Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:38 pm

The trio relaxed, chatting while the Dunmer tended the boat's sail. He looked up, smiling at the Keynari vixen and Tigaran mage, the latter trailing one hand in the water while they discussed their little mage-secrets. Well, not secrets, they were chatting openly.. but he had no interest in Daedron flow, flux-currents or why different people regenerated their mage-flux (whatever that really was) at different rates. He tugged one of the lines a bit and re-snubbed the line to the eyelet at his side, then turned to the pair. "So, have you solved the whichness of why, yet? And if so, are either of you hungry?"

Arissi gape-grinned at him, and then poked her pink tongue out at him. "Of course are hungry, silly Dven. Are always hungry when talking for hours and hours while silly Dven sails boat and ignores us. Arissi knows is not intentional, Dven is not interested in magicka-stuffs. Is nice to have time to smell sea and enjoy sun and wind though, yes?" She flicked her ears to the sides and back toward him... a sign that he knew meant that she was teasing.

Rosa set a hand atop the little vixen's head and ruffled her ears about, grinning. (She knew that Arissi didn't care for it, but put up with the familiarity because she liked the Tigaran a great deal... not to mention acting as the Keynari's mentor.) "As if you weren't enjoying a chance to be lazy, Arissi." She leaned back and stretched... pulling her hand from the water a moment before a slaughterfish would have gotten near enough to try a sample; it twitched suddenly and darted off, trailing a streak of green in the water for a moment.. the Tigaran smiled again. It's too bad that you can't train them to leave fingers alone.

Well, what now?" drawled the Dunmer. "Once we've traded all this for funds, what do we do next? We certainly don't need any longer to look for things to do so we can eat, but I don't want to sit around and count coins, either." He settled back against a sack and set his hands behind his head. "So.. what next?"

Rosa started to speak, but Arissi straightened and practically yelped, "Is obvious! Must learn things, find ways to find vampires! Arissi will have this wicked Vask, cannot let him get away with making Arissi and friends look stupid!" She blinked and sat back again, dark fingers pressed to her lips. "Um.. Arissi did not mean to be so vehement, but is how feels..."

Dven looked at the Tigaran mage, who was regarding Arissi with widened eyes. She slowly blinked, and said "Are you certain that this is the path that you want to choose? It can be done, you know. You have the potential to be three times the mage that I am, and the mind to accomplish it."

Dven gaped. A-a vampire hunter? Arissi? "But that's dangerous! I mean, really, Arissi? You want to spend your life hunting those vermin because one stole something that you'd stolen from him that he'd.. stolen.. from.. you..."

All three looked back and forth at each other, then laughed.. and continued to laugh, as the sun sank toward the reddening waters of the west.

For some time the laughter continued, turning to quips and snapped jokes mixed with giggling and laughing, and all the while, well to the east... a small boat with dark-grey hull and grey sail followed.
Last edited by Drac on Sun Apr 21, 2013 4:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:39 pm

Dven kept himself pressed into the tall grass, peering about the roots of one of the mushroom-trees that dotted the small island. "See, Dven, Rosa, Arissi said it was so!" whispered a velvety voice. The Dunmer turned and nodded. "I thought I saw something a day ago, but it could have been a trick of the evening mist on the sea." he whispered. "But this... any thoughts, you two, on who it might be?" He turned his reddish eyes back toward the small sailing vessel gliding over the water to the south.

--------***--------

The trio had spent a lazy two days, sailing in a vessel not much larger than one of the rowing-boats common among the fishermen of Vvardenfell from island to island, taking their time, leisurely poking about their gathered spoils and enjoying the warm midday sun. It was practically an ongoing picnic; catch a couple of fish for dinner, surprise a nesting fowl for some eggs, or plucking some of the fruit that was common to the more southerly of the islands south and east of Vivec. It was a delightful time, with Rosa the Tigaran and Arissi the Keynari vixen chatting about the ways of Magicka, Dven watching the vixen's playful darting about, and much laughter. Then, in one instant, the mood had changed to one of apprehension and concern.

Dven was lazily tugging upon one of the lines to tighten the triangular sail that propelled their little vessel, when he saw Arissi stiffen, her bushy tail bristling and straightening. He was sitting upright and looking off in the direcion she was staring, but saw nothing; "What is it, girl? I'll wake Rosa." He knew well that Arissi was not given to alarm easily, and that when she reacted strongly, there was good reason.

"Hssst! Arissi sees sail... same sail as at noon, always back in mist... always in mist, never in bright day. Is following, Arissi now is certain! Dven, must find out why and who. Please to find place to hide on some island so can see?" She crouched low, her ears flattened.

Dven moved to the Tigaran's side, and tugged at the hem of her robe; he'd learned not to jostle her awake; he remembered the slap of her staff. Well, he should have remembered that people on their guard shouldn't be wakened suddenly. She woke and smiled, then stretched.. and stopped suddenly when she noticed the Dunmer's expression. "What?" she whispered.

Dven simply pointed toward Arissi, whose gaze was still glued to the mists far behind them. "Boat... since at least early morning, maybe longer. Following." He moved Arissi's quiver nearer the vixen, and from the way the ear nearest him twitched, he knew that she was aware of his action. He eased back to the tiller-oar, while the Tigaran smoothed her robe, incidentally patting several places where Dven knew she'd secreted small items useful to her in hidden pockets.

--------***--------

The figure fidgeted, the only occupant of its small vessel. The boat glided silently along over glassy water, its sail limp, and yet it moved as if there was still a breeze. Wrapped in threadbare garments over a gaunt figure, it turned its hood this way and that, slowly scanning the horizon and the nearby islands. A faint hiss came from the darkness within the hood, a sound of frustration; where were they? It had seen them sailing westward as if free of cares for days and nights; could they have noticed it? Surely not; its conjured mists should have hidden it from mere mortals.Thin, gloved hands clutched a worn staff; no matter. It would find them, and catch them sooner or later. And when it did... it would have what it had sought for so long.

