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Morrowind's Salvation

Morrowind, Tamriel

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a part of Morrowind's Salvation, by Imehal.

None

Imehal holds sovereignty over Morrowind, Tamriel, giving them the ability to make limited changes.

215 readers have been here.

Setting

had made no mention of Lord Peryonai's feelings on the matter, so he assumed the Lord of Kiltheon wasn't even aware of the situation, or the fact that his Thane was going out to enemy territory to speak on his behalf. Despite that Alexander Peryonai had long been his family's enemy and rival, he was a highly intelligent man. The offer of marriage would not be quickly dismissed; not before considering all sides of the deal and speaking to his daughter. Though Nathaniel knew him personally very little, he doubted the Lord would appreciate hot-headed young men storming into enemy fortresses throwing around accusations and attempting to control the situation without first consulting him.

“From now on, if Kiltheon wishes to send a Taerohim to Isler, tell them they had better send your father.”

Thane Damien Ulrius had permanently barred himself from Kiltheon that day, thought the Isleri Imperial.

Damien wordlessly slid his chair back sedately, eyes never leaving the seething lord, gaze measured and unreadable. Was he that same child? Occasionally, but there had always been something about Nathaniel Quentier's attitude that had riled him up precisely the wrong way. In truth, if he dug deep, he knew it was because somehow, he knew that the situation was bad enough without the Lord of Isler believing that Alexander Peryonai would actually consider this farce of a proposal.

He had been shaken enough to almost want to tell the lord of Isler that the letter that he thought safely on his way to Kiltheon was actually neatly folded in his belt pouch, opening his mouth for barely a second before closing it again. To say that would be to potentially sign his own death warrant, regardless of whether he wore the symbol or not. This union would make or break Isler and Damien did not dare underestimate the lengths that this man would go to achieve that goal.

Without breaking gaze with Nathaniel, Damien wrapped his left hand's fingers around the rough slanted star that was the symbol of the Taerohim, before looking towards the guards in turn, raising an eyebrow in bemusement. They were hesitant, which was good. It meant they feared something and rightfully so. If not that Taerohim's influence, then what the thane would do to them if they tried to force him out the doors.

“As you wish, my lord,” Damien acquiesced sedately with a deep bow as he rose to stand, as if he had not just inspired the ire of one who had the power to end his life without consequence, right here, right now. “I'll leave you with a warning about what is to come...”

There was a sound of a door opening just after the thane had finished speaking and with a jerk of his head to the left, those who had entered were revealed. And oh, wasn't her face just a picture, somewhere between livid and shell-shocked.

“... Ah, my lady. I see you are well.” It was nice to one-up her for once, Damien grinning despite the situation's dire turn to award the lady a half-bow in greeting.

He saw no good health in the woman that stood a few dozen feet away. Sophia Peryonai looked wan, docile and though it disgusted him to even think it, rather pathetic standing there, especially when stood beside the morose but stoic servant who seemed to be her escort.

A flash of defiant rage sprang forth from the lady, sparking something within to life momentarily as her grip tightened around the glass vial that she held by the neck in her hands. Grey eyes fixated upon him, ignoring all else entirely for the moment. It cheered Damien somewhat to know that even after everything, he could still wipe away nearly all else in the world and get Sophia's focus entirely upon him. Manners appeared to be only just remembered, the lady managing a sharp curtsey towards both lord and thane whilst pressing her lips together, evidently trying to stop herself from speaking prematurely.

Very much not wanting to have both Nathaniel and Sophia's white hot rage turned into vocal acid against him, Damien turned his attention back towards the lord of Isler, leaving his sentence left incomplete. "My lord, it is always a pleasure," he offered before turning to leave with the two guards peacefully.

Grey, watchful eyes never left Damien until he had exited the great hall and only when the doors had closed did Sophia turn her gaze on Nathaniel Quentier, apparently unsettled as he at the thane's appearance.

Nathaniel waited until the enemy Thane had left before saying anything. He counted a slow ten seconds after the door closed, just to make sure the other man wasn't within hearing distance, then glanced over at Sophia. “Lady Peryonai, please have a seat,” he said wearily, falling back into his chair, figure slumped over the table. What a mess, he thought. What a huge mess this had all turned into.

Nathaniel despised Damien Ulrius, and he had ever since his father had taken the boy in as part of the peace treaty. At the time, Nathaniel had been in his prime, and war and politics meant he was rarely at Isler Castle. However, every time he returned, there Damien had been, with his child-like petulance, always skulking around and causing trouble for everyone. Seeing him as an adult had not changed Nathaniel's opinion much, except maybe to make him think he'd grown from a petulant child into a petulant adult, which was a hundred times worse. Now the Thane was in a position of power. He could skulk around all he wanted, and he had a position where people actually listened to him now. That could explain Damien's ego, he thought with a sardonic smile.

Damien truly believed what he had said, and Nathaniel couldn't deny it made sense. Yes, Lord Peryonai might refuse to give his daughter away on the ground that she had been kidnapped by one of Nathaniel's subjects. That was certainly true. What Damien hadn't considered was that, with or without Alexander's blessing, Nathaniel would wed Sophia. She had agreed, and in his mind, that was all he needed. Once they were wed, it would be too late. If Alexander chose to attack, he'd be attacking his own daughter.

“You look tired, my love,” said Nathaniel, reaching across the table to take Sophia's hands. “Maybe some good news will make you feel better.”

He smiled, the lines around his eyes deepening. “Tomorrow evening, at sundown, we shall be wed.”

Sophia's gaze, which had wandered to the door that the thane had left through, snapped back to the lord at his declaration, unabashedly speechless. Yesterday he had talked of fur collars, great gatherings and now, tomorrow? Tomorrow. Her fingers tightened around the neck of the lead vial that seemed to be serving a dual purpose as a stress reliever, shifting their joined hands so that he had to accept the object and most importantly, release her.

I will never, ever, marry you. His love? Sophia was nothing of Nathaniel Quentier's except prisoner. “As do you, frequently, so I made this. A cap full of it a few hours before slumber should at least give you untroubled nights, even if the day's demons cannot be staved from our doors.”

It was all Sophia could do not to call him a hypocrite and a liar; things that he had persecuted her so heavily for only two days ago. Again, her grey and unusually thoughtful eyes flickered back to the door. It was beyond impossible that any courier that the lord had sent would return that fast, let alone her father come to a decision within scarce minutes. Unless he said no of course. Her smile was open, source secret, her face shockingly pale though her eyes, as ever, were a clear peek into what she was truly feeling.

She often tried to mediate this by looking to the floor, but that just made deception from her achingly obvious. Thankfully, Nathaniel Quentier hardly knew her at all, so she could be staring right at him and he would not know if the feelings displayed were truth or lie. The fact that she would either speak truth or refuse to say anything to the lord of Isler from this moment forth made that quite redundant.

“How did you realise Mercy was me, if I may ask?” Sophia enquired, picking up the apple that the thane had discarded, bemused by the man's presence in the wake of her fading anger as his audacity to come here alone. There would be time to think on that particular bewildering matter later. So far, it had been to her detriment to try and think elsewhere when dealing with Lord Quentier. That mistake would not be made again.

Nathaniel let go of Sophia's hands, weighing the vial thoughtfully in his fingers. He watched the liquid flow back and forth as he tilted it, eyes clouded over, clearly lost in another place. Finally, he said "How... thoughtful of you" and slipped the vial into a breast pocket of his tunic. Never before had Sophia shown any kind of concern for him. Was she finally beginning to warm up to him? He glanced at her with a hopeful smile and stood briskly.

"Now, now. I can't share all my secrets with you, can I? Tomorrow night, when I am sure we are on the same side, you may ask me anything you like. Until then," said Nathaniel, who patted the breast pocket which held the elixir she had given him. "thank you for the thoughtful gift. Expect a seamstress later to fit you for your wedding gown. I have many arrangements to make for our happy day tomorrow."

The imperial smiled brightly and strode through the door, just as Agro entered. The swordsman bowed deeply, head lowered until the older man had left and the door was firmly shut behind him. After a long pause, he straightened his long, thin body and smiled coldly at Sophia, his black eyes reading her features as if she were an open book.

"A sleep aid?" he asked, stroking his thin beard. "How interestingly thoughtful of you. I couldn't help hearing your conversation through the door- forgive me for eavesdropping. I'm sure Lord Quentier is simply ecstatic over your change of heart. However..."

Agro dropped to one knee next to Sophia. He was tall enough that even on bended knee, he was eye level with the seated woman. He was close enough that his warm breath disturbed the fine hairs on her neck. His voice became steely, as razor sharp as the sword he kept expertly sharpened that hung at his side. "It is my job to protect Quentier. If I suspected, even for one second, that there was anything in that vial other than a concoction of mugwort, chamomile, and valerian root, your world would come crashing down faster than you could say 'innocent'."

Agro smiled once more and stood fluidly. "I know you're smarter than that though, Sophia. Lattie simply adores you. I think she even thought you were going to save her from me. I wonder if she was disappointed."

The swordsman shrugged with a cold bark of laughter. "To be honest, the girl's feelings never crossed my mind last night. I was far too busy making her a woman."

Gratitude had been expected from the lord, but the warmth that came from Sophia's simple concoction left her set on edge, wondering after words Simon had spoken in anger only nights ago, swallowing down a lump that had formed in her throat. It would not dislodge, leaving the lady with the sinking feeling that perhaps, she had taken one risk too many here. Tomorrow, everything would change, one way or another, she knew. News of a seamstress reached her ears, glancing up at the lord and nodding.

He had taken Sophia's silence as acceptance, a mistake that would become painfully obvious when she enacted her plan to reject any participation in preparations for the wedding most firmly. No woman would be fitting her for a wedding dress this day, she swore it.

Her decision to speak only truth and keep silence in all other cases wavered at the entrance of the swordsman who took such delight in tormenting her away from his lord's eyes, turning her head to meet his cold gaze with matched defiance, rising just as the man did so, eager to leave before he tested her precious composure further than it was willing to stretch.

Say nothing, she told herself firmly as she slid the chair back under the dining table, posture straight. Sophia sincerely hoped that there was nothing of her shame and mortification coming across, shaking her head towards Agro only briefly. “Fennel and lemon also. It's a personal creation; I've been making it for years and no one has passed away yet from taking it.”

Being upfront and honest with the swordsman was dangerous, knowing that he had no reservations about running back to Lord Quentier and laying all her words bare, just to make her life that much more difficult. Still she could not help herself at his last comment, heart going out to the strong willed girl that she had taken as a servant. “I believe it would take a man to make someone a woman, and of all the things that you are, Agro, a man is not one of them,” she replied calmly, hands folded at her stomach, elbows bent in a pose that appeared collected. It was perhaps foolishness to speak to a potentially violent man in such a manner, but she wanted to test how far he would go. If Sophia were to try and play their game, she had to know what she was up against in order to find a way to survive long enough for her own plans to reach fruition.

And then there was the fact that he was intentionally riling her again, which had not failed to escape Sophia's notice, but what could he possibly achieve from this except a sick sort of pleasure? “This situation could have been sorted agreeably, if not for your wretched intervention. What possesses you to meddle in the affairs of two regions that you obviously have no love for?” she questioned, apparently content to have this discussion before going about whatever plans she might have for the day ahead.

