Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
    14
  • comments
    0
  • views
    656

16 | Fredas, 2 Morning Star 4E 202

131 views

                It took little over a week to return to Riften – twice as long as it took to get to High Hrothgar in the first place – though with no more need to move quickly, the slower pace and more-frequent stops wouldn’t cause any problems. The Dragonborn seemed to think so, at least, for he had explained as soon as he could speak properly that Alduin was unlikely to leave his hiding place for quite some time, if ever again.

                “We got each other good anyways,” he’d said. “Neither of us are going to be going anywhere any time soon.”

                Thus, Bjorn and Azhani had returned to the Bee and Barb without any sense of urgency, having left Serana and the Elder Scroll in Ivarstead at her own recommendation. The place was, as usual, quiet, though several chairs and tables were displaced and the stock behind the counter was far too low for an establishment frequented almost exclusively by a small handful of regulars, none of whom were there just then.

                Instead, there was only Talen, aimlessly sweeping around, and Keerava with her head down on the bar, though she straightened up when the door opened and the Dragonborn walked in leaning into a staff.

                “What in Oblivion happened to you?” she asked, grabbing several mugs and a bottle from under the counter. “You fall off the mountain or something?”

                Bjorn gave a light laugh as he sat down and grabbed the drink that had been put in front of him. “Yeah, almost. No but seriously, Alduin was there. Scared him off, but broke a whole lot of bones in the process. Probably won’t even be able to Shout safely again for another week.”

                “Damn, that’s rough.” Keerava had pulled out another bottle just for herself and was drinking from it while they spoke. “You’re still gonna recover enough to actually deal with him for good, though, right? We’re not all screwed forever or anything, are we?”

                “No, no, it’ll be fine.” He waved one hand dismissively and drank deep with the other before trying to speak again a little too soon. “Mmmh. Most annoying part is that all my armor is entirely destroyed. I’ve got bits of it that I can sell as scrap, but I’m still gonna have to get a new set tailored. I’ve got the money and all, but-“ Bjorn shook his head. “That is not cheap. I only got fitted for that set five years ago, and it was supposed to last at least thirty before it started to need major work done.”

                Keerava leaned back as far as she could in a stool with no back, using her tail as support. “Somehow I don’t imagine these smiths account for dragon attacks when they figure how good their stuff is.”

                “Apparently not.” Bjorn finished off the rest of the mug and filled it up again – Azhani, meanwhile, had barely gotten through half of her drink. “But, anyways, what’ve you been up to? You didn’t kill the joint or anything, did you? Looks emptier than it usually is in here.”

                Keerava shot forward and stuck a finger in the Dragonborn’s face. “Hey, don’t you make fun of my shitty business tactics.” Leaning back again, she grabbed her bottle and continued drinking. “Ah, really though, you just missed New Life. All the free booze really puts me in the hole, but after everyone shakes off their hangover, business is a little better than normal for a few weeks. Pays for itself if they start buying Talen’s specialties. Even better if they buy them during the celebration, since it’s just the ale and mead that’s free.”

                “Aw, I missed New Life? How’d I let that happen?”

                “Don’t start complaining now.” Keerava waved her bottle at the Dragonborn. “You already drink free here year-round anyways.”

                “Really? I thought you were running a tab.”

                “Not for your drinks. Is it too late to say I am?”

                Bjorn just nodded and drank more.

                “Damn. Well, all that food and your rooms are worth more anyways.” Then Keerava turned to Azhani instead. “So, how’d that trip go for you? I don’t imagine that’s the sort of thing you do regularly.”

                Azhani took a little sip, then leaned forward with one elbow on the bar. “One thing I learned,” she said, “is never to wear flat-foot shoes again.”

                “You actually wore human shoes?” Talen had appeared at the far end of the bar, leaning against it with his broom hanging by his side. “How did that happen?”

                “Well, you can’t exactly climb a mountain barefoot, can you?” Bjorn interjected, then looked over at Talen. “Well, maybe you can, with those scales everywhere, but I don’t figure that’d work out too great for a Khajiit.” He took a swig and continued. “And I’ve never actually seen her wear shoes, so I had to get her some – as it turns out, they don’t actually make anything for that kind of foot around here, so I just got her something. Better’n nothing.”

                “And now I can go right back to nothing,” Azhani said with a flick of her tail. “It was, uh, an interesting experience, though.”

                “Damn straight,” the Dragonborn said, lifting his mug, then turning to look down the bar. “Oh, uh, hey Talen, how’d that… thing… I gave you turn out?”

                Talen tried to speak, but Keerava answered first. “Oh, right, how’d I forget about that?” She held out one hand over the bar and waved her fingers around, showing off an elegant ring fitted with three expertly-cut deep purple gems. “Almost murdered Talen when he showed this to me, ‘cause I thought he’d gone out and blown all our money on something so silly, but then he told me you gave him the stones for it.”

