure of it! He-..." "He what? What did you do?" Bardok wouldn't get an answer however. The Priest's ramblings fell dead in his mouth, his defiled Stormcloak draugr gone, and the Priest fell to his knees. Bardok placed his boot on the corpse of the two he stabbed earlier, yanking his blade free as he listened for fighting, or running. He heard footsteps but there were too many to be Daric and the elf. He heard yelling. "Over there! Someone's fighting!" "Reinforcements," said Bardok frowning. He ran in the opposite direction, hoping that he'd get to Daric and Maori in time to help them with Brund. But more footsteps came in that direction as well. He saw no torches, but he knew that there were men, actual men running around in Blackreach. If he was going to save the elf and Daric, he’d have to draw Nordic blood. The sound of men searching grew to the sound of men charging. Bardok looked up at the chandelier holding a magical orb of light above them, summoned a spear to his hands and chucked it high. As the Markarth guards grew closer, the lights suddenly went out, and all that was left in the immediate area was the glow of mushroom. Chaos ensued immediately, as the sounds of rending flesh and men trampling over one another filled the dank thick air. Some of them killed their own by accident, thinking they must’ve been Falmer, or the Nord they saw. It didn’t matter. Many would die, but not one of the bodies that littered the ground belonged to Bardok, not even the blood. Maori had faced many enemies in his day. Mages, monsters, Thalmor, even bizarre nightmarish creatures in the bowels of Valenwood, birthed from the Wild Hunt itself. None could claim to match the brutish nature of Brund, or the level of lethal that he could. He used no thu'um as they fought, and to Daric's credit, he distracted the man enough that Maori placed three well placed shots between the thick insect plate armor Brund was wearing, and if anything it seemed to make him fight more fiercely. Daric didn't dare try deflecting any of Brund's blows. The pendulum swings of the weapon he called Alfrvega were slow, it was pointless to do so. And yet every time Daric attempted to close in with his twin swords, there it was again, threatening to split him in two. This time Daric fell to his back, ducking under Alfrvega, only to receive Brund's large boot crashing into his gut. The wind flew out of him so hard, Brund could smell his breath and feel his spittle. "You know what this name means? Elf Killer. When I cut you in two, I'll separate the elven part of you, and maybe, just maybe it'll be enough for Shor to receive you in Sovngarde. If so, I'll be able to tell you all about how I killed Baldur. When I claim that throne too!” "You talk too much, oaf!" said Maori. Before Brund could react, a giant Chaurus broke through the Earth from under his feet, freeing the Breton boy and leaving Brund to fend for himself. It was very short lived. Brund severed a leg from the thing's body, making it fall forward in the perfect position for Brund to split its head open with Alfrvega. It started to shake and spasm out of control, and suddenly the air was alive with a sound that resembled rain. The chaurus as it died, even with its head split open must've called out to its kind for help, because Brund was soon surrounded by a mass of smaller chaurus in all directions, popping out of the ground around him, and sounding like running water beneath his boots. Brund dropped Alfrvega to the ground, stomped repeatedly while screaming. His thu'um was strong, as strong as when the Thalmor reached Windhelm, and though blood fell from his nose, and oozed out from under his wounded briarheart, he seemed otherwise unhindered as he caused the very earthbones of Blackreach to tremble beneath the weight of his power. The insects, confused and unable to move properly ran around in chaos until the shaking finally ceased, and they ran away. Daric managed to climb the tendrils of a hanging mushroom, which he used to swing towards Brund and slash at his head. Brund's head tilted, dodging the blow before yelling in Daric's direction. No thu'um came, but it was enough to paralyze him. A Nord’s battlecry was intimidating as it was already. Brund’s pierced every inch of his senses. "Heh, what's wrong boy? You afraid? I can't blame you. You feel my power, and it is too much for you to bear." "Snap out of it, Daric!" said Maori. He shot three more arrows in Brund's direction, but they only made contact with stone as Brund sent a boulder his way. He almost avoided it, but the top of his head brushed with it, knocking him out cold, possibly killing him. Daric still stood, shaking again. "Pathetic. I'll tell Baldur of your cowardice just before I kill him too!" Daric's mind was in another place as the words went through his head. The last time he was so afraid, was when he and Baldur were alone. Fighting. Daric had argued, begged to Baldur to let him undergo the Grim Trials. Naturally, Baldur refused, for the longest time. It was certain death, he told him, for any boy to undergo them. Men with the strength of three Nords, with far more battle experience had died during the trials. Daric wouldn't hear it. So he disguised himself. He was short, even if tall for a Breton boy, there was no hiding that. But he did find a few powerful illusion scrolls in his campaigns against the forsworn, enough that he could make himself look like a grown man. And so he did. He regretted it almost immediately. The cold of the water was bad enough. He'd lost two of his toes to frostbite on the second week. His body was riddled in fresh scars from the blows of Nord adventurers and soldiers in the fights, one of which Baldur decided to jump in. Said he saw something in him, and wanted to see what he was made of. Daric thought he knew who he was, but it wasn't the case. It was only on that day that he knew just what it meant to be on the opposite end of Baldur's axes when he was serious. Baldur truly did not treat these duels they had as sparring matches. Baldur was trying to kill him. And he would have too, as Daric froze up just like he had now, and almost lost his head. If the illusion spell from the scroll didn't fade away at that very moment, Baldur would have killed his own apprentice. He was beyond furious. He wanted to kill Daric anyway, as he once again laid on the infirmary bed of Kyne's Watch. But, Daric survived longer than he'd have ever expected him to. In fact, Baldur wondered if he wouldn't have gotten to the end, if not for his interference. He wouldn't know, not then. When Daric woke up from his coma after all the trauma, Baldur taught him something that just might save his life. And as the blood dripped out of his hand, a self inflicted wound, he repeated his words. “If a man is stricken with so much fear that his body betrays him, pain can help him overcome it.” "Not bad, boy," said Brund. Touching his cheek to see how deep the cut was, he realized he could almost stick his finger through it. Daric managed to sidestep Alfrvega, and almost took Brund's head clean off, if not for Brund's instincts. Smiling, Brund said, "You're full of surprises. Something in you changed." Daric felt that way too. He didn't know what it was, but he could feel it. His skin tingled, his vision blurred red, his hearing dulled. All he could see was Brund, and the image of him dead in his head. He charged Brund with both blades in his hand. Brund swung Alfrvega in his direction once more, and Daric fell to his back. This time however when Brund tried to stomp him into the dirt, Daric's boot made contact with his groin, then his hands, causing Brund to drop his weapon. Brund punched Daric in his stomach so hard, he dropped his blades, but Daric gave the Nord two punches of his own, sending one of his teeth flying out of his mouth. Daric grabbed Brund by the throat, and gave a roar that pierced Brund's ears so fiercely that he mistook it for the cry of a Nord. Daric's forehead hit Brund in the bridge if his nose again, and again, and again until his blood stung the boy's eyes and blinded him. He wiped his eyes, left Brund bloodied a moment and grabbed his dropped sword, bringing it high above his head before savagely hacking away at him. Brund put up his arms, blocking the blows as best he could. Tears flowed from his eyes as Daric continued his mad onslaught. "ENOUGH!!!!" said Brund, as his armored arm collided with Daric's sword, knocking it away into the dark of Blackreach. Daric lost his sword, but Brund lost a finger, his pinky. Seeing it lie in the blue light of the large cave's mushrooms made Brund laugh with delight. He charged Daric, ignoring the blade he swung at him, grabbing the boy's head as he tried to crush it like a grape. Daric couldn't even yell, the force of it overwhelming every sense he had with complete agony. "Put him down!" Brund turned his head. It was Bardok. "Come on you freak. Face a real Nord, and put the boy down. Though between you and me, I think that boy's got more Nord in him than you do." "More Nord than... than me?" said Brund. He dropped Daric like a rock, and from where Bardok stood, he looked dead already. Biting his lip, he looked around for the elf. Maori was out too. "More Nord... than ME? Me? Do you not see what the **** I see? I make these things, these twisted elves, that Nords tell stories about to their children to scare them from adventuring in the woods, run like freshly fucked tavern wenches. I make the ground tremble when I roar. Motherfucker, I am the, most Nordic thing you've EVER seen." "Oh I see it. I see a milkdrinker that borrows power from someone, something else and calls it his own." "Borrows? You think what these elves fear is my thu'um? Ha! I come down here to exercise. I hunt, I kill with my own two hands. My hands and Alfrvega here. And this thu'um? I took it. I not only took it, I've harnessed it, made it my own. It's now better in my hands. I'll prove it to you in the end. Show you what I mean." Brund turned to Daric then, reaching for his blue sash. "Leave him be!" said Bardok. "Be quiet, I'm proving a point. To show you just how wrong you are, I'm going to gag myself. I won't use my thu'um when I take you apart. But after I'm done, and you're on the ground, broken. Then, I'll show you something I haven't shown anyone yet. Not even the Priest." Bardok smiled, not bothering to hide it. "The Priest won't ever see it then, because I killed him already." "Hmph, is that what you think? Cute. You see, the Priest, when I first met him? He was already dead. My thu'um, and my thu'um alone is the reason he lives. Or at least, walks among us anyway. I found his lifeless body in a Forsworn crypt, remarkably preserved, thanks to one of these...." Brund removed his breastplate, revealing the metal infused with his skin. Normally you couldn't see past it, but now it was glowing. As it did, the blue light of the mushrooms around them grew dim, and dark. "All it took was energy to revitalize him. That's all it'll take again. He's my servant, for eternity. As you'll be, once I'm done making you my bitch." "If that's the case, then shut the **** up and gag yourself already. Or I will. I'll kill you and make sure neither of you come back." Brund opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it. Instead, he did what he said he would. He tied his mouth closed, he even dropped Alfrvega at his feet, and walked forward to face Bardok, the man that almost bested Baldur at the Grim Trials. "You're gonna face me without a weapon? Heh, fine then." Bardok summoned a spear from Oblivion to his hands, chucking them both at the same time in Brund's direction. Brund caught the first, but it dissipated when he claimed ownership of it. The second cut his shoulder, which he ignored, and two more spears came flying towards his eyesockets, one actually cutting the gag and making the cloth fall from his face. Seeing his trick, Brund was ready, charging Bardok and evading the other spear throws well enough to close the distance. Bardok's greatsword was in his hands before he could blink, already between him and his enemy, reaching for his exposed ribs. Brund sidestepped it, his hands reaching for Bardok's throat. Bardok knocked Brund in the chin with his sword hilt before slicing downwards. Brund knocked the blade aside with his gauntlet covered fists, then sent two quick punches deep into Bardok's ribs. Bardok countered with two of his own with one fist, and a one handed strike that was surprisingly quick, quick enough to put a cut on Brund's forehead. This continued for another ten seconds, both landing hits hard enough to crack bone, and possibly having already done so. But every wound Brund sustained seemed to make him fight harder, and stranger, he seemed to like it... Brund left his left side open, and Bardok capitalized, jabbing his blade towards Brund's shoulder blade. Brund sidestepped again, punching downwards and knocking the blade down before sending a skull cracking shot into Bardok's left eye. Staggered, Bardok danced away on his feet, fists at the ready. Brund was laughing hysterically at the man's pain. "All that talk, all that talk, show me!" "As you wish!" As Brund charged Bardok again, Bardok placed a foot over his sword's hilt while his other foot went under the blade, kicking the sword up in the air, before catching it in his hands and swinging it all in one fluid motion that would have cut Brund almost in half. Brund didn't evade this time. In fact, he was waiting for a moment like this. Brund ducked down to one knee, in the perfect position for Bardok to take his head off. Instead, Brund's armored fist met directly with his sword, cracking the blade in two. Before Bardok knew what happened, Brund's boot was at Bardok's chest, sending him crashing into the dirt. Brund lifted his boot to stomp Bardok's ribs in, but Bardok's hand caught it every time. This time Brund leapt in the air and sent two boots crashing down into them both. Bardok took the broken blade and jabbed it in Brund's leg, making the mighty Brund collapse to the ground. Bardok painfully crawled over him, holding his throat as he attempted to pound Brund's face into gravel. He was three punches in before Brund's hands went around his skull, trying to gouge his eyes out. Bardok struggled for a time, then bit one of his thumbs before he began devastating Brund's face some more. Brund may have been strong, but he wasn’t smiling or amused after those hits. One of them made him think Bardok busted his left eye. He heard a sick crack and could no longer see out of it. Brund was dazed, and could only see red in his good and bad eye as he let out a cry so loud it made Bardok hesitate for half a second. That's all it took. Brund's hand grabbed Bardok's throat, crushing it as he pulled Bardok down to the side and did some pummeling of his own. His knees rested over Bardok's arms, and he could do nothing but take the full brunt of it. Until a tiny ball of elf came tackling him out of nowhere. Maori finally woke up, and he was apparently hungry because he started taking actual chunks out of Brund as the two tussled. "Go! Take the kid and go! Gah!" "******* elves! **** OFF!" said Brund as he tossed Maori into a stalagmite so hard that it crumbled away to nothing, leaving but a pile of rubble and one Maori beneath it. "Grrr.... that's IIIIITTTT!!!! EVERYONE DIES!" "No elf, you go! Take this scroll, and leave! My orders were to make sure you two make it out of here, and that's what I'm going to do." Bardok tossed the parchment in the air as Maori struggled to get from under it... "No one is making it anywhere!" said Brund, who moved to intercept it. An arrow pierced it, shooting it out of his grasp. As he spoke, the earth began to shake. Brund charged Bardok, slamming a rock in his face that put him on his back. Maori ran for Daric's still form, and pulled open the scroll. Brund, eyes wild and enraged turned back to Bardok who was still moving even after everything. Brund gripped his arms, lifting Bardok up to his feet, though he was too weak to do anything but laugh. "I win," he said. "No, I win. You think this changes anything? It changes nothing. They don't know half of what I can do, but you will know it first hand. Watch closely, elf. This is what awaits your Jarl, and you.” Bardok was still laughing, until his very skin radiated with an indescribable pain. It was as if Brund found a way to physically tear apart each and every cell in Bardok’s body.. Brund opened his mouth and cried, “Fus Gol Strunmah, Fus Gol Strunmah, Fus Gol Strunmah, Dinok Wuth Zah, Zaami! Fus Gol Strunmah, Fus Gol Strunmah, Dinok Wuth Zah, Zaami!” His strength left his arms, as his body turned frail. As Bardok began to age, Brund's body began to heal, glowing in a faint green. Bardok watched as black smoke from Brund's mouth continued to pour over him like volcanic ash. And then, it stopped. "What... have you done to me... you...******* khajiiti ***** licker.” Cracking his neck and fingers, including his newly formed pinky, Brund said, "I did what I said I would. Made you my bitch." The Priest's laughter filled Bardok's head as he came walking out of the shadows, his chest glowing like Brund's, his heart exposed for him to see. "He did to you what Lord Lorkhan did to the gods, made you close to the bones of the Earth. Marvelous! So, that, is Brund's thu'um huh… his true thu’um. He controls earth bones, harnesses natural energy. He can even absorb your natural energy, and revert you to earthbones, make you crumble into dust if he wanted. Lucky for you he stopped. Death may have been preferable, however.” “A perfect thu'um for a Briarheart. This is why I cannot lose. I am a walking god. And you, are Brund’s slave." Bardok and Maori both noticed the use of his own name as though he were talking about someone else. "The time of demon cheiftains has returned! Power resonates in the blood of mine ancestors! I feel them talking to me! And the voices of the dead gods of the earth! You will serve me! But don't worry, you'll be able to see your Jarl. I'll make sure you're there to watch him die." Bardok could do nothing but scream in fury and anger as the earth swallowed him whole. When he next woke, he was somewhere dark, surrounded by the pained voices of Brund's other victims. Bardok was now amongst Brund's slave army of Markarth, in Cidhna Mine. Maori had seen enough. When Brund’s eyes set on them, Daric said, “We’re dead. Kill me, kill me now before he does that to me too. I won’t be a slave.” “No one’s enslaving anyone yet, kid. Just hold on.” “Only because I’d rather you both die, actually,” said Brund. “Fus Gol STRUNMAH!!!” And as he spoke, the earth began to shake. Maori pulled open the scroll. Earth began to come at him in multiple directions as he read the scroll, and before Brund turned them into a red paste, the two disappeared in a flash of purple. They were gone. *** YOL TOOR!! "That's about the greeting that I expected," said Ulrin, gritting his teeth. A fireball the size of a cabin consumed the icy ground it traveled over as it grew closer and closer. Ulrin drew his blade, a splendid one sided wonder the color of Septim gold. Ulrin struck the mound of flame with this sword, causing it to dissipate instantly, revealing his son amongst it, eyes full of so much hatred that they were bloodshot. His axe, hidden in his cloak appeared, and the two clashed once again for the first time in years. Ulrin fought defensively in the legion style, letting Baldur's fury reveal his movements, then capitalized, striking at his blindspot after working his way behind him. Baldur was no longer in striking range, knowing his father's tricks, and now having the skill to evade them. Ulrin smiled in surprise as his son matched his wit, and the two continued like that for a time, not striking anything, unable to gain any quarter. "You nearly killed me once, I'm not going to allow it again, my boy." Baldur said nothing as the two stared at one another. "My how you've grown. You know, I was under the impression that this would be the one place I could talk to you, given how the Greybeards are about peace and so on. You beat me once. Why can't you now? Why don't you speak?" Baldur seemed as though he was reflecting on his words, but clearly he soon dismissed them. Sighing, Ulrin took a look around the mountain, leaving his back exposed... Baldur saw his moment to strike, but heard the echoes of the Greybeards in his mind... "Ahh, I see it! The tear." "Drem Yol Lok, stranger, greetings. You stand before the Time Wound. Tread carefully." “Of course, of course. I just wanted to see it for myself, while I’m here. How incredible… Baldur, what do you think about… Son?” Baldur kept staring at him with the same hateful eyes as before, but no words came, none that Ulrin could understand. “I don’t understand… I’d heard