Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:59 am

She waited behind the tree-root, silent as a blade of grass. Her target approached slowly, slowly... her gaze never left its head in its questing movements. The target moved this way, and looked about, then turned partly to one side and stood there, as if sensing something amiss; she held her breath. The object of her attention seemed to relax, and turned as if to move away... and she leaped over the root, to land directly in front of her target, blade at the ready... and smiled. She patted the scrib lightly and stepped to the side; "Are very lively for dead one, silly scrib. Run on and seek empty caves for more egg mines, thump tail to ground and make silly noises. Arissi wins the game." She turned and poked her nose into the air; the sun felt good on her face... it was a good day so far. Still it would have been nicer if Dven could have been along, she missed his company. Arissi is silly, she thought. Of course Dven cannot come with, is working hard with Khajiit in alchemical studies! She trotted down the path, pausing now and then to poke about bushes and occasionally pick a berry; only the perfect berries, just short of ripe, but unblemished would do; one cannot make good potions with bad berries.

Some fifty meters behind her, a shape moved slightly just behind a pile of stones. A figure holding an axe smeared with soot was watching her intently. Wearing stained clothing and a tattered bit of old leather armor, he waited for her attention to be drawn by some bird or insect or brightly-colored plant, and slipped quietly to the next place likely to provide concealment. He'd watched the Keynari from the moment he'd noticed her purchasing an expensive-looking trinket at the trader back in town half an hour before. If she could part with coins so easily, she had to be well-off, and her clothing seemed to confirm it. He moved quietly to the side of the log, half-crawling to peer around the shadowy end... and froze. A black, jagged-looking blade with reddish gleams was hovering inches from his forehead, and the Keynari vixen's nose wasn't far behind it.

"Are looking for something perhaps?" she cooed in a velvet contralto. "Arissi thinks that you will not find what you seek by playing with mosses and dirty bugs. Please to stand." She edged back slightly; he swallowed and slowly stood; where had he erred? She spoke again; "If are seeking Arissi's purse, that also is not the way. Making noises and slinking like nasty scamp, Arissi heard and knew were following before left town... but now, what do do with nasty thief. Were going to try to pick Arissi's pouch from a bush? Or maybe try to frighten a poor traveller and simply rob? Or... were thinking perhaps to leap when unexpected?" She watched him, her blade moving slightly back and forth, though the point never pointed away. He swallowed again when she showed that she'd guessed he'd planned to leave her corpse under some bush or in deep grass; she saw, and nodded, noting his stance; he still seemed confident, somehow. "So. Are not just thief, are would-be assassin. Arissi does not see markings of Brotherhood, or windings. Are foolish; perhaps Arissi should leave nasty thief under bush, yes?" His lip curled... and the Keynari half-turned and flicked her free hand behind her, the thief's partner frozen in mid-step with three slender spikes protruding from his chest... then fell. Just as quickly, before he could do more than blink, her eyes were back on him again. "So again! Are not very nice, either."

Jarren broke into a sweat. She'd just killed Ibaden with barely a jerk, and he'd barely noticed her move until it was over. I'm dead, he thought. Unless I can distract her, somehow. Suddenly, she looked slightly up and past him; the back of his neck tingled, and he turned to see what was coming up behind him... and then saw only bright spots flare before all went black.

Arissi clucked her tongue, looking at the two idiots lying next to her seat, their arms bound firmly behind them. "So young, and so foolish. Must learn to tell when someone is not a good target." She pocketed the three throwing-spikes she'd been cleaning. Dven's last project for the Mages' Guild Khajiit worked well; a rapidly-acting sleeping oil was much better than just killing them. Maybe they could tell her something. She looked about again, flicking her ears' focus this way and that before she settled to eat her lunch. She was patient.. they'd come around soon.

---***---

Jarren cursed - his head felt like someone had dropped a bucket of stones on it. He started to roll over, and cursed again. He was bound! He yanked at his arms, and struggled for a moment, rolling over just far enough to end up staring at a pair of black-furred paws. A tap to his (aching!) head reminded him of where he was and what had happened, and he immediately went limp. "You killed Ibaden." he muttered. "Am I next?" Then he heard snoring... familiar snoring.

The vixen actually giggled, a light-sounding titter. "If your friend is dead, then he is a very loud dead. You do not look like necromancer to Arissi, so we will assume that he lives for now." He looked up; she still had that wicked-looking blade, and now he could see a similar-styled spear, and.. a bow? Matching weapons... he swallowed again. Aye, he was in trouble from the time he'd seen her, and too dumb to realize. She spoke again; "Now, your friend is Ibaden. What is thief's name, please? If will be polite, perhaps Arissi will have reasons to let continue to breathe, yes?"

Jarren burned silently inside. She was acting like he was a kid caught stealing ash yams! "Jarren. Not that it'd mean anything to you. What are you going to do now? Let us go and I'll make sure Ibaden doesn't kill you." He growled to himself. Idiot... she'd make Ibaden into a scrib pie and she knows it!] You're just making yourself look even more stupid. He rolled to his side... stopped by the vixen's paw... and sighed. "Okay, so we're no danger to you. Just let us go and you'll never see either of us again." He'd have to shout Ibaden into it, though... that guy was a hothead. He'd want to show the Keynari he was a tough guy, and get himself killed. He needed a better class of partner. "Look, can I sit up? It's annoying to lie here and get pushed around." When she lifted her paw from his shoulder, he rolled to sit cross-legged. He looked up, only to see her studying him with a black-furred hand rubbing her chin.