It had been two days since Lord Peryonai had returned from the sortie, yet only now were they anticipating departure from Hilten Manor to make the journey to the capital city, but wisely, the advisor and most trusted friend of Kiltheon's lord had bided his time, waiting for the right moment to approach the subject of Sophia's impeding nuptials.

There had been muted celebration in the central town of course, for although they were elated that their lady had secured such a husband, they would mourn her loss from their daily lives. 'It would be what she wanted', he had over-heard some saying, talking of the lady's desire for peace, whatever the cost she might have to pay.

No, Lady Peryonai, for all her well-meant intentions was not as good as her mother; selfish to a childish degree, secure in her beliefs and would not be shaken from them once established. And thus, Mercy had come about, a perfect emulation of her mother. It was a fragile shell, set to fracture at even the slightest pressure, over-lapping so often that people who had known her her entire life were unsure who she was any more, for all her insistences that she was herself at all times. Mother lost to illness, brothers to almost certain suicide and her best friend lost to political feuding. Sophia had never tried to mourn, nor move on from these losses. Instead, she had buried them deep, gaping wounds in her heart.

Mercy had taken the front, put forward a woman who had dealt with the hardships in her life and still served her people to the point of detriment, serving on the border towns continually with clever words turned towards her father. The lord of a broken household and region, peace lost in suffering unending and whilst it was true that her gifts were best used to serve the people, rather than keeping the only child of the Peryonai line locked up in the manor house, this was the inevitable price.

Freedom replaced with shackles of servitude, for to break an oath-sworn promise to the baron would be impossible. The lady, giving to a fault despite her bleeding heart, would be making a sacrifice not of her own choosing because of her insistence to serve so far away from the court's protection. It would break her father's heart to order her obedience.

“Are the preparations under way Therian?”

The lord of Kiltheon had not left his daughter's chambers for hours now, staring at so much that would have to be left behind in her childhood home and it had only been on the courtiers' request that Therian dared to interrupt him now, closing the bedroom door behind him as the question was posed.

“Nearly completed my lord. Only the lady's belongings are left,” he returned, glancing meaningfully at the cupboards that, if examined, would document the young woman's life through objects. There was a half a collection of rocks, drawers stuffed full of letters, even a portable case that Sophia carried from time to time, where she would mix new concoctions when there was time spare. Her dresses were few and plain, as were her accessories, save for the pendant that the lady never abandoned.

“She cannot take anything in here.” The lord rose stiffly from his daughter's bed, as if he had been sat there for quite some time, glancing around the room with haunted eyes. “They would be painful reminders of a life that she can never have.”

Therian sighed, taking steps across the room to open a drawer and slide out a letter, folded neatly and carefully preserved. “This move is good for the kingdom as well as Kiltheon my lord and, if you'll pardon my saying so, it is high time you finally instilled into your daughter a sense of noble duty.”

“As opposed to her father letting her run free as if she was a child?” Alexander shot back, eyes narrowing but that soon gave way to a look of defeat, nodding. “Your counsel has always been welcome and now is no different.”

Disaster did not even begin to cover this situation, but Alexander Peryonai had held strong throughout, taking the letter from Therian and restoring it to its place in the drawer. There had been so many times during the years of this war that he had compromised morals, sacrificed men willingly to ensure the safety of his family and people; where had it got him? At last, there was an end in sight to this horrific civil war and yet here, he had made the most impossible choice to ensure the safety of his daughter.

He knew, like all the others who followed Commander Therin, Isler would pay dearly for their transgressions against Baron Deregach and his allies, but up until now, he had believed they had not deserved it.

“Let her decide what to do with her own possessions,” Therian suggested, closing the drawer with an audible click of the lock. “Perhaps after her stay in Isler, Lady Peryonai will think differently.”

It appeared for a few moments as if Lord Peryonai was unaware that he had been addressed, staring out of the window across the town that had grown around Hilten Manor generations ago. Sophia had often said to him that protecting the people was what she wanted most. They were about to see if that was indeed truth, whether his daughter would give up her freedom without a fight to marry the most powerful man in Ibaria.

“Perhaps.”

“You must reach Lord Quentier before three days pass, Eanette. I have planned carefully, but it all rests on you now, these final stages. Do not fail me.”

It had seemed impossible at first, for it was at least five days ride to Isler Castle from their settlement in western Reilles, but if she rode without break, taking into account the fact that she would have to avoid forests if she planned to ride by moonlight, she would just make it.

Now, if only she knew what she was riding so damn hard to prevent, all would have been well but Eanette had only been told three things. Get to Isler, tell him that no matter what rumours came about, Commander Therin lived and that... something bad was going to happen? From what she had been hearing about the military sortie that was not so subtly taking place upon the border that Jalim and Kiltheon shared, something bad happening was obvious. It was difficult to cloak the presence of at least a few hundred soldiers and a dozen notable leaders of the southern bid for the crown, but for Matthias to have been so insistent about her travelling to Isler... It went beyond mere caution for the region's proximity.

The sprawling farmlands and occasionally clearly marked roads had made the messenger's journey much easier than it might have been and of course, it did not hurt that no one questioned her urgency. Her riding robes whipped around her small body, revealing the circular, iron seal of the Therin family tied to the belt at her hip and the same eagle with spread wings blazoned across her tunic, coloured in blue and bronze.

Her horse, trained specifically for bearing messengers across long distances without much break, had been holding up well, but its ragged breathing for the past few hours had begun to worry the woman. If she pushed the creature too far, it would not recover in time to make her abrupt deadline but tarrying too long was just as unhelpful. A stumble in the horse's stride made the decision for her, Eanette tugging hard on the reins to pull the horse towards a small gathering of trees that would provide a sufficient shelter for a few hours whilst the creature rested its limbs.

They were just a few short miles from entering Isler from the north-west as she dismounted, wincing as her feet touched at hard ground. The hard, jarring ride had taken its toll upon her body, Eanette reminding herself not to stay seated for too long, lest her muscles lock and make the rest of the journey torture, fiddling with her long ponytail absently as she fastened the reins on a low hanging branch, before resting her back against it, outer riding robes discarded in favour of comfort now.

It was impossible to mistake Eanette for a man, even when dressed in such attire. The curves of her form and feminine facial features spoke volumes that clothing and posture could never do, shifting from her position to rifle through what few saddlebags she had risked taking to find some nourishment for both horse and rider.

“I'm sure there's a few carrots waiting for you at Isler once we arrive, but for now, this is all I have,” she muttered in apology, receiving only a half-hearted neigh as it began to take from the small pile of oats on her open palm. Not that anyone's going to be pleased to see me when they learn what I have to say.

It felt so incredibly wrong. Sophia had never done a single unkind thing to her, and yet she was being repaid by betrayal. If only there was a way around this, thought Lattie as she started looking through the other woman's belongings. She didn't have much, so it was an incredibly short job. The lady had been gifted a few nightgown and had a few dresses. She only had one pair of shoes, which she wore. Nothing was hidden in pockets or folds, of that Lattie was certain. There was nothing in the desk but papers and ink, and she even sifted through Sophia's herbs delicately with the tips of her fingers.

Nothing.

What was she going to do?

The previous night...

The wedding party was still in full swing, but she had felt Agro's hand on the small of her back. "It's time," he had whispered in her ear, silently pulling her away from the crowd. Dread knotted in the pit of her stomach, making her feel sick. For a moment, she was afraid she might throw up, but the nausea of fear was replaced by grim reality. He was her husband now, she realized. He could do what he wanted, and it didn't matter if she liked it or not. Asking her to lay by him at night was normal... No one would understand if she tried to explain that she was afraid to spend the night with him, that she didn't want him to touch her or take her virginity away from her. It was all a part of life. If you married for love you were lucky. Lots of girls had married men they felt no love for. She was sure there was almost an equal amount of girls who had married vile, disgusting men; men much older, with fat, sagging stomachs and putrid breath. Agro didn't disgust her, but he did scare her like no else in the world.

His room was upstairs, and he lit a candle that sat on an empty table. He motioned for her to sit on the bed, and she did, her back straight and her eyes focused on the wall, the door, the corner- anywhere but at her husband. He sat next to her, his fingers pushing her orange curls away from her neck. A cold chill ran down her spine and he smiled in accomplishment.

"Are you afraid of me?" he asked.

"Yes."

"Why?"

"Because you're evil, and I don't love you."

He laughed, throwing his head back, not at all bothered by her straight-forward answer. His black eyes glittered like the exoskeleton of a beetle, and they roamed over her body in a way that made her feel ill again. "Maybe you'll learn to love me," he suggested.

"I won't." She said it with surety, her chin set in a defiant posture.

"You never know." He shrugged, completely nonplussed by her reaction to him. "Tell me, why do you think I'm evil?"

She finally met his eyes and frowned. "You want to hurt Lady Sophia. I don't know why, but I know you do. Ever since you got her, you've had your eye on her."

"And what if I told you there was a way you could protect her?"

She didn't say anything, but she held his gaze. "If you could help me find something, I would leave her alone. You would never have to worry about Sophia being harmed by me again. Truthfully, I don't want to harm her at all, my dear, sweet Lattie. But she has something that doesn't belong to her, and I need to get it back."

Lattie didn't believe him. His tone was too saccharine sweet. He'd hurt Sophia in a heartbeat if it would serve him, of that the maid was sure. "Are you telling me that if I... that if I help you find somethin' of hers... that you'll leave her alone?"

Agro nodded. "She has a necklace that belongs to my master-"

"-Lord Quentier?" Lattie interrupted curiously, suddenly intrigued. Agro shook his head.

"Quentier is but a pawn. He is of no value to me. I only serve him to serve myself, and my true master. You have seen but a small portion of the world, child. You've probably never even left Isler. But beyond these walls, beyond all of Ibaria, there is a huge world." He laughed emotionlessly. "Ibaria is so concerned with itself, but it is almost completely disregarded by the other regions of the world. I come from a place called Nigula that is many times greater than Ibaria, in both size and power. The ruler of Nigular, the Empress Abraxia, is my true master. And many years ago, that necklace was stolen from her by Lady Peryonai's great, great grandfather."

Despite herself, Lattie was enthralled. "Why did he steal it?"

"The Empress Abraxia is a great sorceress. Her magics are unmatched, and there used to be a time, long ago, when Ibaria thought they could steal her power away from her. You see, the sapphire inside Lady Peryonai's pendant is no ordinary jewel. It is imbued with magical properties, and her foolish ancestors thought they could harness that magic. They were wrong, of course. In the hands of someone with no magical ability, it has all the power of a rock. The people here, the Ibarians, have forgotten their magical roots, and therefore the jewel is useless to them. For my empress, however, that sapphire is of great value."

"Now, here is how you can help me, my darling, little wife." He stroked her cheek and then slowly pushed her back till she was lying flat on the bed. He laid beside her and began to unlace her dress as he spoke. "The sapphire was made into a necklace for Lady Peryonai when she was a little girl. I doubt she or her father even know what the stone is capable of. To her, it has nothing but sentimental value. Find me that necklace and bring it back to me. When you do," he paused to run his hand up her thigh under her skirts. "I will leave you and Lady Peryonai alone. I will go back to Nigula, and you will never see me again."