--------***--------

The Tigaran and Keynari mages waited in the shadow of an Emperor Parasol, a large mushroom-tree, the furthest seaward on the little promontory of the island; the vixen's pointed muzzle peering about the side, just above a root. "Is coming... will be near enough soon, very soon" she whispered. She glanced to where Dven waited, his blades drawn, covered in the leaves of a comberry bush, then back to the boat. It drew nearer, nearer, without oars or the slightest breath of a breeze on the tall figure standing there. "Closer.. closer... NOW!"
Last edited by Drac on Sun Apr 21, 2013 5:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Fri Apr 19, 2013 8:41 pm

The trio leapt almost as one, the Dunmer with dagger in one hand and a short black, curved sword in the other; the vixen moving low in a running crouch, dagger held before her as if a spear, and the Tigaran with a suddenly-glowing stave held high.

Then all three gawped as they froze in place, seemingly held still in mid-air, unable to move.

The figure turned toward them, still standing quietly in the boat, though the small vessel had stopped moving, barely two feet from the sand. "So, "a voice whispered. "This is where you went, to provide an amusing surprise for me. I cannot help but be pleased. Rosa, you keep good company. Now, if I let you all down, may I be assured that I will not be sliced into confetti and roasted?" The hood fell back with a toss of the figure's head, revealing the golden features and white hair of a tall Elf, grinning at them.

Dven found himself lowered to the ground and able to move; he tried to stand easily, without showing his tension. He looked toward the Tigaran mage whom the stranger had named. "This.. is a friend of yours?" He glanced toward Arissi and did manage to relax slightly, seeing her already sitting down and hugging her knees (he noted, however, that her dagger (the one that changed at times into a hideous black and jagged blade) was sitting under her thigh, hidden from the strange Elf's view.

Rosa stood and gaped, her jaw working as if she were a fish out of water, for several long moments.. then she flung herself at the golden Elf and threw her arms around him. "Vanaiar! What are you doing on this side of the world?!? The last I'd heard of you was when you said you were sailing to Akavir!" She turned to her companions and practically giggled, "Dven, Arissi, this is Vanaiar.. he was my teacher for seven years, he taught me everything!"

===***===

Several hours later, with all four sitting around a small fire and comfortably full after a meal (and full of a hundred anecdotes about one another, usually embellished to try to embarrass each other), Rosa leaned toward Vanaiar and smiled. "All right, I think that I've been very, very, very patient. Why were you following us, my teacher?"

The golden Elf drew a deep breath, and turned toward his former student. "I found it, Rosa. I found the way in." He leaned back and waited for her reaction.

Arissi flicked her ears. "Found it? Found what, what can be? Rosa's teacher is great man, Rosa said, but came back from so very far. It must be either something most wonderful, or most awful! Arissi hopes for most profitable, of course". She shook her head from side to side, enough to flip her ears about; she gape-grinned at Dven, who was always amused when the Keynari vixen did that.

Dven smiled in return, then turned to Rosa and the other Elf. This was likely to be interesting... he'd heard of this fellow, one of a relative few to speak with the vampiric serpent-folk of that far-off continent and return unscathed. He thought highly of Rosa, but his opinion of his Tigaran friend had grown while listening to their banter.

Rosa stared. "You.. found it? It's real? You actually found a way into the Darkpaths? But.. I was sure that you'd come back to tell those idiots at the Guild that the Paths were not only mythical, but provably mythical!"

Vanaiar shook his head slowly. "Not such idiots after all, in the sense that you mean, Rosa. I'm convinced that not only did they know about it all along, but that they've been actively concealing the thing since shortly after that dolt Trebonius became Archmage. He's a competent battlemage, but when faced with something that requires thinking, his grand idea was to hide it and forbid all but a few from even looking for it. The Serpent-folk know of it, and were able to show me proof of the existence of several ways into the outer realm where they exist, but could not tell me how to open a door for myself. Incidentally, do not ever trust them; after helping me for months, they suddenly decided to try to take me and wrest what secrets of Magicka I hold from my hide. It took a great deal to free myself from their domain. Still, their help was invaluable. I was able to follow traces here and there to old places that still held a touch of their signature, and managed to learn somewhat of their workings." He looked at each one of the three for a long moment.

"Several of the Mages' Guild houses conceal a link into the Daedric Princes' playground. Those that were portable were secretly moved into existing Guild halls; the ones that weren't literally had the Guild house built on top of them, and evidence of their existence was quietly suppressed. However, since Trebonius became the Guild head, something new has been happening." He looked from one to another of the trio. "They're working to open them again."
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Tue Apr 23, 2013 12:15 am

The trio... Tigaran, Keynari and Dunmer... stared at their new compatriot with mixed expressions. Two muzzles hung agape, and a blue-grey face frowned in concern. Rosa spoke first, after short snarling hiss. "You cannot be serious, good Vanaiar? They would open the paths that once made it easy for our world to be invaded? They cannot be such fools!" She gripped her staff tightly, hands shaking slightly.

The tall Elf looked at her somberly. "I cannot prove it, but all of the indications are there, dear lady. The flows are shifting, and the barriers between the worlds are forming new patterns that are described in the old records. The firegates of Oblivion could very well be accessible within the year, and I fear for our respective peoples. I heard of a Tigaran mage, and hoped that it was you... I need allies if I am to challenge Trebonius. Only the Archmage can command that such a project be dismantled and expect it to be obeyed." He suddenly looked even more weary than before, his features sagging slightly when he leaned forward over their fire.

Dven had been looking back and forth from muzzle to muzzle to face, and back again. "All right, someone let me in on the secret, please. What's all this mean? Are the old Daedric Princes returning, or can we expect a measly invasion of ten thousand Dremora?" He waited for the smiles, and when they did not come, he slowly blinked. "No... they can't.. you mean it might come to that?!?" His expression became a study in incredulity, eyes widening. His lips parted and closed, then parted again after a swallow. "No one could be that... wait. Unless some of the higher-ups in the Mages Guild were subverted, somehow? Maybe promised some gigantic reward?"

The other three turned to look at the Dunmer Elf for a long moment. Finally the sorceress spoke, "That's a terrible thought, Dven, but we cannot discount the possibility. There is a reason that small children are told stories to keep them from staring into fires for too long; in older days, the walls between the worlds were thinner, and sometimes one's will could be captured by some creature from the Outer Realms. Such a one could do great damage, if they were in a position to influence others." She stirred, pulling her robe more closely about herself. Suddenly the fire didn't seem so warming, and the night itself felt more chill. "Vanaiar, you said that you needed allies. You're planning to do something directly, then?"