"Arissi has better idea. Jarren and Ibaden wish to live easier than by working, yes? But are willing to waylay travellers. How is this not work? But is better work if are willing to just listen for things and be paid to tell what hear." She turned toward the other Dunmer, who was finally groaning and stirring, then back to Jarren. "Arissi needs to know some things, things that maybe would be hearable in Pelagiad, yes?" He nodded. "Very good. Jarren and friend will listen for anything of nightwalkers, vampires. If hear something that might be real, you will break this little amulet; but be careful, because Arissi will know and come, and if breaks for no reason, Arissi will be annoyed, and that would not be good for Jarren and Ibaden. Also Arissi wishes news of Mage Guild big shots." She tossed him a small trinket, a glass bead on a string.

Jarren nodded slowly. "Then you're going to let us go?" He blinked when she shook her head.

"Arissi has now marked Jarren and Ibaden as hers. Jarren knows what it means to be Warlock in Mage's Guild? Then knows that belongs to Arissi now, and must do as told.. or bad things will happen."

The vixen smiled.. or at least, Jarren hoped that it was a smile. She had a lot of sharp-looking teeth! He nodded... and blinked again, as she stood and her weapons seemed to vanish into thin air. "Remember, Jarren must be true to word! Also must tell Ibaden!" She dropped a clinking pouch on the ground, then leaned down over him, and he felt his bonds loosen. He rubbed his wrists while he watched her use a small knife to cut Ibaden free as well. When she stood, he shrank just a little, then she turned and was trotting down the path, that tail bouncing from side to side behind her.

His friend stirred again, and muttered, "Jarren?" He reached to nudge Ibaden and muttered in shaky tones, "Get up. First, we goofed, and she caught us. Second, things have changed. Third... life has just gotten more interesting."
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sat Mar 08, 2014 5:51 am

Pelagiad had always been a useful place. The tomb deep beneath the Imperial's little fort was quite hidden, and a peaceful refuge from those dullard farmers and the townspeople. Now, however, something was stirring... he could sense it, after a fashion; something had changed. His thoughts drifted upward, through dusty passage after passage, out into the open, until they touched... someone. Ye-es, he thought. This one has seen or heard something, there are questions lurking on the edge of his consciousness. He listened for those questions, then gave up in disgust; it was his usual luck to have touched a farmer of corkbulb. One whose thoughts were upon mazte first, sujamma second, followed by the weather, his harvest, and only lastly of what was different in town.

He rose from his bed and sat for a moment in the darkness, gathering himself, then stood and took his staff from where it had rested this past week, then started toward the upper level of the ancient tomb. If I am to find anything out, it will require actual effort, he thought, a dry chuckle the only sound in the unlit space. Slowly, he trudged up the ramps, leaving only faint swirls in the dust upon the stone floor. Ah, well. It is time to take sustenance yet again.

---***---

"I tell you, sera, it gets harder every season. No rains, or too much rain, or a kagouti stomps through and munches my field bare. It's enough to make a mer try a different path!" A worn-looking Dunmer spoke to another across a fence. "When you've replanted the same field three times in one month, it kind of wears on you, you know?" He leaned on the fence and took a swallow from his water bottle.

"I know what you mean, Larb" exclaimed his companion. "Have you seen what they're willing to pay for comberry? I'm dumping the crop after the next harvest and switching to kresh. At least that stuff's hardy, and people will always want the fiber. Got to keep the weavers stocked, after all, ha ha." The second Elf waved toward the town in the distance. "And if they don't need it all in Pelagiad, Vivec and Ebonheart aren't that far away. I should have done this sooner, they can send excess to the mainland. Hey... who's that coming this way? Whoever it is, they don't like the sun much."

The first looked where the other pointed, to see a figure moving through the shadows under the giant treelike mushrooms along the road. Whoever it was seemed to almost glide from place to place. Larb squinted; something wasn't right about the figure, either. He nudged his companion and muttered, "Let's get inside. I don't like strangers today, for some reason." The other nodded and the pair shambled into Larb's hut, where they watched from a window as the figure move slowly past and disappeared into the shadows again. "Anyone that keeps out of the sun is someone I don't want to meet. Sure, maybe he doesn't like bright light, but whoever that is, I'd rather he left us alone. Now... how about some mazte?"

---***---

Dven stared at the retort... come on and steam, you! For the third time he considered making the tiny flame under the device's body larger, then shook his head. The scroll had said specifically not to rush the evolution, or the results wouldn't be usable. But V'ek, kwama cuttle took just forever to release its essences! He grumbled and checked his list again, and again everything appeared correct. He sipped from his mug; he shouldn't be acting like a dratted scrib, fidgeting and fussing, he should... he smiled at himself. Just like when I was a boy, he thought. Dven, you never did have any patience. Arissi was right, you need to learn to let things happen when it's their time. "Ah, finally!" A wisp of vapor was issuing from the long neck of the retort, and he nudged a dish under the spout, from which was soon dripping a yellowish fluid. "Maybe now I can get this potion finished, and show it to the potionmistress." He'd tried at least four times already to complete a brew to allow walking on the water instead of in it, and four times he'd looked foolish when it had either just given his dusky features an orange sheen for a few minutes, or did nothing at all. Finally, he'd noticed a spidery bit of script written in the margin, correcting an error in the text, and grouched for half an hour before he felt calm enough to try again. This time you'd better work, you stupid glop!

Finally, he dribbled the condensate into the smashed scales he'd calcified earlier, and took the resulting thin jelly to his instructor, who looked once, sniffed at it, and told him to "just try it". He stepped to the tub of water, sighed and gulped once, letting the gel slip down his throat.. then stepped into the tub. Well, perhaps not into it, but upon it would be the better phrase. He stood upon two shallow depressions in the water, but his shoes did NOT get wet this time. It worked! He looked up, to see the potionmistress smiling at him. "Dven has found the way, yes? Now we can move on, and my student friend will get to see what an alembic will do for him." The khajiit was practically purring. "That took time, but Dven managed the lesson sooner than Ajira did, and without the little fibs about going through great dangers to gather things." She turned to point to an open book lying on her table. "This will hopefully be easier, but Dven needs to understand this process." The Dunmer leaned over the book and mumbled, reading...

