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Civil War Aftermath Chapter 3: Season's End

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Civil War Aftermath Chapter 3: Season's End

Summary: The War of the Sundered Dragon is at an end. Emperor Motierre is assassinated and will soon be replaced by Dales Motierre, his daughter. The Stormcloaks and Imperials are allied against the Thalmor and Pale Pass is in Stormcloak hands. The blockade at the Sea of Ghosts is ended, and Cyrodiil and Skyrim will soon resume trade as they get ready for the great war. In the meantime, everyone is either relaxing, going on adventures, or simply moving on to a different field of conflict before the storm of the next great war finally hits. However, Hammerfell who is allied with Skyrim is conflicted with their alliance with Cyrodiil and both Skyrim and Cyrodiil will need to make sure that the Redguards are on board before they make their move against the Thalmor. Or they make their move on them.

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Power corrupts, absolute power... is a whole lot of fun!

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Maggie and Samuel
Imperial City
Just after the assassination

Motierre dead. A new Motierre taking his place. She was alive. These were the facts at hand. Maggie was still reeling from the implications. Fleeing the palace through the secret entrance Motierre had enabled for her, she thought to throw a cloak over herself. Her hands were still sticky with blood, and it streaked the front of her white dress.

She didn't trust to the cloak, however, casting an invisibility spell over herself as she emerged from behind a hidden lintel in Dominion Plaza. It was raining lightly, and the streets of the well-heeled district were deserted. This had once been called the Talos Plaza District. The old statue of a dragon in the central plaza had been replaced with an obscenity: A larger-than-life figure of a Thalmor justiciar reaching out to clasp the hand of a shorter legionnaire. The set of statues was continually being vandalized, even after the city watch made the penalties for it into capital offenses. With Motierre gone and the Thalmor about to be hunted, Maggie wondered how long it would take for the statues to come down completely.

No leisurely stroll home tonight. Sometimes breaking into a run, she finally made it to her house in the Elven Gardens District, not bothering to break her invisibility spell as she accosted the door guard. "Is he here?"

"Is who here, my lady?" The guard wasn't startled so much as confused.

Maggie made a noise of disgust and continued into the house. All these weeks and the nightblades still hadn't caught up. Since Samuel had appeared in her back garden uninvited, she had been more reluctant to the rest there, something she resented. Even that last bit of solace had been denied her. Now, however, she was hoping to find him.

Going straight to the garden, she called out, "Guardian?"

A smile spread across his lips as the young woman entered the Garden. This moment had come a little sooner than he would have anticipated the first time they had met here, but with all that had been going on between then and now, he was hardly surprised. Hopefully she had kept a cool head in the chambers with the dead man. The problems that came if she hadn't were great. He removed his concealment at the same place as their last encounter.

"Yes, Rose, I am here."

Maggie expelled a breath, relieved to see him emerge, but angry at the same time. Shedding her cloak, she held up her blood-stained hands. "You knew about this?"

"Would you believe me if I said anything but yes? Of course I knew Motierre's time had come. I've not been idle since we last saw each other, my beautiful Rose."

"You should have told me. I was completely blind in there. Did you know about the wizard, too?" She crossed to the little stream feeding her lily pool, hesitated, then crouched down and began to wash her hands in the cool water.

"Yes, I suppose I should have. Let us ignore the other, and more dire I might add, situations I needed to prevent when this finally happened," Samuel walked over, stopping next to her. With what seemed to be actual curiosity he looked down at her hands. "Wizard, you say? A strange looking figure with an unnerving presence, even to one such as you?"

"A Nord, yes." Maggie didn't meet Samuel's eyes, and though the blood was not all gone, she stood. "I know him. Met him, once. I would never have expected to meet him here. Our new empress calls him her teacher."

"I've met him too, during my last visit to Skyrim. He has quite the reputation, in the darker circles in the world. And he is dangerous to track. Takes offense for things he should take for granted. If the coming Empress is involved with him, things are about to become very interesting here in the city." For a few seconds he was silent. There was much they had to discuss, but a part of him didn't want it to begin. To re-live this... "How about a stroll around the isles, my dear Rose? It would surely bring you more solace than you will find here, now that it is haunted," Samuel held out his hand, waiting for her to take it.

"The isles?" Maggie looked at him blankly. Her usual smile was nowhere to be seen, evidence that she was still shaken from the night's experiences.

"The island where the Imperial City lies, of course. Surely you're familiar with it. Such a nice place to take a stroll, and quite rarely used by the inhabitants of the city, due to the wolves."

"Very well. I shouldn't be seen like this. I'll change into a clean dress. Unless you prefer not to be seen at all."

"Why would I not want to be seen in the presence of the Magdela Bathory? After all, there any many nobles who would have gone to great lengths to share an evening with you, walking the Imperial City. But you already know which of the options I would chose."

Maggie regarded Samuel silently, unsure if he was mocking her. She had rarely felt as alone as she did on this night, and he was the only one nearby who could possibly understand it. "I should change, in case. There may be stops I'll need make on the way home. The city will be roiling by morning with the news. I'll only be a moment." Taking the cloak with her, she returned to the house.

A few minutes later she re-emerged, clean and appearing fresh as ever, though still subdued in manner. She had changed into a simple shift with a shawl around her shoulders, both of black silk. "Ironic that I should appear to be mourning Amaund, I know," she said, with a trace of smile.

"Yes, quite." He returned her smile and held out his arm. Unlike her he didn't seem bothered with what had happened. Did he ever express any emotions at all? While even she weren't sure if she would tell there difference between when he faked his emotion and when he was sincere, the seemingly carefree nature he had now was too easy to detect. "Shall we go, Rose?"

Silently Maggie took Samuel's arm and walked with him along the side path around the house,  past the nightblade guard at the front, who stood gaping after them.

The rain had stopped. When they were some ways from the house, walking along the empty streets, she broke the silence. "The odd thing is that while I won't mourn him, I didn't want this to happen, either. I would have talked the girl out of it, if there had been any possibility."

"Would you really? I am surprised that you would say so. But I suppose that is t be expected, when he was the key to your ambitions."

"It is difficult to think that all that effort went to nothing. Perhaps not to nothing. Our new empress seems willing to keep me at court, and her 'teacher' does as well. It's just so crude. The girl slit her own father's throat."

Samuel was about to answer, but one of the Imperial Guard passed by them, looking at Maggie for a moment before he gave an approving gesture to her companion. Shortly after, they passed around another corner. "The girl did what she had to do. What would you expect, when he sent her to die in Skyrim?"

"I suppose Skyrim doesn't put one in the mood for subtlety. Honestly, I expected someone to try to murder him and frame me for the crime. Perhaps I'm thinking like a novelist.  The plot twist." She allowed a little smile once more, and glanced at Samuel. "Aren't you going to say 'I told you so'? You warned me I was wasting my time with Amaund."

"And what would that accomplish? You already know that I warned you about his impending death, to suggest that you needed a reminder would be an insult to your intellect." 

Another guard passed by them, alone in the night, but he didn't pay any attention to them. Likely he saw them as just a couple of lovers, out for a romantic night and painfully unaware of the storm that could hit the next morning. When he had passed, Samuel continued, "I've been meaning to ask you, Rose, about the novels you write. Is there really subtle hints of our Order in them, or is it something that has been added subconsciously due to your personal experiences?"

Her expression is sober once more. "A writer can't write except with some part of herself in it. I make no conscious reference to our Order, whatever Father may say about the Breton book. He wouldn't even listen to my reasoning. Simply assumed that it was lack of caution, or... some kind of dare. I hardly know. I don't understand him at all, and the feeling is apparently mutual."

"I am willing to take your word that you haven't done so intentionally, though I am sure you'd understand my curiosity about the subject. After all, if it were deliberate..."

"I know the consequences. Though I would expect some more elegance than my lady Motierre bothered with."

"Ah, yes, the assassination. I apologize for leading us off topic for a while there. For once, you know something I don't; you know how it happened. I need you to tell me." 

Samuel and Maggie walked through the gate that led them to the bridge to the Imperial Prison. However, once they had passed through, Samuel took an immediate left, of the bridge and down a very overgrown path down to the isles exterior.

"Be sure to watch your footing, Rose, it can be slippery here."

Maggie ducked beneath the branches of a low-hanging branch, and continued on. "I was with Amaund. We hardly had a moment to react, though I understand now, since most of the guard would have recognized her and permitted her entry. She didn't take any chances on the door guards. It was their blood on my hands, as well. I had to make a decision.  Your warning had prepared me, and the legion's complaints were growing. If an emperor loses his army..." The path was level again, and she went on, "I helped her. Paralyzed him. It was a gesture of good faith to her, though when the wizard showed up, I wasn't sure it would be enough to placate him. He was late. I expect he was probably taking care of the boys. By then, the princess had killed her father, and I negotiated with them, offered my help in rooting out the Thalmor and establishing her rule with the nobility. The legion has turned on the Dominion army in Skyrim, I expect you heard as much."

"Yes, I heard about that. I am not surprised to be honest, most of the Legion was loyal to Titus Mede, not Motierre. It wouldn't have taken much to make them turn on the one who openly welcomed the Dominion in the Empire." Samuel reached his arm once more, now that they had gotten down the path. "Interesting that you would take part in the act itself, just as I expected of you. Playing your cards to win as much favor with the assassins as possible was the best way to go about it, I'd say."

Maggie glanced at him. "You approve?" She sounded surprised, having expected her every action to be scrutinized negatively. "I think it went as well as could be expected. Dales, she remembered some ball years ago where I danced with her because the boys would not, or she didn't want to dance with them, I can't recall. She was very warm towards me, even concerned for my welfare. The wizard..." Pursing her lips, she came to a more difficult point. "He recognized me. Not from any time in my public life. I think he knows. He called me 'diil sos lun.' He says he will not speak of it to Dales if I do not try to override his authority. This wizard is the true power, Guardian. Not the young empress."

"Whether I approve or not is irrelevant. I will give you credit where credit is due, even if I happen to disapprove of your actions. Whether I do or not is left for you to figure out. I wouldn't be living up to your father's expectations if I simply gave you the answer to that. As for the mage..." A wolf's howl breached the air, silencing Samuel for a moment. When he could no longer hear the creature, he continued, "I expected him to be involved with her some way, once you mentioned he was our future Empress' teacher. Honestly, the Lady Motierre is too young and too used to an easy lifestyle with all the comforts of the nobility to be able to do something like that alone. She seems to have had a very sudden change of personality. I suspect he is the reason behind that. Interesting that he would call you a blood leech though, he seemed to be more refined than that when I met him."

"He's blunt. Likely he was guessing, trying to shock me. Of course I didn't confirm or deny anything. One as old as he is can hardly pass judgments when it comes to extending lifespan. The Nords have strange magic in their history." She paused as they came through some trees to the shores of Lake Rumare. It was too late for fireflies and too early for even the earliest birds, though the water rippled once, likely from a slaughterfish in its depths. Looking out over lake, Maggie continued, "I wrote a book about him. Not in a way that anyone could connect to him as he's known now, but he recognized himself in it. The Lost King. One of my first published works, possibly my favorite." She turned to Samuel, suddenly curious. "Have you read any of my books?"

"Quite frankly, I have not. I rarely make time for fiction. As I am sure you understand, I am a very busy man most of the time. Would you believe that this trip with you is the first chance I've had to do anything near relaxing in a very long time?"

He let go of her arm and ran down to the shore, waving for her to follow him. Once there, he picked up a flat rock and threw it sideways along the water. It touched the surface a few times, further and further from the shore, before it finally went under.

Maggie trailed after him, watching. The boyish game of rock-skipping was the last thing she expected to see. When she caught up, she looked idly down at the selection of rocks, chose a likely one. "I have no idea what you do. Have you so many demands on you, even after all this time?" Tossing her shawl back on the bank, she paused for concentration, then sent the rock skipping across the water several times before it disappeared with a plunk.

He glanced at her with a smile, this one... different from the ones he had given her before, somehow. He picked up another stone and threw it. "And I'd prefer it to stay that way, you not knowing exactly what I do, at least for now. I have a great many demands indeed, more so the longer I do what I do. I have exactly two people I know I can trust fully."

"I don't suppose, if I just ask, you'll tell me who those two are." Clearly Samuel had her intrigued, and also as a by-product of the conversation, less rattled. Talking to him reminded her that her priorities were larger than just the small world of the palace. Returning her eyes to the lake, Maggie said, "If I remain in the palace, I can still be eyes and ears for you there. I'll need something in return. Information and influence are the only thing which can buy us access, if the wizard knows about me  I have my own informants, but no doubt not as many as yours. You'll help me?"

"I'll help you, that is why I am here. I prefer the cub to not be separated from the pack, before it is absolutely necessary, but you'll have to accomplish most on your own. I cannot be your Guardian forever, so you must learn how to succeed without me. But... I'll help you get started and I'll do what I can to keep the mistakes you make from coming back to you, even if I will explain how you made them for future reference." Another rock flew across the water, further and with more skips than the  ones up until that point. Samuel let out a chuckle. "Since I've already answered one question plainly, I might as well do so with another. There is a man from Skyrim , which I met in a bar. I was not there on business, but I started to talk to him and he offered to come with me, seeing as I looked like I was more lonely than anyone he had ever encountered. Not sure how, but he seemed to know something about it and we've been regularly in contact ever since. His name is Rorek. As for the other one, you'll have to guess, though that would hardly be difficult for you."

Maggie hesitated. She wanted to be wrong. "My father?"

"Yes, your father. A remarkable man really, though I'm sure you wouldn't think so. I don't blame you, he can be a little overprotective of the things he cares for the most."

She gave a bitter little laugh. "His precious legacy. I hope Rorek is better company. Of course, maybe Father actually talks to you." A bit of movement caught Maggie's eye, and she watched the mudcrab skitter along the bank. It hadn't noticed them yet.

"Yes, he does..." Samuel didn't continue for a while, but let a small green orb hit the mudcrab. It stopped and approached them, stopping right in front of him. Samuel knelt and started to pet it. The wolf from before, or maybe another one, howled again. "I can understand that you don't like your father, I wouldn't either if I was in your shoes. He is a... troubled man. I admit, I am not even sure if I am capable of explaining it."

"He doesn't trust anyone but himself and doesn't love anyone but himself. I know it's necessary to do that to survive- trust to your own resources- but I should not like to become that. Of course, some would say of me that I only offer false love. It doesn't feel false, though. Not entirely. I always feel something." Maggie stepped back from the mudcrab, wrinkling her nose. She stooped to retrieve her shawl, shaking the dew from it and wrapping it around her shoulders. "I should get back to the city, but I have one more question for you, for now. I promised the wizard help in rooting out the Thalmor and their supporters. I won't give them anyone I know to be useful to us, but what about the justiciars?  Would you turn them all over, or should I warn some of them tonight? We might be able to use their gratitude later." She had spent years cultivating those contacts, and was reluctant to give them up entirely.

"I would try to argue with you on the position of your father, but this is an issue I think the two of you have to solve yourselves. All I can offer is the advice that not everything is as it might seem in your family." Samuel got to his feet, letting the mudcrab get back to doing its own thing, before he turned to. For a moment the creature looked around, probably a little confused. "I'd be careful with aligning yourself with the Thalmor as it stands now, even your old contacts. Their gratitude might be useful in the future, but it comes at a greater risk. With the Men of Tamriel united against them, I don't see having their favor as something to aspire to. Once they showed themselves as hostiles, instead of isolationist, they made a grave mistake. And before you go... I have an assignment for you."

Maggie sighed, recognizing the truth of it. Only a year ago, Dominion hegemony had seemed inevitable, but if Cyrodiil was going back to open hostility with the Thalmor, counting on that would be too risky in her position. Her contacts were useful only as sacrifices for barter. "What is it?" she asked, coming around to Samuel's final statement.

"There is a man in Skyrim, who recently switched sides in the war that raged between the Empire and Skyrim. A very influential man that also happens to want me dead, with a great passion I might add. While I do not fear for my own life, I can disappear of the face of Tamriel on a moments notice, he knows enough about me to potentially be a threat to unprepared allies. I suspect he will come to this city soon, in the name of a Skyrim-Cyrodiil alliance. I need him dead, without jeopardizing the alliance, which is where you come in."

"Very well. I assume it's as easy for you to find an assassin as it is for me, so you need me to try to get close to this man. Is he open to my sort of charms?"

"I want you to get close to him, but not in the ways you might think. Unless you prefer to, that is. For now I need you to make him trust you. How you go about that is entirely up to you. Be warned though, he might not have those interests with one such as yourself. Women, that is. He certainly have showed a greater interest for men in the past. The best way to win his trust, if I am to give you my educated guess, is to convince him that you are someone that wants me dead and need his help to go through with it. But be careful to not overplay your part, he is a jarhead, not an idiot. His name is Marius Imperius."

"I recall the name." She committed it to memory, then regarded Samuel curiously. "What did you do to make him want you dead so badly? And by what name does he know you? It will be a delicate game, convincing him that I'm a threat to you but not to him."

Samuel let out another chuckle and smiled at her, now in the way she had gotten used to before. What was different about this smile and the one from earlier? It was impossible to tell, other than that it... felt different. "Other than being the one who forced him to betray the Empire and subsequently requesting his death, you could say we used to be... intertwined, for a while. He never got over that, and when it became apparent that I no longer felt the same way... Safe to say, he hates me. I might add that you should probably hear out his side of the story. He went a little of the rails and I am uncertain of his mental stability. I could have given a better answer before, but now some facts about him have changed and I want you to play it safe. And he knows me by the name both you and your father knows me." He walked up to her and reached out his hand for her to lay hers in.

This reply was a surprise, and for once Maggie's mind didn't immediately leap to how she could use the story in a novel, though that would likely come later. Samuel was a puzzle.  So like her father, yet entirely unlike him. Perhaps the count had known that she would respond to this man more readily than to his own instruction and correction? If so, that was more insight than she'd allowed for Darius Bathory before.

Giving her hand, she said sincerely, "I will do what I can.  Remember your pledge to aid me.  I'm at great risk now, more than ever, and I can be no good to anyone if I'm destroyed."

"I'll seek you out the next time you need to talk to me, my dear Rose." He took her hand and kissed it, before he turned invisible. Still invisible, she could feel his hand for split second, before that too disappeared. The sound of his feet slowly disappeared in the distance.

Maggie watched the receding footsteps, still trying to work out the puzzle. The chitter of the mudcrab nearby brought her out of her thoughts. She was about to send a flash bolt at it, but stopped, thinking about Samuel crouched down and petting the creature. What sort of person did that? She let the mudcrab alone and walked further down the shore, following the path as it led towards Weye. The torch of a mounted imperial guard winked along the road in the distance.

She didn't really want to return to the city. It had seemed like torture, those years in the Jeralls where she might see no one's face but the servants. Many times she had wandered the paths near the keep alone, not heeding her father's warnings, just hoping for something to happen, for someone- anyone- to appear. Being allowed to join imperial society had seemed like paradise in comparison. So many people to talk to, and so much to see. Despite realizing how empty much of it was, Maggie still loved the ebb and flow. Only on this night the city felt like a trap, and she found herself longing for the peace of the desolate mountains, the freedom from eyes watching her. Somehow Samuel had known she needed this little respite.

The path snaked upwards to the large city gate. The guard looked at Maggie suspiciously, but opened. The gate then clanged behind her, closing her in once more. A street vendor passed her, pushing his cart, on his way to get breakfast rolls from the bakeries. He ignored her, but a shopkeeper sweeping his front step gave her a tip of his hat. "Morning, m'lady. Rain's let up. Should be a fine day."

She returned his smile, wondering what the man would say if he knew the emperor was dead. On a second thought Maggie realized that the news would probably affect the man's life even less than the weather. Even her life had not changed so very much with Motierre's passing, perhaps even for the better. "A fine day," she agreed, and walked on.


Samuel dispelled the effects he had conjured in Maggie's ears when she started to climb up the path they had taken down and looked down on the mudcrab that was beside him. It, like everyone else would have, seemed oblivious to his presence there. He had never quite gotten why people hated them, they seemed like friendly creatures as long as you didn't provoke them.

One last time before he started to walk back to the city he petted the creature, much to its surprise. However, it didn't become histile once he became visible once more. Like any other wild creature, it could be thought not to fear you, even without magic.

"Well, Rose," he mumbled to himself. "I should make sure my end of the bargain is held up. Time to call in some of the favors from the Imperial City underworld again."

Power corrupts, absolute power... is a whole lot of fun!

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Prologue, Imperial City, Evening 

Lord Major Lorgar Grim-maw sat on an oak tree bench, in the front row of the Royal Imperial Chapel. Beside him was Lord General Ceno, and High General Tullius, respectively on the right and left side of him. Lorgar wore his Penitus Oculatus dress uniform, underneath his custom-made Dark trench coat, while Tullius wore his Imperial legion dress uniform, along with a red cape. The Chapel was spacious, filled with similar oak benches. and red imperial dragon banners. At the front of the chapel, was nine shrines, each of them dedicated to the nine divine. Lorgar himself, while respecting there god-hood, didn't worship any of them.

He turned his head to his friend and comrade, Tullius. "Tullius, when is the ceremony getting underway?"

Tullius responded snidely, "When everyone arrives, I assume, and when her majesty, Empress Dales is ready. What? You excited for the party 'Duke' Grim-maw?"

All-maker forbid, no... 

Gracchus paid little attention to the conversation between the two. He looked at his shoulder, the golden Lord General insignia glinting with the torch light. His first night in the Imperial City, the Princess summoned him, and there she promoted him to the rank of Lord General. He wore his insiginia on his dress uniform, which consisted of an armored skirt, similar to the one on his heavy Imperial armor, and a cuirass like General Tullius', except his was silver. Gracchus' blue cape hung from pins on his shoulders, with the Imperial Dragon in red on the back. 

Finally snapping out of his trance, Gracchus turned to Lorgar, now a Duke, and said, his voice dripping with sarcasm, "I would figure a Duke of all people would love parties."

"Very funny Lord-General. Publicly, I absolutely adore those 'gatherings', which I attend regularly. Talking, socializing, and dancing with all the fair ladies of the court. Personally, I attend because a man of my stature is expected to attend, nothing more..." 

It seemed like Lorgar was going to say something else, but a greeting from a young lady interrupted him, "Gooday milord..." She said to Lorgar, the woman appeared in her twenties, long brown hair, green eyes, tall, and very attractive.

"Ah yes, Baroness Venci. You look, radiant milady," said Lorgar, already planting a kiss on her hand.

"Your flatter me milord... I just wanted to say how handsome you look, and wanted to greet you."

"Thank you milady." Lorgar said, nodding his head. And with that, the baroness left. After making sure she was gone, Lorgar said in a deadpan tone to the lord general, "I bet that bitch just wants my child in her womb. Witness the female noblewoman stalk there prey."

"Maybe you should oblige Lorgar. Now that the war is over, maybe we all should settle down..." Gracchus words drifted off as he thought of Catia, whom he had yet to see since his few days in Imperial City had been busy with his promotion and the coronation.

"Settle down?" Lorgar actually chuckled, and said darkly. "To a soldier, there is no such thing as settling down, Lord General. You can try, but even as you fuck your wife, or hold your child in your arms, or count out the wealth of Septims in your hand, you'll always feel empty. You know why? Because once you taste the pleasure of battle, there's no turning back. You'll start to crave bigger tensions, bigger thrills. Money, books, even sex, nothing will satisfy you. The only thing that will, is war."

Two noblewomen stood among the crowd, talking in low tones. At Lorgar's comment about noble "hunters," one of them, a tall blonde, leaned around to look. The other, a shorter Nibenean woman with dark hair, snorted in disgust. "He thinks very highly of himself for an up-jumped Nord. It's fitting, considering the up-jumped Bretons we've had on the Ruby Throne of late."

"Jocasta, you should keep your voice down. We all of us must adjust to the new order."

"You Colovians don't know what it's like, Maggie. We lost everything in the war. The White Gold Concordat was the only thing keeping us safe. Now with the Thalmor being rooted out, it's only a matter of time before we'll again be hunted in our own lands."

Maggie put a comforting hand on her friend's arm. "The legion will see that that doesn't happen. They're back from Skyrim now."

"Pah, the legion! What has the legion ever done for us?"

"Do cheer up, darling," Maggie replied airily. "It could be worse. At least the parties are not as boring as last month's. Will you excuse me?" The countess stepped around her companion and approached the bench where the men sat talking. "My lords. You seem very subdued on this great day. But you are soldiers, are you not? You paid a heavy price for it to come about."

Gracchus smiled, even amidst the darkness of Lorgar's comments. "I've been in enough wars, Lorgar, to know that. And yet, with all the killing I've done, it only ever feels like a chore, and never something I gain satisfaction from. Outsmarting the enemy, now that I might miss, but killing is something I do because I have to, not because I enjoy it."

Lorgar turned to the beautiful Imperial who was speaking to the three of them, got up from his bench and said, with a wolfish smile. "Yes, we all paid dearly, milady." He bowed his head. "I am Lord Major Lorgar Grim-maw, this is High-General Tullius, and Lord General Grahccus Ceno.

Maggie looked from one to the other, absorbing all the fine details of their appearance and manner. "Lord General, Major General... how do you keep it all straight?" She laughed and went on, "I am Magdela of Skingrad. General Tullius we all know. I'm sorry about your eye, General. If I may say, that eye patch is absolutely rakish." She smiled impishly and let her eyes drift down to his chest, then turned back to the others.

"Grim-maw? You Nords, so dramatic. I find it charming, whatever the others might say about you being savages. Lord General Ceno. I've heard that you distinguished yourself in Skyrim. It is a pleasure to finally meet you. Should I know your family?"

"My family, unfortunately, no longer exists. My father was a poor farmer, so he was probably not known to anyone. It's better that way, he was very unkind."

Gracchus frowned as he said this, but smiled as he changed the subject. "And what of your family miss Magdela?

"Wait, countess Magdela?! You mean you're..." Lorgar mutter something under his breath, before blushing,

Maggie lifted a brow at Gracchus' question. "You don't know us? Ah, you must have been at some gods-forsaken border outpost, defending us all. My father is Count of Skingrad. We are fortunate to still have that honor, despite all the ups and downs of our poor Empire." Looking to Lorgar, she faltered. The Nord's manner had changed completely, which she was at a loss to interpret. "I am, yes.  Do you follow Heartland politics? I had thought the Nords found such things duller than an empty ale bottle."

Gracchus laughed, and apologized, "I'm sorry mi'lady, I tend not to follow politics to closely. But yes I recognize the name now that you mention it. Pleasure to meet someone of such high regard." 

Lorgar shifted uncomfortably in his seat, before saying in a low voice, "I'm a...massive fan of your novels, countess..." He said, with his cheeks slightly red.

Gracchus started to laugh again. "It seems you have quite a fan in the Duke here! I have read a few, you are a very talented writer, although I prefer histories to fiction.â€

"A fan of my books?" Maggie laughed, astonished.  She appraised Lorgar again, still only half believing it.  "I am not well read in Skyrim, I had understood.  Which did you prefer, I wonder?"

That, amazingly caused Lorgar to blush even more. He said, in a slightly awkward and shy tone of voice, "Ummm... That's a embarrassing topic milady..."

Seeing Lorgar's discomfort, Gracchus stood, and bowed to Magdela again. "Mi'lady, I think I will excuse myself. This conversation sounds like it would best be had between you and Lorgar alone."

Maggie nodded farewell to Gracchus, then leaned in towards Lorgar.  "My dear duke, I am the soul of discretion."

He gulped a mouthful of air, before saying in hushed voice, "I...very much loved Camille..."

"Ah." A shadow passed over Maggie's expression as Lorgar named his favorite, but she quickly regained her composure. "A very misunderstood book, I must say. I'm glad to hear it found an audience, if... not in the quarters I expected. Out of print now, you know. I understand it's become something of a collector's item." She regarded Lorgar, taking in his embarrassment. "You must let me autograph your copy. Bring it to my rooms in the palace any time."

Lorgar smiled to himself. She is as charming and remarkable in person as I imagined her to be. Lorgar looked around the chapel for Gracchus, and found him in a corner. He said to him, "I think the coronation is starting soon, we should head back to Tullius."

Gracchus has just sat down in a quiet corner, when Lorgar arrived. He said they needed to return to Tullius, so Gracchus stood and said, "And just when I found a quiet place all to myself. Alright lets go find old One-Eye."

"One-eye" was actually asleep when Lorgar and Grachhus got to him and was snoring. Lorgar sighed, and lightly tapped him on the shoulder. "Wake up you idiot..."

"Hmmm what?"

"The coronation is about to begin you imbecile."

Tullius yawned, and straightened out his uniform. Lorgar took a seat to Tullius's right. When all three of them were firmly on the bench, Lorgar turned to Gracchus, "Can't believe little Dales is about to be crowned Empress."

Gracchus took his seat, and replied to Lorgar, "That she is. And I fine one I hope. I still feel uncomfortable with her teacher, but she seems to trust him. One thing we must remember is that she is still quite young, and very impressionable. But I think she will make a fine Empress."

"That she will be..."

Just then trumpets started to blaze, announcing the entrance of the lady of the hour, Empress Dales Motierre. Everyone in the room who wasn't already sitting down, quickly got to there seats. Walking down the red carpet and into the room was Empress Dales. She was flanked by six guards on each side. She was clad in the standard dress of the Empress of Tamriel. But instead of the standard blue and gold, it was pink and crimson red, a contrary to her deep blue eyes. Her long gold hair was sprawled across her shoulders and she walked with the grace and dignity expected of a monarch. As she passed each row of benches the occupants bowed there heads in respect and greeted her with, "Your Majesty". As she got to the front of the chapel the high priest of the divine approached her with the ruby dragon crown in-hand. He spoke with a elderly, yet powerful voice.

"Do you, Dales Motierre, daughter of Amaund Motierre, accept all responsibilities of the Empire? Swear on the nine divine."

Dales responded in a clear, polite, dignified, and authority filled voice, a far cry from her normal giggly and girly voice.

"I, Dales Motierre, accept all responsibilities of the empire. I swear on the nine divine" She skipped the part about her father, presumably not wanting to acknowledge him . The high-priest probably noticed this, as for the next fifteen minutes, he didn't mention Amaund at all.

After repeating fifteen minutes of numerous vows the High priest finally placed the Ruby Dragon Crown on her head with the words, "Then, with the power investigated in me and the power granted to me by the nine divine, I name you Empress of Tamriel, Dales Motierre."

Nodding in reply, Dales turned to face the crowd. Of course, the three men in the front bench where the first to start clapping and cheering in response, which the entire room followed moments after. Lorgar and Tullius shouted, "LONG LIVE THE EMPRESS! LONG LIVE THE DRAGON! LONG LIVE THE EMPIRE!"

Gracchus repeated the chant, and clapped along with the crowd. The empress looked radiant, a far cry from the girl known to giggle and where frilly dresses. She looked like the leader of an Empire, one he was proud to serve in.

The Empress herself allowed herself to smile and she soon laughed softly. She put her hands up in a attempt to quiet the room. After the room had quieted, she said, in a very friendly yet powerful tone, "My lords, ladies, soldiers, and others citizens of the empire. I welcome you. We are gathered today, not just to celebrate my ascension to the throne, but also to thank the people who made it possible, and for those who sacrificed friends, loved ones, title's, and there lives for the empire. First I want to honor, Titus Mede II, the fury of red ring, and the Lion. He was killed by that monster Amaund, while his policies may have been very controversial, he did what he thought was best for the empire, and was a good man. A moment of silence for him." She bowed her head, which all the others did. Lorgar and Tullius looked especially sad when they did, they had been friends with Titus II, and been devastated when he had died.

Gracchus bowed his head, paying his respects to the fallen. He didn't mourn for Titus as the others did, but instead focused his thoughts on Pilus. This is for you buddy. You helped make this happen, and the empire is a better place because of it. Thank you... thank you for everything.

 After a minute Dales brought her head back up. For the next hour she talked about and honored those who had died, nobles who were executed under Amaund's orders, people killed by the Dominion and other's. Finally she said, "The dead will be honored forever, and will live in our memory. But there's many of you among us, living, who deserve to be rewarded for your noble actions. I call upon High-General Gaius Tullius to step forward."

With that Tullius turned his head towards Lorgar, who grinned at him, and gently tapped him on his shoulder. Tullius got out of his seat and approached Empress Dales. He crisply saluted, while saying in a strict, military-like, voice, "Your majesty."

"Gaius Tullius, you fought and lead during the Skyrim civil war. When Amaund took power, you where one of the only general's to deny his authority. Even after loosing, you refused to go back to Cyrodili and acknowledge him as emperor. You stayed behind in Skyrim, at risk of execution by both Stormcloaks and imperial forces, and formed your own unit of soldiers. Despite all this, you remained loyal to the empire, and contributed greatly to the Skyrim-Imperial alliance. For this, we honor you. I grant you any plot of land available for your own use, and ten thousand Septims as a reward."   

Tullius bowed his head, "Thank you, your majesty... Though I don't think a old war dog like me deserves your kindness." 

And with that, starting with the front row, the crowd broke into applauds and cheers. Gracchus too applauded Tullius. Although he can sometimes be a dick, he is a great general, no one can deny that.

And with that, Tullius saluted once again, before heading back to his seat. The Empress said, "Next, I summon Lord General Gracchus Ceno."

Gracchus was shocked, as he hadn't expected to be rewarded or congratulated. He walked to the front, and bowed before the Empress. "Your highness..."