Arissi piped up, her ears flicking back and forth toward her companions as they spoke. "Yes! Arissi will help, if will have? Knows Rosa will wish to help her teacher, how can Arissi not help her own?" She turned her gaze toward Dven, who was frowning and looking down. "Will Dven help, also?"

I don't know, my little love. It seems to me that to get mixed up in this is a good way to get roasted, eaten, flayed and killed, probably in that order. I'm not some warrior out of the stories, to stand up to Daedric lordlings..."

Arissi jumped to her feet, facing the grey-skinned Dunmer. "But is just not so! Dven has helped slay Dremora already, and recently! Also, where can hide if Daedra come through so many at a time?" The small vixen was practically hopping from one foot to the other, agitated so that she couldn't hold still.

Dven half-smiled. "I seem to recall a certain fox telling me that her people had made a life for themselves on islands where Daedra were relatively common, and even managed to thrive among demons and other annoyances." He reached to run fingers through her cheekfur.

Arissi leaned back from Dven's outstretched hand. "No, nono! Were not so many, could hide and sneak and tell others when to hide, but if old ways are opened wide, will be LOTS of Daedra, manymany more than could ever hide from!" She shook herself hard enough that her ears flapped for a moment, then stood with her hands on her hips. "If this happens, might as well be end of world, because all will be dead or slaves or dinner, or maybe all three!" She glared at him, panting through flared nostrils.

The Dunmer Elf stared at his small companion. "As bad as all that?" He frowned deeper still, his face losing all other expression. "And I'd thought being bound to a vampire was bad..." He half-growled to himself, then suddenly stood, holding his hand to the aged Altmer. "All right, I'm no warrior, but I'm with you. Besides, where Arissi goes, so I go as well. And I'm not about to abandon my feline friend, either." He grasped forearms with the reach that met his, then yanked his black blade free and slung it point-first into the ground. "So where do we go from here?"
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sun Apr 28, 2013 6:36 pm

When he'd thrown his lot in with the schemes of Rosa's mentor, thought the dark-skinned Dven, he'd believed there would be a trek to a Meges Guild hall, some sort of confrontation and resolution. He hadn't thought that there would be long trips to places he'd always avoided; this was one such. He wondered what he'd gotten himself into... then smiled inwardly. It was inevitable, he thought; wherever the little Keynari vixen went, whatever sort of adventures she cooked up, he'd be along... he couldn't help himself. Everything about her seemed a contradiction, everything about her seemed to attract him like a lodestone and iron. One day she seemed like a child whose chores were done, skipping about, singing in that soft voice of hers, or down on all fours, peering at some interesting insect she'd found; the next, she was straining in some deep mystery of enchantment, or discussing the whyness of where and the inner workings of whichness with her teacher, the Tigaran named Rosa. This morning, she'd gotten them all talking about the stories, rumors and few known facts about vampires, their motivations, and their strengths and weaknesses. He sighed... she'd be the death of him, and Lady help him, he'd enjoy life along the way. He looked over to where Arissi was staring at a stick that she held in her hands, with Rosa watching over her shoulder. He leaned that way slightly, listening...

"Slowly, slowly, Arissi. Patience is the single greatest virtue when producing enchantments. Doing things quickly will introduce flaws; only with patience and concentration will these things come together... yes, like that." The Tigaran was almost whispering, her own hand cupped under the vixen's where she held them clenched about the base of the stick. Barely more than a twig, a few inches' length of ashwood that the Keynari had seemingly scooped up at random, it seemed to twist and curl by itself, then almost flow back to its original shape. "It will resist too-rapid change, but if you coax it slowly, it will hear you and obey, whether you want it to give off light or just smell nicer." The vixen was staring intently at the twig, occasionally a pink tongue licking her lips. Her ears were aimed at the twig, her attention completely centered upon the small length of wood. Suddenly it split along its length, slivers curling outward from the center, until it resembled a flower.

Dven caught the scent coming from the thing. Kanet? From an ash-stick? He smiled.. leave it to Arissi to try to create little play-paradoxes. He turned to where the aged Altmer sat reading from a small book, settled against a rock on the beach where they'd pulled up their boat last night. "What are you reading there, Vanaiar? Something to help with your plans, no doubt?"

The Elf looked up and smiled. "No, it is just a collection of poems from my homeland, my friend. It relaxes me when the world grows a bit heavy. Perhaps you'd like to hear a bit? It's just some prose from my youth... a bit aged, like myself." He shifted, robes rustling. "When the ladies are needing a break, perhaps?"

Rosa looked up, also shifting a bit upon her knees. "I think that that would be a pleasant thing, Vanaiar. Arissi's been pushing herself for several hours. No doubt she will welcome a break also." She set a hand to the slender shoulder in front of her. "Wouldn't you?" She vixen looked back at her teacher and nodded.

Arissi would like to rest, yes. Is hard, to unlearn so much of what used to believe about magicka, and then re-learn what is much harder." She grinned a bit. "Most especially when has such cruel teacher that asks so nicely of Arissi to do very hard things." She looked at Rosa with wide, soft eyes, but her tail was twitching slightly, and her ears were flicking about. She grinned again, and her expression returned to the impish set that was her usual way, and settled to lie upon her side on the warm sand, propping a cheek on her arm. "Please to read of nice things, tall Elf. Arissi wishes to think of other things just now."

Vanaiar bowed his head for a moment. "Then by popular request, the prose of Elethiel." He held the small book higher and began.

When comes the spring,
and all cold falls away,
then comes the green,
for moods to follow.

Young men sigh, and their hearts do keen.
Love, O love, where are you now?
Our hearts are heavy, and want lifting;
we feel them empty, they are hollow.

Wander, yes wander, over fields in sun,
seeking their wants, though the lands.
The cycle is eternal, comes the desire,
now winter is done, time to till hearts fallow.

Young ladies wandering to and fro,
young lads out a-seeking lasses and friends.
When they meet, the sun will shine,
young hearts will tell poems that are difficult to swallow.

Such as this one.


