Current RP: A Lady, A Warrior and a Wolf 4, Axel

Snow_Warrior_-_Werewolf

He spared nothing of himself, taking the longest jumps through the wayshrines he had ever dared, ignoring the recovery periods mandated by the old writings, until finally he arrived at the frozen rock of an island, Bleakrock.

An apt place for a vampire to claim, it was desolate and sparsely populated since the incursion of enemy forces had sent the inhabitants fleeing. The occasional poacher, looter, or unwary mercenary no doubt proved an ideal meal. It was here he had left Wulfran to watch and wait, and here he prayed the lad would be found safe and hidden watching the cave to which they had tracked Erikk.

He staggered as he stepped out from the void, the cold of the icebound island warm compared to the chill settled in his bones from shrine travel. Almost he wished his haste had claimed him; that he would have been lost to the icy ‘between’ of the celestial pathways. The thought was a flicker quickly set aside by his urgency to find the camp where he had left his friend.

The though settled uncomfortably on his mind. His friend. How long had it been since he had felt that bond with a mortal? How many lifetimes had he been part of the Wild Hunt, where companionship was simply the pack united by the lust for the prey? It had been a long time….a very long time.

He found the energy to pick up his speed to a stumbling run. Exhaustion was the toll for his travel and his very spirit felt thin and ragged and not all together here. Up the steep game trail to the hidden place between boulders overlooking the frozen lakebed he found their camp. The small fire had burned down to embers- he had been here just a short time ago! Axel looked out over the bluff, scanning the surroundings, desperately searching before finally seeing them- a man with coppery red hair fighting another whose skin was as pale as snow, dark hair contrasting vampiric complexion.

The young fool!

Something very close to fear drove him back down the path to the lakeshore, his lungs and muscles burning as he summoned every bit of remaining stamina he possessed, his arm reaching back to free the massive sword strapped to his back. He had eyes on them now and he gave a shout it did not seem they heard. Wulfran had backed the undead creature up against the edge of a cliff, and the vampire seemed the worse for wear. He watched as the lad dropped his shield and seemed to be saying something, his sword pointing at Erikk. As Axel approached at a dead run, he saw the hidden movement from preternaturally quick hands and the blur of a small metal weapon flung towards the young warrior.

Wulfran staggered back as if struck by a powerful blow and as he neared he could only watch as the vampire smiled a terrible smile and the lad slumped to his knees in the snow, sword falling from his hand, a puzzled look on his face.

Too late…..too late. Always too late.

He was no longer an old man watching a comrade fall on a frozen island. His personal nightmare broke free of the deepest, darkest pit of his mind where he had buried it.

He was young again- a different man all together…and he led a warband up the steep incline to his clankeep where black smoke and red flame had awoken dread and fear in his heart such as he had never felt before.

Bodies were strewn across the ground between the Meade Hall and the sturdy homes wreathed in fire and flame. With dread closing off his throat he slid from the back of his mount before the beast had come to a stop, a hoarse cry escaping him, calling for his wife….his sons….

His people had not gone quietly without a fight. Among the dead where men of another clan…clad in wolf skins, their faces blackened and painted in patterns of war. His lieutenant reached for him, calling his name, the horror in his own heart reflected in the man’s voice. He shrugged the restraining hand away and ran for the smoking forge where his wife worked her trade. His mind struggled to reconcile the burning ugliness of his home with what it had been a day ago…where he had teased his wife, ponderous with what she swore was a daughter this time- for being too fat to sit astride a horse and come answer the Thane’s call with him…

Something broke in him when he found her. Something essential and good and vital that sent shards of agony through every part of what was left. His boys had been cut down outside the entrance and lay partially cooked where they had fallen in her defense. And her…his heart and his joy and the other half of his soul…she had been staked down and used by the animals that had done this. When he saw the babe had been cut out from her belly his mind broke and he began to howl….

…and he howled now as he leapt into the trampled snow where the young man and the vampire had fought. Startled, the injured creature exploded into a mist but Axel was relentless, and this trick could not save him from the wolf whose keen senses tracked the fleeing essence.

It was not long before the vampire materialized again, lunging at the werewolf that savagely tore and clawed and shredded dead flesh. The thing laughed and choked as it faltered, echoing the refrain hammering in his heart…

“Too…late…you…are…too..late….”

A black leather vial came free of the vampire’s hand and the scent of it filled Axel with dread. He wrenched control back from the wolf, forcing his shape back to that of a man. He was gasping and panting and had expended resources beyond natural limitations. His heart thundered and his hand shook as he snatched up the vial, checking again…

Daedric poison.

