Old Friends

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Old Friends

#1 Post by Nomine » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:24 pm

It started like it often does, with a quiet evening at the inn. Mulled wine warming me, almost chasing away the feeling that there is no room for me in this land. That what is in store for me is growing old, fat, perhaps bouncing some kids on my knee while I tell stories that none of them really believe and they have all heard before.
Makes sense that I would end up with kids smart enough to see through my lies, ain´t cruel enough to tell the truth to em.

Fingers around the goblet of wine, half watching the flames flickering and half watching the other patrons. It is´t before the second glance I notice it, the way the mans eyes glimmer with a greenish taint. It is very faint, and on its own I would´t think much of it. Add the way his skin is pale with old acid scars, the cut of his clothes marking him as somebody that used to spend time in the company of nobles, but not caring about appearances anymore. The guard seems nervous, like he is´t all to comfortable in his own skin. Eyes flickering from side to side. Either the guard is new to the life of being a body guard or he is expecting trouble even at a quiet inn.

Last time I saw a pair like that, they came to beg the release of Blackthorn. Last time I saw a pair like that, the greenish taint marked the man as a cultist, rapist and murder.
I finish my goblet, letting the wine chase away the sudden chill I feel. Before I move closer to the bartender, stumbling as I do, putting a drunken slur into my speech, wondering what rooms are free tonight. Turns out that I am in luck, only three of the rooms are taken, making my job easier. A few coins pays for a room of my own. All I need that, an reason to stumble upstairs without drawing attention. The bartender might wonder why I don´t go home to Laci, but like most in his profession he knows how to keep shut. What matters is that the green eyed man, lets call him Darkmoore for old times sake. That Darkmore believes I am just another drunken Redguard down on his luck. A few more coin pays for a bottle of red wine, half of it gone by the time I have gotten upstairs to the rooms. Most of it on the floor, some of it on my shirt.

I don´t really care about the room, its an excuse for me to be up here. To pull free a little gem from my belt, liberated from the Imperial army, reckon it could pay more or less pay for the inn if I sold it. The little stone does just one thing, telling me if there is magic around. Simple enough, a blue glow that grows stronger the closer I am to the source. Don´t work on anything that is´t active. Like a ward on a door, or a magical tripwire. All it takes really, a soft glow and I know I need to watch these two men. I know I can´t just pick the look of their room and realize it was just another fear thrown up from my mind.
They are dangerous or careful enough to put a ward on their room.

I make my way to Laci´s home, wondering which words I will use to tell her that I am leaving, what words will stop her from wondering if I will return. In the back of my mind there is a weak voice telling me it is´t my problem, that Morrigan is gone, Meren is gone, Vijaya is gone, Sinthy is gone. Some of em loved me, some of them hated me. In the end it did´t matter, I did what I needed to and the grimoire is buried where nobody can get to it, that I am to old and broken to be picking any more fights. Never listened much to that voice, to old to start now.

When I prepare to leave, the conversation with Laci playing in my head. Her wanting know the cults name, so she could research. Me playing it down, saying it did´t matter much, Embrace, Dark Brotherhood, all of em just what their called in public. That to many cults have had names like that for her to find much. Close enough to truth that, many have claimed to be the Dark Brotherhood, even ran that con myself once to earn a bit of coin from fat merchants wanting their even fatter wives killed. Thinking they hired a proper Dark Brotherhood assassin, handing over fat purses to cover their fear of dealing with somebody like that.
Its a role you can only play for a short time before the Brotherhood comes to punishing you for taking their name in vain.

Don´t want Laci to figure out just what I might be walking into, don´t want her to know what I suspect. That the Dark Brotherhood an the Embrace is one large cult. The Embrace dealing with alchemy, magic an politics, while the Dark Brotherhood deals in Murder, blackmail and coin. Both of them share the same faith, the same dedication to "Mother".

And that they owe me more than one death.

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Re: Old Friends

#2 Post by Nomine » Sun Oct 26, 2014 6:25 pm

Words caught on the wind, a man called Darkmore muttering to himself as the bodyguard trails behind him. The guard is tense, head shifting from side to side, as he tries to watch the road instead of listening to the words being spoken: "She had to die, why could´t they understand that. It is not about healing a few broken bones, it is about transforming the whole"
"But Sire, her parents. They screamed when they saw what you had made her"
The guard speaks up despite, I imagine that he regrets the words as soon as their let lose, if not then; When he sees his charge turn his head around, the way his lips pull back for a tombstone smile. "They paid a small price for her perfection".

