Crazy Like a Fox (redux)

Crazy Like a Fox (redux)

Postby Drac » Wed Jan 13, 2016 3:53 am

She sat in the dark hold of the wooden vessel and grumped to herself. She'd been foolish, and just as her friends had said, her impetuous nature had gotten her in trouble... again. Now here she was, sitting in a damp cargo hold, waiting to be dumped on her own on an oversized island with the reputation of a trouble-spot. All her own fault! If she only hadn't tried to cut that guard's purse... she'd known that the knife was too dull, but she'd gone ahead anyway, and the guard had felt it. For that matter, if she'd been less hungry at the time, she wouldn't have been so impatient, and would have looked to be sure that she had a convenient way to slip out of sight, and she'd have sharpened the futzy knife, and.. (And, and and, foolish fox. And this, and that, if, if if. Next time, do not think only of what nice findings would buy, be sure that finding and getting were done before thinking of meals!).

Arissi was Keynari, foxlike race of one of the multitude of islands outside of the usual haunts of men and mer. She was slender and quick, like her wild cousins, but had grown up around the ruins of the one city that her kind had built before the Dremora came. She closed her eyes and hugged her knees, rocking slowly in the darkness, listening to Jiub rustle about the other side of the hold; Jiub, her only friend for some time now, and that only because they were stuck for days aboard the prison-ship. Still, he'd shared what little the guards had given him when he'd seen how thin and hungry she was. She supposed it was natural that they'd either become friends, or opponents scrabbling for whatever the guard brought them, when he remembered. The creaking of the ship's timbers and Jiub's movements had become almost the only sounds she knew, save when they'd talked. Jiub was a prisoner as well, shipped off to Vvardenfell (funny name!) as a convicted thief, though he'd maintained that he'd just stolen some bread and meat until he could "get on his feet". She knew that she herself was a thief, but felt no shame at the name; one did as one had to to live, and a Keynari girl had few options, when her parents were vanished. Probably taken by the Oblivion demons, she thought, and licked her lips, holding back a sniff. She'd find them, if they still lived, and she'd find some way to make the demons shriek for what they'd done to her home. (Foolish vixen, to swear revenge on those so much stronger. Will be lucky to have own bed. But still...if can. then will!). She stretched her legs and settled back against a bag of what felt like grain, and was almost instantly asleep. Her dreams were very strange...

"Wake up. There you go... you were sleeping. Not even last night's storm could wake you." She was being gently shaken, and started to scramble before she realized that it was Jiub leaning over her. She smiled and skittered out from under the dusky Elf.

"Good morning! Jiub says arriving? Arriving where, Arissi wonders? Or are... there?" She looked back and forth in the gloom.

Jiub stood back up. "We've arrived. I'm sure they'll let us go." He turned toward the doorway, and nodded at the sound of bootsteps. "Quiet... here comes the guard."

The Elf stepped back from the door; the guards didn't react well if you were too near when they opened the holding-cell's door. Arissi hopped to peer out of the little barred window. Yes, it was that one, the sneering guardsman that had taunted them through the door's small aperture. His face appeared, peering through the small window's bars, then a clicking sound told of a key in the lock. The door swung outward, and he stood there, smirking and half-bowed, sweeping an arm outward. "This is where you get off, princess. This way." He held out a hand toward Jiub; "Not just yet for you, Dunmer. Don't worry, your turn won't be long in coming."

Arissi stepped toward the door, but slipped sideways past the guardsman; he'd slapped at her ears and shoulders before during the trip, and once pulled her tail as if she was just an animal. Well, his attitude showed what he thought of her; he'd likely make some crack about her making a nice rug for his hearth, too. She flicked her ears backward, then snorted to herself and raised them upright. She wasn't about to let him get to her; she turned and trotted ahead of the guard to the steps leading to the deck's hatch and poked her head out ignoring the guardsman's annoyed grunt, blinking in the bright sunshine. It was so warm on her fur, it felt good. She hoped up onto the deck and looked around, then hopped down to midship and looked up at the other guardsman there. he looked down at her indifferently, then nodded toward the dock, diffidently pointing with one hand. "On the dock's where they'll want you. Talk to the guard there." Immediately he turned away with a bored expression; the vixen looked where he'd indicated, to a wooden platform built out onto the water. It led up to a door in a short stone tower, from which another guardman, this time in armor, was striding toward her. She glanced at the bored guard, then turned to trot onto the dock. Well, at least that one was better than the mean one belowdecks. She stopped at the plank leading to the dock; its angle changed with the rising and falling of the vessel; not so much as when she'd boarded, at least, and now she didn't have chained legs. She looked up at this newer soldier. Wait, he was actually smiling, and not nastily like the one in the hold.