In his mind’s eye he replayed the moment the vampire had flung something at Wulfran and the slow toppling of the tall warrior. He staggered away, forgetting the quivering mass of savaged undead flesh as he backtracked to where the lad had fallen. He found Wulfran writhing in the snow, the virulent poison tracking black pathways under his skin. Foam froze on his lips and his eyes were wide and agonized.

“I told ye t’wait ye damn pup…” Axel half sobbed as he tried to assess the effects of the poison. He fumbled at his beltpouch, trying to calm the other Nord, holding him down as he emptied the contents of a vial into the younger man’s mouth. He prayed the neutralizing reagents would halt the advance of the virulent concoction and buy them some time.

Grimly he bound the lad to minimize the thrashing, and drug him through the snow to his horse. With the very last bit of strength he had, he slung Wulfran over the destrier’s back. He had to get to the priestess…or maybe Smiles in her infinite knowledge of poison would have an antidote. He pushed away the taunting inner voice that told him there was no hope and he would only be too late again.

As the Old Wolf led the horse to the docks, the vampire pulled himself toward the cave, his savaged flesh slowly reknitting as he went.

Advertisements

Current RP: A Lady, A Warrior and a Wolf 3, Axel

Art Lonely_Tower

Fierce joy and endless hunger swirled between him and the wolf that rode his soul as they relentlessly tracked the fleeing horseman over war torn, frosty terrain. He rode until his sturdy northern destrier had blood foaming from wide, flared nostrils, then leaped off and gave over to the wolf who ran tirelessly after the fleeing mortal…getting closer and closer. At last he came to a tumbled down old keep whose last remaining tower jutted upwards into the night sky like a sword hilt whose blade was buried in dead flesh.

Undead roamed the tumbled, neglected grounds, and the old man waded in, giant two handed sword slashing as he put them back down for good. The ghosts however…they were another thing entirely. Each wore the face of someone from his past. Each confrontation was a weeping figure of the long dead come to haunt him again, each wounding him in ways a weapon never could.  He found in the siege of a thousand faces that he was not as immune as he had thought he was, and grief ravaged him, bleeding a soul that had become a dark shadow of what it once had been.

He howled and cried out and sobbed as he swung his enchanted blade, cutting the silvery misted forms and feeling the resistance in his blade as if he cut through flesh. Here he faced his demons and they were the innocents he had murdered, and those who had trusted him to lead whom he had failed in his casual sacrifice of their lives- all in the name of vengeance. Slowly they took their toll, stabbing at him with icy cold fingers, tearing away at him and a tide of death washing over him…the futility of lives lost unjustly before their time.

And as the anguish consumed him, the ghost of the man he had once been awoke and saw what had been done out of grief and loss, and the regret of it all was a stunning blow that dropped him to his knees and he wept as the tide of spirits washed over him and all became darkness as he prayed for death to any who might hear him.

He woke to the silence that can only be found in the eternal winter lands of the Nord, where only wind and the crackle of ice break the quiet of deep nights. He opened his eyes slowly, the twin moons peering down at him in aloof curiosity, the crisp spattering of tiny spinning stars like jewels in the blackness of the void.

The sweat on his body had frozen to a thin sheet of ice and the cold seemed to radiate from his very bones as he slowly came to his feet. He groaned at the ache of abused muscle and the slicing pain left from ghostly fingers. The ghosts had vanished and the mounds of slain zombies had gathered snow that disguised much of their individual horror; the winter dusting leaving them just another misshapen pile like the fallen stones of the ransacked keep that radiated from the broken tower.

Slowly he moved to the keep drawn by a cold blue light burning at the top. The wolf seemed far away, subdued somehow, the connection faint. Axel took the stairs inside, boots scraping against frosted stone, echoing loudly with each step. For the first time he could remember, he did not burn for this kill, and his soul was conflicted as he came like a reaper to end yet another life that had done no injury to him.

At the top he found nothing but a boy huddled against the stone wall, his back to the old Nord, arms clasping his own knees to his chest as if desperately seeking warmth. Axel felt nothing…no stirring from his beast and he stood there, arms hanging at his sides, sick to death of the killing. A sconce had fallen to the ground, an ice blue flame burning from the top. He knew this was not right but could not summon the energy to react to the mounting sense of unease. Instead he sighed, reaching down to right a splintered, half burnt chair and sat down with a deep exhalation of breath.

He knew this was no boy, and that he had been tricked.

“Well. Get it ‘oer with ye evil thing. Ye drew me here a’purpose. Have done, a’ready.”

