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17 | Loredas, 3 Morning Star 4E202

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                “I really don’t want to hear what Valen Dreth would have done.” The Dragonborn waved a piece of bacon across the counter. “I’m sure it’s something asinine like half of the other shit you say he did.”

                Romlyn Dreth held up a finger as he took a spoonful of oatmeal. “Ah, well,” he said when the spoon returned to the bowl. “How would you know if you won’t listen, eh?”

                “Sure, but, how about I tell you a story for once instead?” Bjorn tapped his free hand on the bar. “I’ve got all of Keerava’s records back here, I bet I can tell you the story of all the money you owe her.” He held another piece of bacon in his mouth momentarily and pulled out a small stack of books from his side of the bar. “Better yet, I could tell you the story of how all the money I owe her for room and board ended up on your tab instead.”

                “You wouldn’t.” Romlyn shot a dirty look across the bar and went back to eating.

                The Dragonborn just shrugged. “Nah, you’re right.” Flipping through one of the books, he continued. “Though, while I’ve got you here… Ah, here we are, ‘Motherfucking Romlyn Fucking Dreth’ – mm, she likes you, eh? Aaaaaand that’ll be two hund-“

                “YOU KNOW WHAT I JUST REMEMBERED I HAVE A JOB.” Romlyn suddenly shot up and yelled extremely quickly. “I’m going to go do that now goodbye thank you such a shame you can’t tell me more about that debt right now…” He spoke as he backed away to the door, and kept talking even on his way out, but whatever he was saying trailed off into incomprehensible muttering by the time he was in the street.

                At the same time, Azhani came downstairs, just in time to see Romlyn run out the door. She made her way over to the counter, rubbing her eyes. “What was that about?”

                “Eh, just Romlyn Dreth things,” Bjorn said, dragging his plate to a more convenient location – which, of course, Azhani promptly sat directly in front of. “Looks like you slept well. Figure you’d be ready to try magic again today?”

                Azhani licked her hand and ran it through her hair, which she hadn’t yet bothered to braid like she normally would. “Maybe something that isn’t going to explode in my face every time I try it.”

                “Hey, that last one was almost not an explosion.” He took a sip of the drink he’d prepared himself, tried not to react to the bitterness, and went on speaking. “But, no, there’s plenty of other stuff for you to learn. Even other kinds of magic, but I’m pretty sure the only kind that can’t explode is the kind where you can accidentally summon a Daedroth that destroys the entire town instead.” He drank some more and stuffed some bacon into his mouth right after. “S’I’guess tha’s worse’n ‘splodin’.”

                “Uh yeah maybe let’s not do that.” Azhani grabbed herself a handful of bacon, then turned her attention to Bjorn’s drink. “What is that? Smells familiar.”

                Bjorn lifted his mug and shrugged. “What, this? I think it’s Argonian coffee or something. Way stronger than any of the stuff I’ve known to come out of southern Nibenay, anyways. I wonder how they can afford stuff like this.”

                Azhani simply put her elbow on the bar, held out her hand, and made a beckoning motion, and Bjorn slid the mug over to her. She picked it up, sniffed at it for a bit, then repeatedly dipped her tongue into it. “Okay, I don’t know what humans think coffee is but if you think this is strong, you clearly have never seen the real thing.” She handed the mug back to Bjorn, who set it aside. “It is a bit different than traditional Khajiiti stuff, though – I guess Argonians have different taste.”

                Bjorn leaned forward onto the bar, careful not to let his body touch the counter. “Weren’t you a kid when you left? I find it hard to believe a little girl would drink enough coffee to know quality, much less be able to tell the difference between stuff grown in Elsweyr and Black Marsh just by taste.”

                “Well, not when I lived in Anequina, no, but the Baandari would always have some, and they always brought it from home. And of course whenever I had any it would be theirs.” Azhani shrugged. “I never did get as attached to it as they did, though, because I never needed to stay awake like they do.”

                “And then drinking enough to stay awake would just cause more problems, eh?”

                Bjorn chuckled, and Azhani glared at him. “Don’t go there,” she said.

                “Heh. Sorry.”  The Dragonborn grimaced as he drank more of his coffee. “Gah. A-anyways, been meaning to ask… What’s up with the way you speak now? It’s, eh, more… human now, I guess.”