communication might be difficult. My Lord mentioned as much. But this is… Dragon? Paarthysnacks was it?” “Paarthurnax. Drem Yol Lok, traveller. The Ashen One is under training. He won’t speak to you unless it is through the thu’um, voice.” “Pfft. I can see now that we’re going to need to have this conversation…. Elsewhere. But on such short notice… hmm, I don’t know if I can pull that off… Hmm…” “Tinvaak….Onlkaan….. UTH!” “The Ashen One says…” “Wait… I understood that… I don’t know how, but I did,” said Ulrin. “How did I get past the wind gates, he said. Simple, boy. I climbed.” Baldur was visibly impressed but immediately hid it. He tried the shout once more, again with laboured breath. “Tinvaak….Onlkaan...UTH!” “Don’t stress yourself about it, you’ll see soon. Sit down, relax, stop trying to kill me, and… that… that ring, is it… where did you get this?” asked Ulrin, walking up to Baldur and snatching the ring from his finger. Baldur reached for his collar as his father paced away. “You even know what this is? Ring of Malacath on my boy’s finger? Bah! But this, this is a good thing. Maybe it was even meant to be this way… lets see…” Ulrin got on his knees, as though praying, chanting daedric while drawing a circle and diagrams in the snow around Baldur’s ring he obtained from the old Orc in the woods. Paarthurnax to Baldur’s amusement lost interest and dosed off. He thought Dragons didn’t even sleep before he stepped on this mountain, but Paarthurnax slept more than newborn babes when talking was no longer the activity of the hour. He eventually snapped out of his nap when Baldur’s ring literally exploded before them. “My lady speaks!” said Ulrin. “Prepare yourself.” What happened next, Baldur was unsure of. He remembered his head landing face first in the snow, then everything growing black… Then he was in a forest, surrounded by monstrosities he was sure he’d seen before. Then, he was falling in the sky, before a giant Hawk grabbed him by the talons. A snake with its mouth agape remained below. “I’m dreaming. I must be dreaming. I remember this dream! In… Hammerfell? I was falling, and Kyne saved me… She-” As he spoke, the Hawk suddenly was struck by lightning, releasing Baldur, where he was forced to watch as he fell towards the maw of the snake, licking its non existent lips, eyes cold as Baldur screamed the entire way down…. What in the... **** is going on?? Baldur was sleeping... for... gods, who knew how long. What woke him was the tickle of ash falling on his cheek. When his eyes opened, the smell of sulfur and smoke, and... burning flesh filled his nostrils. "Stand. Speak. The Greybeard's hold on you won't work in this place." "What hold?" said Baldur, holding his aching head. "What, did you not notice that you could speak?" asked Ulrin. "I already could speak," said Baldur. "But thanks for dragging me to hell anyway, it's a fitting location for your new grave. Where in Oblivion are we, and how do I get back!?" Ulrin said, "Heh, you broke their hold on your own. So you not talking..." "I don't want them to know, and this method of theirs for growing in the thu'um, I want to learn it. I will learn as much as I can from them, and take it with me. It did make talking difficult though, but they’re slowly losing their hold over me. Now, why have you dragged me here? How are you alive?" "This is, Bo-Eth-Ia. I am his...her.... Servant. This has been my home for years since the day I… died.. You... all that I've put you through, every hardship you endured as a child, every cruelty, I did it to make you strong, in the ways of Boethiah. This sword... it's for you. Great betrayer. I know you killed your King. She knows, and she is pleased." Baldur spat in his face. "You... you know nothing! Know nothing about me or what I've done!" "But son, I do! I've been turning you towards this path ever since you were born. This sword, I've been holding it since after the days of the Great War. It played a role then, and aches to play a role in the next. Your mother, did she ever tell you what she saw? Her dream of a snake crawling over you as a baby? You were chosen, to be one of her champions! You have any idea what an honor that is? What warrior also holds such prestige?” "**** your prestige," said Baldur. "You... milkdrinking, treacherous cur. You let a Daedra have her hands in my upbringing. Do you know what that might mean? I could’ve… what if I did what I did at the whim of a Daedra Lord? Is that what happened? TELL ME!" Ulrin stepped closer, holding out the sheathed sword in front of him. "I did. But Boethiah would not make you take any course. That would not interest her. You are like this already. It is your nature. You are always at odds with your fatherly figures in one way or another. Perhaps that's common for some but few can claim to have tried to kill two of them. Why do you think that is, boy? You’re special. You, are Shezzarine. This blade, it was forged in dragonfire. It suits you, and the task before you." "My task..." said Baldur. “Shezzarine.” "Yes," said Ulrin. "And I know about that too. And it delights Boethiah to no end. The treachery, the betrayal. To everyone. Even your own men... It mirrors Lorkhan perfectly. The Empire, the Bretons, they'll all come fighting willingly at your side. But none will know what is in store for them in the bowels of Valenwood. Many will die, including you, unless you have an advantage. This sword, is your advantage. Do this task in her name, and she will grant you knowledge of Shor. You will be a Priest of Lorkhan!" "You mean a Priest of Boethiah. Her servant. Her slave, in death. I will not do it, I don't need your crutch." "Don't be stupid! Listen to me, this is your destiny!" "No! My destiny is my own to unfurl. I will decide how things go. Take that sword and shove it up your ass." "If not for yourself, then do it for my grandchild." Baldur's eyes looked up sharply. "Your grandchild, is none of your concern." "But she is. You want her to grow up without a father? Or with another man raising her in your stead? That woman, Rebec, she is strong. She's not the eternal mourning type. She'll remarry more than likely, whether she wants to or not, or shack up with some other man, or men. She's just like your mother..." Now Baldur did take the sword. It was at Ulrin's neck before he could utter another word. Laughing Ulrin said, "See? You're drawn to it. You want it, it belongs to you." Baldur shook his head, then after some time and great effort, chucked the blade in a flowing lava channel below them. "Like I said, take that sword and shove it up your ass. Crawl back into Boethiah's bowels, and let me go home." "Brund... you know I knew him back in the day. I met him recently too. His power is immense, and still growing. You, you both are special. I should've killed him years ago when I had the chance, but I couldn't have known this would happen. Forces are making their way into this world like we've never seen in eras. The Bretons, the Empire, Redguards, they'll find power too. As will the elves. The Nords need to match them. We need more power. If you don't take that sword, Brund will end you. And for the sake of Skyrim, perhaps he should. If you aren't willing to do anything that must be done to win this arm's race." "You... you and the Greybeards, my enemies, you're always constantly underestimating me. Boethiah... if she has such interest in me, then watch me. See what I can do. I may not be an all powerful ancient mage king, or an elite werewolf assassin. I may not have the strongest thu'um, or be a destruction master with the tact and knowledge of a Legate. I'm not a lot of things, but what I am, is cunning. And with my intellect, with the way that I see things, I will bring this world to its knees, and then cut the Thalmor from it. Watch, and learn." As he spoke, another portal opened before them, and the ground rumbled beneath them. "Heh, it seems Boethiah believes you," said Ulrin, smiling. "Good. I'm going to claim what is mine now. Oh and, about what I'm planning. IF we cannot defeat the Thalmor conventionally, and I truly must unleash the Wild Hunt, there's one thing you haven't considered, father." "The Grim Ones," said Ulrin. "Yes. This is their purpose." "You'll sacrifice them? Your men? Your friends?" "That is our role. They were always going to die. We. If need be. That's our purpose. That's why they have that name. And each and every last one knows this. Goodbye, again, Ulrin." "Goodbye son. If you change your mind, pray to Boethiah, give her an offering. Maybe she'll speak to you, and give you another chance to accept her gift." ".... we'll see," said Baldur. With that, he was gone. When his eyes awoke once more, Paarthurnax was still asleep, and his father was gone. Whether any of it happened or not, he was unsure. He would ask Paarthurnax when the elderly dragon awoke. Sitting in the snow, Baldur’s memories went back to his wife, remembering his words: As for Ulfric, no one watches him more closely. He would have stood in my way. Contrary to popular belief, his heart is soft. The harsh decisions made in the civil war, Galmar was behind that. Then it was me. This war is bigger than any of that, and it requires more sacrifice than what he was able to give. He’d risk everything we’ve fought for, everything we’ve built. I couldn’t let him. So go ahead, let it out. Tell me what I did was wrong, that I’m evil. Go ahead! But know I’d do it again. Because I REFUSE to let anything else tear my family apart! And when I am king, there will be nothing that I cannot do. Baldur couldn’t hold back his own disgust. Great betrayer. Shezzarine my ass. The battle of Windhelm came next: "Your King just died, and now you're pissing off the top of his palace." I'm nothing if not consistent. "You were close to Ulfric, yet you don't seem terribly broken up over his death, Red-Snow.” Careful what you suggest. I honor my friend and king with blood, not tears. It will be the same for all Nords in the coming year. Now, I suggest we do as you said and get back to killing elves. GREAT BETRAYER. AE HERMA MORA CE ALTADOON. AE BO-ET-IA CE ALTADOON. A voice repeating that phrase filled his mind, along with the image of a woman lying in a lake of fire behind his father, beckoning him to join her, where he’d thrown her sword. A mark appeared on his hand, a small brown wavy thing, almost like a birthmark, resembling a flowing river maybe, or... Baldur immediately pulled out his axe, heating it with his thu'um before attempting to burn it off. When the metal touched his skin, and nothing happened, he began to laugh as if crazed, tears in his eyes as he dropped the axe in the snow. Scratching madly, his wife's words popped in his head, thinking about the woman again in the lake of fire. I don’t understand it. But I wish he’d taught papa, too. I watched him burn alive with my own eyes. Fire took my ship, and now my father. You don’t go thinking it can’t take you, too. I won’t, you won’t take me. I won’t. ****! Standing up abruptly, Baldur let his tears fall from his face, as he screamed in agony of the pain he felt, a sick feeling in his gut. Even with his justifications, he’d attracted the attention of the great betrayer herself. A Daedra Lord. Even as he’d rebelled against his father’s plans, it seemed he was still following them. Forever a slave to someone, something’s intentions. “TINVAAK ONLKAAN UTH! TINVAAK ONLKAAN UTH! TINVAAK ONLKAAN UTH!” NO! NO ONE’S INTENTIONS BUT MY OWN I GO FORWARD, AND NO ONE WILL CLAIM OWNERSHIP OF MY DEEDS BUT I! NOT EVEN YOU, BOETHIAH! I HAVE MY WIFE'S CONFIDENCE. I HAVE MY DAUGHTER'S LOVE. I'LL NOT FAIL, I WON'T! After rasping out this decree in draconic, he let loose a burst of flame that threatened to claim the very sky. Then, he repeated the shout, Tinvaak Onlkaan Uth... until he began turning blue in the face, then until he could no longer stand. Then, he shouted some more. Tinvaak. Onlkaan. Uth. Until his throat was hoarse, and his energy drained. As he collapsed, Paarthurnax watched him. Occasionally melting the snow away from his limp body until he awoke, and repeated the same process, day and night. And so he would remain, until the Jarls of Skyrim came. The moot was finally about to commence. As for Daric and Maori, the duo had appeared back in Windhelm, directly in front of what would be Baldur’s throne. Or Brunds…. First they were running for their lives. Now they would soon be running to beat Brund up the mountain, to warn Baldur of the might that is Brund Hammer-Fang. Demon Chieftain of Markarth.
  17. 4 points
    I love how Valentine just listened to Maxson shit all over his existence, and heard that Danse the synth hater was a synth, and all he's worried about is how Danse must be feeling. Robo heart of gold.
  18. 4 points
    Hail Elders, VIPs, and Allies, Ten years ago I joined the Elder Scrolls community and in the interest of sharing the knowledge I'd gathered I started TES Alliance to be a safe place of creativity, study, and free collaboration. I have never made money here, and I didn't start this to make money, modding and teaching are my passions, I have lead and maintained this site all these years for the sheer love of the craft and our community. Those who have been here from the beginning know me well enough to know I don't often discuss my personal life at length on this forum, but today, the future of TES Alliance is tied to my own and it looks a bit grim at the moment. We received word a few days ago that the man who owns the house we've been renting for years has spontaneously decided to sell, it goes on the market tomorrow. With no notice, we have to scramble to pack up our life here and move. Problem is, my wife's job is the primary source of our rent and we recently started a bankruptcy program to rehabilitate her student loan debt. We did this before the news that we were losing our home so now, we're losing our home, and no one will rent to us. We don't qualify for any home loans or assistance programs because of the bankruptcy; the owner's timing is really the worst it could be. June 1st, we will be homeless, with our two little girls. We are currently running a GoFundMe to raise the money to discharge the bankruptcy and put a down payment on a new home so that the credit issues are no longer a hurdle. If you would like to help you can make a donation or share the link to tell our story, we'd really appreciate it. https://www.gofundme.com/1-new-home-for-2-little-girls I'm sharing the story here because I'm not sure how long we will be in transit or how long I can maintain TESA and her server while trying to keep a roof over our heads any way I can. I will give as much notice as possible before closing the site down if that happens. In the meantime, the TESA team is here to keep things running and as long as our members keep kicking into the servers the site may weather this just fine. I just don't want there to be any surprises. TES Alliance is still my passion, you all have been like family for years. I'm grateful for this time we've had together and if the Nine are willing we will carry on here for many years and many Scrolls to come. Cheers, and Happy Modding!
  19. 4 points
    My first playthrough was with the Minutemen, and I did it so that both the Brotherhood and Railroad lived. Basically a goody-two-shoes outcome. As far as the synths go, I fall more in line with Celan than anyone. The synths aren't humans but they are people, and I can't justify killing Danse or leaving child Shaun, and I think Valentine is one of the better people in all the Commonwealth. I don't believe the synths are inherently evil any more so than humans, nor do I think that they're inherently less predictable or more dangerous than humans, once the Institute is gone. Before that there is obvious reason to fear and suspect them, and to treat them as potential enemies like you would any spy. But I think the synths are fine without the Institute pulling the strings, and after defeating them the only threat they pose would be if one turned raider or wanted revenge, which any human could do too. Ultimately I think the Brotherhood is the best choice, although I don't particularly like them or Maxson. Not sure I have a favorite ending. None of them are great. My preference would be Minutemen unite settlements and towns, CPG reforms with them as its military wing. So make of this what you will lol
  20. 4 points
    That's racist man. Jodun is a flute. Not a fiddle.
  21. 4 points
    Stop, I can only get so erect! All the shadow magic shit has got my head spinning like it was back in AP Chemistry junior year, but I'm hooked and want to know more.
  22. 4 points
    And it's a great, great improvement. Don't worry about it, makes my job easier. As for your characters, Gracchus and Tacitus are among my favorites in the RP, actually my 1 and 2 for Cyrodiil characters. I don't really have anything to say on them other than I enjoyed reading their posts and got excited when I saw the names in the headers. But what really stands out is your work with the Bretons. Like holy shit that's some good shit. Hell, before I didn't give two fucks about High Rock, but your stuff with Theo and the Pretenders War was amazing and all the political maneuvering afterwards was surprisingly entertaining (I say that because normally I'd be bored out of my mind reading about political backstabbing and shit). I don't really have thoughts on Morane yet, though I do enjoy the post so
  23. 4 points
    Hello and welcome to the very first OOC thread for the upcoming Fallout RP, Shattered Steel! Here, you can post your Character Sheets, your questions, your comments, and everything else that relates to roleplaying and Fallout. The RP itself will be starting some time within the next week or so. In the meantime, post your CSes for approval and for others to see. Once they've been approved, you can post them in the Resources Thread, which I will create soon as well. I don't know about y'all, but after almost two years of planning for this thing, I'm pretty dang excited! Here is the current map of Wellstone and it's surrounding regions, for anyone who needs to freshen up. And here is a Character Sheet template for anyone who wants to use it:
  24. 4 points
    I can just imagine... I already know some of my own, Baldur is unbearably sweet and lovey dovey, lol. Blame Rebec, she has him whipped beyond belief, lol. I apologize ahead of time.
  25. 4 points
    I don't see where that sentiment would come from considering that the fanbase is about as split on synths as the TES one is on the Stormcloaks. The condensers make perfect sense to me. Without them, there would be no safe havens from the Fog. Every story about people living in a hostile environment includes something to keep that environment from wiping the people out. And I still maintain that it ain't a synth DLC just because synths make up a part of it. Oh well. At least whatever anyone feels about Far Harbor, we can all agree that the workshop DLCs were bullshit. Those are actually what finally convinced me never to buy a season pass again. Normally, that saves a little money if you're gonna buy all the DLCs, but in this case, I would've preferred it if I had just never gotten them at all.
  26. 4 points
    OMG that is terrible! Made a donation from me and Malachi Delacot.
  27. 4 points
    I'll turn the other cheek of my ass just so you can kiss it some more. Lol But really I'm not even close to ballsy or serious enough to be put up with there with the Grahamcracker. I think if I'm anyone from New Vegas, it'd be the dude in Freeside who sells questionable meat to bums. That's basically me in a nutshell.
  28. 4 points
    I had to go read his "manifesto." Good lord. People are out of their f'ing minds. But since his mod wrecked my Skyrim game permanently, good riddance. Also, I knew that console mod thing was going to blow up. No wonder I see so many Nexus pages loudly proclaiming that they give no console support. Also, hello guys. I've been playing Fallout 4, inspired by your RP. It was... okay. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but it will not be one of my favorite games. And, Rebec would be a merchant in Dawnstar who you could blackmail for better prices by finding a note in her ship from Rikke about supplying the legion.
  29. 4 points
    I believe sites like this should live forever and those that make it friendly, lovely, and a purposeful home should be rewarded. I thought the biggest issue was 2,500 donations not being met. Now it is worse. Thank you for letting us know. Hang in there! Hugs!
  30. 4 points
    BAM ... done. That`s all I can do atm...
  31. 4 points
    This is awful. I really wish you find a home soon.
  32. 4 points
    Wow, talk about timing ... damn. So sorry to hear this. I`ll look at the Go link and see if I can help.
