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located in Skyrim, a part of Skyrim: The Mentor & The Sellswords, one of the many universes on RPG.

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Character Portrait: Sinderion Direnni Character Portrait: The Representatives
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Despite their fears, the group managed to leave the city of Riften without causing any incident, apart from the scuffle at the Bee and Barb, during which the bard never actually stopped his singing. They took the road north from Riften, passing through Shor's Stone on the first day and turning west shortly thereafter, entering the southern reaches of Eastmarch, though they would not pass particularly close to the Stormcloak capital of Windhelm. They held their westerly course towards Whiterun, and it was there, in the forest along the shores of the White River, that they camped during the second night of their return voyage to Solitude.



Chapter IV
A Nest of Vipers




The second night of the journey, Sinderion had once again left the rest to spend time in the forest, mostly to figure something out. He had a thought (several, actually) that he wished to express, and while such things had never come easily to him, they only grew more difficult with time, it seemed, and this was important enough that he needed to think about it beforehand. Being in the calmest frame of mind he could manage when he actually said it would help as well, perhaps. Presently, he'd ceased his running, having drawn once more close to the edge of the camp, and sat against the trunk of a large tree, half-rotted and gnarled with age. He could smell the disease inside of it, wearing away at its center. The arbor had not long for the world, and perhaps that was why he'd chosen it. Knees drawn up, he'd draped his arms over them, head tipped back so that his crown rested on the deadened bark, giving him an interrupted view of the evening sky.

If he'd ever doubted his own cowardice, such reservations were laid to rest here. He had something to say, he knew more or less how he wanted to say it, and still he could not. He suspected that this was because doing so would necessitate an admission that he was loath to make. His weakness was something that he could usually let linger in the periphery, to be understood but not acknowledged. Not so, if he wished to demonstrate his point, and it seemed important that he do so. Unfortunately, need was not the harbinger of desire, and simplicity did not follow from something being essential. Sighing, he rubbed his face with both hands, pulling the loose hairs from his face and letting his fingers tangle in the rest. He should retie the tail, he thought absently, but banished it. Delay would serve nothing, nor would trying to change the subject, even to himself. Still, he loosed and removed the leather cord that tied the mass in place, making his lean that much more comfortable.

"Damn it to Obilvion."

Where Sinder ran, Maya instead chose to hunt, and to that end, a pair of hares hung from her belt as she made her way back towards the camp, her footsteps naturally light and carefully placed, but not with the effort of being currently in the act of stalking prey. Her hood was drawn up over her head, her back to the moonlight making her face currently a nonexistant visage of darkness. The hares had arrow wounds clean through them, but the arrows themselves were gone, and the witch did not carry any. One of the benefits of using weapons only temporarily called into the world. Of course, the glowing purple nature of the projectiles meant she had to summon the bow itself just before the kill, but she'd done this enough times to know how to succeed.

In truth she had left camp that night to think rather than hunt, but found that once she was out there, she really didn't want to. She needed to know more, but the very nature of the Game made each step one that had to be taken into an abyss. She was continuing to remind herself that she needed to be on her guard more. There was a distinct possibility that her own hunter would come for her long before these Sellswords were asked to kill her. She only knew a little: it was not Stonehammer, for her had been in search of the Spymaster; it was not the Horizon, for he would have taken his chance in Falkreath otherwise; it was not the Omen, for she hunted him, and it was not the Shade, for he hunted the Inquisitor. That left far too many names for her to be comfortable with.

She stumbled upon one of her Altmer companions as she nearly reached camp, and she was glad to see that it was Sinderion, not the new arrival. She still felt she had little idea what to expect from the Psijic. She wouldn't have put it past the Inquisitor to send a spy, if he somehow knew what was now in motion. Still, familial bonds had to count for something. Bah, as if she would know.

"Poor thing," she said quietly, stopping next to the tree and putting her palm gently against it. Apparently not too moved, however, she soon turned and leaned back against it, tilting her head back to look up towards the night sky. "Beautiful night, for once." It was rather still for a Skyrim night, no howling wind or cascading snowfall.

Sinder's nostrils flared, the scent of blood and raw meat obvious and none-too-comforting at present. Still, he supposed it was preferable to some things, and might actually make things easier-- he still had a visceral negative reaction to hers. It was too close to something else. Universally bad with small talk in any situation whatsoever, he found he didn't have much of a response for the musing, though for what good it was, he did try. "I... yes, I suppose. Thunderstorms in spring are preferable, though." Those tended to dampen his perception, at least a little bit. Hard to hear anything else when the lashing of rain was so loud, and rain was one of the most pleasant odors he knew. They were also wild, in a way that bid him out-of-doors, even when everyone else was inclined to be bundled tightly somewhere warm. When he'd still lived at the manor, he'd often simply leave when they arrived, and the Mentor had always seemed to understand...