Due to Gracchus not using the proper "Your majesty", two nobles in the back started to giggle snidely, which caused Lorgar and Tullius to give them stares of death, with Lorgar revealing his fang-like teeth and Tullius smiling psychotically while rubbing his eye patch, which shut them up instantly.

The Empress, not noticing or caring about how he addressed her, said, "Lord-General Gracchus Ceno, after General Marius Imperius defected to the Stormcloak army, you lead the sixth legion. When I visited there as High inquisitor and Princess, you treated me extremely well and showed much kindness, putting your career on the line by letting me stay with your legion despite Amaund wanting me to return, and by leading the imperial army against the Aldmeri Dominion's forces. For that, we honor you. I grant you any available plot of land of your choice, and as a reward ten thousand Septims."

Gracchus heard the chuckles as well, and put extra emphasis on the way he addressed the newly crowned Empress. "Thank you, your majesty. I am not deserving this of this honor, but I gladly accept, and I hope that I can continue to serve you and the Empire until my final days." He bowed again, and returned to his seat, glaring at the women who giggled at him.

Maggie was not among those who tittered at Gracchus' faux pas, and in fact she laid a hand on Jocasta's arm to quiet her from doing so. The young woman shrugged off the cautionary arm, though she at least kept her voice to a whisper. "Just off the farm. I wonder if he's got shit on his boots."

With a smirk, Maggie recalled her father saying that Jocasta's family were little better than Imga, the monkey people. It was ironic that the Nibenean was so snooty about soldiers, considering their lands in the Trans-Niben were seized by the legion from Elsweyr just before the Oblivion Crisis, and the family installed there as landowners by Uriel Septim. She was as "up-jumped" as anyone. Maggie loved her lack of caution, however. Loose lips were dangerous to the owners but valuable to spies and novelists.

For her own part, Maggie was bored senseless by the ceremony, but not by the people. Discreetly her gaze moved over the faces of the assembly, watching how they reacted to Dales' speech.

"Next, I summon Lord-Major Lorgar Grim-maw."

Tullius nudged the nord, and Lorgar patted both of the men on the back, before getting out of his seat. Lorgar, like Tullius, saluted the Empress and said in a military-like voice, "Your majesty."

"Lord-Major Lorgar Grim-maw, in the aftermath of the civil war, you and your unit engaged and fought against the Stormcloak army, despite odds being stacked against you. Even after your entire unit was decimated, you by yourself engaged in a one-man guerrilla assault against the Stormcloaks's stationed in Falkreath for three months. When you returned, you were 'awarded' for your courage by being publicly stripped of your rank for cowardice. Even after that, you remained loyal to the Empire, and successfully completed every mission assigned to you. Furthermore, you personally saved my life two times, showed me immense kindness, and taught me how to wield a knife and a bow. For that, we honor you darkened archer. You were given the rank of duke, but no fief. Today I change that, I grant you the fief of Blackwood as a reward for your service and sacrifice." 

Everyone in the chapel went silent, giving a commoner the title of duke was one thing, but a fief. Tullius, was the first one to get up, and slowly clap, with a smile on his face. Gracchus' face grew into a large grin at the sight of some of the nobles' expressions at Lorgar's reward. Seeing them squirm was better than any gift in his mind. He stood and clapped alongside Tullius, smiling the entire time.

"Thank you your Majesty." He put hidden sarcasm in the word, aimed at the annoying nobles, before walking back to Gracchus and Tullius.

"Congratulations Lorgar. It is well deserved." Gracchus gave his friends a pat on the back as he sat down

Jocasta nearly stood up to shout protest at the granting of Blackwood to a Nord. The fief lay close to her family's own lands. Only Maggie's hand on her arm kept her from doing so. "The Thalmor and now this," the Nibenean woman seethed. "Are we never to be at peace."

Maggie leaned in to whisper a reply. "Doing research for my book, I learned that the Nords call this time 'Evgir Unslaad.' War Unending."

Her friend gave her a harsh look. "I don't care what the Nords think. The Nibenay is ours, not theirs. This is what we get out of their rebellion?"

Maggie shook her head. Short-lived people were so impatient. The politics of the Empire flowed like the Niben, ever restless. One emperor was just like another. Dales was rather different, however. Maggie watched her a moment, remembering the awkward child at the ball some years before.

Lorgar's extremely sharp hearing picked up the annoying female noble's ranting's. He twisted his head, and smiled straight at her, revealing his fang-like teeth to the Nibenean, "I'm a Skaal, my people never lifted a hand against the Empire, if you have something to say, say it. Milady."

Jocasta was startled that the man heard her, but it didn't improve her disposition. "Oh what's the difference," she muttered.

Maggie, meanwhile, regarded Lorgar thoughtfully. The strengthened wards in the palace prevented her from diagnosing as much as she usually might, but it was obvious there was something odd about the new duke apart from his literary tastes. She had heard some of the Nords once pitted their teeth, and hadn't imagined they still did it. This is certainly an interesting court, she thought, chuckling.

Lorgar, still smiling, looked across at the countess before saying in a voice that Jocasta could hear, while winking towards Maggie, "Your friend should be glad I'm not from Skyrim, I heard that they feed maiden's to giants as tribute."

Maggie returned Lorgar's smile and made a motion with hand to mouth to indicate Jocasta had had one too many snifters of brandy at the pre-reception.

Lorgar chuckled, before nodding his head. He made a hand gesture, as if to say "No harm done." Lorgar returned his gaze back to his two comrades, before noticing that a great deal of people where getting out of there seats, and leaving the chapel. He nudged Gracchus, "Appears it's party time, let's head to the royal garden."

Gracchus stood, and turned to Lorgar. "Well then let's go. I can't wait to see these nobles make fools of themselves after they've had a few."

Power corrupts, absolute power... is a whole lot of fun!

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The two women got up as the ceremony ended. By this time Maggie was bored to tears with Jocasta's antics and wanting to move on to more productive company. At the entrance to the garden, she turned. "Darling, I think you've had enough mingling with the newly elevated. It will only upset you further."

"Of course you aren't worried. Skingrad is always secure. When the cats come..."

"You'll now have a fearsome neighbor for them to contend with."

The woman actually seemed placated at this idea. "I suppose it's better than them giving it to a Bosmer or Khajiit."

"There, you see. The silver lining."

"You wouldn't care if we all got raped, racked and spitted, as long as you could write about it afterwards." Despite the bizarre image, Jocasta smiled and went on, "Fine. I'm going back to my room at the Tiber Septim to lie down."

Relieved, Maggie said farewell and moved into the garden.

"Having fun?" Skjari said as he approached Maggie shortly after she had entered the garden.

"I'm not sure it's meant to be fun," Maggie replied, smiling. She eyed the Nord wizard carefully. Of all the powerful people at the gathering, he represented the most danger to her.  Thus also, the one who drew her curiosity the most. "How are you settling into Cyrodiil, my lord Skjari?"

"I miss the mountains."

"Ah. Not rugged enough for you in the capital counties, I take it. But I meant to ask how you fare with the people of the court?"

"Most of them bore me to death as all they like to do is brag about wealth and influence, when they aren't trying to manipulate me for more."

Maggie laughed. "What did you expect? The currency here is hot air, my lord, not septims. And when people are afraid, they are wont to talk the most. People are very afraid now."

"They always are in times of change. People prefer stability."

"There is change and then there is change. You may not be aware, but Motierre and the Thalmor have been terrorizing everyone, from noble to smallfolk, about their allegiances.  And now, another violent change of power..."

"But people still aren't sure if this is a change for the better or the for the worse. It will take some time for things to sink in for most people. But enough about that, what do you think of Lorgar? And don't worry about saying what you actually think, he wont be able to hear you. In fact no one is able to hear what we say."

Maggie glanced sidelong at him. "Your doing, I suppose?  Lorgar is... interesting. Not a fan of yours, I would guess. He has interesting teeth. A Skaal oddity?"

"More like half werewolf. I'm not sure exactly what he is but my guess is that he is something like a half werewolf and always stuck in that half werewolf shape. Thus the teeth. And he also seems to be rather fond of Hircine. Having him in the court and you being who you are, I'm thinking of altering the wards in the palace to allow you to use magic as well."

Maggie's eyes flashed at this information about Lorgar, then she smiled at the wizard's suggestion. "Do you trust me so easily, Skjari? I am honored. I assure you, I have no wish to harm you or our empress. My information has been useful thus far, has it not?"

"You've proven trustworthy thus far. And having to scrape your remains off the floor after Lorgar finds out you have no pulse is not something I wish to do."

"I see you two are getting acquainted." Said a professional, military voice. It was Lorgar, clad in his dark military uniform. He was smiling, yet his eyes were focused on Skjari.

"If you don't mind, Milady, I wish to borrow the master-wizard for a handful of minutes."

The wizard's comment was so amusing, Maggie could not stifle a genuine laugh, despite the image. As Lorgar approached, she glanced between the two, and was very reluctant to leave. A power struggle was evidently at work. Inclining her head, she did as she was bid, however, moving off to see what other curious personalities had shown up in the Imperial City.

"I hope it's important." Skjari said with his eyes still following Maggie as she left. 

Lorgar's face twisted from a smile, to a blank expression, "What is your business with the countess?"

"She's helping me survive and adapt to the political landscape here in Cyrodiil."

 "How much does she know..."

"About what?" 

"Everything... Your 'connection' to Dales, me, your history, what your are. How much does she know?" His eye narrowed.

"She knows more about me than most. But she's rather oblivious to everything else." 

His body relaxed, but his stare got even sharper. His one remaining brown eye was like a dagger, piercing deeply. He said in a low, relaxed voice, "Let's get this clear, 'Witchie', you may basically have Dales under your thumb, but you don't want me as an enemy." And with that, Lorgar left the nordic man to himself. He looked around for Tullius, who was busy drinking with a bunch of young ladies , and presumably telling them far-fetched tales of his exploits. He scanned the garden for a certain countess, which he found. He approached her, before bowing his head, and saying apologetically, "Forgive me milady for interrupting your conversation with the master-wizard."

A loud boisterous laugh emanated from the center of the garden, near the food tables, where a plump Breton stood, dressed in a simple brown cape with a bull on its center, along with silken black pants and a green collared shirt. His bald head reflected the torchlight, and his thick chocolate mustache gathered the crumbs from his food. In this Breton's hand was a large glass of wine and a Juniper Berry crostata, but it was gone in two large bites.

The Breton was surrounded by several Imperial nobles, all who listened intently as he told his drunken story. "And-*chomp*-then I grabbed my greatsword, and cleaved his head clean off! I grabbed the head by the hair and kicked-*chomp*-it over the lines, where it hit their flag bearer! The poor lad's whimpering could be heard a mile away! Har had HAR!"

The nobles around him joined in the laughter, with one man speaking up, and saying, "My my Mister Adrard you are certainly the life of this party."

Mister Adrard turned to the man, placing a plump finger on his chest, and responded, "That is Lord General Theodore Adrard to you Baron Acilius! Hahahaha har har!"

"Oh dear Theo, tell us another story!" a younger noblewoman said. 

"Oh yes, please do!" another one echoed.

Gracchus sat near enough, and mockingly said under his breath, "Oh yes, please do."

The General obliged, grabbing a sweet roll and taking a swig of wine before starting. "Well, have I told you folks the story of the Minotaur?"

The nobles shook their heads, so Theodore began, "There once was a Minotaur that had somehow found its way into High Rock. Some say it was an escaped arena animal, but nevertheless it was a fearsome beast, harassing travelers constantly. *Chomp chomp* *gulp-gulp-gulp* So I put a bounty on it, but even the adventurers were put down. I took matters into my own hands, and battled the beast myself! It had already punctured my stomach here." The Breton lifted his shirt, showing a large sacr stretched across his belly. Several people gasped, and one even said she had to sit down. Gracchus laughed under his breath, but still listened to the story. Theodore continued, "So, I was bleeding profusely, and the beast was charging again. I rolled to my left, sticking my sword out causing the dumb animal to trip. I raised the greatsword above my head, and severed the head off. It still hangs above by fireplace to this day!"

The nobles clapped and cheered, with compliments to the general's bravery. Theodore smile to himself. These nobles are sooo simpleminded, I could tell them I slayed a dragon and they'd believe me. After dealing with High Rock politics, these Imperials are novices. But their wine is delicious!

Maggie stood at the edge of the crowd listening to the Breton general, arms crossed and a glass of wine held lightly in one hand. At Lorgar's approach, she eyed him carefully. "No need to apologize, duke. Is this one of your legion companions?" She gestured with her glass towards the portly Breton.

"No. The good general isn't." Lorgar eyed him with half-amusement and half-disgust. Why does he like getting drunk so much? Lorgar chuckled, before saying to the countess quietly, "Milady, if you don't mind, I would very much like to speak with you. Maybe at the edge of the party?"

The countess was wary, nevertheless stepped aside. "What is it, duke?" she asked, keeping her voice casual.

"What exactly did the wizard tell you." said Lorgar. The usual charm wasn't there, and instead was replaced by cold steel. Lorgar's facial expression was blank, and his mouth was in a slight smile. 

"Just now?  He warned me about you. I had already figured out that you aren't friends. It seems sad, if I may say so. Two men of Skyrim, both brought to power at a delicate time, both in the confidence of the young empress. You ought to be allies."

That caused Lorgar to laugh, not his usual chuckle, but full on laughter. "No milady that's not my goal. I lost too much to Skyrim, to truly care about what happens to her and Solstheim technically belongs to Morrowind now, so I don't have to worry about her. My one and only true objective, is to protect her majesty, Empress Dales from any threat, internal or external.


Lorgar eyed her, before smirking, and revealing his fang-like teeth, "Don't tell me you don't notice? You don't see some of the nobles eye's fill with hatred and fury when Dales is around them, or when there heartbeat speeds up when they see her..." Lorgar chuckled, before narrowing his one-remaining eye, and leaning in to whisper into her ear, "Did you know, when I focus, I can hear a person's heart beat? Do you also know I can tell when someone's heart isn't beating."

"You are a man of many talents, I'm sure, or you would not have survived what you did." Maggie's gaze moved over the crowd around them, casual. "It is ever thus, duke. We all play the game. Don't be so negative. Right now the nobles are more concerned with kissing the Empress' sandals. For the sake of the Empire, there will be no plots just yet. If you'll excuse me, I would like to mingle some more before the evening is out. Do bring your copy of Camille by sometime. I'm quite interested to hear what you think of my other works, as well." With that, the countess moves off into the crowd.

"You can count on it... milady" Muttered Lorgar under his breath. And with that, Lorgar went over to Tullius, to annoy the hell out of him.

Gracchus watched, seeing Lorgar and Magdela whispering about something or other, while the Breton general had stopped talking and was also siting down, watching the crowd mingle as Gracchus was. Taking one last look around the garden, Gracchus finally rose, and walked over to Tullius and Lorgar. "Well gentlemen, it seems my time here is coming to an end. I'll be seeing you at some other point, I presume. Enjoy the rest of the party."

Tullius, who was obviously drunk, said, "Beware of that rapist... Marius. He'll grope you in your sleep..."

Lorgar face palmed himself before saying, "Good night Lord-General, you're lucky, i'm the one who's going to be carrying this oaf to his bed"

With a laugh at Tullius' drunken state, Gracchus turned and left, finally hoping to get some much needed rest. Theodore also got up, leaving out of a different entrance, and headed for his room at a local tavern, known as The Laughing Fox.

Lorgar was about to go for a stroll threw the garden, when a girl ran into him, with a startled cry, she fell onto the ground. She was short, skinny, but beside's that she wasn't normal at all. She had very long, beautiful, silver hair that fell all the way down to her knee's, and was akin to the waves of the ocean. Her eyes where a very deep, and luminous blue. She wore a very unique and luxurious dress, an akavari Kimono, coloured blue and silver, and patterned after the waves of the ocean.  Surprisingly, at least to Lorgar, the girl was much more "cute" then "sexy". Fuck it, I've been reading way to much Yuri... 

Realizing, what just happened, Lorgar kneeled beside the fallen girl, and gently offered her his hand, which she shyly accepted. While helping the girl up, Lorgar said in the politest voice he could muster, "I offer my humblest apologies, my lady. I should have seen you coming."

The girl softly chuckled, in a very quiet voice (but extremely cute voice), and said in the same tone, "Oh Milord, its fine. It's my fault to be entirely honest. I shouldn't have been rushing." She paused, before an expression of realization. "OH, I forgot my manners, I am Countess Homunal Akney." She curtsied. 

She smiled. Her super cute appearance, Cute smile, cute voice, and generally cuteness made Lorgar want to squeal, but he refrained from doing so, and instead bowed. "I am Duke Lorgar Grim-maw"

The two exchanged polite pleasantries, until the girl excused herself. Apparently she was looking for someone. After that, Lorgar decided to head back and retrive the most likely hammered Tullius, and head to sleep.

Power corrupts, absolute power... is a whole lot of fun!

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Castle Kvatch

Throneroom, Night.

Brutus was situated upon his throne sitting sideways with one of his legs over the arm of the chair while twirling around an empty tankard on his finger. He was utterly bored due to listening to the pleading of some fat old bald groveling noble that to Brutus's dismay had no ulterior motive beyond greed in his dealings with him. He had proposed that Brutus stop giving so much money away to the people from his coffers and use it instead to focus on Kvatch's rebuilding process from the war. Only there was no rebuilding process. At least not really. Not much damage was had in Kvatch.

What this noble was proposing was a string of gambling services in the city run by him at the "benefit" of both of them to get more gold from travelers and peasants alike. That of course wasn't the only thing he proposed but it was the only thing that even slightly caught his attention because it was a place of illusion. The illusion of hope. Well, that and they would be great places for parties, but Brutus preferred that the party stay within his own vicinity. It wasn't that Brutus was a good man per say. He just liked to spread merriment and joy wherever he went. Even if the person in question didn't want to be merry. Yea the city itself would have benefitted more from his coin, but the people were happy and he while not rich for a Count, he was still rich. As long as he could sate his appetites on occasion and he could have others do the same, that was enough.

Brutus remained bored on his chair, looking around his throne room at the walls that held his paintings. All self portraits with him naked doing multiple poses. One of them for instance shows himself with both hands on each side of his face looking up to the sky as if to say "Oh no!". But the way he painted the mouth has shadowing that seems to give himself a smirk, which to those who say they see a smirk and not a frown of despair, they see a man gone mad. This was his theme. Illusions. He was rather obsessed with illusions and the possibilities they created. This was reflected within his paintings as well. Another painting next to it which was his favorite had his face distorted and twisted into a vortex.

"And that is my proposal. I'll invest in it too, I just need your partnership and promise of pay to help fund it as well. Do this and Kvatch will eventually be prosperous once more. You just have to stop spreading your coin so thin to all these rabble in the city. So, what do you think my lord?â€

The man took Brutus for a fool. While on the surface the plan seemed well and good. The city would be prosperous and Brutus would make more coin. But not only would the noble make more coin instead of an even amount for the Count (his reasoning was that he needed it for insurance purposes) the gambling services would make poor men poorer, noblemen who invested in it richer and that would in the long run cause more problems for Kvatch than what is necessary and this nobleman would get away with all the gold he wanted in his fat grubby little hands. If there was one thing that bored Brutus more than anything, it was greed.

Brutus's head twisted in an instant to face the man's eyes. Brutus's own eyes were wild with what some would think was anger and to others would swear was excitement. But which was it?

Hmm, I think I'll-wait, who is there? Who is spying on my mind? You wish to know what I am thinking? Know my mind, my soul, what makes me ME! Heha! What makes me ME? Well too bad! That would spoil the mystery! Why don't you just watch and see!

"Umm, m-my lord?"

Brutus had wandered off into his head holding conversations with "the gods" or whoever he thought may be spying on his thoughts. He had an interesting view on the world that while interesting was completely insane...or genius.

"Oh yes, yes. Tell me, fat man. W-"

"Sir, I beg your pardon! My name i-"

Brutus cast a spell of calm down the fat man's throat while he was speaking.

"As I was saying fat man, tell me. What is the greatest illusion?"

"I don't know my lord, um...people?"

"Hmm.....people...people. Eh, I guess I can see it."

Brutus dashed up from his chair and hopped in front of the man who in his surprise fell, or rather rolled, backwards to the floor. Brutus dashed over to him and put his hands on his meaty mass that he'd call his cheeks and with wild eyes went into one of his famous monologues.

"People are like many things in this world but for this conversation as far as greatest illusions go lets say that they're like water because water has high tides low tides high tides low tides HIGH TIDES LOW TIDES!  Meaning that some people are indeed great illusions while others are not. Some would make great stories for those who peer in from above while others...would not! But not only that we also have people who are transparent and people who are opaque. YOU my fat friend are transparent because I see right through you I see right through you I see through your pathetic illusion. YOU are under the worst affliction that this illusion that we call a world can make one suffer and do you know what that is my fat friend? I'll answer the question with a question what is man? I'll tell you that man is no different from a maggot. We are ALL maggots feeding on this life, feeding on our wives!

Feeding on thee that thrives and no longer thrives because WE HAVE NO OTHER FUNCTION! We as a whole serve no purpose but to feed ourselves! Maggots stuff and gorge themselves on flesh, we stuff ourselves on both flesh and money AND MISERY! Which often leads to money. And the people in this province stuff themselves on the last remnants of this dying carcass, this Empire! The Thalmor are simply the vulture that wishes to feed on it as well or the rot that seeks to rid the world of this carcass! Or rather this illusion of a carcass or illusion of a unified body. See? And the ones who consider themselves NOT maggots, the politicians and the nobles, the Kings and queens, the COUNTS! HAHA! THEY ARE BUT FLIES FEEDING ON DUNG!

They fly away on high and think they are better but although they may find the occasional pie in the end they always come back to dung, or another carcass. Then those flies give birth to more maggots and the process repeats itself. You are close in saying that man is the greatest illusion because man is a part of the greatest illusion and that illusion is the WORLD! THE WORLD IS JUST AN ILLUSION! And so you are both right and wrong because we are the world and we are not the world at the same time! Time...another great facade in this great illusion. We are all but maggots feasting on this great illusion we call a world! The flies are even greater illusions among the maggots for they try to make themselves seem as though they are better because they can fly from carcass to carcass but they are not! What makes me better than you however, is I am content with being a maggot and I embrace my fate as such. And now let me tell you why I don't like...you."

Brutus backed away in front of his throne before taking a long long long breath.

"Huuuuuuuuuuuuu- You are the most boring of these illusions because you are the representation both physically spiritually and mentally of the thing that drives us maggots and that BORES ME! It BORES those who see us from on high! Or low, or by other means. If we are but a part of one big illusion, we have no true purpose, so I make my own and THAT is to be entertained! YOU DO NOT ENTERTAIN! The only truth in this world is that people are stupid, ignorant, love power and GREEDY! You are GREEDY! AND GREED is BORING! Because greed is too easy to see! Not an illusion, but truth! Because people are always greedy and greed never changes, so it is not only easy to find but it is EVER IN STASIS! Always the same. That is all you are! I myself am on occasion a mistress of greed, but yooouuuu are his eternal bitch! And I can't stand ******* of one master. So what will I do with thee that seeks to infect me with thus and make me too thine master's hussy? Kill? No. Insult more? No, although is an insult an insult if it is true? Anyway, insult more then kill? I find that one attracts flies with honey better than shit which you would leave on my floors if I were to slay thee. Instead, I'll take you, illusion and bend you into an illusion of my liking!"

With that, Brutus cast a spell at the noble that removed his clothes for all to see which sent the crowd into a loud roar of laughter.

Look at them! Feeding on the carcass that is this man's dignity! Oh, hello those that watch from above! Enjoying the show? Hehehe!

After a little while, the fat man who was crying was about to run out the palace until Brutus cast a spell of charm from his staff that sent a wave of merriment and joy through the noble's body and made him start to dance. In fact, it made everyone merry and start to dance. Others even began to strip as well. An odd sight to see, especially with a noble among the very peasants whose carcasses he wished to feed off of.

"And with that, the party has begun!"

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Gracchus Ceno

The Laughing Fox, Imperial City


Gracchus walked into the pleasant smelling tavern, aromas of sweet rolls and crostatas filling the air. Several patrons sat at their respective tables, including the large Breton general from the previous night's party. Also seated at his table were a couple of off duty guards, no doubt enticed by another story of his.

Gracchus, dressed in his leisure clothes consisting of black trousers, a blue collared shirt, and a simple black cape entered the tavern. His leather boots reverberated the noise as they connected with the wooden plank floors. They carried him across the room, few people bothering to look at the grizzled old man. Reaching the bar, he greeted the woman behind the counter.

"Excuse me, is Catia here?"

The young Redguard turned around, and have Gracchus a questioning look.

"And who is it that wants to know?"

Gracchus politely replied.

"General Gracchus Ceno. No, she isn't in any trouble, I would just like to talk to her."

The woman nodded, pursing her lips.

"Fine. She's up the stairs, in her office doing the books."

Gracchus thanked her, and left a few septims on the counter. The stairs hardly creaked as he ascended, testament to how well maintained tavern was. The tables were all clean, with pleasant paintings hanging on the walls and the perfect amount of sunlight coming in via the windows.

Gracchus reached the top of the stairs, taking an immediate left into the office. He knocked on the open door, but the middle aged woman who sat over an open ledger didn't turn around.

"Ena, what is it? You know I'm busy," the woman asked.

Gracchus smiled, responding to her question.

"Oh, is that her name? She seems like a pleasant girl, if a little sarcastic."

Catia jumped a little, but didnt turn around.

"She keeps the drunks in line, so she's fine in my book."

Gracchus walked over to her, turning around and sitting on the desk.

"Not even going to say hi, are we?"

Catia slowly looked up, bringing her hands to her face to cover the tears forming in her eyes.


She didn't finish her sentence, as Gracchus grabbed her in a hug as she cried in his arms. After a few minutes, she stopped, grabbing a piece of her shirt and drying her eyes.

"So what is it that you were going to say?" Gracchus asked.

Catia smiled, looking at Gracchus with a grin on her face.

"I thought of you. We were so worried when we heard about the avalanche, and then we heard rumors of the legion betraying the Thalmor. I'm just so glad you made it back alive."

Gracchus pulled up a chair, and after Catia finished, his face took on a quizzical look.

"We? Who else was worried?"

Catia smiled, before grabbing his hand and leading him back into the hallway.

"I have a surprise to show you. After you left, I wanted a way to repay for helping me fix the place up, and for all you've done. So I did a little investigating, and I found someone you might like to meet."

They reached the farthest back bedroom, one of Catia's personal guest rooms. She reached for the door handle, but stopped.

"Close your eyes."

Gracchus obliged, covering his eyes with his free hand. He heard the door swing on its hinges, and the smell of lavender filled his nostrils.

"Okay, open your eyes," Catia said.

Gracchus removed his hand, the sight before him sending chills down his spine. Tears began to well up in his eyes, as he saw the frail woman seated in front of the window, the lavender plants a story below sending their sweet smell into the room. The woman turned, her silver hair tied up in a bun, and tears fell onto the book in her lap.


"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Marius Imperius, Trym Heart-Hand, Cyrdoili, Afternoon,

Ambassador Marius Imperius straightened out his blue Stormcloak cloak,

This should be it...

A large, ominous cave filled Marius's vision. It looked spooky.

Like one of those caves in one of Lorgar's blasted novels...I don't like the look of this, but this vigilant is appartley knowledgeable in finding people who don't exist. I have to...

Marius, reluctantly called into the cave,

"Hello?! Anyone in there?"

"Hold, stranger. Who are you?"

An orb of light appeared in the dark, lighting up the entrance tot he cave. There was nothing to see, except a table, a chair and a guy who wore the robes of a Vigilant. Then the ground beneath him started to light up.

"In the name of Stendarr, if you are one of the Accursed, you shall not pass!"

"Accursed? I am ambassador Marius Imperius, Stormcloak army."

"Then step forward, into the Light of Stendarr, Marius Imperius and prove that you are not of the undead kin! Or shall I be forced to bring His Light to you?"

The same light that had started to spread on the ground from the Vigiliant now also appeared in his hand, aimed at him. At the same time the man had readied his mace.

"Only the impure has something to fear from the Light."

Marius chuckled, before fearlessly walking into the light, he also took out an amulet from under his traveling clothes. An amulet of Stendarr. "Calm your fury, vigilant, we both worship the same god.

"You are clean. Good, then we can trust you. For now. Follow me."

The cloaked man turned around and walked further into the cave. As soon as they passed by the first turn, Marius saw that two other Vigilants had been standing on guard, within ears range. Both of them gave him a suspicious look, before one of them walked out and took the position that his guide had had.

Further into the cave a wooden door that looked like it would be torn apart by a mild breeze appeared before them. Through the cracks Marius could see a magical light shimmer, much like the orb that floated above his guide's head. Voices, barely muffled, came through.

"I'm telling you, this is too important for you to waste time on a hunch. If you had any real evidence..."

"And with the lack of any hard evidence, hmm?"

"Sire, we have a visitor."

The guide had opened the door and interrupted the ones who had been talking. In the room there were three people; two of them dresed much like one would expect from the Vigil, but one of them, a Nord, wore the traditional plate armor of his people. All three of them raised an eyebrow as Marius walked in.

"Yes, what is it? I suppose you're here for some reason and not just to bother us," the Nord spoke and gestured for the Vigilant that had been at the entrance to get lost.

"As I told your companion, I am Ambassador Marius Imperius, of the Stormcloak army. I was told by my contacts, a vigilant by the name of Tyrm is excellent at finding people who don't "exist"."

The three people in the room looked at each other for a few seconds, before they turned back to Marius, now with an even more suspicious expression than the ones he had received before.

"I am Trym Heart-Hand," the Nord finally said. "But I know not where you've gotten the idea that I am an expert in finding those who don't exist. You want the black market for that. Any man of your stature should know that. Oh yes, I have heard about your time as an Imperial General. Unless... unless you are hunting someone who can avoid the black market?"

Marius' expression hardened, and he sighed softly. "This 'man' as you call him, can disappear off the face of Tamriel if he wishes to. Furthermore, he has spies and agents scattered all over the provinces. I don't even think I know his real name, only the alias he currently goes by."

Once again the three Vigilants looked at each other, back to Marius and then back to each other again. They started to whisper, with an occasional glance to their guest to make sure he stayed at the distance they wanted him.

"It sounds like the man you hunt isn't on the black market because he is the black market," Trym broke the whisper and set his eyes in Marius once more. "Rarely have I heard people described as such, when I am not talking to someone who poses crazy conspiracy theories. Tel me, Marius, are you one of those who seek something they know in their heart of hearts does not exist and only exist in their minds because they need it to be there?"

"I know plenty of people who could be considered insane Vilgiant," Marius said, with his glare sharpening, like that of a flying ebony arrow. "I also know for a fact, this man, "Samuel" is real. I've met him... fucked him... been lied to, betrayed, blackmailed, and treated like some sort of 'item' on a list of more 'items' by him. This man is also responsible for ruining the lives of countless people."

"As much as I want to sympathize with your suffering, this is hardly uncommon in the ranks of the nobility, and I have more important tasks to finish. Stendarr's Light demands that I seek out the creatures of the night, not the ticks among the noblemen's ranks. Now, could you escort yourself out?"

"They told me you would be hard to convince..." And with that Marius without leaving the room, took out a tattered old book of some sorts, he tossed it towards the Vigiliants. "Page 134..."

The tattered tome was covered in dust, and looked very old. Though the title was very faded it read "Diary of Duke Tidus Trixus."

On page 134 it read,

Sundas, 12th,  5:00 PM

"How...how did this happen...damm that bitch...DAMM THAT bitch!! How did that bastard know...fuck fuck fuck...A hooded man appeared to me, in the fields. He said his name was 'Samuel,' he...he knew about the baby...he knew that I fucked the maid....how, how the fuck did he know? Damm that imperial...He said, unless I divorce Milla, he'll tell leak it to the kids, and the court...i'll be the laughing stock!!! Damm that bastard...I know....I know...I'll just kill the baby and that bitch of a maid, like I should have done...."

Marius said to the three men, "That diary is dated ninety years ago..."

"Interesting, but do you honestly believe this to be the same Samuel? I don't think you do." Trym didn't seem convinced, even though he carefully read the journal entry a few times. "But it is clear that you're not leaving unless I give you some aid or force you out. And frankly, I don't need an Ambassador breathing down my neck right now. I have enough trouble hunting the group simply known as The Order."

He let out a sight before he continued. "Fine, I'll give you one possible lead, in return for a favor."

"I don't care for that, since you obviously can't help me if you need my help. All I ask is that you let the lead I provide you lie for a little while. There is an author in the Imperial City, called Magdela Bathory. She's from Skingrad, as far as I know one of the count's children. She has written some books that have... interesting implications in these times. Something that would fit the description of the Order. I think she might have uncovered a secret, but is in no position to call for help beyond hints in these books. And if she has uncovered a secret, it sounds like something your mystery man would be involved in. But if you approach her too soon, it might warn people away from her, the sort of people I and my associates seek. My suggestion is that you let it rest in the back of your mind for a little while, while you look for a discreet way to contact her about this. Does that help?"

"Countess Magdela?!"

Marius chuckled, with a wink towards Half-hand, he said, "Are you referring to her book, Camille? I didn't know that Vigilant's of Stendar read lesbian fiction in their spare time..."

"Laugh if you must, but there is something strange about that book.And her publisher have been known to get under the scrutiny of some nobles, from time to time. And it is the best lead you have, if you are so desperate as to come to us with your quest for vengeance against a man with no face. Now leave, we have a argument to return to."