  33. 4 points
    The Entrepreneur Crossroads District -The Garage Hey Wellstone. Ronald Layder here, hopefully not waking you from too good of a dream. Maybe you'll like this one from Johnny Mercer even better. The morning was cool, quiet, and still thick with fog. Even with the surge of newly arrived soldiers in town, it seemed that Wellstone still had its way of stealing moments of peace. Or maybe this was just a breath, quickly being taken in preparation of something awful soon to happen. Whatever the cause of the quiet, that part seemed inevitable. Josey's father had told him as much. "Someone's got to strike first," the old man had said the last time they'd spoken. It had been beside the train tracks just outside the city. "And hard. A first strike always should be hard. That's how you send a message to your enemies and everyone else." Well, it had gone something like that at least. And with some story from the war thrown in to boot. Josey couldn't remember the exact details, something about the Brotherhood's assault on a raider tribe that had aligned with the MLA. It had made sense at the time. So who's gonna act first? The Brotherhood? Dad? Some half-feral sewer ghoul with a bomb under his hat? Josey's money was on his dad. There wouldn't have been much point to that conversation if Gregory had no intention of striking first. He just wished he knew more about what was going on. The Brotherhood were everywhere, and if the man's speech on the radio rang even half true, their leader meant business. But where did that leave their opponents? The 'rebels' of this city? That was the question that frustrated him. Josey suspected that those mysterious bombers were having a hay-day cooking up some new scheme to recklessly blow stuff up, and his father was no doubt up to something with Tristan and Felix... but for his part, Josey didn't have a clue what he was and wasn't allowed to do. Their enemy had literally moved into their neighborhood, and all he had done so far was smile and offer the family's services. He looked around the old workshop now. They called it 'The Garage' like one of those Old World mechanic shops, though the biggest thing that had ever come in on wheels was a busted robot that some farmer had pulled in behind his brahmin. There were two parts to the building: the 'garage' that he stood in now, with its heaps of scrap metal, electronic parts, and tools all haphazardly swept to one side of the room or the other so that customers could approach the long counter at the back, and the upstairs housing unit that the siblings resided in with their mom. When Josey had come up with the idea for this place, he had intended for it to act as a cover. But lately, it seemed like the old men were out doing all the work while his business funded them. Last time they'd spoken, Gregory and Tristan had just returned from the Lost Lands, where they had met with a raider gang for some deal or other. The rest of the Thatch family had not even known he had left the area. Some rebels. Josey was proud of his business of course, but with the Brotherhood here, he was getting antsy. He wished he could go out and actually do something. That was his job, wasn't it? What Gregory had spent years preparing him for? He'd made friends and contacts all throughout the city, learned who leans in what direction, and how far. What was it all for if not this? Screw it, he decided. Josey went upstairs to grab his coat. On passing by his sister's room, he heard a movement through the cracked door. "Jos? Where ya goin'?" He sighed. Aly had always been the lightest sleeper. He moved to the crack and whispered, "Just takin' a walk. Tell Ma and Eli to go ahead and open up without me." A few moments passed without a reply. Josey was beginning to think that Aly had fallen back asleep, and then she softly answered, "'Kay." He doubted she would tell them. In fact, Josey would've bet money that his sister was snoring again by the time he made it back downstairs. But he didn't really care. Eli might've taken advantage of his absence to take the day off, but their mom certainly would not. They rarely needed his help running the place. The streets of the Crossroad District were mostly empty. The people around here didn't rise as early as the folks up in the Steel District, though he did pass the occasional scavengers and market servants whose jobs demanded getting up at the crack of dawn. And of course, there were the patrolling Brotherhood soldiers that would be around day and night. Josey kept his head down and his eyes forward, giving a slight nod as he passed them by. The patrolmen only stared at him in turn. Pricks. His walk took him up through his own neighborhood and into the Market District. Some of the buildings were just starting to turn on their lights, and Josey could make out tiny elevators moving up the skyscrapers to the west. Far ahead of him, a train whistle sounded, though the iron machine was too distant to see. The Market District was huge, and by the time Josey had reached the northern side of it, the morning fog was clear and the Wellstone's peaceful slumber had ended. Lights flashed atop billboards, smoke rose from the factories to the east, locals and travelers roamed the streets, and traders loudly called out to passers-by. "Freshly grown mutfruit! Guaranteed not to glow!" "Genuine prewar money! You can still see the faces of the old world gods!" "Are you scared'a 'manders? This ointment'll send 'em swimmin'!" Outside of the larger shops, this district's merchants sold whatever they could get their hands on. For most of them, it was something different every day, but rarely was it anything truly new. Anyone who had lived in the city for long knew better than to bother with them. The more established shops were more reliable and less likely to sell you mole rat piss and call it water. For Josey, their hollering was practically white noise. He reached the waterfront. It was alive with fishermen, dockhands, and warehouse workers. Amidst it all was a large wooden crab shack, painted white and with a big sign atop it that read: Salty Pincher. Come lunchtime, the restaurant would be busy as all get-out, but right now, getting in was easy enough. Josey made his way to the doors in the back, but was stopped by the serving woman, an attractive blonde who looked to be around his age. "You lookin' for a table in the back, Mister?" "No ma'am, I'm here to see Saul." She frowned, and though she tried to hide it, Josey could see the suspicion flicker in her expression. "Sorry, but Mr. Kinter don't come in 'til the afternoon." "I know he lives downstairs." He sighed. What was the damn passphrase? "The uh, the yellow lamp is still on. No, someone left it plugged in... My name is Josiah, tell him that. But people call me Josey." "Seriously?" She rolled her eyes. "How 'bout you grab a table? I'll take care of that problem right quick, then I'll bring you some breakfast." Josey watched her leave, silently kicking himself. 'people call me Josey'? Fuckin' smooth. He shook his head and found a seat in the back, knowing that soon either Saul would come out to greet him, or one of the man's bruisers would. He prayed that it was the former. Saul Kinter's lackeys weren't hired for their brains. A solid twenty minutes passed before Josey's prayers were answered. The middle aged business owner stepped into the dinning area wearing brown khakis and a collared navy shirt. His receding hair was swept over to the left side, and his girthy stomach stretched his clothes around the waist. The man peered around the room for a few seconds before he spotted Josey and came over to join him. When the man sat, Josey gave a courteous smile. Saul did not return it. "What are you doing here, kid?" His voice was course and raspy. Straight to it then? Fine. "I'm here for information." "This ain't a library. I sell catfish here." "Come on, Saul, there's no one here but us." Saul's frown dropped to a scowl. "That attitude'll get you caught one day, kid." He shook his head and lowered his voice. "I use a passphrase for a reason, ya know. And you waltzing in and just fuckin' guessing at it is how you're gonna get me caught, too. Have you seen what's going on lately?" "Of course I have. That's why I'm here. We haven't spoken in over a year, so I needed to find out where you stand now that they are here in force." "Where do you think I stand? It's where I always stood. I've already got ears all over the dock. Is that why you're here? You want me to tell you what they've been hearin'?" "It would be a good start," Josey admitted. Saul regarded him, then said, "Gregory didn't send you, did he? You came here on your own." Josey nodded. "He hasn't contacted me since the Brotherhood got here. I'm trying to-" "Be proactive?" Saul snorted. "Here I've been, waiting for a plan from the father, and instead I get the son, trying to get one from me. Look kid, I'm all for working with your family. But until Daddy comes to see me himself, I'd rather not get too close. You ain't professional enough." "Professional? This ain't a job Saul, it's a goal." "It's a partnership. And I only work with people that are careful. Your father's one. You though, shit you can't even remember a passphrase." "Can we drop it with the fuckin' passphrase?" Josey's fists clenched. "Gregory won't see you. There's no telling how long it'll be before he sees anyone. In the meantime, those of us in the city have got to start working together." Saul crossed his arms. "Alright smart guy. Work together to do what?" "Strike first," Josey said, quoting his father, "Striking first sends a message. People who hate the Brotherhood will be emboldened. People who support them will be frightened. The city needs to know that we're as serious as our enemies." For the first time, Josey saw a Saul's frown twitch, just a bit. "On that we're in agreement. I just don't know how comfortable I am with the prospect of coordinating with you lot without the man in charge." "Coordinating is the only way we stand a chance. Otherwise, it's only a matter of time before the Brotherhood begins stomping us out and people lose hope." He let his expression soften, just a bit. "Look, I know you think I'm young and brash, but you're wrong. You don't grow up in my family without learning how to be careful. Give me a chance and I'll prove it to you." The way Saul looked at him now, Josey could tell he was being measured. The older man finally relaxed. "Alright kid, one chance. What exactly do you want to know?" "Everything," Josey pressed. "News you've picked up, plans you've set, and where your people are so I can contact you without crossing the whole city." "I better not regret this." Saul proceeded to share much of the information his people had gathered. Apparently, one of the warehouses had been seized after a shooting, though whether it was rebels involved or just common criminals is unknown. The recent bombings were being investigated, of course, and apparently a black market dealer known for carrying explosives turned up dead just last night. "Did you know him?" Josey inquired. "No, not personally. But I know the kind of people he sold to. Lotsa folks down in South Union liked to buy from him because he had the kind of shit you can't normally get down there." "Like mininukes." "Yeah, like mininukes. 'Course, I never took the folks down there for rebels. Let alone the crazy kind, but what do I know? If you want to look into it yourself, find one of the wannabe gangsters living down there and get in touch with his boss." I may just do that. Josey nodded. "And your people? Is there anyone I can meet with in the Crossroads?" "No, but I've got a buddy at the south side of the Market, few blocks west of the radio station. I'll tell him to swing by that shop of yours once a week. Save you the trip." "I appreciate it." He meant it, of course, but a part of Josey wondered if Saul wasn't just sending his own man to the Garage because he thought they were more likely to be discreet about it. But he was not exactly in a position to call out one of his only allies on this. "If that's it, there's just one more thing I'd like to ask you." "Oh?" Saul's left eyebrow arched. "What is it?" "If it comes down to it, how many people can fit on your boats?" "About a dozen. Few more if they squeeze and sit still." He frowned. "But don't be expecting any rides for that many. I'll take a couple folks at a time if I need to, but if you really want my help, ask for food and rumors, maybe a strong arm or two, but not smuggling services. Got enough people around here willing to do that, you shouldn't need me." "Alright." Josey rose from his seat, "Thank you Saul, I mean it. You won't regret this." "I don't know about all that," the business owner grunted. "But I'll sleep easier, at least, knowing I'm on the right side." As Josey started for the door, Saul called out, "And if you see your dad, tell him to come find me." Josey nodded and left the building, once again taking in the fishy smell of the dockside. His return home was as long and uneventful as the walk north. He bought a crunchy mutfruit along the way, and had it gnawed down to the core by the time he reached the Crossroads District. He was still licking the delicious, hopefully nonirradiated juices off of his fingers when he approached the shop. The sign was flipped to SORRY WE'RE CLOSED, oddly enough. That wasn't the sort of thing his mom or brother would forget. Josey fixed that and walked into the shop, where he came to an immediate stop. His family were not behind the countertop. In their place stood Felix: His father's enforcer. "Josiah," the deep-voiced man rumbled. "It took you long enough. I've got a surprise from your father." "Surprise..?" Josey's voice trailed off. He had not seen Felix in over a year. He was always off doing God knows what. He approached the counter slowly, only just now noticing the small metal briefcase that rested on it. "What's... going on?" "We're about to get busy, that's what's going on." Felix clicked the latch on the briefcase and opened it, turning it so that Josey could get a good look. Inside it rested what looked like three bloody patches of skin with some hair, each one beside a holotag. His first thought was Holy shit! but Josey made an effort to remain composed, and matter-of-factly stated "You've been killing Brotherhood soldiers." "Just this one patrol, so far," the enforcer claimed. "They'll be reported missing by now. And they'll be the first of many." "I'm all for killing these guys, Felix, but y'all wouldn't be doing... this without a reason." "Correct." He closed the briefcase back up. "Your father has bigger things to worry about than taking out random soldiers one at a time. This is for your part of the plan." Finally! As fucked up as this was, Josey was glad to know that they were on some kind of track. "What is it?" "Have you been maintaining our contacts here in the city?" "That's exactly why I was out just now." "Good man. I need you to find the most committed of them, and use them to find the most bloodthirsty." "You mean like the crazies with the bombs?" "Exactly. Them, and worse. Believe me, there are plenty. I want you to make contact with them and show them what I've just shown you. Tell them that as of today, there is a bounty on the head of every Brotherhood soldier in the city. A buck for every holotape, double if you bring their scalp. The goal ain't to cripple them. It's to make them afraid. Make it so their patrols won't be so bold walking down these streets. They'll be alert, uneasy, and it'll show." Josey stood there for a long time, his only thought being: He's gone nuts! "That's... a great way to get ourselves killed. We can't tell that many people where to find us, and even if we did, we couldn't afford to pay them for going through with it." "We've got that covered. A friend of your father's is willing to fund this. We need you to establish a way for these hunters to collect without it being traced back to the family. And of course, to get the word out there in the first place." "I'm sure I can do that," Josey said, already thinking about the bombers down in South Union. "But then what? This is hardly a plan of action." "Baby steps," Felix said. "Your dad, uncle, and I know what it's like to be in the Brotherhood's position here. We know what it would take to ruin it. First thing we've gotta do is make the ones at the bottom afraid every time they go outside. This'll accomplish that with minimal risk to us. I promise, when we have more for you, we'll come. Will that be a problem?" "No," Josey answered, his eyes flickering back to the briefcase containing human scalps. "Not a problem at all."
  34. 4 points
    Hi guys! This looks very exciting. I don't think I can do it justice right now, but I'll be lurking from time to time. Maybe I missed it, but what's the timeline in relation to the games?
  35. 4 points
    Phew I finished my first day of work today (That wasn't volunteer work) at a local restaurant and catering business called Grow, Worked my butt off but at my age 8.50$ an hour isn't bad for a part time job. Got there about six minutes untill 10:00 and left around 3:00. You can't be sensitive or lazy over there, Boss lady can get very stressed out and angry which was the case today due to a huge workload and will both yell and push your ass out of the way. All in all it was tough but I'm going back tomorrow.
  36. 4 points
    And actually, @BTCollins8 gave the best and most valid point for an Imperial fan choosing the Legion over the Stormcloaks, one that is a perfectly valid reason and not something that can be "refuted", which is that the Imperials have the biggest army in Tamriel, and even against the Dominion we know this is true. It's perfectly reasonable to want all of your eggs to stay in one basket. I choose not to because I fear the failings of the leadership, and feel that if they were to collapse, having all your eggs under one basket only means more smashed eggs, but that is simply a matter of preference.
  37. 4 points
    A betrayed tribesman rightful leader who goes to civilized lands to learn and gain weapons to take back his birthright, and who is later sidetracked by the movie industry and becomes an actor. One day perhaps his acting skills shall come in handy. Thats my first idea. A brutish tribesman turned charismatic movie star revolutionist.
  38. 4 points
    I`ve said it before , and I`ll say it again.... the skills I learned here helped me to advance in my RL employment. Many talented and exceedingly patient teachers helped me along the way. This place must continue to provide for others as it has for me.
  39. 4 points
    I was on YouTube for a completely different reason just now and stumbled on this by accident. Good shit. And don't worry about your voice, bud. We know you're a little bitch regardless of what you sound like.