                “I think the best part is that she still would have agreed if I’d just gone up to her empty-handed and asked,” Talen added, “but leading with a ring just makes it a lot less awkward. And the ring is tradition anyways.”

                “Speaking of tradition…” Keerava was now leaning forward onto the bar with her arms folded. “I was actually waiting for you two to get back. Talen insists on a traditional ceremony, so we’ve got to go out to a Hist. Of course, I can’t just close down – ‘operating expenses’ are the same whether we’re open or not – so someone’s gonna have to watch over the place while we’re gone.”

                “Ah, how convenient for you that I have nowhere to go for a couple of weeks,” Bjorn said, twirling his staff. “Where are you headed?”

                “As far as I know there’s only one Hist tree in Skyrim,” Talen said, “and that might not actually be a Hist at all. I’m… kind of willing to overlook that, since we can’t spare the time or money right now to go to Black Marsh and back, just so we can get married, but it’s still going to be a while for us to get over to the middle of nowhere in Whiterun and then come home.”

                “Uh-huh. Well, you know us.” Bjorn lightly prodded Azhani in the side with his elbow, prompting her to growl at him. “We’ll keep everything in working order for ya.”

                “Great.” Keerava stood up and put a key she had pulled from her pocket onto the counter. “Here’s the key, I’ve got an order of mead coming in already. If you manage to drink all of it before we get back, find a Black-Briar and buy more. Don’t even look at any other meadery, Maven will have my ass if she finds out this place is serving anything but her booze.”

                “Ah, too bad for her she’ll have to wait in line, eh?” Bjorn looked over at Talen with a stupid grin, and Talen tried to suppress a laugh while Keerava glared at the both of them. “Really though, it’s great that you two are actually doing this. Oh, and uh, if you don’t mind, could you take this along with you? I had it written up at the meeting, just show it to any Legion or Stormcloak guys you find.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a folded sheet of parchment, which he handed to Keerava, who then opened it and read it aloud:

By authority of His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Tamriel Titus II Mede

On this day the Twenty-First of Evening Star in the Two Hundred and First year of the Fourth Era of Tamriel

By the order of

General Tullius of the Forty-Second Legion, Military Governor of the Imperial Province of Skyrim

The Empire of Tamriel recognizes that

The High Kingdom of Skyrim

Has departed the Empire and is no longer an Imperial Province, and shall henceforth not be subject to the Laws of the Imperial Emperor

And therefore the War against the Rebellion led by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Windhelm has ended

The Forty-Second Legion is hereby ordered to report to General Tullius in Solitude for reassignment, and any other Legion is to stand down and await further instruction from a superior officer

Citizenship in the Empire of Tamriel is hereby revoked from all residents of Skyrim not members of the Imperial Legion nor Citizens of the Imperial Province of Cyrodiil nor of the Imperial Province of High Rock

On behalf of His Imperial Majesty,

Tullius

                “Wow. So that’s what you were doing.” Keerava folded the order and pocketed it. “How in Oblivion did you manage that?”

                Bjorn shrugged. “In my experience, negotiations tend to go a little smoother when you’re literally twenty dragons.” He paused, and when nobody reacted to his joke he went on. “And, really, these people were stubborn. Ulfric was satisfied just with independence, but Tullius of course didn’t want to let Skyrim go just like that. So I made a deal there: whoever becomes High King will pledge Skyrim’s armies to the defense of the Empire.”

                “Doesn’t sound very independent to me,” Talen said.

                “Oh, but it is. Sure, Skyrim still has to lend its armies to the Empire, but the important thing is that the laws of the Empire don’t apply up here anymore. No more Concordat, the Thalmor are getting kicked out, so the Stormcloaks are placated.”

                Keerava leaned onto the bar and posed a question. “Alright, but that sounds like a whole lot of concessions on the Empire’s part, how’d you convince Tullius to go along with it?”

                “Honestly, the promise of armies was enough.” Bjorn paused briefly and went on. “Well, sort of enough. I had to convince everyone that the Dominion is the real threat – and they are. The Empire can’t afford to fight stupid little wars up in Skyrim when it’s supposed to be fortifying the border with Elsweyr and that part of Hammerfell the Dominion grabbed.” He tried to take a drink from his mug, but found it empty, so went back to talking. “Tullius isn’t an idiot, he knows that. Ulfric’s not an idiot either. They both know who the enemy actually is, and they know neither of them can do it alone. Skyrim could maybe hold out in an assault a little longer than Cyrodiil could, ‘cause of all the mountains, but on their own they’d be fucked one way or another.”