"Vigilants...vampires...secret orders...this is insane..."

And with that Marius, left the room, and soon afterwards left the cave. 

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Gracchus, Samuel

The Laughing Fox, Imperial City


Gracchus, sitting at a table while Catia finished up the books, was still in shock over his mother's sudden resurrection. He couldn't believe she was still alive. They had reconciled, and now Gracchus was waiting for someone to arrive while she slept. Ena, the Redguard bartender, brought him a mug of ale and a bowl of stew, which he sipped on slowly. The door opened, but the sunlight prohibited Gracchus from seeing if it was his man.

The man wore a simple black outfit. Due to his military training, Gracchus was able to spot at least two hidden daggers on him. He seemed to asses the few people in the bar, before he made his way over the Gracchus, sitting down next to him, but he didn't say a word. With a silent gesture he ordered something to drink.

The daggers worried Gracchus little, as there were at least three off duty guards in the tavern. Gracchus addressed the man in a pleasant manner.

"I'm guessing you are Samuel. As you undoubtedly know, I'm General Ceno. Pleasure to meet you, sir."

"The pleasure is all mine, Legate. I heard from one of our mutual friends that you were looking for someone who could help you with a certain problem. And I was told that you were good company for a drink. And don't worry about the daggers, they won't come up unless someone tries to gut you or me."

The last part was added in a more silent way, to make sure no one around them could hear it. Not that he really needed to, since the other people had an unexplained background noise they couldn't quite place buzzing in their ears, but why take chances?

"Fortunately for the both of us, I do not expect that to happen. Also, it's Lord General now, which is the root of my problem. As a reward for services to the Legion, I was granted ten-thousand septims and land of my choosing, so I have need for a land broker."

Gracchus took a sip of his ale, and downed a few spoonfuls of the beef stew. It had cooled off nicely, and was the perfect temperature for enjoying.

"I was well aware of your promotion, I was just under the impression that you preferred your old rank. Call it a minor gesture of interest in you as a person."

Samuel followed his lead on the drink, before he continued. "A land broker? Sounds like something I can arrange, though I'll need some more specific plans for what you want to do with it. You want to get the most for your money, no?"

Gracchus took several more spoonfuls of his stew, before wiping his mouth with a cloth napkin.

"Ah, well thank you for that. Gestures of kindness are rare, even now in times of peace. As for the land, I would like the most for my money, although I'm not quite willing to spend all of it just for the land. I would also like to build a nice retirement home as well."

"Ah, a nice little estate for a veteran commander to retire to. One of the Imperial Dreams. I like it, it suits you. I have a couple of people I can put you in contact with, but first; why don't we share some stories and just have a good time? I mean, we're already here. Besides, I'm buying the refills."

Samuel let out a warm laughter. "I admit, I love talking to soldiers. They often have such interesting tales to tell, from far off places."

Gracchus smiled, and repeated the laughter.

"Retirement is a dream of every soldier, better than the alternative of dying in battle, unless you are a Nord I suppose. Glorious death, Sovngarde, all of that."

Gracchus finished of the stew, and drained the mug of ale.

"Well, if you're buying the refills than I will be happy to oblige you with a story. Would you like to hear about my most recent adventure, the one in Skyrim that is?"

"Of course, it is always good to hear as many sides of a conflict as possible. I've gotten burned because of such things before, I'm sad to say. Family matter, you understand. But do go on, I'd like to hear what it was like to command the Skyrim Legion, especially when Marius disappeared."

Gracchus cleared his throat, and wiped his mouth once more.

"Well, as you already know, Marius deserted us. Up and left in the middle of the night it seems. I wake up the next morning, report to the command room of the Pale Pass Fort, and find it empty. So I go to his room, and find it empty as well."

Ena arrived, and topped off the mugs. Gracchus drank the top layer off and continued.

"So, I send out a few search parties, but they weren't able to go to far as the Stormcloaks had set up camp just outside the pass. They come back with nothing. No letter, no trace. I didn't know what to do."

"That is rather odd, I always heard Marius was an upstanding man. Did you ever find the cause?"

"Yes, unfortunately, well I guess not so unfortunate now, the Thalmor Inquisitors found an Amulet of Talos in his belongings. If they had found it before he left, he most likely would have been executed. So I guess it's fortunate he left. And fortunate for me as well. Without his leaving, we may not have won the war to be honest. He engineered the Thalmor betrayal, and with him leaving I was able to lead as well, which got me to this spot right here. I guess the gods really do have a plan, even if at times it may be unorthodox."

Gracchus took another drink from the mug.

"Okay, now it's your turn Samuel. What stories do you have stashed away?"

"Hmm," Samuel said with a clever smile and took another sip of his drink, before he continued with a lowered voice. "What about the time i made an Imperial General betray his army and join the opposition?"

Gracchus nearly spit his ale across the room, but gulped it down before leaning over the table and whispering.

"What do you mean? Are YOU behind Marius leaving?"

"Come now, Gracchus, you don't honestly take that for more than a joke? I mean, how would I be able to get to the General's quarters that night? It had to at least be a double patrol, with the former princess being scheduled to arrive. Not to mention that everyone was so uptight about not offending the Justiciars, lest they'd be accused of Talos worship."

Samuel gestured to the barkeep that he wanted a refill for the two of them.

Gracchus frowned briefly, thinking over what Samuel said. He quickly accepted the notion of the joke, and laughed.

"You had me going for a second! But really, no stories from a lifetime of making deals?"

"Oh, there are stories. Some a pretty funny, in their own way. If you want, I can tell you about the reunion I had with a lover of mine, after many years, when he was involved in a deal I made."

Gracchus nodded, and sipped the ale.

"Why not, I have nothing better to do. So tell me about this 'lover' of yours. I can honestly say I've never heard a, pardon the term, gay love story before."

"Oh, it is not much of a love story. More of a tale to heed," Samuel smiled. "I was in Skyrim, setting up the trade between two people, much like I've done with you now, and my 'lover' happened to be involved in it. It was years since we had even been at that point and only recently seen each other before this. After the deal was set up, he confronted me, being displeased with the fact that I hadn't personally showed much interest in going back to that time. He hit me, square in the jaw. He is pretty strong, despite his age. Soldier's life, I presume. I'd guess most Generals are in decent shape, if you're anything to judge it by."

Gracchus got a quizzical look on his face again.

"So your lover was a general? Maybe I might know him if you mentioned his name."

"Tell you what; I'll buy you a bottle of Cyrodiilic Brandy and you tell me another story. If I like it, I'll let you in on the identity of this General. Sounds like a fair deal to me."

Gracchus smiled, before downing the remaining ale.

"You've got yourself a deal. How does a story about The Great War sound?"

"Most interesting. Do go on. Barkeep, I'd like a bottle of Cyrodiilic Brandy for my friend here. He's a war hero, after all."

"I was green, had just joined up. I was around nineteen, twenty, and was the youngest member of my battlemage unit. We were part of he army sent to retake the city. Me and several others had just landed in the Waterfront District, and we had started moving toward the city center when several Thalmor Archers appeared on the rooftops. I started casting fireballs, when an arrow pierced my armor and stuck itself in my stomach. I crawled into an alley, and lay bleeding out. I thought I was going to die. An Altmer swordsman rounded the corner, and seeing my on the ground, advanced towards me. His sword was raised, ready to sever my head, when Emepror Titus Mede II thrust his blade into the Altmer's chest. He grabbed my hand, hoisted me to my feet, and said 'You can't die yet. We have a city to take.' So that's my story, of when I was saved by the Emperor."

"That is a pretty entertaining tale. Must have been quite the experience for a youngling. Now, I guess I owe you one."

Samuel smiled and emptied his drink. "The lovers name is Marius Imperius. This little scene that I told you about happened within 36 hours of his disappearance, at the Stormcloak camp at Pale Pass. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some things I need to attend to."

With one last grin at Gracchus, the man disappeared before his eyes, leaving only a heavy purse of Septims behind. At the same time one of the off-duty guards left the bar, making it impossible to know if Samuel was still there or not.

Gracchus was shocked, equally by both the information and the sudden disappearance of Samuel.

I had him figured for a mage, Gracchus thought.

He headed up stairs, taking the bottle of brandy with him, and leaving his own small tip.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Maggie and Samuel

Imperial City


Tanie's hand shook as she held out the cordial. It was homemade and she was confident of it, but they said Countess Bathory was well-traveled and a connoisseur of wines. The Cordial Lady was Tanie's nickname and the name of her brothel, which was new in Imperial City terms. The previous establishment had withered up and been forced to close, it was rumored, because they had crossed Magdela Bathory. The city watch had started showing up, patrons stayed away, and then Merchants Bank foreclosed. The owner of that bank was married to the elder Bathory sister, Sofia.

"Tiger liqueur, my lady," Tanie said, reminding herself not to fawn. "I hear you like the exotic."

Maggie looked at the tiny glass, turned it around and around in the glow of the lamps. Finally she picked it up and took a sip. Most tasters at this point would grimace from the fiery, forceful drink, but the countess' face remained placid. "Nicely done. A hint of moon sugar, no?"

"Yes, that's it. If you don't mind, please don't tell that around. It not being strictly legal and all."

Tanie beamed at the countess' murmur of approval. She was proud of her drinks. Her great-grandmother had been alchemic understudy to Empress Annaig herself, and some of the recipes had come down from her. What The Cordial Lady did not have were enough wealthy patrons upstairs. Their prices were the high end of modest, so noblemen on their way up the ladder or down it would drop by. Some would sample when they were bored, and they got army officers, but too few regulars.  Tanie hoped that Lady Bathory could help with that.

"To business, then," Maggie said, drawing a parchment from her purse. "I know you must normally be discreet, but can you tell me if you have been visited by any of the men on this list?"

It was a long list. Everyone was in from the counties for the new empress' coronation. Other madams shunned noble courtesans like Countess Bathory as being bad for business, but Tanie understood the advantage in having their good opinion. If a courtesan favored your house, her recommendation held weight. The sight of her arriving or leaving would excite gossip and elevate the house's prestige. A powerful courtesan like Magdela Bathory could make problems with authorities disappear, or the reverse if you got on her bad side.

Tanie took out a quill and began marking off names.

When Maggie took back the parchment, she glanced over it. "Count Kvatch has been in this week? Who's he seen?"

"An... assortment, my lady.  Not as many as he wanted."

"What?" The countess laughed.

"I followed the recommendation you gave about him.  Thank you very kindly for that."

"To get his gold up front."

"Even so. He wanted the whole house for himself! Every one of us! But he could only pay for three. After an hour he was so drunk that he passed out, and they threw him down here in the lounge until his valet arrived to take him home."

Maggie had continued laughing as this account went on.  "Oh, too rich.  Old Fruity Bruti.  I bet he didn't stay up for even one of those girls, let alone three."

Tanie's mouth curved in a simpering smile, but she declined to comment.  Thrice rate was still a good earning.

Maggie's eyes lit with mischief.  "Tell you what. Next time he comes in, he gets the whole house on me, but only for an hour.  Send for me when it happens. I want to see him frantically pumping trying to get his money's worth.  He hasn't got much, you know. Money."

"If that's what you wish, my lady. Please don't let anyone know that we arranged such a thing."

"Mum's the word." Maggie was scanning further down the list. "Some legionnaires, I see."

"Oh, yes. Back from Skyrim they are, randy as rabbits and purses jangling with the empress' bonus pay."

"I wouldn't mind giving General Tullius a go myself."

It was Tanie's turn to laugh, a little too loudly. "Ive had no complaints about him."

"Well then, I'll let him continue to find his comforts among your girls." Maggie scanned the list once more, then stood and tossed it into the fire. Tanie was startled, and worried, but the countess then said, "I thank you for your help. You've been straight with me."

"Naturally, countess. I wouldn't normally talk about my clients, but for you! I'm honored you chose to visit us."

"There are a few more names I didn't want to write down. Skjari, the court wizard."

"Is that the Nord people are talking about? Haven't seen him. Maybe he's one for spear fighting? Mages are funny about their tastes sometimes."

The countess ignored the question.  "A disgraced general, Marius Imperius. He may also have 'funny' tastes, as you put it." Tanie shook her head, so Maggie went on to the next name. "The new spymaster, Lorgar Grim-Maw.  He...  Well.  How to describe Lorgar."

"He might have been in."


"I didn't see him myself.  One of the girls said she thought it was him. He asked..."  Tanie chose her words carefully.   "Asked if he could watch two of the girls 'play,' as he said it. The girls must have laughed, because he got embarrassed and left. I hope we didn't offend."

"That sounds like our duke," Maggie answered, smiling.  "A bit shy.  I'll put in a good word for you."

"Oh thank you, my lady."

Maggie paused before naming the next person. "What about someone named Samuel?"

The madam blanched.  "I... well, I..."

"It's alright. You can tell me."  When no reply was forthcoming, Maggie's chin lifted.  "He's here now, isn't he?  Show me to him."


The door into the room Samuel occupied swung open, followed by two ladies he had expected fifteen minutes ago. He had already started to get dressed, which was more than what he could say for the companion he had had for the last hour or so. Lots of fun, that one. And talkative. He had to make sure she'd got a little extra pay sometime.

"My dear, it seems we have visitors. Perhaps you should leave?" While he took on his shirt, the girl hastily grabbed her own outfit and shot past Maggie and Tanie, with a quick bow to them.

"Ah, Rose, there you are."

Maggie watched the spectacle, unimpressed.  Stiffly she said to Tanie, "You may leave us now.  I'll see you on the way out."

The madam wrung her hands, looking between Maggie and Samuel as if not sure who to obey in this instance.  At a sharp look from the countess, she backed out of the door and shut it behind her.

Turning back to Samuel, Maggie lifted a brow.  "One step ahead of me, as usual, guardian.  Did you enjoy yourself while you waited?  I assume you're not here by accident."

"Quite, I never miss the few chances to relax that I get. The girls here are... skilled, I give them that. Not the common rabble one would find in the smaller settlements of this kind. Not to mention they are an excellent source for rumors."

He laughed and went over to the bed to sit down. He still hadn't put on the black jacket that came with the rest of his outfit, remaining in the simple buttoned short for now. There was a certain hint of self-deprecation in his voice, which was unusually cheery as it was already.

"And it is very easy to turn them into little sources for information about the other patrons. Well, if you have my magnetic personality, at least. I'm sure people like Lorgar, who simply watch, don't get much in the terms of useful information."

Still peeved at her mentor encroaching on what she considered her own territory, Maggie crossed to a chair and made to cast a muffle spell.  There was already one on the room, however.  Of course.  One step ahead, as always.

"An odd choice for a spymaster, to be sure," she replied coolly.  "A were-creature of some sort, Skjari says. Our empress' new court is full of peculiarities."

"Honestly, with this standard of girls here, you have to be quite impressive to keep their interest," with a smile he shook his head and laid on his back. "Peculiarities indeed, but if Skjari allows him to keep that role, he likely has some talents that makes up for his lack of... skill where it comes to learning things people don't want you to know. I suspect that you have an idea what that might be, since you talked to him at the coronation. Rumors fly fast here."

"Yes, a fan of my books, it seems.  Or one book, at least.  The one that I'm not supposed to mention."  Maggie smiled, referring to her "Breton" book, Camille, a story about a young noblewoman seduced by a female vampire. Maggie's writing about a vampire was the last straw for her father, who exiled her to High Rock to consider the error of her ways.

"He also told me he can hear heartbeats, and lack of," she continued.  "I assume that was meant as a warning. Why is everyone so dramatic?"

"Heartbeats, you say? Hmm, seems I must be sure to fake the sound of mine when I am around him then. Did you like the trick with the footsteps? For a moment I had expected you to blast the poor mudcrab."

"They're filthy, or that's what everyone says.  I suppose because most people have to fear their diseases.  But I don't want to talk about mudcrabs. You're very skilled, guardian. I'm not supposed to know such things, am I? Father likes to stay a step ahead, as well, and withholds such knowledge from me. As for Lorgar, if Skjari does as he says he will, it shouldn't be a problem in the future. Skjari strengthened the palace wards, but says he's going to allow me the keys to bypass them. What was the phrase he used... So that he wouldn't have to 'scrape up my remains' if Lorgar guessed the truth."

"Come now, Rose, the same people would call us filthy as well. Popular opinion is hardly a reliable measure for the truth."

Samuel remained on his back on the bed as he responded to her point about the crabs, but sat back up when he continued. Oddly enough, he showed a very slight hint of disappointment.

"Yes, I'd say I am quite skilled. And I happen to be skilled in many things, from talking, to sword- and knifeplay and getting around unnoticed to illusion magic. However, I prefer that you actually learn something from our time together, since it will not last forever. I was also present for the little breakdown you had after our first meeting. You need to find a way to be sure when I am there or not, and I don't have time to let you learn that without any guidance."

He let out a little chuckle and added with what sounded like curiosity: "You still haven't answered my statement about keeping the noblemen's interest."

"Breakdo-"  Maggie appeared puzzled, then remembered that after her first meeting with Samuel, she had waited until she thought him gone, then given in to a little cry.  Anger flashed in her eyes.  "I'm used to not having any privacy, but there are limits, even for you. Don't do that to me again. I've been very open with you, more open than I wanted to be, but I expect some courtesy in return."

She stood and paced a little.  "What do you mean to say about keeping noblemen's interest?  Is that a lesson you want to teach me, as well?"

Samuel got to his feet and lost the seemingly carefree demeanor. He had a very explicitly disappointed look, and his voice spoke through her anger as if it didn't matter.

"There is a lesson I wanted to teach you indeed. And you just failed at it miserably. Control. You need to learn control. That has been the point of this entire meeting, to see how much it would take for you to lose it. And I am not impressed. You want courtesy? How about the courtesy I am showing you by not allowing the rest of the Order to cut you loose into the political world for your continued endangerment of us all? The courtesy I am showing you by trying to teach you how to not rely on the good will of people like myself and your father to survive?"

Even if he didn't let himself lose any control over his emotions, he made it clear to Maggie that he was losing his patience with her.

"You've been nothing but a liability to us ever since you came to the Imperial City with your mad ambitions, and now my sources have told me that the very Vigilant I warned you about has started to ask people in my circles about you specifically. You lack both the control and the caution to play this game on the level you do. For your own good, I suggest that you actually let someone advise you on how to do this, instead of superficially accepting the advice without taking it to heart."

"Good will, is it?  Liability?" Maggie fumed. "As if our Order receives nothing in return from my work here! You wouldn't know what happened in the assassination chamber had I not told you, nor at the coronation, and would rely on rumor like everyone else. Capable or not, worthy or not- according to your standards- I was the one there."  Maggie returned to her seat, smoothing her dress as though trying to clear away the tensions in the room. She took a deep breath. "Is this hunter real, or are you only trying to scare me? I've not heard anything else about him."

"Yes, good will and liability. If those are the best examples of what you can give us in return, the largely unimportant details of the assassination scene and even less important details about the coronation. Do you honestly think you were the only one there that could give me information? I suppose I should tell you that the nobles of this city are some of my best clients, trading small bits of information about each other to try to get ahead in their schemes. That is what I do; I trade information around Tamriel."

Samuel took a step closer to her. "And if you want to test me on the hunter being real, I suggest that you visit Sideways Cave. You'll see just how real this hunter is. Or if you don't make it that far, you'll at least taste the power of the Sun spells the Dawnguard uncovered in Skyrim."

Maggie's expression changed, weighing what he said. A flash of fear showed that she did believe it was real. She waved a hand. "If you want to pretend that having access to the emperor is unimportant, that is your right. I accept you're telling me the truth about this hunter. How did he settle on me as a target?"

"And if you want to pretend that you being a concubine to the former ass on the Ruby Throne and now having made the initial steps in making an alliance with the new one makes you irreplaceable, it's your right to end up exactly the way your father had me sent here to prevent. You seem to blatantly ignore the balance between risk and benefit."

He sat down on the bed again, resting his chin against folded hands, turned in her direction.

"The hunter, Trym Heart-Hand, is quite intelligent and very adept at making people talk against their will. I am not entirely sure how he pinned you down as a target of interest, which makes me more unnerved than the fact that he is asking for you. There is only a matter of time before he'll seek you out himself."

Eyes averted, Maggie tried to sort out her feelings.  It was difficult not to see Samuel as a proxy for her father, which was complicating matters.  The rule of "survival first," however, was simple.  "Tell me about these Dawnguard spells."

"Reach out your hand."

Maggie hesitated, watching Samuel closely, but eventually she complied.

An orb of light, not unlike the light mages often conjured, appeared in his hand. "Touch it."

It looked harmless enough, even beautiful, but even its outer undulations burned like a hot iron to the flesh. Withdrawing her hand quickly, Maggie cast a healing spell, then let her hand fell to her side. "And this hunter possesses such knowledge."  Samuel wouldn't have demonstrated for her if it wasn't so.

Turning, she stepped to a vase of flowers on the nearby table and touched one of them.  Her voice was now subdued.  "If I am of so little worth to you or anyone in our family, if I am such a liability, then why haven't you already told the hunter what he wants to know?"

"This hunter has mastered the usage of these spells, fueling them with the hatred of our kind. He can shroud himself in an aura, more powerful than any such spell I could conjure."

Samuel had changed again. He was no longer angry or disappointed with her, but his voice was understanding.

"I haven't told this hunter about this because I think that your position as a risk to the Order doesn't need to be such. I haven't told him because I was once in a similar position and was offered a way out. Now I am offering you the same chance."

"A way out.  You mean I must return to the shadows.  Bury..."  Myself.   "...my work and disappear for a century or two until I'm given another chance, which will go the same as the last.  I'll do it, if I must, but I'm beginning to wonder what the point is."

"No, not bury yourself just yet. I think there is a way for you to remain free, or as free as one can expect to be in the nobility. That is the backup plan in case the one I play for goes wrong. No, what I want you to do is to be trained, professionally, in the arts required for you to survive this. In short, I think we need to seek out some of my old Masters."

He paused for a moment, giving her time to comprehend what he had said and overrule the preconceptions she had had about it. "The first thing we need to do is to take care of Marius Imperius and hopefully shake Trym Heart-Hand of your trail, so we can move more freely."

There was some hope in such goals, and more leeway than she'd expected. She turned towards him.  "Then I'll continue my search.  As far as I've been able to tell, this Marius is not in the Imperial City yet.  As for the hunter...  If he only knew that we are not the threat he imagines.  He would actually do some good in the Nibenay, since the Keerilth still test our limits there.  Now there's a werebeast holding the fief of Blackwood.  I wouldn't draw attention to Lorgar while he's at court, however.  Too close.  What do you suggest?"

"About Lorgar? For now, only that we don't do anything that could be seen as threatening to the Empress or the stability of the Empire. As long as we stay out of his turf, he is not going to have time to deal with us. His new role will demand that he keeps his priorities strict, lest it all fall apart for him. Stay friendly, there is no need to make enemies where one can make friends."

"I'm not sure he sees it that way.  More like he sees enemies everywhere.  His entire unit was destroyed in Skyrim, after all."  Maggie stepped closer, rubbing one hand with the other as though in memory of it being burned.  Her tone contrite, she said, "I'm not ungrateful for your help.  I shouldn't have snapped at you.  It was... unworthy of me, and of you."

"Think nothing of it, it was to be expected. I needed you to put your defenses out in the open so I could get through to you. I fear the years of living with your father has made you quite protective of yourself. The only way I could do that was to force you to antagonize me. It is as much my fault as your own."

He got to his feet and took her hand, kissing it, before he let go and went out of the door. "Before I leave you for now, I think there is someone you'd like to meet. Alef, this is your cue."

In the far corner of the room a Dunmer woman became visible. She was dressed in a very revealing black, silk outfit that was in a style that would fit in in the establishment they were in. She walked over to Maggie with her hands folded in front of her.  She had long, straight black hair and a kind face, for a Dunmer that was.

"My Lady Bathory, I am honored to meet you."  She bowed as one was expected to when encountering nobility. "I am Alef. I am an ally of Samuel, of sorts. I was hoping you'd be willing to listen to a proposal of mine."

By now Maggie wasn't surprised at Samuel pulling cards out of his sleeve.  She was surprised at seeing a Dunmer, however.  "Pleased to meet you, Alef.  I'm listening."

"Yes, thank you," the Dunmer sounded a little nervous. A refreshing change from the immovable confidence Samuel emitted; someone who maybe wasn't as much ahead of everyone else. "You see, before I came into Samuel's service I... used a particular talent of mine to get information, much like the contacts you are said to have here. And I am a reliable agent, in case you need someone to run an important errand. Samuel can vouch for me. Or I think he would, since he allowed me to see the... discussion you had without taking my life on the way out..."

Maggie's guard fell a bit, and she smiled.  "You're willing to do that?  I would like someone on the inside.  You heard our little argument.  Whatever Samuel says, there is no substitute for one's own eyes and ears.  You'll work for Tanie?  She seems eager to please."

"No, my Lady," the Dunmer bowed again. "I'll work for you, in the house of Tanie."

The countess' smile widened.  "A good reply.  Very well, Alef, I accept your offer.  Let's leave Tanie in the dark for a while.  I want to make sure she's loyal.  Do you need anything from me?  I will of course send promising clients your way, if opportunity arises.  I'm sure it will.  Women of your race have a certain reputation, if you'll pardon my bluntness."

"I don't mind, my Lady, I've more than lived up to the reputation you refer to. All I need is that you make sure that when you're checking in on me you do so in a way that wouldn't  arise much suspicion on my end. Maybe say you've taken an interest in 'certain' women as a research for your books? After Camille, I'm sure no one would question that..."

"If need arises.  Otherwise you may always leave a message for me at my house."  Maggie drew a calling card from her reticule and handed it over.  "Keep watch for anyone from the court.  You heard some important names in our conversation."

Maggie paused, wanting to ask more about the Dunmer woman personally and how she knew Samuel, but decided to leave it at arm's length for now.  As she had learned with nightblade guards, it was better not to form friendships.  "I'll take my leave then.  Thank you, Alef."

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Lexis, Lis, Khev

Forest somewhere in Skyrim



"Hahaha, wait for me, brother!"

"Sorry, you're too slow, better keep up!"

Two nord children were running through a forest in an unfamiliar area to them. Out of all their years of living, neither of them have even seen this part of Skyrim before. The first boy was pretty tall for nine years old. About five feet five inches tall. The other boy was already twelve. He was already six feet tall. They were dressed in ordinary peasants clothes, which were rags, but they were not poor. Their mother just got tired of them tearing their good clothes when they went out to play. The eldest was told by his parents that he soon was getting too old to go running around playing with his little brother and he'd need to stay on the farm and work longer with his pa as he was a young man and needed to take more responsibility. So for the youngest, this adventure was important as it could be their last together. The brother's names were Lis, the eldest. And the other's name was Khev.

"C'mon you slow pokes! I'm almost already there!"

That was Lexis. Khev had a crush on her since the first time he saw her, which was literally just yesterday. But already the three had taken to eachother like an argonian took to water. It was just too bad that Lis had to stay at the farm as soon as they became friends. As Lexis crossed through the other side of the forest leading to a clearing, the other boys came running out as well, but Lis when he saw the clearing stopped in his tracks, which caused Khev to smack right into him. Lexis ran over to him to help him up and kiss him on his forehead where he got a bruise from the impact on Lis. Lis was a big boy so it wasn't a surprise. Lexis was the youngest of all of them, being seven but she was just as tough as the other boys. Well, Khev wasn't all that tough really. But he pretended to be. Especially in front of her.

"Come on, Khev! Are you ok? Here." said Lexis as she planted her kiss.

"OOOOoooh! Look at Khev found himself a girlfriend, hehehe."

"Shut up, Lis! You're just jealous."

"Both of you hush and lets go down there!" said Lexis excitedly.

"What are we going to s-...wow...WOW!"

The children had stumbled upon a very strange location covered in what they thought at first was sand. However upon closer inspection, the children could see that what they really were seeing was ash. They had no idea what ash was doing in the middle of Skyrim, but they were excited beyond belief at what was among all of it. Crates, tents, more crates, weapons, shields and armor....they had stumbled upon an ancient war zone.

"Wow, I want to get a sword! Come on lets go look!" said Khev.

"Hey, guy's, come look over here, I found some strange arm-...uhh, uhhh, ahhhhh!!!!!"

"What's wrong Lis?" said the two children.

"Sk-sk- sk..."

The boy was trying to say skeleton. He had lifted off the soldier's strange looking tan ash colored helmet which revealed a weird looking skull. Whoever these soldiers were, they weren't nords.

"Hahahaha! You're supposed to be the oldest and you're afraid of a skeleton? Big baby!"

"Shut up, Khev."

The group of kids ran around for some time collecting jewelery, weapons, some books, anything they could carry reasonably for about an hour. They were having the time of their life. Although Lis less so than the others. Ever since he saw that skeleton, the boy had a bad feeling in his gut about the place. Especially from the weird crest that was donned on the strange warriors. He couldn't understand why but for whatever reason it filled him with a feeling that he as a child never felt before. If he was older and faced more pain in his life, the feeling to him would be known simply as dread. Despair. He had felt fear before, but this was something different. Much different. More potent. Despite this, something drew him nearer. Compelled him to stay. Tricked him into thinking he was having the time of his life like the others. What was it? The boy stood up from a crate and suddenly dropped his trinkets and bobbles. All except one...


"What is it Lis?" said Khev.

Khev had been looking for Lis because Lexis was ready to go home and he of course wanted whatever she wanted. But when he saw what Khev was looking at, all thoughts were erased from his mind. All thoughts that didn't include this. An orb. A glass silvery orb that seemed to...whisper...


"Restore the sixth."

"Restore the sixth."

song started to play. One that was nothing like Khev had ever heard. He looked around to see where it was coming from, but it didn't seem to come from anywhere. He stood there for a while until he focused back on Lis holding the orb. HIS orb. The music came from the orb! Or did it? Was it in his head? Immediately, the music grew louder. And louder. Then louder some more. It was a strange song that sounded like it sang murder. The more it played, the angrier Khev grew. He wanted the orb. He needed the orb. It was his orb. It was HIS ORB! HIS! HIS! HIS! The sound resonated through Khev as he charged for the orb...The boys struggled and struggled on the ground for what to them seemed an age. Eventually a red light flashed and ceased the struggle...



"Khev? Lis?"

Lexis ran in the direction of the red flash to find out what it was. When she got there, she heard Khev crying and saw him standing by himself with his back turned to her. When she called out his name, the boy turned around still crying but with a blank face as if nothing was the matter.

"Time for us to leave. Where's Lis?"

The boy looked down to the orb at his reflection. He looked upon it with a strange curiosity. It was familiar. But shouldn't it be? It was his face after all. But somehow it wasn't. The boy was only nine, but this face was that of a grown man.

It's me. It's me. It's me!

"Where's your brother, Khev?"


The music continued playing.


Rebec, Baldur, Boldir


5 A.M. Few weeks after events in Falkreath



Baldur bolted up from his sleep when the music finally ceased. He was dreaming. He remembered what the day was and realized exactly why he had such a strange dream. It was the day he would leave behind Boldir in Whiterun. And he was retired. The two would not see each other for quite some time. Baldur laid back thinking of the strange book series he had been reading over the past week recommended to him from one of his Dunmer soldiers entitled "The Poison Song" and cursed it for the nightmare it had given him. He was still hazy from just waking up and couldn't remember why he was leaving until a hand slapped him in the face, which was greeted with a snore. Rebec had stirred from Baldur's gasp out of his nightmare and rolled over to put her arm around his neck, but missed and instead laid her hand right over his face in her sleep. Despite the way he felt about leaving Boldir, he smiled from genuine happiness at his wife as he looked at her in between her fingers resting over his face. Slowly removing her hand so that he could get up, Baldur removed himself carefully from the bed to go see his brother's progress on his surprise for his wife.

Across town, halfway up the hill to the Cloud District, perched the statue of a massive hawk, looking down over the city built around it. The bird was of course perched upon the famed Skyforge, whose magical and, if some tales are to believed, gods-blessed flames perpetually burned with a heat to rival the breath of a Dragon.

Boldir smiled as he stood polishing his latest creation at the table just next to the legendary forge. He'd been doing a lot of that lately. Smiling that is. Some of the soldiers he knew back in Eastmarch or Falkreath would probably think he was a different person. Or maybe they'd poke fun at him for "getting soft", but Boldir didn't care. He'd never been one to smile for nothing, and as far as he was concerned, that hadn't changed. He just had a lot more to smile about than he had before. Indeed, these past few weeks had been the happiest of his life.

He lifted the nearly-finished war axe high and examined it closely. The quicksilver and ebony weapon was made in the same shape as the classic Nordic-Carved design that Necro Nords were issued, but this one had far more intricate details etched into it. On the upper hook of the blade, there was the design of a Nordic ship sailing through a calm sea, and at the back end, at the point that faces the weilder, he had carved the head of a hawk looking out toward you. Unlike with cow-painting, this was an art that Boldir had actually put a lot of effort into. It had been his pet project for weeks now, and every detail of this axe had been handled with extreme precision and care. This was by far the finest piece he'd ever made, even surpassing his own helmet and the battle axe he used to carry.

Boldir stood back and twirled the axe before giving it a few swings, testing its weight and balance. Perfect. He couldn't help but feel pride. If he'd been told back in Shor's Stone that he'd one day make such a beautiful weapon, he'd have laughed in your face and called you a liar. Admittedly, the Skyforge had definitely helped. He'd never felt such power behind any weapon or tool as he did behind the flames rising from that pit.