Slowly the dark haired child turned his head to look back at the old Nord. A secretive smile curved pale lips and black, soulless eyes glistened in a white face. Slowly the haunt stood and faced Axel. “Oh, it is over already Old Wolf. You already chose. I’m afraid your prey is in another castle. Instead my Prince takes yet another you love from you…and you will be too late again. Always too late. Poor Axel.”

The figure vanished, leaving the Nord there alone at the top of the tower, the distant echo of laughter buffeting his exhausted spirit. It was a moment before he understood, and a schism of anguish jolted away his weariness.

“Wulfran!”

The chair went crashing as he got to his feet abruptly and raced down the steps, driven by panic. Not again…not this time….the lad would listen and wait for him…he would not have taken on the vampire alone…

And the wolf raced across frozen tundra, prayers cast into the void that he would get there on time.

Current RP: A Lady, A Warrior and a Wolf 2, Axel

krystian-biskup-vikings

He left the young Bosmer with the Argonian amid stern warnings that if she returned yet again….if she rejoined the hunt…he would give her to the Lady Justice to put in dresses and be kept inside the house to sleep on beds with only books for company. He told her if she disobeyed him yet again, he would expel her from his pack. Ridiculous threats, but she believed him and he tried to forget the hurt look and the cowed spirit as he headed back out to rejoin Wulfran who had eyes on the dead thing named Erikk. They had been asked to wait for the orc called Reaper who had a debt to repay this creature for his attack upon Lady Aly’sande. And so he had left the boy there to watch as he took the waif away from the dangers of a vampire hunt.

He was getting too soft with these folk. He who had felt nothing for so many years, was now wounded by the look of betrayal from the little slip of an elf who adored him. How had this all happened? He brooded as he rode, taking the wayshrines closer to where the lad watched their quarry whom they had treed on Bleak Rock Island.

So much of his life given over to hunting monsters while bound to one himself. The long hunt and the presence of companions…one the likely lad who had become much more than an ale drinking companion and a shield in a fight…the other the willful, disobedient elfling that could stalk prey as well if not better than he could…the wee slip of a thing that he would find curled at his back like a pup on cold nights…

All who had been bound to him had been lost. For all of his savage, martial prowess, he could protect no one. Had he not learned? More, and at the deepest heart of it….had he not sacrificed all and everything to the end that he would bring down every last living thing with a drop of  his enemies’ blood in its veins? The last of his clan…those staunch warriors who had first set out to avenge with him the atrocities committed against hearth and home…his lieutenant, his brothers in arms…all so much wood in the fire of his vengeance…all  given over to his vows of erasing every trace of his enemies from Nirn…

He had not meant for this to happen. To find himself amongst a clan, even one as unlikely as this, running what must be as cursed a path as his…attempting to pry a daedric prince’s talons from Nirn. In the forging of an alliance against a common enemy he had fallen in with a pack and he had not seen it coming. The healer that had looked at him that very first time and seen far too much, and in her recognition of who and what he was had given wordless acceptance and forgiveness. The young Imperial officer whom he had saved on the road…her brother…the Argonian that had hunted for the exact recipe of mead he had loved as a young man- mentioned only once…and the casks of the stuff left for him without comment when his demons drove him to the darkest depths.

He brooded on the faces of the souls that peopled his days now- as well as these new folk of Invicta. Softest bunch of so-called mercs he had ever encountered. Off rescuing folks and working against slavers left and right with pay seeming an after-thought. Good folk can never disguise what they actually were no matter the guise worn.

He wondered what they would all think if they could see a full accounting of his own monstrous actions? The folk given to the wolf inside him whose only sin was whose blood they shared? Women, old folk…aye even children. After the first, he told himself that at least he made it quick and painless….more than had been done for his own wife and children. But that lie had ceased to have any meaning a long time ago. No- he knew he was a monster in more than one measure. And irony of ironies, he had given his last weeks over to hunting down another monster…a freak like himself…for attacking a woman…for killing other women along the way….

He had watched the lad Wulfran shocked and outraged each time they came upon a feasting site of the vampire along his trail. Always blonde women with blue eyes. The old wolf saw a game being played in that, but had no idea of its significance. He only saw the lad grow more angry each time they discovered a grisly tableau… women hung upon trees, gutted with throats torn out, clothing in suggestive disarray. It wore on the lad in ways Axel himself had become immune to long ago.

He came out of the cold ‘in between’ of wayshrine travel with a growing concern as he started to worry the lad would try for the vampire alone. He felt a sudden urgency telling him to ride quickly to get back before…

He stopped abruptly.