---***---

Feorin sat nodding half-asleep by the bank of the river. He'd been fishing most of the day without much luck; his baits seemed to wiggle off of the hook, or the fish were being clever. He rested his pole on a forked stick and jammed the butt under the root of the shade tree, then tipped his hat over his eyes and leaned back against the parasol tree. The day was warm, and he had several fish drying on the rack behind his little hut, so he didn't mind some quiet time. His thoughts drifted... then he blinked, noticing that the sun was considerably lower in the sky. Well, falling asleep wasn't a bad thing. He sat up and shifted his hat. A Bosmer could sleep almost anywhere, but sooner or later he'd... what was that? A movement to his side caught his attention, and he turned, then looked up at the dark figure standing there. He blinked again, and open his mouth to shout while he reached for his knife, but a large hand was already plastered against his face, and his last sight was a leering skull-like face through a purple haze...
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sun Mar 23, 2014 12:10 am

The figure waited in the shade of a parasol tree; something was not right, it was certain, but what? It glowered at the brightness outside of the circle of shade. Normally it would travel only by night, but the need to move was urgent. Its master would not welcome delay, and though it was confident of its abilities against mortals, its master was another matter entirely. Ah, a cloud had moved to cover the sun; it slipped out from underneath the tree's cover within the shadowed space provided by the small cloud, then slipped underneath a bridge that crossed a small stream. This would do for now; it was cool here, and the dratted light was bearable. It settled into the humid darkness under one end of the bridge and waited.

---***---

Tilurien hurried along the path that passed for a road, grumbling. It looked like it was not only going to rain, but the clouds were darkening enough that he felt it likely to be a storm forming. The one day that I absolutely have to get to the Guild hall, and of course I'm going to get soaked. He was nearly to the river; drat the day, the river and now this excuse for a bridge! Why can't these useless Dunmer learn to build proper bridges instead of these stupid bouncing rope contraptions? Wait, that looked like a good-sized Emperor parasol on the opposite bank; he could settle underneath it and wait out the rain, if the wind wasn't too strong. His attention settled on the swinging of the rope bridge and the promised shelter on the other side, leaving no room for anything else. What a rotten day, his mood was going to be as bad as a guar's breath.

Then something cold clutched his ankle. His train of thought broken, he tugged at his leg, and he saw a bonelike hand reaching between the boards; its touch felt like it drained the very warmth from his bones. He spat a curse and grabbed for his mace, leaning down to strike at the thing, but when he caught sight of the hooded face behind the hand, his face lost all expression and he stopped moving. Two minutes later, he slumped and slipped through the supporting ropes at the side of the walkway, dropping into the water with a splash. Several ripples moved in the water, and after a bit the water discolored downstream; the slaughterfish were in luck today. A few minutes later, the shadowed figure moved out from under the end of the bridge, lifting its face to the sky as the rain fell.

---***---

A small figure in a worn green robe watched from amid saltrice growing along the stream's shore, and sank back into the reeds. Arissi's lip curled in a silent snarl; this was NOT what she'd thought it was! That... that thing had taken the life of that Elf as surely as if it had used an axe; worse, it had only grabbed at him, and the Altmer had died without even having struck at the thing, though he'd grabbed for his weapon. Arissi, you stupid fox!, she thought. If not for the poor Elf that would be you, maybe. Taking a chance now is foolish, just do what must be done! Her hand slipped into her robe's sleeve and emerged with a metal band around one finger. Then there was an angular bow in that hand, and the other was already removing an arrow from the quiver inside her robe. Quickly, the thing had seen her! She drew the bowstring back, back, while the thing started to move swiftly toward her. Aiya, even the grass was going brown and dying where the thing touched! She let the missile fly, and was already nocking a second when the first shaft hissed through the front of the thing's open cloak. The cloth tore, and the tattered-looking cloak fell from around the figure. The first impression Arissi had was that the thing inside had somehow magicked itself away, but no... there was still the arrow floating in the air, in the middle of what looked like a child's charcoal drawing of a man, ill-formed and smudged. It raised the Elf's mace and continued toward her, but the second missile stuck beside the first. There was an outward flash of sickly-purple light, and the mace fell to the ground, the figure vanishing as if it had never been there.

The Keynari vixen dropped the bow, which faded from sight before it could strike the muddy water, and she moved slowly toward the spot, glimmerings forming around raised hands. She moved onto the grass where the figure had been, but there was no sign of the figure save for a fallen iron mace, some dead-brown grass and a tattered cloak. She picked up a stick, then poked here and there at the half-rotted cloth, nudging a small amulet to one side and knelt to study it. She did not touch it... oh no, that would be foolish. Such a deadly thing may contaminate its belongings, and Arissi is not so foolish as to risk poisoning herself! Finally, she flicked the thing into a small box and concealed it inside of her robe, before turning to trot northward to Balmora.

---***---

"... and Arissi put amulet into the box to show Rosa and Vanaiar. What was nasty thing, do friends know? Arissi could not save poor Elf, did not know what to think, but could only watch." The vixen spoke quietly in the corner of the inn's common room, seated with her two companions. "Arissi is glad that Dven was not with. Knows Dven very capable, but... aiya, such a deadly thing!"

The Altmer and Tigaran mages had listened intently, smiling at first (they knew Arissi well, and had half-expected her to be simply telling a story.. but their smiles had faded quickly.) The Tigaran spoke first; "I do not know what to say, Arissi. At first, I thought you were perhaps following some form of vampire, but this? I have never heard of such a thing."

Vanaiar patted Rosa's hand once. "I have." His expression was humorless, and his voice dropped even lower than earlier. "I'd hoped that it was another myth, but the description fits perfectly. I don't know what it is called, but it was a sending from Oblivion, a sort of life-hunger that takes on form and cunning of its own. Someone constructed the thing from death-magicks, but it wasn't a necromancer... this had nothing to do with the living, ever. If such a thing can be made and then sent through to Nirn, the situation is more dire than I'd imagined. Arissi, Rosa, we need to contact Dven and tell him of this; Arissi, have you gotten anywhere snooping around the Guild hall here in Balmora?"