"You've finally arrived! But we weren't told where from." he said. Mistress, he was actually looking her in the eye, and being pleasant! Arissi felt a little better. At least this one was willing to be pleasant. He cocked his head, "I've not seen one of your people before. You're one of those small fox-people, Keyneeri, is it?"

Arissi tried moving her brushy tail from side to side, like Jiub had said would make some people more amenable. "Is Keynari, and yes, Arissi is so. Please, is this place Vvardenfell? Arissi is to stay here?" She looked around a bit; there was something of a smallish town here, apparently based around the squat tower and its dock. A few small buildings, some shacks down by the waterline, and what looked like a trader's shop, aside from the dock's building.

"Yes, this is Vvardenfell, and this village is called Seyda Neen. It's pleasant to see a new face around here. Come with me inside... it's the Census and Excise office. We keep track of who comes in and goes out on vessels, and represent the Emperor's interests here. But you won't have to stay here, you'll be free to do as you like. We'll have some suggestions, of course." He motioned toward the door, but politely. Arissi almost shivered, this was such a change from how she'd been treated since she was captured. She ducked her head and tried to imitate his smile, gaping her jaws slightly and moving her tail again, then turned toward the door and trotted along the walkway.Once inside, she'd been introduced to a balding man in a robe, who called himself an "inspector", and questioned a little about her background... again, politely. He'd even seemed somewhat interested, then had written upon some paper and rolled it up for her. "Welcome to Vvardenfell. It's not much, but it's not bad, once you get used to it. Now, please take these papers and make sure that I've gotten it all correct... you can read? Good. Then through the door to your left and out to show them to the guard captain. He'll give you a release fee... a small fund to help you get started in your new life... and give you some more instructions. Do listen... he's a good man, if a little officious sometimes."

Arissi looked at the document... it appeared to be just what the man said it was, listing her name, race and even mentioned the birth-sign he'd asked her about. She nodded and again ducked her head, before moving toward the door; the guard waiting there unlocked it ahead of her and opened the door for her. She felt surprise again, they were... so polite. She wondered what was awaiting her, looking down the hallway as she stepped through.
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox (redux)

Postby Drac » Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:59 am

In a dimly lit corner, an Elf was hunched over a mug, speaking with a hooded figure. He was rather ordinary in appearance for his people; a dusky grey-blue of skin, what some might call dun-colored, and a certain reddish cast to his eyes, with ellongated ears whose uppermost portion tapered to a slightly furled point. His hair was dark, and pulled to a short tail, and he wore a somewhat threadbare shirt of long use, as well as a pair of warn leathery pants. He had shoes, but just barely; they seemed more like thin leather bags tacked to a thicker leather sole. Not what you'd normally encounter in respectable society, but then, he didn't much care for the so-called 'respectable' types in those sections of town. He was slim, almost skinny, until one noticed that his forearms appeared well-used. Slender, but firm. He looked up from his mug after a long moment and stared at the hooded figure. "All right, I'm Dven. I heard you'd been looking for me; if you want to hire me for something, you'd better know a few things. First off, I'm not an assassin; you want someone killed, find someone else. If I don't like what you want done, I won't do it, but I won't talk about it, either." He tapped nails on the wooden table. "If you have some sort of cause, that's your business, not mine. I'll do a lot of things, but there are some things I don't get mixed up in... politics, Imperial or House; revenge, I don't care, that's your business. But I don't kill for killing's sake." He leaned forward. "Everyone has rules, and those are mine. You don't like them, fine, we never met. I don't know your name anyway. But I can find things out that need to be found, for a price." He leaned back on his stool and lifted his mug. "So... what's it to be?"

The figure stirred, and a gloved hand slid from a sleeve to place a small packet wrapped in paper on the table. Even through the glove, it seemed withered with age. Almost like the stories of liches, thought Dven. It set fingers to the edge of the packet and pushed it toward him, the figure saying not a word. The Elf studied what little he could see of the figure; the robe was soiled in places, and the hood was deep enough that he couldn't make out any features; perhaps a wisp of stringy grey hair and the top of a sharp nose. He wondered why the silence... but then, maybe his voice would give his identity, thought the Elf. He had sometimes had "clients" that needed to keep certain doings secret; this was nothing new. He reached for the packet, but paused short of it when the gloved hand dropped something green on top of the paper. Dven blinked... an emerald? He looked up at the figure, and the hand moved up to hold a finger to a pair of barely-seen lips. Dven nodded... right, so a bonus to keep things quiet. He would have anyway, but inwardly he smiled. This promised to be a generous patron. He slid the packet to himself and slipped the string loose; the paper opened slightly to show a picture... a well-drawn picture of a helm, from a children's tale he'd heard once. He looked up at the figure again, and the hood nodded slowly. So it's real, he thought, or at least this character thinks it's real. Well, we'll see how real it actually is. He palmed the picture, the jewel, and several stacks of coins that had been inside the folded paper. "I'll see what I can find out." He took a pull at his mug and made a face; this place needed a new brewer.