All thought of the vampire or Wulfran or anyone else fled his mind as the wolf in him let out a sudden howl of excitement and he scented the spoor that had been his reason for living for the past several decades.

One of his quarry was near….blood of the blood of his enemy. A man….riding hard…in a direction opposite he needed to go to rejoin Wulfran.

In the end there was no contest. There was perhaps a split second of inner debate. The urgency he had felt to get back to his hunting companion faded away as the geas to destroy those sharing blood with his sworn enemy overrode all else. He did not stop to think how strange it was that this scent would happen right now at this moment. He was no more than one of the skooma addicts he abhorred in that moment- rolling in gutters filled with their own filth doing anything for one more taste…and for him as always, that addiction was vengeance.

And so he turned away from the path that would have returned him to Wulfran’s side, and he gave voice to the hunter’s cry and followed the second trail instead.

Current RP: A Lady, A Warrior and a Wolf

vamphunt

Invicta’s Harvest Ball ended with an attempt at abduction, where the Countess Aly’sande was assaulted by her erstwhile brother-in-law turned vampire. The culprit fled when she fought him off, and a the Squadron specialists of Invicta set out to hunt the foul creature. Wulfran of Riften, Mercy’s 2nd, Axel the Old Wolf (a werewolf), and the tag-along, uninvited Cidhe- the young Bosmer elf raised by wolves who fancies herself Axel’s pup. The battlefield-healer Justice accompanied them much of the way, then was called off when another of her people needed her help.

The hunt was long and the prey cunning, but finally they treed Erikk on the frosty island of Bleak Rock. Axel bade Wulfran to wait and watch while he took the disobedient young elf away from the danger of a vampire hunt, and they awaited the arrival of the orc known as ‘Reaper’ by the Invicta crew- the Countess’s lover. 

Wulfran, a veteran of many battles was left alone with the rest of his companions ignorant of the fact that there had been Daedric involvement along the trail of the hunt….with murdered girls of blonde hair and blue eyes torn open and assaulted by the vampire quarry, and left for him to find. The torment of their similarity to his long ago murdered sister is accompanied by insidious whisperings taunting him on his inability to protect innocents and he is driven mad…

(Written by player of Wulfran, Darryl K. )

The acrid smoke stung his eyes as the Nord warrior made his way through the smoldering remains of the stedding. What had once been a prosperous holding, harvesting from both farm and timberlands was now nothing but a memory. Thankfully most of the dead were burned to ash with their home; their remains ash that no one needed to tend to… but not all. As he searched the wreckage, a dark, sinister voice taunted him,

” Run Away home boy.. you cannot hope to win.. go home now… I will have what is mine… and I will take all that is yours. ..”

Wulfran gathered the corpses of a middle aged man, an old woman and a teen-aged boy, as gently as he could, and started searching for tools with which to make them a barrow. He was able to find a serviceable shovel on the wall of one of the hulks of an outbuilding, and used it to pry free enough stone to make a cairn for the dead. He didn’t know how close they had been in life, but they would be together in death.

After he finished the grisly task, he searched again around the perimeter of the small settlement, not knowing why or for what. He spied a splash of crimson on the snow, at the edge of some woods. He froze and slid his hand to the hilt of his sword, as he heard manaical laughter echoing from a distance. He pulled his blade free and followed what turned into a blood trail. The voice in his head mocking him again.

“Too late fool! You couldn’t save her, anymore than you could save Freda. Her flesh was succulent, her blood sweet and now Molag Bal will feast on her soul.”

Wulfran shook his head, try to rid himself of the laughing voice, but the laughter just gained momentum, filling his consciousness with its insane peals. He stumbled on, and came into a clearing. In the center, the body of a girl in her early teens, just on the cusp of young womanhood. Her blue eyes were widem her face frozen in a grimace of terror, her throat torn open and her clothes disheveled, her skirt riding up too high to hide the evidence of the other abuses she suffered. Tears streaming down his face, Wulfran made his way to her and closed her eyes. Part of him knew this wasn’t Freda: she’d died so many years before and this girl was years older than his sister had been, but the gold hair, the blue eyes and lost innocence tore at his heart. He straighted her clothes, as well as he could and then gathered wood. There would be no cairn for this girl: there would be a pyre, just in case her attacker had cursed her into becoming one of the undead. Fire would cleanse her and hopefully she would find her way clear to Sovngarde.

*******************

The path had led north out of the small village on Bleakrock Isle, and Wulfran was determined that it would lead to a reckoning. He’d been following Erikk Thaanos for weeks and the long, bloody trail, filled with too many corpses of young,blue-eyed, blonde haired girls, had to end. There was no where else to go.