                “Hm? Oh, you mean the ‘this one’ thing? That’s… that’s a cultural thing. We don’t really… have the same kind of pronouns in Ta’agra as you do, so our «this one»-“ Azhani made quotes with her fingers, saying the phrase first in her native tongue then repeating it in Cyrodiilic. “- is… I guess you’d call it formal? For people you don’t know, or you need to impress. The rest is more personal, for friends.”

                “So, what, am I your friend now? I thought I you were still treating me like some crazy pervert.”

                “Hey, I never said you weren’t. But I mean, I did kind of watch you almost get yourself killed, so that builds trust a little bit, no?”

                “I guess so.” Bjorn leaned back as far as he could, reaching out behind him with his staff for more support. “And, uh, maybe not a good time to mention it but you… probably shouldn’t be leaning on the bar like that.”

                Azhani looked down without a word, then after a second straightened up, pulling her shirt collar up to her neck.

                “Though, I guess there’s not a whole lot to see there anyways…” The Dragonborn’s thoughts trailed off and turned into frantic stuttering as Azhani glared at him with a hand on her chest and a look on her face like he’d just killed her entire family. “Wait, no, I didn’t- that’s not- I meant- they- you don’t- but- the- ah, shit. I fucked up, didn’t I?”

                “Uh, yeah, you did.” Azhani sighed, then got up and started for the stairs. “Right, so, uh, I’m going to go… change into something better.”

                She wasn’t quite sure why she’d said that – she’d truly intended to wear what she’d come downstairs in, since she always wore an apron that would make it harder to tell she was wearing rags underneath. She couldn’t even remember if she had other clothes, since for most of her life even a second pair of pants would have been considered a luxury. Unfortunate, considering that same part of her life was when hauling around a second pair of pants would have made things significantly easier.

                Of course, if Azhani’s current living conditions were any indication of what would have happened had she had such a convenience, she wouldn’t have known what to do with extra pants. The first thing she saw on returning to her room, after all, was a variety of pieces of what few outfits she had strewn about the room essentially at random. The room had a dresser in it as a matter of course but considering she’d never had any reason to use one before, she’d just end up forgetting anything she left there and be right back at square one.

                Naturally, Azhani’s traditional rags joined the mess, ending up thrown in the general direction of the bed while the Khajiit seated herself on a stool facing a little mirror on the wall. While ostensibly there to get her hair in order, she couldn’t help but bring a hand to her chest, pushing up on her breasts one at a time and frowning at her reflection. Sure, Azhani had never needed to use support or anything, but they weren’t really that small. That’s what she’d keep telling herself anyways, even through the years where there were far more important things to worry about. Even so, for all her attempts to convince herself she didn’t care, it still kinda hurt to have someone joke about them.

                A joke in bad taste wasn’t about to kill her good mood, though. She had a job and a place to live, after all. And as she got up from the stool with her hair properly tied up, she found several pieces of a simple outfit she wouldn’t even have if not for Keerava’s generosity. With a very lenient definition of “generosity”, anyways, considering Keerava probably wouldn’t have even offered the arrangement if not for the fact that it was apparently very easy for her to get her kicks out of her Khajiiti tenant’s… misadventures, but it was better than nothing. Though, Azhani did feel a little strange knowing that her situation was, albeit indirectly, being used for someone else’s sexual pleasure again. At least she wasn’t expected to do anything in that regard anymore.

                And, really, she was barely expected to do anything to cover the actual business arrangement. Keerava and Talen normally covered all the necessary work well enough on their own, and even though they were away, Azhani would no doubt still be doing very little with the help of a legendary super-human like Bjorn, injured though he was. Assuming, of course, he didn’t decide to sit on the sidelines and let Azhani work constantly all day so that he could be entertained just the same as Keerava would be. With any luck he’d be smart enough to know better than to try that on someone with claws. A wet cat is a very dangerous thing indeed.

                He wouldn’t be getting that opportunity, unfortunately. Not today, anyways. After throwing on whatever it was she’d picked up off the floor, Azhani went back downstairs and up to the bar, where the Dragonborn was clearing dishes and wiping down counters. All with one arm, even, as the other was still occupied by the staff he was leaning into.

                “Hey,” she called out to him. “Would you be alright alone today?”

                Bjorn turned to look at her and shrugged. “Eh. Probably won’t be that hard, doesn’t seem like there’ll be much noise.” He put his staff in front of himself and leaned forward onto it, one foot slightly off the ground to make up for it. “Why, going somewhere?”