                Azhani was listening in absent-mindedly, sipping at her drink that seemed to refill itself. She was paying only enough attention to find an opportunity to join in. “Independent Skyrim is a better asset anyways,” she said. “If they willingly side with the Empire, they’ll fight better. Especially against Dominion armies that don’t want to be there.” Speaking of not wanting to be places, Azhani could tell she’d want to be elsewhere quite soon. How long had she been drinking anyways? How many times had she finished this one mug?

                “Exactly. It’d still be better if we had the Redguards on our side, but when this war with the Dominion starts, I guarantee you’ll see Nords lining up for a chance to burn down Alinor in the name of their High King.”

                Their High King? Not ours?” Keerava cocked her head.

                The Dragonborn shrugged. “Yeah. Didn’t I explain it to you? I’m from Cyrodiil. May be a Nord but I’m one hundred percent Imperial. Sure, I kinda… crossed the border into Skyrim illegally because Cyrodiil is a shitheap and I almost lost my head for it, but things actually might start looking up enough for me to go home when this is all over.”

                “Huh.” Keerava walked out from behind the bar and headed for the stairs, followed closely by Talen. “Well, I’m going to go pack. Don’t burn the place down while we’re gone.”

                “I’ll try.”

 

                A few hours passed and the Argonian proprietors had set out with meager supplies for their trip – Azhani couldn’t tell exactly what they had, but it smelled like meat and there was a lot of clattering of glass bottles. Way more bottles than any sane person would be expected to need on a voyage that would take two weeks at most. Almost reminded her of how she’d been sitting in the same place for a while, slowly but surely working through the remaining stock of mead.

                Of course, she was presently engaged in a conversation with the Dragonborn, so leaving to deal with the implications of her activities for the past several hours would be rude and, frankly, embarrassing.

                “Never tried, no,” she said to the Dragonborn who had moved to Keerava’s usual seat.

                “Really?” He leaned back and raised an eyebrow. “Never even considered learning magic?”

                “It never really came up.” Azhani shrugged and watched her drink be refilled for the billionth time today. “Not much of a Khajiit thing anyways.”

                “Yeah, sure, but how much of that is because you guys just don’t want to do magic?”

                “Growing up, the only thing close to magic was the sugar rituals at the temples.” Azhani folded her arms. “And I’m pretty sure now that we were just getting high on the fumes and none of it was magic.”

                “Alright, yeah, fair enough.” Bjorn stroked his chin. “But how about this: if you were born at the right time, you could have a lot of potential for magic no matter what. Do you know what constellation you were born under?”

                Azhani shrugged and adjusted herself on her stool – sitting around for hours on end was getting rather uncomfortable, for several reasons. “We don’t really keep track of the stars. I know it was winter, but we track the moons more than anything.”

                The Dragonborn shuffled through one of the pouches he carried with him and pulled out a small book, then flipped through to a page with a diagram of the moons. “Might still be able to figure it out. I assume you would know what the moons were when you were born.”

                “Well, yes… is that the Firmament?” The Khajiit’s head was at an awkward angle to allow her to read the title printed along the spine – the cover had no information on it but a picture of one of the moons with a constellation drawn on top.

                “A slightly more advanced, pocket-sized version of it, yeah.” Bjorn tapped the page he had opened to. “So, your moons?”

                Azhani pulled herself into a more comfortable position. “Right. It was, uh, two dark moons.”

                “Mhm. Give me a second.”

                For a little while, the only sound was the flipping of pages, and then charcoal rubbing on parchment once the Dragonborn had procured those. Azhani shuffled around a little more while he worked – she’d definitely need to leave soon, but this was interesting. She could, of course, just head upstairs while nothing was actually happening, but knowing her luck that would be the exact moment the inn would fill up with customers and she’d be needed for work. Now that she was thinking about it, that sort of reasoning was exactly what kept getting her into unfortunate situations. All logic would dictate she should just leave, deal with the problem, then come back. And yet…

                “So what exactly are you doing?”

                The Dragonborn didn’t look up. “The lunar cycle doesn’t line up exactly with the actual months, but it’s still fairly predictable. You’re, what, twenty…”

                “Two.” 

                “179, right?” When Azhani nodded, he continued. “Hey, ‘70s kids, nice.” Then he cleared his throat – or tried to, anyways, and just ended up coughing instead. “Gah. Well, anyways, you can sort of predict where a particular lunar phase is going to land in any given month, since there’s always a pattern to the way they drift through the months. This book has information on every time each moon was full and new for the first fifteen years of the era, so I’ve got to just kinda… drag that along for a century and a half until we get to winter of 179 and see what comes up for two new moons.”

                “I barely understood half of that but okay.” She leaned forward a bit. “What exactly are you looking for?”