He knew the vampire was playing games with him, that he was being led, but he couldn’t stop himself. This had to end. It had to.

“I know you’re near!” He shouted into the wooded valley, nestled in the snow covered hills.”Show yourself, coward!”

Laughter answered him. Not the laughter that had been echoing in his mind for the majority of his pursuit, but real laughter, coming from a being that was close.

“Come to me, so I can put an end to you; I will give you the True Death you crave!”

“So confident, Young One. Maybe I will keep you as a pet. You can guard the door to my keep.”

Wulfran was almost shocked as his quarry stepped from behind a tree, a short distance in front of him. The vampire was big, almost as big a man as Wulfran was himself, but size was where their similarities seemed to end. The vampire’s hair was black, and it as well as his mustache and goatee were carefully trimmed and tended. Sinster red eyes gazed down from a handsome, almost beautiful face. In contrast, Wulfran was clean-shaven and his red-brown hair blew freely in the wind. Green eyes filled with hatred as he stared at his quarry.

With an incoherent roar, Wulfran pulled his sword and charged his enemy. Erikk laughed and parried the younger Nord’s initial onslaught. Wulfran’s rage meant his attacks were easily predicted and defended against but the same was not true of Erikk’s counters. After several minutes, the adversaries broke apart and seperated.

“You are skilled but a fool. I will train that out of you, after I make you my servant.”

The words stung the younger Nord and he choked back a retort that had been on his lips. Instead he attacked with more purpose, with strategy, instead of blindly lashing out as he had previously. The tide of the battle began to turn. Wulfran still bled from small wounds he sustained as the fight went on, but he was driving the vampire back against the trees. Finally, Wulfran thrust past Erikk’s guard, his blade punching into the vampire’s stomach. But the wound no visible effect. Wulfran wrenched his blade free and attacked again.

“Why. Won’t. You. Die?”

“That is not for you, mortal.”

Again a separation and lull in the fight, but this time, Erikk’s hand slid to a small hidden knife, its blade stained with poison. He flung it at the younger Nord, who dodged but the knife found a gap in his armour at his left shoulder. Wulfran shrugged it off, not realizing the true danger.

“Hah! Is that your best, worm? Maybe I will give you…the…no… not…”

And Wulfran collapsed in the snow.

A Princess Bride in Tamriel

elderscrolls_featured

She watched, all but invisible from her hiding place on the bluff overlooking the sandy spit of beach upon which an incongruously elegant dining set had been arrayed. Two men were below, both Bretons; one all in black and wearing a kerchief mask with eyeholes concealing his features, the other man seated behind the heavily laden table. The first was tall and lithe, his manner relaxed, gloved hand settled on the hilt of the sword sheathed at his hip. The second was short and somewhat rotund, his clothing rich and his hair in retreat from the crown of his head, huddling in a fringe around his ears. She gritted her teeth as she felt a drop of blood along her slender neck slip downwards in a crimson rivulet, but remained motionless.

The smug little man dressed as a merchant addressed the man in black. “So. It is down to you and I, and my remaining guardsman who holds the girl.” His eyes narrowed as the pirate in black shifted his grip on his sword hilt. “A good way to ensure she is dead before your next breath, that…,”his gaze dropping meaningfully to the gloved hand.

The dread pirate froze, then casually moved his hand away from the hilt of his sword, shrugging. “Shall I explain..?”

Somewhat petulantly, his voice sharp, the seated fellow retorted, “There is nothing to explain! I know you are trying to steal what I stole fair and square!”

The masked pirate tilted his head slightly as if considering. “Perhaps we can come to an understanding?”
The merchant slammed his fist on the heavily laden table, cutlery jumping and a goblet overturning, glittering porcine eyes flashing in anger. “There can be no deal!”

Unperturbed, the pirate commented in an indolent manner, “If you will not cooperate, we would seem to be at loggerheads.”
The merchant leaned back in his chair, smirking. “Obviously I will not engage with you physically, and equally obvious is that you cannot match my wit.”

Even from where she watched she noted the flicker of amusement conveyed by a twitch of lips as the man in black asked, “You are that intelligent, eh?”

“Let me put it to you this way; Hermaeus Mora?”
“Yeah?”
“Moron.”

She blinked from where she was watching, a superstitious shiver momentarily running a cold finger down her spine. She saw the pirate blink through the eyeholes of his mask, registering his own incredulity, though his pose did not alter.