Arissi nodded, her pointed muzzle bobbing slightly. "Is a door under a rug in lower level. Nobody speaks of, but Arissi saw when archmage Trebonius went down in with Dunmer head of this hall. Both were most secretive; if Arissi had not been spell-hidden, would have been seen and maybe they would wait for later. But the doorway is there!" She set out a torn scrap of paper, with a crude sketch of the lower level of the Guild hall, then tapped a spot. "Large rug is here, trapdoor's handle is inset into door's surface, so no lump shows."

Each looked at the other, and nodded. The Altmer whispered, "Then it's settled? Tomorrow night we fetch Dven and make a little excursion of our own, and we'll see what the devil is down there. And be prepared for anything possible; we may end up in a cavern, or a ruin, or Oblivion itself for all we know." He sighed deeply. "I hope we're not getting in over our heads."
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Drac
 
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sat Jun 21, 2014 1:33 pm

In a corner of the Eight Plates, three companions sat drinking from frothy mugs and cracking jokes. They were quiet about it, however, and none seemed to pay them any mind. "It's got to be underneath, I say!" claimed the one. "The Guild wouldn't put it anyplace but where it would be the safest they could make it."

The second wiped froth from a mug's brim and frowned; "No, that's entirely too obvious. Everything in this town's underground, that's the first place anyone would put something. But those people aren't stupid, so they'd hide it somewhere that wasn't at all obvious. Besides, they wouldn't think of an obvious thing as being safe... wait, quiet!" Hunching over their drinks the three went silent just as several Imperials in Legion armor started to pass close. It was obvious they weren't there to drink, or eat; they scanned every table, and their leader spoke quietly with the barkeep for a bit, who nodded toward the trio's table and another. The Templar stepped toward the other table, but somehow the guardsmen were suddenly surrounding the trio. "Don't move."

===***===

Perron stood and stretched... he'd been in this dry hole for days, now. He looked about, past the sleepy-looking guardsman leaning against the pillar, and peered into the gloom. "When are they going to get some proper lights in here, I wonder." He closed his book with a clump (startling the guard). Perron grinned. Next time, stay awake on duty, you fetcher. He looked slowly around the chamber; tall, almost haphazardly-placed columns along the walls, some intact and some missing pieces. A few chunks of aged debris scattered where it had fallen over the years... the ladder reaching up, up, to the door in the ceiling... and the centrix. The centrix... what a simple name for it, he thought. A horned sphere hovering between stone pillars... or whatever those were called... rotating first one way and then the next. It looked harmless enough, but somehow he did not dare to reach up to it; Daedric devices had a tendency to be dangerous. He shrugged and sat back down at his desk, to scratch down some more observations, and a request for still more candles. Blast this dark fog...

===***===

Arissi tapped Rosa's hand lightly, and the Tigaran looked where the little Keynari vixen's nose was pointed. Dven and two other Dunmer were surrounded by Legion guards, all three of the dun-skinned Elves as tense as small animals whenever kagouti were snorting nearby. The pair started to stand, but stopped when the gold-armored leader of the patrol approached again and tapped Dven, jerking a thumb to one side. "You shouldn't associate with the likes of these, sera. They're trouble, and will get you in trouble as well." Dven stood and nodded before stepping to the side, shrugging to his former companions as they were arrested. He made his way back to Rosa and Arissi's table, then sat and sighed, muttering "Not like the old days, when you could plot in peace." He waved for another mug and turned back to the two mages. "Well, neither of them knew anything, nobody's heard of anything out of the Mages' Guild in weeks. That's enough for me, they're definitely up to something. Normally there are ten thousand rumors, but when there's nothing... then they're up to something, and well along as well. Those two were stupid enough to think that that meant it was a good time to try to rob the place. Idiots."

Rosa ran a fingertip around the brim of her mug. "So we need to try a somewhat more direct approach. We're all members, but nobody seems to want to talk with us about anything but ordinary business. I suppose we'll have to make up some simple tasks that take us to different areas and just keep our eyes open. Dven, you're still working with that Khajiit on your alchemical studies? (He nodded) All right, then you've a good excuse to move around in the Guild building. Arissi, you've been moving upward... what's your rank in the Guild, anyway? Warlock? All right, you're probably seen as being somewhat ambitious, so you won't arouse suspicion if you ask people about possible quests... I'll poke around with that Orc who's always fussing with her equipment. And keep eyes and ears open, almost anything could be a hint."

The trio spent another hour together, making small talk and bad jokes to appear "normal". Of course, when people try too hard to appear like they're not up to something, someone usually notices...
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sat Aug 16, 2014 8:16 pm

"I don't see why we have to do them any favors, Tars. Yes, they've kept their noses clean. Yes, the Dunmer's kept up with his tasks, and no, none of them have caused any problems.. that I know of. But I'm sure that they're up to something; whenever a group like that looks like they're not up to anything, they're scheming something." The Orc frowned, giving her face a more frightening visage than usual. "Those three have got to be up to something."

The gold-skinned mage sat back and laughed. "You always see plots and cabals everywhere, you know. Last month it was the lich at Firemoth, getting ready to invade Vvardenfell. Before that, the Dreugh were plotting to keep all fish away from the island, to try to starve us. And before that..." He laughed at the Orc's deepening scowl. "Well, isn't it true? Everyone of those turned out to be as substantial as the morning mists. And what of the Great Sload Undead Invasion? The Sload emissary and his two skeletal butlers... ha!" He took another pull at his mug, and wiped away a bit of froth from his lip.