She stopped his hand from continuing on it's path, a hard look on her face. "I will find it for you," she said, her voice hard. "Give me one week, and I will get it for you. But you can't touch me unless I fail."

Agro pulled his hand back and sneered. "You are my wife," he hissed. "I can touch you in any way I want."

"You only married me so I'd do this for you," countered Lattie, sitting up. "And you can have me if I don't find the necklace in a week. But if I do, you leave and don't come back."

Agro laughed coldly. "My wife is a conniving shrew, and at so young an age! But fine. Have it your way. Go back to your quarters, and tomorrow while she has breakfast, go and search her belongings."

Latties heart pounded fiercely in her chest. Where was it? She needed that necklace, not only to save herself, but also Sophia. I'll just ask her for it, she decided, but a knot of anxiety formed in her gut. What if Sophia didn't believe her? What if it truly held sentimental value to her, so much that she refused to part with it? Lattie hadn't noticed the lady wearing any jewelry, particularly a star-shaped sapphire. What if the pendant was back in Kiltheon? Lattie would have no hope of getting it in time. She sat on the edge of the bed and her head drooped in despair. "What am I going to do?"

"Thank you, sir, thank you again. Please, won't you stay for supper?"

Simon shook his head wearily to the farmer. Hours ago, a fire had started in the farmer's home. The man and his family had been lucky that the knight happened to be riding on a wide, dirt path by their home at the time. They were miles away from any other houses, and their home would have burned to the ground before they could get help from the nearest neighbor. Simon had sent the farmer's wife and children to fill buckets with water by the stream, and the two men had worked at damping out the fire with one of Simon's leather blankets and a thick rug woven from reeds he had retrieved from the house. They had thoroughly wet the rug and the hide, then set to work on snuffing out the flames. It had taken less than half an hour, but the work had exhausted both men, and both were blackened with smoke, their clothes singed from the flames. The house would need repairs, but the majority of it was in liveable condition.

"I need to be on my way." he said gruffly as he turned to walk back to his horse. Half a day wasted, he thought, and a perfectly good blanket. He threw the cured hide on the ground, where it lay in a charred heap. I shouldn't have even stopped. Now the battle will be one day further away, and I've got nothing to show for it.

His horse was acting skittish still, bothered by the smell of smoke the hung in the air. She had sensed the distress of the family and had run into the woods, but had returned once the fire was put out. Now she sniffed at Simon nervously, edging away from him. He stroked the mare, trying to reassure her, and when she calmed he pulled himself atop in a fluid motion. His heels tapped her sides and she broke into a trot, back to the road they had traveled down.

The day was warm, and sweat clung to tendrils of his dark hair, becoming plastered to his face. The knight felt ill at ease, trapped in his many troubled thoughts. Leaving Sophia had felt like a relief at the time, but being away from her, even when he knew she didn't truly love him, was difficult.

“When we were children, I never desired to play with you, Simon. I only did it out of obligation. I prayed every night that another child would befriend you, so you would leave me alone. I was miserable with you at Hilten.”

He shook his head, trying to physically shake the awful memory of her words away. He still felt angry, and he felt stupid for believing she had ever loved him. Rejection burned inside him, warring with his pride. God, how could I have been so stupid? he asked himself.

“I hope you’re happy now. Go be Nathaniel’s whore. You can warm his bed now, because you’re certainly never welcome in mine.”

His own words burned the back of his throat. He regretted them. Even with the pain and the humiliation, he wished he'd never said those things to her. It was too late to take them back though. Maybe he had never deserved her. He had replayed that night over and over in his head, hundreds of times a day, and still he didn't understand it.

“One moment I am an obligation, I make you miserable, you regret ever being with me. The next moment you want to explain?! What in Heaven and Earth is there to possibly explain? We are through.”

A pain like a knife through his stomach tore through him, and Simon doubled over, a gasping, wrenching pain passing through him. For the first time since he was a child, he thought he might cry, but no tears came. Only sadness and agony and fury and despair muddled together with betrayal, embarrassment, and pain.

“You idiot!”

The ghost of her voice tore through him, haunting him.

“You were never an obligation and I was certainly never miserable with you; you were my joy and my life those five years and the source of my smile even after you went home.

Confusion. Simon didn't know what to think. His friend, his mentor Nathanial, had told him Sophia was only trying to hurt him, trying to confuse them both to gain some kind of foothold in Isler. Simon wasn't so sure about that, but he knew he could never be with her again. Their attempt had failed miserably. She hated him, and nothing he did could fix that. He had confessed his love, and she had rebuked him. He had shown anger, and she had taken it all back. Sophia was a maze of emotions, one he would never get to the heart of.

“You love me? You love me? How could you love anything? You’re dead to me now.”

Simon rode for hours without rest, so wrapped up in his thoughts that he hardly saw where he was going. His horse, heavily laden with weaponry and armor, panted, her sides heaving as she ran. Her pace slowed, and only then did Simon notice that the sun was beginning to set, and that his mount heaving for breath. He slid off, giving her a break, and began walking toward a copse of trees. It was then that he noticed the form of another leaning against a tree, their own horse eating something out of the master's hand. Simon drew closer and could see that it was a woman, from her small stature and healthy curves. He tried to wipe some of the soot and ash from his face that had accumulated from the smoke, but he was dirty and did not look the part of the knight of Isler. Nonetheless, she would pose no threat, he thought. She looked unarmed and nonthreatening.

"Good evening," he called in greeting, eyes traveling over her clothing. "Do you mind if I rest here for a bit? I've over exerted my mount, and I could use a rest myself."

Black eyebrows arched in delighted surprise, and Agro smiled. His white teeth gleamed in contrast to his olive skin, but the effect was not sincerity. "I have no interest in Kiltheon or Isler, or the little war your regions have been stuck in. I'm not concerned with the goings-on of Iberia, either. However, there are things happening in this castle that I am very interested in, my lady," he said mockingly. "Now, how is it that one little woman has managed to get herself in the thick of so much trouble? I hardly see you as worth the trouble."

Agro scoffed, looking at Sophia down the bridge of his long, sharp nose. "You're not even very pretty, you know. Knight Abbassy must be blinded by his memories of you. Not that it matters anymore, I suppose. Oh," he paused. "Did anyone tell you where Lord Quentier sent him? Off to battle, I'm afraid. A very, very dangerous battle. He'll be extremely lucky if he comes out of it alive. His trouble with you may well be over soon. And to think, this could have all been avoided. If he gets hurt, or even dies, why it will practically be your fault, won't it?"

He leaned in closer, dropping his voice. "This castle has eyes and ears, and every one reports to me. You have no secrets anymore, m'lady. I know all about what happened between you and Abbassy. I know that the real reason Lord Quentier sent him away on this suicide mission was to get him away till he could marry you himself. He truly fears that the Knight's loyalty belongs to you, rather than to him. Shameful, if you ask me. Never has there been such a disgraceful knight."

The swordsman turned on his heel and strode toward the door. "I believe you're done with breakfast. Time to return to your room."

In the stillness of the tiny grove, Eanette had no trouble hearing the approach of a horse and rider, but she did not shift from feeding her horse until words came, tilting her head to the left to look upon the newcomer. There was no apprehension in her eyes, but the hilt of the sword that hung on her right-hand side became visible now, judging his appearance for a few moments longer than necessary.

His accent, though only briefly heard, sounded Isleri but to allow herself to hope that he was an ally would be foolishness indeed without proof. Exhausted though she was, a smile was managed as Eanette turned away from the stranger, nodding. “Good evening sir and, of course. There is plenty of room here for both of us to rest without intruding on one another's privacy.”

Neighing, her horse nudged towards the palm that held its food and Eanette sighed, bringing the hand back to within reach of the creature's mouth. Artfully, she used the stranger's abrupt arrival as distraction from what might happen if she did not reach Isler Castle in time, or indeed, if the commander was unmasked before he reached Arthas.

Time, she was running out of time. “Tell me, do you know how far we are from Isler Castle?” she questioned, aching muscles protesting as she walked away from her mount to walk a bit, just to keep herself from stiffening completely, the crested seal at her belt swaying as she paced. If it was less than a day's ride or so, then it was only logical to rest a time here, maybe even sleep to recover from the journey so far, because despite all Eanette's urgency, she needed to arrive at the castle in a state where she could tell Lord Quentier everything she needed to before her task was done.

It was only because of Damien's superb self-control that he maintained an outer persona of perfect calm as he was escorted out of Isler Castle and into the town that surrounded it. He even went so far as to wave to the guards as he left their company to travel back towards the tavern where his laden horse awaited, all in the name of appearances. Nathaniel would know nothing of his anger, nor confusion until the thane was quite ready to share it. He wanted to give no advantage to the one man he detested most in all of Ibaria. The fact that Lord Quentier seemed to return the sentiment only served to fuel his determination to never make peace with Isler's lord, unless it benefited Kiltheon.

And in this situation (he refused to call this sham a marriage), despite whatever prettily worded lies that Nathaniel Quentier span to him, there was no advantage except for the retaliation that would take out Isler in one fell swoop. No questions asked, nor explanation needed. If this was the extent of Isler's planning, then they were doomed. So, he asked himself with a glance back at the imposing structure, why am I not already on Abbas to meet the baron, tell him of Lady Peryonai's location and conquer the enemy once and for all?

It was simple really, thought Damien was loathe to admit it, adjusting the reins of the horse needlessly with a frown. He could not leave Sophia like that. In truth, it had been enough that Nathaniel had spoken of her so familiarly, though the woman he had spoken of, and indeed, that the thane had observed, was a stranger. Agreeing to marry the lord of Isler? At least she didn't look happy about it, small solace that that was, especially when it looked like there was going to be no chance to approach her now. It hardly took much intelligence to realise that he would not be welcome in Isler's halls any more, Taerohim or not.

To top it all off, there had been implications that Knight Abbassy – against all possibility – actually returned Sophia's misguided affections. The lord had tried to explain that this marriage as better than the efforts that she had poured eleven years of her life into, as if she had not done him good as well her own people. Without the healing that Mercy had provided, Isleri forces would have depleted much, much faster but of course, he probably did not consider that this singular woman, for all her flaws, possessed more goodness in her soul than any one else that he had ever met. Despite not having many of the qualities that Mercy did, the woman who was the only surviving heir of Kiltheon and thus so very precious to Nathaniel was one of most forgiving, loving and faithful. Sophia would sooner rip her own heart in pieces than let anyone she loved suffer unduly.

Shit.

“Sir, are you well?” There was a man standing beside Damien, one that he hadn't even noticed approaching, a large cloth wrapped bundle under one arm, full of concern for the man who was hovering beside his horse, lost in thought.

Unfortunately for the man, Damien's most recent revelation made him sneer unpleasantly, grip tightening around the leather strapping of the reins. “Yes, I'm quite fine.” Or at least, he would be once he had found Simon Abbassy. What he would do when he found him? He smiled unpleasantly, finally scaring the curious townsperson away, struggling to curb his instinctive reaction to the realisation with the knowledge that he had no idea where the knight might be and to ask would only raise suspicion.