                “Just around town. Probably won’t get a chance when Keerava gets back.”

                “Yeah somehow I can’t imagine she’d want to let you out of her sight.” The Dragonborn coughed then went on. “Anyways, you’re not planning on going outside of town or anything, are you? Really shouldn’t do that without, like, a knife or something.”

                “No, wasn’t going to leave town. There some specific reason I shouldn’t or…?”   

                “What, other than the dragons? Just the usual bandits and wild animals. Normally I wouldn’t be too concerned about getting mugged but the Rift, eh… reminds me of Bravil. And you’re pretty much the ideal target for a bandit. A woman, unarmed, with a nice ass, in some shady backwater part of the country is a very easy mark.” Bjorn coughed again, moving his staff back to his side for proper support.

                “Wait, what was that after unarmed?”

                “Nothing.”

                “Uh huh.” Azhani raised an eyebrow but didn’t press the issue further. “Well, no, I’m not going to leave town, but I do have money-“ She tapped the pouch at her side, mostly to assure herself that she hadn’t forgotten her coinpurse again. “-so why not go out and see what people are selling?”

                Bjorn just nodded along and shrugged. “Yeah, alright, you have fun then. I should be fine here, nobody’s going to try anything when they see who’s in charge today. I might even be able to scare some of them into paying off what they owe.” He chuckled for just a moment, having stopped abruptly and put a hand across his chest. “Ah… They don’t need to know I still can’t Shout just yet.”

                “Don’t anger the dragon, right?” Azhani twitched her nose as if silently enjoying her own joke. “Eh, anyways, I should be back by sunset. If you scare all the customers away by then and Keerava blames me for it, I’m going to kill you.”

                “Sure, that sounds fair to me.” The Dragonborn gave a two-fingered salute with his free hand while Azhani just rolled her eyes and headed for the door. “I’ll be sure to only scare Romlyn away.”

                Azhani’s only response was a little wave as she left, and when the door closed behind her she took a moment to just stand there. She looked out at the little bit of town she could see from in front of the inn, admiring the sun’s early glow reflected in the canals and the lake, and feeling the crisp morning breeze run through her fur. It was going to be a good day. Or, Azhani hoped it would be. That other feeling that was just making itself known, though very faintly, wasn’t a concern. Must have just been the cold.

                Indeed it was, as the slight twinge had faded away entirely once Azhani stepped into a well-insulated store – a shoemaker’s shop, more specifically, as Skyrim’s ground was decidedly hostile to bare feet, especially sensitive Khajiiti pads. How did she ever get by before? At best she’d have her feet wrapped up in crude bandages for a modicum of protection. That may have worked in the sands and savannahs of Anequina but the rugged terrain of the far north meant she needed something better.

                There was the light tinkling of quaint little chimes overhead as Azhani entered, and she was immediately greeted by the man behind the counter before she’d even crossed the floor.

                “Mornin’, miss. What can I do for ya?” He wiped his hands on a towel slung over his shoulder, then crossed his arms.

                Azhani hesitantly approached the counter, looking back at her own feet and grabbing at the pouch on her belt to feel its weight. “Yeah, uh, this one needs… eh, unusual shoes. What would it take to have a pair made?”

                The shopkeeper leaned forward slightly and looked down at the floor, where one of Azhani’s feet was idly pawing at the ground. “Well, can’t say I’ve ever worked with someone like you before. Had a few Khajiit in, of course, but they were all… uh, normal. No offense.” He moved on when Azhani just shrugged at him. “Anyways, I’ve got no idea what it’d cost. How high up your leg you gonna need ‘em?”

                Azhani took a step back and turned slightly to give the shopkeeper a better view of her leg. “Half way to the knee, yes? So, right about here.” Then she bent over and indicated with her hand a space between her knee and her ankle, presumably because a human wouldn’t be able to tell one joint from the other.

                “Uh huh.” The cobbler stroked his chin for a while. “Hm, I suppose I could have it done in a few days, if you just stick around here for a little while so I can get proper measurements. Or, if it doesn’t get too busy – and it never does, people around here will hold onto their shoes ‘til they turn to dust – I could be done by closing tonight, but you’d have to stay here the whole time, and that’s a good… twelve hours. Probably would be cheaper for both of us that way since I could be more precise with how much stuff I’m using, but it’s up to you if sitting around here all day is worth it.”