The Orc plucked a fingertip to one of her tusks. "You aren't listening. I've seen the signs, and I've felt the stirrings in the Daedric flows. There's a lot more going on than normal!" She bit a chunk from her guar-haunch, and muttered while she chewed. "There are disturbances that can't be accounted-for by the usual doings around here. And I'm absolutely certain that there was a Sending from Oblivion recently. You KNOW what those things can do... and they don't show up on their own, someone has to send them... and that means someone's been opening a Gate! And if a Gate's been opened, who knows what's come through, or what's become of the supposed protection the Emperor has arranged from that sort of thing? It takes forever to get news from the capital out here.. if the protection has failed, the Emperor's dead and there could be hordes of Dremora lining up to come for us all right now!" She picked a sliver of bone from her lip and waggled it at the Altmer sitting opposite her. "You mark my words, you. Something's going on, and I don't know if it's an undead invasion, a Daedric invasion, or an invasion of giant scribs, for all I know... but there's something coming."

Tars' smile was only growing with each new exposition. "You know, I really do enjoy our talks, Sharn. I swear, your imaginings are even better than the plays they put on in Amalexia, and certainly the acting is better. Remember when we went there and saw that play about.. what was it? Castle Xyr? The story was good, but that woman... she couldn't act her way through an empty room, I swear. That voice of hers... eggghh." He pushed his chair back and stood. "Still, I suppose if all warnings of portents were always false, nothing would ever happen, and that's certainly not what the histories show." He smiled at his companion's look of surprise. "Oh, I'll admit that your warnings do amuse, but you WERE right about that Camonna Tong group. You remember, you said you'd felt several thievish 'passings', and sure enough, the entire Tong group here in Balmora was cleaned out, right in their own home at the Council Club. I don't forget these things, so I suppose I'll have to look into this Terrible Trio you mentioned and see if there's anything to it. And thank you for the ale, you do tend to know who has the best." He bowed slightly and turned to leave, but couldn't resist adding over his shoulder, "Of course, if it turns out you're wrong, you're buying again next time!" With a laugh, he headed out the door.

Sharn stared after him. After all this time, you'd think I would've learned, she thought. He laughs at everything, not just what I tell him, and then looks for himself, to be certain. It was a good chance meeting that brought him here, so many years ago; he's a good friend. But I need to get back to the Guild, that preservative should be just about ready for the next cycle. Drat all these interruptions, I'd have been a lot further along if I hadn't had to tell SOMEONE about those three meddlers...

---***---

Rosa finished tying her bundle and turned around. "Arissi, are you rea... what?" She stared at the seeming stranger on the other side of the room. still Keynari, but grey in the muzzle and with scruffy fur about her cheeks and eartips. "What on Nirn have you done to your pretty fur!" The Tigaran set her hands upon her hips. "If I didn't know that it was you, I'd have thought you thirty years older! Is that a spell, or some other sort of foolery?"

Arissi giggled lightly, sounding more like a young girl than the wizened traveller she appeared to be. She straightened up and stuck her tongue out at her friend. "Arissi does not wish to appear to be Arissi, of course, silly Rosa. Arissi is known to poke her nose where it is not desired. No one will look twice at an old Keynari just wandering around like vagabond. Will Dven recognize, perhaps? Dven knows Arissi so very well, but others do not." She tucked a small wallet into her shirt, and lifted the strap of a bundle to her shoulder, a somewhat long and slightly thin bundle with a packet attached to the strap.

"And just what are you taking along, you silly creature? That hardly looks like a set of weapons. You do remember that where we're going is probably going to be rather dangerous?" Rosa looked her companion over slowly, from ears to toes and back. "You look like you'd have a hard time hiding a dinner knife in that getup."

The Keynari smiled, and suddenly she was holding a vicious-looking, jagged dagger in one hand... then suddenly it was a black spear chased with red gleamings, then an angular bow. "Rosa remembers the project that made Rosa decide that Arissi was no longer apprentice? Arissi has made more such things, and all are very small."

"The ring, of course! The one you called your "pocket arsenal"... I remember it now. It's a good idea, that's very concealable. And I suppose that that bundle consists of a number of arrows?" She smiled at the vixen's nod. "And knowing you, you've brought just a little to eat along the way. Well, so have I, as well as a little trick that may come in handy. We may be wherever we're going for some time, you know." She held up a flask, similar to those used for potions and similar things. "This holds a great deal more water than one would think. It's hardly infinite, but it would do for the three of us for a week. I wonder how Dven is doing?"

"Did someone mention my name?" The Dunmer stood in the doorway, a small shapeless pack over his shoulder. He grinned, "I assumed from what I overheard that you were both dressed. Are you ready? It's nearly time. And Arissi, you need a trim and a brushing, you've gone scruffy." He ducked the pillow thrown his way and stepped back outside to wait for his companions.
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Sun Sep 21, 2014 4:47 pm

In a smithy in Ebonheart, an aged Elf was speaking quietly with the grizzled owner. "I'm told that you had once made Daedric weapons and armor... how is it that you don't now? I'd have thought that would be a secret you'd want kept alive in your sotted brain, old boy." The Altmer grinned and reached for his mug, just as his companion did likewise for a ladle of water.

"Old boy, maybe not so much. Old, maybe, but still able to do my work, hey? But yes, I made a few in my time. It's ruddy difficult, and ruins some of my best hammers, but aye, I can work the stuff. But you need something that I just can't make for myself. Did you know that Daedric metal's mostly ebony? But not just any ebony, old Elf. It has to be infused somehow with Daedric essence, and that's something I'm just not equipped to do." He moved to stir the coals in his forge, then stepped on a floor-bellows a couple of times, setting the coals glowing brightly before he tossed another couple of lots atop them. "That's a trick that I never mastered, because it takes a mage, and that sort of thing's beyond me." Saccus rubbed his balding head, then wiped his brow with his apron. "No time to learn all that wizardly mumbo-jumbo these days. That's for folk like you, Vanaiar... me, I like to work up a good sweat. As to Daedric items, I had to get the infused ebony from a mage I knew once, a long time ago."