“I see. Well then in the spirit of cooperation, I cede to your own specialty; shall we have a battle of wits?”

“For the elf?”

The man in black nods and the pudgy little merchant leans towards him from his place at the table, beady eyes glittering. “This will be for keeps…to the death!”

“Of course.” The pirate sketched a brief bow.

The little man bared his teeth in a smile. “Splendid.” He gestured to the empty chair opposite his position and the masked man settled agreeably. The pirate reached for a silver rimmed glass decanter full of wine, settling it closer to his opponent. “Would you be so kind as to pour the wine for us?”

As the shorter man poured the wine, the pirate pulled a tiny vial of white powder from his breast pocket, proffering it to the merchant.

“You may attempt to identify the odor, but do not allow it to come in contact with your skin.”

The balding fellow suspiciously accepts the vial, opening it and carefully sniffs. “It is odorless!” he scoffs, scowling at the man sitting across from him.

The long limbed man reclaims the vial, smiling agreeably as he nods. “Indeed. What we have here is the alchemic residue of powdered Cornflower, Emetic Russula, and Imp Stool. It is odorless, without taste, dissolves instantly in liquid, and in this form, the most deadly of poisons known to mortals.”

The little man hmms as he eyes the vial.

The pirate pulls the two matching, wine filled goblets closer, picks one up and lowers it beneath the table surface. When he raises it, the glass vial is empty and the wine looks just the same. The outlaw then takes both goblets beneath the surface of the table, spending several moments switching them from hand to hand, then settles one in front of his plate, and the other in front of his opponent.

The slender man smiles across the table. “All right: which has the poison? Here is my challenge to your intellect. Decide which goblet to drink and we shall find out who is the smarter.”

The bald man gives a short bark of laughter, slamming his hand on the table to emphasize his disdain for the challenge. “Far too simple! I merely need to apply what I know of you. Would one in your place put poison in his own cup…or in mine?”

He pauses to study the man across the table before continuing. “Now, the obvious gambit is to poison your own goblet, because you know that only a Nord brained fool would accept what was put in front of him. Given my vast intellect, I know better than to select the goblet you placed in front of yourself. However! You also know I am a man of divine intellect which you would have counted on, so I can clearly not select the wine in front of me, either.”

The man dressed in black smiles genially. “It seems you have made your decision, then?”

The smaller man crows triumphantly. “Don’t bet on it! Because powdered ‘Ravage Health’ comes from the Ebon Heart Pact, as everyone knows. And Pact territory is entirely peopled with criminals. And criminals know they are not trusted, and you being a criminal as well, I cannot trust you or them! So I can clearly not choose the wine you put closest to yourself!”

Mildly, the pirate nods his head to the shorter man as if conceding a point. “You truly have superior reasoning skills.”

The fat man slapped his hand on the table again, jeweled rings flashing. “You haven’t seen anything yet! Where did I leave off..?”
Obligingly the pirate prompted, “Criminals.”

Jowels quivering the richly dressed merchant leans forward. “Yes! Criminals, and you must have realized I would have known the powder’s origin and taken that into consideration when you placed the goblets, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me.”

The man in black shifted in his seat, appearing discomfited. “You are drawing this out…”

Sensing victory the smaller man grins wildly. “You know better, don’t you? You defeated my Nord bodyguard, which means you’re quite strong. So you could be thinking your strength will overcome the poison. So I can’t choose the wine in front of you, clearly. But, you’ve also bested my Altmer mage which means you must have book sense. And in educating yourself, you must have an appreciation of man’s mortality, so you wouldn’t want to chance it and put the poison in front of yourself…so I can clearly not choose the wine in my cup!”

The man in black shifts his eyes away as if in nervousness. “Your deductions shall not wring any indications from me…I won’t be tricked…”
The short man exclaims in triumph, “It has already happened! I can read you like a book! I know which goblet has the poison!”

The man in black tensed. “Then choose.”

Smiling broadly, the merchant responds smugly. “I will. And I choose…” He stops abruptly, peering behind his feasting companion. “What in Oblivion can that be?”

The pirate cranes his neck to look behind himself. “Where? What do you see? I see nothing.”

The bald man quickly switches the goblets while his opponent has his head turned. He shrugs. “Hmm. l thought I saw something. Maybe not.”

The pirate turns to face him again and the merchant giggles.

The taller man narrows his eyes behind the mask. “What amuses you so?”

“I promise to let you know. First however, let us drink from the goblets before us.”

As they both raise their cups, the short man hesitates with the rim of his goblet at his lips, carefully watching as the bandit drinks first, then follows suit and swallows his own wine.