But if he waited long enough in town, surely news of Simon Abbassy would reach him. That goal in mind, he made to re-stable Abbas.

One moment they were standing opposite each other as if equals and the next, defiance was stripped from Sophia's pale features, struck mute. It is not true, she told herself firmly, holding a flimsy mask of composure over her disbelief as for the umpteenth time, everything came crashed down just when she had just managed to get a handle on the situation again. Why, after everything he had put her through would Lord Quentier still send Simon away? Did he distrust Simon Abbassy so, as Agro said? No, impossible. Simon is loyal and Nathaniel knows that, Sophia told herself firmly, but then why did he make sure that there was no chance of anything developing between them? Nothing made sense.

Sophia tried to tell herself it was so that he couldn't interfere with the wedding, but to a battle? Since she had made Simon Abbassy walk away from her, there was no light to life, despite her energy yesterday and it killed her to think that no matter what he had done before finally walking away, that Simon might die simply for suspicion of love for her. The knight, as far as she could tell, hated and loved her but would never speak to her again and Lattie... Oh Lattie! There had been nothing she could do about any of it except endure and hope that no one saw her dying inside. At least, that is what had sustained her thus far.

Now, the thought that Simon might die brought back memories of the forest, torrential downpour and finally, after much persistence against his stubbornness and better judgement, getting him to admit that he cared for her. His face slackening in horror at the thought that she would depart the world; everything had been so much simpler then. There had been no one in the way, only them, finally admitting that they had touched each other's lives so much, even after all this time.

He had confessed everything she had waited thirteen years to hear and it had taken all Sophia had to refuse it, thinking only of his life preserved if she agreed. If only he could see her now, staring at Agro's back, hurt and confused. In the end everything had been a lie; Lord Quentier had sent him away, and if he died...

“You love me?” he asked, letting his fingertips slide away from the door knob. “You love me? How could you love anything?”

A hoarse, bitter laugh left his lips, his warm eyes now cold as ice and harder than marble. “I’ve had enough, Sophia. I’m through. In the future, don’t try to stop me. Don’t talk to me. Don’t even look at me. You’re dead to me now.”


Sophia choked back a sob as recollection came, feeling her right arm twinge painfully. He might die alone on some battlefield, believing that she had never loved him. Grey eyes tightened but Sophia had no tears left to cry, only an emptiness within her that needed to be filled with something, anything, but there was nothing. Not until Agro tried to order her back to her cell.

“No.”

The word had slipped out inadvertently, but it was incredibly freeing to finally tell Agro what to do, and after taking a deep and shuddering breath Sophia continued, voice sharp as glass. “I'd like to take a bath actually. Could you take me to your wife so that she might attend me?”

Simon, disgraceful? Sophia very nearly scoffed. He had been prepared to give up happiness for himself because he valued his knighthood and lord over everything else and all his lord did was prove to her that he was wholly unworthy of the knight's dedication. She had seen and heard enough now; words were cheap and so she would take on the world to prove to him with actions that she had meant none of her lies. Only wanting to protect his life and seeing no other way, Sophia had mistakenly placed faith in the lord of Isler, who held no sanctity for clarity of meaning or truth. In her eyes, no one was more dishonourable than Nathaniel Quentier and Agro.

Taehilins, if you can hear me, let Simon live and give me the strength to stand against Nathaniel Quentier, no matter what he threatens.

Despite the ambiguity of everything else that Agro had brought to Sophia's eyes, there was one fact that he had raise that she could never dispute with anyone. All this revolved around her and as far as Sophia saw, that meant only she could fix what scraps were left to be repaired. And with the Gods at her witness, so help her, the woman intended to do so, no matter what price she had to pay.
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Morrowind, Tamriel is a part of Morrowind's Salvation.

7 Characters Here

Marcelle Ubir [0] The youngest son of an Imperial slave trader
Alexander Azshar [0] "Sir Alex, the shining pillar of Azura's Dawn."
Porithia [0] A fledging member of the Thieves' Guild, full of both energy and conviction.
Divindre` [0]
Thald [0] A nimble, loyal and respectful Bosmer with a perfect aim.
Crow [0] An admirable farmer turned Warrior.
Venira Sul Teles [0] An arrogant Telvanni wizard, hungry for knowledge - at any price.

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Marcelle stormed out of the Balmora temple, a look of abject fury on his face. He cursed loudly and dropped down onto the ground, his back cool against the outer wall. He tilted his head back, staring up into the inky blackness of the firmament. The stars flashed in the night, and the two moons cast a pale ethereal light over the town. Marcelle's eyes picked out the constellation of his birth, the warrior, in the stars above him. He brushed away a tear from the corner of his left eye, cursing again as the motion irritated the crescent shaped burn scar on his cheek.

He picked himself up, and padded down the stairs, his leather boots creaking softly as the battered old leather moved. He wandered through the town centre, pushing past a dunmer house-wife weeping over a body in the street. Another victim of the invisible war. Marcelle picked his way past the corpse, darting backwards as a contingent of Hlaalu guardsmen, their bonemould flickering in the moonlight.

After a short walk, the cold air began to chill Marcelle to the bone. He shivered, instantly regretting not bringing the heavy bear-pelt coat that was tucked away in his tent. He passed through the second row of houses and crossed the river, watching the black water shimmer like a serpent in the moonlight. As he crossed the river, he passed through the space between more houses, turning away from the sounds of glass smashing and wood splintering as what had started as an argument spilled out onto the street. Cries of “Fetcher” and “Outlander scum” echoed off the walls, filling the alleyway down which Marcelle walked.

Finally, he reached the sorrowful collection of tents that had spread out on this side of town. The tents were mostly just blankets or sheets thrown up over staves or spears, to provide pitiful shelter. Marcelle passed the pale, starvation stricken faces of Ashlanders, driven from their homes by the eruption of Red Mountain. He passed the family of Imperials, driven from Gnisis by the Redoran takeover. The piercing wail of a hungry child cut from their tent, prickling the hairs on the back of Marcelle's neck. Finally, he reached his own tent. It was a large cape, purchased with the last of his gold, slung over a pair of spears bedded firmly in the ground, with a vine tide between them.

The night wind whistled through the tents, causing Marcelle to shiver again. He clambered into the tent and settled on the bed roll, pulling his coat over him like a makeshift duvet. He knew it was a regret to try to sleep, but it was better than wandering the streets of Balmora after dark. He pulled a sweet roll from his battered pack and gulped it down, before placing his head on the lumpy pillow, and drifting off to sleep...

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#, as written by Imehal
This time of year the nights were bitterly cold and without hope of some sort of shelter however basic, chances of surviving a night without protection were slim to none. For there were many dangers both natural and unnatural and it took a great deal of luck or skill to avoid all without harm out there in the damaged lands that made up Morrowind these days. Those that inhabited the mass make-shift tent areas that were making up a sort of slum inside Balmora's boundaries were the lucky ones, even though it would be hard to believe looking at their semblance of a life that had been carved out against the overwhelming circumstances stacked against them.

The refugees were made up of all kinds and for the majority were left to their own devices as long as they did not thieve or cause trouble. Of course those of questionable race – anyone in the Dunmeri eyes – or who did not seem to keep the peace... Well things could get difficult and unlike Marcelle, many other refugees driven from their homes and livelihoods had chosen to risk the cold that came from Balmora's streets at night, creating crowded streets that could only lead to disaster once alcohol had an effect on people's tempers.

In general though, danger was oddly absent from the town unless you were discovered to be guilded or the victim of drunken prejudice. Its quirky buildings offered a haven of sorts for everyone who had fled from the terrors that plagued Vvardenfell, gates open to all those who sought shelter there even if they had not the room to house or protect them all. This was not to say that Balmora was idyllic. It suffered from the machinations of drunks, racists and even the guilds trying to covertly obtain power in a town where it has been lost for sometime in favour of neutrality and protection for who wished not to suffer under the hands of desperate Houses.

After the long and dark hours of the night finally broke in favour of early dawn, orange and red dowsing the entire town in a deceivingly warm light, as there was no such comfort in the crisp cool air of mid-fall Balmora. Even the atmosphere was tense for last night the collective mob had found a target for their anger and rage; a Telvanni sorceress.

Her punishment for merely being of a House was one that had become almost routine of late; hanging though the area always changed, perhaps to prevent allies of said poor soul from planning an escape. They were obviously eager to get started erecting a crude sort of scaffolding in the large paved space that was in front of the pawnbrokers.

In the shorts hours it took them to complete this process, a large crowd had begun to gather. Some were aware of what was to take place and others, new to the town and its adapted ways, waited out of curiosity. It was disturbing at the amount of children in the crowds, some of them jeering alongside the adults with some decidedly crude insults. Did any of them know the stranger who was about to be violently executed in front of them this day? No and she hadn't wronged them in any manner. She was Telvanni and that apparently was crime enough for death.

Today was special however – the beginning of change some might say – even if only six drawn to this town by one way or another knew it.

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Venira seethed inwardly and glared up at the sky, full of fat, leaden-gray clouds, heavily-cargoed with snow. So much for Azura.

Fleeing the destruction wrought by Red Mountain – the vast volcano had exploded into cataclysmic violence with no warning - Azura had spoken to her.

Venira remembered with a crawling shudder the fury the volcano had called down on Morrowind and the Telvanni Isles; the entirety of Tel Thenim shaking and tearing itself loose from the liquefying soil even as enormous waves and the ash cloud from Red Mountain raced closer, that arrogant fool Rilvin Dral babbling about how the city could withstand anything mundane or magickal thrown against it, her own gabbled summons-spells, the leap of faith from the top of Tel Thenim and the inexpressibly-welcome clawed grasp of the Winged Twilights, bearing her far away from the destruction.

Cradled in their claws, carried tirelessly for days, she’d slept fitfully, oddly, waking to a world gray and red with falling ash, battered by the beats of her carriers’ wings. Visions had pressed on all sides, most of them inchoate and chaotic, fragmented and useless.

Azura, though, had spoken clearly, her voice booming and echoing in the vaults of her mind, a powerful, surging presence heavy with the scents of roses and rain and momentary visions of obscured Moonshadow.

My messengers have borne you through ash and fire, far from fallen Tel Thenim and crumbling House Telvanni. Favoured wizard-lord, the old order has fallen with the profane Tribunal and Morrowind shattered by enemies within and without. The sad remains of the Dunmer people fight in the ash, scrabbling for old glories. You will be My anchor, and the very rock upon which I shall forge Resdayn anew. For your service, you will be raised above all others in knowledge and mastery, a new and better-fated Mystery of Morrowind. When the Red Year ends, and snow rather than ashy fire tumbles from the sky, take wing to half-ruined Balmora, on the flanks of Red Mountain. Fear not, for I am watchful...

Watchful, indeed! Service to the Daedric Princes was often rewarding – to Azura more reliably than most – but even she, it seemed, was capricious. A small, irritated sigh escaped Venira’s purple-painted lips, attracting a glare from the spike-shouldered, close-helmed Hlaalu guards surrounding her. One of them impatiently shook the falling snow from his gauntlets, shaped the sigils and barked the incantations for another silencing spell, the others in close array around her, keeping her magick far away and inaccessible. For her, a Telvanni wizard of centuries, it was as though she’d had a limb cut off.