Vanaiar turned to look at Sirollus. "Magery is easy? Or do you mean that... ah, you old sot, you're having me on again." He waved a hand. "I still say that physical labor's the easy part, it's the pattern of energy-flows that's difficult, and the formation of the matrices for potions... wait." He furrowed his brow. "You know, in a way, we're not so unlike, it occurs to me. I work with energies and patterns to get results, but all the raw power in the world is nothing without the skill to use it. It's the same with you, too, isn't it? It must take a lot of skill and experience to understand how different metals work and rework under heat, and just how to shape them without... hmmm, hmmm."

Saccus laughed shortly, a single bark of amusement. "Ha, now you're getting it, I think. Ten tons of steel and ebony don't mean a thing except as money, if you don't have the skill to work them, or the means. Give a novice enough steel or other metal to make a proper suit of armor, and you'll end up with a creaking contraption that's twice as heavy as it needs to be, doesn't fit, and wears you out when you try to move. But a master smith? You should end up with a set of armor that not only fits well and fends off blows, but looks good, wears well and helps you support yourself, as well as moving fluidly with you. 'Course, it still takes skill to use that armor to its full effectiveness; everything has its little foibles. It's the same with a weapon, or a wagon-wheel, or a light-ring for your ceiling. If you have the skill and experience, you can make 'em faster, better and finer. No skill, and it's inefficient, ugly and just plain no good."

The Altmer put his mug down. "All right, that's logical. But now, aside from seeing an old friend, I did have another purpose for coming here. I need a favor." He smoothed his robe. "Maybe two, after hearing your story about the Daedric materials. Can you tell me who it was that supplied with you this "infused ebony", and where I could find him? And secondly, I've heard some disturbing rumors about the Mages' Guild. I know you're a friend of the leader of the Sadrith Mora chapter... if you hear anything at all that sounds out of the ordinary, would you be willing to tell me? It could be quite important." At the smith's nod, he again raised his mug. "I wouldn't presume on a friendship unless it was absolutely necessary, old friend. I do apologize if this causes you any discomfort at all."

The smith waved a hand. "Pish, you've done me enough favors in the past, I can surely return one or two. Although I can't be very helpful with one, I can help a little. The mage I used to work with was a Khajiit named Rishnakt. He's long gone, though, took off for someplace north some years ago. But he knew how to make Daedric ebony, all right. You might be able to find out more at Sadrith Mora, he knew a smith there as well. For the second part, sure, I know that lizard, Skink-in-Tree's-Shade is his name. He'd probably act all secretive if I brought anything up about 'unusual things'.. he likes to think he holds the greatest secrets in the world."

Vanaiar muttered. To the smiths grunted "Eh?" he replied, "Sorry. I was thinking out loud, and said "This time he might." At the smith's expression he laughed and waved a hand again. "But it's more likely that he's just playing games. Come, I have some very fine Cyrodilic brandy... shall we try it?" and removed a bottle from his robe.
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:35 pm

Under the morning sun, an aged, crumbling ruin slept. Claw-topped towers reached into the light, as if reaching to pull down the warm orb, and shadows crept slowly between walls as the sun moved across the sky. Dark stone slabs shaded twisted plants... and yet, even here, the occasional bright flower defied its surroundings. Kneeling above one of these rare blooms, a figure bent over the golden petals. "Bright and brave, little flower. Raise your face to find the light... all the more amusing." The hooded figure stood, and stamped a heavy boot upon the flower, then ground it under heel. "So very pitiful." The figure turned and moved toward a nearby oval door, hood drawn about its head and clutching its cloak about itself. At a touch, the stone oval shifted, and slowly swung inward to reveal steps leading downward into darkness. "The light always fades, and then all is well once more." Faint echoing steps faded, as the cloaked shape descended into the gloom, a wrapped bundle in one gloved hand.

---***---

An Orc poked and fussed about upon a shelf of bottles and jars, her tusks a glint of yellow in the candlelight. "I detest interruptions... but if you'll leave me alone after, I'll see what I can find. And you'd better not get me into any trouble." She plucked several vials from a box; "Here they are, I knew that I'd set some aside. These are all that I have. Take them and remember your promise. You noticed the trapdoor under the rug yourself; if anyone asks, I barely know you, Keynari." She laid each vial between layers of rag, then wrapped the lot in a flap of leather and tied a string about the bundle before passing it to a much smaller figure. "Arissi, you've come a long way, but I still think you're in over your hea..." She stopped as three more figures moved into the room. "I should have known. The four of you always seem to be together. Well, maybe a group with gold and dark Elves, a Tigaran and a Keynari might be able to find out something." A smile half-cracked the Orc's stony face, and a dry chuckle sounded faintly. "Just you be careful down there. I don't know what you're going to find, but from the way that Ranis's been acting, it's not at all safe, even after a couple hundred years."

Vanaiar nodded and reached to touch the Orc's shoulder. "Never fear, Sharn. Your secret is still safe with us, and if it comes up... none of us has spoken with you in weeks." He looked down to Arissi, who was looking upward, turning her pointed nose back and forth to each speaker. He ruffled her ears a bit, then turned back to gro-Muzgob. "If I do not see you again, thank you."

She nodded slowly. "Just you take care that you don't lose my apprentice, old Elf. Dven may be an annoying one, but he tries, and that's more than I can say for the last three." She stared at the dark Elf. "And you, you'd better come back. I still have a lot to teach you, and if you get yourself killed, I''ll still find you and lecture you fifty times as much. And if that isn't enough incentive, you'll spend the next sixty years picking up the plants I need. You'll be bored out of what little mind you have." Then, realizing she was getting sentimental, she lightly slapped Dven's cheek. "Now get out of my sight." She turned back to her bottles and muttered, "G'rah... now where was I... all these interruptions..."