Turning away on his stool to give his client a chance to slip off, Dven looked around the place. It always felt a bit cloak-and-daggerish, but some people seemed to think it would help them keep their identity secret. It made no difference at all; the people that came here to find employment were aware of everything that happened, and someone trying to sneak about only attracted their attention. Still, everyone played the game; the customers got to feel as though they were getting away with something, work-seekers got more work, and the pub-owner sold a lot more drinks than in a more public place. And from the taste of that stuff, re-uses whatever is left in abandoned mugs, thought the Elf. But he hadn't come here because of thirst. He glanced backward; yes, the figure was sliding upstairs. probably half the eyes in the place were watching him go, too. Oh, well. He chuckled to himself; whatever brings in the business. It was almost funny sometimes... that Ordinator, a few months back... she'd thought she was being so clever, wearing her duty armor under her cloak, and just leaving her helm behind. Protection against the scum, no doubt... well, a lot of good it did her. Someone had tipped her superior; someone that the Ordinator had arrested a few months before, no doubt, and found it all too convenient a way to get back at her. The fetchers never learn. He stood and ambled out into the street; Balmora was a good town, full of decent people, clean, well-lit streets and all... as well as alleys, backstreet establishments and opportunities for his sort of business.

A figure in a hooded robe stepped out of an alehouse in Balmora, and almost melodramatically slunk along a wall, never quite completely in the shadows, until it reached a spot shaded by both tree and the corner of a building. Several sets of eyes were immediately following it, some with an amused smile, but the smiles faded when the figure not only did not emerge from behind the tree, but one of the wandering guardsmen strolled through the space, pausing to look about before moving on.

=====

In a room of the Mage's Guild in Ald'ruhn, a momentary shining vaporous cloud condensed into a hooded figure. It stood for a moment, then peeled off the robe and stretched, revealing an ancient-looking High Elf of golden-toned skin, though wrinkled. He brushed his clothing with his hands, before smiling and muttering to himself, "Well, that should start things rolling. I'll need others, though, if this is going to work." He sat at the small table in his room and set out a sheet of paper, and after cutting down a feather to a point and splitting the tip, dipped it into a bottle of ink and began to write. "If anyone reads this, know that I am Vanaiar, mage of the Guild, and since someone is reading this, I am dead. An old foe has reared its head and threatens Nirn;
I have been trying to prove this for some time and the elders of my craft have refused to listen; I now believe that some of them are either involved directly, or hoping to profit in some way from the situation. Fools... if anyone of Tamriel aids this ancient foe, they will end up enslaved, food, or entertainment for overlords worse than any in history. In other words, the usual world-wide threats from the old tales, the usual wet-nursed ninnies that wring their hands and fear to act, and the usual villains. But this time, there may be no curtain-call, no bows for an audience."

Sitting back with a deep sigh, the old Elf stretched his arms wide, then slumped a bit, shaking his head. Who'd have thought that he would ever have been caught up in something that sounded so ludicrous... he smiled at himself and took down the pitcher from his shelf, and poured himself some wine; far better than that vinegary drek in that pit-hole, but he needed help, and sometimes help could be found in the oddest places.
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox (redux)

Postby Drac » Thu Feb 18, 2016 3:58 am

Picking up her papers, Arissi paused in the hallway after closing the door behind her. So much had happened during the past few months; she pulled a chair from a table and sat for a bit. How had it all come to this, so far from home?

===***===

An island in the Aurian Sea, far from Tamriel; far from Akavir, far from almost anywhere. An island large enough for a species to rise from animals, wonder at the stars, and learn that things could be altered to help them find food. An island where primitives learned to manipulate objects, and then magicka; simply, at first, and then grew more and more sophisticated. Sophisticated enough to try to further explore the glimpses of other worlds revealed by their researches, and unlucky enough to open a gateway to a world peopled by those whose intent was inherently hostile. The inhabitants of that world called it Oblivion.

Twenty years after the first gate was opened, the island had become unrecognizable. The people that had risen there were descended from vulpines, or foxes. They worshipped a being that they called Keynara, the First Fox, and themselves the Keynari, the People of Keynara. However, she either did not intervene when their world was invaded, or was not strong enough to protect her worshippers. The single city that had been the center of their society was a sprawling ruin, and Daedra prowled the once-busy streets. There were still villages along the coasts, but they had grown wary and defensive, as Dremora occasionally raided and took away a few inhabitants now and again; few ever returned, and those that escaped were never the same. Then one day, the Daedra left... mostly. A fire-rimmed crack in the air still remained in the center of the ruined city, and from it would sometimes come Daedra, singly or in small groups, to hunt. The people of the island had after another period of time become furtive and stealthy, and their kind had become more intimate with the ways of magicka. After long years more, tall golden-skinned Elves showed up in their exploring ships, and found the island to be a place of danger, but also of treasures of knowledge. And sometimes, the hunters from Oblivion became the hunted.