He shook himself. That was not the kind of track he needed to be taking right now. Between going there and delivering his warning, he actually had good reason to prefer the latter, cowardice or no. "What do you get for this?" he asked, tone perhaps describable as miserable, though not ostentatiously so. It was the slow, pulsing misery that lay underneath the languid heartbeats before death or slumber. His, anyway. "Say for a moment that you do win. What does Hircine recieve, and what do you, aside from keeping your life?" He was curious despite himself. What, apart from devotion so fanatical he couldn't pretend to understand it (or could he? was it not the reason for everything?) could possibly motivate anyone to do this?

He shifted slightly, folding his legs and lowering his knees until he was more or less crosslegged, palms resting on the dead leaves beneath him, as if he were trying to anchor himself to the spot. Maybe not so far from the right of it.

She was silent for a moment, her arms folding together across her chest as she thought of how best to reply. "I certainly do not claim to know what my Lord would receive should I be victorious. Our struggles are petty things to the Daedra, and things that have value to us may not have value to them. It is not my place to know the terms of their agreement in this Game." She shifted herself, moving her weight onto the other foot.

"As for my own reward... have you ever been forced to take something on faith? Not asked, but forced? The Representatives did not volunteer, they were chosen. They were faithful to the last, and I don't doubt that I am among the most loyal to my Lord in this land, but when Hircine informed me that I would be participating under his name, there was no offer, there were no questions asked. I was informed of my selection, I was told where to go and when to be there. I was trained, I met the majority of my competitors, and you know the rest."

She turned her head to ensure that no one else was overhearing the conversation. Not that she planned on saying anything particularly important, she simply liked to know when she was alone. "I still believe that this is the greatest honor I will receive in my life, and I am grateful that I was chosen, but the choice was Hircine's, and not mine. I do not doubt that the reward he would bestow upon me would be worth the time and the effort I have devoted in preparation, at the very least. I take that on faith because I have to."

Sinder snorted, shaking his head. He supposed she probably did. Then again, she didn't much seem to mind, which he hardly understood. Still... "If you want to find out, you should leave," he pointed out flatly. "I'm sure you could convince the archer and the warrior to go with you. Not as many, but more survivable." He paused, hands clenching in the dampened leaves. "You might be right, about us. We might not listen to the Shade if he told us to slay you. Now. But we're unravelling at the seams, and we will not maintain even this much of our stability for long. You can joke about the 'fire' in Drayk's eyes all you want, it's still dangerous. Vanryth just started a fight he would have easily ignored two weeks ago, and you saw him with the Shade. Adrienne might last longer, but if she broke, we wouldn't know until it was far too late. I'm..." He stared hard at some point in the middle distance.

"I'm coming apart. Sometimes, I almost forget how to speak. I had to practice this. Every day, it's closer. I will succumb, it's only a question of when. And when we've lost everything else, the only thing we'll remember is how much we need him. The Shade knows it. I know it. In their secret hearts, I'm sure the others know it as well. You don't have to take us on faith, and I'm asking you not to." More hesitation. "I don't... I don't want to kill you, but if I'm that far gone and the Shade tells me to hunt you, I just might. I'd hope you could kill me first, but that won't happen if you're not far enough away to see us coming."

There, that was it. He was crumbling, and he knew it. He needed to warn her, them really, as much as it made his imminent failure all that much more real to him. Anirne... he'd talk to her later, when he could figure out how to tell his only living relative just what kind of monster he was.

She let him speak, not trying to stop him at any point. She'd learned that there was a danger he would simply stop speaking, forget as he said, if she got in the way. She did, however, sink down towards the ground, tucking her knees to her and folding her arms neatly around them, pulling her hood away from her head. She knew his words to be true. The Master... no, Mentor, the Master she had known never would have stooped to bother with them, had truly collected a broken group. That they would simply unravel without him was painful to watch, and it could be watched, day by day.

"So then what's the point of waiting?" she asked, growing suddenly more animated. "You don't want to kill me, I don't want to die. You say you're unraveling... the Game will not be done in a few days, or a few weeks. You will have to travel across this land a dozen times over to find and kill all in your way. If you don't think you can last that long, why bother trying?" She suddenly rolled over onto her knees in front of him, leaning towards him slightly. A small flash of purple light accompanied the conjuration of a dagger in her hand, which she flipped over backwards and held towards his throat, slow enough to not seem like an attack.