Anxiousness set in as he realized how close he was to finally finishing his project. All that was left were some typical "Nordic" finishing touches. He'd long ago made the bear fur fitting that went below the axe head. And there were several hawk feathers he was to put on with that. He began working on fitting them onto the axe using a kind of Silt Stider glue from Morrowind to insure that they wouldn't come off.

As Baldur walked in the cold of the early morning in his bed clothes once more, which was merely some cotton brown trousers, he could see a huge looming figure in the distance in the light coming from the fire and embers of the Skyforge. This was of course Boldir's unforgettably huge bear body working away at his craft. His dedication to their friendship and his craft was humbling, Baldur not being one to really craft anything that took serious time and patience to make. Sure he had his songs, but those for the most part were done on the fly. They were like the flash of lightning or life of a flower. Fleeting and short. Boldir's craft however was like the beauty of a mountain or an ocean. One that could last much longer and withstand the tides of time and human forgetfulness. In that sense, Baldur was a bit envious of his friend's talent but thankful that he was able to put it to good use and that he had done so so willingly. Baldur approached his friend, yawning and stretching, under-dressed wearing no shoes, as if he was in the privacy of his room.

"So, Iron-Brow. How goes the project?"

Boldir's smile faded a bit at the sound of his brother's voice. Not because he wasn't glad to hear from him, but because it reminded him that Baldur and Rebec were soon to be leaving, and it could be a very long time before he'd get to see them again. He pushed the unhappy thoughts from his mind and resumed smiling before he turned around to face his friend, holding out the nearly-complete axe so that Baldur could see the finer details that had been more recently added.

"You couldn't have much better timing brother. I'll have the finishing touches complete within just a few more minutes. I've gotta say, I'm gonna be sad to see her go. There were a few times I thought about keeping this beauty for myself... So do you have a name for it, or is that to be Rebec's honor?"

Baldur grasped the axe in his hand, felt the balance, touched the edge of it's blade head which was as sharp as any sword just like the rest of the necro nord weapons. But the detail and intricate designs sent chills up his spine as he beheld it. It wasn't just a weapon, it was a work of art. Typical of nordic weapons, but this....

"This is amazing...you could give Eorlund a run for his money, I swear. I don't know what to call it. It's an axe but it's like a totem to Kyne as well just like I wanted. I intended to have it enchanted with stamina drain so that the wielder wouldn't lose their breath in battle. So, I don't know what to call it. But it does deserve a name. Something so beautiful, represents Kyne, Kyne is represented by birds of prey mainly hawks...How about Kyne's Talon?"

Boldir was still thinking about the Eorlund comment. He wasn't sure that he'd ever recieved so great a compliment. Although he was fairly certain that it wasn't really correct. Still, he was definitely proud of this weapon.

"Kyne's Talon. I like that. Suits both the weapon and Rebec."

Boldir held out his hand for the axe back. "Here. It won't take long to finish up this last bit. We can talk while I work if you'd like."

"If you don't mind it, sure. I heard artists and such hate that. But considering what this day is and all..."

Baldur's voice dropped a bit at the end.

"Just promise me one thing, Iron-Brow."

Boldir didn't actually mind at all. There were times for solace and there were times for company. With what was coming, this was a day that he'd definitely prefer the company of his friend in the short time they had left.

"Promise?" Asked Boldir as he took back the axe. He didn't like promises, swears and the like. He found that they either force dishonesty, or they set someone up for disappointment. As such, the only two oaths he'd ever sworn and truly understood or cared about were his Stormcloak oath and his marriage vows to Carlotta. Though if he was to make one to his friend, he did not intend to break it. "What's the promise?"

"Promise me that you won't let your nord blood get the best of you. Stay here with Carlotta and my little niece. Or at least keep them with you on your travels. No matter what happens don't let anything pull you back to battle. Even if it's me that is asking you. I don't care if the elves are about to break the very last bottle of mead in existence. What you have here I know you know is perfect. You and I would know that better than anyone. You have a family now. Don't mess it up. We still gotta start that town after all."

Baldur already knew the answer Boldir would give. He'd already promised the same thing to the woman that drove him to hear voices. But Baldur wanted to drive the point home.

"Even if my life depends on your return, Boldir. Don't."

Boldir was more than happy to agree to everything his brother had said up until that last line. It brought back memories of Falkreath, the last time he'd abandoned Baldur for dead. It had been what drove him to near-insanity the first time. Now, his life was a stable one, and he hadn't heard any voices, even Jodun's apparently "real" one, in weeks. He was content to stay that way. Abandoning Baldur a second time would not help that cause. And more importantly than his own sanity, his brother's death would affect all of Skyrim, not to mention Rebec. He remembered the phrase Baldur had used before heading off to the Imperial camp. No promises.

He looked Baldur in the eyes. "I promise."

Baldur looked closely to the nord's face to see if he was lying, but he honestly for the first time couldn't tell. He took that as a good sign.

"Good. I couldn't forgive myself if I got you killed or something. Sorry to be all morbid. Hard to stay focused on chit chat during a time like this unless there's a bit of mead in me. But it's not like this is good-bye. And you'll have your new family to keep you happy and I'll have mine."

Rebec had woken out of her half-dead state not long after Baldur left.  She dressed in her leathers and a tunic and put her hair up in a ponytail, strapped on an axe, and went out into the main room.  Grabbing a sweetroll from a tray, she asked Hulda the innkeep where Baldur had gone.  Hulda didn't know, but as she thought about it, Rebec had an inkling where he had gone.  This was an important day for both of them.  A heavy day.

Mouth full of sweetroll, Rebec stopped in front of the imposing sight of the Skyforge and the hall of Jorrvaskr.  One was like an overturned ship, plucked right out of stories about Rebec the Red, and the other was the totem of Kyne.  She'd walked past the place many times the past few weeks and had never pondered that.  Skyrim was her home, and she belonged to Skyrim.  Even here, days away from the Sea of Ghosts, it was apparent.

But home wasn't about buildings or landmarks, even important ones.  As Rebec got to the top of the Skyforge stairs, she saw what made it home- the two men she loved, one as a husband and one as a brother, with bonds forged in blood and tears.

She didn't even have a joke or comment about his bare feet, just stepped to Baldur's side and half-hugged him, laying her head on his shoulder.  Both of them were now watching Boldir at the workbench.  "What are you tinkering with there, junior?"

"Hey Rebec." Said Boldir, looking over his shoulder. He couldn't leave his spot, as he was currently holding down the hawk feather and bear fur ornament fitting at the top of the axe handle. The strange glue would be dry within a minute, and the axe would be complete.

"I'm uh, working on..." He looked to Baldur for permission. Boldir wasn't quite sure if this was still a secret or not.

"It's fine friend. She can fill in the blanks at this point." said Baldur.

"That's good!" Said Boldir, excitedly and triumphantly as he held his hands to the ornamental fixing. "Because I... am... finished!"

He spun around, holding out his masterpiece for both to see as he did.

Rebec stood straight, looking from the axe to Baldur and back.  He'd spoken about a gift the night before, she recalled.  "It's for me?"

Stepping forward, she took the axe from Boldir and looked it over carefully.  The engraving of a ship brought a lump to her throat.  She tested the heft, then took a step back and swung the axe twice in a criss-cross arc.  It fit to her hand as if made for it- as it was, in fact- and seemed to sing as it sliced the air.  "I've never owned anything like this."  If she prattled, maybe she wouldn't cry.  "My other Skyforge axe was a hand-me-down from Vilnur, and the ebony I took off a reaver captain who wouldn't leave my ship alone.  This..."  She swung the axe again.  It was too fun to resist doing.

"Iron-Brow is a master at his craft. This Skyforge helped a bit I assume. How'd you get Eorlund to let you use it, Boldir?" asked Baldur.

"Haven't I told you?" Boldir answered. "I've been friends with the Gray-Mane family for years. Since the civil war was still going on. I just had to tell Eorlund what I needed it for and that was all it took."

"Oh I see. Pretty handy being friends with that family then. His steel is partly why the Necro Nords are so effective. Ok, Rebec that's enough. I have one last finishing touch to add to the weapon before you claim it as your own."

Baldur quickly snatched the axe from her grasp as she was swinging the thing in the air. And began doing the same himself making it "sing".

"Hah, now you know what it's like to be a necro nord! Hmm, maybe I'll keep this one myself and let you have one of my axes, eh? Hehehe!"

"Ohhh no you don't.  I've still got another axe..."  Rebec was smiling, but she did watch the axe jealously as Baldur swung it, already missing its feel in her hand.  Turning to Boldir, she said, "I can't thank you enough, friend.  They say that a Nord isn't a true warrior until they have a weapon made for their own hand.  I thought that was a load of horker dung until now."  She glanced up at the enormous hawk staring down at them.  "There's no place better than here for it to be made, is there?"

"No, I suppose there isn't." Said Boldir as he looked up at the statue. He couldn't even think about Kyne without Rebec at least coming to mind. Baldur often compared her to the Nordic godess, and it was fitting. "It's called Kyne's Talon." he said, gesturing at the axe. "Baldur named it."

She caught her husband's eye and smiled at him.  But that didn't seem adequate.  Stepping over to Baldur, she held the axe at bay and stood on her toes to kiss him. "Thank you, my love. I won't be able to give you a gift as fine as this."

Baldur gave Boldir a wink that said "thank you" as he kissed Rebec. After seeing Boldir with Carlotta he didn't mind saying the things he wanted to say to her in front of him any longer, knowing he'd fully understand.

"You already have, Rebec. Now, since I am your 'loyal steed,' would you care to take a ride to our next destination?"

Baldur crouched to the ground for Rebec to climb on his back.

"One last final touch for Kyne's Talon. I'm going to get it enchanted by Secret-Fire in Dragon's Reach with stamina drain."

"You're mad," Rebec laughed, nudging him playfully with her leg.  "And barefoot.  I'll have to take you to the stables next and have you shod."

She was still shy about showing their love play in front of others, even Boldir, so she hesitated to climb aboard.  Oh, to Oblivion with it, she thought, and threw her leg over her husband's back.  "Thank you, Boldir.  If we're not back in an hour, come up to Dragonsreach and rescue us in case that mad wizard has turned us both into mudcrabs."

Baldur stood up off the ground with Rebec in tow, grinning childishly and absolutely giddy at the thought of all the onlookers they'd pass. He loved making people's heads turn and putting on a spectacle. The General of the most elite force in the Stormcloak army and the High Admiral of the royal Skyrim navy piggy back riding definitely fell into that category.

"Hehe, hey! Don't forget to see us off by the gate! Bring my little niece and Carlotta on by as well!"

Boldir laughed. "Will do. Watch your step going up to Dragon's Reach. I doubt Rebec would appreciate you losing your balance up there." He said to Baldur. Boldir chuckled some more. It was just like his friend to put on such a display for no apparent reason, other than love of course. That's all the reason they need.

Rebec's voice drifted back as Baldur hauled her away.  "Tell Carlotta she still owes me two septims for losing at cards or it comes out of your hide, junior!"

The reality that they would soon be parting from their friends for a long time obviously hadn't set in, or she was fending it off.  It seemed like Boldir, and now Carlotta and Mila, would always be there for a game of cards or a round of mead.

From a little further off, Rebec's voice can be heard again, letting out a loud whoop.  She had apparently embraced the idea of having no shame and was yelling at her steed to storm the gates of Dragonreach and- gods preserve them- not to drop her new axe into the river.


It had taken about forty minutes in Dragon's Reach to get Kyne's Talon enchanted. It wasn't the actual enchanting that took so long. What took so long was first talking to Vignar who being an old man gave him a lecture of indecency of a military officer, especially a General, then Baldur of course had to argue back to remind him he had no authority over him. And of course Rebec threw her two cents in as well, all the while still holding on to the brand new axe. That definitely didn't help the whole situation. Then after the stubborn nords finally ceased their arguing, Baldur had yet another argument with the court mage who insinuated that it was fitting that he came in imitating a beast of burden asking him to enchant for him, since it was sophisticated work. Baldur shut him up by explaining the process and how simple it was in actuality from a few books he happened to have read on the subject. Once they finally got that over with, Baldur and Rebec made a slow yet steady walk back to pack their things and prepare for the trip. Baldur took his time. He wasn't in a terribly excited mood to leave his friend behind after all. Standing by the gate, Baldur tied the last of the supplies for the road to the horse that he had prepared for them, including his shield which was secured on it's side over their pack.

"Well, Reb. That's the last of it. This is really it. We're leaving him behind. Heh, and of course they're late. Probably not excited to see us off either."

"If they just lived at a port, it'd be no problem.  What do landlubbers do but turn a ship upside down like a hat and make a mead hall out of it."  Despite her words, Rebec wasn't laughing.  Whiterun was too far away, and she'd already used up excuses to go to Falkreath.  She had thought that being with Baldur was all that she needed to be happy, but Boldir was part of Baldur, too.  When she'd first met them, she couldn't even remember which was which.  There had been a couple gallons of mead involved, but still, one had always gone with the other, and now she had a hard time picturing her life before either one had come into it.

She couldn't think of anything else to say, so she just took Baldur's hand and waited, head drooping.


Boldir's voice could be heard from down the street through the still-open gate. Carlotta and Mila were with him. Boldir looked somewhat agitated. Carlotta and Mila just looked sad. Especially Mila, who was wearing a wooden toy sword Baldur had bought her a while back. When she spotted Baldur and Rebec, she sprinted away from her parents to embrace them in a hug. Boldir and Carlotta hurried after her.

"Sorry we were late." Said Boldir as they arrived at the horses. "I actually got called on by the watch half an hour ago and it took longer to deal with than expected..."

Baldur looked down at his little niece embracing the two and was wondering how long he could last before he embarrassed himself. He had just gained two more members into his ever growing family and he hated to leave them so soon on top of Boldir.

"It's fine, Boldir." said Baldur flatly. Baldur let out a smile to Mila to try to cheer himself up more than her, but it didn't help. Baldur picked the girl up from under her arms and gave her a big hug.

"Hey little Mila! Still have that sword I see. When I get back I promise to buy you a real one if your mother will let me okay?"

Mila looked up at Baldur, the sadness on her face briefly leaving in place of excitement. "Oh Wow! Really?!"

Boldir looked sadly from his daughter to his brother. He couldn't believe that the day had come. He'd been hoping the days would eventually slow down, preferably to a crawl. Everything had just been so perfect as of late. Now, for the first time since the war, he was going be separated from beloved his brother and sister. He didn't want them to leave, and had inquired to both of them at separate times to consider just settling down and staying like he did. But he'd known it was no use. Unlike with him and Carlotta, neither Rebec nor Baldur were going to tame the other. They were a unique pair, and Boldir loved them for it. But he hated it when he thought of the future, and how mysterious it still seemed. Even if they were sad to leave him, they wanted to leave. There was much that they had to do together. He was not going to say any of the things on his mind that would make them leaving any more difficult for them than it already was.

The excitement on Mila's face began to fade. It was immediately replaced with extreme joy, as if she'd had a groundbreaking idea. "Wait! What if you two stayed? At least for a while. Then we could get that sword now and you and Aunt Reb wouldn't have to act so sad!"

Carlotta's eyes dropped, and Boldir shook his head, smiling sadly. It's funny how the little ones are the only people who always truly speak their minds.

Baldur failed to hold his composure after Mila's request. Miserably. He had to put Mila down immediately before he embarrassed himself further. He hadn't realized how much family meant to him because he never really had one, but it had turned him into a big softie and he both hated and loved it. Baldur took a pause from the scene and walked to the other side of the horse in his shame.

Rebec was overwhelmed and didn't know what to say, and it all made her want to hit something with her shiny new axe. As a sailor she should have been used to long absences from loved ones, but war and being with Baldur had laid her emotions open in a way they hadn't been before.  Seeing Baldur holding a little girl brought up a whole other mess of things she wasn't ready to cope with.

Her instinct was to busy herself with the saddle, but instead she approached Carlotta.  Fidgeting with her axe handle, she said, "You made Boldir happier than I ever saw him.  That wasn't a long time, but I bet it's the happiest he's ever been.  If it wasn't for that, I'd be kicking his ass right now for leaving us."

Carlotta smiled at Rebec. She was usually good at fake smiles, but this one was not very convincing. It was hard to pretend to be in a good mood right now. Even for her, who had only known these two for a short time, this was a heavy moment. She may not have fought with them like Boldir, but she had grown to love them as family nonetheless. Looking at her husband, then back at Rebec, she said, "I'd have had to kick it myself if he'd tried."

Rebec returned Carlotta's smile, though her tears were beginning to show.  "Looks like Junior's between a seadog and a world of hurt.  I'd say he made the right choice to come out of it this well.  You got to take care of him, though.  Boy needs a bit of looking after.  I had to keep him from running off and...  Well, never mind about that."  Carlotta didn't need any more nightmares.

The admiral made to hug her new shield-sister-sort-of-in-law, then stopped, thinking it would be strange. Then she did it anyway.

Baldur quickly composed himself and approached his brother with his eyes averted. Luckily for him the kind of relationship the two had was different from what they had with their wives. Words were not needed quite as much as was sometimes required with a wife. Still, Baldur figured that he should say something. But it was hard after his loss of self control.

"Lets not talk about that, eh? I'm gonna miss you, Iron-Brow."

Baldur stuck out his hand for Boldir to grasp before they hugged one last time for a long time.

Boldir felt tears forming in his own eyes as he embraced his brother. He said to both of them, "Take care of each other. Gods know only you two can manage that."

Baldur stood for what to him felt like minutes. Actually it might have been. He couldn't tell. He was too busy trying not to embarrass himself again. Eventually they broke off, and Baldur felt a lump in his throat. He couldn't leave like this. He had to do something to cheer things up. Suddenly he knew exactly what he had to do, gods help him. It was a daring thing to do but at this point they all needed a good laugh.

"We will. I'll see you later, my son."

Rebec had let Carlotta go and turned just in time to hear Baldur's statement.  Tears were on her cheeks, but she wiped them as she laughed.  "And that makes me the ugly stepmother?"

Despite everything, Baldur was able to laugh. Half-heartedly but it was a laugh none the less. Far cry from what he was feeling before.

"VERY ugly, hahaha! Which means you gotta pinch his cheeks."

Rebec flashed her husband a warning look, but turned back to Boldir and cracked her knuckles, preparing.  "Alright, once more for luck."  She did both cheeks this time, one after the other.

Carlotta looked from a one laughing Nord to another, completely out of the loop of the joke. She opened her mouth to inquire but Mila beat her to it.

"I though you two were brothers?" she asked, confused.

Baldur lost it and couldn't stop his laughter at the sight of the big giant nord getting his cheeks pinched. Sweeping up little Mila one more time, Baldur replied. "Oh we are dear, we are. Oh man, you wanna hear that story you'll have to wait til your pa gets very drunk. Which between you and me doesn't take as much mead as you'd expect from his size. Ok, one more for the road."

Baldur squeezed the girl once more, this time with a genuine smile, then he put the girl down and hugged Carlotta as well.

Boldir didn't try to evade Rebec when she pinched him. Mostly for nostalgic reasons. She had a thing for cheek pinching it seemed. That it got more laughter from Baldur was even better. He was glad that they'd be departing on a happier note, and as Baldur hugged Mila and Carlotta, Boldir did the same to Rebec, squeezing hard. Bear hugs were more his thing.

Rebec was strong for a woman, so Boldir got almost as good a bear hug as he gave.  She rubbed his back in the midst of it, saying in a muffled voice, "You give those two girls lots of these, Boldir."

That got her crying again, so as Rebec pulled back she swore and then had to apologize to Mila.  She was more awkward around the little girl, but patted her arm as Baldur held her.  The she turned towards the horse, knowing you'd have to say nothing else, or everything.

"Ok, guys. This is it. But we'll be back! I don't know how yet but we'll be keeping in touch. Oh and one more thing before I leave..."

Baldur walked over to his pack and pulled out a book with a black leather binding and a stormcloak bear carved into the front of it just like his journal. Baldur flipped open the book and showed it to Boldir. It said "The Nordic Tribunal".

"I've been working on a book about our adventures in this war. I have two copies of this. This one is yours. It's got pretty much everything up to date. I want you to add to the book as well. At the end of your entries write this phrase. The ending of the words is REBBABO. Remeber that well. If you want to know what that means, either ask a Dunmer, or read the 36 lessons of Vivec. It's....an interesting read. To say the least. Take care Boldir."

Boldir's face grew more serious as he took and flipped open the book. The first page he turned to talked about Baldur's marriage, another happy time. He looked at his brother and nodded at him to confirm that he would keep it updated.

"You be sure to take care as well. I'm not the one traveling Skyrim and gods know where else. And try to find a way to contact us as soon as you're able..." Boldir stopped talking, lest he end up rambling. He looked at them both. "Safe journeys you two."

Rebec's brow knit as her husband started talking about Dunmer nonsense again, but she knew he was better at expressing himself than she was and the book would be a good memento for Boldir.  She waited until Baldur was on the horse, then took his hand and swung up in front of him.  They both waved a last goodbye, and when Baldur's arms came around her and they started off, it didn't feel quite so bad as she thought it would.  This was right.  They were all where they wanted and needed to be.

He could look back longer than she could, but finally Baldur stopped and kept his eyes forward.  When he leaned in to nuzzle her, she patted his cheek.  "It'll be alright, my sweet love.  Your chick had to leave the nest one day."  Then she couldn't stifle a laugh, and turned to kiss him.

A lone hawk circled above and seemed to follow them as they rode on northward, towards Solitude.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Endar Drenim

The Gold Road



It was a pleasant sunny day along the road between Skingrad and the Imperial City. Definitely more pleasant than the last. Of course, who is really in a position to say what makes one day more pleasant than another? A gray, rainy, overcast day may be dreary to your average merchant or courier, but to a farmer whose crops relied on it, or a follower of Sheogorath perhaps, it was a beautiful day full of opportunity. Likewise, the typically preferable warm and sunny day like today would not be quite so preferable to a lost peasant getting his arm chewed off by trolls in Blackwood... Although, thought Drenim, neither would the rainy one I suppose. It didn't make much of a difference to him as he rode among a trade caravan down the Gold Road toward Skingrad. After he thought about it for a moment, he wasn't quite sure why the pleasantness of one day compared to another had even crossed his mind. While there was probably something to be learned from pursuing this line of thinking, it was hardly important. At least I hope, or I may be missing out on a wonderful opportunity to learn something. Endar thought on this for a moment before pulling out his journal, flipping to the "miscellaneous" section and jotting down "study day pleasantness" among the thousands of other objectives that he tended to add much faster than he could complete. Good. Now if I get bored, I'll have something new to think about.

He continued to ride his horse in silence among the twelve others in the caravan. Only four were on horses. Another two were in wagons, and the rest were on foot. Endar looked around at the dull group he was a part of and sighed. He looked up at the clouds, whose mysteries he'd figured out long ago, or he was fairly certain anyway. There was no proof, but he was almost certain that his theories were correct. He patted his hands on his saddle a few times and sighed again, this time more loudly. One of the merchant guards on foot looked up at him, an Imperial, apparently able to tell that the sighing was meant to grab attention.

"Got a problem, mister?" Asked the guard.

"What?" Asked Endar, as if he hasn't expected the guard to speak. "Oh, nothing, nothing at all. Just not a lot of excitement on the road today... So how is your day going?" he asked, not really in a friendly tone, but more of an inquisitive curious one.

The man seemed a little caught off. Nobody ever cared how his days went. "Um, fine. I guess."

"Mmhh. Would you go so far as to say that today is pleasant?"

"Er, I suppose so. Yeah."

The guard's head cocked a bit as Endar began jotting down some kind of note as soon as he'd spoken. "What're you writing there?"

Endar looked down at him disapprovingly. "I don't mind your business for you, do I?"

The Imperial's mouth opened, apparently in shock for some reason. "You literally JUST minded my business!"

Endar had already began to focus his attention elsewhere, and missed whatever the guard was rambling on about. it would take most of the day to reach Skingrad, and he was already getting thirsty at the thought of the city's fine wines. Not that that was his main reason for going. He had a package to pick up in Kvatch, but Skingrad would be a good stop halfway there.

He turned around in his saddle. "Jacob! Get over here!"

A short Breton man towards the back looked annoyed, but ran to catch up with Endar's horse anyway. "My name's not Jacob!" he said as he arrived. "It's Relcer. I'm not even sure who "Jacob" is."

Endar looked bored. "Right. I must've known a Jacob at some point." He left it at that. He'd considered apologizing for a moment before casting the thought from his head. Apologizing would imply that he was actually sorry, and he didn't want to lie to the man. That would be rude.

Relcer stared at Endar for a minute before asking, "Well, did you need me for something?"

"Oh yeah." Said Endar, who was looking off at a smoke trail rising in the distance ahead of them, maybe half a mile away. "I need you to go to that camp off that way and ask them how far we are. Nobody here knows as well as natives to the area would, and I'm very hungry. I need to know if I should grab a snack now, or wait for dinner if we're making good time."

"What?! No! You're out of your mind if you think I'm just going to wander up to some camp and try to make conversation! They're probably bandits!"

Endar looked frustrated. "Then what am I paying you for Jacob?"

"My name's n- Never mind. You're paying me to carry out small tasks, not annoy bandits!"

"That IS a small task. I'm not sending you to clear a fort or something, just a small camp. And it's not even a long walk. Here..." He reached into his large pack and pulled out a scroll. "Use this if there's an emergency. It'll make the "bandits" as we're calling them now, afraid of you. Now off you go."

Relcer looked angry, but didn't say anything. He looked down at the scroll and ran off towards the smoke. Need to hire a more polite servant next time. Thought Endar. This one is very unpleasant. Endar couldn't imagine why. He payed the boy well, and he'd been nothing short of a good and fair boss since he'd hired the man.



Endar was getting annoyed. It had been two hours and Jacob still hasn't returned to the caravan. They were well past the smoke, and it was long out of sight. He grumbled and said to no one in particular, "I suppose I'll just have that snack now then."

He clenched his fist and a red light shimmered around it. In the midst of the caravan, several feet to his right, a massive, well-dressed Dremora wearing a very large, very heavy-looking backpack, appeared. A wealthy merchant's horse reared back in fright, throwing it's rider off. Some people screamed and moved away. All the guards immediately drew their swords and attacked the Daedra, who didn't fight back.

"No, no! Stop it!" Shouted Endar angrily. It was too late. Four swords had already pierced the Dremora's torso and neck. He disappeared into thin air as abruptly as he'd appeared.

Endar threw out his arms. "Really?!" He shouted, before the caravan could start moving again. Everyone looked at him with puzzled and terrified expressions. "Can we NOT do that again please?" He asked, politely, but with emphasis on the "not" part so these... less than intelligent people would understand. He raised his hand again and resummoned his pack mule Dremora. This time, everyone just watched in shock as the massive thing walked over to Endar and turned around, looking blankly into the distance. The Dunmer reached down into the large pack and found his snack pocket. In it was an apple tart he'd bought this morning. He pulled it out and took a bite, satisfied that it was still adequate to eat, despite being almost half a day old. The Dremora vanished, and all the onlookers in the caravan just stared as Endar sated his hunger. He looked out at them when he realized they were all watching him eat. Their faces looked confused and frightened for some reason. Probably because of the Dremora. he figured. It was easy to forget that they weren't a common sight to most people. He looked out at the crowd of merchants, guards, and travelers, who had yet to say a word. "Well?" he said, after finishing his tart, "Are we going to be moving again some time today?" And with that, he continued down the road. After several moments, the caravan collected itself and followed.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Catia, Samuel

The Laughing Fox




Catia had just finished up the ledger. That was mainly what her job consisted of nowadays, keeping up with purchases and costs while managing income. She walked into the hallway, and headed downstairs to check up on things. Gracchus passed her as he walked up the stairs.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

Gracchus turned around at the top.

"I thought I'd take a nap, this day has been long enough to be a week."

"Oh alright. I'm going to check downstairs, then I may join you," Catia said with a wink.

She continued down the stairs, and surveyed the tavern. It was nearing dinner time, so several patrons were walking in or had just sat down. Ena was still behind the bar, while three other barmaids went around taking orders. The cooks in the back were busy at work, the smell of cooking meat filling the air. It was home for Catia, and she loved it.

Samuel walked back into the bar, now that Gracchus was gone. He gestured for Catia to come over to him, with an expression that compelled her to do it.

Catia walked across the tavern, to the corner booth the man sat in. She felt oddly forced to talk to him, but not in a bad way, just as if she was supposed to.

"And what is it you need, sir?"

"Please, take a seat. I'd like to talk to you."

Samuel gestured to the booth.

Catia took her seat.

"I'm going to be frank, this isn't common, and you still haven't answered what it is you want."

"I'd like to offer you a deal, with this little establishment. You seem to have a very interesting patronage."

Catia wrinkled her forehead, and a frown crossed her face.

"I'm not selling, if that's what you're asking."

"Don't worry, I'm not asking to buy the establishment. For a fee each week, I'd like to have a complete list of the people who come here and who they talk to. How does 300 Septim's a week for doing something as simple as that sound? Not to mention that I can recommend this place to many people of high standing, increasing business."

Catia thought it over, deep in thought about the deal.

"I'm giving information about my customers away, without their knowledge, and if they find out I could be in serious trouble. 400 septims a week and recommendations to your friends and you have yourself a deal."

"I'll make it 450 to make sure you're motivated for the job," Samuel gave her a friendly smile and pulled out a heavy leather purse. The feint sound of coin came from it. "And a little bonus before you begin, as a sign of good will. This should be enough to replace about all the silverware with more expensive ones. Making a good impression on your new patronage is never a bad thing. Nor is some extra gold in the coffers for later, if you rather save it for now."

Catia grabbed the purse, weighing it in her hand. Sh slowly tossed it back and forth, before she sat it down.

"You have yourself a deal. Anything you want to know already? Like who is already here, or who was here recently? I have a good enough memory I think I can remember."

She smiled pleasantly, indicating she was willing to cooperate.

"Yes, I'd like to know everything you can tell me, my dear."


Catia motioned to the plump Breton, now by himself reading a book.

"That man right there is Lord General Theodore Adrard. Commander of the Breton army from what I hear. He appears to be a drunk, but I'm not so sure."

She turned her attention to an older Imperial man, dressed in simple garb.

"Although he doesn't look it, that man is rumored to be a Theives Guild operative. Supposedly scouting out houses in the Talos District under the guise f being a courier."

She gestured to a lovely Nord woman heading to her room.

"And she works for the East Empire Company, apparently trying to expand the Skyrim branch."

She looked back to the man.

"That's about it as far as interesting figures go. I'll get one of my workers started on that list, tell her the Captian of the Guard is trying to keep track of all the people in for the coronation or something. They'll buy that."

"Impressive, you're more knowledgeable than I expected. But you made one mistake; the woman isn't East Empire Company, she is Thieves Guild as well, working undercover. Again, thank you, my dear. You've been a great help."

With that he took her hand a kissed it, before he left the bar.

Catia grinned, realizing she had missed it. This man seems to be the type that knows, or at least puts on the front that he knows everything. I'll get Taliana to get to work on that list.

Catia headed upstairs, opening the bedroom that Gracchus was in, and true to his word he was fast asleep, but Catia knew he wouldn't be for long...

Edited by The Good Doctor

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Lorgar and Samuel, Evening, Imperial city


Lorgar sat alone in his office, surrounded by stacks of paper, and a ink quill in his right hand. Beside the giant stack of papers was a box of Argonian Cigars, and a bottle of Colovian Brandy. Lorgar decided if he was to do giant mounds of paperwork per day, he might as well as have some sort of "refreshments" with him. 

"You have expensive tastes, Lorgar," a voice came from a shadow, quickly followed by a Colovian man dressed in a simple, but well-made, black outfit. "Though you don't appear to enjoy your new station all that much."

Lorgar's face twisted into a sharp smile, 

"I use to never smoke, or drink brandy for that matter, when I became a Duke, I decided "what the heck", a man of my stature should have expensive tastes, it's expected, no?"

Lorgar got out of his chair and offered his hand to the man,

"Good sir, you are Samuel I presume?" 

"I am indeed Samuel. It is a pleasure to meet you, your lordship."

Samuel took his hand for a moment, but let it go quickly after.

"It is expected indeed, though I'm a little surprised that a Nord would take such liking to wares from Colovia and Black Marsh. I'd have thought that Jazbay Wine would be your thing, even if it is not quite as fine as it once were."

Still smiling, Lorgar said "Hmmmm, strange, a good deal of people have told me the same thing. Though they say "Why is a nord like yourself drinking colvian brandy?" what most of them mean is "Why is a savage such as yourself drinking civilized goods?"

"Of course many of them would think so, they know nothing of Skyrim or Solstheim. Personally, I ask because if you've been in Skyrim long enough, you've surely heard of Jazbay Wine and how it is still one of the best wines in Tamriel, even if it is not quite as rare and tasty as it were in the past. Surely, I always take the Jazbay Wine over the brandy every time."

Lorgar chuckled, "I have tried Jazbay wine, though the taste was quite good, it was marred due to the fact my drinking companion was drooling over my shoulder, so due to being distracted I couldn't savor the taste properly." 

Lorgar poured a glass of Colvian Brandy for himself, and gestured towards Samuel, as if asking if he wanted one.

"I'd love to share a drink with you, your lordship, as we discuss the business you had me called here for," Samuel gave him a quick bow. "Speaking of which, my contact was a little vague with what it was that you are after."