                “Would it be alright if this one had measurements taken now, then she could come back later for all the rest?”

                “Sure,” was the response as the shopkeeper produced a tape measure and perhaps far more paper than necessary. “It’ll take an hour or two to figure out what in Oblivion I’m supposed to be doing anyways. Just, uh, sit down right over there-“ He gestured to a bench off to the side, and followed Azhani over to it as the Khajiit took a seat.

                Azhani shuffled around a bit while the shopkeeper did his work – he was being very professional, sure, but she was glad he wouldn’t be doing anything higher up all the same. Even given the limited area he was working with, though, she was still uncomfortable. She never let anyone touch her legs – only her sister, and only to wrap them for long journeys. Considering this man was most certainly not a Khajiiti lady, Azhani really would have preferred to not be in such a situation. It was a necessary evil.

                Thus she sat there in silence, and after far too many awkward minutes, she was able to get up and leave. She gave a curt nod to the shopkeeper, who said something in response that Azhani didn’t hear in her hurry to go do something else.

                It was still cold when Azhani stepped outside again, though the sun had risen to a more respectable height. The Khajiit looked around for a moment, bringing her arms and legs closer together for a little bit of warmth, and eventually decided on heading in the general direction of the important-looking buildings over by the city wall. There weren’t very many people out just yet, but Azhani still made sure to weave her way around the few that were in the streets, still using her old techniques for passing unnoticed through a crowd. Of course, given there was hardly a crowd at all to begin with, Azhani just ended up disorienting herself.

                She took a moment to figure out what she was looking at. Seemed like some sort of temple, or at the very least some incredibly rich person’s massive house. What a silly idea. Nobody in Riften could afford something like that. Except maybe the thieves, but Azhani knew from experience they wouldn’t flaunt their wealth like that. Plus there were banners outside that had what was probably a religious symbol on them, and these people didn’t exactly seem like they’d be that fanatical.

                Azhani shrugged to herself and headed towards the temple – no doubt she could learn something, and she’d never actually been inside a temple dedicated to the proper Imperial Divines before. Sure, there had been plenty of Khajiiti temples with shrines to similar gods in her youth, but they were always overshadowed by the Moons. Humans didn’t seem to be all that big on ritual either, she realized upon entering, as there didn’t seem to be much of note inside the temple other than a massive statue to some god and a lot of benches. She could remember the occasional sermon by the Moon Priests, but nothing was ever so formal as this – seemed like the entire purpose of these temples was to come in, sit down, and listen to someone talk for a few hours. Silly human traditions. Sad, too, because Azhani knew that humans would get utterly wasted on moon sugar, so they’d never get to experience its proper spiritual – and delicious – effects.

                She was shaken from her thoughts by a voice – a Redguard in simple robes was talking to her. “Help you with anything?”

                “Uh, yeah, actually. Two things. First, is there any kind of magic you could teach someone?”

                “You want to learn magic?” The priest gave her a weird look for a second. “Uh, well, I couldn’t tell you any better than the absolute basics. And aren’t you the Dragonborn’s friend? He’s probably your best bet for miles.”

                “Yeah, that’s what this one thought.” Azhani shook her head. “And, uh, you can explain the gods here, yes?”

                “Of course, that’s my job.” The priest turned to sit on one of the benches, no doubt preparing some immense speech. “Well, first off I don’t know much about Nordic tradition – I mostly know the Imperial pantheon. ‘Course, they’ve still got the Eight up here. Or, I guess pretty soon it’ll be the Nine again won’t it?” The priest was thinking with his hands, pointing in various directions at absolutely nothing. “Anyways, everyone’s got the same basic Eight, I’m sure you know them under slightly different names.” He threw up his hands for a bit. “Now, I’m not going to pretend I know anything about how religion in Elsweyr works so I won’t even try to tell you how your names for gods translate to the Imperial names, but they’re the same gods in the end. Discounting, of course, all the extra ones beyond the Eight that your people have.” The priest started stroking his chin, ignoring Azhani’s glare – he was right to assume she was raised on the old pantheon of course, but that was still mildly racist. Plenty of Khajiit were being brought up on Auri-El instead of Alkosh, after all. “Anyways, the Nords have the Eight, and Talos, then… well, there’s Alduin, as much as I’m sure we’d all prefer that he weren’t a god. Then there’s Shor. I’m not exactly sure what he is, but I think he’s supposed to be some heroic warrior-god who fought for humanity. Far as I know they say he’s dead now.” Azhani shuffled around a little bit. She recognized the concept of a dead god – a Missing God back home – but she was always taught that he was an evil trickster. “There are Tsun and Stuhn, but I think they’re just versions of some of the Eight. Then there’s also Herma-Mora and Orkey. Orkey’s a villain like Alduin, I think. You’d have to ask someone more knowledgeable about him. I know Herma-Mora is just the Daedra Lord, I’m sure you’ve at least heard of him.”