                “Well,” Bjorn looked up briefly then returned to his work. “Winter is three months, right, so that’s three possible dominant constellations. Atronach, Tower, and Thief. Plus, I guess, the Serpent, but I have no idea how that works. Anyways, out of those, only the Atronach does anything to magical ability, so if that’s actually what you were born under, that’s pretty great for you because it’d mean you’ve got a fuckton of magical potential.”

                Azhani put one leg over the other. “There’s a catch there, yes?”

                “Yeah, unfortunately, Atronach would mean you don’t make your own magicka, you’d have to get spells shot at you to get some or you’d just have to drink a potion or something. I mean sure odds are you just flat out can’t do magic, but if you were an Atronach the whole time, there’s your reason for it.”

                “Great.” Azhani rolled her eyes.

                A few minutes passed in silence, with the Dragonborn drawing his diagrams and various numbers. Azhani had just decided to get up and go upstairs when he’d finished.

                “Alright, I’ve got something here,” he said. “There’s one double-new-moon at the start of Sun’s Dusk.”

                Azhani dropped back into her seat. “Not that early into winter.”

                “Then I’ve got another one in the middle of Frostfall? That sound about right?”

                “I… guess? It wasn’t at the end of winter either so that must be it.”

                Bjorn closed the book and put it away, followed by the absolute atrocity of a calculation he’d just finished working on. “Then if all that’s accurate, that’d make you a Tower. So, by all means, you should be perfectly capable of magic.”

                “You say that now…”

                “Hey,” the Dragonborn said, pointing across the bar. “How would you know if you’ve never tried, huh?” He opened up the hand he had pointed with and laid it palm-up on the bar. “Here, just try this, really simple.” Then he lifted his hand slightly, made a fist, and when his hand flew open again, there was a little ball of fire floating there. “See? Doesn’t take much, you just have to learn how to feel the magicka in your body and move it out. Ah.” Bjorn shook his hand, dismissing the flame. “Just don’t let fire sit in your hand like that, you’ll get burned.”

                Azhani sighed and held out one hand in front of her. “Fine, I’ll try it.” She closed her eyes and tried to focus on… whatever the Dragonborn had told her to do. Though, she was shocked into opening up again when she felt the results of being a little bit too focused.

                Just get this done with and then go’, she told herself. Then she sighed again and tried again to focus, this time with her legs pressed together.

                “Remember, just focus on your energy and feel it moving to your hand.”

                “Maybe I could focus if you shut up.”

                Azhani, of course, couldn’t see Bjorn’s response, but she had a feeling he’d done something with his hands.

                She focused on her hand until she could have sworn it got warmer, then threw her hand open and looked at what she’d done. Or, the lack of things she’d done.

                “One more try?” The Dragonborn was leaning into the bar a little bit, angled so that his injured side was facing the kitchen.

                Azhani nodded and closed her hand and eyes again, again trying to focus on making something happen. After a little while and more than a single distraction from elsewhere in her body, she was sure her hand had warmed up again, and again she tried to cast… whatever it would be.

                It turned out to be a spark and a puff of smoke, but considering Azhani was expecting literally nothing, she nearly fell off her barstool with a surprised squeak. When she recovered, she felt the secondary result of that incident, and immediately stood up with legs crossed.

                “Hey, that was something,” Bjorn said, but Azhani was barely listening.

                “Mmh, yeah, uh, I’ll be right back.” Azhani spoke quickly and rushed up the stairs before the Dragonborn could figure out what had just happened. Standing had made her situation quite a bit worse, and considering it had been several hours since she’d done anything about it, she didn’t have much time left.

                By some miracle, though, she’d made it to her room without releasing anything she hadn’t already. Of course, Azhani was not going to take any chances, so as soon as the door was closed, her pants were on the ground and her chamberpot had been dragged out from under her bed.

                She got herself into position immediately, and her body took care of the rest on its own. She was fairly sure it was loud enough to be heard downstairs, but then that was always something she was afraid of and it never seemed to actually be true. Except that one time…

                Azhani sighed and flicked her tail. Whatever. None of that mattered. What did matter was that she kept getting herself into these situations, and that needed to stop. It did feel good though, so perhaps some deep part of her actually wanted her to end up like this. But that was silly, right? Surely.

                Or maybe it wasn’t all that absurd. It was Keerava’s “thing”, after all. Then again, Azhani only took any pleasure in the release, as anyone would, not everything leading up to it as Keerava apparently enjoyed. Still, there had to be some reason she kept getting herself into trouble like that…

                That would be something to determine some other time, though – it had been a good two minutes and now nothing more was happening, so Azhani dressed herself up again and headed back downstairs.



0 Comments


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.