Lorgar quickly poured out a small glass of Colvian Brandy and handed it to Samuel, before saying, "I'm looking for a reliable information Broker, you come highly recommended from a....very close friend of mine, if his letters are to be reliable".

"I'm the best around, so of course I'd come well recommended. But before we go on, I will need to know who this friend of yours is. For the sake of safety for my own operations, of course. I am sure you understand."

Samuel gave of the appearance of a warm and understanding business man, genuinely willing to help as long as one cooperated and didn't make it needlessly difficult.

Lorgar continued his expression of a kindly nobleman, before saying, "Nothing of late, I've been out of contact with him for a good-while. But a certain Marius Imperius, use to mention you all the time in his letters.

Samuel's expression changed immediately, to that of disappointment and a bit of anger. Sometimes it was nice to wear a face that allowed him to show emotions. Somehow they sometimes felt more real than most of his other faces.

"Then you better give me a very good reason for me to not leave right now and cut you off from my network entirely. I am not in a position where I can trust anyone related to Marius Imperius in the near future, without assurance that he will stay out of the loop."

Lorgar's flashed a dark smile, revealing his fang-like teeth to Samuel,

"Though I still consider him a good friend, we had a bit of a failing out." Lorgar put his hands on his lap before saying, "He ordered legionaries to assassinate her majesty Dales when she was a princess, I of course intervened, and I don't think he appreciated it."

"Then I can truest you to some degree, at least for now," Samuel seemed to return to the more friendly mood he had showed when he first. Of course he had known this all along, but if Lorgar happened to spill the beans to Marius at a later point, it was better to appear weaker and more insecure than he really was. It was all in the setup, if this was to go the right way. "Please go on then, to why you want an information broker. Or rather, the specifics of the sort of information you desire."

Lorgar laughed, "I am a spymaster, no? I need contacts for information in general. Also, though no one else knows it, her majesty is surrounded by enemies. Thalmor-ass kissers, Amaund loyalists, and general power-mongers...."

"You sound like there is something else that bothers you as well," Samuel nodded with a serious expression, as if he took mental notes of the list he was being told. "You sound like there is something else as well, out of the ordinary. I mean, the Spymaster's established network should be enough to deal with most of that, unless you scrapped the one from the previous one."

"There is also a very delicate matter...Actually a delicate matter, and an extremely delicate matter..."

Lorgar took one of his cigars out of the box, lighted it with a match, and slowly smoked it. After two puffs he said, "Can you promise me this will be between just me and you?"

"I am the Soul of Caution, my lordship. I wouldn't dream of antagonizing the Royal Spymaster."

"Fine then...I'll start with the lesser of the two....you do know of Countess Magedla of Skingard?"

"The author?" Samuel seemed surprised. "She is considered a treat to the princess? I suppose it is more serious than just a novel that is a little too intimate with the Royal Family."

"She's also cunning beyond measure...you do know she assisted the Princess in murdering that bastard Amaund? I don't care if she's sleeping with her majesty or not..." For a second Samuel could see a slight grin on Lorgar's face " I don't know if I should consider her a friend or an enemy....if she's loyal or not loyal to Dales...she's an enigma to me...the only thing I know for sure is..." Lorgar trailed off. 

"This seems to be more serious than I expected. If this is true, she has to have powerful friends. Please, if I am to help you, you need to tell me what worries you so much. I cannot acquire information when I don't know where to look for it."

"She's vampire..."

For a moment Samuel just stood there and looked at Lorgar, as if he judged if he was joking or not. "A... vampire? That is... wow... That is something I've yet to deal with. If she's a vampire... that has some unnerving implications. Have you heard the legends of The Order? Some say it is just a myth, including me, but if Maggie is a vampire that can hide in plain sight... Those stories could be more than such. Or at least have grains of truth in them"

"Everything has grains of truth in them Mister Samuel.  Everything."

Lorgar inhaled another puff of smoke into his mouth, before saying,

"I have nothing against her ladyship for her vampirsim, nothing. Just because she's a vampire, doesn't mean she's a bad person. I in fact think very highly of her ladyship, and I'm a massive fan of her novels."

"Yes. I'd believe you would be. Camille, right? I heard about the little incident at the... erhem... Ladies House..."

That, caused Lorgar to blush heavily, and say in a shy/shaky voice,

"I-don't...know what your talking about good sir."

"No shame in such interests, my lorship. The next time you happen to be there, I recommend that you ask for someone named Aleffea, or just Alef for short. That is if you don't mind Dunmeri women. She's... very open minded about such things."

"I'll take that into consideration Samuel..." Lorgar said, still in a shaky voice, 

"Back to the matter on hand, how do you think I should proceed with her ladyship? Cautious, or open-minded and friendly?"

"You'll have to forgive me for the deception, Lorgar, but I needed to know your stance on the Lady Bathory," Lorgar could suddenly hear that the heartbeats in Samuel's chest stopped. Another one? "You have nothing to fear from Magdela Bathory in the foreseeable future, unless you or Dales does something to antagonize her.”

Lorgar caught wind of Samuel's heart stopping, which caused a smirk to appear on Lorgar's face,

"AH, that explains it. You are vampire?"

"What I am is largely unimportant, what I can do for you isn't. I have a vast network of people that could be useful to you. Access, in addition to some fees each time you use them, comes at the price of keeping mine and Megdela's identities secret. Such a small price to pay, for so much."

Lorgar, stroked his finely trimmed brown beard, "Well I suppose that's a very good deal. Though first, tell me Samuel how did you become a vampire?" Lorgar asked, looking extremely curious. He took another puff of smoke from his cigar, "By being bit by one of the kind of course."

Lorgar laughed, a hollow laugh, "Of course. But what were the circumstances around you being bitten. Were you forced to? Did you do it out of your free-will? Were you offered it? Did the person do it to save your life?." 

Lorgar continued to smoke, before staring sharply at the man, "I'm interested, because as your can tell, I too am a "monster"." Lorgar said, flashing his fang-like teeth "I'm curious to know why another "monster" became a monster. Why you forsook your humanity. Tell you what, If you tell me why you became what you are, i'll show you something that I've only showed three people before."

"Maybe another time, your lordship," Samuel smiled back, taking a sip from the glass of brandy. It was almost full still. "I fear that the origins of me being a 'monster' is not something I am comfortable sharing with people I don't fully trust. Please, don't take that as an insult. In my business, there is always a need to be reserved and I just met you."

"Of course, I didn't mean to be prying, forgive me." Lorgar said, bowing his head, "Now back to the business on-hand...."

Lorgar took a small sip of his brandy, before saying, "I would like to know, why are you looking after the dear countess's interests? You two are of the same clan?" Lorgar said, curiosity tingling his voice,

"You aren't Voilkhar are you?"

"I am most certainly not of the Volkihar, I am of the Blood of the Dual Patrons. Same with the countess. But that is not why I help her. That too is something I will not share with you at this time. That is much to sensitive information to trust to anyone but her at this moment.”

Samuel didn't sound annoyed or angry, but the determination of his voice made it clear that any personal questions were off-limits. "Please, do move on to the other threat you need my help with.”

"Ah sorry." Lorgar said, laughing, "I'm extremely curious about very interesting stuff like this, I assume by patrons you mean Daedric princes." Lorgar said, with a grin forming around his face,

"Now, i'm sure your aware of the court-wizard Skjari, are you not?"

"Quite," Samuel replied, seemly a little more uncomfortable. "What is your problem with him? As far as I know, he is the reason Dales is even on the throne to begin with. I think it is in his best interest to keep her alive, since he has no claim to the throne if he wanted it. Besides, I'm under the impression that she values his input on most subjects."

Lorgar's facial expression changed and the room grey more dark in atmosphere. His mannerism completely morphed, and he said in a cold voice,

"Before I tell you anything, I need you to promise you won’t say anything about this to Countess Magdela. This precaution is for her own benefit, this knowledge is extremely dangerous, and I don't want her getting hurt over it."

"I promise to not let any information that can hurt Magdela get to her," Samuel replied.

Lorgar said,"The wizard has a binding ritual over Dales, she cant refuse any order from him, and her soul is connected to his."

Samuel raised an eyebrow. For the first time in over a century he was honestly surprised, but such was the case with magic long lost. But he didn't doubt it; it would explain far too much perfectly. He'd have to see if he could test it somehow, by tracing the magical link, but that would be risky and difficult.

"I see. That could be problematic, but I think it will ensure Dales' safety if nothing else. Beyond that, he is one I cannot help you with. I can deal with nobles up to the Elder Council and the highest ranks of the Legion, but this mage is special. He is beyond my reach."

"I understand completely. I'll have to deal with man myself if the time comes.."

He took another sip from his cup of brandy, "You do understand why I don't want the countess to know this? If the wizard finds out that she knew anything about the binding, he would "blow her up" in a heartbeat."

"Yes, he seems to be very protective of such things. Don't worry, this information is as good as useless to her anyway. Knowing it wouldn't change anything. The only instance something like that would be relevant would be if she tried to make Dales betray him, something I will make sure does not happen."


Lorgar looked at Samuel awkwardly, before sighing, "Listen Samuel...you've been very honest with me, So I suppose...I know you don't like Marius for some reason, so I think it would be fair if I warned you." Lorgar refiled his own empty glass, before finally saying, "Marius will be arriving in the imperial city as an ambassador from Skyrim. You most likely already know this, but just in-case you don't, I thought I might tell you."

"Yes, I was counting on the fact that he'd arrive soon."

With a last grin, Samuel disappeared with sound and smell alike. He had to be a master of concealing his presence. The lack of a natural heartbeat would make it impossible, short of accidentally running into him, to locate him again.

"Un-traceable...be seeing you Samuel..." 

And with that, Lorgar chugged the remaining brandy from his glass, took out 2 cigars while placing them in his jacket pocket, and left his office.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Endar Drenim


Late morning


Endar awoke in his bed at the West Weald Inn with a headache. How much wine had he had the night before? Endar couldn't remember. Perhaps the naked Bosmer lady sprawled out beside him would know.

"Excuse me!" he said while poking her shoulder. "Excuse me! Wake up! I have a question for y-, oh hello!"

Endar had felt something brushing against his leg and lifted the blanket to find an equally nude Breton woman asleep at his other side. "Hmm, how did... Surely you had trouble breathing under there over night?"

The Breton didn't answer. In Endar's experience, most sleeping people didn't.

"Alright then." Endar cast aside the blankets and got out of bed, striding to the wardrobe, where he found his robes neatly folded inside. After dressing, he headed over to a desk, opened his journal and flipped to the miscellaneous objectives section. He was going to cross out the "Sample Skingrad's famous wines" note, but found that he already had at some point last night, along with several other objectives. He read the page of goals set specifically for this trip in Skingrad. He remembered that it had been fairly short.

Find someone to mend the hole in the saddle

Sample Skingrad's famous wines

Collect five Nirnroot

Find a new servant

Ask Captain Morris if he has seen Gerebor

Get back Laurence's amulet

Return the amulet to Laurence

Stop Gerebor

Report to Surlie that Gerebor is now dead


"Hmm" Endar wasn't quite sure what to make of the page. When he'd last checked, he was pretty sure that it had ended after finding a new servant, which he'd planned to do last night after trying the wine. After the wine though... Endar couldn't recall anything. Apparently it had been eventful though.

He heard a movement coming from the bed behind him, followed by a gasp. He turned and saw the Bosmer girl sitting up in the bed. She looked nervous for some reason. Endar nodded at her. "Hello th-"

He was cut off by an ear-spitting shriek from the girl. He winced and quickly blocked it with a low-level muffle spell. Just enough to block the extremely loud sound without muting conversation. "Please, don't do that. I assume you're wondering ho-"

"Where is Gerebor?!" the girl rudely and loudly interrupted.

Endar looked back at the unfinished objective in his journal. "Apparently, he's dead. Now, I would like to know-"

"What?! Dead??"

"Yes. That is what I said. But that's not what's important right now. Do you know how many wines I h-"

Still naked, the Elven girl jumped out of the bed and ran from the room, grabbing clothes that he assumed were hers off the floor as she went. She had completely ignored his question.

Bosmer. thought Endar as he turned back to his logs. He flipped through the note pages, hoping to find any more info on last night. There was none. Shame. That would've been interesting to learn.

He turned back around and headed for his bed where the Breton woman still slept. He gave her a shake. "Wake up woman! You're in my bed!"

"Uhhgh" she groaned and opened her eyes. She smiled up at him. "You... You were amaz-"

Endar didn't have time for chit chat. He still had to find a servant before he set off for Kvatch, and he was already late for leaving. "Yes yes, I already know this. Do you know how much wine I had last night?"

The Breton's brown eyes widened and she began to laugh, loud and hard. Endar waited patiently for almost a whole ten seconds before hitting her in the face with a not so subtle calm spell. The laughter faded and she answered. "You don't remember?" You barely finished your second bottle."

Endar nodded. "Thank you." He walked to his desk and jotted down his findings. He was proud of himself. His tolerance had nearly doubled since his last visit.

He had an idea as he looked through his book. Without looking over his shoulder at the girl, Endar called out to her. "Breton, would you like a job?"

"I've already got one." said the woman as she began getting dressed behind him. "And I don't think I'm qualified for any kind of wizard work anyway."

"I just need a servant to do some minor tasks for me when told to." he answered. "I'll pay you twenty septims a day."

Now he had her attention. For a lower-middle class girl like her, that was some serious money.

"Is this a dangerous job?"

"I would never ask you to do something I am incapable of doing."

"Err, so that's a no?"

"No. But you will only get hurt working for me if you're an idiot." Endar wisely avoided mentioning the many other servants that had preceded her.

She smiled at him. "And I suppose I'd be leaving town with you too?"

Endar packed the journal into his bag and turned to her. "Of course. Wouldn't be much of a servant to me here would you?"

Her smile didn't surprise Endar in the slightest. Not everyone could say that they were the servant of a master wizard like him.

"You've got yourself a deal Mister Drenim, on one condition."

She already knows my name. "Yes, what is it?"

"I want be known as your stewardess. Not your servant."

"What in the name of Vivec's milk finger does it matter?"

"Servant sounds too low class. You don't want a low class helper do you?"

For the first time, the girl interested Endar. She was smarter than he thought, trying to play psychological tricks on him like that. In vain as they were. "I'll call you whatever comes to my mind. But because of what you've said, stewardess may be considered at those times. I would prefer your name though.”

"Same as last night. Though you must've been too drunk to remember. It's Elara."

"Elara. Alright, that'll do. Finish packing my things Elara. I'm already going to be late for a major appointment in Kvatch if I don't leave town now. Steal anything and I'll know. You'll be fired and incinerated. That is all."

Endar grabbed his staff and started down the stairs to wait outside. He apparently still was supposed to meet a "Mr. Surlie" and inform him of someone named Gerebor's almost certainly untimely death. But he was in a hurry, and decided that it could wait for another visit. A few of the patrons of the tavern downstairs gave Endar odd looks as he passed. Some looked fearful, and others were smiling. One even gave him a thumbs up. Endar just nodded at them all and passed by, dropping thirty coins on the counter to pay for the room he'd rented, since he couldn't remember if he'd paid last night or not. Once outside, Endar leaned against the wall of the building and waited.

After several minutes, Elara burst out the door carrying a bag of his things along with another bag on her back. She threw him his own bag and looked at him frantically. "We need to go."

"Hold on now. Nobody rushes me like that."

Just then, the door crashed open a second time, and the Innkeeper, a Nord man, stepped outside. "You can't go with this wacko!" shouted the man after her while gesturing towards Endar.

"Wacko?!" Endar broke in. "N'wah! I am a master wizard! And this girl has whatever rights I say she does!"

"That girl is my daughter! And she already works here!"

"Not anymore." said Endar, putting a charm spell behind the words. "You want her to come with me. It's an honor to be steward to a great wizard such as myself."

"I-uhh... Of course. What was I thinking? Forgive me sir."

Endar nodded. "Thank you. Let's go Elara."

The two of them started off for the stables. It would take a good portion of the day to reach Kvatch, but Endar was certain that they could make it on time if they rode at a good pace. While they were saddling their horses, Elara tried to make conversation. "So I hear your types like tea. I nabbed some Canis root so I could make you some on the go."

Endar looked over his horse at her. "My types? I'll have you know girl, that tea is one of my most hated beverages, just before milk, and just after troll piss. You will need to learn these things."

"Oh" Elara said awkwardly. "Uh, my mistake then."

Endar hopped onto his horse. He noticed that the girl was staring back at the city with a strange look on her face.

"Come on girl, we haven't got all day. This appointment of mine is very important."

He started ahead. His new stewardess quickly mounted her horse and followed. It would be a long and uneventful trip to reach Kvatch. At least, like yesterday, and for some, the day before, it was a pleasant day.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Eduard Laenius, Jon- Eduard's House, Dawnstar, Day


"Hey, when are you heading out to check out the offer?"

"In a few hours. I just wanted to check how Livia is adjusting to her new home."

"Considering she has a much nicer house, and how happy she was when we first arrived, I'd say she's doing fine. You know, I think you worry more now that she is just across town than you did when you thought you were a province apart."

"I just don't want to let my guard down. Especially after what happened."

"Right. I understand. That wasn't your fault though. Besides, with what we were traveling with, you had to expect that there would be some action."

"Even so, I didn't want to have to do that kind of stuff in front of Livia."

"It couldn't have been avoided. Besides, we wouldn't have been able to get Livia her own place if you hadn't decided to go back and loot Baro's camp. She doesn't seem shaken up by the whole thing either."

"I guess you're right. At least I know I can still protect her."

"Right. Now how about instead of waiting around here and worrying all day, you pay your potential employers a visit?"

"Well... alright."

"Besides, Livia doesn't need us breathing down her neck all the time now. She's relatively safe, and I still have a couple friends watching the house to make sure."

"You are right. She's old enough to handle herself against everyday life. Things are different now. Just trying to adjust."

"Aren't we all?"

Eduard laughed. "Well, I'm going to head out. See if I'm a good fit for a Brother."

"Alright then. I'll be seeing you Eduard."

"See you Jon."




After a brief walk, Eduard had finally arrived at his destination. He had made sure he wasn't followed. It was time to finally meet the people interested in his abilities.

Eduard approached the door, which then spoke to him.

"What is life's greatest illusion?"

Oh yeah, the passcode. "Innocence, my brother."

After Eduard answered with the correct passcode, the Black Door welcomed him into the sanctuary.

As Eduard walked into the sanctuary, he was greeted by two things. First, a very peculiar stench. It wasn't unpleasant, but it wasn't very pleasant either. It was extremely hard to explain. The other thing, well person, that greeted him was a Redguard.

"Welcome. You must be Eduard Laenius. Come! We have some things to discuss."

"That we do," Eduard said as he followed the Redguard into what seemed to be the main hall of the sanctuary.

As Nazir took a seat, he motioned for Eduard to do the same.

"Ahh, Eduard, it's good to finally meet you. My name is Nazir."

"Well met. Now I assume you didn't invite me all the way out here just to meet me."

"That would be correct. You were invited here so that we could offer you a spot in our 'family'. Now the question is: Do you accept?"

"Interesting proposal. I believe you'd understand that I have to think about it first."

"Sure, sure. Why don't you have a look around, maybe introduce yourself to a few of the brothers and sisters?"

"Couldn't hurt I guess," Eduard said as he got up and began to look around.

As he scanned the room he spotted a man with clean cut blonde hair, who had the craziest look in his eyes.

Well, mine as well get the odd looking one out of the way.

"Hey, I was told by your 'brother' over there to introduce myself to some of you guys. My name is Eduard Laenius."

"Oh! Eduard Laenius! The young mercenary prodigy? It's a pleasure to meet you! My name is Jak Secunia, a name I'm sure you have heard before."

Secunia... I have heard that name before.

"Right. Best trap-builder there is, right? At least that's what I've heard anyways."

"Then you have heard right. I can kill a person over 200 ways using my traps, ranging from the deviously simple, to the mind boggling complex! And I am always looking to increase that number!"

"That's pretty amazing. Anyways, I'm going to introduce myself to some of the others. I'll see you around Jak."

"Yes! Go ahead! I'll be looking forward to seeing you again Eduard. Hopefully as part of the family! Then we will be able to go on thrilling adventures together. Bloody adventures..." Jak's voice began to trail off as he began to mumble to himself.

Well... he's quite the character.

Eduard continued to introduce himself to the people in the room, when he came across a Breton woman.

"Hey, my name is Eduard Laenius. I was told by your 'brother' to introduce myself."

"Were you now? Well good for you. My name is Candice Tyne."

"Well met Candice."

"Yeah yeah. Is that all? I'm very busy."

Well. At least Jak was polite.

"Yeah, sure that's all."

I've got to give this some thought. Coming in, I wasn't really expecting much. With Jak Secunia here though, as crazy as he seems, maybe I could learn some things here. Maybe I should join up with them. Broaden my talents. And put some gold in my pocket. Now that Livia has a stable home, I can get back to what I'm good at anyways. Get some nice things.

"Hey Nazir, I believe I've come to a decision of sorts," Eduard said as he approached the Redguard.

"Ahh, I see. And what is your decision?"

"I think I'll join your little 'family'. Now how does this work?"

"Well, to officially join, you will have to prove your loyalty to the Brotherhood."

"I'm going to take a guess that you want me to kill someone."

"My my... you catch on fast!"

"Who and where?"

"Kelvyn. He should be leaving town tomorrow night. He is of average build for a Redguard. Has medium length dark hair, and brown eyes. Should be alone. Kill him and you're in."


With that, Eduard left the sanctuary. He and Jon had much to discuss.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Maggie and Skjari

Imperial City



He grabbed her neck and held her body taut against his, staring into her soul with piercing dark eyes. "Why have you followed me here?"  As the wizard king's gaze swept down her body, Maria realized that he already knew the answer.  She also knew that she would uncover his secrets, just as he now with rough hands was uncovering her breasts...

Magdela uttered a short laugh and tossed the book aside. She glanced over at the prone form on the bed next to her.  It was a jewelry merchant from Chorrol who had agreed to give her a private showing of his finest pieces, known for their delicacy and rare stones.  He had watched her hungrily throughout the interview, and Maggie hadn't needed to say a word to lure him to her bed.

She even tried to make love to this one, but had given up halfway through and knocked him out. Most of the time, she no longer bothered to even go so far.  What she needed from them she could more easily get when they were unconscious in a blissful dream. I take my pleasures when I can, her mentor had said at the brothel. Maggie wasn't sure she could remember when she had last felt real desire, or real pleasure. Certainly not this night.

Crossing to the balcony door, she opened it and felt the rush of cool air on her skin.  She felt no cold, but crossed her arms anyway, an unconscious imitation of the living. Her whole life was an imitation. Maggie enjoyed the game, or she would not try so strenuously to remain in public view, but it was easy to think that the characters in her book had a richer life than hers.

Eventually she turned back and took the book up again. The Lost King had been published a decade before, but had been a century and a half in the making. When Magdela had encountered the Nord wizard king in the Jerall Mountains, she had left him to interview his ghost sentry. Maria, the Colovian adventuress in her novel, had not turned back, but followed the king to his camp and cleverly bypassed the traps there. In a night of passion, she had uncovered the story of how he had ruled a forgotten kingdom in Skyrim thousands of years before, battling elves as the gods of Man and Mer waged war in the heavens.  The king had a lady love who was slain by the elves. Vowing vengeance for all time, he had learned the arts of preserving life, and wandered the North looking for the pieces of his lost kingdom.

Maggie flipped through the pages to the final chapter.

Slashing at the rat one last time, Maria stepped over the carcass and back through the ruined fort's thick broken-in door into the piercing air of the Jerall Mountains. Her pack jangled with some armor and trinkets recovered from the ruin's crypts. It would be enough to pay her way for a few weeks, but she hadn't found what she really wanted. In years of wandering these mountains, never had she had seen the lost king again. Every time Maria discovered a ruin that looked like his old keep, her heart would race, thinking that surely she would find him again in its depths...

Like the protagonist in her novel, Maggie also had wandered the mountains near her family's northern keep, as far as she had dared to test her father's restrictions.  She, also, had always hoped she might meet the Witch King again. His magic interested her, and so did he.

Now he was running the empire, standing at the back of the Ruby Throne where the young empress was busy overturning her father's work. He was a powerful ally, but his motives in the Imperial City were not yet clear. The puzzle intrigued her, and it was also an important one to solve. In the end, this man might have more far-reaching power than Amaund had ever dreamed of possessing.

Later that night, Maggie threw on a dressing gown and called the guards in to remove the merchant and take him back to his hotel.  He would wake in the morning feeling tired, pleasantly bruised, and euphoric, never missing what she'd taken.  She had also bought several of his jewelry pieces at a fair price, which would give him bragging rights when she was seen wearing them at court.  All in all, she thought that he got the better end of their exchange.

The following day she returned to the palace, and in the afternoon she approached the court wizard's quarters.  The wards did not let her get too close.  She assumed they would also alert him to her presence there, so Maggie waited for admittance, a copy of The Lost King tucked under her arm.

After a few seconds she heard his voice from the other side of the door, "Come in."

Maggie entered, glancing around.  "Drem yol lok, Ensos Jun."  She curtsied lightly.  "Are your apartments comfortable?"

As she entered she saw a large room with a large window at the far end of the room, opposite of the door where she was standing. On her right was a bookshelf taking up almost all that walls space and was filled with books, soul gems and other magical trinkets and gadgets. On the left was an enchanting table along with more soul gems, and a door which probably lead to the bedchambers as there was no bed in this room. In the middle of the room was a broad desk and at the left side of the desk was a small dragon statue holding a familiar edged crystal, with dark blue flame-like swirls under the surface, with it's wings. This crystal wasn't bigger than an eyeball. In front of the desk was two chairs with soft padding and at the right side of the desk, between it and the bookshelf, stood the wizard, dressed in his black and silvery and blood red, nordic clothes.

"Learning the old language? Well this place will do. But I still prefer my real home."

"I have no doubt."  Maggie walked slowly around the room, eyes roaming over the shelves, until she noticed the dragon statue with its blue crystal.  "Ah.  One of yours."  She approached to look this over more closely.

When she looked closer the dragon statue put down the crystal and covered it with it's body while growling at her, exposing it's tiny teeth.

"Yes, if I'm to live here for a long time I might as well make it a bit like home."

Leaning in to make sure her eyes weren't deceiving her, Maggie laughed to see the dragon bare its fangs.  She turned back to face the wizard.  "Indeed.  There is a large market in magical trinkets in the Imperial City.  You may even find some of your own relics among them, though I've never seen such a thing myself."

Remembering what she carried, she said, "Oh.  I brought you a copy of my book.  You've read it, but I thought perhaps you didn't have a copy here.  A poor housewarming gift, I know, but think of it as my personal tribute to you."  She laid the novel on his desk.  "I'm curious if I managed to get any details right?  About your past history, I mean."

"The gods surely have a sense of humor. You guessed rather well," he said while not sounding very enthusiastic about it.

Maggie's smile faded, since she could guess from his manner that it wasn't her descriptions of ancient Skyrim that he meant.  "I'm sorry to hear that. Let us not speak of it any further. There are some important matters I wanted to discuss with you.  First, you mentioned that you might allow me to bypass the magical suppression wards in the palace. I would be very grateful.  There are certain spells which, while not harming anyone else, are necessary for my protection."

"What kind of spells are we talking about?"

Maggie hesitated, then reached for his hand. "May I?" She drew it to her chest and rested it there. Underneath, there was no heartbeat as there should have been, and the skin was cold to the touch. She was also paler than when he had first seen her.  "Diil sos lun. I can't hide it from you."

Releasing his hand once more, she said, "Lorgar suspects me, and he is perhaps not the only one. The duke has no reason to fear me, but people with power are often afraid to lose it. You are all eager to protect Empress Dales, I understand that. I only wish to live as I have been, and to see the empire secure."

"I'll alter the wards." He raised his left hand in a relaxed manner as it started to glow around it, in a deep blue color.

She took a deep breath, relieved. "Thank you." Stepping back, she half turned away. A moment later she faced him once more. There was almost no difference that anyone could see, but her skin had a bloom of color now, and anyone who was able to discern would find a heartbeat. "Tell me what else you know about Lorgar. How is he able to hide his nature? Does the empress know?"

"Truth be told I don't really know much more than what I've already told you. And i don't think the empress knows. I also find it a bit hard to believe that so few notice it, he isn't exactly hiding his... nature. Just look at his teeth and that he doesn't really restrain what he is able to do because of what he is."

"Perhaps it is that people see what they want to see. Monsters, things that go bump in the night. If someone spoke of them as if they were real, most polite society would laugh. I even wrote a book about a vampire in noble society for that very reason.  People wave off many things as 'just stories.' Confuse their minds about what is truth and what is real, and naturally they will doubt their senses."

Maggie studied him. "I am curious about your power, as well, Lord Skjari. How have you managed to keep yourself alive this long? I wager you have surpassed even the elven master wizards. If they knew a Nord had done that, it might make them keel over from envy alone."

"I learnt a dark secret long ago. One that I didn't want anyone else to know, so I hunted down and killed anyone that knew of it and destroyed or took and stored away any book that contained any knowledge of it. So I would prefer if we discussed another topic instead of how I managed to live so long."

Laughing, Maggie answered, "I suppose I would, then, too. Very well. You are court wizard of Cyrodiil now, but since your predecessor had his innards spilled onto Dominion Plaza before you arrived, you may not have been briefed on his duties.  What do you know of dreamsleeve transmissions?"

"I think I've heard about it but I never got familiar with the concept."

"There are very few left in Cyrodiil who still are. Or perhaps anywhere. The Medes once had the protocols, but the Dominion has been busy dismantling them. Before the Great War, the empire used arcane channels for its intelligence services. Behind enemy lines, these became almost our only means of spying on the Dominion. Such things are more the province of the royal spymaster and the Penitus Oculatus, but I tell you about it because if you are able to find the keys, you will control the flow of information, not Lorgar.  He will be forced to depend on you to do his job properly. Let this be my thanks to you for altering the palace wards."

Maggie moved away towards the bookshelves, scanning them.  "You may find the information you need hidden somewhere in the old court wizard's books or writings. Or you could try visiting the priests of the Ancestor Moth cult, high up in this tower, if any of them still remain.  They've scattered in recent years, looking for our lost Elder Scrolls. If you find any of them willing to talk to you, they may not be coherent. But do take care with the priests. They are not as harmless as they look. All of them train first in magical defenses."

"Keys? What form does these arcane channels take for us more solid beings?"

"Magic draws on the power of Aetherius, yes? Or on its pieces left here. The dreamsleeve protocols are supposed to allow messages to travel through Aetherius. But you need a destination. An address, if you will, otherwise your messages would be lost or go to the wrong hands. Some of our agents are still in place in Dominion territory, but they have no way to communicate with us. If you could re-establish those links, it would give you valuable information on Thalmor capabilities.  I hope."

"As for how it works, there should be Tower scrolls here somewhere, made from the wings of ancestor moths, if the stories are to be believed. These will translate the transmissions into written form for you. I was never able to look into such things myself. Amaund thought me an empty-headed ornament, just a place to put his... scepter.  He would have been suspicious if I had asked about imperial affairs too closely."

"He must have been a lovely person..." He said with a sarcastic tone and small smile.

"He was a fool and worse.  I won't bore you with tales of his bedroom interests.  Someday I may incorporate those into one of my books, but not for a long while.  The memory is unpleasant.  Suffice to say that he was the opposite of concerned for what his lover wanted or felt."  Maggie came closer again, studying the mage, trying to figure out if he would be more like Amaund, or more as she had imagined him in her book.

In his noble clothing, he was less daunting than he had appeared either in the ruin or on the night of the assassination.  She knew that was a facade and that he was no less dangerous for appearing in normal clothing, but the effect was pleasing nonetheless.  Though she couldn't be sure, he even appeared more hale than she remembered.  "And you, my lord?  I've heard rumor from the Skyrim legionnaires that you were well attended there. They say that the empress' maids in particular doted on you."

"Just taking up an old habit from my time as royalty. And if you ask them, I can assure you that they are not displeased, or unsatisfied. If a woman left my bed displeased or unsatisfied, I would feel insulted."

Smiling, Maggie replied, "Then I was accurate about quite a few things in my book.  You know, I did look for you again, after our dance with the daedra.  Not as ardently as did Maria in my novel, but I also had more restrictions than she had."

"I suspected it from your book. Though I have to ask why?"

"You intrigued me.  I confess, you still do.  Of course I'm not Maria, even if she may be more blatantly an author's child than my other characters. Nor are you the hero of melancholic romance.  Still..."  She drew a step closer, watching for any sign that he might repulse her approach. He was more difficult to read than a normal man, as was to be expected.

"Still... what?" He said with a slightly curious tone and small and almost unnoticeable smile with the right corner of his mouth.

"Aren't you curious as well, to know if life can imitate art?"  Maggie was close enough to touch him, but she remained a distance apart. "I could visit you in your quarters again this evening.  Unless you are already occupied with one of these... 'habits,' as you call them."

"They can make do without me." He took a step closer, put his arm around her waist and pulled her towards him. "Though why wait?" He now had a small but more noticeable smile.

Inwardly Maggie flinched at his approach, an unconscious memory of being with Amaund, though her body was trained not to give away such cues.  After a moment, her defenses eased.  Still nervous but more from anticipation than fear, she smiled.  "Why indeed."