                “Is that it? What about Azurah, or Y’ffer?”

                The priest raised an eyebrow at Azhani. “I don’t know anything about Y’ffer. I would assume it’s the same thing as Y’ffre, like the wood elves have. Empire doesn’t have a version of him, I don’t think. And, well, Azura’s a Daedra.” He crossed his arms. “Elsewhere in th- er, in the Empire, Daedra worship is… eh, it’s around, but to say it’s frowned upon is a bit of an understatement.” Then he hastily added, “Not that anyone would judge you for it, of course, as long as you keep everything clean. Uh, Azura’s normally considered one of the more acceptable ones anyways.”

                Azhani crossed her arms. “Uh huh. Oh, and, uh, one more thing. Where could this one get something to help keep track of what month it is?”

                “I suppose any bookstore would sell you a calendar.” The priest shrugged. “Honestly, I’m kind of surprised that wasn’t obvious. But then, plenty of people think star charts are obvious.”

                “Our ‘months’ go by what phase the moons are in.” This guy was either incredibly socially inept or a closeted racist – sure he’d tried to save face, but still. Azhani wouldn’t have been surprised if it were the latter, considering Skyrim’s general isolation from anything not human. “We don’t really have names for any of those time periods beyond just describing what the moons look like.”

                “Fair enough. If that’s all, I’m going to get back to work. You’re more than welcome to come back if you like, even if it’s just to be somewhere quiet for a while.” He stood up and waved, and Azhani gave an awkward little wave in return as she left.

                A while later, perhaps a couple of hours, Azhani found herself wandering back to the shoe store. She’d found a place selling calendars and picked one up, but almost immediately regretted making the purchase once she realized not knowing what month or day it even was to begin with meant the whole thing was useless. Perhaps she’d have to ask Bjorn about it, since it would be useful being able to keep track of time like a human. It’d also help if she could track the passage of hours in a way that didn’t rely on her fluid intake – she’d be fine for a while yet, since she’d only just dealt with her annoying internal clock by finding a quiet place behind the temple, but she’d feel a lot better if her body sending warning signals wasn’t the only way to know that six hours had passed.

                At least for right now it was a good enough system – she’d be in one place for who-knows-how-long, probably expected to either not leave or not go far, so it was good that she’d be going into it fresh. In any case, upon entering the store she went silently to the same bench she’d been seated at that morning. The shopkeeper took notice soon enough and approached with what was perhaps far too much leather and a good deal of peculiar tools – doubtless everyday objects to him, but aside from a few needles, knives, and shears, Azhani recognized nothing. Measuring tools, perhaps.

                The shopkeeper tried to engage in conversation while he worked, but Azhani either ignored him or gave the absolute minimum responses, so he eventually stopped talking. It was weird enough having someone working with her feet, she really didn’t need them to talk to her too.

                She was too tired for a conversation anyways. She couldn’t tell if that was because she’d been out since morning, or because she still hadn’t gotten used to getting proper amounts of sleep and her body was trying to force her to make up for ten restless years. Perhaps both.

                It didn’t really matter why anyways. As uncomfortable as the situation was, Azhani still found herself drifting off to the sounds of shears working leather, only to be suddenly awoken by something poking her shoulder. It felt like no time had passed at all, but her slurred response and the lack of other noise proved it had been a few hours.

                «UhrrrNari? What are you doing…?» She couldn’t even remember any dreams, but clearly she had been pulled out of one, and it took her a while to readjust to the real world. And then she almost jumped off the bench before remembering where she was and why. Then she was awake enough to register that she wasn’t alone, and she was pretty sure she’d just said something. Something this man would have heard.

                “You, uh, you heard that didn’t you?”