  40. 4 points
    What a miraculous new world we live in where I can somehow double post with someone else's post in between. Wtf
  41. 4 points
    Morane Lynielle Camlorn Dawn The yard far below the tower echoed with the clanging of steel and shouts of instruction from the knights. Morane listened to it, and found herself surprisingly wistful that she wasn’t down there. She had little love or use for weapons, but here in the court wizard’s tower, it seemed almost a tranquil escape. There was no commotion or tumult, though. What made the tower far from peaceful were the piercing green eyes of the man who lived here. Every time Morane looked up from the book the read, she found Dryston Winvale’s eyes locked with hers. She’d noticed, over the three weeks she’d been studying under Winvale, that he rarely watched any of the other students like he watched her. But he did not gaze at her in a lustful way, or in an angry way. He seemed almost curious, like if he did not watch her constantly he might miss whatever it was he was looking for. Whatever it was, though, Morane could not provide, so Winvale continued to lean on that sturdy wooden staff of his and make Morane uneasy. The tower itself was quite interesting, with most of the walls covered in book shelves, while underneath the windows sat tables holding all sorts of magical devices. Under one window was a silver bowl filled with water, while under another was an alchemy stand, but one that looked homemade from the numerous additions and vessels that Morane had never seen before. The echanting table also seemed to be constructed by the wizard himself. A staircase led up to the top of the tower where Winvale’s bedroom was, but she’d never seen him go up there. Instead he stood in the center of the room, surrounded by the ten students he was trying to teach shadow magic too. Morane, as soon as she heard of the project, immediately volunteered. She had little knowledge of shadow magic, but what she did know was that it was dangerous and powerful, and besides, sitting around for the next Great War was boring enough that she needed some new occupation. And so for the past three weeks she’d been sitting on the rug-covered floor of the wizard’s tower, reading from different books for an hour every morning before they began their actual lessons. Winvale was a distant and cold teacher, but Morane liked him more than the over-bearing battlemage and the uninteresting captain of the guard that worked in the yard with the other students. She hadn’t gotten much tutelage from them, and she was glad for it, because that meant she got to focus on the shadow magic. But whenever she chanced a look up from her book, she thought she might like the physical work in the yard, if only because she’d be away from Winvale’s stare. Morane ignored the somewhat beckoning ringing of steel and bursts of ice and flame, brushed a lock of curled black hair from her face, and refocused on her book. Winvale was insistent that they read every morning; oftentimes from books they’d already read. But until they “Learned to focus the hyperagonal sense,” as he said, they couldn’t even begin to attempt shadow magic. Morane’s book was from a student of Azra Nightwielder, and the things they learned under the first shadow mage. The concepts were difficult to comprehend, but a particularly apt metaphor stuck in Morane’s mind. The author spoke of shadow as a metaphor itself, and described its presence in life as a parchment hidden beneath a boulder. One had to reach beneath the boulder, unfurl the scroll, and translate the foreign language it was written in. To alter the parchment was to substitute the ‘are’ that you desired for the ‘are’ that is. Substituting, not writing, was the nature of shadow magic, as only the most powerful shadow mages (if any) could possess the ability to create something new from the fabric of the universe, to pluck the heretofore nonexistent from that which already exists, and to make it exist itself. The present, always in the process of formation, is the easiest to alter, to substitute your will into that which is. But finding the parchment and the boulder was the first task, one Morane found herself still unable to do. She again read over the part about seeing the shadow with her mind and not her eyes. She closed her hazel eyes tight, willing her mind to reach out between the threads of existence and see. She thrived here, in these moments when she desired something so greatly she fought to will it into being. In that way, she was already preternaturally prepared for shadow magic and willing the substitution of one thing into what was. And so she focused, clearing her mind of everything, from the sights of the tower to the sounds down below. She focused inward, envisioning the boulder, willing her mind to find the threads of existence which she knew existed all around her. Slowly, they came into view, turning the world around her into so many threads like a those on a loom, but felt like she still could not look at them or they’d fade away. She felt herself drawn towards the threads, for a sliver of something between them. She struggled against the taunt threads of existence, straining to see them, to reach between them for the shadow she knew to be there. Instead, a voice disrupted her focus and her mind, whispering, “Pull back.” She pushed just as hard against the voice as she did the threads. The shadows between brushed against her fingers, just beyond what she could see, dancing at the edges of her mind, a cavalcade of dismal silhouettes. She found herself unwillingly pulling back, as the voice commanded. As she withdrew, she could see the threads falling into place, like the thinnest of brushstrokes that painted of picture of all that was, all that is, all that will be. She viewed them as if she was flying, watching them move, some in uncoordinated jerkiness, some with the fluidity of water. It was then she saw, truly saw, what it was she was looking at. She was at the top of the very same tower she was reading the book in. And the threads were those of the knights and soldiers down in the yard, practicing and honing their skills with sword and shield. When she focused on the threads that made up the people, their armor, their weapons, even the beads of sweat trickling down the insides of their helmets or the grains of dirt that stuck to their boots when they moved, she could see the endless possibilities that existed within those threads. She saw the shadows, the conflicts, the possible existences. A shield broke, but it didn’t, or it caught fire, or it didn’t, or it snapped the arm of the man wielding it, or it didn’t. She couldn’t even begin to consider altering or substituting what she wanted onto the parchment, but she now knew exactly where it was. She did not know how to read it, but this was the first step, to find threads, between which the shadow lay. To find the boulder beneath which the parchment sat. As she watched the threads simply exist, she came to the sudden and unnerving realization that she did not know what was actually true. All these contradictory and opposing events happened concurrently, and the affect was disorienting. What had mere moments ago been a revelation was now disturbing and obfuscating. She suddenly began to feel as if nothing was real, as if reality itself didn’t exist. These overlaying alternate existences pressed down on her in such a fashion as only entire worlds can press down upon someone. She wanted to pull back even further, but something warned her that the scale of that might totally upend her mind. And so she breathed deeply, regaining her focus and once again willing herself back through the miasma of worlds, this time in reverse of her initial journey, though it was beginning to feel more like an intrusion the longer she lingered. The threads retreated from her view, and as the shadow faded, she regained the consciousness of where she physically was. When her eyes popped back open, she found herself sitting in the very same spot, surrounded by the very same students, none of them having any recognition about what she’d just done. The noises in the yard were the same, and when her eyes drifted up, instead of to the side where the other prospective shadow mages sat, she found Dryston Winvale still staring at her with the same unflinching gaze. This time, though, his cracked, wrinkled lips twisted into a smirk. Though it was still early in the morning, he tapped his staff twice on the floor, and the pupils all looked up from their books. “Dismissed,” he said sternly, and the students replaced their books on the shelves exactly where they found them before leaving. Morane did not leave, but did rise from the floor and lean back against the table behind her. She realized now how draining it had been, both mentally and magickally. Her intuition told her that she’d spent far longer there than was normal, and yet she’d spent no time at all given she returned in nearly the same moment she’d left. In retrospect, though, her entrance felt oddly simple. She was reminded of her initial teachings when she was still learning the basics of magic. Her tutor had told her to search inward for her inner magicka reserves, which seemed now what she had down, searching for the conflict-shadow instead of magicka. It was a more focused search, undoubtedly, but she now felt that, whereas initially it was like trying to squeeze through the eye of a needle, now she might simply walk through a full sized door. Morane’s smile grew on her face, and when she met Winvale’s gaze it mirrored his own smirk. She had done it, and the euphoria sent her spirits sailing higher than the tower in which she stood. It was intoxicating in the same way her first spells were, in the way her quick and jealousy inducing grasp of alteration was at the Institute for Thaumaturgic Enlightenment, in the same way her first battle against Orcish raiders and the storming of Evermor were. But this far surpassed them. An entire new realm of magic was opened before her, one only a few were privy too. And she was determined to master it. Morane stood from the desk on which she leaned, giving the plain silver ring on her finger a few twists, as she was like to do. Standing a few inches shorter than the aged master wizard, she asked, “Now what?” Winvale, in his deep, caustic voice, said, “We talk. You can accomplish no more today through magic. But you will tell me what you saw, what you felt.” Morane frowned and crossed her arms across her brown cotton jerkin. “It was dark and confusing at first. I didn’t know what I was seeing. I was pushing against it, going nowhere, but when I pulled back, I could see it all. All the possibilities for the training in the yard. It was illuminating, at first, but then overwhelming. So I came back.” Winvale nodded, but did not seem satisfied by her answer. “You saw the multi-temporal through accessing your hyperagonal sense, but you could not see the transpontine deformations that indicate reality. The multi-temporal hides this. These deformations are the shadows between the threads. You must learn to access these deformations to manipulate the conflict created shadow.” Morane tried to make sense of this. The multi-temporal were the overlays of the possible presents, with the shadow presence she felt were the transpontine deformations. A realization hit her, about why the she could feel, intuitively, that these shadows were between the threads. “Focusing the hyerpagonal sense, that’s searching for the magicka that leaks through the shadow?” “Yes, yes, precisely,” Winvale said, shaking a gnarled finger to indicate she had it right. “To peer pass the multi-temporal you must learn to focus the hyperagonal sense, first to see the is was will and the maybe is, maybe was, maybe will. Then you must focus it even further, focus it on the magicka, to get to the conflict created shadow. The there you can substitute your are for the current are, as the are is always shifting and much more easily substituted for the are you desire. Only later, when mastery of the substitution is at hand, can you begin the more difficult tasks of accessing these alternate worlds and substituting their are for your are.” Whereas the first time he spoke with the shadow magic jargon Morane felt lost, this time she understood as he spoke. The words all fell into place with what she saw, what she felt. She had her bearings now, and when she returned to the shadow magic, she was confident she could go further, all the way to substitution, to real shadow magic. “I understand,” she said. “Yes, yes you do,” Winvale replied. She could see the real happiness on his face, and again she knew it mirrored her own. She also knew this was the last time she’d ever long to be with those oblivious, soon to be failures down in the yard. Until they attained the knowledge she possessed, they were as far beneath her as the ground was the tower.
  42. 4 points
    Talos is no mere war god. Talos is the god of man. Aye, and as man, he said, 'Let me shoooooow you the power of Talos Stormcrown, born of the North, where my breath is loooong winter! 'I breathe now, in royalty, and reshape this land which is mine. I do this for you, Red Legions, FOR I LOVE YOU!' Aye, love. Love! Even as man, great Talos cherished us. For he saw in us, in each of us, the future of Skyrim! The FUTURE OF TAMRIEL! And there it is, friends! The ugly truth! We are the children of man! TALOS is the true god of man! Ascended from flesh, to rule the realm of spirit!
  43. 4 points
    Boldir Cheydinhal After the giant crowds and constant noise of the Imperial City, Boldir found Cheydinhal to be much more pleasant. Sure, it was still half-again larger than he would've preferred, but at least the houses were spaced out, and there were no giant walls separating the districts. The houses, which combined skillful stone and metalwork with neatly carved wood, were almost all two stories high, with roofs and rounded 'towers' that reached for the skies in pointed spires, and windows that were segmented by thin iron bands that created ornament patterns in the glass. Beyond the houses, Cheydinhal seemed more like a walled forrest than a city, for all throughout it were massive parklands great drooping trees that Gwella called 'willows'. Separating the more populated west from the forested parklands to the east was the great Corbolo River, which ran straight down the center of the city. It was here that Boldir and his companions had been directed after finding that Gwella's family had left Cropsford, presumably with Mila in tow. Boldir was starting to get nervous, frustrated even. How many places would he have to go before this was over? It just seemed all wrong now, the way Mila continued to remain outside of his reach, even though all the dangers that had faced them had passed. It was as if this was all some game set by some gods, bent on stringing him along in a search that seemed to never end. He had voiced as much to Gwella, after Cropsford, but the Priestess had only put a hand on his shoulder and promised that that was not the sort of thing the gods would do. He hoped she was right. Right now, the Priestess was off on her own, asking her friends at the Chapel if they knew anyone who might have seen her family or Mila. Meanwhile, Boldir and Stoit were in the market, essentially going door-to-door asking people if they had seen an old one-eyed Nord, his two blonde children, and a teenage girl from Skyrim. So far, the search had turned up nothing, though the local herbalist did know of the family they were talking about. "You're asking for Kuslaf and his kin, aren't you?" the woman had asked sweetly. "I only ever met the daughter. Sweet young thing named 'Hreke'. But I ain't seen hide nor hair of either of them in a good few months at least. Have you tried heading down south? I think they hail from Cropsford." Of course, besides telling them that Kuslaf and his daughter hadn't visited the shop, the herbalist's knowing them did little to help in their search. "You'd think if they came here, that someone would've recognized a man with one eye." Stoit said as he and Boldir walked down one of the wide, cobbled streets. "I mean, they can't be more than a week ahead of us at the most." "That's what I was just thinking," said Boldir. "Gwella was sure that if they left Cropsford, this is where they'd have come. And people in the village had agreed when we asked." "And yet there's no sign that they ever made it," the sellsword muttered. "Gwella's been away from her home for a long time. Maybe she doesn't know as much as she thought. Maybe they went elsewhere." Once again, that was exactly what Boldir had been thinking. "Maybe," he grunted. "Let's keep looking for now. This is a big city. They could've been here for a year and still gotten by just fine without visiting one of these shops. It's the inns we should be checking." "Good idea. Have you seen any inns, though? All these castle houses look the same to me." Boldir had to laugh, for it seemed he and the lad were of a mind in this as well. Cheydinhal's tall, fancy buildings could have all been built by one man, for how similar they appeared. "We'll ask a guard." It wasn't hard to find a member of the city watch. He was a skinny Imperial man, dressed in chainmail beneath a brown surcoat decorated with the city's standard green vine patterns. "Well met, Citizens," said the guard. His smile was friendly enough, but Boldir noticed the weary look the man had given him and failed to hide in time. "How can I be of service?" "We're looking for an inn," Stoit said. "Any inn will do, but we'd like to hear our options." "Of course." The guard nodded off to their left. "Two neighborhoods down you've got The Sage's Flask. I wouldn't recommend that one though, unless you're the casting type. The Angry Badger Inn is a block further. The Cracked Tankard is across the river, down south of the Chapel. I go there myself, but that's because it's cheap. Newland Cornerclub over by the west gate is even cheaper, but as you probably guessed, it's an elven tavern. Cheydinhal Bridge Inn's the oldest in the city, and the nicest by far. If you're the upscale types, or at least looking to feel like it for a night, that's the place you'll want to be going." "Thank you." Boldir gave the guard a nod, but as the man turned to leave, he reached out and stopped him. "Wait." The watchman spun around, startled. "Have you seen a family of Nords by any chance? They may have come this way from Cropsford. The father is older, and he has one eye. His children are yellow-haired. An Imperial girl is traveling with them." "I- uhh, no." The guard shook his head. "No, I think I would remember a family like that. Especially the man with one eye." He started to leave again, and then stopped. "Well, actually I did hear about some Nord travelers passed this way a few days ago. Far as I know it was just children. But they got saved by those knights. Think they could be what you're looking for?" "Maybe." Boldir felt his heart beat faster. "Did you hear anything else? Their names? Where they went?" "I didn't. Sorry. Though it hasn't been all that long. They could still be around for all I know." "You said they were with knights," Stoit jumped in. "You're talking about the Divine Order, right? I've seen my share of them since we got here." "No, not the Order. " The guard frowned. "It was the Knights of the Thorn. Their lodge is outside the city gate a short walk down the road. You probably saw a big building when you entered the city. The one with its own own stable and watchtower. You can't miss it." Boldir and Stoit exchanged a glance. He could see in the lad's eyes the same look that he knew was in his own. It's worth a try. "Thank you." the Boldir said as the guard turned to leave again. The Nords set off to find Gwella. If her family was at Thorn Lodge, she would want to see them. *** Thorn Lodge Gwella stared at the Knight of the Thorn with eyes full of heartbreak. "How," she asked. "What killed him?" "He and the little ones were on the road headed this way," Sir Bremman said. "They were waylaid by bandits. Was he your kin, my lady?" "He was my father." The knight shuffled uncomfortably at that. "Condolences, my lady," said Bremman. "If it is any consolation, we brought justice to his killers and the children are being escorted to Bravil to be with their- your sister." "Alva will take care of them." Gwella sniffed. "And what of the other one, the girl who was with them?" Boldir was shocked. After learning what she had, he'd expected Mila to be the last thing on the Priestess's mind. Even the knight seemed a little startled. "She was a traveling companion to them, but no kin of your father," Bremman said awkwardly. "She- uhh... she fled before the children left. I have men out pursuing her now." "Fled?" That nervous feeling returned to Boldir. How many times could this happen? "Fled to where? From whom?" "From us." The mustachioed knight's gaze suddenly turned stern. "The girl stole a valuable artifact from our Order and a personal heirloom of Commander Indarys's family. A mage's staff of no insignificant power." "And what would drive her to do something like that?" The knights may very well have had every right to be angry, but Boldir could feel the anger rising in his stomach regardless, like a fire that had just been lit. "She was safe here, wasn't she? She was with her friends." "I didn't hear a word between them the entire time," Bremman swore. "They mourned upstairs while the older girl kept to herself down here. But she did speak to the mage." Talos preserve. Not another one. "What mage?" "The Telvanni wizard, Endar Drenim. He was in the area on business of his own. And it wasn't long after he left that the girl disappeared from our lodge. We now believe that she may have been working in collaboration with him in order to steal the Staff of Indarys." "... What?" Boldir might have laughed had his friend not just learned of her father's death. The image of Mila working in cahoots with a mage to steal from a group of knights was too ludicrous to not find funny. "And then I suppose the two of them hopped on a dragon and flew off into the sunset?" Bremman brustled. "This is not a joke, good Nord." "No? Then it's just idiocy at its finest. She came to you with the children, correct? As in separately from the mage? How in Shor's name do you suppose the two of them were part of some scheme to steal your stick? Couldn't the wizard have done it on his own?" "He left hours before the staff went missing. The girl disappeared some time later, along with the Staff of Indarys and the Commander's own black mare. Likewise, the mage left in a hurry, even left behind his expensive carriage in order to do so." The knight puffed up his chest. "I do not know how the two came to working together, but our order does intend to find out. They will both be found and brought back here to await the Count's justice for their cri-" The knight found himself pinned to the wall, with Boldir's left hand wrapped tightly around his neck. It hurt the