Everything went dark for a split second and before she knew it, they were suddenly standing in his bedchamber at the foot of his bed. He fell backwards onto the bed, still holding her around the waist so that she fell with him, landing on top of him.




Some hours later, it was impossible to tell how long, Magdela's mind returned to itself while the wizard still lay atop her, his body covered in a sheen of sweat.  She clung to his shoulders, eyes wide from the shock of sensations she hadn't experienced in years, perhaps decades.

Art had not begun to describe it.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Baldur, Rebec

On their way to Markarth from Solitude

About 2 months later from their leave from Whiterun



During the couple's stay, Baldur spent most of his time reluctantly going over papers and reports, nothing really special initially. There were reports of a steady drop in the amount of random bandit attacks for some reason, and a few important shipments have gone missing. Nothing about the two seem related however. Also a minor increase of goods being sold by traders was barely undercutting the market. Trade with Cyrodiil was starting to slowly yet steadily trickle in and the money from it was used to bolster recruitment even more. Soon they would need more generals to overlook troop movement. Ulfric made some remarks about possibly promoting a High General to overlook the actions of the entire army along with Ulfric. Baldur made no comment on the matter.

More reports came in also about Hammerfell and their political squabbling over this Cyro-Skyrim alliance, yet no Redguards came in to discuss. Ulfric took it as a bad sign and agreed with Baldur that he should eventually be sent to Hammerfell to speak to some of the leadership. It took a little more convincing to get him to allow Rebec to come, but as always he bent to Baldur's council. He said that he was not one for politics and he could use a woman's touch. He neglected to mention how the negotiation with the Imperials went. All in all for Baldur it felt much like the first trip back to Solitude. Except this time he didn't avert his eyes when he wished to look at Rebec, and his tone with her was not always so serious or professional to Galmar's dismay. Baldur told him he needed to lighten up and find himself a woman as well. He commented that he already had one which was why his disposition was the way it was. All the boring work of being a general was made bearable knowing that his nights would end with Rebec.

For her part, Rebec spent the two months in Solitude cleaning up after the naval war.  The wrecks of sunken vessels had to be cleared away from the shipping lanes, disputes over hiring fees and wages settled, and pardons arranged for imperial sailors taken prisoner.  One of these, Hjarn Broadhands, Rebec took on informally as part of her crew so that he could stay in Skyrim long enough to see his family, as she had promised him.

The many suddenly laid-off naval crews caused a heap of problems for a little while, but soon traffic from the East Empire Company picked up again, so there was work to be had once more.  Rebec lost a few of her own crew members who had gotten bored from the furlough, but she paid her people well and most stayed loyal because of it.

Plans for her new ship were finalized, and Rebec and Baldur provided some special supplies to go toward its construction.  It was going to be the fastest, smartest ship in the Nord fleet.  Rebec couldn't wait to stand at a keel again.  Before then, she had some things to do.  Things she had put off long enough.

When they had settled matters in Solitude, she and Baldur set off for the Reach with some Stormcloak escorts, Hjarn Broadhands, and Rebec's first mate, Mazoga Thorn-Orc.  They stopped in Dragonsbridge the first evening, then set off into the wild country of the eastern Reach.

It was established on the first day that Mazoga was the best cook in the party, so as they made camp the next evening, she set about cooking up some rabbits into a stew while the others rested or got started on the mead.  Hjarn helped gather wood, then sat down near the fire and wrote in his journal.

Baldur went back to wearing his old officer armor from before, since the fighting for the most part had died down. That and it made things easier later on for when he and Rebec needed to spend some time together. He left his Nordic Carved armor and cape in the pack with the rest of his supplies. He too was busy writing in his own book, reminiscing over Boldir thinking about past events. Nothing terribly interesting happened that warranted a new entry. But he did put a note in to remind himself to ask about Boldir and Lorgar. Before the group departed, a messenger sent a letter to him specifically from Cyrodiil:


General Baldur Red-Snow,

General Baldur Red-snow, it is I, your “dear wolf”, Lorgar Grim-maw. Yes, yes, your wondering why a legionary is writing to you, especially since our little “alliance” is in its infancy. Furthermore, I’ve nearly killed you, you’ve nearly killed me, I’ve killed many of your men, you’ve killed many of my men (*Cough* All of them *Cough*). Anyway, I’m writing to you, under pleas from Colonel Balgruaf, now Count Balgruaf of Bruma. For some strange reason, (probably that ass hole Tullius, said something when he was piss drunk), he thinks we actually have something akin to a friendly relationship, (Hahahahahaha,). Despite telling him, we have a “shaky” relationship at the most, he still insisted I write to you. He requests that his children (Rieklings in my opinion) be released from Dragonsreach and be delivered to Bruma. In all honesty, I think you would be doing a favour for Jarl Vignar by giving them back to the count. Seriously, I meet those children during the civil war, and I was ready to feed them to a frost giant. So, if you can ship them out to Bruma that would be a tremendous favour.

With Regards (Not), Lord Major Lorgar Grim-maw, Duke of Blackwood.

PS: Send the admiral my “regards”, and ask captain Boldir how his leg is doing for me? ( Heheheheh he’ll understand).

Baldur had no problem giving the order to deliver Balgruuf's brats to Bruma. One of the little bastards called him a boot licker one too many times in his stay at Dragon's Reach. What interested him was that Boldir had a fight with Lorgar and never mentioned it. Neither did Lorgar for that matter. Baldur figured it must have ended in a draw. To a true Nord that was nothing to boast about. Which is why of course Lorgar must have seen it fit to boast in here about it. The thought made Baldur snicker to himself slightly.

Looking up from his book, Baldur looked to the man in front of him that Rebec saw fit to bring along. He heard the story of how Rebec brought his ship down. How he explained that he didn't have much choice in his joining of the legion. Baldur still instinctively couldn't really bring himself to speak to him regardless. Still the man so far was behaving himself and the war was over. But it would take Baldur time to get used to it. As with a lot of things these days. As with a lot of things.

Baldur growing tired of his presence stood from the log by the fire he was sitting on and made his way to the enticing aroma that was Mazoga's rabbit stew. Baldur walked over to the vicinity of the pot to see if he might not steal a piece of meat from under her nose. The Orc provided no opportunity, likely used to the mischievous workings of men with empty stomachs, especially from being on a ship. So Baldur decided to switch tactics.

"So...Mazoga was it? Lovely name you have. You of course know I'm Baldur. Rebec's husband."

The Orsimer turned back to the fire from where she'd been fishing herbs out of her pack.  "I know who you are," she answered, nodding.  "I like soldier stories, and I'd heard about you even before we found out Gripe married you.  That wasn't a surprise, either.  She wouldn't have run off to Falkreath again for the war, whatever she might've told herself about it."

Mazoga smiled as she pinched some herbs into the pot and stirred.  She was fairly young, with long black hair tied into wind braids at the sides.  For an orc, she was friendly, which was to say that she wasn't overly chatty, but wouldn't bite your head off, either.  She had an orcish sword strapped at her belt and looked like she could use it.  "And yes, Mazoga is my name," she added.  "I'm first mate of the Harpy, or was."

Baldur turned his attention from the pot for a second and considered what Mazoga had just said. For her not to be surprised of such a thing, she must have known Rebec pretty well.

"You seem to know Rebec pretty well then. How'd you come about being her first mate? You must be as skilled a sailor as you are a cook."

Baldur went in and reached for a piece of rabbit from the pot as he said this.

"I'm a good cook, but that don't mean you won't still get the runs if you eat it raw," she pointed out, eyeing him but not stopping the theft.  Baldur and Rebec were paying the bills, so it was their rabbit, cooked or not.  "Been with the captain for eight years.  A ship's crew gets pretty tight.  Has to.  You depend on each other for a lot, just like soldiers do.  She took losing the ship pretty hard.  It's nice to see her smile again."

Baldur withdrew his hand when she said the meat was still raw. He just assumed from the smell that it was near done. Baldur was crestfallen but pondered snagging some anyway. He ate raw before but it wasn't exactly tasty. He wasn't that hungry.

"Hmm, I'll just wait then. I hate waiting for the food to cook. Anyway, what was that you called her again? Gripe? Oh and excuse my prodding. You're one of the first friends she has that I've met, so naturally I'm curious."

Mazoga chuckled at the forlorn look on the general's face.  "Gripe, Cap, Cap'n.  The green bloods don't call her Gripe to her face if they know what's good for them, but there aren't many of those on our crew.  I'd like to think I'm her friend.  She's my boss, but I already explained it's more than that on a ship.  At least on our ship."  The orc spoke with pride of their crew, as if it were her own.  Unnoticed by her, the Nord sailor had glanced up at the two while they were speaking, though he returned to writing in his journal.

"Well Mazoga, I hope that you and I can speak some more about this crew. I look forward to going sailing with you all. I'm gonna let you get back to cooking though. Any more time around this pot and I'm likely to take to it like a netch to water."

Baldur turned around to walk away when the ex-legion sailor caught his eye once more. Maybe it was the fact that his friend Boldir wasn't around or maybe it was just that he saw him writing like he did, but Baldur despite his past profession decided that he would at least attempt to speak to this man. It wasn't his fault after all according to what Rebec told him. Baldur went to his pack and poured some mead, ordinary mead this time, into two tankards and brought one to the sailor who was still writing in his journal. He was hoping that Rebec would make her way to the fire soon in case the conversation grew old.

"I hear from the admiral that you're looking to reunite with your family. What are they like, If you don't mind me asking, legionnaire?"

The sailor looked up from his journal and eyed the cup of mead like he might refuse it, but after a moment he closed the book and took it after all.  "I'd appreciate it if you didn't call me that," he answered.  His voice was quiet, not boisterous like most sailors, and he didn't smile, but his tone wasn't bitter.  He had a broad, tanned face with a solemn expression, dark hair and beard, and grey eyes that only held another's when he meant them to.

"The name's Hjarn.  And I don't know what my family's like.  Haven't seen my brothers since we were little milk drinkers, and never met my half sister."  He sipped at the mead, and nodded, approving.

"Fine Hjarn. I meant your wife and children by the way. I assumed you had children."

"I thought you meant the ones in Markarth.  My wife's name is Anya and we've got two little ones, a boy and a baby girl still on the breast."  He made to fall quiet again, but gestured at the book and said, "I'm writing for them.  In case.  They've never seen Skyrim."

"Well well! That's something we have in common. Writing I mean. I used to hate doing so, but recently I've had a lot of good things to write in my journal, so."

Baldur wasn't really feeling much desire to continue the conversation with the man. Not that he didn't like him but it was just different than what he was used to. It wasn't even that he used to be a legion soldier. It was just that they weren't in war. In war your friends were made from fighing amongst each other. The rest just came naturally. It was the reason that he and Boldir grew so close without even knowing much about each other. Well, that and mead. In any case Baldur figured that for the remainder of the trip he'd likely be sticking with Rebec and Mazoga.

"In any event, I'll let you get back to your writing."

Baldur stood back up from the fire and started seeking his wife out. He had felt the need of her companionship a lot more keenly since the departure from Whiterun and he had hoped that she wouldn't mind it too much. He wasn't as depressed as he was before when they got to Solitude but he of course still felt Boldir's absence. He was sure though that Rebec felt it too not to mention she'd be seeing her husband's bones pretty soon. So he figured it wasn't all just him. If she was feeling down though, he figured it would be up to him to cheer her up. She didn't seem to be down though. As Mazoga had said, she was smiling quite often. As was he even with Boldir being gone. He had finally gotten used to the idea that they were together.

Where did you run off to, I wonder. We shouldn't venture too far off by ourselves in this blasted part of Skyrim. Damn forsworn.

Rebec had gone with a couple of the Stormcloak guards up a little slope where there was supposed to be some Dwemer ruins.  It turned out to be just some old tumbled-down rocks which could have been a Nord keep for all anyone knew.  As they headed back down, one of the regulars had asked about the rope tied to Rebec's belt.  That was a mistake, since once he asked she had to demonstrate.  Soon the man was being marched down the slope trussed up like a Sundas roast, with his comrades laughing.

"Now you know what happens when one of you snowbacks gets out of line."  Rebec loosed the rope with a few quick tugs, and the guards piled off towards the stew pot.  "Hey," the admiral called as she saw her husband approach.  She was winding the rope back up into its tidy coil. "Is dinner ready yet?  I'm starving."

"Hmph, you think I'd be over here looking for you if it was? No, rabbit's still raw, Gripe. Come, lets take a seat by the fire." said Baldur.

Rebec looked up sharply at hearing her not-so-beloved nickname, and recognition dawned.  "You've been talking to Mazoga.  I ought to twist that girl up in her hammock."  Rope secure on her belt, she caught Baldur around the waist and began giving him playful little kisses on his mouth and along his jawline.  "Anyway you can't call me that.  I've been like Mara's own maid to you."

Baldur childishly chuckled at the reaction, playfully kissing her back.

"Aye, that you have. Though to be honest I don't think I quite understand the name. What's the big deal behind it? Mazoga said the others knew better than to call you that to your face. Some kind of sailor lingo? She said Cap and Cap'n, so I assumed it's just a nickname for Captain. What's wrong with that?"

"It's because they say I'm grouchy and yell a lot.  I don't understand that at all."  Rebec kissed him one last time, then pulled on his hand to lead him towards the fire.

"Ah that's it? Gah those sailors aren't very creative at all! Here I was over-complicating things. Hmm, maybe before Falkreath I could see you occasionally being that way, but now...I think you've grown a bit soft on me, Admiral. Likely why I didn't get it."

Baldur took a seat back on the same log as before next to Broadhand leaving space for Rebec.

"Well who ever said sailors were creative?  We can't all be poets like you, love.  Anyway creative minds just get into trouble."  As Rebec sat down, Hjarn gave her a sidelong look, got up from his spot and walked out away from the fire.  The admiral watched him go, then leaned in and spoke under her breath. "Moody one, isn't he?  I wish it was just us two.  Except if we meet Forsworn."

"Yea I hear you. I feel the same way constantly. But we'll be alone soon when we get to Markarth for a while. I tried speaking to your friend earlier but it wasn't that much of a conversation. I ended up ending it early. Maybe he just needs to be cheered up. I imagine the two of us remind him of his wife back home."

"He's in a rough spot.  Said he had to sign on with the imperial navy because the Thalmor don't like Nords so he couldn't get work in Anvil.  Then I drew his ship onto an iceberg and sunk him into the Sea of Ghosts.  He survived the water because he's a Nord, but I imagine he feels torn between going back there and staying here where Nords belong.  Growing up imperial must mess with your head."  Rebec stopped, realizing that Baldur had been raised by a legionnaire.  It was hard to realize that.

Baldur was lookng back in the man's direction for a while after Rebec's comment of growing up imperial. He didn't realize it at first but he was more like that man then he initially knew.


Baldur had paused on the thought longer than he meant to leaving an awkward pause, but snapped out of it when he realized it.

"Oh sorry, I was just thinking. With different circumstances I may have ended up on the other side of the fence. Who knows. Maybe it could've been me getting drawn up out of the water by some charming nordic Admiral. To be perfectly honest, I think I really joined the Stormcloaks mainly because ol' Ulrin was a legionnaire. Ugh! When's that stew gonna be ready! I could eat the arse off an ogre at this point!"

"Don't rile Mazoga about the stew.  You don't want to see her grumpy."  She stood, however, and wandered towards the fire.  Rebec could tell that Baldur was thinking about his pa, or maybe the Dibella priestess.  Won't that be a sight, she thought.

Most of the party was hovering around the cook fire, as well.  After a few minutes Rebec returned with two bowls, a loaf of bread balanced on them.  "Walking's hard work," she said as she parceled out the food to Baldur.  "I don't know how Toki did it all the time.  He knew every inch of this country by his boot leather, he said."

Baldur meant to begin stuffing his face until Toki was brought up. Instead he paused for a second leaving the bowl be for now while nibbling at the bread so he could speak.

"How are you feeling about that by the way? You ever thought about how you'd take it once we finally find him?"

Rebec had started attacking her stew.  She slowed down at his question, moving her spoon around in the bowl. "I feel bad that I don't feel worse, if that makes any sense.  Guilty, I guess."  She glanced at Baldur.  "It must seem pretty strange to you, that I was married but not really married for so long."

Relieved that Rebec wasn't upset, Baldur started dipping his bread into the stew and took some bites, finishing it off before draining the rest of the broth. The warmth put a fire in his belly that made his hunger wash away quickly. Baldur picked out all the meat chunks with his hands and placed the biggest ones over the hand spikes on his gauntlets, popping them into his mouth as he spoke. Needless to say, Baldur loved playing with his food.

"Well, now that you mention it, it does seem rather odd. I honestly didn't dwell on it too much before. Was it just that you two didn't really love each other later on, or did you not marry for that purpose? Hm, that sounds wrong. You two cared for each other in your own way. I don't really understand it, but I don't need to. Not my business."

She shrugged once, trying to see it as he would.  "Toki was my first, you know.  I think he must have seen me on my father's ship when he came on to do repairs, but I don't remember noticing him.  I was maybe fifteen, sixteen.  He started showing up when we'd come into a port, just standing there, and he'd ask me to come have a drink with him.  I guess I thought it was romantic.  Still do."  Rebec added, laughing, "Papa had a different view.  He kept trying to run him off, finally it came to a brawl.  There wasn't much of a contest, my pa is damn strong.  I nursed Toki back to health and he said it was small price to pay to be with me.  That was the end of it."

There was a silence as she sorted things through.  "You know how when you start doing something, you just keep doing it because you don't see a reason to stop?  I thought it was the best thing, that he let me do what I wanted but still stuck around.  I can see now... it wasn't the best."

"That's...that's how I felt before all this stormcloak business." Baldur bit off another chunk of meat from his gauntlet spike.

"Before all this I used to be a traveling minstrel/mercenary. I got my singing from my pa who used to do it to ease his pain as he said. I picked it up unwillingly to do the same and eventually when I left him I just put it to good use. Went around, tavern to tavern, street to street. Getting odd merc jobs here and there. Pa's legion training helped a lot. Except after a while it started turning less and less from merc jobs to just drinking and singing for enough coin to make it by. And to get more drink. Lots of lonely drunken nights. Even the nights when I wasn't really alone. I had nothing else going for me so I didn't see much reason to change even when I got older and older and still hadn't settled down. For a while I thought I was happy with the life.

Your marriage may not have been traditional, but at least you can remember the night with your first. When the Stormcloaks started cropping up, I saw a chance to get out of my sorry existence and to do something with my life. One of the officers was in Falkreath and someone told him I used to be a merc and that I could fight. He gave me a pep talk about fighting for my land and not just coin and I signed up. To do something important and of course because of my daddy issues. Without the Stormcloaks I'd be just another drunk."

Rebec finished her stew while she listened, and put the bowl aside.  Propping her elbows on her knees, she said, "It could have ended up that way with me.  I wasn't sure, after I wrecked my first ship, that my parents were going to build me a new one.  You can imagine what I'd be if they hadn't.  We're not so different, then."

She nudged his arm, smiling.  "Now look at us.  General and admiral.  It sometimes seems like a joke, for my part anyway.  As for your question, I don't know how I'll feel about finally finding Toki.  I want you to know something, though, Baldur.  Even if Moon Balls was playing me and Toki turned up somewhere alive, I wouldn't change anything.  He and I, we should've cut each other loose years ago.  It was why I didn't go after him at first.  I hoped he might be happy somewhere.  Like I am now."

Baldur scooted over to Rebec after licking his bowl and gave her a long playful kiss on her cheek, purposefully leaving broth on her face afterwards.

"Hahaha! Believe me, Rebec. You gave me no reason to think you would. I know where your heart lies."

She laughed and wiped the smeared broth off her face.  "You left half your stew in your beard, sweet.  Maybe if you'd eat with a spoon like everyone else..."  Sobering, she said, "At any rate, I didn't think you'd worry, but you seem to like when I tell you things you already know.  I don't want you to think Toki was a bad person.  You'd have liked each other.  Maybe it would've gone the same for you and me if I'd met you back then.  I was wild and had to get something out of me before I could settle down and be happy with anyone."

Baldur's smile faded at the thought of such a possibility. He didn't want to believe it was possible.

"No! Never. That wouldn't have happened."

Realizing he had shouted, Baldur quickly smiled again to show he was okay.

"Sorry about that. It's nothing against Toki. You were with him so he must've been alright. When you first met me my opinion on women wasn't any different then it was when I was younger. Only difference was I had on the facade of a soldier at the time. I'd have gone right back to doing what I was doing years ago after the fighting was done if not for you. If it were any other woman, perhaps. But not you. You say you were wild. Was that not the case when you met me? I'd have found a way to bring you back to me. Just like now."

"Still a bit wild, I guess.  You remember our first night."  She laughed.  "The war made me see a lot different.  And realizing Toki was gone, thinking about my life.  Not everything's like in your poems, Baldur.  If we want to stay happy like we are, we'll have to work at it.  I've been doing a lot of thinking.  After things settle down with Hammerfell and whatnot, I'll turn the ship over to Mazoga.  She's ready for captaincy, has been for a while.  I'll stay in Skyrim and do the business side of the shipping like my parents did when they got older.  You want a woman who's with you by your side, and that's where I want to be.  I'll still sail when the urge gets too strong, but if you don't want to come with me, then I'll only make it short hops."

Baldur stayed silent for a second, pondering the thought. He was amazed she'd agree to go that far, but he'd have done the same thing for her. He looked to her puzzlingly, almost guilty that she felt she'd need to do that.

"You'd really do that? Stop being a captain for me? You know I'd go anywhere with you. I don't have another love like your sailing to keep me away. I mean, I love to fight but I'd be content with just training others. Maybe if you do decide to give your ship to Mazoga I could do that. But whatever you decide to do I'll go with you. I promised Boldir we'd start a town together, but he'd understand if I chose a life with you at sea."

"I would've said before that I couldn't do anything else but sail, but that's because I never wanted anything else as much.  It's not really all it's cracked up to be.  Cramped, smelly, dangerous all the time.  You've been in a lot of taverns but I bet you haven't seen sailor taverns.  I slept in a lot of strange beds.  As long as we're near the sea, being at home with you, that doesn't sound so bad."

"I'm glad you think so, Reb. Sailor taverns eh? Yea I can imagine. I'd rather not think on that too much though. I'm just glad you're with me now. By the way, you mentioned things not being like the way things are in my poems...are you insinuating that I fib in my tales miss Red-Snow?"

"All the bards fib," she replied, smiling.  "You wouldn't be much of a bard if you didn't stretch a truth here or there.  Your pa taught you to sing?  I guess I hadn't pictured him as that type.  Is that why he was after a Dibellan?"

"You know, I have no idea. He said he only started after things didn't work out. But really my songs are completely accurate. Ask Boldir. I had a song about a Khajiiti-nord that I met in Solitude and he didn't believe me either....I showed him!"

"Sure, sure."  Rebec laughed, obviously skeptical.  "What about this town you and Boldir want to start?  Have you figured out a place for it yet?  If not, I have an idea."

"Hey, I'm serious! Tell you what, let me sing the song so when we go to Solitude again and you see the man I'm talking about, I can say I told you so. Then afterwards we'll discuss this town. Do you dance, sailor?"

"Badly.  Better when I'm drunk.  Alright, sing about this cat Nord of yours.  This should be good."

"Hehe, as you wish."

Baldur stood up and walked away to some soldiers on the other side of the fire. He was trying to see if any of them happened to have any musical talent.

"Psst, any of you lot happen to have a flute?"

Baldur got some strange looks from the group. They hadn't served with him before and heard he was peculiar, but this was the first of it they were seeing.

"I've got a flute, but I'm not all that good with it." said a female nord Stormcloak.

"Hmm, okay that will have to do. Can you give me an upbeat tune? Kinda quick? Something that can go with this pace of clapping?"

Baldur began clapping quickly and rhythmically in the air while whistling the tune he had in mind, which caught some of the other soldier's attention and made them take note. The woman tried making the tune, but honestly Baldur's whistling sounded better.

"Well, it ain't Boldir but it will do. Okay start the tune. The rest of you! Start clapping!"

Baldur waited until the soldiers produced the atmosphere he was going for, then he ran back to Rebec with a bottle of mead in tow.
"Okay, sailor. Down this and lets dance! Just follow my lead."

"Kyne preserve me."  Rebec was laughing, but she stood and downed a swig of mead, since she didn't need any encouragement for that.  She followed Baldur to the fire and watched him, more interested in what he was doing than her own attempts to dance.

Mazoga was clapping, though she stopped to smack a nearby Stormcloak on the arm to get him to join in.  Like any sailor, she loved a good song.

"Okay, give me your hands, and just let me do the rest."

Baldur began skipping with Rebec in a circle, occasionally switching directions and pulling her towards him, then sliding away while still holding on to one of her hands before he walked in one direction, and she walked in another, still holding on which made them skip walk around in a circle as well. After Baldur showed her the general idea, be began his tale.

"Okay love, here I go!

There was a khajiit who liked to sneak and visit his neighbor’s daughters,

He’d sing out a ditty and suckle a titty but sadly they finally caught her,

With the khajiit, they weren’t discreet, cat sounds were heard through the rooma!

His eyes were a flared, caught in feral stare but that was due to all the skooma!

The pa kicked him out with a kick and a shout ,

the nord girl would cry and scream and then pout,

He went to the market and bought a lock for their doors.

Deep in the night the khajiit man came back once there was no longer sun,

He saw the new locks and his face gave a smile, as he’d finally have him some fun,

It was easy to manage, it gave him no challenge, to him the nord couldn’t be dumber,

He snuck up the stairs, raised was his neck hairs at the thought of playing with her tumblers!

He made his way in, his face gave a grin, in anticipation of the deed,

The girl was so willing, his exoticness thrilling and at once she did take his seed,

The pa slept away, to his great dismay,

When he heard the commotion he charged in to slay,

He grabbed his large axe and our poor khajiit met his end.

Sometime had went by since the cat had died, and now the man’s girl was now married,

To a proud nord man, whose name was Stan, a warrior whose foes found quite scary,

And after a while she grew fat with child and at once the pa was so happy,

He gave them both hugs with a smile on his mug, the whole scene was really quite sappy,

But once the child came, it wasn’t the same, something was terribly wrong,

He had sharp teeth and nails, its body was frail, and for a nord its tail was quite long, ha!

The pa’s face grew red, for his enemy was dead,

No longer could he face his wrath,

The daring khajiit had in the end got the last laugh!"

Even without being drunk, Rebec got into the dance, and she wasn't as bad as she'd warned.  Laughing, she joined the clapping that was in applause rather than keeping a beat once the song was done.  When that died down, she said, "Alright, that's a good one.  But it's horker shit, just like I told you.  That might fly with the lunkheads in most taverns, but a sailor knows if a Nord girl beds a cat, no cat pops out nine months later.  Just a Nord baby who's got a lot of hair and likes to steal your stuff."

Baldur stuck out his tongue and grabbed Rebec's nose while grinning.

"Shows how much you sailors pay attention! I said he was a khajiiti-nord. He was of course a nord, but he had sharp teeth and nails and a hairless tail. Think Lorgar but skinnier with a tail. His name was Djarn Hair-Baller."

Rebec gave him a skeptical look.  "Nord with a tail.  Right.  I'll believe that when I see it, Baldur Shit-Shoveler.  How's my dancing?  Good, eh?"

"Hehehe, not bad. Not bad at all. I forgot I already saw you dancing back in Falkreath with the Redguards. I guess all that swaying to and fro on the ship gives you good feet. I ever tell you you have pretty feet?"

"That's not a compliment you hear every day.  I'll take it.  As long as it's not a ploy to get me to stop wearing wool socks to bed."

"Aww you see right through me, Admiral, heh. No I'm just a strange strange man who can appreciate a woman with pretty feet. Sorry, you married a weirdo. Oh, you mentioned an idea for the town?"

Rebec took her old seat on the log and patted the spot next to her.  "I was studying some maps in Solitude.  Not thinking about your town really, though now it puts me to mind of it.  Like I told Ulfric, if the fool imps hadn't outright told us what they planned to do, that blockade of theirs would've caught us with our pants around our ankles.  Hull up, if you take my meaning.  Skyrim needs naval bases now.  We can't trust in the empire anymore.  I was looking at some likely spots and found a report about an abandoned fort on the coast called Northwatch Keep.  The Thalmor were still holed up there even after Ulfric's first war, but it's cleared out now.  The port isn't sheltered like Solitude's, so it wouldn't ever be much for merchant vessels, but it could make a fine forward naval base.  Give us an eye on High Rock and beyond.  A base like that would need a town, some merchants, a smith..."

"Wow, that makes a lot of sense. That's a lot more thought than I put into it for sure. It sounds perfect. You and I can sail whenever we want and you can run the sea stuff while you're home. Boldir can smith, Carlotta can still hold a shop and I can train soldiers or anyone else who seeks it. And with our professions, we won't even have to fund it from our own pockets. Ulfric would see the wisdom in it and likely give us the money to get it started. I can work my magic with him on that."

Rebec smiled, happy and relieved that he liked her plan.  "It's perfect, isn't it?  I wouldn't feel bad about not sailing at all if I was helping Skyrim keep her navy strong.  You think Boldir and Carlotta would go for it?  The weather's not the best up there, and she's not a Nord."

"Oh don't worry about that. If I can convince Boldir, she'll likely follow him. That won't be a problem. But this is all still a far way from now. We still have to take care of some other things first. First stop Markarth, hopefully with no Forsworn in between. All this good food in me is making me tired, how about you? Oh, whoops! One last meat chunk on my spike! Mmmm...." Baldur greedily scarfed the meet chunk off his gauntlet and took a swig at the mead bottle he gave Rebec earlier.

"If I find bits of stew in the bedroll, you're going to have a cold one."  Rebec's own mead bottle was up-ended and emptied out on the ground, but she went to find another, yelling at Mazoga, "Dammit, you green witch, you think I gripe now, start telling my husband stories about me you'll learn the meaning of the word!"  Mazoga said something back, not loud enough for Baldur to hear, but both women laughed so it must have been good.

Baldur got up from his log and stretched while yawning sleepily before walking his way towards the two.

"Aw that's isn't fair to her, my charm's gonna make her sing like a canary! Isn't that right Mazoga?"

"Like I told you, boss," Mazoga answered, grinning.  "Nothing but sunshine."  The orc had to duck as Rebec took a swipe at her, and walked away, laughing.

Baldur sat back and watched the two's playfight and laughed out happily, hoping that every day could be like this one. He could tell Mazoga was gonna turn out to be a welcome new member of the family. She's not all that talkative, but then again neither was Boldir.

I just compared Boldir to a female orc. Boy am I desperate.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Imperial City Island



He had just gone down that path he and the Rose had used to get down to the inland exterior some time ago. Her hands hadn't been completely clean of the blood, even if no human or mer without extraordinary perception would have noticed it. Well, maybe the half-werebeast that now held the office of the Imperial Spymaster. Samuel couldn't help but to think back to the time when this position would have been called the Great Knight and would have been tied to the Blades.

The Blades... It was a sad state of affairs, what had happened to this organization after the Great War. Ironically, without the help of the Imperial Government, he was sure that hunting the Blades in the Imperial Provinces would have proved to be a nearly impossible task. To this day members were still alive, gathering information on the Thalmor, and he was not thinking about the people who had gotten involved with the Dragonborn in the fight against Alduin.

Alduin. Now that, and the return of the dragons, was something that had made things very uncertain in Skyrim. Same with the Civil War. That had cost him the life of half a dozen important imformants. He had to make sure his next plan to get back what influence he had lost in Skyrim didn't fail like the last. The measures needed to ensure that he could cover the tracks had been... expensive. But with Rebec's unwillingness to end Marius' life and Baldur making him one of them... It was the only solution he could take. And, ironically, from the ashes of his old plan, more advantages than it would have brought rose, with the Empire throwing off the Thalmor influences. Not to mention the stable, and not to mention potentially powerful, alliance with Cyrodiil and Skyrim that at this time seemed to be guaranteed. It might have been true, what a rival of him had said over 300 years ago; "You never really lose, do you, Samuel? Even when everyone think you lost, you come out on top."

What was that man's name again? Fiona. And it wasn't a man, but a very deceptive and charming woman. Enough to make him lower his guard for just long enough for her to win the little war between them. A war she had been able to keep from his knowledge for a long time. Sadly, at least for her, she had been so singularly focused on defeating him that her victory had crumbled in on itself the moment he no longer was present. Without the deception employed by him and his allies around it all, her own mistakes were too well-known for her to escape. In truth, had Samuel won, her mistakes would have been tied to him instead. That was the last time he had assumed that every opponent that can be a threat shows caution.

He had walked over to a large rock my the shore, not too far from where he had been with Rose, and sat down on top of it. Ah, Fiona. He still couldn't take his mind of her, even after 300 years. Why was that? He knew that all he needed to do was to bring his gaze to himself and his motivations to see it, yet he had never worked up the courage to do so. Or, maybe he had, but never let himself accept that it had happened.

Beneath him, in the sand, he could see a mudcrab move. Samuel's lips twisted into a smile; he couldn't help it, but he had always found the creatures to be magnificent. It was such a simple creature, hated by most people and occasionally hunted for its meat. This was hardly unique for animals, but there was something about the mudcrab that made it stand out to him. The shell was ugly and hardened, and its pincers were sharp and strong. But under the shell it was a soft creature. Maybe he saw something of himself in them?