The man in black settles the mug on the table and pops a grape into his mouth, regarding his opponent. “You guessed wrong.”

Roaring with laughter, the merchant gasps, “So you think!” His voice grows louder in triumph.”…That’s why I laughed at you! I switched goblets when you looked away. You have been bested, fool!”

The dread pirate is quiet, a small smile playing around his lips as he watches the flushed looking merchant.

Seeming not to notice, the little man gleefully continues boasting. “You are victim to one of the most basic of ploys. Everyone knows the first is “Never make a deal with a Daedric Lord”, but only slightly less well known is “Never go against a merchant who has a thriving ice cube delivery business in Whiterun!”

Cackling loudly and slapping the table, the merchant abruptly chokes off and falls face first onto the table, his head giving an audible thud.
The man in black sighs murmuring under his breath about the benefits of Snakeblood while gingerly wiping his lips. The pirate stands up, brushing himself off, and looks upwards where the captive elf had been left with the remaining mercenary. He freezes and holds up a hand, “No wait!”

A rain of deadly arrows descends upon the man in black, a couple piercing the dead merchant for good measure. He falls back, riddled with arrows, gasping his last breaths. The Bosmer lady on the bluff stares down at the scene with a grim set to her lips, then turns to the Seeker Daedra watching from the nearby corpse of the last mercenary. “Our deal is complete. You have freed me, and I have slain those fools in return.”

The tentacled Seeker made a wet gurgling sound that seemed to serve as laughter and nodded its misshapen head. “The Master is pleased.”
The elf grunted as she slung the bow over her shoulder and turned to leave. “Be certain Hermaeus Mora knows I shall have no further dealings with him.”

The Seeker made an obsequious bow, a wet, mucous thickened voice issuing from somewhere under twitching tentacles. “Of course, Princess Cornflower.”

It watched as the elf strode away, then floated down the short cliff to hover by the dying pirate. The man reached towards the vanishing figure of the Bosmer desperately. The Seeker leaned over the dying man in an interested manner. “Should I have told her you were her lover in disguise come to rescue her..?” The man’s eyes drifted upwards as his they began to dim behind the mask, his final words whispered with his last breath.

“As…you….wish….”

A Convergence V

The sting of the cut across her palm was brief, a soothing blue glow following the cut and healing the wound to a faint pink line. The old knight took the bloodied dagger and held it over the glowing stone, allowing her blood to drip from the tip as the Archmage wove an incantation to wake the power therein. Slowly a spidery thread of brilliant red grew like a tendril from the now pulsing stone towards where she sat watching. She searched her mind for recollection of this ancient rite, dismayed that she had only come across the vaguest recollection and a niggling hint of unease at some buried remnant that suggested she run now and leave this place behind.

Her father…they knew where her father was!

She curled her fingers around the arm of her chair and braced herself.

The chanting of the old mage remained steady, urging the seeking thread of crimson light forward. It seemed to hesitate as it encountered her form, rearing back like a snake.

“Omnus Otherii! Contium vas Drathaaris!”

Falx’s raspy voice thundered in the room, filled with power, and the undulating tendril stabbed forward faster than she could register, and she gasped at a lance of fire that felt like it had impaled her heart.  She bared her teeth, refusing to cry out, her back arching and head falling back. She felt the old knight move close to her side, his voice soothing.

“Easy, my lady. Open your eyes and see.”

Only then did she realize her eyes were indeed closed and she opened them, noting the lines of power that were much fainter, but also connecting each member at the table to the stone. Her own was like a fresh rivulet of blood and she remained still, afraid to move lest the anchor point inside her chest somewhere rupture her internal organs. An abstract part of her mind wondered if this was what a butterfly felt like when pinned to a display board…..

The Altmer woman…Chancelor Elasion Larethorin! Somehow she knew her name…and her hatred of the Daedra…a flicker of grief held back by a wall of discipline….spoke.

“Words are wind driven by a storm, or as light and fickle as a summer breeze- thus oaths spoken can fade and pass faster than formed by lips. It is the heart that will tell true, and by hearts we are bound, each one of us, sworn to this deed and the preservation of our goal to end the domination of the Harvester of Souls…He who reaches out from Cold Harbor to enslave or destroy our world.”

The light in the room around the table had grown in brightness, leeching away color and making her squint her eyes. The crimson lines connecting them all to the stone appeared a pale pink in the brilliance. Chancellor Larethorin nodded to those gathered and as one they spoke. Somehow her voice joined theirs as if she already knew the words.