                The shopkeeper nodded, having returned behind his counter after presumably prodding Azhani to awaken her. “Yeah, you’ve been talking in your sleep for a few hours. It all just kinda sounded like cat noises to me though. No offense.” He looked over at Azhani only briefly, now intently focused on his work, trying and failing to get a sole properly nailed to the shoes he’d made. “Didn’t really want to wake you anyways, but I’m almost done here…” He managed to get one of the shoes at the perfect angle and everything fell into place, but he still had to figure out the puzzle of the other one. “And, y’know, I’d quite like to get paid.”

                Azhani rolled her eyes and stretched. “Mmm. Of course you would. How much?” She stood up and headed for the counter, a hand reaching for the pouch on her belt, though her weight having shifted meant something deep within her body was calling out to her. As if she needed any more evidence that she’d been there for several hours already.

                “Let’s say… sixty-five, for the pair?” The shopkeeper seemed to be bending in impossible directions to get the second shoe to assemble properly.

                “Sixty-five, you say?” Azhani looked through her coinpurse for a little while, subtly pressing her legs together, then just dropped the entire purse onto the counter. “This one has fifty.”

                “Eh, fifty works too.” There was a shrug from behind the counter as the last shoe come together, then the pair was dropped onto the counter next to Azhani’s coinpurse. “There. If those don’t fit, then someone came in and used magic on them, because I made them perfect. Or, as close to as I can get for a first time with that shape.”

                Azhani grabbed her new shoes from the counter and held them out in front of her. They looked almost like those weird high-heeled contraptions she’d seen on the rich elves and nobles in the Imperial City. “Pompous bitch” was the best way she was able to describe that sort of person in her youth and as far as she was concerned it was still the best way to describe what her shoes reminded her of. It was a reasonable comparison, of course. Seemed like the point of those monstrosities was to have a woman walk mainly on her toes and have the rest of her foot supported by a spike. Azhani always thought it was humorous that they’d want to emulate her walk, couldn’t even do that right, then would go on for hours about how the Khajiiti beggar in the corner had done everything in life wrong.

                Now here was Azhani with shoes made specifically for someone who already did walk on her toes. And these were simple and functional, not some ostentatious mess built purely for the sake of whatever the current year’s Imperial fashion was to be. No, these shoes merely had simple laces up the sides, steel caps over the toes, and were made of good thick leather. They’d do exactly what she needed them to.

                They fit well enough, too, which was to be expected of something that necessitated sitting around for who-knows-how-long. Of course, a high-quality product was not the only result of that time spent, and bending down to put them on made sure Azhani was well aware of that. She gave a little nod to the shopkeeper before leaving, taking a moment to look around right outside the shop’s door. It was quite a bit warmer than it had been earlier, and it seemed like it’d be sunset soon – still bright and warm, but people filled the streets and their shadows were getting longer. Very good for Azhani, as there were still some places she’d been meaning to see and she had every intention of returning to the inn by sunset as promised. That, and she had to deal with her own personal problems, and if she went back to the inn to do that she wouldn’t want to leave again.

                Azhani’s current plan, then, consisted of wandering around in the general direction of the places she’d been meaning to visit and keeping an eye out for quiet, isolated alleys or some other such place. That was a bit of a skill of hers, as much as she’d rather not call it one. Years living on the streets had taught her how to identify from miles away quiet places wherein she could do her business in peace.

                As it turned out, those skills weren’t very applicable in Riften. Now that people were actually out doing things, there was a considerable lack of quiet space in town. It seemed as if the back alleys in Riften were all designed for criminal undertakings – which, come to think of it, wouldn’t be very surprising for the home of the Thieves Guild.

                On that note, perhaps the original idea wasn’t exactly ideal either. The flaws in a plan that consisted of hiding out in a confined space with one exit while being very much exposed were quite obvious. No, perhaps the best option would be to leave town. Only a little bit, enough to find some bush or something. And so she found her feet carrying her to the nearest exit, the south gate. Every so often she’d look over her shoulder, the sound of her own footsteps on the cobbled roads so completely foreign that she was sure someone was following her.

                That wouldn’t have been all that much of a problem if not for the fact that the possibility of being followed – even if she’d repeatedly confirmed that was not actually the case – would very much throw off her plans. And, if she was honest with herself, it was making her condition worse, her need increasing by mere virtue of the possibility that she would be denied.