He half-stood and mock-bowed. "And now, we have business, I think. The Shrine will be visible before nightfall, I think; it is just around the southeastern rocks, and will be visible high on the cliff, above the seaside. But we will not see it if we do not continue, yes?"
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Wed May 22, 2013 3:17 am

"See... see now, how the flow of Daedrons curves leftward and up? If I could but continue the curve, I am convinced that it would point toward Hammerfell's Star." The gold-skinned Elf waved his hand through the apparition, formed in smoke from their small fire. "That is the node once used to anchor the Darkpaths. If Trebonius stands by and does nothing, the flow will reach the star, and then the Paths may again be opened." He looked up from the coals, his face looking more tired than usual. "And that will be the beginning of a reign of darkness everywhere." He slowly stood, leaning heavily upon his staff, and stretched. "At the rate of increase, I may even live to see it... may that day never come."

Four companions sat or stood about a dying fire, a small pile of coals in a circle of stones. A tall Golden Elf, a Tigaran, a Keynari, and a Dunmer Elf. All were quiet for a moment, before the Dunmer slapped the bare dirt beside his hip. "Then again I'll ask, Vanaiar. What's to be done? You must think that there's a way to prevent this from happening, or you wouldn't have been looking for your student. If you have a plan, let us hear it." He brushed an insect from his ear and bit his lip. "We have all said that we are with you in this, but we can do little if we have no idea of your intent." He rubbed a hand over his shaven scalp, and fingered the knot of hair at the back of his head, then looked from one of the others to the next, as if to say "Well?"

The Keynari vixen spoke next. "Arissi does not know what must be done to stop all of this, but does know that we must make preparings. But what is best to prepare? Can make potions, enchantings, think of great spells, but where, how and what to apply? Is foolish to do big things without aim." She sat down, curling her thick tail over her knees. "Arissi thinks, though, that will be much danger before end... almost before beginning, even. But will do what can to stop whole world from being hunting-place for demons, worse than Keynariad islands. Arissi left there to avoid being hunted anymore, so learns to become hunter instead... but cannot save anyone if whole world becomes big Daedric hunting-park. So Arissi asks as does Dven... how to begin?"

The fourth member of the little group simply lifted her head and nodded slowly. The Tigaran mage Rosa licked her lips, and set the foot of her staff to the ground between her knees. "As they say, old friend. I know you from old, and that you dislike sharing your secrets before you're ready, but I, too, wish to have some idea of what you plan, so that I may prepare. That is all that I have to say." She leaned back against the old log, but remained tense.

The oldest of the group looked from one to the other. "I had hoped to think upon this for another day or two, but I see that it will not wait. So, I will begin with a small confession; I had some small part in beginning what we are now trying to prevent; I was the one that found the scraps of writing that came from the writings of the Breton mage Gamafel, from the fragmented histories before even the libraries of the Summerset Isle." He smiled without mirth at their expressions, two uncomprehending and one a picture of astonishment. "Yes, some of the records from that dim time did indeed survive, though only as fragments. However, the hints were plain as the sun in the sky when Gamafel's scraps were brought together with certain volumes in the hidden library at Vivec. Long ago, there was a connection to a slice of Oblivion that was sealed in a chamber deep beneath the Council's tower in Cloudrest. No doubt they thought that they had a wonderful, if dangerous, means of researching Oblivion itself; the Pathstone was a powerful artifact that could open a way to the Darkpaths, left behind by one of the Daedric Princes, though which left it behind... and why...is now lost. However, the Stone was finally destroyed as a danger to all Nirn, shattered, and its pieces all ground to dust, or so it was believed." He put a cloth to his brow and swallowed a moment, as if to catch his thoughts. "I now feel certain that several of the shards of the Stone were secretly hidden, and smuggled off by the less-wise, to try to gain power for whomever had them. Would that such people could vanish from the world! For now at least two of them have surfaced, millennia later, and those who possess them appear intent upon using them."

"What do I intend, and how to prepare, you ask? Very well." He paused for several breaths, then clutched his staff, resting his weight against the shaft. "I intend to enter the Darkpaths, and I have such need of assistance that I would accept almost any aid. It was pure luck that I found you, Rosa, and more luck still that you have an able apprentice... and even more that you are both with one of the more able thie... ahem, adventurers of whom I am aware. And we have one more ally on the way; Dven, I believe that you know her quite well. And have had recent dealings with her. I refer to Redma, whom some call the Hooded Lady."

The Dunmer coughed into his hand, and then laughed quietly behind his hand. "Hm, hm. That explains a bit, Sir Schemer. You've been about this particular scheme far longer than you've admitted." He shifted to a crouch in the dim light, his dark skin reddish in the glow from the coals. "Arissi, Rosa, I've done several jobs for this Redma, though half the times that she's hired me, she hinted that there'd be consequences if I refused her tasks. And yes, I'm on retainer, as you might say, but only to keep an eye out for certain objects, to mention to her if I spotted them. And I think that, from Vanaiar's description, she's been looking for these things as well; not to use, but to sail to the deepest place in the seas of Nirn and dump the dratted things, so that they can be considered gone for good and all." He turned to Arissi, and bowed his head. "Yes, dear heart, I have kept secrets, even when I said that I had no more, but I was convinced that it was best to keep Redma and you separated; she has deep pockets, and I used to think that maybe you couldn't resist seeing what was in them. But you'd have gotten burned, she's as much of a mage as Rosa, at least, as well as a better.. um, "adventurer" than Vanaiar seems to think that I am. But this is my last secret, and secret it is no more." He turned to the lightskinned Elf. "But you understand this. If her schemes cause either of these two otherwise-preventable harm, I'm holding you responsible... as well as myself."
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Fri Jul 05, 2013 10:56 pm

A faint glimmer appeared between polished black clawtips and slowly grew, while a soft voice whispered next to the ear of the owner of those digits. "Yes, that's perfect. Next, guide the flow from your touchpoint into the ring; you must envision and maintain one strand for each of the effects. I know that it's difficult, but you can do this, I am quite certain." After a moment, four faint strands of shimmering light curled downward toward a violet stone set into a finely-tooled band of metal. Resting beside it upon a tree-stump lay a round talisman shaped almost like a fried egg. "Remember, each must touch it at the same time. Only those that touch at once will be absorbed."