The quartet looked at one another, and Rosa shook her head. "It's time." They all moved to another corner of the Guild's lower level and Vanaiar moved a thick rug aside with the tip of his staff, showing the frame of a door set into the stone floor. "This was constructed to not leave a lump, so there's no ring or bar to pull." He flicked his hand to one side and the rug flew back, to partially fold itself well off of the door. He pointed at the wood, and one side rose a few inches, whereupon Dven slid a short piece of wood under the edge. He blew upon his fingers, took a deep breath and lifted the heavy thing, to show a ladder underneath. The four each moved to the edge and carefully started down the ladder, and after Vanaiar's head dropped below the level of the floor, the doorway closed quietly... and the rug slid back over the entrance, as if it had never been moved.

Sharn looked back and shrugged. "Those four meddle with the Guild council's plans, they may get burned. But they seemed determined... I hope that old shagrat knows what he's doing." She flicked a corner of the rug flat with her foot and looked around, then went back to her work.

---***---

The ladder seemed to stretch vertically down forever in the dark tunnel, the narrow passage's sides barely perceptible in the gloom... but there was a faint light, far below. Arissi didn't care much for the hard round rungs of the ladder on the pads of her feet, but she kept moving downward with the others, Dven leading the way. Finally, the light grew a little more and they emerged from a hole in the ceiling of a large chamber. She could see a pair of lanterns near the far side, and the place seemed to have several chunks of rubble still... but she could even now see a structure in the middle, as well as a single figure moving near the lanterns. Something was moving in the structure, as well.

"Hey! Who's that, I wasn't expecting anyone until tomorrow!" The figure was striding toward the base of the ladder, where Dven was brushing his hands against his pants. "And who are you people, I don't recognize any of you! Wait... Rosa?" The Elf peered up at the last two figures descending toward him. "Thank Nirn, I thought you might've been thieves, or worse.. tourists!" He grinned, and waved the foursome toward the lit end of the room. "I know it's a bit musty, but we're still trying to find a passage, if there is one, so it gets a bit dusty now and then. And, of course, the air was very stale when we broke into this place." He turned toward them again, and his grin faded when he saw Rosa pointing toward him.

"I'm sorry, old friend, but you'd feel obligated to do something in a moment." A momentary swirl of light formed around her outstretched hand, and Dven caught the Elf as he fell. "He'll sleep for awhile. I need a moment to be sure he won't remember us being here." The others were already looking about the chamber as she knelt by her old friend and lightly brushed fingers over his forehead. "Tanae, you've been alone here. No one has entered for some time, and we were never here." The Elf's expression changed slightly, appearing more relaxed. "You fell asleep from boredom." She stood and, like the others, looked about. The room was at least thirty paces wide, with chunks of broken pillar here and there, some few holes dug into places in the walls, with a central construct. She moved toward it, noticing that the others seemed drawn there as well. It was, after all, the only thing that appeared at all interesting; they'd all seen Daedric ruins before.

Two 'arms' rose from the floor, angled together at the top, between which a sphere with two points extending from its sides was suspended in midair between the arms. The sphere was slowly turning from side to side... then it would stop and turn the opposite direction, a few seconds later reversing itself again. The Keynari spoke first... "Is... is this what we seek? Is the only thing different from rest of the room." Each of them looked at the others, as if to say "What now?"
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Mon Feb 23, 2015 3:28 am

The quartet stood in a semicircle around a dark carved-stone construct, with a shifting sphere in a bifurcation in the center. Each looked at the others, then at the sphere, then again to one another. "It's certainly Daedric in origin" offered the tall golden Elf. "That's certainly obvious. However, aside from the way that we came in, I see no doors anywhere, not even of the rounded forms the Daedra used." He moved slowly underneath the sphere, avoiding touching any of the dark stone. "This seems the only magicka-active artifact in the entire place." He straightened on the other side, stepping back from the black stone. "So.. the question becomes, is it a gate?"

Another member of the group, a dark-skinned Dunmer Elf shrugged. "We're in this all the way; everyone agreed to that before we started this mess. So let's find out." He set a hand to the shoulder of the small Keynari female and squeezed for a moment. "If it works, then I'll see you all wherever this takes me." Then he reached up for the sphere.

"Dven, wait! We don't.. we could... what are you DOING?!?" The Tigaran stared for an instant, agape at what the Dunmer proposed, then flung an arm toward him as if to stop him, as the Keynari Arissi leapt at his waist, arms outspread... both too late. Dven's hand slapped the underside of the sphere, and there was a sound as if a distant gong... and he was gone, just before they both grabbed where he'd been an instant before. The Keynari shook, hands formed into fists and her teeth clenched, then stood and shook herself.

"Okay, he is right. All have prepared and prepared, and now we are here. Arissi will not let Dven go ahead without following. If Vanaiar and Rosa follow, good. If not, Arissi assumes will dither and then follow later." She shook off the Tigaran's hand. "No, Rosa. Arissi WILL do this. Cannot let Dven rush in and not follow, however silly it was to leap ahead." She glared at her friends, who both stepped back before looking at one another.

"All right, little mage. It's true, we can't sit around and talk and not do anything... and we certainly can't let Dven face whatever is over there, assuming of course that he IS somewhere else. Rosa, I have to agree. Are you coming as well?" The aged Elf smiled when his white-furred feline friend simply nodded and hefted her staff, then turned to the vixen. "All right, Arissi. Together?" He reached upward with his own staff, grasping Rosa's arm while Arissi clutched his robe, and pressed his knuckles against the sphere. Then the chamber was empty, save for a a sleeping figure and the fading tones of a subdued bell.