Nord all over to exert himself like this, but he fought through the pain and pressed in all the harder. A few swords could be heard drawing behind him, but Stoit had already knocked an arrow and aimed it at the nearest potential foe. Boldir squeezed the knight's thick neck and leaned in close enough to smell the wine on his breath. "Tell me again, Imperial, that you plan on arresting my daughter. Go ahead." Bremman's frightened eyes regarded Boldir's for a long time, and then, finally, he said in a strained voice, "Perhaps my theory has its flaws." "Uh-huh." "Perhaps your daughter was scared." "Perhaps." "I think it might be best if we- we... give her the chance to explain her side of things." The knight made a strange croaking sound as Boldir adjusted his grip. "Or we could just... get the staff back... and then let it slide. She's just a child." "Smart call." Boldir released the knight and took a step back. Everyone else lowered their weapons, but the tension was still plenty clear. "Now, if you're so sure she's with this mage, where is it that you think he is bound?" "I don't know," Bremman gasped. His voice that had been so deep before had suddenly turned strangely high-pitched. Boldir thought it suited him much better. "I only know that the mage came here to meet with another of his ilk. The necromancer, Rythe Orealo." "What?" Gwella gasped. "A necromancer?" Stoit breathed. Both their voices sounded worried. But Boldir refused to show any signs of his fear at the word. "And if you're searching for the mage, I presume you're looking into the necromancer already?" "Well..." The reddened lump in Bremman's neck wobbled as he cleared his throat in a failed attempt to make his voice deep again. It cracked instead. "We are under orders from the Commander not to provoke them. It's too dangerous and we're not to confront them until we're fully prepared." Boldir looked around the lodge. There were seven knights in here, and enough gear and empty mugs scattered around to indicate a dozen more at least. "What, you're not at full strength already? Are you frightened by the dead, knight?" He didn't give Bremman time to answer. He was ready to get to the root of all this, and to make sure that this pompous fool knew that his worthless order wasn't fooling anyone. "What about all the searching you claim to be doing? How's that going if you're not even following your best lead?" "We have men out-" "On the road? You've just said you have no idea where they're going. It could be Morrowind for all you know. Am I wrong, Imperial?" Bremman shook his head in shame. "No, Nord... We have no idea how we're to find them." Boldir shook his head in disgust and turned to his companions. Stoit wore a fierce look. As usual, he was on board with whatever Boldir planned. Gwella... well, for a woman who'd just learned that her father was dead, she seemed to be doing remarkably well. "I'm going to meet this necromancer. I know this is more than you expected to get involved with, but-" "We're with you." The Priestess said at once. Her voice was dry, but determined. "We set out to find your daughter. And I do not intend to stop until that is done." "Hear that, Bremman?" Boldir asked, turning back to the knight. "The priestess and the sellsword are braver than all of your knights combined. But you can still make up for being a coward. I want you to take me to the necromancer's lair." *** Endar, Mila "Stop? Why? We just stopped a few hours ago." "Nine hours ago, Endar. Nine. And that was for lunch. Just because you don't need to sleep doesn't mean that me and Acivo can go on without it." Oh, here she goes again, with the 'sleep' thing. Endar turned in his saddle to give his stewardess a hard look that he knew would be lost with the moonlight at his back. "Fine. We shall stop for the night. But let me remind you that we are not far at all from the woods that the sick girl and her family got attacked in." "I'm sure we'll manage." Elara muttered as she and the Legionnaire dismounted on the spot. In his haste to put some distance between himself and Rythe's band of necromancers, Endar had forgotten to purchase a horse for the soldier, and so Elara had been forced to ride double with the man these last few days. Perhaps that is why she grows more petulant with every hour. Endar hoped that letting Elara get that sleep she so desperately craved might be enough to silence her complaints for the next day or so. "Just know that we set out again before dawn," Endar told them. The Legionnaire groaned and Elara waved a hand as she unpacked her sleeping mat. Children. More concerned with their own petty needs than the importance of the task at hand. For his part, Endar felt that he was the only person save perhaps for Rythe himself who truly grasped the importance of what the necromancer had discovered. True, the man had found a damned near revolutionary method of optimizing and utilizing welkynd stones, but the way he did this is what so greatly stood apart from anything bordering on conventional. Rythe's journals, for all their great value, paled next to the half-deciphered Ayleidoon tome that the necromancer had hidden away along with them. In today's common Tamrielic, the runes on its cover translated quite literally to "Finger of the Mountain". And it may very well have been one of the most powerful, and dangerous, devices that Endar had ever possessed, making even his staff, Apotheosis, seem a weathered piece of knotted wood in comparison. Although the writings of the Ayeids were a popularly studied subject in almost every noteworthy Cyrodiilic institution, Endar rather doubted that there were many wizards, or even Arch-Mages who could read this book and make sense of its words. Even he found some of its cryptic passages to lead nowhere useful... not yet at least. But there was one, describing a stone pillar that Rythe had been kind enough to draw up in his journals, and better yet, write the location of. The structure was in the Colovian Highlands, northwest of the city of Chorrol. And so that was where Endar meant to go. If this pillar was connected to Fingers of the Mountain, and through that, the welkynd stones, the knowledge he might glean from its study could be invaluable in achieving an entirely new understanding of these ancient magics. Or it could be an incredible waste of time. But at least the scenery would be appealing. While the other two set about making camp just off the road, Endar walked out a short distance and started weaving runes and protective wards into the surrounding landscape. These were easy spells, despite how uncommon their teaching was beginning to become. Endar wasn't sure why that was, for as a well-traveled mer, he found them to be essential for preventing outsiders from sneaking up on him... as one seemed to be trying to do right now. Endar's brow arched as he watched the dark figure approach on the back of its horse. In the black of the night, they might have been completely invisible if not for the fact that the spells made them glow in Endar's vision. His knuckles tightened around his staff. Rythe would not have pursued him alone, nor would the necromancer been fool enough to trust one of his acolytes with a task as important as saving his life's work. This had to be a trick. With a glance back at Elara's campfire, he vanished into the night. There it is. Mila thought as her horse brought her up the darkened road. The campfire ahead illuminated the faces of Elara and that soldier man who'd been with her. The soldier must have said something funny, because Elara's laughter carried out into the night. "This is the Staff of Indarys," Mila whispered. This was her last chance to rehearse what she would say upon confronting the mage again. She needed to sound confident, but not demanding or arrogant. And smart. The mage was smart, so she needed to speak in a way that might impress him. "It is a powerful tool, carried by great wizards and warriors throughout the eras. I offer it to you, in exchange for your..." Ah, damn it all! Mila gave the reins a whip and rode straight for their camp. Elara was the first to look up. Mila saw the instant of surprise on the Breton woman's face. Then the campfire went out, and the world became dark. Mila might have contemplated on that, had her horse not immediately let out a terrible cry and bucked her high into the air. She braced herself for a painful impact that never came. Instead Mila found herself suspended inches above the grass beside the road, so close that it tickled her nose. She waved her arms in a desperate attempt to grasp for something, anything that might root her to the earth, but the ground seemed to grow further away the more she tried to reach for it. Next, she was soaring again, though this time seemingly thrown by nothing. Her new staff skirted against the road beneath her as she spun and then landed, hard, right beside it. Mila felt the force grip her again. This time, the girl did not struggle, and she let herself be lifted upright and to her feet. By the time Mila was planted, she could not see straight from all the dizziness. Two blue lights appeared in front of her. No, it was just one. And then two of the wizard himself appeared, red wisps of some unknown magic twirling around his fingertips. "This is the staff of Indarys." Mila blurted. And then she puked on Endar's boots. "Charming." the wizard muttered, taking a step back. His eyes narrowed. "Why have you followed me? Speak." "I..." Mila used a sleeve to wipe her mouth. "I uh... I brought you that." She pointed at the staff she'd dropped while being thrown around. Endar's eyes darted to the piece of wood lying in the middle of the road. A quick virtue test told him all he needed to know. "So?" "It's a very powerful tool, and well... it's been carried by many great mages and warriors..." "It's a staff of lightening and sapping. And not even a particularly good one." Mila shook her head. "No, you see the knight told me-" "There's your problem right there," the wizard interrupted. "You assumed that those fools had enough intelligence between them to speak on even one matter that was only moderately more difficult to grasp than drinking and riding horses. That staff is a toy. A twig created by a novice to be used by novices. You can keep it. Now run along, shoo!" Endar waved his hands at her as if she were a stray mutt, and then turned back to his companions. "Elara, my boots need cleaning!" Mila watched with slumped shoulders as the wizard tossed a ball of fire into their smoldering logs and immediately relit the campsite. The soldier and servant were both looking at her with pity, and Endar Drenim did not even seem to realize that she was still around. No! Something strengthened in Mila. She scooped up her new staff and marched over to the campfire, looked the Dunmer dead in his red eyes, and said, "I want to travel with you." "Matilda-" Elara began, only to get cut off by a wave of her master's hand. "You really do, don't you?" Endar asked, unblinking. "And what, pray, would I have to gain from bringing a child into my service? And not just any child. A fool of a child who thinks mundane staves are powerful artifacts, who seems to hold no notion of when not to speak, who insults my intelligence by coming to me and pretending that she is less than she is." Mila blinked. Just like that, she was back to being confused. "Pretends that sh- that I'm less than I am? Wait, what are you talking about?" "Do not play games with me, girl. I am not one of those knights. You carry a man's soul in your pocket. It was there in the lodge and it's there now. If not for Elara seeing you long before I'd left Fanacas, I would think you work for Rythe. Seeing as how that makes no sense, I must presume you're just a down-on-her luck little fetcher who has an affinity for magical trinkets because they sell for more." "... What??" "You're a fetcher. A thief. A stealer of goods from the people who own them. Is that clear enough for you, or must I draw a picture in the dirt?" Mila was glad of the darkness, or else they'd have surely seen her face going red. She couldn't exactly deny being a thief when she'd just presented the wizard with a staff she'd stolen. "I only took it because Elara told me you'd be interested." Now it was Endar's turn to be confused. He glanced back at his stewardess. "Why would you tell her a thing like that?" "I didn't." Elara said. She gave Mila a look. "I was talking about a different magical item and you said 'no'. I didn't mean for you to go and just steal someone's heirloom." She glared at Endar. "Not that we have the right to judge." "Can I say something?" The Legionnaire suddenly said, to which everyone else at the camp gave a resounding "Shut up." "Look," Mila locked eyes with Endar once more, hoping against hope that the elf would see the truth in there, "I promise I'm not a, erm... fetcher. I don't want to rob you. I took the staff because I thought it would impress you, and I only want to come with you and do what Elara does. If I try something you can just throw me around again... You've got nothing to lose!" Endar stroked his beard. The human child was persistent, if nothing else. "You say you stole the staff for me. But you still have not explained the soul." "That's because I don't have a clue at all what in the blazes you're talking about." "I see." Endar watched her carefully, casting a subtle spell to help him look for any signs that she might be lying. Any twitch, any adjustments to the heat she let off or the sound of her breath. Her heartbeat was rapid, but she had just been thrown from her horse. In the end, he found nothing. "Your satchel. Open it." Mila did as she was told. The contents were sparse enough. Just a near-empty pouch of septims and Boldir's flute. "Is that a flute? Hold it up so I can get a better look." She gave the elf a suspicious look. "Why?" "Because I said so. And because there's a soul trapped inside, obviously. I want to run a virtue test to make sure it will not be a problem." Mila's eyes widened. "What? No there's not. This flute belonged to my father. He hated magic." "Your magic-hating father owned a magical flute. Get over it. Or don't. But I want to see it regardless." Feeling like the world was quickly becoming madder and madder, Mila held up the flute for the wizard to see. He leaned in close, running his dark red eyes along the Redguard patterns and glimmering gemstones. He sniffed it, and muttered a few words beneath his breath that the girl could not understand. Finally, Endar straightened back up. "Yes, there is indeed a soul in there. Human, most likely, the poor sap. But he seems harmless enough. You can put it away now." Mila wasn't sure if she wanted to. She'd been carrying a human soul all this time? "Who is it?" she asked. "You said 'he'. Is he really a man? Can't we help him?" Endar rubbed his temple. He hated it when people asked him a bunch of questions at once. "Yes, he's a man. I don't know who he is. And yes, he can be helped. But not here and not now. I do not have the time, the tools, or the concern to bother with such a thing at the moment." "At the 'moment'?" Mila smiled. "But maybe later? So I can come with you?" The wizard groaned. He couldn't believe he was doing this. He had considered taking in extra help before, but never one so young and seemingly clueless... And yet she did have a certain tenacity about her. More so than most. If she could focus that energy on work and not on talking so much, she could prove useful yet. "Fine," he finally relented. "Now clean my boots."
  44. 4 points
    Albecias Plebo The Imperial City Morning Albecias knew he’d put off confronting High General Ceno long enough. He’d spent days inside his apartment practicing his confrontation, and he knew he was ready. Still, he had waited even a few days after that. It wasn’t that he was scared, of course, but that there were things he wanted to settle, in case his meeting went as poorly as he expected. After all, Ceno was a man undermining the current Imperial royal family, with the intent on seating himself on the throne. And on the verge of war, no less. He was not to be trifled with, and Albecias was making sure his affairs were in order. He wrote letters to the editors of the Black Horse Courier and his publisher, instructing them what to do with his notes and manuscripts. Then he wrote his friend at the College of Whispers, instructing him that he should continue to turn up whatever he could on Krojun Draconus. Though the current Emperor was the target of Ceno’s coup, he was nonetheless a mysterious and secretive figure, one whom Albecias would gladly like to unmask. Whether he did it himself or his friend did the unmasking, it mattered not. Now the time had finally come for his grand reveal to take place. Though neither prudent nor wise, Albecias needed to see the look on the General’s face when his plot was revealed. With the assurance Elder Councilor Marillan would reveal the plot should Albecias die, he felt confident his potential martyrdom was the right course of action. Dead or alive, he would be revealed as the savior of the Empire, at a time when it stood on the precipice of disaster. And so Albecias dressed in his finest clothes, a scarlet and gold shirt with black silken pants and boots polished like gems. He took nothing with him, needing only the intricate unfurling of the plot that lay within his mind. He left his apartment, not bothering with locking it and unconcerned with his belongings. His writing was his most valued possession, and that would live on forever. He charted a path from his Elven Gardens District home to the Green Emperor Way. He briefly considered taking the longer route through the Talos Plaza District, so he could see what all the commotion was about, but he knew it was only so he could again delay his meeting, and besides, he wasn’t all that interested in street fights or criminal infighting, or whatever had happened there. His walk was a brief one, and he arrived and was admitted into the palace. He climbed the stairs to the High General’s solar, his heart beating rapidly, his breath shortened. Not from the ascent, though, but from anticipation, that soon everything was going to come to a head. This is my legacy, Albecias thought, as Ceno’s scribe admitted him into the general’s private solar. “An unexpected visit,” Ceno said, motioning with his hand for Albecias to take a seat. He did so, but kept his eyes trained on Gracchus the entire time. “I would think not. You had to have known this would come, sooner or later. Surely you do not think that poorly of me, otherwise you would have never given me this task,” Albecias said, unable to hide the smug grin growing across his face. The fake confusion on Ceno’s face was surprisingly genuine, but Albecias knew better, and that this man was a master manipulator and liar, and he must not be thrown off course. “Excuse me?” “Don’t play the fool. We both know what you’re capable of, there’s no need to hide it.” “What I’m capable of? I’m sorry, Mr. Plebo, but you seem to know something I don’t.” Albecias was angry now, that posturing and deflection should delay his moment of triumph. “You know damn well what I mean. This letter lays it all out, though you seemed to think me too stupid to figure it out.” “What letter?” Albecias had pulled the letter from his pocket, gripping it tight in his hands, as he read it aloud. “Mr. Plebo, You no doubt question the origin of this letter, but I’m afraid I cannot sate your curiosity. All you need to know is that what I tell you is true. Skjari Snow-Strider, court mage to the Empress and her soon to be husband, has bound his soul to hers using an ancient form of magic. No doubt you’ve noticed he rose to prominence rather quickly, which seems mysterious, until you realize he controls her every move. I have compiled a list of people who may know of this conspiracy, or who may have helped him with it. They are listed below. I should not need to tell you though, that this man is dangerous, and if you choose to investigate you must do so with the utmost discretion. Your profiles on the Imperial leadership should make that relatively easy. There will be no further contact between us, besides the sum of gold that has been left in your apartment. That should help you decide whether or not to undertake this investigation. High General Ceno, who was in Skyrim with the man. Spymaster Lillin Quentas, whose affair with the man is well known. Magdela Bathory, whose affair with the man is also well known. Generals Retrius and Lithin, who have previously questioned who he is. The Synod, where he reportedly studied before going to Skyrim. My agents inside the palace also tell me that he frequently beds the maids, so they too may know something. Again, do not try to contact me, or you will be all the worse for it. Find what you can, and if it is worth publishing, do so. There may be a reward for that if you do. -L.” Gracchus sat there, the look of confusion on his face as if it was carved there. Albecias smiled again, condescending and smug. “You see now, don’t you? That your plot is laid bare, that you are revealed as the snake you are. I read between the lines. You include yourself, clearly to cast off any suspicion. You of course have agents here in the palace, besides yourself obviously, and know who might know something of Snow-Strider’s past. And you even signed the letter to hint toward Lorgar Sky-Wind, whose conflict with Krojun you know intimately. All very clever. You have me risk my life, do the dirty work digging up the Emperor’s secrets, all so you could supplant him on the throne. But you underestimated me, General, and now Cyrodiil will know of your plot.” Gracchus continued to sit there, though the look of confusion slowly dissolved into a firm, glaring stare. “So someone sent you this letter, so that you would investigate the Emperor, and you believe it to be me?” It was condescending, Albecias thought, for Ceno to continue to play ignorant, but he simply responded, “I know it to be you.” “And I did this so I could reveal the Emperor’s true self and usurp him?” “I assume you has designs on the throne. After all, your generals said they would back you. The entire Legion, in fact.” “And your plan is to reveal this plot, this information about the Emperor, to all of Cyrodiil?” “So that you may be imprisoned, or executed, and the Empire saved.” Gracchus cast his eyes down toward his desk, his hands rubbing both temples. When he looked up, his eyes were sad. It momentarily caught Albecias off guard, but then he realized the man must see his work falling to pieces, and Albecias thought his sadness pitiful. “You have been caught, General. I suggest you surrender and not wretch the Empire apart, now in its most dire hour. If you ever had any love for Cyrodiil, other than coveting its throne, you would do the right thing.” With a small nod, the sad eyes still locked with Albecias’s, Gracchus rose and said, “Albecias Plebo, you are under arrest.” Just then, a small ball of green magic hit Albecias in the chest, and he was rendered