                It would be alright if she could just get out of town, though, she’d keep telling herself. That was all she needed to do. Didn’t need to go far. She could probably even find a nice spot against the city wall if she really wanted to.

                The closer she got to the city gate, though, the more Azhani thought the world had found yet another way to make one of her plans go completely wrong. The guards looked to be acting a little strange from a distance, but at first she’d just figured they’d been standing there all day. In their shaking she saw a bit of herself.

                Alas, it wouldn’t be that simple. It couldn’t be, because the world seemed to love messing with Azhani. It turned out the guards each had a hand on their swords, and were looking at each other and back out down the road. One of them jumped when Azhani came up from behind, but then immediately resumed looking at whatever had frightened them so.

                Azhani needed only look around the guard to see what the problem was. A little way down the road, there was what seemed to be a large snake stretched out, twitching slightly every so often. Looking just to the right, towards the river, revealed that it was actually the tail of something much worse.

                Oh, sure, the dragon wasn’t doing anything – seemed to just be drinking – and it wasn’t all that large, for a dragon, but it was still there. Right next to a town. It had to have some reason to have been there specifically, and whatever that reason was it couldn’t be good.

                They were only a minimal concern, but it wasn’t good for Azhani’s pants either. The little warm patch that had just appeared didn’t bode well, especially since both of Azhani’s plans were now out the window, and there was little chance she’d be able to get back to the inn on time – not that she’d want to show up there in her present state anyways. No doubt the Dragonborn would have devised some way to complicate things for her.

                No, that wasn’t an option. But perhaps she still had a chance of sneaking out of town and into the woods, where hopefully the dragon wouldn’t see her? Well, the dragon itself defeated that plan fairly quickly. Still it wasn’t doing much, all it had done was stretch its wings and look over to the city gate, but even so, it knew Azhani was there, and it meant there was no way for her to leave town now.

                So she did the only thing she knew she could do and ran off, plowing through more than a few people who had gathered to see what was happening. Azhani wasn’t sure where she was going, but she now had the strangest feeling that whatever could happen to her inside the city walls was much better than what the dragon could do. She found herself rounding a corner into the one alley she’d seen that didn’t have anyone in it, and pressed her back against one of the walls. The warmth had replenished itself and spread, and it seemed to only be getting warmer.

                Naturally, that just sent Azhani into even more of a panic, and she started trying to claw her way out of the belt she’d been wearing while the wall she was leaning on grew darker. She eventually managed to get it undone, but by then it was too late for her and she slid down to the ground. The only effort on her part was to move her legs to make sure her new shoes would be spared from the flood she’d surrendered herself to. It was actually a bit of a disappointing flood, especially considering Azhani now just wanted it to be over as soon as possible – she was still in panic mode, heart racing and breathing fast and shallow, so the best she could do was a weak, slow stream that warmed her own rear more than it stained the ground.

                Azhani could only sit there for the several minutes it would take to finish, occasionally pawing at herself as if she still had some hope of stopping. Only a trickle made its way through the fabric of her pants and out onto the street, so the puddle was mediocre and nowhere near a threat to her shoes, so her legs came closer to the rest of her body until she could grab at her knees. Her head was tipped upwards, resting against the wall and watching the light fade from the sky. Only now did she realize what had been happening earlier and why the wall was warmer than anything outside in Skyrim had any right to be, but there wasn’t anything to be done about that anymore.

                When she finally finished and stood up, her pants nearly pulled themselves off with the weight of her waters, but she kept a hold on them and was subjected to another minute of waiting for them to stop dripping. That managed to create streams down her legs, finally allowing her to experience a sensation she never imagined she’d be able to experience nor did she ever want to. And these were brand-new shoes, too.

                Eventually Azhani decided she’d been dripping long enough to be able to get moving, so she headed immediately for the inn – sure, she’d had plans, but there was no way she was going to get to them now. She walked as quickly as she could while also being careful enough to not get too much of the sensation of urine against her feet. As it turned out, that wasn’t actually all that quick, so Azhani felt another wave of relief as she pressed up against the inn door, finally home and just working herself up to actually getting inside. The inn was about as empty as it was in the morning, except for a few regulars at the bar who didn’t acknowledge Azhani’s presence when she did get herself inside.

                Bjorn did give her a look, though, and he opened his mouth to make some comment, but was quickly silenced by a hiss as Azhani went upstairs.

 


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