The dark-furred hands and arms disappeared into the wide sleeves of a delicately embroidered blue-green robe worn by a frowning Keynari vixen. Her tongue protruded slightly from her lips while she squinted at the objects of her attention. "Is... is very hard, but... ah!" At her quiet exclamation. four streams of seemingly-liquid light brushed the stone, and vanished. At the same instant, a pinkish emanation from the talisman seemed to ooze toward the ring, and then soak into it for several seconds. An instant later, the talisman-like object darkened and cracked, falling into tiny shards. The vixen stared at the ring, watching the blob of pink light shrink about the stone and metal band, then disappear. She looked up at her mentor anxiously. "Is done? Was not so hard... wait, yes, was very hard, Arissi is silly with relief." She slumped a bit when the Tigaran mage nodded and smiled, and gape-grinned at the other two sitting nearby on a log. "Dven! Is done, come and see what Arissi has made!" The Tigaran sat back while the Keynari scooped up the ring and stood, holding it out for her Dunmer companion and the tall gold-skinned Altmer who came with him.

Dven, the dark-skinned Dunmer, looked at the ring and then up to meet the Keynari's wide-eyed gaze. "It's.. a ring? But isn't that what you started with?" He smiled a little condescendingly, "Well, it's pretty enough, and I think it will look good on your hand, at least."

Arissi poked her tongue out at the Dunmer before grinning back at him. "Give some room, and Arissi will show silly Dven!" She hopped backward as well, and held her arms out as if measuring something, then with a flourish moved her hands together and slid the ring upon the middle finger of her left hand. The Dunmer exclaimed something unintelligible when the air about her hand seemed to ripple, and then suddenly coalesced into a wicked-looking bow of red and black... then a look of confusion, when in her opposite hand there was suddenly a great black and red spear, and a vicious-looking dagger of curves and jagged edges showed up tucked in the belt about her waist. "Wait, I've seen the bow before.. but are those what they look to be?!?" He stepped back, his expression almost comical. "Arissi! How did... but... what... " He gawped at the things, and then at his chosen companion, who he now noticed was also wearing a black cuirass with reddish highlights. "All right, I give up. That's quite a trick, now when does the rabbit appear?"

The Altmer, Tigaran and Keynari all laughed, and the Tigaran spoke. "This isn't a trick, Dven. This is Arissi's graduation into the ranks of true mages and enchanters. She's finally done something beyond my own talents; these things won't just appear for a short time and disappear, unless Arissi wishes it; they'll last as long as she wears her ring."

Vanaiar, the Altmer, blinked. "Wait.. that was a permanent summoning?" He leaned upon his staff, looking suddenly very much more interested. "No, you said as long as she wears the ring. So only she can handle these weapons, then?"

Rosa nodded, smiling at where Dven and Arissi were holding one another (the vixen had removed the ring again, and the armor and weapons had immediately faded as if they'd never been). "If she tried to give one to someone, it would cling to her hand, and her fingers would remain clenched about it. Yet she could carry the spear in a sleeve over her back if she wished, the dagger in her belt; she simply cannot remove them from her person. If one were knocked from her hand, it would vanish, yes, but then, she does have the other two yet."

Arissi yelped happily. "Is Arissi's pocket arsenal, can carry inside clothing and be unarmed, but if is needful, pop! Suddenly Arissi is armed better than Imperial legionnaire." She giggled, "Is protected, too!" She thumped her chest and leaned back into Dven's arms, suddenly immensely tired.

Rosa sat upon her rock, resting her own staff across her lap. "I told you that it would wear you out, silly fox. Even the Undrainable Arissi cannot make a major enchantment and not feel the effects." She smiled... "Still, you've done extremely well. I once told you that you'd surpass me by far, and now, at least in this arena, you have. That was well beyond my ability to control, but you did not waver."

Vanaiar frowned. "The only way to create a permanent spell such as that requires a very special source of power. I saw the grand gem that you used; are you admitting that when you two went off by yourselves yesterday that you were planning..."

The Tigaran finished his question for him. "... to summon a daedra capable of that much power? Yes. We both agreed that you two would try to talk us out of it as being much too dangerous, as well as difficult. However, we made many preparations, and everything went perfectly according to our design." She looked toward Dven. "Your mate has surpassed me another way, my friend. She summoned one of the greatest of the daedra that can be summoned, then slew its mortal form and captured its fleeing essence." She turned and smiled at the Keynari, a look filled with pride. "She is apprentice and student no longer." She stood and held her staff high, then pointed it at the wide-eyed vixen. "I give you both Arissi the mage."

Arissi stopped fussing with her new ring, and stared at Rosa. "Arissi is not apprenticed to Rosa anymore? Did not tell Arissi that this would be so. Rosa is Arissi's teacher always, and always is Arissi's friend!" Her tail dipped, as if it wanted to hide between her legs, and her ears fell flat to the back of her head. "Rosa does not plan to leave, Arissi hopes!"

The Altmer mage set a hand to the vixen's shoulder, and squeezed lightly. "Teachers do not go away when their students show themselves to have learned their lessons, Arissi. I was going to say 'girl', but you have earned more respect than that. Rosa will do as she believes best, but I suspect that she has plans to be here for a time still."

The feline sorceress nodded, once again leaning upon her staff. "Vanaiar is right, Arissi. I have said that I am with all of you in this endeavor, and I will remain at least until it is completed. And you may have noted that Vanaiar has been MY teacher, and yet we remain friends. I will be yours so long as you wish it."

Dven had moved behind Arissi and squeezed her upper arms in his hands. He nodded to Rosa and Vanaiar, "I think that my love chose well in her teacher. I never imagined that she'd become an enchantress of more than just my heart, but..." He leaned down a bit to rub his nose into the soft fur at the back of her head. "I don't have the words to express... except that I could burst with pride."

Vanaiar and Rosa laughed... the vixen had turned and looked up into her chosen companion's reddish eyes and moved her jaw up and down.. and then, without a word had leaped up and wrapped her arms about his neck, his arms automatically coming up to catch and hold her. The two stayed as still as stone for a long moment, and then Dven sat back down upon the log, though Arissi's arms stayed wrapped about him. Rosa chuckled, "I think that Dven has a fuzzy new amulet. Be sure that it doesn't clash with your finer clothes, friend!"

From then and long into the night, their campfire was kept blazing, and there was wine and laughter.
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Thu Aug 15, 2013 1:30 am

The road had been long, but pleasant. The foursome always found new things to discuss, and in the evenings when they stopped, there were stories to be told. Sooner or later the topic always returned to their destination, where two of them hoped to join a group that the other two had suggested would be appropriate for their goals. Once there had been a cliff racer, a large leather-winged birdlike creature that took them to be its next meal... but instead it found itself the entree for the evening, two metal slivers buried in its breastbone and its wings seared. The tallest of the four sat back and closed his eyes, patting his stomach.