still. The High General hoisted him up, took the letter from Albecias, and carried him awkwardly to the hall. There he handed Albecias off to two guards, who grabbed an arm each and held on tight. Albecias attempted to break free, to attack the General, the guards, anyone, but by the time the paralysis wore off, the guards had him in their vice like fists. They followed Ceno, dragging Albecias down the hall, and then, strangely, up the stairs. Albecias assumed he was destined for the dungeon, but now he feared defenestration was his imminent cause of death. Instead, Ceno stopped in front of a thick door, and knocked twice sharply. When it opened, the Emperor stood in the doorway, and the High General wasted no time in stepping in the room and leaving Albecias deaf to their dealings. ** Gracchus found Krojun Draconus in the royal study. The Emperor was sitting at the desk with a thick book, containing text made up of triangular like dots and slashes. Gracchus could not really discern where one symbol began and where it ended. Besides the book was a simple silver ring with some delicate leaf carvings. “Read this,” Gracchus said, handing Emperor Draconus the letter. It was not like the High General to be this abrupt, but this matter was urgent, and the consequences dire. He could see the confusion and slight annoyance on Krojun’s face fade as he read, until his eyes again met Gracchus’s. “I’ve had him arrested. He’s outside as we speak.” "I'm guessing it's Plebo and not Lorgar you've arrested." said Krojun with a dry attempt at humor. Gracchus didn't laugh, and said, "Yes. He's accused me of writing the letter, and fomenting a coup. He plans to publish an article about this plot. I was...I was afraid of what might happen, what factions might take advantage of the rumors he would release. We can't afford discord, not now." "No we cannot." said Krojun. He looked thoughtful as he closed the book and put away the silver ring into his pocket. "What do we know about this article?" he said after a small moment of silence. "Nothing. I would assume it'll contain what's in the letter, and what he accused me of. The coup, the soul-binding nonsense," Gracchus said, trying to sound as dismissive of the claim as possible. "But who knows what else he may have concocted. We can also assume that should something happen to him, it will still be published. He was far too brazen to not have a backup plan in place." "Hmm." the Emperor mumbled as he looked over the letter again. "Lets try to find out where he keeps this article first." "We should search his home and the Black Horse Courier first. Beyond that, I couldn't say. The Oculatus would seem suited for the job," Gracchus said. He was still so unsure of this whole thing, his stomach twisted in knots, forehead creased into deep canyons of consternation. "We must also prepare for the possibility we cannot find his article, or that it gets published regardless." "I'll think of something in that case. But I think you should question Mr. Plebo first and then I'll get search set up." "Would you like to question him as well? I can have him brought in, if you wish," Gracchus said. "I think I'll stand outside or stand invisible besides you. He seems particularly interested in gloating to your face. I think using that will be the best way to make him talk." "I'll take him back to my office, then," Gracchus said. ** By the time they returned to Ceno's office, Albecias was about ready to kill himself, just to finally be rid of the traitorous general. In all the scenarios that ran through his head about this confrontation, he hadn't expected such a prolonged encounter. Nor one he was in so little control of. Gracchus had the guards set him back in the same chair as before, though this time they stood sentinel on either side of him. "So, I suppose you know of my plot," Ceno said. "Clever, Mr. Plebo. But what was your purpose in coming here? Why gloat, when you could have safely published and then fled my grasp?" Albecias smirked, clearly enjoying Ceno finally having admitted to his conspiracy. “To see how you took being beaten. I do not think that happens often for you, General. You managed to turn that debacle in Falkreath into this job, and managed to outlast your comrades, and managed to fend off Thalmor assassins, supposedly. You needed to be brought down a peg, and I would be the one to see it done.” “I am impressed,” Gracchus said, his face still set in a deep frown, and clearly not impressed. Albecias wondered how a man with so obvious little skill at lying could craft a plot as large as this. “It seems stupid, however, to confront someone who has as much to lose as I do.” “My death doesn’t matter to me,” Albecias said, indignant, as if any suggestion his work was not the most important thing in the world was the very definition of insulting. “And no matter how you may try, you won’t find my article until it is published. Of that I am sure.” “I won’t have to find it, because you will tell me exactly where it is,” the High General said, his jaw clenched in anger. “I don’t have time to play your games. There is too much at stake here.” Albecias knew that was true, both from his own knowledge of the plot and how secretive it must be, but also because there was no doubt in his mind Ceno was telling the truth about the stakes. “And why would I do that? You can try and torture me, General, but I scarcely think it’ll do you any good. Like I said, I came here to die, so my work may live.” The High General bowed his head, one hand clenching into a fist so tightly the skin was turning as pale as the snow. He then stood, and walked around behind Albecias. Before the author could turn to see what he was doing, he felt the ice spike slide deep into shoulder and pin him to the desk. Albecias yelled out, screaming for help, but no one answered his pleas. Twisting the icy spear, the High General asked, “Where is the article? Who has it?” Albecias bit his tongue, but he knew not whether that was to keep himself from yelling, or to keep himself from telling the General what he wanted to know. But as the pain increased with each small twist of the spike, he knew which one he was truly suppressing. He was prepared to die for his work, but not to suffer. And he knew Councilor Marillan would uphold his end of the bargain, so he relented. “Stop! Please, I’ll tell you, just stop!” Ceno did stop twisting, but the ice spike remained. “Where is it?” “My book editor, she has a copy, she promised get it published for me." “And her name?” Ceno asked, and Albecias could hear a slight waver in his voice. He thought the man must be overjoyed at having a loose end tied up, and that delighted Albecias, knowing there was another copy of the article out there where the General would never get it. “Fallaise Tucca.” “What does the article contain?” “Your plot, all the information I could find. Which general support you, how you somehow rose so quickly and outlasted your supposed friends. Its all there.” “When will she publish it?” “In the next edition of the Black Horse Courier.” “Are there any other copies?” Albecias smiled at that, but with his faced pushed down onto the desk, he knew Ceno couldn’t see it. “No, only the one.” Ceno then released Albecias, and called the guards back in. “Heal him." The High General then left, and after a quick healing, Albecias was left with his two guards, captive in the High General's office. ** Gracchus left his office and Albecias, his conscience burdened with what he’d just done. He knew it was necessary for the good of all of Cyrodiil, but that did little to set his mind at ease. It had at least been clean, as he had taken inspiration from the way Krojun had treated the treasonous Breton Elder Councilor. But it left him wondering just how far he’d go to protect Cyrodiil, and suddenly he realized that maybe he wasn’t so different than Lorgar after all. Lorgar had done who knows what for the Dominion, all so that he might one day help the Empire, while Gracchus had forsaken his own moral code to save the Empire this potential insurrection. He felt a fool to not have recognized Lorgar's sacrifice before now. He did not have long to ponder how far he would go Cyrodiil, though, as Krojun was waiting outside, having heard everything. "What shall we do now?" "I have an idea. Though that'll require me to know where this Fallaise lives and where she keeps the article. As well as to keep Mr Albecias in captivity for about a day or two." "I don't know where she lives, but it shouldn't be hard to find out. Either he'll tell us or the Oculatus can find her easily enough," Gracchus said. "What's your plan for the author?" "I'll need to speak with Lilly to figure out the details, but my plan is for him to make a great fool of himself. Now see if you can find out where Fallaise lives and keeps the article. I think asking around for her could raise unneeded suspicion." It only took Gracchus a few moments to get Albecias to give up the information, as the author was more than willing to avoid any further pain. He returned to Krojun shortly. "She lives above her office in the Market District, just east of the main road that leads into the Arena District. She'll have a set of scrolls in a brown satchel he dropped off." "Good. I'll go speak with Lilly. You keep Mr Albecias locked up, discretely, in the meantime." Gracchus nodded and Krojun left to carry out his plan. The General stood in the hallway, thinking about how this mess could've happened. Whoever had truly sent the letter had no idea the damage they might have caused. Gracchus had a suspicion he new who it was, but knowing did him little good now. So he took Albecias, ignoring his questions and pleas, and locked him up in one of Endar's spare cages in the basement. It was much too small for a person, so Albecias was forced to curl into a ball. Gracchus looked sadly upon the author before he left him imprisoned alone in the dark basement.
  45. 4 points
    Go ahead and laugh! Metal Gear is dead! Konami killed it. All it is, is slot machines, zombies, and memories... So much Phantom Pain... Big Boss will live on in our hearts! Him, Solid, Grey Fox, Venom Snake, Zero, Solidus, Liquid, and the Boss! No more Child Soldiers...no more espinoage...no more poop jokes...no more horrible fanservice...no more homoerotic subtext...Metal Gear is dead. *Insert Big Boss salute*
  46. 4 points
    I imagine there is, but I haven't seen any, so I'm going off what I imagined. And it's pretty close. There are several forts that, in the role play, the Legion has renovated and occupied once again. I have a list but it's not handy right now. But between Oblivion and the current role play they have fixed up quite a few. But Battlehorn castle is a welcome addition. We might need to work out which Legion the legionnaires doing the training are under, though. A while back we figured out where each Legion was stationed so that is already established in the role play.
  47. 4 points
    The Tynes The Imperial City "... Shit." Asgen didn't know what else to say. And the one word did manage to describe their new situation rather aptly. He and his sister had spent weeks tracking, searching, scouring Cyrodiil for the Silver Sisters. And when they finally had begun to close in on their prey, some other bastard had to come along and make a big mess of it all. When he'd heard the rumor, Asgen had gone to Talos Plaza to see for himself, and sure enough, the manor of some Elder Councilman was thick with guards. It was from one of the many Silver Brigadiers still roving about the city that he managed to get a confirmation that Sosia was indeed among the fallen. By now, the whole city knew that their once-secret employer had been none other than Sibbi of the mead-brewing Black-Briar clan. What the Skyrim noble wanted with a young girl in the Waterfront, Asgen had no idea. Probably a runaway bastard daughter of his or something. It didn't matter what the kid had been to him now. Sibbi himself was also among the dead. The rumors differed on what exactly had happened, but the prevailing one was that some rival of his called 'Boldir' had led his bandit friends into Talos Plaza and invaded the manor during the night. Though Asgen found it passing strange that this was such a widely accepted theory, what with the Imperial gods-damned Legion keeping the city's peace. He was on his way back to the All-Saints Inn now, to deliver the news to Faida and their new companion, Christophe Sele. Asgen wasn't yet sure what to make of the young scribe. He seemed a decent lad, and given that they'd found him imprisoned by the Brigade, there wasn't much doubt that he and the twins shared a foe. But the guarded manner in which Sele carried himself, the careful pause before every word left his lips, the way he liked to deflect conversations away from himself... There was no doubt in Asgen's mind that there was more to the scribe than he was letting on. Not that he had a problem with that, of course. Everyone had their secrets. Asgen just hoped that Christophe's weren't the dangerous sort. He stopped in the doorway of the inn, from where he spotted Faida eating alone at a window side table on the far wall. He wasn't surprised to see his sister by herself. Neither she nor Sele were the type to ask the other for company while they ate. No doubt both of them were content in their solitude. He wasted no time in interrupting it. "I've got news, sweet sister." Asgen said as he approached. "Bad news." Faida looked up at her brother with a hint of a smile. She's been enjoying the quiet, but she wouldn't give Asgen the satisfaction of knowing that he'd disrupted that. "Did you bump into one of your children?" He rolled his eyes. "You can do better than that. It's about Sosia. She's dead. And there's more too. Is Christophe upstairs?" "Hold on, what?" Faida had too look her brother in the eyes to make sure he wasn't messing with her. "What did you do?" "I didn't do anything. And I can explain everything, but I'd rather only do it once. So Sele, is he upstairs?" "Err, yeah, far as I know he's in his room. Asgen, what's happened?" "Like I said, I'll explain what I can. But first let's go meet with our new partner. I'd like to tell you both at once." The scribe was indeed where Faida had thought he'd been. The twins found him closing some book or journal when he told them to come in. Sele's room was smaller than the one they shared. Just a bed, a desk, and one wooden trunk. Despite the day's cold, the one window in the room was open, probably in case his eagle decided to swoop in for a visit. Once Christophe and Faida were seated at his desk and on his bed respectively, Asgen closed the door and told them everything he had learned. Of how Sosia had died along with her employer and several others, and that this was big news all over the city. He told them about the impenetrable crime scene, with a reminder that the only way they could salvage this at all would be by getting proof of Sosia's death to bring back to High Rock. "So," Asgen clapped his hands together, "Got any ideas?" "We could wait." Faida suggested. "They'll have to move the bodies eventually. Especially since it's the home of a member of the Elder Council. The Black-Briar fellow will likely be sent back to Skyrim, but I doubt the others will be so heavily guarded once they're taken to wherever it is this city's nameless dead go." "That won't work if they give them back to the Silver Brigade." Asgen said. "It's no secret now that that's where they're from. And word's likely already on its way to Senna Silver. She'll probably want her sister's body back, at least." Faida shrugged. "We don't know that they'll be given that privilege just yet. No doubt the Watch is investigating them now too. If their search turns up that lot we killed at the inn, they'll probably be put under a lot of scrutiny." She twisted around to face Christophe. "You live here. Do you know what they do with their unimportant dead? Criminals and the like?" Christophe was quicker than usual to answer, with a short and decisive, "No. I mostly kept to my scribing and studies, and am somewhat ashamed to say I didn't get out enough to fully explore the city. But I imagine we could ask a priest of Arkay." "And where might we find one of those?" Faida asked, hiding the fact that she was not particularly fond of the idea of asking a devotee of the false Nine for help. "Well, here, in the Temple District," Christophe said. "The Temple of the Nine will have a priest, of some sort. They can tell us about burial practices for criminal types." "Then that's a start, at least." Faida turned back to Asgen. "If the Watch does take to seriously investigating the Brigade, I think we'd be best off learning as much about the situation as we can." "You're right." Asgen knew better than to suggest Faida go into a Temple of the Nine. "Christophe can come with me to meet with this priest of Arkay. Why don't you go see what you can learn from the guards on site. Just don't be too obvious about it." "And here I was thinking of asking them for Sosia's head straight-up." "Then do it tactfully." Asgen said with a grin. "You've got the harder job, Sis. And me'n Christophe have high standards. Don't disappoint us." "Uh huh." Faida stood. "And if there's anyone who can find a way to turn a conversation with a priest into some sort of drunken street brawl, it's you." She looked at Christope. "Don't let him do that." "I won't," he said. He started to smile, but one look at Faida's serious expression and Asgen's mischievous one stopped that. "I think you're in good hands, Brother." Faida turned and left the room. Deciding to have a little fun, Asgen looked at Christophe all seriousn, and asked, "Ready to go kidnap a priest?" Christophe grew wide-eyed and nervous, and looked toward the door. Asgen could tell he was hoping Faida has heard that and would return. When she didn't, the Breton said, "What good would that do? I'm sure they'll tell us what we want just by simply asking." "Hmm, you make a good point." Asgen stroked his beard as he pretended to mull over what the lad had said. "Alright, fine. You've convinced me. We talk to the priest without kidnapping him... I'm not sure how I ever operated alone without you around." He couldn't contain his grin any longer when Christophe realized he had been messing with him. Laughing, Asgen slapped the Breton on the shoulder. "Come on Scribe, let's get this over with." "So long as you control your kidnapping tendencies, I believe we'll be just fine," Corrick said with a joking grin of his own, as he followed Asgen out the door. The two of them made their way to the center of the Temple District, where the Great Temple of the Nine, or Temple of the One as some still called it, dominated the district. The big rotunda was made of similar white and gray stone to the city's walls and older buildings. In place of a roof, a great dragon statue stood tall at the center, it's snout reared back as if mid-roar. Asgen couldn't help but frown as they entered the doorway and fell under the beast's shadow. The Imperial reverence of the dragon god truly was sickening. It was a good thing he had come instead of Faida. "Alright," Asgen said, looking around the crowded rotunda. There were plenty of robed men and women and at least a dozen locals mulling about. None of them were in ritual. Just prayer or servitude in the forms of kneeling and sweeping. A couple of the hooded men were preaching to a small crowd, while another seemed to be performing a healing near the back. "Which one's the Arkay priest?" Christophe have Asgen a strange look, before he answered, "The healer. You can see his red Amulet of Arkay dangling from his neck. And they usually tend to the sick." The Nord's eyes shifted across the room until they finally landed on the person matching that description. Beneath that amulet, he wore an orange-red robe with golden inlays, and carried a long thin staff in his hand. He was indeed tending to a man who must have been sick. The priest's baggy eyes did not leave the kneeling man he tended as Asgen and Christophe approached. "Lord Arkay grant you not only better health, but great health. The health of life and fertility. May you breath it as you walk, breath it as you speak, and breath it as you love. Bless you, child of the Nine, and be well." The kneeling man stood, nothing apparently wrong with him, and bowed his head gratefully to the priest before moving on. "Well that was something." Asgen said as the priest moved to a washbasin and dipped his free hand inside. "Could you do me next?" The Priest of Arkay looked up, and his face sort of scrunched up like a... well Asgen couldn't think of any good comparisons at that moment, but the old Imperial man certainly had a funny looking 'disgusted' face. "Go talk to Gwella or Anthrald." he said in a far less pleasant voice than the one he had used with his previous visitor. "They have more patience for the dissolute." "Careful," warned Asgen. "My friend here may be a regular Crantius Colto, but he's with me and I'm spotless. So don't go saying things like that, okay?" The priest blinked. "I don't know who that is or what it means. Now go away." "Hold on, hold on." Asgen held up his hands. "Perhaps I came on a little too strong asking for the blessing. We really just want to ask you a question and we'll be on our way." "Fine." The old man waved a hand. "Ask." "We wanted to know what it is you lot do with dead criminals in this city." Asgen asked. "Foreigners and lowlives, who ain't got friends or family here, far as you can tell. Do you just dump 'em in the lake?" The Priest frowned. It seemed Asgen had stricken a nerve. "If you are mocking me-" "I'm not. It's a serious question. Why? Was I right?" "The old man signed. "Ver well. Yes, you were right. Southeast of the Prison District is an inlet where the Rumare enters, but does not escape. The Synod claims it drains into caverns deep beneath the ground. Wherever it goes, that is no doubt where the corpses of these poor, unattended souls go also. That is, the ones who are not consumed by the slaughterfish first." "So there's a cave under the city filled with centuries' worth dead lowlives?" Asgen whistled. "That's... not a pleasant thought." "Not centuries. Decades." the Priest said. "The gods held a stronger hold on this city before the Thalmor came. After the elves filled the streets with corpses, and our Legions slew them in turn, there were more dead than a hundred of Arkay's Devoted could have hoped to give proper rites. We helped the Legion as we could, but in the chaos, the elven dead were tossed into the inlet. It was the same inlet they had been using for the humans they'd killed that entire year. People began to see it as the perfect disposal ground for the dead they deemed not worth bringing to a temple priest, or even burying in unmarked graves outside the City Isle... It, regrettably, became a tradition of convenience." "Well, I think that more than answers our question, Priest. Good luck with your unhappy memories." He quickly turned away with Chrisophe