"Perhaps you should let me just kill you now, while you still have the choice. Avoid the pain. I can do it for the others too, if they think their future as bleak as yours. Would it not be easier than tracking me across the land and hoping against hope I can bring down a werewolf before he is upon me?" Though she almost had the knife up against his throat, her posture still wasn't threatening, but something else entirely. "If that is truly what you want, just say the word. Me, I know what I want, and it doesn't involve any of us dying."

For the first few seconds, Sinderion was entirely dumbstruck, unable to do much more than level a wide-eyed stare at the witch, swallowing tightly as the dagger drew closer. Not, unfortunately, for the reason he should have been wary of its presence, and indeed, once he had adequately processed the situation, he cracked a crooked, bitter smile, something that suited his face oddly-well for someone who usually expressed next to nothing. Silently, he moved both hands, leveling the first near his head and bracing his index finger against his thumb, leaving the other three digits upright. The other actually moved the dagger closer, so that the point of it rested at the hollow of his throat, touching but not breaking the skin there. "Thrice," he said softly, eyes flickering to his hand just for an instant before returning to hers. "I know what it's like to be a desparate man, Maya, and thrice have I attempted exactly what you suggest. And every single time, it has stopped me, because it refuses to allow me to die. If only the solution were so simple as that."

In fact, they were presently close enough that she couldn't fail to notice that even the proximity of something so close to his throat was beginning to work changes on him-- Sinder's pupils were blown until they nearly eclipsed his irises, leaving only the faintest rim of blue, and the hand that rested behind hers on the conjured blade's pommel had acquired steely claws. "Do you really want to meet it? You're welcome to try, I suppose. After all, what's the point in waiting?" Somewhere, in the far recesses of his mind, that part of himself that he hated was quite nearly delirious with anitcipation, but Sinderion himself was rather hoping that what he was doing here was calling her bluff, not risking an appearance of the beast this close to the others. He supposed the next few moments would tell him something he needed to know, anyway, and he could not deny that the portion of his personality that had always resented his iron-clad self-control was quite happy reveling in the danger of the possibilities.

Which was probably where the challenging smirk was coming from, in retrospect, because on an ordinary day, he would not have dared any of it. Too bad none of his days were ordinary anymore.

There really was no point in waiting, was there? What had been a rather intense look on her face fell away to a raised eyebrow and a glint in her eye. "I think I do want to meet it." Her next actions were lightning quick; she lunged forward, slamming the knife into the tree behind them with one hand, the other hand sliding around the back of Sinder's neck and pulling him to her, kissing him and pressing herself up against him.

Well, that appeared to have done it for rational-Sinderion and beast-Sinderion, perhaps simply shocking all of his usual faculties into cognitive silence. That left somewhat bitter, reckless Sinderion, and he at least wasn't complaining. Honestly, he'd been half-expecting to wake up in another four years and find everyone around him dead, so this was... quite nice, actually. Not that he was thinking about it much; his hands, which had been torn from the dagger and dropped uselessly to his side, respectively, threaded into Maya's dark hair, and for the moment at least, he was quite content with where he was.

At least until he properly came to realize what he was doing, and why he should absolutely not be doing it. The Altmer's eyes, which had fallen shut, snapped open, bright with his (flawed, but better than the alternative) humanity, and he stiffened, pulling back as far as his positioning would allow. For someone of such a tawny color, he was doing quite the impression of a beet at present, particularly across his cheekbones and the bridge of his nose. He had a feeling the point had been lost in here somewhere, but he honestly wasn't in any state to go trying to find it. His mouth worked ineffectually for a few moments, until it clicked shut and he took a deep breath, shaking his head as if to rid himself of some phantom thought. Obilvion take it all, truly.

Of course, now that he'd gone and done that, he had nothing to say for himself. "I... you... why would you do that? I can't.." In retrospect, even Sinder would realize that this was not the question he should have asked, but he certainly didn't know what was.

She'd expected the response, but to be honest, not the initial one. The one that had been there for just a moment, before he'd locked up and pushed her away. Which meant that had actually gone better than she thought it would. She leaned back away from him to give him some room, sitting back on her heels. "If my time's as short as we both seem to think it is, then for once in my life I'm going to use it to make my own choices. And... well, that got rid of your dreaded beast right quick, didn't it?"

Maya stood, pleased with herself, adjusting her robe slightly. "I'll see you tomorrow, Sinder. Sleep well." And she sauntered off back towards the camp, leaving the elf to bury his face in his hands and try to figure out just how a warning had turned into that.