Normally, Balmora struck her as plain, but homely, with its undecorated, simple houses and streets and the vast blue bowl of the sky overhead, unfettered by curling mushroom shoots of a comforting Telvanni tower. Now, though, it was hostile, and the arches frowned over emerald eyes of glass. Hlaalu guards sneered in bonemould plate, the backs and shoulders viciously spiked, the citizenry glared as though she’d done some great wrong – a mob of them had assaulted her last night, fire and knives in the dark, and led to this current sorry state of affairs.

Apparently, the ‘crime’ of which she stood accused was nothing more or less than simply being Telvanni.

Things had certainly changed in Balmora, and in House Hlaalu, since she’d last been. The place had once been a bustling cosmopolitan town, now, half-ruined, it seemed to have reverted to a darker, earlier age, where war was the norm and anything different was executed.

Speculatively, Venira turned her bright eyes on the escorting guards - escorting to where, she didn't know, but guessed it would be nowhere remotely pleasant. A single Golden Saint would have ripped through them in an instant, a shock spell would have leapt from man to man and fried them alive in blue lightning, frost would have shattered their bodies, she could have scattered them like ninepins and escaped in the confusion – but one of the mob, less-inebriated or more malicious than the others had hurled silencing spells until her reflective wards failed and the citizens fell upon her.

Bruises were like flowers under her Telvanni robes, and her undercoat was sticky with blood from the cuts their makeshift knives had left.

Venira clenched her fists. All she needed was one chance, just one, and then all Balmora would know just how bad an idea it was to assault a Telvanni, Red Year or no Red Year.

A heavy spiked gauntlet crashed into her back, making her gasp and stumble from the impact. “Keep moving, Telvanni,” the guard snarled; a poisonous glare that, had she been at the height of her power would have withered him where he stood, did nothing, as it hadn’t for the rest. They’d been free with their fists – and some their hands, too. In her head, Venira railed to anything and anyone that was listening, her diatribe bouncing off the vaults of her mind.

By the Sun, Moon and Stars, how in the name of Azura am I supposed to get myself out of this?’ she thought furiously. ‘I’m a sorceress, for all’s sake, not a soldier, and they’ve taken my magick!

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Abandoned child of the Redguards, your time and tribulations with training and education have come to an end. Free your ties from your traditions and those merciful enough to raise you in secret from their own people by escaping the tribe you love and making thyself go beyond the boundaries of safety and security. For you have been called fourth by the Rising Sun and Setting Moon, head towards the cripple and broken streets of Balmora mine Ashlander Snake. There you will find kin for you and others are children of Azura..

Of course nearly a month of travel on foot was not as...oh so wonderful of what she expected to be. Actually she expected it to be difficult to get from one place to another due to the rarity of stilt striders and the abundance of more monsters and creatures about. She didn't remember exactly what day she had left, but she remembered what her tribes kin had told her.
"You must leave! If the Goddess demands it! Then it must me done!"
"Do not place fear upon your heart and mind, child! For she is forever watchful!"
"She will guide and protect you, this is a test! Do not question the wills of the Goddess!"

"Yes because that's what Azura is doing now! Watching over me!" she snarled under her breath.
Divindre`s breathing was heavy as her chest heaved deeply with the acts of running starting to wear her out. She could feel her legs burning and screaming for her to stop, her heart beating in her throat, and her blood boiling with strain as she jumped and bound like a deer over the cragginess of rocks and easy cliffs that seemed to make out a clumsy trail.

Two days ago she had found an abandoned Kwama Egg Mine, of course it technically wasn't "abandoned" there were a few travelers, maybe even bandits, from an earlier time that had managed to sneak in as well from the god's know what and had been ambushed by Kwama Warriors and Workers. When she entered the mine itself stank of corpses and blood, yet most of the Kwama swarm had been taken down a notch or two and most of them were now sleeping. She rested there for a day and a half before making her way out, yet having no idea where she was, she simply turned around and went back, hoping to find some sort of sight of a city or even a safer place to rest...

----The Night Before----

Divindre` rested upon a rather steep and surprisingly well supported cliff that overlooked the Kwama mine she had emerged from just merely moments ago. Sweat dripped from her chest as she crouched like a Scamp to gaze around her current locations, she couldn't see a damn thing anyways due to the cloudy skies above and the mist of either smoke or fog clouding her vision, yet she saw the dimming flickers of firelight and that gave her a level of hope. Even if it was a camp of bandits or just a few traveling people, she could easily kill the bandits off or request locations and directions from the travelers. A win-win situation!

Divindre` turned slightly, attempting to stand up, yet was quick to let out a scream of fear and confusion, which was quickly cut off by the wailing and screeching sounds of flying things above. One was only a good five or so feet above her head, a long curving tail ending with a bone spiked tip trying its hardest to pierce flesh. She ducked and bent back slightly, avoiding the spiked tail-tip as she looked up to see four more of these damnable beasts circling over head with their demeaning cries mocking her for her obvious mistake of coming to close to their nesting area.

"Great...Cliff Racers..."

----Now----

She jumped and ducked just in time to avoid another parry of Cliff Racer tails attempting to stab at her. Hell, the only armor she fully had wasn't even a complete set! Just grieves, cuirass, and helmet of her light armor! That and it could only last for so long due to her lack of knowing how to smith as well? She was doing all she could not to get it damaged. Yet, now she was also doing her best not to fall off this dangerous cliff! With two of the Cliff Racers now dead, three lay in their wake, hungry, angry, territorial, and just full on bloodthirsty for the Redguard now, but Divindre` wouldn't allow herself to be killed off now, not now when she could sense Balmora in the distance! So close!

She stumbled somewhat, leaning slightly to gain balance as she was quick to stretch her left leg out and slide down the craggy hill itself with dirt, rocks, and roots being upturned from the earth to hopefully slow her down so she could turn and fight. Yet she kept on skidding down the hill with the lack of even slowing down nor stopping as she came closer and closer towards the dim fire lights below, she could see the structures of buildings, even the dim lights of candles within the buildings and the shadows of people moving about..and...some sort of stage? Then...flocks of people? Great, now she was going to drag attention to herself, this is the last thing she wanted to happen with her first arrival into a city...

The Cliff Racers screeched in anger, their pursuer not giving up and gaining speed as they came closer and closer towards Balmora, the beasts had no care or caution of the town guards coming after them, they simply wished to see the intruder of their nests dead and gone from their sights!

Divindre` had to take a chance in simply doing her next action, and with the audience of people watching the process of the hanging of a mage was commencing, it was about to be rudely interrupted..

--------

The people below were heavily distracted with their current entertainment, not many seemed to notice the being skidding down a hill and jumping off a building to hopefully land in a proper location. Like a ripple effect of the Cliff Racers screaming, people looking up, and Divindre damn near flying through the air with style, many onlookers gazed with open slack-jawed mouths or screamed to pick up their children and scatter. The guards were quick to charge forwards, forcing two of the Cliff Racers to pause and lash their anger out at them, yet one flew onwards after the Redguard.

Divindre` landed, obviously not gracefully, upon the stage where the Telvanni Mage was about to be hung. She paid little attention to the crowd screaming and cursing at her interruptions, her gray blue eyes glaring at the Cliff Racer that seemed to descend lower and lower with its curved tail pointing in her direction. The Cliff Racer descended more now, this time she raced forwards, bare feet cracked and sore with blood dripping from the ankles, knees scraped up as her body forced the last bit of energy to lash out at the beast.

Divindre` bent her body backwards, her stomach going flat and her neck bending her head back to where she seemed to lay flat on the stage while the Cliff Racer screeched with anger at missing its attack and attempting to slow down in hopes of not crashing into nearby buildings. Yet the Redguard was faster, she sat back up quickly, removing her spear from her back and standing up to throw the weapon with ease. The spear whizzed through the air like a hot knife through butter, the painful sounds of sharp spear tip meeting with Cliff Racer rung the chimes of bone breaking, flesh ripping, and the twang of the spear embedding itself and the beast against the wall of a nearby building. She blinked lazily, her head pounding and sweat dripping from her body. Scratches, bruises, and cuts were all over her arms and legs as part of her helmet was torn to only reveal her gray blue eyes to the onlookers whom were gawking at her actions.

"HALT! Stay where you are, Outlander!" the guards nearby ordered.
The Redguard was rather livid as she glared at the guards, yet she moved once more, having to flee again as she jumped off stage to bob and weave her way through the crowd. She felt hands trying to grab her, nails of Dunmer beings attempting to grab them as she shoved them away, she felt her elbow come in contact with someone's face, her leg shoving itself into a man's groin as she barreled past many a being with the two city guards on her tail. With another split few seconds, she stopped to grab her spear and quickly dart off between the alleyways and buildings of Balmora.

----Later----

Divindre` sat upon the rooftops of an abandoned building, of course with the current state of Balmora, there were plenty of so called abandoned buildings off and on now a days that were often taken up by refugees and the drunken sorts seeking refuge. Apparently she had gotten lucky some way or another again, actually she did not call it luck, more or less just a chance and coincidence.

The house itself was infested with rats and a ghost of sorts, so not too many were willing to actually put up with that, and the tents that just so happened to be left behind upon the rooftop? Another coincidence since it seemed to be once owned by a few bandits whom managed to escape the guards of Balmora by jumping upon the wall and fleeing for their lives. Of course from what Divindre could tell, that had to be weeks ago. Most of the food had gone bad or stale, the tents were not in the greatest condition due to the workings of most torn or broken, and the sounds of the moaning ghost within the small building and the rats within it made it a pain to go down and fully explore the house itself in hopes of finding proper food and whatnot. Yet like there would be food within anyways? Rats, remember?

So now, she rested upon the rooftop, a small fire set up with a few of the broken rods used as firewood and a simple use of a bit of flint to light the flames up with the tip of her spear. There, Divindre` sat, the carcass of a rat from below torn and picked open with most of the meat taken to be hung over the bright open flames upon a spit. The scent of rat meat roasting and the warmth of the fire was welcoming to the Redguard, it brought back the welcoming memories of home.

Home...

She wish she could know what was happening there. She knew that most of the Ashlander Tribes had packed up and moved on, so had the Urshilaku Tribe, they were the first, along with Zainab Tribe to simply pack up and leave the areas that they had called home. Living near Red Mountain was simply too dangerous and risky for such current situations. By via trade of scouts and messengers, both tribes managed to communicate their situations to one another. Even though the four main tribes were often against each other, keeping a disgruntled peace, when it came to the survival of their people and kin, they were forced to band together in the hopes of finding a new home.

The Urshilaku Tribe managed to find solstice near Ald Velothi upon one of the many archipelago of small islands that border their shores. It is unknown the results of the Zaninab tribe sadly, yet during their final destination of the Tribe, Divindre` was forced to leave and go towards Balmora.

Now she was here, cold, sore, and with little word from Azura. She had been hunted down by bandits many a time on her way here, Nix Hounds howling and gnawing at her feet when she rested, and being chased down by hordes of Cliff Racers and god knows what else that she couldn't even think of right now! Now?...Now...she was in Balmora.