in tow. As they left the temple, he said, "Well it doesn't sound like corpse retrieval won't be near so pleasant as your typical grave robbing." "Let us hope your sister found a way to get to Sosia, then," Christophe said. "If that fails, I don't like our chances at getting her body, at least not in any recognizable form." *** Talos Plaza was alive with guards. Not the usual sellswords and household guard of the many nobles who lived there, but real Legion Watchmen. They had always maintained a strong presence in this particular district given that half the Elder Council and Old Gods know who else living here. But today, the heavily-armored soldiers numbered in the dozens and dozens. They patrolled in groups of two or three, and were especially thick towards the southeast, where the manor of Elder Councilor Serivus Marillan had recently hosted a massacre. Even innocent as she was of any involvement in the conflict, the sheer number of them made Faida nervous as though she'd cut down Black-Briar herself. It's the looks they're giving me. the witch decided as she turned away from a pair who had been glaring at her. They'd love for a culprit to return to the scene. The Watch could glare all they wanted. As much as she wished she could have had a hand in delivering this blow to the Silver Brigade, it was not so. If I had been involved, it wouldn't have ended up so messy. And Asgen and I would be long gone by now. Of course, whoever was responsible probably was long gone at this point. For all their searching, Faida could see on the guards' faces that they were frustrated. They had a dead Skyrim nobleman, several dead sellswords -one of them the leader of an outfit- and no killer to speak of. There were rumors, of course. But an organization as professional as the Imperial Legion could not operate on rumors alone. The scene of the crime itself was massive. The rooftops of the Councilor's manor sprang up far beyond where the courtyard in front of it began, and its walls seemed wide enough to house a small village. It looked right at home in this district. As she approached, Faida wondered how fared the man who actually owned the place. Asgen would have mentioned it if he had been killed in the massacre, which meant the lucky bastard had probably not been home at the time. Probably won't be home for a good while now either. she thought while crossing the street. Faida strolled up to the entrance with purpose, trying to look like she belonged. The guards patrolling paid her no mind, but the one at the entrance certainly did. "Move along, Citizen." the Imperial said. "This is a crime scene." "I'm aware." she replied, stone-faced. She locked her eyes with the guard's, keeping his attention there while the fingers of her left hand twitched out the motions of the spell she was preparing. "My name is Thana Galis. I've been called to examine the bodies." "The Imperial Coroner is already here for that." he said, obviously not buying her story. "Now-" "Who do you think called me?" A tiny green mist emitted from her left palm. It subtly drifted between them after Faida interrupted the Legionnaire. "I'm sure the Coroner would very much like to have his assistant at his side." The guard sniffed, and she could see his pupils begin to twitch and dilate as the charm took hold. "I-..." he paused for a moment, seemingly confused. "Well maybe you're right. That is a lot of bodies for one man to examine alone." "Exactly." Faida knew that right about now, her voice would be starting to sound very sweet on the Imperial's ears. He did not seem to be a particularly intelligent man. If she pressed him a little longer, the witch was certain that she could have the fool trusting her like an old friend. "So I'll just go on through, alright?" The guard stepped to one side and nodded. "Ma'am." Faida walked past him, into the large courtyard garden that preceded Marillan's manor. It was somewhat overgrown, as if its tenders had been slacking in recent weeks, but Faida could not help but envy the Elder Councilor's vast array of flowers, vines, and roots. The potions I could brew with some of these... She shook her head and continued into the house. Stay focused on the job. Don't forget, Faida, you're surrounded by Legion. Through the large oak front door was a high-ceilinged entrance hall with another small garden at the center and doors to the left, right, and back. In the far right corner, a pair of City Watchmen stood chatting in low voices. Faida frowned. She was a decent mesmer, but she couldn't charm both men without one of them noticing. Not on the spot, at least. Play your role. You were allowed inside. They have no reason to suspect you. "Excuse me," she said in a voice that easily carried across the room. "I am here to assist the Imperial Coroner. Where can I find the bodies?" The guards shared a glance, and then the one on the right answered, "Right through this door. Watch your step, Ma'am. It's a mess in there." Keeping her eyes ahead, Faida walked passed the men without a hitch, and entered a room that was in a state more befitting the Imperial City Arena than a nobleman's house. Furniture was overturned, bloodstains were everywhere, and five bodies bodies were strewn across the floor. Faida had no time to try and identify any of them before one of the room's five Watchmen stepped forward. "Can we help you?" "Yes. I'm here for the Coroner." "He's upstairs." the guard said, nodding to the staircase on her left. "I can take you to him." "No need." Sosia's body may have been in this room. But she had no choice other than to stay in character and keep moving. But now the guard was giving her an odd look... Why is he looking at me like that? Then Faida realized it must have appeared strange that she'd dismissed his offer to help when it was obvious she didn't know where the Coroner was. Thankfully, there was a rather convenient solution in the form of a thin dripped blood trail. "I'll just follow the bloodstains." "Ah, alright then." That seemed to ease the man's mind. "Do you have a message for him or something?" "A message? No. I'm here to assist him." "Well he's certainly got his hands full." the Imperial grinned. "Just be careful not to eyeball the Inspectors. They don't call them the Gray Wolves because they're cuddly." Inspectors? Faida hoped the sudden apprehension she felt did not show. 'Inspector' was an official term for an agent of the 'Penitus Oculatus'. Even growing up in the Reach, she had heard stories of the Empire's most elite killers. It was said that they felt no remorse or fear, that to even become a member, one had to prove themselves by killing a stranger in cold blood, and even that only came after years of the most rigorous education and training the Empire could throw at them. She wouldn't be able to charm her way past these men. She wasn't even sure if she could lie her way past them. Keep it together. Faida commanded herself as she thanked the Imperial Watchman and followed the trail of tiny blood splatters upstairs. They're human. Dangerous, but human. You'll just have to use slightly different tricks this time... The blood brought Faida up to the second floor, and it continued on up to the third. They're up there. she thought. I'm about to be face-to-face with agents of the Penitus Oculatus. For the second time that year, Faida felt like she had accidentally stumbled into something far bigger than anything she had business being a part of, as though she was in way over her head. Sure, these men were only human... but that didn't stop the feeling she had that going up those stairs was no less foolish than strolling into the lair of a dragon. Faida took a breath. Her right foot moved to the first step, but then suddenly, self-preservation won out over her desire to see this through, and she quickly turned away. The second floor was empty. Faida could spend some time here in relative safety. Just need to regroup a bit. she thought. Collect myself. I'm taking this way too fast... and rushing into things head-on is the sort of foolishness that gets Asgen in trouble. Not me. I'll find another way. As it turned out, Faida's 'other way' ended up being aimlessly exploring the abandoned floor. It was just a series of long hallways with doors on either side. Most were locked. Those that weren't revealed various sorts of boring rooms one would expect to find in a family home. Bedrooms and closets, mostly. There was a little study too, with a desk and some bookshelves that had nothing interesting on them. The relative safety of just walking around in her little checkpoint of a floor helped calm Faida's nerves. She opened another door, swearing to herself that it would be the last. She had expected another closet, given its placement in comparison to some of the others, and was surprised to find instead that it opened up into a small dusty chamber. Inside it were nothing but a wooden chair and table, and a few old books stacked up on the floor. The walls were bare save for a closed window, half-hidden behind a thick set of red and black dragon-patterned curtains. But there was something else about it as well. Faida gave a sniff. Nightshade. It's scent had soaked into the walls and floors. And that was not all. She felt it now, in her little bones, both inside her and on the string around her neck. This room had been the casting place of soul magic. Of a ritual. Whatever spirit had been tampered with was long gone now, but she could feel his recent presence, like an echo, or the ripples left behind by a pebble dropped in still water. Was this Black-Briar? ... What was he doing in here? Faida almost jumped when she heard the voices. Almost. She wasn't that careless. They came from above, through the ceiling. It wasn't ghosts or spirits, but men. Men speaking just loud enough to advertise their presence. She smiled. Maybe the second floor isn't such a useless place after all. Carefully, the sellsword climbed up onto the wooden table and cocked her head, straining to make out the muffled words. After a few seconds, she decided it was no use. Faida sighed, climbed back down, and prepared another spell. It was simple enough that casting wouldn't be a problem. It was holding the spell that would become draining. Releasing her hands and muttering the words, Faida felt a funny sensation in her ears that was almost akin to inhaling, airy taste and all. And then suddenly, every sound around her became sharper than the thinnest glass. The voice speaking now was male, middle-aged, and scratchy. She cocked her head again and listened: "-know what else to tell you, Sir. I've been saying from the first that this wasn't the doing of a Nord. Definitely not the brute that made all that mess downstairs. The hair your man found finally proves it. Seems it was a girl who offed Sibbi. As for downstairs, if the sewers were a dead end, then I don't know what else to say." "It's not for you to say anything." This voice was deeper. It had no emotion to it at all. "I only expect you to answer questions about the bodies. You've done well with that... Wait..." The deeper voice trailed off, and the silence it left behind went on for so long, Faida began to wonder if he hadn't left. But then, after a full minute at least, the man spoke again. "Do you feel that?" "Feel what?" "Magic." Faida's heart stopped. The icy tendrils of fear were squeezing it. He knows... How could he have sensed such weak magic? That guard downstairs... he had called the Inspectors Gray Wolves. The man finished, "You're not the only one here who's casting." Like a ball had been dropped, Faida panicked and released her spell, only to immediately regret it. No! Fool! He'll have noticed you dropped it the moment he said that! ... Damn it! There was nothing to be done now. Instead of wasting time cursing herself, Faida's mind turned towards escape. She pushed aside one of the long red-patterned curtains to reveal the window behind it. It might have worked, if she could fly. The drop was two stories down onto stone pavement, and even if she were okay with making her escape on two broken legs, the guards who were down there would not be. Footsteps bounded down the hallway above her. They were headed in the direction of the stairs. Hide! she told herself. There's nowhere to run! But where could she hide? The dusty old room was virtually empty, and now that the Inspector was coming, she did not have time to run somewhere else. He was listening now. He would hear her. More footsteps. They were faint now, but only because they were all the way back at the stairs. Faida turned back to the window, to the dragon-patterned curtains that kept the room halfway covered in shadows, and she had her idea. It wasn't perfect, but it would have to serve. She threw up her hood and pulled the curtain over her lower body, taking extreme care to steady it so there was no shaking. With a few silent words, she tore into her remaining magicka reserves and let loose the strongest chameleon spell she could muster. Her hands faded into the patterned curtains. As did her clothes and lastly her face. Now she just needed to be still and hope that the illusion would hold long enough to matter... And perhaps more importantly, that the Inspector's uncanny sense for detecting magic wasn't so impossibly good as to work on concealing spells. A door opened elsewhere on the second floor. She breathed slowly, forcing her hands and legs to remain steady. She heard another door open, this one closer. He was right across the hall now... and then the footsteps moved again, ending in front of her door. Be still. Don't. Move. The spell will hold... The spell WILL hold. The door creaked open, and the Gray Wolf stepped inside. In the half-cast light of the window, she could only just make out the Imperial's features. He was tall for his race, and lean-muscled like her brother. But where Asgen had swagger in his step, the Inspector was like a statue. Straight and rigid. Dark, and cold. He wore a gray surcoat over mail, and his face beneath the eyes was hidden behind a mask. Why is he standing here so long?! Faida wondered. Does he know I'm here? The agent sniffed the air and took another step into the room. Oh no... She racked her brain for an offensive spell that might save her. The Penitus Oculatus may have been legends, but perhaps if he did not see her attack coming... But what could she do? Faida was not a powerful mage who dueled with fireballs and lightening. She was a witch. Her true power derived from the earthbones. From the Grey. Her own pool of magicka was rather pitiful by most mages' standards. Already, she was running low from just the three spells she had cast today. And to make matters worse, Faida knew the chameleon effect would not last a whole lot longer. If only Asgen were here. This man would already be dead. There'd be a mess of new problems, but at least this one would be solved. The Inspector took another step into the room and laid a hand on the table. Faida steeled herself. She had her dagger. It wasn't as sharp as her brother's, but it could kill if she was quick. Slowly, so very slowly, her hand that was behind the curtain moved down to the folds of her cloak, and then halted when a set of heavy metallic footsteps started ringing down the hall, culminating in a City Watchman appearing in the doorway. "There you are, Sir. Major Infernus sent for you. He wants a-" the Legionnaire paused and took a sniff. "What's that smell?" "Nightshade." responded the Gray Wolf, turning his back to Faida. "The wood absorbed the scent. What does Major Infernus want?" "For every Inspector on the job to report to him at that inn in the Elven Gardens. Apparently two more dead Brigadiers turned up in the Waterfront. Old corpses. He's got a theory, I think. But it's not for me to speculate." "You're right. It isn't." The Oculatus agent followed him out into the hall, but stopped again in the doorway. "You haven't seen anyone casting spells in the manor, have you?" "Well, there's the Coroner." "It's not the Coroner. It's someone else." The guard shrugged. "His assistant, maybe? I don't really know what she can do." "Assistant? He doesn't have any assistants." "She's only arrived recently. With so many bodies, it makes sense he'd call in another set of eyes to look them over." "And you saw her yourself?" "Yes sir. Nord lady with dark hair. She seemed decent enough." "Well if you see her again, send her to me. And I'll have no one else involved in this investigation without my knowing of it. Understand?" "Yes Sir." The Inspector cast one last look into the room, his dark eyes scrolling across it until they were satisfied. And then he closed the door. Seconds passed where the only sounds were their leaving footsteps and Faida's own heartbeat. And then she finally allowed herself to breath again. It was at that same moment that her chameleon spell wore off. Old Gods wicked and strong. That was too close. It wasn't a trade Faida desired to ever make again, but for all that fear, she had learned a few new things. She knew that the Oculatus were interested in the Silver Brigade, or more specifically, what she and her brother had been doing to them... that was troubling. But there was a silver lining in this. Any Inspectors in the manor had just been called to the Elven Gardens. Which meant that the terrifying man she'd hidden from ought to be the last she'd have to face. Just to be safe, Faida forced herself to count slowly to one hundred, and then backwards again down to zero. When she was done, her breath was calm, and she was ready to go to the third floor. The top level of the Elder Councilor's manor was much like the second. Hallways. Doors. Rooms. But it did have the noteworthy distinguishing feature of that small blood trail that started downstairs. The splatters were faint and spread out by now, as if the wounded person had tried wrapping his cut to slow the bleeding. But what remained did manage to lead her to a large office room. It was not as destroyed as the living room downstairs had been, but there was still blood and, most importantly, the well-dressed and half-mutilated corpse of a Nord who could have only been Sibbi Black-Briar. Faida had never expected to see that, no more than she had expected to have to hide from the Penitus Oculatus. It had been a strange day indeed. Kneeling over the corpse was an Imperial man in a bloodstained apron, with graying brown hair that jutted out on the sides. He looked up at her with curious eyes. "Who are you?" "I'm your new assistant." Faida said, closing the door behind her. She knelt down across from the Coroner. "I don't have any assistants." the man said, "Don't need them. There's nothing to be learned from these corpses than what I've already told them. So who are you, really? Should I be calling the guards?" "That's awfully strange." Faida said. "Because he specifically told me that you would want my help." "Who did?" "Major Infernus. Of the Penitus Oculatus." The Coroner frowned. "The man's the best at what he does, but he assumes too much. Go back and tell him I don't need any help. My work is basically through here." "I'll be sure to do so." She stood up. "So there's no more need for the corpses, then?" "No. In fact, I hear the Councilor who lives here, whatever in the blazes his name was, has been very adamant about having them removed. As much as the Legion loves pissing off Elder Councilors, I see no reason to deny him that at this point. They should be leaving come morning." Faida had only just thrown off his suspicions. She didn't want to ruin that by pressing for more information, but she couldn't help herself. "What's to be done with the bodies?" "No idea. Not my side of this business." He tapped the corpse with no concern for the powerful man it had once belonged to. "Though if I had a guess, I'd say this one's going home. Someone in Skyrim will know what to do with it." "I understand. And I'm sorry for intruding on your work." The man waved a dismissive hand. "Just make sure Infernus knows not to send you again. Goodbye." Faida gladly took the gesture as an opportunity to leave. The guards she passed gave her some off-hand glances, but no one said a word. Even the one she had charmed had not been thoughtful enough to realize he'd been duped. She smiled as she made her way back to the Temple District, still a little surprised that she'd had a run-in with the Penitus Oculatus and come out on top. And she'd learned when the bodies were being moved, making the trip not a complete waste. She couldn't wait to tell Asgen. *** "Pssh! Yeah, and I'm Emperor Leovic!" "It's true!" Faida couldn't believe her brother. Well, more accurately, he refused to believe her. And it was infuriating. "He was standing less than ten feet away. He looked right past me!" "Okay, right." Asgen knew his sister was probalby telling the truth, and he was actually rather impressed with the story. But it was a lot funnier to make her think he didn't. I'll congratulate her later. For now... "Well, while you were hiding in curtains, the scribe and I braved the heart of the Temple District and learned the secrets of the city's downtrodden dead. It's actually kind of interesting... in a morbid sort of way" He gave the Christophe a nudge. "Go on, tell her." Christophe had apparently been lost in his own thoughts, because Asgen's nudge brought him back into to the sibling's conversation. "What? Oh, yes, the bodies. According to the priest, there's a cave beneath the prison, into which water from the bay drains. They dump the bodies in that inlet, and they disappear beneath the city. Horrifying, isn't it?" "Aye. Though I'd wager that whatever critters live down below love it." Faida paused, thinking. "I learned that they'll be moving out the bodies tomorrow morning. As well as that the Penitus Oculatus," she glared at her brother, "are investigating the Silver Brigade. It turns out someone's been killing them." Asgen grinned. "Oops." "Yes, oops. Though it might be a blessing. If they're looking into the Brigade, they won't likely be letting them leave these next few days, meaning Senna's still gonna be up north with half her men missing when we go after her. And if none of them are leaving the city, we can rule out their chances of getting Sosia's body back. Though as long as it's been sitting there, I'm not sure they'd even want it." "So she's getting a watery funeral after all." Asgen said, less than pleased. "I don't suppose we can intercept her before she gets dumped in with the slaughterfish." "Asgen, we're this close to being a part of the investigation ourselves. All that they're lacking is our identities. What do you think will happen if we attack a wagon full of Brigadier corpses?" "We'll confuse them even more?" Asgen shrugged. "So, what are we gonna have to draw straws to see who jumps in?" "Draw straws?" Faida's brow arched. "I just infiltrated a crime scene and hid from an Oculatus Inspector while you asked a priest some questions. You're going in." "You allegedly did all that." her brother teased. "You're the athletic one!" "And you know magic!" Asgen's shoulders