To many people, like Marius, Samuel's own outside, his shell, was ugly and hardened in his apparent disregard for the life of those around him. To those like Baldur, his pincers had proven to be near lethal. Yet, when it came down to it, the last thing he wanted was to cause these people harm. But he had to, because of The Order. Sometimes he wondered if it was worth it, the price he paid to escape the mistake he had made all those years ago, in the city of Skingrad. Getting mixed up with the one who now held the title of count, or rather his sister. The choice had been clear; to join their family or die. At times he couldn't help but to think that death would have been preferable.

Maybe that was why he moved around Tamriel so much, to stay away from the Bathory family. The woman he had gotten involved with had turned up dead six months after he... turned. And her brother had demanded that he'd serve him to make up for the things he had caused. Whether or not he had been a part of the reason, it hadn't mattered to Darius Bathory. And now his daughter had become his apprentice, of sorts, even if she didn't fully know it yet. It had always been her father's plan.

The howl of a pack of wolves pierced the night, breaking his line of thought. The mudcrab started to bury itself as fast as it could. Surely the beasts were close by. With a quick movement, Samuel had gotten down from the rock and drawn his longsword. He preferred to take that over the daggers when he knew he was going to leave the city alone. It made for a better weapon in case he was attacked. 

Maybe 50 feet from the rock, he could see two wolves. They stared in his direction, with hungry eyes. Their hour of doom was at hand; he hadn't trained with swords for 400 years to be bested by such weak creatures. A few seconds and many pawsteps later it turned out he was right. His blade had tasted wolf's blood. Going over his moves in his head, he saw that even his old master from Hammerfell would have been pleased; it was textbook perfection.

He walked over to the water and let his blade bathe in it. The ebony wouldn't start to rust of something as simple as this, but it got rid of the blood. The wolves themselves could just lie there, as fodder for the hungry mudcrabs who happened to pass by.

The swordplay. 400 years with regular training under different masters. Longest period he had gone without seeking a mentor in its ways was 8 years. Mostly he had waited 5 between each one. Another way to escape, he supposed. But now he didn't need to escape anymore. The means to make right what had to be set straight had come to him, and he'd let Tamriel burn to the ground before he'd let Darius Bethory do to his daughter what he had done to him.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Gracchus Ceno

Gracchus' Apartment, Elven Gardens District



Gracchus sat beneath the candle light, a book recounting the Redguard repulsion of the Thalmor in his right hand, and a glass of Samuel's Colovian Brandy in the other. His mind was not on the book, however, but his meeting with Lyra Ceno, his mother.

Catia, once he left, began the search for her by going to the agency that he sold it through. Apparently, a young farmer and his wife bought it, and there had been a dispute because someone was stilling living their. Gracchus was already in Skyrim by that point, so word of it never reached him. The family who bought the house told Catia that the woman moved into the city, and last they heard she was in the Waterfront District. So Catia went and found her in a small shack, barley grinding out a living from her savings. She introduced herself and took her in, telling her about Gracchus leaving for Skyrim.

Together they followed the news coming out of the pass, until the avalanche cut off the communication. So together they waited, hoping that Gracchus would return.

Gracchus smiled, silently thanking Catia for the best gift anyone had ever given him. His mom uttered the first word, while he stood dumbfounded, tears running down his face like a child. When he finally regained his composure, the first thing he did was apologize for leaving her. She laughed, and said she had long ago. Together they say for hours, talking about what he had been doing since he left, recounting tales of Skyrim, Hammerfell, and many other exotics places. After that she slept, while he talked with Samuel about the land buying proposition. Then it was his turn to nap, until he was presently awoken by Catia.

Now he sat at his house, around a block away from the Laughing Fox. It was small, but big enough for his taste's. and this brandy was right up his alley as well.

Speaking of Samuel, I need to contact him again, see if he has any sellers or land he's found. And then there's the business of finding a builder...I hope he knows enough people. This house building enterprise could become a hassle fast, he thought.

He got back to reading, enveloping himself in the Redguard's guerilla tactics as the pushed the Thalmor out of their home.

Been years since I've been their. Not long after the events in this book happened, actually. How times flies. Hehe, I remember we were there escorting a diplomatic caravan to High Rock. Good times...

The thoughts of the endless sand, and then the mountains in between High Rock and Hammerfell filling his mind.




Gracchus woke up, the candle having burned out after he fell asleep at some point in the night. A trail of drool led from his mouth to the book, and the bottle of brandy was knocked over and empty next to him.

Geez, I must've been up a while. Better go see how Catia and mom are holding up. Maybe I'll run into Samuel again, get down to business on the house.

With that, Gracchus dressed into new clothes, and headed down to the tavern.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Theodore Adrard

The Laughing Fox, Room 3



Theodore sat awake, pondering the days' events.




He spent most of the afternoon talking, telling story after story to the off duty guards and whomever else would find his table. Most of his visitors left quite drunk, while he sipped his wine, all the while becoming more and more boisterous, giving off the illusion he too was drunk. It had become fairly common practice for him, as growing up in the High Rock high courts one becomes used to such charades.

He perfected it though, able to seemingly, or sometimes actually, take in large amounts of alcohol while all the whole keeping his wits. It allowed him to prey on the drinker stupor of others, as they struggled to keep up with him. His girth helped him, as did his size, as most of his country men were small folk. He did however love alcohol, but not in the excess most believed him to partake in. It soothed him, kept him calm while he listened.

Even today he heard whisperings from a corner booth about him and others in the bar, which included learning at least two patrons were members of the Thieves Guild. The man that disclosed that information to the woman, however, he didn't quite get. He entered to talk to a man, whom he learned was the famed Gracchus Ceno, but then vanished. He hadn't heard that conversation, as an inexplicable buzzing came upon him once Ceno started talking to him. That, along with his sudden disappearance, the hidden daggers he wore, and his subsequent reappearance after vanishing made him quite the character.

Theodore suspected the man to have secrets, as all men did, but he did a much better job of keeping them than most.

Hmph, secrets. If half the Breton High Court knew how to listen even a fourth as well as I do, they would be at each others throats every time their mouths opened. After this whole Thalmor problem is dealt with, I may need to put those listening skills to work, see if I can blackmail some favors from people.

Theodore chuckled. He loved battle, the feinted retreat from men on foot, accompanied by a sweep of the cavalry on the enemies exposed flank, the heaving of his greatsword, the cleaving of limbs. But, he also loved politics. Not how other people played politics, but listening, hearing, watching. He learned long ago that even while one was in the midst of a story, one could still listen, and that was a valuable skill.

Most men couldn't keep their mouths shut, always flaunting their opinions like anyone actually cared. Same for women, although they tended to huddle int her gossip circles, pouring out their fake compliments all the while plotting about each other. It was quite fun, being on the outside looking in while actually in the center of a crowd, telling a story.

Theodore brought himself back to the present. He was sitting in his room looking over maps of the Cyrodiil and Valennwood border, trying to figure out where the attack would most likely come from. He had been doing the same with Elswyr as well, and planned on doing it with Black Marsh also. He knew to expect the unexpected, and after what the Argonians did in southern Morrowind he didn't doubt their capabilities.

But he was getting tired, and his glass of water was now empty. He walked over to the chamber pot, pulling his trousers down and relieving himself before dressing in his night clothes and pinching out the candle. As he drifted off the sleep, his curiosity towards the man from earlier still weighed on his mind, although his tiredness got the better of him as he finally fell into a deep slumber.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Maggie and Lorgar

Imperial Palace



Lorgar held a cigar in his mouth, he also had his leather-bound first edition of Camille in his arms. He was heading to the quarters of a countess of Skingrad, Magdela.

Things are going to get extremely interesting-no actually, things are heading to Oblivion and back very soon... 

As he turned a corner, he finally reached it. He wore his standard outfit, a black trench coat, with his dress-uniform underneath. The cigar he bore in his mouth was lit, despite the location he was in.  He also had an ebony short-sword well-hidden in his coat, a precaution no more. He cleared his throat, and knocked on the door,

"Excuse me Countess, sorry for interrupting, but it's Lord-Major Grim-Maw."

Maggie had been preparing to leave for some errands and to return to her house, but put down her cloak.  "Duke Lorgar, a pleasure.  Come in.  And what is that I see under your arm?"  She rewarded him with a beaming smile.

He bowed his head, "Thank you milady." At the mention of the thing "under his arm" he couldn't help but blush, and he said in his shy voice, "Ummm, my copy of Camille, it's ummmm....a first edition."

"Aren't you darling.  I was just telling my friend Tanie- she owns an establishment called The Cordial Lady, do you know it?- that I would try to find her a copy.  Perhaps you could bring it over to show her.  She'd heard about it, and thought the ladies might find it fun to act out some of the scenes for special patrons."  Maggie went around to her desk and got a quill, reaching her other hand out for the book.

With that, Lorgar slightly rosy cheeks became a full on crimson blush, and his face started to twitch, "I suppose...I could lend her my copy, and them 'acting'-UGH, I mean, if I did go there, which I'm not saying I do."  With that he handed Maggie the book. Speaking once again in his normal voice,

"Ah if you don't mind milady, could you by any chance address your signature to my cousin, Frea? She's a big fan of your novels, and I would like to show it to her next time I see her."

"Frea.  A Nord?  I would be delighted."  Maggie opened the book to its title page and wrote a few lines.  As she waited for the ink to dry, still holding the book open on her desk, she asked, "How are you settling into the palace, Duke Lorgar?  And into your new duties?  It must be a tad overwhelming."

"You have no idea..." Lorgar said, taking out the cigar in his mouth and exhaling,  "As spy-master, it's my duty to look at every single threat presented to me, by numerous contacts, civilians, guards, nobles...ugh..." Lorgar chuckled a little, "Though all the cigars, Cyrodilic brandy, and nordic mead help."

"You mustn't tire yourself.  You went through a lot in the war, or so I'm told."  She stood and returned the book to him, still open to the title page.  In elegant, flowing script, was written:


To Frea of the North,

Warmth is in remembered friendship and love.

Magdela Bathory


Crossing to her spirits cabinet, Maggie went on, "Do you enjoy brandy?  Don't tell my father I said this, but as fine as Colovian is, it is not the best."  Taking out a bottle, she poured two glasses.  As she handed Lorgar one of them, his keen senses might detect a faint, normal heartbeat.  "Apple brandy from Daggerfall."

He accepted back the book, and with a nod he said "Thank you milady, I, and I know, Frea greatly appreciate it."

He also accepted the glass, putting the now un-lit cigar in his coat pocket. He took a small sip, "AH...that tastes wonderful milady, it...does actually taste better then Colovina." He took another small sip before saying, "I'm very pleased milady, that you decided to take precautions. I can read a heartbeat from you, and your skin is very radiant.'

"I'm feeling quite well, thank you," Maggie replied calmly.  "My time in the palace with the empress' father was... trying.  Her Excellency is such a welcome change.  For me, certainly."  She leaned against the desk, sipping at her own glass.  "But not for all.  I must ask for your help, Duke.  I provided you with information on justiciar safe houses, but we both know the Dominion presence is not gone, only gone underground.  They will want revenge on me for my role in aiding you.  Can I rely on your protection?"

That caused a worried expression to appear on Lorgar's face.  "Yes, I have known..."  With the mention of them going after the countess, that caused Lorgar's face to become darkly serious.  "Milady, I can promise you, if anyone tried to make an attempt on your life,  I would personally tear out their throat with my fangs."

"Thank you."  She breathed deep.  "I can see why Empress Dales chose you to be at her side.  I confess I thought it an unusual choice, but it makes sense to me now.  No one can doubt your loyalty to the empire and willingness to sacrifice for it, and you are stronger than most.  To have such powerful friends, it must make her feel safe, even with our empire's many troubles."

That caused Lorgar to chuckle and smile, "My 'strength' as you call it, is as much a gift as a curse, milady.  I don't think Dales would feel safe knowing an abomination of Hircine was at her side."

Her brow shot up.  "You are a devotee of the Hunt?  Daedra worship still carries a lot of stigma in Cyrodiil, it's true.  Not to worry, I try to be open minded about such things myself."

Lorgar continued his smile, but it became slightly arrogant, but still friendly.

"I don't think 'Devotee' would be the right word, more like 'Beast'.  You're one of the few people who I know understands, your clan has two daedric princes as patrons, correct?  That's what Samuel told me."

Maggie's chin lifted, and a hint of smile showed.  "You've met Samuel.  An interesting man.  Might I ask how you came to talk with him?"

"I was looking for an information broker, Samuel came highly recommended from a very close friend of mine. We discussed quite alot, as you say, very interesting man."  Lorgar started to gently stroke his well-shaved beard, "Very friendly and business-like. We chatted for a quite awhile before we got onto the topic of you."

Lorgar laughed. "After some deception, I realized his heart actually wasn't beating, so I assumed he was a friend of yours.  He said he needed to hear my opinion of you before getting to the real buisness.  I said I thought very highly of you, how couldn't I? You're so charming, friendly and  exquisitvley radiant," Lorgar said, with a friendly wink.

"Thank you very kindly.  As Samuel is an information broker, then he believed revealing such information was necessary in order to secure your trust.  Or assumed that knowing the truth about you would assure mutual confidence.  Do you truly trust me, Duke?"

"I trust you with my life milady" Lorgar said, bowing his head.

Though Lorgar's expression was perfectly genuine, he himself doubted his words, If I did truly trust her, why would I have a hidden short-blade in my coat?

"Then trust me when I say, I cannot speak about such things as you are asking.  I'm under close scrutiny at all times.  You are a soldier, you understand that things are permitted to officers which are not to the lower ranks, yes?  Please don't ask me any more about this."

In a lighter tone, she went on, "Nevertheless Samuel will no doubt be very useful to you in your role as spymaster."

"Yes, I can count on it-" 

Lorgar suddenly heard voice's coming down the hall. Two females. He recognized  both of them. One was his empress, Dales Motierre, while the second one was from the baroness he meet early at the coronation, Homunal Akney. One was outgoing and friendly, while the other was extremely quiet and shy. Lorgar cleared his throat and said to Maggie,

"We have company, her majesty Dales and a baroness.”

"My, my.  A party."  Maggie straightened and awaited the women's entrance, curtsying formally to the empress when she came in.  "Excellency, I am honored.  Please, make yourself comfortable.  The duke and I were just discussing..."  She trailed off, not really wanting to go into that.

"A potential contact for information your majesty, a man named Samuel..." Lorgar said bowing. Empress Dales smiled, returned the courtesy and bow to both people. And said, 

"Ah, it's quite good to see my Advisor and Spymaster sharing information." She turned to the girl behind her, and said, 

"Introduce yourself, Nami." 

The small girl behind Dales, who was presumably Homunal,  had extremely long, silver/whitish, and wavy hair, and wore an ornate Akavari Kimono. She had very pale skin, and deep blue eyes, like the depths of the ocean. She shyly curtsied to both Lorgar and Maggie and said, 

"Baroness Homunal Akney."

Maggie didn't curtsy again, but she did nod a greeting.  "You hail from High Rock, baroness?  What part?  I don't recognize your name, forgive me.  There are so many baronies on the peninsula, who can keep track."

"Skyshade, countess..." Said Nami. You could tell she wasn't that young, 17 or 18. But like a child, she spoke in a shy and unsecure voice, and sometime glanced at her feat.

"I'm not familiar with it, but as I say, the Bretons do love their variety."  Turning to Dales, Maggie said, "Empress, are you well?  I meant to visit you but I know there are many demands on your time.  And I'm not certain how you would feel about me, given my role in the court of your royal father."

Dales face remained friendly, as well as her smile, but he eyes grew darker at the mention of her father,

"I'm quite all right Maggie, just a little tired. Running an empire isn't easy work. And I don't mind your presence at all.  You were of course, a victim of that bastard, nothing more."

"I came to him willingly," the countess reminded her.  "But we are now in happier days.  I met with your teacher yesterday.  Quite skilled.  I think he might be able to teach me, as well."  Maggie smiled mysteriously, and added, "About magic, I mean.  How did you meet him?"

Dales face became disgusted at the mention of her master's name, though the sort of "friendly" disgusted, 

"HMPTH, probably some burnt-out hole in the middle of Skyrim when I was drunk, that man needs to stop whoring around..."

The countess laughed, startled at this outburst.  "You met him in Skyrim?  I had heard it was here, through the Synod.  I wanted to ask if his Synod connections are a problem for you with the College of Whispers.  They're touchy about that sort of thing.  You object to his... leisure activities?"

"Yes, yes I do."

She turned over to the spymaster, and said.

"Dear Duke, I couldn't see you whoring around. You object to his disgusting behavior?" 

Lorgar, grinned mischievously, "Of course your majesty, it's revolting how he beds the servants and maids every day. Heheheheh, I have my own sort of entertainment..."

Maggie watched this exchange with amusement.  "Of course, Excellency, you must concern yourself with the propriety of your court, but as long as it doesn't touch your royal person, no one will object to your lessers having their harmless fun.  Unless you want to impose celibacy on your courtiers.  I can't imagine that going over well."  She laughed, then asked, "How many marriage proposals have you received, Empress?  If it's not too impertinent a question."

The Empress's cheek's blushed and she looked sad, "Too many..." To a normal person, they would only hear a small mutter, but Maggie and Lorgar, due to there "conditions" heard Dales say "All men..."

"I had guessed as much.  I would offer you my services in evaluating these proposals.  You might say it's a specialty of mine.  Being Breton yourself, you should probably choose an imperial.  Is there a favorite already?"

"I dislike them all equally countess...a bunch of...'hunters' as Lorgar would say."

Lorgar started to whistle innocently, "I don't know how she got that term..."

"We are all hunting for something, Empress,"  Maggie replied.  "Do not delay the decision too long.  For the moment the nobility scramble to find your favor, but without an heir the realm isn't secure.  Think what would happen to us if...  Forgive me.  We're all friends here, so I speak frankly, but perhaps too frankly."

"Yes...of course. An heir..." Dales didn't look too thrilled.  A few moments later, she excused herself, and took Nami by the hand while leaving the room.  Lorgar polity bowed to her as she left.  Making sure she was out of range from the two's voices, Lorgar said to Maggie,

"Hmmmm, as supporting as I am for...Dales 'preferences', it might cause problems later on..."

The countess watched the two women leave, a thoughtful expression on her face.  Lorgar's words confirmed what she had been thinking.  "Camille.  I understand.  It won't be a problem if she's discreet.  She will still need an heir, of course, and sooner rather than later.  Her consort should probably be selected with this in mind.  If he's a jealous type, even a female paramour will cause problems in their marriage."

"If her husband every thinks of trying to force Dales into doing something she doesn’t want to, I’ll personally cut his throat and throw his corpse into the ocean..." Lorgar said thoughtfully, "I hate those types, pressuring girls into having sex with them. I dont care if he would be an emperor, Hircine's fury punishes un-discriminativley."

The countess gave him a strange look.  "It isn't a question of force, your grace, but of necessity.  The empress will not sit secure and the realm will be in grave danger as long as there is no heir.  Already there is talk of too much 'Breton' influence at court.  I once jested with the Lady Dales, when she was a child, that noble ladies can't marry other women because we must marry for other reasons.  It isn't a jest, and isn't a luxury."

Maggie's tone softened.  "Of course, no one would deny her a paramour.  This is actually better than were she attracted to men, since there won't be any complications about bloodline.  A consort will give her political protection, and she only need lie with him until there is an heir."

"I still don't like it. Heheheheh, as one of those wretched nobles would say, it's most likely because of my 'savage' and 'peasent-like' upbringing."

Lorgar took another cigar from his pocket, and lit it.  He inhaled, and then exhaled the fumes.

"We Skaal are taught to marry for the sole reason of love, it doesn’t matter about gender, wealth, prestige, or status.  Apparently, it's much different here in court, I wouldn't be surprised if half the nobles here, both lady and lord, were unhappy with there marriages and all had mistresses."

Lorgar chuckled, "Anyway, i'm quite interested to know what the wizard was telling you about me. He most likely said something along the lines, "Stay away from the savage half-Werewolf, he's a monster that will eat you", correct?"

"Even a political marriage need not be unhappy, Duke," Maggie replied.  "As for Lord Skjari, he doesn't trust you, but you don't trust him, either, do you?"

"Quite. I have very good reasons too. Unlike him, who just thinks me an unstable savage."

Lorgar was obviously debating with himself over something, however, curiosity got the best of him, as he said.

"Hmmmm, I have an idea. I know for a fact, you're not confiding in me exclusively, which I don’t mind of course.  I have an idea...a game you see.  I'll give you one obvious clue, which is revealing thing I hide, if you can guess what I am...I'll agree to cooperate with the wizard fully.  However, if I win, you have to answer one question about yourself.  And don't worry, it'll have nothing to do with your secret clan."

"Hm.  I do like games, but I can't promise to answer your question.  With that warning, proceed."

Lorgar smiled, and somewhat mockingly bowed, "As you say milady..."

Slowly and surely, Lorgar removed his blackened eyepatch that covered his presumably gone right eye. But, shockingly, with the eye patch gone, a perfectly intact closed eyeleid was revealed. As if knowing that it was free to open, the closed eyelid sluggishly opened up, revealing a brilliant crimson red eye. It faintly glowed blood red, and the eye itself...was mesmerismly beautiful.  Surely many would consider it as radiant, or pretty as a precious gem stone.

"What am I?"

Maggie tilted her head, then came closer.  "Is magic cheating?  I would cast a spell to see if the substance is daedric in nature.”

"It would be only fair..."

Maggie cast the appropriate spell, and her puzzled look remained.  "I had thought it resembled Void Essence, but its nature is... confused.  And Sheogorath not known for his associations with the North.  That would be Lord Dagon, and Hermaeus Mora.  There is nothing that would suggest your lord Hircine, however."  She stepped back.  "I'm stumped."

"So you give up milady?" Lorgar said, smiling, "In all honesty, I expected this result.  As I said, I'm an abomination."

"A very polite one, who reads romance novels,"  Maggie replied, smiling.  "Does this mean you get to ask me a question?"

"Afraid so milady..." Lorgar said, grinning, "Don't worry, it's not going to compromise your secret club. I just want to know, why you became a vampire?"

"Ah.  A bit close to the mark, Duke.  You've been fair, however, and perhaps you seek a bit of solace from those not of your kind, but who are similarly mistrusted in society?  I'm afraid the answer is dull, and you may even think less of me for it.  Simply this, it was expected of me.  I won't say that I had no choice.  There are advantages.  To remain young and beautiful, to hold on to life..."  Coming a step closer, she asked, "What of you?  Did you choose to be an 'abomination'?"

Lorgar inhaled and exhaled fums from his cigar before saying, "I will dive into the fire, and spill blood eternal, but thy price to pay is eternal.", to answer your question milady, I was very young when I choose to become what I am, and even then I didn't know about some circumstances that affected me heavily.  But that's just an excuse I tell my self at night, so yes, I was aware that I would become something else."

His face drew even closer to Maggie's face already close face, with his blood red eye staring directly at her eyes,

"As you say, there are advantages of being a monster or a beast, my senses are enhanced ten fold, as well as my speed and strength.  Furthermore, I have subtle abilities, such as me being more attuned to everything in nature.  But what price did I pay?  What price did you pay milady?  We become things of the night and the moon, we forsake the thing that made us who we where, human, we lost our humanity and became something else."

Maggie stood calmly under his scrutiny.  "You may see it that way.  I try to take a different view.  A child draws strength from his mother in the womb.  An empire bleeds its young men and women to save itself.  I take from the mortal, but I give back.  I... try to give back.  Do you know why the Thalmor are so cocky?  Because they will see three or four lifetimes for every normal human lifespan, building power and knowledge with their added years.  They look on Man the way Man looks on the higher beasts.  Our empire has not survived and reigned because of the scruples of our priests, but because of sacrifices like mine.  And yours."

"So we fight in the shadows, and sacrifice our humanity, for the greater good of the empire?  I can see the logic and truth behind those words. But it gets lonely..." Lorgar said, looking worn out and tired, "I haven't once found a person who really understands the burden of it, staying in the dark."

Maggie laid a hand on his arm.  "Now you have."


Lorgar put his hand on hers and gently smiled at her. "It is as I told at the coronation, Duke.  We have the same goal.  Did you come to the Imperial City expecting to find only enemies?"  Maggie placed her other hand briefly over his, then released him and stepped back.  She regarded him thoughtfully.  "May I offer you some advice?  It may be unpleasant for you to hear."

"Yes milady?"

"I've been told a few things about your time in the legion in Skyrim, more specifically the time after you were discharged.  These stories did not prepare me at all for the gentle, courteous duke I see before me.  It is to the point where I would have said these were two different men.  Do you know the other reason why I think our empire has succeeded?"

Maggie gestured above them.  "This Tower.  White Gold is well known for its magical potency, and I believe it has a particular effect of focusing the mind and calming the spirit.  My advice to you is:  Stay here.  Don't return to your frozen homeland.  Here, you will find others who understand you, and here you may learn to understand yourself.  To control yourself."  She watched him to see how he would take this advice, and the implication that he had a savage beast inside him, in need of such aid.

"I..." Lorgar took in what she was trying to tell him, "I think I've understood for quite some time now milady...the things I've done are irredeemable...I think the worse part is I...actually enjoyed doing it to them...I enjoyed it..." He started to shake his hand violent, "I enjoyed it...I enjoyed it...  I ENJOYED IT..." He put his hands on his head, and started to weep, "I enjoyed it..."

Slowly Maggie approached again.  "My dear duke.  Lorgar."  She reached the hand out again, laid it on his arm, then around his shoulder in the start of an embrace.  "No man- and that is what you are- no man should be asked to do what our empire required of you.  There is always a price.  Yet these tears show that you are not an abomination.  Not yet."

Lorgar buried his face into Maggie's shoulder and continued to cry, the first time he's cried every since that day, when he lost everything. He put his arms around Maggie and fully embraced the hug, still crying over her shoulder.

Wrapping her arms tightly around his shoulders, Maggie let him cry and hold her, even after she felt the concealed dagger he carried.  It was a reminder that he was a dangerous man, but she couldn't help but feel for his pain.  Her own eyes threatened to fill when she thought that she would have done anything for such a moment of comfort from her own family.

When the duke released her, she smiled and brushed at the tears on his cheek with her fingers, then took out her silk handkerchief and pressed it into his hand.  "I wager you are not as alone as you think, Lorgar.  All over this city your fellows in the legion surely carry similar scars, only soldiers are taught not to show it.  Perhaps that is necessary, but it seems particularly cruel."

"Oh look at me, a major of the Penitus Occulatus and spymaster of the Empress of Tamriel, crying like a little girl..." He slightly chuckled as he wiped the remaining tears off his face. He gently handed the countess back her silk handkerchief, before saying,

"I'm sorry milady, but I have to take my leave. I think i've slightly overstayed my welcome." He got up only to put his hand to Maggie's pale cheek, he said in a soft, warm, and kind voice, "Milady, I can say without any sort of embellishment, that your are one of the most kind, caring, loving, warm, and gentle people I have ever meet, don't let anyone say otherwise..." He brought up her hand to his head, and lighty kissed it.

"Until another day, milady..."

Maggie accepted his kiss, then called out after him as he left, "Don't forget your book!"  She followed, the signed copy of Camille in her hands.

"Ah, I almost forgot..."

He gently accepted the book from Maggie, before smiling and laughing, “My cousin would have my hide if I lost a signed first-edition Camille!!!"

"You will get another for yourself, my lord," Maggie promised.  "Farewell."

After the spymaster was gone, she leaned against a chair and expelled a breath.  That had certainly not gone as  expected.  Guardian, what are you thinking...  Was it a test?  Was Samuel trying to get her destroyed?  Yet his gamble with Lorgar seemed to have paid off, for now.  The men of Empress Dales' court continued to surprise her.

Taking up her cloak, the countess hurried out, late for her appointment with the madam of The Golden Apple.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Baldur, Rebec

The Reach

4 a.m.


It was still dark out and quite early, and the Forsworn leader Marsef had been stalking a group of Nords ever since they had walked into the area. He had watched them for some time now, hidden in the shadows. Enough to see from their singing and dancing that they were clearly not thinking of war any longer now that the Imperials were allied with them. It was a mistake. One that Marsef was sure to capitalize on. Things were not looking good for his people ever since the alliance. Recruitment had risen sharply lately which meant more patrols and bored nords who had nothing better to do than stomp out the agitators in the Reach. It had been weeks since he last heard from the matron. Marsef feared the worst. Once he was confident that the nords he saw would not pose much challenge to them, Marsef ran back to his small ambush squad of 15 men and women and had them regroup nearby.

"Ok, our job is a simple one. We don't need to worry as much about the other soldiers. We need the officers. I spotted their tent but it may be a bit difficult to get to them as theirs is surrounded by the other soldiers laying in bedrolls. So here's what we'll do. Screeya and her son will go to the front of the camp and cast a few lightning bolts their way. Draw out the soldiers. Then when the officers are out, we storm them from behind and end their lives quickly. One officer is a female with dark brown hair, wears leather armor and carries a rope on her waist. I figure she's in charge as I saw her pulling along one soldier with the rope on her way back to camp. The other officer must be her second in command. He's too silly and strange to be in charge. So go for the girl first. Any questions?"

The group remained silent. They've done this sort of ambush job before, although they didn't know how high up the targets they were seeking to kill were. The two mages set off to get into their positions and awaited the signal.




In their tent, Rebec lay awake wondering if she should give in to the urge to wake Baldur for a quick roll, or get the camp moving.  Mazoga would be up and starting a breakfast fire soon.  It was tempting to let her do it on her own, but the sooner they broke camp, the sooner they would reach Markarth.  This was lonely country and beautiful, but thinking about Toki being out here alone all those years made her hurt.  It was what he had wanted, but she hadn't been the kind of wife that would support him in it the way he deserved.

Before such broody thoughts could go too far, Rebec sat up, groaning, and began to put her leathers and then her boots on.  As she was doing so, a prickle touched the back of her neck.  Warrior instinct told her something was wrong.  "Baldur," she said, her tone sharp.

Reaching for her axe belt, Rebec glanced down and saw her Kyne amulet glowing faintly blue, as it did when someone nearby was drawing on magic power.  "BALDUR!"

Baldur despite being a soldier was somewhat of a heavy sleeper, but the urgency in Rebec's voice was enough to at the very least get him up on his own, even if it was in a half sober state. Luckily for him, however, he fell to sleep with most of his officer armor on except the gauntlets and boots, so it wouldn't take him long to be battle ready. He ignored Rebec's first call, thinking she wanted a quick one but he was too tired and still mostly asleep. The second urgent one however made him bolt up. Her voice in the still early morning and darkness being more audible than normal.

"Hmm, what is it? I don't hear anything."

Silently she pointed at her amulet.  Rebec then strapped on her axe belt and reached for her crossbow. Baldur had never seen her amulet do this before, but he did remember what she told him about it. Baldur quickly put on his boots and gauntlets just in time to hear the sounds of magic being cast and a death scream from outside.

"Shit, Rebec that sounds like lightning magic being cast. I'm going to run out and distract the caster and you put a bolt between their eyes. Be careful and watch your back. There could be more nearby."

Taking a cue from her escape at Rommulas, Rebec didn't go out the tent flap, rather, reached under the back and loosed the ties, then slipped under.  There were no attackers in the camp, which meant they were staying at range.  Dashing behind a rock, Rebec crouched low and searched for a target.  After another lighting flash arced out, she aimed through the brush in that direction, praying her bolt would find flesh rather than wood or rock- and fired.

Marsef saw Rebec and Baldur sneaking by the tent. The soldiers in the camp were starting to wake up and started wandering around in the darkness searching for the mages, having no idea where they were or how many there were. Marsef smiled as he saw Baldur sneaking forward in the mage's direction. The soldiers were wandering forward like he was and leaving their flank unguarded. Unknowing to Marsef, while Rebec had gotten into position, Baldur crept around in the shadows up to some of the men's bedrolls and had them stay in them in the cover of darkness. If anyone came in from behind, they were to rear up and catch them off guard.  Marsef was now about to give the second signal when he heard a bolt shot and a cry of pain call out.

Damn it, that sounds like Screeya!

Baldur heard the cry of pain and charged towards the sound, looking to dispatch the mages in a hurry. Bolting forward with his axes at the ready to throw, Baldur dashed over to the bushes that the two mages had hidden themselves in. Screeya had a bolt stuck in her neck and was quickly bleeding out. Her son, a breton of decent muscle build, bald with the forsworn head gear on and about fifteen was watching over her as she slowly faded away. His heart was pounding furiously and the heat from his blood was felt althroughout his body. As the rage filled himself, the boy slowly arose from her lifeless body and he began charging two lightning spells in his hand. Hearing someone approaching his position, the forsworn jumped out and sent two concentrated streams of lightning straight towards Baldur. Baldur had no time to dodge the blast. Instead, he raised his weapons and blocked the spells with his axes, the lightning enchantments keeping the effect from spreading through his body. Baldur was stopped in his tracks, however. Forced to continue blocking the boy's magic, fueled by his anger and lust for revenge against the nords.

"Rebec! Shoot!" said Baldur.

Rebec had already loaded another bolt, but Baldur's voice near where she had fired before had the opposite effect of his order.  She hesitated, not wanting to hit him by mistake.  Cursing, she got up and ran in that direction to support him.