She made it.

Now what?

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There was a loud flutter of wings, the call of a bird and then at Venira's shoulder landed a large Crow, it's beady and dark eyes staring flatly at her face, then it turned towards the guard behind her, his malevolent actions being examined by the animal. To see a lone bird such as this was a strange sight, usually birds were hunted and killed by the carnivorous Cliff-racers.

The Crow fluttered it's wings, cawing gloatingly and making a general loud noise, it's master had told it too and it did what it was told, make a scene which would allow for the 'rescue' of the Telvanni Witch. The crow kept it's almost evil eyes upon the Guard, almost challenging to land a blow on the Witch once more.

Then out of the crowd, a figure with a bandage wrapped around his mouth and forehead, a hood stretching across the back of his head and a tall and proud walk broke from the crowd, pushing a guard out of his way, a courageous but foolish move. The guard gave a vicious glare, he couldn't see past the bandages but he had no reason to arrest the man, he wasn't hurt after all.

The hooded Breton stepped in-front of the Guard pushing Venira. The Crow responded by switching shoulders and affectionately nudging at the Breton's neck. The Breton tilted his head at the guard, turning around once-more and he kept strangely silent. Crow was saving this woman for the sole reason of having a magician indebted to him, which would help him in the wilderness.

He seized her wrists, looking over them before encircling them with what seemed to be...

Slave Bracers.

"This woman is my slave now! This is a punishment worse than death, to be indebted to a stranger!" He roared out to the crowd, his accent was as proud as his walk. In reply to it's master roaring, the Crow made a long 'caw' of agreement. However, something was wrong with the Breton's actions, there was a key hidden beneath the bracers, it seemed to be an elaborate trick.

Crow lowered his hand towards the heavy Iron mace hanging off his back, instinctively preparing for the large outrage that may occur.

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Marcelle had been awake since dawn's first light stole over the hills that backed the refugee camp. The nightmares had come again. The horrible smell of roasting flesh and the crackle of the all consuming fire. He had awoken drenched in foul smelling sweat, that soaked through his clothes, giving him the reek of a oblivion spawned daemon. He had wandered through the cool morning air, down to the banks of the Odai, where, removing the majority of his clothing, he had dived into the murky depths. After a quick swim, he dressed, rubbing soothing ointment onto the worst of his burns and returned to his tent.

He was now standing aloof, on the fringes of the crowd gathered around the gallows. He scratched at the angry redness of the crescent shaped scar on his face and flicked his eyes towards the battered and bruised Telvanni witch that was being hauled to her doom. He was leaning against the cool stone wall of one of the houses, the blissful kiss of the stone soft against his burns. He watched the crowd. They were angry. They wanted revenge at the Hlaalu's old enemy, the Telvanni. The rancour between the two houses that had built to fever pitch was about to burst. His eyes widened with surprise as he saw the Breton pounce on the Witch, slapping slave bracers down on her wrists.

As he focussed on the scene, time seemed to slow, and the distant cawing of a crow filled his ears. Marcelle slumped against the wall, the blade of his sabre chiming of the stone like a death bell. A soft sibilant voice filled his ears, as the cries of the crow grew louder. “With that man, travels the caw of a crow. I have chosen him, just as I have chosen you.” The scar on Marcelle's cheek burned like a firebrand, shaking him into wakefulness. Although it had seemed like an age when the voice began to speak, it had been only a few moments. A spike of adrenaline ripped through Marcelle's system, blocking the pain of his burns. His mind was taken over by the all consuming desire to aid this man in what ever plan he had.

Before diving into the melee, he assessed the situation from his elevated position. The man was now standing in the midst of a sea of angry citizens, who were baying for blood like hounds. Hlaalu guards, faceless sentinels in gold tinged bonemould, pushed their way in from the edges of the crowd, shouldering their way through with shields and drawn swords. The guards on either side of the prisoner had drawn their weapons, and looked ready to murder the Breton on the spot.

Marcelle shook out his stiff muscles, and eased the sabre in its scabbard. He hoped to bring this incident to a close with his guile and charm, but he wanted to be ready if things did go south. With a jaunty step, that clashed horribly with the palpable feeling of tension that was oozing from the crowd, he merged with the writhing, amorphous mass of the crowd. As he shouldered his way past a burly Orc, he administered a clinical jab to the back of the brute's knee. The Orc toppled like a falling tree, slamming into a group of Dumner, all marked with Ashlander tattoos. The Ashlanders reacted predictably, lashing out at the Orc with chitin knives and well placed kicks. The Orc reared up like a wounded bull, and hurled one of the Ashlanders into the crowd. Marcelle ducked away from the confusion, smiling as the fight spread through the packed crowd like ripples in a pond.

He arrived at the front, as the guards planning to grab the interloper accosting the prisoner were caught up in the squall of fighting. He drew his sabre with an elegance born of practice, targeting the guard standing behind the Telvanni witch. He slid the tip of his blade through the back of the Guards bonemould armour, severing his spinal cord. He tapped the mace-wielding warrior on the shoulder. “I'd start running if I were you.”

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#, as written by Imehal
Of all the things that the pretty – if she did say so herself – thief was, a sadist did certainly not rank up there. So when her guild mates declared that morning that instead of spending the day resting for another night's exploration under the cloak of shadows and silence, Por opted to rest in the rooms they had been renting out a little while before venturing out a little after mid-morning. It was her sincerest wish that the unpleasantness had been completed and that she wouldn't have to...

The jeers and shouts for blood, though faint, hit her well-trained ears moments after closing the tavern's door which thankfully obscured her view from the worst of the chaos that was surely about to break out soon. It chilled her that people could be so against someone living merely because of their race or faction, suppressing a little shiver until a strange but overwhelmingly familiar sound touched to her ears.

A crow's call followed the loud yet indistinguishable sounds of a man's voice.

The call of a crow will signify the man that you must seek.

Normally Por didn't place stock in Fate, coincidences and all that rot. In fact when she first received the visions she had spent the next night drinking herself into a stupor so that she could dodge it. So it had quite unnerved her when they had come again, clear as if she was cold sober.

'Your travels to the ruined lands of Morrowind hold more in their sway than you know for you have been chosen, likewise have five others, to bring an end to the torment wrought throughout this broken expanse. There will be no denial on your part; this message bears only what you need to know and have to accept. In return, child of suffering, you shall find purpose to life. It has been a lonely and meandering road for you and I can offer correction from this day forward. Heed the signs when they come to you, I implore you...'

Afterwards had followed, as said, signs of how to recognise her fellow 'chosen' and one had been that animal call. Ignore it, Por told herself sternly as she made her way down the stairs to wander away from town for a few hours. Herb collecting, bird watching... anything to get away from the...

'They need you, child.'

The voice had come piercing through her own thoughts and indeed, the clamouring din of the rabble, censoring all else. They? Then she heard and her heart sank. The sounds of combat rose something within her and all at once Porithia clambered atop the railing to gain access to the roof via a few window ledges and some damned good luck. Grunting, she hoisted herself up so that she had a clear bird's eye view of the scene as it unfolded and it was a decidedly strange one.

A hooded man had seized the Telvanni's wrists and clamped them in irons, Por noting drily that a crow sat on the prisoner's shoulders. Sorry Azura... she apologised, waving a hand to the situation as if discarding it. That's a fight that no fool can win with two.

It was almost as if the Daedric Prince had heard her thoughts as a fight broke out within the angry mob. It took not any time at all to note the Orc and Dunmeri that had started the ruckus but what had drawn her attention made her scowl. “Oh very funny,” she muttered as the man with the burnt crescent across his cheek. He looked entirely pleased with himself, dodging through the crowd to slide up onto the stage. Por was trying so hard not to smirk with glee. So far, despite her best efforts, she was rather impressed.

“Alright,” she said aloud as Marcelle callously executed the guard behind Crow, obviously saying something to the stranger. Before any of them could react, a dagger came sailing from atop the inn to the south, landing at Crow's feet with a thud. If the man had the common sense to glance up at the rooftop, Por would wave cheerily before pointing right towards the river.

Then she backed up a few paces to disappear from view, before taking a running leap off the roof itself, crying out in delight as she landed atop a guard who was preparing to take an arching swing at Marcelle's ankles from the ground. Daggers were unsheathed mid-air and her feet planted firmly against the fellow's chest, the momentum sending the man to the floor as she crouched to slash fatally at the man's throat before the fog of surprise could clear.

She straightened and beamed up at them all before realising that there were a few more guards already incoming. “I don't suppose you're fond of terrible odds, strangers?” she said lightly, grinning as she side-stepped off the corpse to avoid a rather hefty sword blow to her left shoulder.

Por on the other hand loved them and maybe, as she ducked another swing from the guard with a laugh of joy, maybe she'd forgive Azura for this after all.

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#, as written by Imehal
Crow:

Crow heaved the fainted Drow Magician onto his shoulders, pulling her arms across his chest and making sure her arms were tangled with the straps and other such things underneath his cloak, keeping his hands free for fighting whoever blocked his way. He did not have time to thank the Imperial for saving him for a blow that would've crippled him. He swung his curved mace in a swathing path infront of him, scaring off the public while the Guards gave a wide birth from the heavy weapon.

Crow was confident in the Imperial's skills to guard his back, he had given the Guard behind him a death adequate of a sneak. He was about to step forward when a knife thudded down at his feet, he barely noticed the daring of a rushing Hlaau guard, Crow quickly kicked the Knife forward, thought it had missed it gave Crow a few brief seconds to side-step and rush past the Guard and heave his way away from the fighting crowd.

Somewhere in the back of his head, he felt the sense of adventure and adrenaline fill his mind with its strangeness.

It felt good too.

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Marcelle hid his surprise at the appearance of the Altmer thief rather well, at least he thought so. He struck a dashing figure, the ornate wire-work on the sabre-hilt catching the morning sunlight as he brought the weapon up into a guard position, defending his torso and lower legs. A guard lurched from the brawl, his helmet knocked askew by a well aimed strike. Despite this, the guard lashed out, the shimmering blade of the long sword tracing a lazy arc towards Marcelle's neck. With speed born of hours of practice, Marcelle beat the strike aside, driving the heavy blade through the guards armour and into his gut. The guards eyes widened as the blade sunk through his viscera. He coughed, aspirating blood into Marcelle's face.

He slammed his booted foot onto the corpse, tugging the sword free with a wet tearing sound, and the spine-tingling grate of blade on bone. He hopped backwards, narrowly avoiding the battleaxe that hammered down in a wide arc. The second guard smiled wickedly, his white teeth visible through the helmet. Clearly he thought he had the advantage. He had made the biggest, and last mistake of his life.

Marcelle lunged forward, like a snake striking, his right foot stamping on the wide axehead, forcing it to the ground. The axe slipped from the guards grasp as Marcelle's left knee hammered forward, colliding heavily with stooped guards jaw. There was a loud crack as the guard's head jerked back, lolling unnaturally.