"These creatures do have a use after all, it seems. There was a time when I thought of them only as a nuisance to be avoided." The gold-skinned Elf smiled and opened his eyes again. "Surprising that it would take me this long to discover that they made a good meal."

The white-furred member of the party laughed quietly. "Perhaps it shows that there is always something new to learn, friend Vanaiar?" She was herself seated upon a log, leaning up against the trunk of a tree. "I too learn something. Teachers can also be the students. What do you think, Arissi?"

A third member of the group, and the smallest; she was perhaps chest-high to the shortest of the rest, a dark-skinned Dunmer Elf. She looked about, gaping her jaws slightly in the grin characteristic of her species. "Arissi thinks that if one stops learning, one may as well lie down, for from then on, that one is no longer truly alive!" She turned her head and pressed her nose to the chest of the Elf in whose lap she was sitting. "Dven surely has opinions also?"

Dven laughed and flicked a finger through the Keynari vixen's whiskers. "That I do, girl, and the first is that you are silly, but also very pleasant. And I think that when you make your trip to the Beyond Planes, you will not stop learning until you've met the Lords of that realm. And picked their pockets."

All four laughed, though Arissi put her fists to her hips and poked her tongue out at the Dunmer for a few seconds. Then she, too, joined with a childlike giggle and poked him in the chest. Just at that moment, her ears suddenly stood straight up and she froze in place, her finger still pressed against the Dunmer's chest. "Hsst!"

Everyone froze in place, only flicking eyes and ears moving for a long moment before all four were moving. Two picking up carven staves, the Dunmer growing a knife in one hand and a short, wicked-looking curved blade in the other; the Keynari rubbing her hands together. In an instant, all were upon their feet, and the smallest of them seemed to have grown armor and a large, wicked-looking spear. A booted foot kicked dirt over the remains of their fire, and all went dark.

---***---

The three figures were wrapped in darkened leathers, wound round and round their limbs. Each was lying on the ground to one side of a short mound of earth, opposite a small group of travellers. They'd been slowly easing forward noiselessly, until a faint clink rose, as a pebble fell from atop another when a hand brushed it. They'd been frozen for several minutes now, since the objects of their attention had suddenly scrambled about and stood crouched, staring into the darkness from all directions. Their lenses, bound into the leather strips covering their faces, allowed them to see their quarry as if merely in twilight, even in this dark. However, they'd each been told that at least two of the four before them could see about as well, and who knew what the mages could see? One clutched the silvery dagger of an apprentice of the Dark Brotherhood, the second a short sword with its blade covered in black grease, and the third... the third carried a dark, slightly-curved blade that was a twin to that which the Dunmer ahead of them appeared to carry. Their very breath was stifled, only the faintest of breaths taken, but that could not be maintained much longer; something had to happen.

---***---

Something did indeed happen. Directly over the foursome, a flicker of light glimmered against the night sky, and the three flattened against the ground suddenly showed brightly. With that, the two mages both began to shimmer, and the three assassins leapt to their feet, shouting (a tactic to try to cause an opponent to hesitate). One shouted, muffled by his leathers, "Watch it, the mages are a distra..." His voice cut off in a gurgle, as a spear flashed past him in a vicious swing, opening his throat, leathers and all. The others leaped toward him, but a figure rose before them, holding a blade up in each hand to meet their midriffs. Both froze for an instant, one with a black blade through his belly, the other staggering back after an instant with only a small wound in his abdomen. His confusion was short-lived, as that jagged black spear met his side, and he slumped. The entire altercation had taken perhaps five seconds. The two mages approached warily, then more quickly when the third fell, leaving only the two combatants standing; a panting Keynari and the Dunmer.

"Aieeya! That was close!" panted the vixen. "Where did come from, Arissi heard nothing until the last moment, longer and maybe we lie here instead of them!" The Dunmer nodded, leaning over and resting his hands upon his knees, his weapons dropped for the moment.

"Rosa, Vanaiar, please look around" he growled, his breath heavy. "Anyone else around could jump us while our guard is down." The Altmer nodded and turned, while the Tigaran appeared to be gesturing and then looking slowly about. "I thought they'd given this up as a bad job; I should've known better, they don't care how long it takes, the tougher it gets the more their higher-ups get paid." He slumped to sit in the grass, then reached for his sword and knife.

Well, this is a fine mess. They're still after Arissi after seven months, and now we're all targets as well, he thought. We're in trouble. "We'd better get moving. The sooner we get to Balmora, the safer we'll be."

The discussion that followed was very short; agreement came swiftly, and the quartet gathered their few belongings and set out along the road again.
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sat Sep 14, 2013 4:10 am

"Eeeeehhhh, I don't know what they had you doing, Arissi, but that Bosmer fetcher had me running errands for the last two days. First it was looking up an incantation, then it was locating some soulgems, and now she wants me to find some kind of moss I've never heard of and slip it into this cat's retort. Sometimes I think she just makes up tasks to see when I'll give up." Dven grumbled into his cup, seated with Arissi and Rosa in the tavern. "The one thing I can say is that she does come up with interesting "rewards". And I know, I shouldn't call her a name, but... she's so smug and condescending, I'm surprised she doesn't claim she has an appointment with the Archmage every half-hour." He lifted his mug and took a pull from it, his throat bobbing.

Arissi giggled, a light titter behind dark fingers. "Dven is just as silly as ever, knows that Ajira and Galbedir are doing rival things to see who can be journeyman sooner. Playing silly tricks and talking things about each other, trying to make each other look bad. But Arissi likes Ajira, even if fibs sometimes." She grinned at the Dunmer, then turned to the Tigaran mage. "Rosa has opinions, yes? Which will come first, or will end up doing great battles with tricks of the eye?" She poked her nose into her mug, with a quiet splashing, as if she were lapping at her drink.

"Personally, I think they're holding themselves back with all their foolish sabotaging of one another's tasks. I've spoken with Ranis and she's quite aware of their playing tricks to cause each other problems. I think that there won't be any promotion there until they grow up and stop playing games. In my time, if I had done as those two, I'd have had tasks that took weeks or even a month or two. Immature, childish behavior such as that was not tolerated. A few weeks researching some dry, boring subject would do each of them some good. Letting those two give tasks to new apprentices is ridiculous; Either Ranis is ignoring the problem, or she's planning to do something about it... or maybe she's planning to keep them both as apprentices until they finally realize that they're not fooling anyone." She tapped her drink as the server passed, and continued. "Though I'm curious also, as to what you've been doing, Arissi." She leaned back a bit when the server filled her mug from a pitcher.