Marsef, seeing that they were thoroughly distracted finally gave the signal with a loud bird whistle. Instantly cries of "For the Forsworn!" were heard and the Reachmen came rushing in from behind, which caused the soldiers in the front near Baldur to run in that direction to fight. As soon as the Forsworn were upon the camp, the nords Baldur had ordered to stay low bolted up from the ground and began slaying the men in a counter surprise attack. Baldur was still struggling to hold back the boy's attack, falling to a knee as he did. He couldn't hold back the attack much longer. Suddenly a crossbow bolt came firing out of the semi-darkness, aimed at the mage's head.

The adolescent boy's head jolted back from the impact of the bolt in his skull. The spell finally ceased it's onslaught on Baldur, who breathed in relief, thankful for the assistance.

"Shit, that damn boy was quite the powerful mage. These Forsworn are very dangerous. Even the younger ones. Thanks for the assist, love." said Baldur, still looking in the direction of the boy while crouched.

"You're welcome, darling."

The voice behind him is not Rebec's, but the harsh voice of a female orc. Mazoga was already loading another bolt, this one aimed for the leader Marsef.

"Huh? Oh, Mazoga! Hehehe. Don't worry about that one, he's already retreating. We can't pursue them in the dark. Lets go with Rebec and the others."

True enough, Marsef had bolted in the other direction once he saw Mazoga kill the mage. The nords didn't outnumber the Reachmen, but they did shortly after their counter surprise attack. Marsef tried whistling out to get his men to retreat, but the nords had already trapped them off and were attempting to finish them before any more casualties were had.

Mazoga fired anyway, and Marsef dropped like a felled deer, a bolt protruding from the back of his head.  The orc just glanced at Baldur and nodded, then turned to hurry back down the slope towards camp.

Damn, that Orc is one hell of a shot.

In the middle of the camp, Rebec had found herself swarmed when the Forsworn yelled out "the female officer!"  She had put a bolt in one's leg, then tossed her crossbow aside and drew her axes to meet the rest.  The Forsworn had dual wielders, too, but wore only scraps of feathers and liked to do some dance that just left all that bare skin exposed.  Rebec had battled enough pirates to know how to fight people with more bravado than sense.

Face streaked in blood, she finished off the last and turned to look frantically for Baldur.

Baldur was following right behind Mazoga to get to Rebec. Seeing her in the distance with her axes drawn made him run faster past the orc even though he could see that the fight was already over. Baldur sheathed his weapons and locked his arms around her and kissed her on her blood covered cheeks when he approached her.

"Damn mage had me occupied, but Mazoga took care of it. Are you alright?"

"There you are.  I'm fine."  Rebec had slashes from the spikes on the Forsworn weapons as they parried her blows, and a small flap of skin hung from her cheek with blood oozing out of it, but she didn't even seem to notice.  She looked from Baldur to Mazoga.  "Thanks, Maz.  I owe you one."

"Dammit I hate seeing you with cuts on y-"


One of the forsworn on the ground was seriously injured from a sword slash across his belly, but not dead and managed to grab his strange bone spiked sword. As he charged for the couple, Baldur dashed forward and parried the sword strike with his metal spiked gauntlet and shoved his gauntlet claws with his right hand up his jaw through his mouth. Baldur looked into his eyes as they glassed over and blood ran freely over his hand before he yanked his gauntlet claws out and let him drop.

"Okay, we can't stay here for too much longer. We need to go now lest more come while we're here. We're not burying any of their bodies."

Sheathing her axes, Rebec nodded.  "You won't get any argument from me."  She cast a last glance at the dead Forsworn, shook her head in disgust, and went to pack up their gear.

"Alright, people. Gather your things, put our dead over the horses and lets move out! Our enemies will receive no burials. Kyne can take care of this lot."

As the couple and the group continued for Markarth after the forsworn lay lifeless, the skies began to release their waters almost as if in response to what Baldur had said. The blood slowly began to wash away into the dirt, yet the scent of blood was inescapable from the wolves and crows. The wolves came first, dragging away what bodies they could to serve the needs of the many, the pack. Then the crows, and soon the worms would come once the incessant feeding ceased. The murder of crows fell upon the fresh kill, ready to gorge their little black feathered bodies until their guts were fit to bursting. A wheezing sound was suddenly audible from nearby but it was of no concern for the crows as the fury of pecks began. Peck, peck peck. Peck, peck....Eyes were the first to go.

The sounds of tearing flesh was drowned by the sounds of squawks from the other crows standing nearby or circling in the air also ready to dine. Only a worshiper of Kyne could truly appreciate the machinations of her work. That or a follower of Namira. More pecks came still, peck peck peck until the birds made their way to the leader. Soon the crows fell upon his flesh too, ready to pick his carcass and prepare it for the worms in the next stage of nature's clean up routine. Peck...peck..p-...The pecks ceased. A loud explosion of fire suddenly went off, sending most of the birds flying away in fear or while burning, soon to meet their doom, while the others burst into a mass of blood and feathers. There is one bird left however, injured and unable to flee. The wheezing noise grows louder. And louder. Then suddenly the last crow squawks as it is squeezed. It's life ended through decapitation. Something had bit it's head off. The creature grabbed the lightly pecked body of the forsworn leader by the leg and slowly dragged it's body from the camp, having gained it's prize...The wheezing now turned to fits of coughing and laughter.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Imperial palace
Skjari had been reading the old court mage's journals the whole day, hoping to find a clue about this key and how the dreamsleeve transmissions worked. So far the books had only contained entries about the mundane work one would expect from a court mage. Though one entry in the middle of the third journal mentioned something interesting. 
"23rd of Last Seed
Titus is now dead and his replacement is a noble called Amuand Motierre. Man's mad if you ask me. He's started to let the Thalmor run around the Empire and do as they please even more than before. He even let them search the tower for magical artifacts as a 'gift of good faith'. They took a few non-important magical trinkets, but before the search started I hid away the Moth Scrolls in the top of the tower with the moth priests. Luckily the scrolls are sealed with magic so that not just anyone can use them, though I strengthened the seals using all the knowledge at my disposal just in case that they actually find the scrolls. The key for unlocking the seals I keep with me at all times. But I suspect I might not be around to use the scrolls myself. So I must find someone trustworthy I can pass the key and the knowledge on to before my time comes.
Hopefully this lunacy with the elves will end soon. These Thalmor mages that patrols the city makes me uneasy. They keep giving me looks like I'm about to be replaced with one of their own." 
Well now I know where the scrolls are, though they are probably useless without the key. Hopefully they didn't find it when they executed him. Only one way to find out...
Skjari started reading again but rest of the third journal contained nothing more than the old mundane tasks along with complaints over Amaund's madness and the Thalmor's prying eyes. Skjari read the last entry in the book, which was short one.
"11th of Evening Star
The Thalmor's constant spying on me and the emperor's madness have taken away my will to write. Hopefully when a time will come when I no longer have to worry about the the scrolls or my life, I might pick up the writing again. But till then I bid, you dear journal, my goodbye."
Skjari looked on the few last pages of the book to make sure it was the final entry, and it was as the other five pages were empty. But it wasn't the last journal of old court wizard as he had found four journals. He looked at the fourth and final journal on his desk as he put down the third with other two he had finished earlier, wondering if the answers he sought lied within this final book. He picked up and opened the last book and saw the first entry and noticed from the handwriting that this one must have been written quite hastily. 
"The emperor is reaching the brink of his madness. He thinks I'm conspiring against him, probably the work of the Thalmor's poisonous tongues. I think my time has come to meet Arkay. So I have hidden the key and the secret to using the scrolls within the pages of this book. To uncover it you must bath the book in divine fire.
I can hear the guards outside my room, they are coming " 
The last words must have been written in great haste they were barely readable and the g in the last word trailed off like if the writer had made a slip with the quill. Skjari looked through the other pages of the book but all of them was empty, but he could sense faintly the work of magic behind these pages, so something was hidden within them. 
What divine fire? Any divine or a specific one? And if I choose the wrong divine the book will undoubtedly be destroyed along with whatever is hidden within it. Well I can at least retrieve the scrolls for the moment.
Skjari put down the book in the desk's top drawer to his right and put the other three journals up onto the bookshelf. He walked out of his chamber and made his way towards the stairs that lead up to the highest point in the tower. After a long climb up the stairs it started to feel like he was climbing the seven thousand steps of the Monahven again. The task was strenuous, not in the way of that it was exhausting the body but in the way that it was repetitive. After a long time and many steps later he finally reached a wooden door at the end of the circling stairs. The door had delicate carvings in it, the carvings pictured what looked like moths flying around a tree, and even though the door appeared to be rather old it was still in a somewhat pristine condition. He sat down by the wooden door and stretched and relaxed his legs for a minute before knocking on the door. A few minutes passed and nothing happened, he knocked again and nothing happened for another few minutes. This time he banged hard at the door for several seconds before someone finally opened the door, but in the same moment the door was unlocked he rammed his fist into it so that door swung inwards and hit whoever it was that had unlocked it. Skjari heard the the sound of someone hitting the floor as well. The door was now slightly opened and he peaked inside. 
What he saw was a large round room with large windows all around the room, in fact that the walls were more made of pillars of stone and grand glass windows in between. The room also had some kind of small trees all around it and make the place look more like a garden than the top of a tower. The trees counted five in total. And in the air was moths flying all over the room. Here and there among the trees could normal furniture be seen such as a bed, table, chair or a bookshelf. After a few seconds of seeing this wonder he looked down at the person that he had accidentally knocked down onto the ground. The person was an imperial woman, probably the most ugliest woman he had ever seen, apart from hagravens. She actually reminded him about hagravens with her large beak-like nose and sharp jaw. And she wore a gray simple robe and appeared to be in her late thirties. She looked up at him with her left hand on her forehead, where she probably was hit by the door.
"Don't just stand there you fool! Help me up! And close the door behind!" She said in a loud and rather annoying voice that bordered to screeching. 
She doesn't only look like one, she behaves and sounds like one. 
Skjari stepped into room and closed the door behind him before reaching his hand down to help the woman up. She took his hand and got up on her feet and then slapped him in the face. 
"Now what do you want?" She said with that annoying voice of hers. 
"I'm here for the Moth Scrolls that the previous court mage apparently hid here with you." He replied while trying to remain calm. 
"You want to speak with old man then." She gestured towards on the bigger trees. "He sits behind that tree. And don't mention his... condition."
He walked over to the tree without saying another word to the horrific woman, he was just glad that he didn't even had to look at her for another second. Behind the tree sat a man in a simple wooden chair, he wore the same kind clothes as the woman but he also had a blindfold over his eyes, signifying his blindness. He was bald and had no beard, and had a couple of moths crawling on top of his almost shiny head, the man must have been in his late sixties judging from the wrinkles. He simply sat there calmly and did not respond to Skjari's approach in any way. 
"Good afternoon." Skjari said, trying to be nice. 
"Why have you come?" The old man replied in a calm and almost dreamlike tone. 
"I seek the Moth Scrolls. Apparently you..." But Skjari was not able to finish his sentence before the old man interrupted. 
"Do you have the key?" 
"No, but..." The old moth priest interrupted yet again. 
"Then I will not give you the scrolls."
"Why not?"
But now answer came and Skjari asked the question one more time but still no answer came and he knew that asking again was futile. He decided to look around the room for the scrolls but as he turned his head he felt the hand of the woman slap him across the face yet again. 
"Will you stop that!" Skjari shouted at her. 
"Don't scream, the moths don't like that." The hagraven woman said in a strict tone. "Now you should leave. The old man needs his rest."
Skjari was now struggling to remain calm and as he looked back at woman, after receiving that last hit to his face, he felt a little envious of the old mans blindness, though only for that moment as he could not believe how the old man could stand living with that woman alone up here in the tower. 
"As you wish." Damn hagraven.
And with that Skjari walked towards the door and left the room. After he had closed the door he let out a sigh of relief for not being in that woman's company anymore. And as he made his way down the long stairs he knew that he had to solve the riddle of divine fire to get the key and so he could get the scrolls. But then he would have to meet the hagraven woman again when he had to return for the scrolls. A meeting he was not looking forward to. 

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Dales and Samuel,

Imperial Palace,



Dales lay exhausted on her bed. She was in her private quarters, and was dressed in her normal purple nightgown. She spent the entire day showing Nami around the imperial palace, and only got threw the gardens, due to being sidetracked all the time. Dales inhaled a large breath of air, 

Ahhhh that was really fun...maybe I should invite Nami to stay in the imperial palace for the several months she'll be staying at the imperial city. That would be fun, we could go shopping, take baths together, walk threw the gardens...

Dales mouth started to water at the though of taking a bath with Nami, Nami stood, fully naked with her small cute breasts exposed in the bath room. She was blushing crazily, a cute light shade of red. Her flowing silver/white hair was spawled across her shoulder and back. She said in her shy and awkward voice,

“Please, look away your majesty” She pleaded,

Dales would have none of that, she dragged Nami along with her, and into the bath tub, submerging her pale and white body into the steam filled tub-

Dales stopped her self before her fantasy got out of hand.

Heheheheh, look at me, the empress of Tamriel worrying about a crush. I'm in a position of massive authority now, I cant go mopping around like a school-girl...

As Dales thought about her predicament, she heard a tiny noise that would be untraceable by normal ears, but her senses weren't normal, they where enhanced due to her teachers magic. Dales said in the politest voice possible, "Excuse me, sir or madame, can you please come out if anyone's there?" She chuckled slightly, "I don't need to call my guards in to deal with a threat for your information."

"Of course, your Majesty," smiling a man, appearing to be of Colovian decent, came out from a corner. The only way he had been able to stay out of sight there was that he had been invisible, she concluded. "Your teacher has trained you well in detecting the presence of the unseen, but not well enough. I've been following you for over an hour."

"Of course if you did try to strike me down, I could have cut you down in a few seconds, a dominion assassin learned that the hard way." Said Dales, still smiling and trying her best to look as charming as possible. 

"I did study under the best swordsmen in the legion, and of course learned a few lessons from, as you said, my teacher."

"You will have to honor me with a duel then, sometime in the future, your Majesty. Not to the death, of course, but as a test of skill. I assure you, I am far above that of any assassin the Dominion could have sent your way. And any swordsman from the Imperial Legion, I might add. Though, I have to admit, I am unaware of how well trained in the arts of the sword your teacher is. He is more renowned for his skill with magic than swordplay, as I am sure you know."

This Samuel had a sincere confidence about him. If nothing else, it was clear that he believed what he said. Whether or not it was accurate remained to be seen, but ti was something to consider at the very least.

"But I am confident that the Majesty did not try to contact me to exchange pleasantries about swordplay, as fascinating a subject as that can be. I must confess, I am at a disadvantage to what you want from me. Normally, I would have sent one of my employees, but someone of your stature demands certain protocol."

"Ah I thank you for that, please take a seat."

By now, Dales had gotten out of her bed, and was sitting down on her table made from wood imported from Valenwood. She poured herself a glass of rasberry juice, before saying apologetically,

"I'm very sorry mister Samuel, that I cant offer you any alcohol, after a certain..."Incident" I drink it rarely and instead carry a wide variety of fruit juices in my room, sorry for the inconvenience."

Her guest smiled and referred to her wish to take a seat. Seeing no other places to sit, that would not be passing through what he assumed to be the Empress' comfort zone, he chose the foot of her bed. From inside his jacket, he pulled out two knives and reached them out with the handles in Dales' direction.

"Here, your Majesty, as a sign of good will. You can have these until this meeting is concluded," he gave her a warm smile. "And do not worry about the drink, we'd both prefer to keep out heads clear for the time being. I do have a little something I keep on my person, should you want to taste the Jazbay Wine of Skyrim. But that will have to wait until we conclude the formal business."

Dales face lit up like a child during the night of the "snow-festival", and took the daggers with glee, and started to examine them.

"Very finely made, balanced" She started to twirl them expertly around the air, she asked "Forgive me Samuel for being so off-topic, but do you use these for throwing?"

 "Multipurpose tools, your Majesty," Samuel continued to smile as he sat straight backed on the foot of her bed, looking at her child-like fascination with what looked like it was something akin to fascination of his own. Perhaps he hadn't expected her to be quite what she turned out to be? She couldn't tell. "They are made to be thrown, but I prefer to strike from the shadows, up close and personal. If I have to use them that is. These daggers are still virgins, never having tasted blood, and I hope it can stay that way for as long as possible."


Dales placed the knives on the table, and took a sip of her fruit juice. 

"Now back to business, I will be requiring your services for multiple reasons, sir-" She yawned and stretched her arms out and began to rub her eyes tiredly. She hadn't realized how exhausted she was until now,

"OH, forgive me Samuel, I didn't realize how tired I was. Very long day."

"Of course, you Majesty. I completely understand. It is to be expected, when you use that much time on- what was her name again? Ah, yes- Nami. An odd choice for an Empress, but nothing I did not expect of you." 

He kept his friendly demeanor, but didn't make any hint to want to partake in the refreshments she had offered. Maybe he considered it too childish. Or maybe he simply wasn't thirsty. If he had a flack of wine on him, he might have other things as well to sate his thirst.

That caused Dales face to adapt a shocked look, and she blurted out,


She covered her mouth, just realizing that she lost her composure, she got up and bowed her head,

"Forgive me for that outburst master Samuel, it was quite...rude of me." She started thinking to herself,

Do I really want to marry Nami?...I was willing to marry Elan...but that was when I was ignorant and childish. I'ce always thought, I would have to marry some lord...now that I think about...I think it would be..very nice to marry Nami...very nice...I...want to.

"Ummmm... strictly hypothetically, master Samuel...would it be...ummm acceptable for a lady of my stature...marrying another lady?"

"There is no need to pretend to be speaking hypothetically, your Majesty. I am fully aware of, and don't pass judgment on, your 'preferences'. And don't worry about the outburst, I may have stepped to far. Bad habit, as I am sure you understand. As for the question itself, I'd say no, that would be unacceptable for someone of your stature. You're expected to continue the bloodline. Concubines would be acceptable, as far as I know."

Dales, calm face was once again filled with shock at those words,  "HUH!!? WHAT?! CONCUBINE!?" Dales put her hand to her mouth once again, and said

""Oh sorry about that Samuel...Hmmm could I get by...hypothetically...with adoption?"

"Yes, I'd say that is possible, but not recommended. Alas, the bloodline is highly important in Cyrodilic tradition, giving anyone who was adopted a hard time claiming their right to the throne. It could weaken the Empire further, by starting another conflict for the Ruby Throne. While I wouldn't advocate getting a husband in the immediate future, I do recommend that you take this information to heart before you act."

He gave her an understanding smile, as if to say that it was okay for her to be a little shocked and embarrassed on this topic and that he didn't mind. "And don't let the comments about concubines get to you, that is just a... person who you have relations with, while being on the throne and not married to them. Most people seem to be fine with it. And I am sure there are plenty of people who wouldn't mind rumors of the Empress having... unorthodox tastes."

"Ah...I thought a concubine was a woman who's treated like an object by the royalty. Ah it seems I have a great deal to think about then...I...just don't like men in that kind of way."

Dales slowly reached into her pocket, and took out a diamond ring. She looked depressed and very tired.

"You do know I was going to propose to a girl once? My maid. It was in Skyrim. I'm just starting to realize how stupid and childish it would have been to do that. A woman like me has no time for stuff like that, and here I am again, doing the same thing."

"Some concubines as treated like that, but it is not limited to that. But don't be so hard on yourself, you Majesty, you are still young and, forgive be for being so blunt, still quite naive. A few more years on the throne should give you the perspective you seem to want.”

Samuel reached into his pocket and took out a simple ring of his own. It was nothing like the one Dales had; it was a brass ring, with the name Fiona carved into it. "Here, take this. It is a token from a time when I let something similar cloud my judgment. Take it as a reminder that it is more universal than most people want to admit."

Though the material wealth of it didn't shine, by his mannerism and words, she knew this ring meant alot to Samuel sentimentally, she was stunned,

"Thank you...thank you Samuel. I will keep it as a reminder, duty comes first."

"Now," Samuel gave her a last warm smile, before he became more professional and business-like in his tone and expression. "You mentioned that you needed my services. First I need to know what you know about my services. If I don't find anything wrong or suspicious about your answer, we can move on to the specifics. And I want to warn you, in good faith, that I am an excellent reader of people; I've done it since before you were born."

"Hmmmm, I know your an information a broker, a damm good one so I hear." Dales soft-girly voice she used in private, reverted back to her "Empress" voice, the one she used in public. "And I also know you have a massive network of spy's and "employees" scattered across many provinces."

"That is about as much as anyone knows, at least of those who know of me. A fair answer. I suspect you know this from Magdela Bathory?"

"And Duke Lorgar Grim-maw, the both of them where discussing you, they merely told me you where a source of information. I did some research and and figured the rest out myself."

Samuel raised an eyebrow. "Research?"

"I asked around, a few nobles, a few guards, a few servants....some maids..."

Samuel had gotten a suspicious expression, looking on the young Empress. It was a little unnerving. "I need you to tell me exactly what they said. In case I have leaks in my system, of course. If I have, I will be of very diminished use to you."

"That...really depends on the individual. Some of them said you where an extremely handy and reliable person and source of information...others had some "less-then flattering" things to say about you"

"I am not interested in the specifics of their opinion on me, but what they showed to know about me. It is important that you tell me, or else I might be forced to cut this meeting short, investigate this and return when that is done. It would waste a lot of time, for both of us."

"OH, all of them didn't know anything except you where an extremely good information Broker." 

For a moment Samuel looked at her, with strangely intense eyes, before they returned back to normal. "I believe that you are telling me the truth. Good, good. Now, since that has been established, please do go on to the specifics of what you want to get out of this business transaction."

Dales eye's glared sharply, and it if one looked closely her eyes had a slight red hue to them, which wasn't normal.  She dug her nails into her hand before saying in a emotionless voice, "Let's get this clear Samuel, I trust my advisor and Spymaster with my life, but sometimes I think they aren't telling me everything...so I want you to inform me of any dominion troop movements, dominion plans, and nay sort of "operation" those pointy eared bastards plan to do."

"That is going to be difficult to acquire, even for me. And very expensive for you. The risks involved with spying on the Dominion Military are vast. To ensure that my network there is not crippled, I can only offer you an incomplete picture. The Thalmor are so established in their lands that they can rival my own contacts."

"Are coffers are overflowing, due to that bastards taxation of the people. Even now, when i'm trying to return it to where it belongs, I can still afford it."

"Of course, I did not mean to imply you had a lack of money. Only that the money might be better spent elsewhere, than on the incomplete picture I can try to acquire. While this would be a very lucrative transaction on my end, I am ill served with the Dominion getting more influence in the Empire. I would prefer that you speak to your teacher about this, before making any final decisions."

"Teacher Pffftttt..."

Dales sighed, "I suppose then, i'll take it up with him and Lorgar..."

"Yes, your Majesty, I think that would be for the best. Neither of us want to see the Dominion win, so any wasted resource is a dent in the Empire."

"Alright then...we have no further business then, if you don't mind, I would like to catch up on some missing sleep" She said, with a smile.

"Of course, your Majesty. I'll see myself out."

With a quick movement, Samuel had gotten to his feet and gave a small bow to her, before he turned to the door. Once it opened, he was no longer anywhere to be seen and even Dales' ears couldn't detect his footsteps.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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Boldir and Carlotta

Boldir twirled his war axe as he walked down the streets of the Plains District, donning his Nordic Carved armor, which he was happy to have been allowed to keep in his retirement from the military. It certainly added to his already large frame to make Boldir an extremely imposing figure for a guard, even for a Commander.

It'd been a slow day for him. Not a single crime had been reported. Of course, crime rates had dropped considerably in the weeks following him taking his position. On his second week, he'd rounded up the few suspected criminals living in the city and given them the what-for. No arrests were made. Boldir just gathered them together and made it explicitly clear to them what would happen if crimes persisted. Since then, crime rate has plummeted. Not that it was particularly high to begin with in the city anyway. The biggest problem was bandits. The roads were safe enough, but northwest of the city was an old ruin, known in the area as Silent Moons Camp, that a clan called the Half-Moons was holed up in. He knew that he and his guard would have to take care of it sooner or later. Clans like this have a tendency to grow cocky and dangerous when left alone for too long. Boldir still had time, and he decided that his first order of business tomorrow would be to go to the Jarl and see about putting together a force to deal with the problem.
Too bad Baldur isn't here. he thought. He'd want a hand in that. Rebec too. Boldir had found himself thinking that a lot lately. "Rebec would've found this hilarious", "Baldur would've wanted to see that". He really tried not to think about it too much. It was too sad. But Boldir really couldn't help it. They'd become a part of his life and he felt like something important was missing with them gone. What made him feel worse was the book Baldur had given him. Boldir had tried many times to add to it, but every time he tried, he found himself unable to think of what to write. Eventually, he'd stopped carrying it and sat it down by his bedside and left it there, hoping that something would eventually come to him.

Pushing the depressing thoughts from his mind, Boldir made his way to the market. It was closing time, and most of the stall owners were already packing up. "Hello Miss Iron-Brow." He said, planting a kiss on his wife's cheek when he reached her fruit stand. "Sell well today?"
Carlotta smiled when she felt Boldir kiss her. "See for yourself." She said, gesturing at the near-empty fruit stand. "I'm going to have to talk to Nimriel tomorrow morning about restocking. Usually the stores don't get this low."
"That's great! Said Boldir. He rewarded her with another kiss. "At this rate, maybe we should look into upgrading to a larger house some time." He stacked most of her crates and started for their home.
"Yeah right." said Carlotta, following him. "Fruit only covers so much and I know you don't get paid that well."
"Not yet." admitted Boldir. "But I may be getting paid more soon. And if we save a bit..."
"Tell you what, you start making more money, and prove to me that you have enough, and I'll consider it. Until then, we stay in our current home." she paused for a moment, thinking. "Why is it that you may be getting paid more soon?"
Boldir hesitated. He knew Carlotta wouldn't take this well. "You know how there's not a lot of crime in Whiterun City right?"
"Yes." said Carlotta. She was curious as to where this was going.
"Well... that leaves bandits as the only threat to the city."
"Bandits?! You aren't going to go out and fight bandits now are you?"
Boldir looked at her guiltily. "Carlotta, I promised you that I was not going off to fight in a war, but this is my job. You supported it."
She couldn't believe what she was hearing. "I supported you keeping the peace IN the city, where there never has been much danger to begin with! How am I going to explain it to Mila when you get dragged back with an arrow in your chest?"
"Honey, if these bandits were capable of killing me, I wouldn't have survived fighting the trained Imperials in the war, or the Elves in Falkreath. I was fighting bandits tougher than these when I was only eighteen and even then I managed. There are only a dozen or so of them. We'll outnumber them and every man at my side will be more skilled than they are."
Carlotta still wasn't convinced. "All it would take is one mistake."
Boldir adjusted how he was holding the crates as they made their way up the stairs to the Wind District. "I've done this many times. Trust me, there won't be a mistake."
"Why can't you just send some people?" pleaded Carlotta. "You don't have to go you know."
Boldir looked momentarily thrown off. The thought of sending people into a battle without going himself had never crossed his mind. He'd have been disgusted with himself if he had. "No self-respecting Nord would ever send men to fight a battle if he is not willing to do it himself. And if I don't go, the men may very well make a mistake. They need leadership or they'll fall apart. I'm the most experienced man on the force, if I go, there will be less chance of anyone getting hurt." He wasn't bragging. It was simply the truth.
Carlotta rolled her eyes. "You Nords... Damn it Boldir, you know how I feel about this. And Mila-"
"You should let him Mom!" Boldir and Carlotta turned to see Mila behind them, waiting beside the wall.
"Mila!" said Boldir. "How many times are we going to have to talk to you about sneaking around and eavesdropping?"
"I'm trying to help you!" the girl said.
"That doesn't excuse disobedience." said Boldir. "This is grown-up talk. You shouldn't be hearing it." Carlotta nodded in agreement.
"I'm almost thirteen!" she pouted. "And everyone says that I'm mature for my age!"
Boldir smiled. He had a hard time staying mad at his daughter. She may have been born an Imperial, but growing up in Skyrim had made her a Nord. "You're right. You aren't as much of a child as we sometimes act. Nevertheless, this is not anything you should be hearing. It's a private conversation."
Mila turned her head, looking back the way they'd came from. "Then why did you have it out here in public?" she said with a straight face. It was difficult to tell if she was genuinely unsure, or if she was being smart with them.
Boldir and Carlotta looked at each other, Boldir was grinning, neither had expected that question. Before Boldir could speak, Carlotta said, "I told you ten minutes ago to go home and wash up before dinner." She looked up and down at her daughter, who was anything but clean. "You shouldn't have even been out here to begin with."
Mila looked down at her feet. "I'm sorry." she grumbled. She immediately looked back up at her parents, eyes wide. "But you really should let him go Mamma! It'll be sooo cool if he fights bandits! A lot cooler than what he does now."
"Do you even know what he does now?" inquired Carlotta.
"Sure I do! I've watched him sometimes. Dad usually just sits around up there with the Jarl and talks about stuff. Every now and then he patrols, but he doesn't ever do anything when he is."
Carlotta laughed. It was about what she expected to hear. Though at the back of her mind she was a little disturbed that Mila found the idea of killing bandits "cool".
They reached their house at the end of the road. Carlotta held the door for Boldir as he entered the house and sat the crates on the table in the kitchen. "I can assure you, I do more than that." he said. Now go get cleaned up so we can go eat."
"Okay!" she said before slipping off, hopefully to do as told this time.
"She's growing up." said Carlotta.
"She's even grown up since I first met her." said Boldir. "If we're not careful, she'll be smarter than us before long."
Carlotta laughed. "I was actually thinking the same thing." She turned to Boldir. "I don't like the idea of you fighting bandits, but you're right. They'll be nothing compared to what you've already done. I'll give you my approval to go, on one condition."
Boldir was surprised. He'd been worried that she wouldn't be willing to compromise. "What is it love?"
"If I let you go... We will go visit my family in Riften soon."
Boldir's shoulders drooped. Of all the things. "Carlotta, you know where I stand on this. We can't go to Riften. The trip... it is too dangerous. Especially for Mila."
"Oh are you afraid that some big bad monster is going to get us on the way now?" she mocked. "I thought that worrying was my job."
Boldir sighed. "It's more complicated than that. When I was younger, about twenty, a bounty was put on my head in the Rift. It's true, I've been there since, but I was careful, and I didn't have you two."
Carlotta looked surprised. This was the first she'd heard of this. They'd been married for three months now and she was still learning new secrets about Boldir's past. I love him, but damn if he isn't private. "A bounty? A bounty for what? desertion? That's around the time you left the Legion right?"
"I'd broken the terms of the White Gold Concordat, and of course, I deserted. But I also killed someone during that time. A civilian. So you can add murder to the list."
"Murder?" She knew that there was more to it. "But you didn't actually murder him did you?"
"Well, he was dangerous, and it had to happen, but yes, legally it was murder. You have to understand Carlotta, it was a long time ago."
"Say no more Boldir. You don't have to explain it to me." She smiled. "But do you really look at all like you did twenty years ago?"
"I'm bigger, older, have hair, and am not wearing a skirt, so no, I suppose I don't." Boldir admitted. "And anyone that would recognize me is either long gone or wouldn't give me up anyway." Boldir pondered it for a minute. "Alright, you've convinced me. You let me deal with these bandits, and I'll go with you to Riften. Iron-Brow wasn't my name back then anyway, so that'll help even more." He smiled back at her and sat at the table. "So what's your family like?"
Carlotta started washing her hands in the water basin in the corner. She chuckled a bit when Boldir asked about her family. "It's got its characters, that's for sure. My big sister, Vex, she's a sly one, you'll have to look out for her. Aerin, my little brother, is hardly around. He's always running around with some Nord woman. I'm really not sure what their relationship is though. You'll like dad, he's a retired city guard, and my mom is a healer. She's usually in the temple of Mara."
Boldir nodded. "Sounds like it'll be fun. I can honestly say that I'm looking forward to this trip." He thought about his own family, or rather, his shield family. It was the same to him. "I'd better send a letter to Markarth to tell Baldur and Rebec that we'll be in Riften, so they don't try to write to us here."
"That's a good idea. We wouldn't want to lose contact with them." Carlotta dried her hands on a nearby towel. "I'm going to go check on Mila, make sure she's getting ready."
"Good." said Boldir. "I'm getting hungry."
As Carlotta left the room, Boldir looked up at his plaque on the wall above the door. It was his old battle axe, or at least the shards and handle. He'd never fixed it, deciding instead to mount the broken pieces as a reminder, of both the old days, and of his promise to Carlotta. He couldn't help but feel a little guilty about the bandits, even if she'd consented. Boldir knew that he was pushing his promise with this. No. I'm not doing it because I want to this time. I'm doing it because it's part of my job.
He stood up, reassured, and went to his room to grab the book Baldur had given him. His neglection of it made him feel almost as bad as the bandit ordeal had. He brought a quill down to the blank page, thinking hard. After several minutes, he cursed and closed the book. Something will come to me eventually.
Boldir sat back, putting the book into his satchel, deciding that he'd begin to carry it again. He then pulled out his flute. He eyed it for a minute. "Anyone in there?" He whispered. Of course, there was no answer. There hadn't been one since he'd left Falkreath. Oh well, may as well get some practice in while I've got a free moment. Boldir began to play, piecing together the upbeat tune he'd been secretly working on as of late. It was a birthday song for Mila. It was only a week until she turned thirteen. He sat back, it would be a few minutes before the girls got back and they could go eat. Until then, he was content to sit back and make a little music as he waited.

"If you know me you know I don't keep up with the times. I just go with the flow." - Woody Copeland, life coach

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