Taking a step forward, Marcelle finished the paralysed guard with a quick downward slash to the throat. He risked a glance over his shoulder, taking in the thief finishing the guard pinned under her supple body, and the hurrying figures of the Warrior and Mage. He backed up, keeping the bloody sword point trained on another group of guards approaching from the western tower. His footwork was impeccable, as he moved swiftly to a level position with the Thief. He spoke slowly and clearly, his rasping voice carrying easily over the roar of the riot. “Wait for them to charge, take the leaders then run for the river like Mehrunes Dagon is on your heels.” He hoped she would follow this plan as it was the only way he could see of getting out alive. There was no more time for thought now however, as the three front runners reached the pair.

Marcelle held his sabre held out in front of him, the point lowered so the recurved edge of the blade could be thrust through the joints in the armour, and up into lungs and hearts. He met the first guards wild strike with an overhead block, the impact of the two blades running roughly down his arm. Twisting inside his opponents guard, he slammed his free hand down on the inside of the soldier's elbow, forcing his sword hand to open, letting the weapon fall to the ground. Wasting no time, Marcelle extended his sword arm, then lashed it brutally back across his body, slicing the tip through the guards throat.

The warm caress of arterial spray brushed across Marcelle's face, as the blood pumped from the man's severed jugular. With a quick thrust of his right knee, he sent the corpse sprawling, tripping up his comrade who was a few paces behind him. Marcelle took this opportunity to spring away from the fight like a hare from a trap. His legs pumped as he hurtled down the side alley by the town wall, hearing the hiss-thump of arrows impacting around him.

Making a split-second adjustment, he lowered his shoulder, hitting the guard blocking the other exit square on in the sternum. The impact robbed Marcelle of his momentum and balance, sending him toppling to the paving stones, along with the winded guard. As he fell, his wrist jarred awkwardly, sending the sabre skittering out of his grasp and into the river. The guard, who had regained some of his energy, reached up, and locked his gauntleted hands around Marcelle's neck. As the grip tightened, Marcelle chopped both hands down on his attackers elbows, sending his hands into spasm, releasing his neck in the process. The guard cried out, slamming his helmeted head into the bridge of Marcelle's nose. Stunned, Marcelle rolled off the guard, who seized the advantage and began to throttle him again.

Opting for a different tactic, as the oxygen was starved from his lungs, Marcelle kicked up between the guard's legs, combining it with an eel like wriggle. The guard let out a yelp of pain, as the blow crushed his soft organs. Continuing the kick, Marcelle lifted the Dunmer over his head and pitched him, like a fish escaping from a boat, into the Odai. Executing a graceless roll, Marcelle dropped into the murky water, his impact making considerably less splash than the heavily armoured guard.

He watched his assailant sink, the weight of his armour dragging him to the bottom. With a lazy breast stroke, Marcelle swam forward, hooking a dagger from the guard's belt, and slashed his throat. The blood welled up into a red cloud, like the ash from a volcano, swirling hypnotically in the current.

This same current swept Marcelle out of the town, and away from trouble. It was only when he was lying on a riverbank, gasping for breath that he thought of the others. He hoped they had made it. No-one deserved to die in a pit like Balmora.

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#, as written by Imehal
The lull in activity had given the mage encumbered warrior and his accursed bird time to flee the scene, which left the Altmer thief and Imperial swordsman to cover them. He was brutally efficient with occasionally graceless but precise style, once more leaving Por impressed. There was no love within her for those who choose to focus on theatrics over practicality; flashy entrances were acceptable but afterwards, all business. Azura, with all her damnable persistence, at least had the decency to choose helpful allies: a group of mages would have filled the thief with considerable dread. All they ever did was want to show off! Sensible as well she realised when sound advice came forth, audible due to the proximity over the chaos of the uncontrolled brawling.
Cut your losses and retreat were the tactics of a man who preferred survival over glory. Again Por was fleetingly approving, surveying what was to come. Everything could be gleaned from a careless person's body language and if there was one thing these guards were, it was painfully easy to read.

There was only time for an energetic nod before the front line was upon them. Grinning, she almost felt sorry for them as Marcelle moved to block the initial strike, shifting around the guard she had already felled to avoid a great-axe’s swing bearing down on her original position. The reverberating thunk made her wince despite her safety but that was hardly foremost, glancing upon the Hlaau guard with passing apprehension. Bonemould armour did not tend to have many openings for her slim daggers to take advantage of and thus Por improvised, crudely using the corpse as a stepping stone, tutting deprecatingly at the mindless swing towards her legs that followed the first. Her jump was timed so that she could use the shaft of the impressive weapon like a spring board, applying her own weight to throw him off-balance. It was just enough; her arm stretched upwards and slashed cruelly at the man's eyes, finding her mark with guiltless precision.

Predictably the axe fell from the man's grip as the shock mellowed out into agony and wet blindness but Por had been prepared for this, dropping backwards from the descent into a backwards roll that landed her on her feet once more. There would be scarcely seconds before the screaming began and she had absolutely no intention of being around when it started, breathing deeply as attention turned towards the alleyway where Marcelle had just disappeared.

The third front runner came in to her peripheral vision at just the wrong moment for him as a groan of frustration passed the thief's lips, hopping awkwardly away from his assault with a rather hefty round shield. Por's stare of bewilderment only lasted a moment before a dagger was flying towards the man's crotch, praying that the realisation that the man was in full metal armour would not come. It did not, the distraction coaxing him into lowering his shield to deflect the thrown weapon. By the time he looked up again Por was gone down the narrow passageway, summoning all her energy reserves to sprint towards the Odai, eyes reflecting fleeting concern as the Imperial rolled awkwardly into the river itself.

Her focus returned to the combat faded as the realisation that she was not quite out of harm's way came upon Por, hearing rather than seeing the arrows splinter and shatter against the pavement all around her. Launching a rescue attempt of a Telvanni wizard in Balmora screamed batshit insane, as did fleeing under a thick rain of arrows. Maybe that was the criteria that Azura had pinned to make up her chosen; willing to do anything for what they desired most. Wily minx.

Her thoughts were broken as searing pain erupted from her left shoulder blade, prompting a long string of colourful curses to escape her lips; most of them towards the Daedric Prince unsurprisingly. Her steps did not falter despite the agony that made Por grit her teeth, the arrows still falling and metallic footsteps catching up on her at an alarmingly rate. Her pace must had slowed. Curses! The river... the river. “Get to the river girl,” she hissed under her breath, half-leaping over the lipped edge of the embankment to land in the water feet first.

Crimson stained the waters but there was little time to dwell on that as the currents pulled her defiantly south and away from the pursing guards. It was all Por could do not to slip under the water, flinching every time a strong tug came at the embedded arrow. Safe though.

Some time later, Por washed up face down on the shore a little further down from Marcelle quite unconscious with a strange pallor to her skin that did not seem entirely healthy. The shaft had snapped en route, just leaving a few inches of it and the arrowhead in her back. It took scarcely a few moments for the spluttering that was her lungs attempt to expel the water, coughing and retching violently.

“Never... helping... anyone again!”

Not only was she separated from her associates, but the guard of Balmora wanted her head and Azura had done nothing to make their task easier. Some deity she was. Intertwined fates her arse; as soon as she was fit to travel Por was making her way back towards Cyrodiil's borders. She presumed she was alone, not having glanced up to notice Marcelle or indeed, even if her surroundings were unoccupied. The fluid in her lungs was first priority.

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#, as written by Guest
Crow ignored the fighting around him, silently thanking the gods for their help as he dashed forward; he could hear Azura speak inside his mind. “It was not me, but them.” She said in her godly voice, he could hardly believe his own thoughts, he had doubted the vision inside his dream was truth, he'd been a realist and a doubter since the death of his family.

Marcelle was a brutal man, though refined like any other gentleman. Por the elven thief was graceful yet... had an unpredictable style that Crow could not yet place. Crow was simply a farmer turned loose. He did not hold the same merciless like others, he valued life like any other farmer with their cattle, he simply viewed the guards as confused sheep without a Shepard.

Crow took to sprinting towards the exit, clutching his mace with a tight grip as he spun it around suddenly as well as himself, the hairs on the back of his neck had told him of an advancing guard. The only one to survive the violent escape of his two 'colleagues'

The mace's head slammed into the guard's side, spiraling a spider-web crack up the armour and leaving the guard screaming in pain as the blow had been just enough to break a few ribs and the constriction of broken armour was a torture itself, to add to the humiliation of being downed in a single blow, the sword was sent flying and landed inches away from the guards crotch, clanging to the floor.

Crow wasted no more time, he dived into the river and hit the water with a loud splash and made sure to keep the magician out of the water, fainted people could not even control their own breath, let alone in the water, but his clutch was broken by his weapon sinking into the depths as he dived down, letting go of the Telvannni witch to save his endeared weapon and leaving her to drift placidly towards the other bank.

He surfaced shortly afterward, dragging himself upwards and onto the bank, his traveling cloak and face dripping with water and his mace thudded onto the sand as it was tossed forwards onto the bank, landing short of the advancing Crow.

A flutter and a long caw was heard in the air, his pet was keeping watch for any trouble ahead and behind.

“Azura be damned.” He shouted, pointing his finger at the sky, furious at the loss of the cause of trouble.

“You hear me!?” He roared, a challenge to her.

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By the time the others had drifted up onto the bank, like flotsam on a beach, Marcelle had made a small, smokeless fire and was drying his soaking clothes over a tree limb. He sat on a stump, whittling down a long elm branch into a point with his dagger, the blade of which flickered in the firelight. His wet clothes steamed in the evening air, plumes of water vapour rising upwards into the canopy. Marcelle got to his feet, clad only in a loincloth and slipped into his boots. Softly, he padded down to the water’s edge, past the prone form of Por, carrying the elm branch in his left hand. He approached the shimmering water and splashed up to his knees in the shallows. The boots gave him a firm grip on the shale bed of the river as the water lapped around his scarred body.

He transferred his makeshift spear to his right hand, wincing as the knots of scar tissue that covered his back wrenched with the movements of his shoulder. He fixed his pale eyes on the waterline, watching the undulating motions of the fish. He lunged downwards, like a spring uncoiling, hammering the spear point through the tough scales of a medium-sized slaughterfish. The fish thrashed wildly, dislodging Marcelle’s footing, sending him careening into the water.

Marcelle surfaced, coughing and spluttering, using the spear to support him. When he regained his elegant posture, he hauled the spear from the river, inspecting his catch. The fishes dark green scales rippled in the sunlight, its massive fanged jaws opening and shutting as the last shocks ran down its severed jaws. With a distasteful frown plastered across his scarred features, Marcelle yanked the fish from the spear point, leaving behind a few shreds of translucent flesh. Without really looking, he tossed the fish in the direction of his campfire, not registering the wet slap as it caught the thief across the cheek.

He flicked his gaze back to the water, and plunged his spear in and out, catching two decent sized fish in rapid succession. Just as he was about to deposit his catch at the fire, he noticed the glint of gold in the murky water. He bent down, slipping his hand into the ice cold water. His hand closed around the grip of his sabre, and his face curled into an uncharacteristic smile. Although, with the scarring that marred his cheek, it looked more like an angry grimace. He raised the weapon from the water, droplets slipping from the blade. The subtle curve shone in the sunlight, as Marcelle raised it up.