The Elf picked up one of the slices of kwama egg and stared at it. "Whatever the reason, it's enough to make me wonder if it was a good idea to join the Guild." He held up a hand; "I know, it was agreed that we needed some way to be able to come and go as needed. I'll keep up my part... but I'm still waiting to hear about our little fuzzytail's doings." He tapped Arissi's nosepad with the slice of egg, then blinked when she snapped the end of it from his fingers.

Arissi chewed and swallowed, then grinned at the Elf again. "Arissi has been learning, of course. Learning that enchants and zap-bang spells are not all that there is; alchemy and healings and diagrams and the names of the stars and why the stars are not just lights. Arissi studies and studies and maybe eats and sleeps a little, then studies more. But is great fun, Arissi never had any chance to read so much!"

Dven shook his head. "I give up. Empty fields of grass are fun because you get to chase butterflies and watch bugs crawl around. Studying musty old tomes is fun because you almost never got to read much before. Sailing through storms is fun because it's a rolling, bouncing ride. Clambering around mountainsides is fun because you like the view. I suppose that playing kagouti-tag with assassins in their own lair was fun, because you were making them out to be fools?"

The Keynari closed her jaw and looked suddenly sheepish. "No, that was not fun for Arissi. Was so very frightened all the time, could never have escaped if was seen. So many wicked ones at once, Arissi would have been a wet rag in seconds. But had to, was so very necessary. If Arissi did not do, would eventually have been caught napping and boom! No more Arissi... and maybe no more Dven, also." Her ears flattened as she spoke, and she slumped slightly in her seat.

"Well, Arissi did well, and made fools of them anyway. None made Arissi into a rug, or even laid a finger on you, my student." Rosa leaned close and brushed one dark-furred ear with her nose. "I think that you were quite brave, and showed a great deal of... oh, what's the word the Bretons use for fortitude... guts. You showed that one need not be huge and strong like an Orc to show courage. Besides," she said with a smile. "You're Arissi. They'll have to do a great deal better to even spot your tail disappearing around a corner, let alone catch you." She ruffled the vixen's ears, and ducked back just in time to avoid a bit of egg that the vixen flipped at her.

Dven leaned back and stretched. "Well, I doubt that anyone will be catching any of us in the next few minutes, so I think that we shouldAGH!"

A hand had dropped upon Dven's shoulder, a gold-skinned hand, but one wrinkled and spotted as if either diseased or greatly aged. The hand was attached to a sleeved arm, and the sleeve to a hooded cloak. "You're losing your touch, Dven. In earlier times, I'd never have gotten within six paces before you already knew that I was there." The figure moved a chair close and sat, then threw back the hood to reveal a white-haired Altmer woman. "Won't you introduce me to your friends?"

Dven stared hard for a moment, his jaw working. Then, visibly taking a grip on himself, he straightened his shoulders and turned to the others. "Arissi, Rosa, this is Lady Elbewynn, someone for whom I've done a number of... chores... over the years. Someone of some influence in the Summerset Isles, I believe." He turned back to the Altmer. "And now, whom has decided to reveal herself and her part in all of this."

Rosa and Arissi looked at one another, then back to Dven and his aquaintance, their expression one of curiosity thinly covered by concern.

"Firstly, I apologize for the melodramatic entrance; an affectation of mine, I'm afraid. I never could resist a touch of acting, since I was young." The woman smiled, but without humor. "I am aware of the problem you plan to confront... no, do not blame Dven; I've known of this problem for some time, without his divulging anything. There were hints of this situation in the world's patterns for several years; I've simply been following where the signs led me." She put a finger to her pointed chin. "Well, and following Vanaiar, to be quite honest. He's always been honest, direct, and somewhat oblivious to everything but his goals, which made it easier." She paused, while a server approached and took her order, then waited until they were relatively private again. "I have no love for certain members of the Guild, but I had been content to simply keep out of their path for many years. Now, however, I find that I no longer have that luxury. If they continue as they have of late, we'll all be in very great trouble."

Rosa opened her mouth to speak, but Arissi spoke up first. "Yes, yes, all is dark and will be darker, we know this. Darker and darker, and the ones making it so do not know what are doing, or are controlled. What does Lady propose, and why should be trusted? Arissi does not know Lady, but Dven does; this is enough for Arissi if Dven trusts..." She paused for an instant when Dven shook his head very faintly, then continued with barely a pause "then Arissi must trust also, and urges Rosa to do so as well!" (Under the table, the vixen's foot tapped the Tigaran's knee, then Dven's. Both let their eyes wander upward for a moment, then back to the doings at their table. "What part will Lady play? Must be no secrets here!"

Dven thought to himself, What in the Nine Hells is she playing at? She knows perfectly well that there are secrets within secrets containing secrets that lie to other secrets everywhere. I hope she knows what she's doing; Milady is a long way from stupid...
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sat Sep 21, 2013 9:05 pm

The Altmer let her hood remain fallen about her shoulders, leaning to rest her elbows upon the tabletop. "No secrets, you said, girl." She smiled thinly before sipping her wine. "I would say that you had more secrets than anyone else at this table, myself included." Crooking a finger toward a nodding server, she continued, "However, that is neither here nor elsewhere. At this point, I can no longer afford to keep certain things to myself. I believe, for example, that the only reason that we are not already seeing Daedra popping up everywhere is that there exists a pact of sorts with the Princes. It seems to me that they would probably deal so only with someone that they would see as being in power here, someone that would be able to enforce his or her will to maintain such a pact. And that would be the Emperor. Now, if someone wants to break a promise made with someone, but can't do it directly, what would that suggest?"

A voice came from behind Lady Elbewynn, seeming to startle her somewhat. "A pact with the Princes is a pact that is kept, but only so long as both sides exist. The Princes cannot be destroyed by any means known to us, so that leaves the other; if that one were to die, then the pact would be ended; that is the usual sort of thing alluded to in the legends... however, my own researches suggest that there is a good deal of truth to this particular legend." Vanaiar stepped closer, seeming almost to melt out of the background. "And you would have some interest in that, wouldn't you, milady?" He pulled a chair close and seated himself backward upon it, leaning on the chair's back with his elbows.