slumped. "But fine. I'll do it. But I expect you to come up with something that will keep away those fish. And I mean it. The Rumare slaughterfish are vicious, and I'll bet that the corpse dump site's got to be a favorite of theirs." "I'll come up with something." Faida promised. "Now come on, let's give Christophe his room back. We're gonna want to be up early tomorrow. Pre-dawn. We don't know when the... I guess... funeral?" "Funeral sounds right." "Alright then, we don't know when the funeral will be taking place, so we're going to want to get there very early. We can't risk missing this." Faida realized that she and Asgen had more or less excluded Chrisophe entirely. It was strange having a third member. She looked at him now. The scribe did not look bothered to have been left out of the planning, but she had to make sure. "Is there anything you want to add, Christophe? Any thoughts or ideas?" Christophe gave an apologetic look, which the twins didn't expect. He cast his eyes down to his bag and rifled through it for a few moments before producing a scroll. "I should have mentioned this sooner. It's an invisibility scroll, and one that lasts a good deal longer than any we could afford. It would have been safer than how you snuck into the manor. Maybe we can use it now, though, to get the body. Or avoid whatever creatures live in those caves." The twins exchanged a glance. Asgen saw shock in his sister's eyes, and Faida saw humor in his, though she knew her brother well enough to recognize when it was genuine and when it masked something else. This time was among the latter sort. "You're right." he said, with a chuckle. "With that, Faida might not've needed to hide from her scary 'wolf man'. But there's nothing for it now. Do you have any other incredibly valuable university tools hidden down in that bag of yours?" "Nothing else, unfortunately. I originally had two more invisibility scrolls, but I used them to escape from the Oculatus myself. They like to monitor the Embassy's letters, and the one I'm carrying need not be seen by the Empire," Christophe said. "That's... concerning." Asgen wasn't going to pester the Breton for details of the letter. He had done enough of that already, with no success. "Just go ahead and put that back away for now. I ain't planing on going into no caves. Bodies don't sink that fast. It's the fishes I'm worried about." "And slaughterfish hunt by smell as much as sight." Faida added. "Still, keep the scroll close. No doubt we'll need every advantage we can get when we go after Senna." Christophe nodded and put it back in his bag. "Let's hope we won't have to use it before then. Like if the Oculatus comes sniffing around." "From what I saw, I'm not sure if three scrolls would be enough." Faida smiled tiredly. "I'll be glad to be on the road again, and away from this city. I don't know about you two, but to me it feels like a rope is being drawn around it." "Right." Asgen pushed his sister toward the doorway. "You must be sleepy. Analogy ain't your style, Sis. Let's get some rest. G'night, Scribe." After the door was closed behind them, the twins shared another glance. "You don't think we need to be worried about that, do you?" Asgen asked as they made their way to their own room. "What?" Faida rolled her eyes, "So you'll believe the Scribe had a run-in with the Penitus Oculatus, but not me?" "Absolutely." She punched him on the arm. "I think it's just all the more reason to get out of this place as soon as possible. In fact, I wouldn't be the least bit upset if we could be saddled up and ready to leave the moment we're done at the lake." "I was thinking the same thing, which is why I'm going to stay up for a bit and pack for the both of us. I'll even drop in on Sele in a bit so he knows to do the same. Now get some sleep, Sis. I know you had an eventful day." *** Dawn came, and under its light the trio crouched at the edge a wooded stretch of land on City Isle. The inlet mentioned by the Priest of Arkay was roughly fifty yards to the north, and they had tied up Ulf and Rose to a tree another fifty yards to the south, where they were guarded by protective runes that Faida had carved into the surrounding land and trees. "It's all about patience." Asgen was saying to Christophe as they laid in wait. "People it's rare that people actually go about their important business at sunrise. It might be one in a twenty who actually do. But in our line of work, you can't afford to miss that one, which is why we're out here laying in the bleedin' dirt while the corpse draggers are probably still snoring in their half-cold beds." Not quite. Faida thought. She squinted her eyes to better make out the distant figures who'd just come into sight. She whispered, "I think that's them." "What?" Asgen turned, incredulous. "I don't see anyone." "Over by the city wall. Way back." She held out a finger. "Look where I'm pointing. They've got a cart. No, two carts... And some folks on foot." Asgen saw them now. Two carts and some walkers, as his sister had said. He turned back to Christophe. "Well bugger what I just said, then. Who'd have thought corpse draggers would be the one in twenty?" "Well, it's possible they wanted to get rid of the bodies quickly, before the Silver Brigade could raise a stink. Or before the bodies themselves could." Christophe chuckled quietly, as the carts and their keepers were drawing closer. They were almost to the inlet now. The twins counted nine men, or women. It was hard to tell through the brown sack cloth robes most of them wore. Once the procession reached the water's sandy edge, the tallest of the figures stepped apart from the rest and began to speak. It was impossible to make out the words from this distance, but his tone was grim. And then, as he still spoke, two of the others hoisted a naked male corpse from the cart and heaved it into the water. "Shit." Asgen muttered under his breath. That tall man was a priest, there to save the dead some dignity by bestowing their funeral rites. "I'd hoped they'd dump them all and be done with it." Faida agreed that the Imperial practice was a massive inconvenience. If Faida went in too early, there was nothing they could do to keep her from getting devoured by slaughterfish. Though they were safe at the moment at least. "They've only dumped men so far." she pointed out as the acolytes tossed in a third corpse from the front cart. She was about to add something else, but stopped when the next body to be lugged up was a dark-haired female. She agreed with her brother again. "Shit... Here, take these." she handed Asgen the two mixtures she had concocted that morning. "Don't get these mixed up. The clear goes on your skin. It'll keep off the fish. The pink's for drinking. It's how you'll breath." Asgen sighed as he took the pink vial. "I remember this stuff..." he glanced at Christophe. "Foul's too kind a word." Looking back at his sister, he asked, "And you're sure the repellent will work?" "Well... I've never tested it... but I don't see why it wouldn't." "Great. At least if things get bad, I won't be able to drown myself before the fish eat me alive." The procession had moved on to the second cart now. They tossed in another female, also dark-haired. That gave the Tynes hope. The next two corpses were male, and then one last female, a Redguard. Asgen began to grow antsy as the carts were wheeled around, but the Priest remained in place, still speaking to, or for the dead. "Come on, man!" Asgen hissed. "Hurry up!" Eventually, after much longer than any of that dead rabble probably deserved, the Priest and his acolytes turned and began to depart. By then, Asgen had already stripped down to his underwear and coated himself in the slimy clear stuff his sister had made. In his left hand was the water breathing potion, and in his right was his dagger. "How do you expect to use that?" Faida asked. "Hopefully, we won't find out." he answered. And then, as of Arkay's devoted marched off, he broke out of the woods at a dead sprint. Don't turn around. he thought at them. Don't you dare turn around! They didn't turn around, and so Asgen safely came to a stop at the edge of the water, where he downed Faida's potion in one gulp. It was thick like mud, but tasted far worse. He felt his throat shift and stretch to let it all down, and in the potion's place was a strange tingly sensation that flared up every time he inhaled. With one last breath of real air, Asgen placed his dagger between his teeth and climbed down into the water... where he continued to breath no differently than he had before. The Rumare was clearer than he'd expected. This inlet was nowhere near as murky as some of the areas that got more traffic. But it was dark. And deep. As Asgen swam away from the shore, the sand below quickly disappeared into nothingness beneath him. Just focus on the job. he told himself. Not the darkness or the monster-infested caves below... The bodies were not far from him now. There were twelve in all, slowly drifting down into the blackness. The Redguard who'd been dumped last was the first to greet him, her dead eyes set in a blank stare. Asgen shivered. Why did it feel like she was looking right at him? Down further he swam, pinching his nose every few feet to blow, so as to balance out the pressure in his head. Next, he passed a male Nord. Unfamiliar. The third corpse he came to, however, was a dark-haired woman. He turned her over and frowned in disappointment. This one was not Sosia. She was far too old and lacked the neck scar Silver was known for. He was going to push her away, but instead, out of nowhere, the dead woman was torn from his grasp and dragged several yards away. Asgen's surprise was so great that he nearly gasped and lost his dagger, but he settled for letting his heart skip a beat instead. The slaughterfish had come out of nowhere, a dark arrow in the water, longer and wider than his arm. He could see it now, ripping into the flesh of its stolen prey, releasing a thin trail of black blood that drifted up in the water like smoke. Overcoming the shock of what he had just seen, Asgen turned his attention back downward, thankful for Faida's spriggan piss, or whatever in the world it was that his sister had coated him with. He was quite deep now, and the next female corpse was deeper still. At least he thought it was. The dim morning sun seemed to be having trouble piercing all the way down here, and at this point most of the dark masses looked the same. He swam on anyway, grabbing the next corpse he spotted, a quick feel of it confirmed that it was male. As was the next. Something fast and slimy brushed against his leg, making him jerk away. The slaughterfish darted off as well, but when he looked up, he spotted its silhouette tearing into one of the corpses he had already passed. There were several of them now, fighting over the corpses. No doubt they had been drawn by the scent of blood. Keep going. he told himself, praying that there would be enough of Sosia left to recognize by the time he found her. The next corpse was male again, and then... finally, after going so deep that he could've sworn that he was starting to feel the pull of the caverns down below, Asgen's arm wrapped around a female figure. In the darkness, there was only one way to tell it was the one he sought. He fumbled around for her neck, and felt the long, rough bundling of scar tissue he had hoped for. Desperate to get out of here as soon as possible, Asgen pulled one of her arms over his shoulder and began kick his way upwards. The weight of the water was stronger going up, and Sosia's own weight certainly did not make his task any easier. Eventually, he reached the last body he had passed and found it now lacked an arm. Another slaughterfish shot by. Asgen's kicking became furious. They were everywhere now. Dozens of them, jumping from one corpse to the next. His eyes widened when one of the razor-snouted monsters came straight at him, but then veered off mere inches away from his face. Faida's repellent may have shielded him, but he soon found that the body of Sosia had been granted no such protection. It, and he along with it, was very forcefully jerked off to the right as one of the beasts slammed into the corpse's legs. When Asgen looked down, he saw that Sosia's body now lacked a left foot. He kicked all the harder, pushing up, straight through the throng of fish, blood, and bodies. Even the repellent did not keep them away from him entirely. Scales and fins brushed Asgen on the legs and stomach, and once, one of the slaughterfish actually braved a nip at his belly before deciding it did not like the taste. He was getting close now. The color of the water had gone from black to a dim green. He felt a jolt as another fish ventured a bite at his shoulder before swimming away. Another tore a chunk off of the corpse's cheek. The force of it dragged Asgen back down several feet. That's it! He let go of Sosia's corpse, only to catch it by the hair. He then used his free hand to 'unsheathe' the dagger from his teeth. He lowered it to the exact spot where the woman had suffered her fabled wound in life, and he started to cut. Dark blood oozed from the wound, no doubt drawing the attention of every fish in the lake, but Asgen did not care. He worked through the flesh, through the bone, and then through the flesh again, until it was finally free. Instantly, a team of slaughterfish, assaulted the headless corpse, but Asgen had already turned away from it. With the head in one hand and his dagger in the other, he swam upward feeling light as a feather. He swam past the first dark-haired corpse, now torn to pieces, past the two men, past the Redguard, until at long last, Asgen could see sand again. It was beautiful. When he emerged, he chucked the head ashore and waded after it as it rolled. Once Asgen had put ample distance between himself and the water, he fell onto his back and began to swallow the clean, unbloodied air. A concerned Faida and Christophe were looking down at him. "You're hurt." his sister pointed out, already preparing a spell. To her surprise, the scribe was already kneeling down beside her preparing to help with healing magic of his own. As for her comment, Asgen didn't even answer, he just laid there and stared at the sky. After a long while, he forced himself to sit upright. Nodding to his sister, he said, "Next time, you're going into the water." "Next time." Faida promised. "You did good. Now we've just got to deal with the living one." "And the head," Christophe said, having retrieved what was left of Sosia Silver once Asgen's wound had closed. He was using his robes to wipe away the water and sand, and it looked like he was swaddling the world's most disturbing baby. "And the head." she agreed. "It's already gotten pretty bloated. Best if we get back to the horses and tar it now." "Do you think he'll recognize it?" Christophe asked, handing it off to Faida as the walked briskly toward the horses. They left Asgen behind, wearing a faux dejected look, though he still wasn't quiet ready to leaving his lounging position. "He won't need to recognize it," she answered. "Senna will. All the more reason that we can't afford not to take her alive." "Should we fail, I'll be happy to vouch for the head's identity to your employer. For all the good the word of a scribe will do," Christophe said. "Of course, seeing as he hired you for this job in the first place, I imagine he trusts you more than a common sellsword." "He trusts we want his money. I'm not certain he has much reason to go beyond that." "I'm willing to do my part so you two get that money. And Erer too, who is likely more helpful than myself," Christophe said. The eagle was sitting on a tree near the horses, guarding the mounts along with the runes Faida had cast. "I'll probably need to get a horse of my own, before we get too far from the city." "You can ride double with me until we reach the bridge." Faida offered. "The stable there should have something affordable." "Thank you. I wouldn't mind walking, but seeing as we are in a hurry I'll not slow us down by doing so," Christophe said. "Good." When they arrived at the horses, Faida dropped the head and started rummaging through her pack for the thick glass jar that contained the tar. Once she'd found it, she rolled back her sleeves, knelt down, and set to work applying a thick layer of the stuff to their new 'prize'. Without looking up, she said to Christophe, "Now your letter, I know it ain't our business what you're carryin' for King Adrard. But seeing as how the three of us are already pushing the boundaries with some dangerous folks in that city over there, I've gotta ask, for my sake and my brother's, is it something we should be worried about?" "I wish I could say. I know the Penitus Oculatus were after me initially, but I used an invisibility scroll, so I don't know how they could have followed me. But if they figure out where I am, they will be coming after me, rest assured. Though they do not know the nature of my letter. All they know is I disappeared mysteriously, and with the scrutiny placed on the Breton Ambassador, that is more than enough to warrant a hunt. So in truth, it is me they're after, and not the letter." "Wonderful... I suppose there's nothing to be done for it now." When Faida was finished, she dropped the severed head into a burlap sack and tied it to Ulf's saddle. It was not long after that Asgen caught up with them, still half-naked and a little pale. He found his bundle of clothes and gear beside a tree where he'd left them. "Let's get out of this place." he said while dressing. "Between sellswords, Oculatus, and the gods damned slaughterfish, I think we can all agree that we're about done with it." "I know I'm ready to be away from the smell, at the very least," Christophe said. "You and me, both." Faida laughed and pulled herself up onto Rose. The horse threw its head back in acknowledgement of its owner, and probably to show gratitude that it had been Ulf, rather than her, who had been forced to carry the stinking severed head. The male horse was already looking at its own owner with what Faida could swear was indignation. "Here," she held out a hand for the scribe and helped him climb on behind her just as Asgen mounted his own steed. It took several hours to cross the island off-road in order to reach the stables. Beyond that brief stop to procure Christophe a horse of his own, the trio had no intentions on stopping again until they were good and far away. The Imperial City had been pretty, for sure, but in the end it proved to be rather unforgiving to foreigners will ill-intent. Neither twin voiced the exact words aloud, but after crossing the bridge and moving onto Red Ring Road, the same thoughts were going through their minds. Good riddance.
  48. 4 points
    Hail Allies, Ambassadors, and Elders, If you popped into TESA yesterday [7/13] you may have been greeted by a really terrible ACCOUNT SUSPENDED warning page. Here is the story on what's been happening. Ive mentioned hosting issues before, and that we needed to migrate to a new host. The reason for this is that our current host, has been misidentifying normal forum files and flagging them as malware. They told us, we were likely being hacked and that we needed to secure the site for several thousand dollars, OR find a new host because we only get 4 malware flags before we are suspended permanently. We raised funds and found a new host. The NEW host had a really hard time moving TESA due to its size however, after a month they were really annoyed, hadn't finished the job, kept charging us more money until we just had to cancel the migration. They refused to refund our money. So I came back to our old host and asked if they were REALLY going to suspend us for this file thing since we'd done our due diligence to keep these "hackers" out. They promised that was not their policy that they would never force anyone to use their security partner and that we were fine to stay...YAY! So, yesterday, a number of you reported some skin errors after the latest software update. I downloaded the skin update and uploaded it to TESA and BANG...Account Suspended. The good news is I figured out who the "hacker" is. It's me. Apparently every time I innocently updated something to keep our security up, they were flagging these same files over and over again. The file they flagged yesterday was a normal part of the theme confirmed both by the theme author IPSFocus, and forum software company IPS. Despite bringing this to our host's attention, they refuse to accept they are misidentifying things and the suspension stands. So what does that mean for TESA? It means we have 10 days to find ANOTHER new host, and complete the same job those techs couldn't do in a month before TESA and her sister site Druid Gameworks are binned. The site is only visible now because the old host granted a 48 hour reprieve of our suspension so I could access the files for migration. The Druid lads have kicked in more funds for another host which we secured this morning and the migration is currently underway. With luck, I'll pull this off and you folks will not experience anymore downtime as it should migrate seamlessly. The 48 hour deadline started about an hour ago. I will update as Im able. We really apologize for this disruption, we've been at the mercy of server hosts and have had no notice of changes, delays, or actions taken in this process. We will fight, I will fight, with everything I've got to keep TESA standing. It might get bumpy, so hang on. DarkRider and the TESA Team
  49. 4 points
    Update: And we are back! Okay the mod files appear great though we're missing a couple thumbnails, the galleries look solid as well, some of the older attachments I didn't migrate in order to save time, I will begin uploading them now, but this is a good time for folks to shed the excess attachments on their accounts. Deleting a PM does not delete attachments so make sure you clean house once in awhile! I will be adjusting things over the next few days, uploading any old content still on my HD and doing general maintenance. We really appreciate all the patience and support. Hopefully we'll have a long comfortable reign here with our new host! Cheers, and welcome home
  50. 4 points
    Update: As you can see we are still on the old server. With 11,000 files to go, our account was suspended again. For once TESA's size worked in our favor, my FTP client just kept attempting to download files tossing them in the failed list until the host lifted the suspension for another 48hrs. My rig immediately resumed downloading and I kicked the failed files from the disruption back into the queue, so 11,000 to go! Once things are downloaded I'll start uploading to the new server. In 48 hours the account will likely suspend permanently, I think they've granted all the time they're willing to now. So when TESA reappears we'll be on the new server. Our sister site Druid Gameworks is fully migrated and operational now so feel free to shelter there, use the chat box etc until TESA returns