Marcelle straightened up in time to see Crow hauling himself out of the water, and to hear the angry curses flowing from his mouth. “Looks like you made it..” Marcelle’s voice rasped from his throat like the strangled cry of a dying man. “Think she took an arrow. Might want to help her.” He indicated Por with the point of his sabre and stumped up the beach, carrying his fish in his left hand.

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#, as written by Imehal
Por really had no patience for fools, rising to stand with an agitated growl to see that yes, Crow had indeed joined them on the riverbank. Shame; she had been hoping that he had merely been an annoying hallucination.

“Speaking of people being damned,” she quipped back at his cursing, stalwartly ignoring the sweaty clamour that would not let her forget the piercing pain in her shoulder, although both were beginning to make her temper exceedingly short-fused. “Where's the mage?”

Por turned to face Crow then, the grin on her lips decidedly wicked. The mage's well-being was of no consequence to the thief as long as the self-styled slaver and the fencer were alive and healthy. Azura would not have a fit at her for some insignificant mage getting lost upstream... well... she hoped not anyway.

Then she was literally slapped out of her thoughts... by a dead fish. Water and blood wet her cheek and Por growled again in frustration, this time directed towards Marcelle at the jar the contact had reverberated down her shoulder. If Crow decided to help her, she would be grateful but never would she stoop so low to ask, examining finally what the swordsman had done with the environment around them. Really? He'd set up a camp? How long had he been there conscious?

“Regardless, we cannot stay out in the open. If the guards here are anything like those back home, they'll be scouring the countryside around Balmora for us right now after a stunt like that. So first things fast, the name's Por and we need to find somewhere to hide out and think of a game plan. After all, Azura clearly isn't game for getting us out of all life threatening situations.”

Then she wasted no time in looking around, trying to gain her bearings in a place that she had absolutely no idea about, frowning deeply. “So do either of you know where we are and by some miracle, know of a safe place to rest that isn't out in the open?”

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#, as written by Gasmask
Crow was still irritated by the water which had waterlogged his ears, he tilted his head to the side to allow the water to trickle out of his left one. "She was taken by the current, she'll probably surface somewhere along, but she was still out of it when it took her." Crow replied to Por, his tone containing vestiges of anger.

He looked towards the other bank, but couldn't see anybody over there. He fumed quietly, his mind rolling over insults that would most insult the gods if they ever glimpsed into Crow's mind once more.

Crow held out his wet right arm, shaking it and then he placed a finger between his lip and made a sharp whistling sound. A few seconds later a large black bird would perch upon his arm. He leaned forward to whisper into the crow's ear. The Crow seemed to nod its beak in response.

Hard to decide if Crow was a mad-man or one in touch with nature.

The unshaven man then kicked at the dirt, hauling a hand over to Marcelle. "Stranger! I am thankful for your help." He said loudly, turning to Por as he looked her over, eying the wound warily.

"Yes, and if you retain that arrow, you're going to be the death of us." Crow said, his tone reluctant. He then moved towards her, stopping short behind her.

"I take it you two did not do this as a random act of kindness? For I am no slaver." Crow said laid his hands gently upon her back if an action like that was allowed. If so, Crow would then attempt to gently and smoothly tug the arrow out.

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With a sullen yawn, Marcelle stretched his fatigued muscles, leaning against the roots of the cavernous mushroom tree that towered over the small group. The Altmer and Warrior had devolved to bickering now, stood in the open for all to see, voices raised above the soft lapping of the river, and the calls of various birds. The sun gleamed bright orange in the evening air, as its wayward tracking across the sky took it down below the hills that framed the riverbank. The soft shadows began to spread like oozing treacle, creating gloomy pools of blackness under the tree, almost swallowing the glow from Marcelle’s fire entirely.

He turned his head to the three sizeable fish propped at his feet, ignoring the others entirely. Extending his scarred arm, Marcelle yanked the largest fish from the pile, dropping it onto a gnarled tree-stump beside him. Hopping to his booted feet, the ring around his neck catching the fire-light, he grabbed the slight curve of his sabre, and used it to neatly lop the head off the fish. The blade came down with a soft thump-squeltch, a noise sure to attract the attention of his partners-in-crime. With a flick of his wrist, he snapped the toothed maw of the fish into the black waters of the river with the flat of his blade, turning his attention to the carcass itself. He slid his dagger along the spine, opening the fish like a butterfly’s wings. Using the point of the weapon, he scraped away most of the offal, and cut a trio of good sized fillets from the bone.

Carrying the fillets in one hand, he padded over to the fire, dropping the strips onto a flat rock which was glowing an angry volcanic red in the heart of the flames. There was a rush of sizzling, as the fish settled on the rock, the white flesh creasing and shrinking in the heat. Wisps of aromatic smoke rose from the fire, carried by the wind out towards the river.
And now for the incredibly distasteful task Marcelle had been putting off for several minutes now. He pulled the thick canvas shirt over his torso, examining a rip down the side, caused by the barbed point of an arrow in flight. He slipped the blade of the sabre into its sheath and slipped over to join Por and Crow. He hadn’t had much time to fully take in the barbaric appearance of the warrior before, but in the evening gloom, it was clear that this man was no noble. Marcelle did not fight to repress the status-related prejudice that reared its ugly head within his fatigued form. He yawned again, scratching the red-raw surface of the crescent shaped burn on his cheek.

“We don’t have time for introductions. I suggest we wait-.” Marcelle paused for dramatic emphasis “-quietly till nightfall, and then continue down the river.” The Imperial’s extensive knowledge of the area came as a result of the crippling insomnia he suffered every night, forcing him to take long walks down the Odai, staring into the cool waters, in the hope that the nightmares of fire and destruction would be purged from his form. He turned to Por, passing a cursory glance over the arrow wound. “I’d go and eat before we leave. Regain your strength.” As he spoke, he nodded in the direction of the fish, still sizzling and spitting in the fire.

As it would seem, this gesture was incredibly out of character for the deranged, fire-haunted Imperial slaver, but it was clear that it was in his best interests to keep these people alive, and the innate sense of survival present within his ravaged for would extend to the group for as long as they were useful.
He flicked his scarred face around to Crow, injecting a note of scorn into his hoarse voice. “Clear the ground. Make it as if no-one was here.” At this, he turned and stumped off in the direction of the fire, and the smell of cooked fish.

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#, as written by Imehal
There was simply no adequate description for the stunned look across Por's face at Crow's actions at first, though she certainly seemed to find herself when he approached her to take care of the arrow, initially taking a step back out of instinct. He was a stranger but the constant, agonising throbbing that indicated wood and steel deep within her shoulder made her stop, surveying with careful, distrustful eyes before giving a nod.

Instead of following the man disappearing behind her to remove the arrow, Por found distraction in the methods that Marcelle was using to prepare the fish for cooking, the almost-silence that took over in absence of words; anything. She was not ignorant to arrow inflicted wounds. They stung, tore at the flesh if the head was jagged and it was with significant willpower that Por did not take Crow's hand off with a knife when he laid a hand flat around the wound to brace himself.

There was a butterfly landing a few feet away on a browning leaf, discarded by its tree so very late and looking quite lost in the frost that signified winter setting in proper. The Altmer smiled crookedly for a split second before pain blossomed in her shoulder, curses escaping her lips in whispers, reaching out to brace herself against a tree. Thoroughly unbalanced, no more words came from her even at Marcelle's approach, slipping down into a crouch beside the tree, pale as the snow itself.

The thief, despite the spinning her world insisted on doing, slowly looked up at Crow with gratitude and begrudging respect. He had not botched the removal – she could feel that – and for that, she was thankful.

Marcelle had a damned good point, bemusing theatrics aside. Por completely blamed her injury for her lack of tact when it had come to the current situation, feeling a little chastened. Rightly so, she mused, nodding absently towards Marcelle generally. Not even she really knew if this was an agreement to his words or simply an acknowledgement that something had been said, though the rise to stand and take a few shaky footsteps towards where the fire and food rested suggested the former.

Regaining her strength seemed like a very good idea, although Por did not entirely trust her hand-eye coordination to not sear her fingers on the disturbingly molten-looking rocks, so she waited a few moments to let the dizziness fade.

By the time that the crescent scarred man had returned to the fireside after delivering the sharp order to Crow, Por had mustered the co-ordination to pick up one of the sticks without searing her fingers, laying it across her lap on her leathers until the fish cooled enough to eat. Looking for something to keep her hands busy in the meantime, the omni-present backpack slid from her shoulders. It had been a long shot to hope that everything in there would not need to be laid out and dried but one section remained bone dry.

There was a blessing muttered to the gods, ironic considering it was technically Azura's fault everything else she owned was ruined. Still, when it was her thief's tools that were dry... small mercies. Without a care for company, Por slipped free the fastenings for her upper leathers, sliding it off her shoulders to reveal a sweat and blood stained undershirt, slipping her arms out of the sleeves before retrieving a now sodden cloth from her pack, squeezing the excess water free.

It took a few moments to manage to reach where the arrow had pierced skin and no small amount of gritting teeth to ignore discomfort that twisting so brought, but eventually Por had managed to do her best to clear the wound. Modesty eventually gave way to common sense and she discarded the undershirt almost immediately afterwards on account of how filthy it was, covering her bare skin with the leather quickly to stave off the cold.

Getting sick atop tiredness and injury was surprisingly not on her things to do list, refastening the leather loosely before picking up the fish to take a few chunks out of it carefully despite her apparent ravenous hunger that had accumulated on account of the mere smell of food. If she was at all embarrassed by her brief disrobing, there was no evidence in it.

Eyes shifted to look upon Marcelle briefly but no words were exchanged at first, the thief chewing thoughtfully. “Thanks. Mostly for the perspective on the situation but the food's welcome as well.” The smile was fleeting but honest, directed towards Crow as well if he was within her eyesight.

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#, as written by Gasmask
Crow nodded slowly towards Por. The commanding aura and voice of the Imperial gave Crow a slight respect for the man. Crow assumed Marcelle was a trooper or at-least an ex-trooper(There is a difference.)

The has-been farmer stroked the bird resting upon his shoulder. "Hunt." He whispered plainly as he shook his shoulder to shake the 'pet off. Crow then deviated his attention between both Por and Marcelle, gauging and observing before reaching forward to take the fish off the fire. "You should know then, we should not leave the fire to blaze tonight nor tomorrow. They might have scouts, which will bring the Guards down upon us without the tracks." He said back, mocking derision sounding freely in his voice.

He took off his wet cloak and threw it upon the fire to douse it. "Don't be so infernally ignorant on how hunters track, or Hircine take you into his great hunt as prey." he whispered under his breath. Underneath the wet-cloak that was abruptly removed revealed the crude armour beneath that only covered the chest which in turn leaving the shoulders and arms without guard.

The arms were covered in blue tattoos and scars, commonly known throughout the land as the signs of a man who followed Hircine. This would give them a reason to be wary, usually a follower of Hircine had the curse of Were-Beast, but that had a rumor, no?

The farmer then pulled his weapon from the snow and laid it upon the cloak resting on the doused fire. "I'll keep first watch, that is of course, you think I'm going to turn into a wolf and rip your throats out." He said with a wolfish smirk.

Crow snatched up the fish and started to eat it, much like a bear.