Dven, Rosa and Arissi all smiled at the tall Elf's appearance, or perhaps at their female guest's momentary discomfiture. The Tigaran spoke up, "Well, you were correct as usual, my teacher, and again I learn from you. An unseen ear is useful, even if it is to surprise someone that seeks to surprise you." She picked up a section of egg and bit it before continuing. "Dven, I did not know that you were involved with Lady Elbewynn. I am impressed."

Dven smiled a little for a moment. "Don't be. She called upon me in the past because of favors owed, not because of any great talents. I was in trouble and she got me out of it; then she's held it over my head ever since, mostly whenever she needed something done. But at least she paid well." He looked at the female Altmer. "So what do you actually want this time, and what sort of trouble am I going to get into because of it? There's always a hook to your jobs."

Arissi was being quiet for once, her ears turning toward whomever was speaking at the moment. She caught Dven's eye and wiggled her whiskers a bit as if to say, this is interesting, go on, even while she was quietly making her egg and water disappear.

Elbewynn nodded slowly. "So you have this one with you as well. I'd thought that he might have gotten involved; he's apparently had thoughts about the same situation for some time. I should have known that Vanaiar the Snoop would catch something in his ear." She turned toward the aged mage and smiled humorlessly. "After all, you push your nose into everything that you can, don't you." She didn't wait for a response, turning back to the others. "All right, here it is. You already know that the Guild is up to something dangerous; maybe you even have an idea of what it might be. I already know, and understand some of what they're after... and who put that fool Trebonius up to it. I also know where to find what you're looking for... the entrance to the paths you're hunting." She looked around at the others slowly, waiting. After a few moments of just being watched, she cleared her throat and sat back a bit. "All right, it seems that you do know more than I'd thought. The Paths are unfamiliar except to a very few, so I'd assumed that you were unlikely to know yet. Some of you know of problems with Daedra incursions in certain islands between here and the mainland" (and here she looked directly at Arissi, who simply nodded). "Dremora and other kinds of Daedra have been giving the inhabitants a difficult time. You... Arissi, was it? Will you tell of this, or shall I?"

Everyone turned toward the small Keynari, Dven and Rosa both raising eyebrows. The vixen lowered her ears and swallowed her mouthful of egg. "Arissi does not like to think about, but will tell... is now necessary. Keynari live on archipelago of islands, not big, in southern islands. When Arissi was still a kit, bad things started to happen, terrible people and later.. things... came to make much trouble. Always there had been some problems, but this was much, much worse. Soon Keynari could not be outside at night, would often not be heard from again! Then one day, awful day, Arissi's village chief said all must go away, scatter and hide where could, take what was necessary and not be at home when soon many bad things would come. Was big rush, all knew Kavassi would not speak so unless was very serious. All went away, and Arissi's family went to hide in caves outside of town in tall hills. Two nights later, Arissi was unable to sleep, and went to look at home from afar; was terrified at what was seen. Burning, smashing! Things with wings, and many black men-but-not-men. Arissi watched while her home was destroyed." Her ears remained flatted, almost pasted to the back of her head and neck.

Dven shook his head. "Who were these invaders? Where did they come from? What happened afterward? I'm sorry, Arissi, I had no idea." Everyone was watching the vixen for a moment while she picked at her meal.

Arissi looked up again, lips slightly curled as if trying to hide a snarl. "After was worse! Mother says black ones are Dremora, vicious things from Oblivion come to hunt Keynari for sport! Came with monsters, things Arissi still does not know names for. For nine years, before Arissi and parents escaped on small boat, hide here, find something to eat there, sneak to steal from evil things what could not get otherwise. Arissi sees what happens when Keynari are captured... awful, horrible!" She shook her head violently. "No.. Arissi will not say more of that. Was days on small boat, slinking down river to sea, then picked up by ship when well away from home island. Was smugglers, almost sold as slaves, but father was alchemist. Made things for healing of smugglers, and after was left alone. But storm came in the night and crushed ship... Arissi does not know what happened to parents; made it to shore. Did not know then, but was very near Imperial place, and was taken by soldiers who thought Arissi was also smuggler, sent to prison. But someone had Arissi removed, taken to Vvardenfell, letter said something about signs and unknown parents, and things. Released, so Arissi left to make own way. Then met Dven later." She grinned at the Dunmer. "Much better now. Arissi wishes she knew what became of parents, but Dven makes Arissi feel nice, always."

Vanaiar shook his head slowly. "I'm sorry, Arissi. I knew that there were incursions, and I tried to make the Imperials aware, but I wasn't able to get enough support for an expedition to rescue people that they hadn't ever seen as important enough to go to the trouble and expense of a rescue." He slumped slightly. "The Imperials usually mean well, but some of their officers won't bother with anything that doesn't seem likely to work toward promotions."

Elbewynn taped her fingers on the tabletop, over and over. "Sometimes I think that the Dunmer are right in wanting the Imperials out. I hear of these things and wonder if they're doing any good at all. Then I'll hear of some that go far out of their way to help people... I've met the Emperor, and he at least seems to care, but their resources are thin in Morrowind. I did hear of a new commander at Ebonheart that seems to have other than just the Imperials' interests at heart; once this greater threat is handled, perhaps we can convince him that something needs to be done."

Vanaiar cleared his throat. "Actually, I think that this is just another symptom of the problem at hand, milady. Incursions have grown in frequency; when I was younger, an individual Daedra might be a problem, summoned by fools who were either tricked into it by false promises, or with evil intent. But never like what we've just heard until recently. I think that some factions among the Princes' servants may be tugging at their leashes, so to speak. We must stop this."

The small vixen slapped her palm to the tabletop. "MUST stop! Arissi will help, and then will find Vask and have last laugh, and somewhere along way will find parents and introduce to Rosa and Vanaiar and most especially best Dunmer Dven." She gape-grinned at her companions, "And then things will be much nicer."

The foursome all lifted their mugs, and the newcomer lifted her goblet. She looked to each of the others; "Then to making things nicer." All held their drinks to their lips for a moment, then a quiet chorus of "Aye." "Hear, hear" could be heard.
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Drac
 
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