===***===

Effe-tei stiffened. Something was wrong, badly wrong. The Daedric flows were twisting in an unfamiliar way... wait. no, there was indeed a familiar pattern emerging, one that he hadn't felt in ages. "Thiss iss imposssible." he muttered, then looked around the room where he was always stationed. Good, nobody would have overheard that. He frowned, scaled lips stretching, then turned the small sign that stated that he would return shortly and stepped into his small private chamber. Now, what could this mean... those chambers had been sealed for centuries until the recent excavations. That fool Treb.. wait, what was this, now? A knock was sounding at his door, as if metal upon stone. He went to answer it, and blinked at a royal guard in dull-red armor. "Yess?"

The guard nodded in a short bow and whispered something to the Argonian mage, his lips barely moving behind the chin-slit of his helmet, then turned and left. Effe-tei stood for a while, thinking, and then closed the door. Once thoroughly alone, he turned and unlocked an old trunk with a tarnished metal key, then knelt beside it for a while. Upon opening the trunk, he rummaged for a bit, removed a very worn leather pouch, and tucked it inside his robe.. then stood and left, moving toward the throne room of the palace.

===***===

Dven stumbled when the chamber faded from around him, then crouched upon one knee, a short red-and-black blade in his hand sliding from its scabbard. He glanced about in several directions; black, carved stone surface leading away in four directions, all in the midst of a dark-grey mist. He could see nobody, and nothing moving but wisps of the fog that seemed to slowly chase one another. Well, what now he asked himself. That was an easy question; wait for the others. He had no doubt that they'd be along, they weren't the type to let one of their own number go into possible danger and lag behind. Ah, there we are. An outline formed in a second, and seemed to fill in details until after two seconds more, his small Keynari friend was standing next to him. Hmph.. of course she'd had no trouble landing on HER feet. He grinned in spite of himself and stood. "Arissi? Are the others coming?" He nodded at her own bobbing head and turned to where two more outlines were showing hints of color. He waved an arm about. "I suppose that I should say something, like "Welcome to the Paths."
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Mon Jul 20, 2015 12:17 am

The three arrivals looked about slowly, while the fourth figure present turned in a circle, his arms outspread. "A grand panorama, yes? You can't see fifty feet without the blasted mist turning everything vague.. another fifty feet might as well be a solid wall, it's like standing in a 'pexy cloud!" He sheathed his sword, careful not to touch the curved red-and-black blade. "Four directions, and nothing below this platform to support it. I don't like it, however amazing it is..."

Rosa puffed her cheeks, before blowing her breath out. "I suppose that I shouldn't have been surprised; the Daedric Princes do like their little mysteries. Or maybe they just didn't bother themselves about the fog, or maybe they created it... I've no idea. Some are whimsical, some are secretive, and some.. well, some are just plain malevolent. As if that wasn't obvious... but I should mention again, it's likely that there will be Daedra wandering these Paths, and others. And I have no idea if this place has its own unique denizens."

Dven turned.. "Denizens? Like... that?" he pointed off into the fog, where a faint darkening showed, tall and wide. "I think it's an Ogrim. Can they see well? Apparently so, at least at this distance." The creature turned toward the quartet, and seemed to stoop slightly, raising a thick limb as if to shade its view... then started toward them at a trot. A faint thoom, thoom sounded at each footfall.


Rosa gripped her staff and held it as if it were a shield, loudly whispering to herself. Vanaiar was holding a hand up, about which sparks seemed to drift; Dven stood gaping for just an instant, then whipped his blade free, all three readying to attack when the creature came near; but wait.. was it.. slowing? Its stride became shorter and shorter, its expression showing its confusion.. and it came to a halt, still half a dozen steps from the quartet. Vanaiar and Rosa looked at each other, then back to the Ogrim, spells faltering off. The creature's shoulders were heaving, and they could hear it gasping. Rosa looked back at Arissi, then blinked; the vixen was standing as if pushing against a wall, gritting her teeth... then she relaxed and smiled. "Please not to go too near beastie" she said, flicking her tail. "Still can swing arms, but move he cannot!"

Dven stared at the oversized creature. "What did you DO?!?" he stammered, then grinned at his compatriots. "Whatever it was, it was great!"

Arissi giggled. "Is still dangerous, but only if silly Dven comes near. Arissi stole the strength from his legs." She turned a small circle. "Can let live, or can destroy, what to do? Is no longer dangerous to us, if we are careful where move."

The Dunmer grinned. "Stole his strength... once a thief, always a thief. But I suppose we should send it back to Oblivion. Do you have your bow?" He nodded at the vixen's own nod. "Better finish it then." He looked to the others, each of whom made approving sounds. A danger avoided that they must pass on their return was still a danger. He moved a way into the fog in the opposite direction from the Ogrim, until he could just see his companions. "Nothing more down this way, at least" he reported when he returned. "Anyone have a way to mark where we've been? It would be very easy to get lost in this soup." He jumped when the Ogrim groaned and fell over backward with a THUMP, its body showing a dozen arrow-shafts. "And now she's stolen his life... won't he return from Oblivion after awhile?" The vixen shook her hand, the angular bow fading already into nothingness, and agreed. Daedra don't die permanently.. unless their animus was trapped by a mage. Dven had learned about it during his time as an apprentice in the Mages' Guild. An animus, or as some called it, a soul, could be trapped by an appropriate spell. If the body was slain while "soul-trapped", the animus passed into a prepared crystal, a "soul gem", to act as a power source for an enchantment. Daedra that were killed without such trapping merely lost their current body and fled back to Oblivion, there to recover and prepare a new body to use once they were again summoned or found other means to come to the mortal plane.

Vanaiar cleared his throat. "Well, that's our first obstacle; a lot easier than I'd expected, but probably the first of many. Arissi, have you recovered your arrows? Good.. shall we continue? And... which way?"
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Re: Crazy Like a Fox - by Drac

Postby Drac » Mon Feb 22, 2016 4:53 am

(Story restarted in a new format in "Crazy Like a Fox (redux)", still here at Fort Elder Scrolls)
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