“We offer heart and soul to sacred oath, we the keepers of secrets and shields of Nirn, that we are bound to the eradication of the plane meld. We name ourselves brothers and sisters to this end, bound together in this passion and by the truth of our mission. Beyond trust, beyond faith, beyond oath; We are one.”

As the last words were spoken she abruptly felt all of them and knew each of their hearts save one who hid in shadow: She knew their private grief, what drove them, she felt their hatred for the foe and the purpose that lived in each heart. She sensed the nobility and the mortality of each, elevated by their unwavering determination to save, to protect, and to render retribution on the evil that threaten to end all life. There were shadows of other things as well…secrets, guilt, sins…private shames and failures. Drug addiction, assassination- the worst failings of mortality were a sibilant whisper underlying the best and brightest. And she wept openly for her love of all of them, accepting the beauty of their flaws along with celebration of their courage and strength. She had judged them all in that instant and found them glorious in the flawed weaving of their lives for how they rose above all to this great purpose.

All but the old spider. He remained closed to her and there was no great sharing and outpouring as with the others… he refused to give any of himself- perhaps by arcane skill he had shielded himself. He remained aloof from this part of the ritual and she wept for that as well, because she knew that he was alone with whatever resided in his own soul and would never know this connection to others.

The brilliant light dimmed and the sensation in her chest eased as the tendril of oath link faded away. The fierce geas to protect these kindred spirits and this place and these ideas filled her to bursting and she looked around the table at each one and found their cheeks wet as well and their eyes shining. All but one.

“Put the damn thing away, whatever-your-name is…” the Archmage grumped at his nervous young assistant who scrambled to do as he was bidden. The Oathstone was whisked away, and she knew a tiny part of her soul rested inside it somehow, like a firefly caught in a glass jar at harvest time. She did not begrudge this, for she was part of something bigger now and many others before her had bound themselves to this cause and also resided in the glass jar with her.

The old knight stood beside her, looking at her, marveling. Chancelor Elasion smiled at her then looked at the knight and asked, “What will it be, Sir Striker?”

He took a deep breath, clearing the emotion from his voice as best he could, opening his hands to her, palms up. There was no hesitation as she slipped her smaller, more delicately made hands into his hoary grasp. She felt the thick calluses on the pads of his fingers and the thickened, slightly crooked length of short fingers that told a tale of many fingers broken over time and reset, like tree trunks twisted by a lifetime of storms.

He looked into her eyes as he spoke, his voice gravelly and rough. “The Oath ceremony is different for all of us, but for you it has given a glimpse to the heart of each of us. You have looked into our darkest places in the way of Justices of old, and what you saw has evoked love and acceptance when others would have rejected. You have seen ignobility and given mercy in the face of our sins- our imperfect mortality and opened your heart to us all…”

He took a deep breath, his voice strong and clear, echoing in the room. “You are born again into this family, and so it is I give you a new name. Rise, Justice Mercy. We are come united, late to the fight, at the midnight hour, but we will not stand down!”

Convergence IV

She stood, tilting her head as she looked up at the twin moons observing her from high overhead. For a moment the glowing, mottled orbs reflected in her startling blue eyes, and she was still, save for the twitch of her tail and the slowing drip of gore from her blade.

She seemed to listen intently, a faint surprise evident in the lines of the deep black furred muzzle and the quirk of her brows. At her feet was a human body, motionless, a dark puddle that was inky black in the night congealing under a head whose face bore a puzzled expression.

“And why do you speak to this one now, eh? You are dead, and the dead do not speak…Bah! Fine, yes those dead do perhaps speak, but you… No this one will not have this conversation with you now…when this one was young was the time of waiting and listening and you were silent….”

The Khajiit assassin made a sound of disgust, wiped her dagger on her most current bounty, and then riffled pockets, purring with pleasure as she found several gold coins. These shinies needed a new home now, and any good Baandari knew it was a sin to leave such things where they would not be used.

Her ears flattened in annoyance and she glared back up at the moons once more.

“Does this one not send you many souls to keep you company as you stand vigil? Khajiit feeds you both like starving kittens and now you mewl at this one to go do this thing and that thing and to hurry? Crimson Smiles liked you much more when you were silent dead!”

She stomped around, tail lashing in her displeasure.

“Fine! This one will go do this thing…but this one thinks she does not like the Voices after all!”

She sheathed her blade after a final disgusted glare at the two moons, and then headed off to find her little sister Krin. As she walked down the road she continued her conversation with Jone and Jode, her tone sometimes wheedling, other times annoyed, but ultimately the words went unheard…at least by the dead man on his back in the middle of an Imperial road.