===***===

"Hsst... the Winged One is there, as Tomosi said before" the leader of the hunting group whispered. He was tall for a Keynari, over four feet, with a touch of grey in the fur about his muzzle. He wore a leather vest and mottled pants, though his feet were bare; Keynari could not wear boots such as Men and Elves wore; their legs were not shaped the same. He peered through the bushes ahead, and motioned to the tall Elf following him to crouch and remain hidden. He parted leaves to make a small opening in their cover, and the Elf leaned forward. Ahead in the clearing, a blue-skinned creature was moving through tall grass, its head turning to one side and then the other. The Elf nodded.

"We call those creatures Winged Twilights" he muttered. "Despite the wings, they don't fly well, but they can for short distances." He went quiet then, as the creature turned toward them. A moment passed, then a minute, and it turned away again. The hidden pair had barely dared to breathe, let alone move. The Keynari placed his nose next to the Elf's long ear and whispered, "Tomosi shows what he promised; Winged Ones are most dangerous, but not invulnerable." He held dark-furred arms in front of him, hands forming a hollow between them, and a faint violet glow showed between his palms, growing. After a moment the fox spread his fingers and made a pushing motion, and the faint violet ball sped out from the bushes and across the meadow; the Elf's eyes followed it toward the blue harpy-like creature, but the Keynari was again staring between his hands, muttering so faintly that even the Elf could barely hear. A second violet sphere followed the first, higher up.

The first patch of light struck the Twilight between its shoulders, and several violet rings appeared about the creature, turning within one another; the beast's head flipped up and glared toward the undergrowth concealing the lurking pair, and it turned toward them, leaping upward... full into the second ball of violet light. Again the rings flared about the thing, and it writhed, twisting in mid-air, then fell to the grass with a flump. The Elf started to rise and shout gladly, but the Keynari put a hand to the Elf's lips and drew him back down. "Not to reveal self yet, often are others!" he hissed. The Elf looked chagrined, but waited with the smaller hunter for several minutes before they cautiously crept into the clearing. Each slowly scanned the clearing, the trees at the far side, and upward into the sky; nothing but a few birds flitting about. Only then did they approach the Twilight, and the Keynari prodded it with his short spear, drawing no reaction. "Is done, Tomosi promised. Now Avanian may examine." The Keynari stepped back, his gaze continually sweeping the landscape. "But must not dawdle!"

The Elf leaned over the fallen Twilight, and finally set a palm gingerly to the blue hide. "Your word is good, Keynari, and I admit to being impressed. I'd expected this to be much harder." He crouched and, removing a knife from his belt, started to saw at the tough leathery exterior. "My compliments; you handle magicka far better than even some of my colleagues. What was that that you cast at it, anyway? I didn't recognize the form." He poked about inside the carcass, pressing a container inside.

Tomosi leaned upon his spear, speaking though his head never ceased to turn this way and that, black-furred ears flicking about. "Tomosi pulled from it the energies of its life. Was too vital a beast to do all at once, so had to do twice. Elves do not do this?" He stared hard toward the east; was that movement in the meadow one the hillside, or was it grass in the breeze? "Please to move quickly, will not be much more time."

Avanian made scooping motions, and then withdraw his hands from the carcass. He now had a small bowl of a greyish substance, which he tipped into a container and capped before wiping his hands upon a cloth that he dropped back into the open cavity. "Maybe others may know of it, but I had not. If there is time later, perhaps you will show me. I have what I needed." He stood, and gathered his travel robe about himself. "Come, let us depart. I too do not wish to be caught in the open." The pair trotted back into the safety of the trees.

===***===

"Is how it was, Arissi, " said the older fox. He smiled at the small kit sitting at his feet, her ears pointed forward intently. "And how is now, also. Arissi must never be unguarded, the demons still are somewhere, and may appear again someday. Maybe tomorrow!" He leaned forward and made a fearsome face. "Harragh!" He sat back and laughed at the vixen-kit's startled expression, and how she'd jumped backward. "But not just yet, please!" He grinned, jaws gaping when the small kit giggled and scooted back to sit at his feet. "Tomosi was Kamami's father, and had many adventures, but Kamami has not seen demons in many years, so Arissi can dream nicely and play unafraid in morning."

But that night, figures emerged from the rift in the ruins.
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