I watch them from the darkness underneath a tree, one shadow among many in this forrest. A quiet little voice in my head tells me that I should just return home, that a night spent next to a warm lithe body is better than on the cold earth, as it rains, that I could just fade away, the more that I have tried to hurt men like those, the more it has hurt me. Trying to keep that voice away, trying to stop myself listening to it before it tells me that I should just kill them, then I can still make it back in time to spend the night next to a lovers body.
The two men gives me the distraction I need to stop it. Their words have died out as the rain starts anew. Cultist or not, he can´t keep the rain away. So he does what all men do. He walks, deeper into the forest as the bodyguard hunches his shoulder, following. Behind the pair of them, a shadow moves quietly after.

It is done with such skill that I don´t even notice it having been done at first. I just discover that their footprints end, half inch deep in the mud, one of them half pressed down, before it just end as a butcher had cut of half the foot.
The rain cool against my skin, beating down on me as I am crouched down. Wondering what this means. Clearly, they used magic to vanish. But did they do it because they noticed me and now lies await for an ambush, did they take a hidden path and these footprints were just sent on to throw any followers off their scent. A handful of options, none of them good for me.

Five slow breaths later and since nobody have attacked me yet. I decide to look for a hidden path. Obfuscated by both magic and woodcraft most likely.
The rain hammers down on me relentlessly as I start to backtrack one slow step at the time. In my hand that gemstone, eyes half watching for its soft glow to tell me that there is magic around, half looking for anything on the side of the road that looks "wrong" or "too right".

After having made it back perhaps hundred meters I notice that it is all to quiet, even at night a forrest should be full of sounds, rustling in leafs, animals hunting, screwing and dying. But here, just around a bend in the forrest the only sounds heard is those of my own breath and the raindrops hitting the ground. I decide flip a coin, heads to leave the path into the right side of the forrest, tails for the right side. Thats when I remember to look at my gemstone, its blue soft glow lights up my hand. Reckon I have figured out their magic, its an illusionists trick that makes it harder to look, harder to remember what to do. A flip of the coin and I make my way into the left side of the path. The forrest resisting every step I take, scent of a rotting carcass, something sends cold sweats down my spine. That little voice in my head starts to scream, telling me what an idiot I am, what sort of bad idea this is, that my luck have run out. But I press on.

After what feels like a hundred hard breaths, the pressure suddenly gives inn. I must have broken through the barrier. My body shudders from the release and I gasp for air. I just barely have a second to see the small hut before me before my body goes limp and my world turns dark.

Head hurts like a damned orc is trying to pound herself out of it. Second thing I notice is that I am sitting, all bound up. A friendly hand slaps me around a few times, while a voice asks if I am awake. I reply with a groan - Always been known for my sharp tongue.

Things slide into focus and I look into the face of the guard, up this close he looks younger than I gave him credit for. Perhaps 25, no scars to call his own yet, not in his face at least. "Good, was afraid I killed you for a moment there". "Keep trying and you will get it right" I flash him a smile to follow my reply, and he shrugs, before looking back at the man he protect. The man examines the edge of my dagger. Smart enough not to test it with his thumb. "Should I kill you now or later?" He looks up from the blade, eyes locked on me, filled with honest curiosity. "Later will do just fine, say in about fifteen or twenty years time". He pulls back his teeth and lets out a rolling laughter. I exchange a glance with the guard.
"Oh you are a funny one. I like that in a captive. Do you know what I don´t like in a captive?"
He leans towards me, his arm extended to form a straight line that ends in my daggers tip a hairs breath from my eye. I try not to blink. "Would´t dare a guess just now".
"I simply hate a captive that lies to me"

I swallow and he takes that as a confirmation that I understand. "What are you doing here?" He straightens up, offering my dagger to his guard.
"Came tracking the pair of ya, looked to me like the pair of ya might be interesting folk, bad sort of interesting".
He raises an eyebrow at that, while the guard ask a bit to quickly. "Who else knows?"
I shake my head and manage a slight shrug despite being tied to the chair. "Never got around to explain what I was doing, just that I was heading after two folk that might be cultists".
The man chuckles, finding humour in my words. "No Ser, we are not cultists. Far from it, I am a one of few that can see the world for what it is, while the rest walks around blind."
He watches me for a moment, catching his breath. I spend the time twisting my hands, testing the bonds and it is just my luck. Fella that tied me up must be a professional.

"Very well then, who are you?" He reaches out for a tumbler of whiskey, a deep amber colour that seems almost mysterious in the candle light. Makes my lips wet to be honest.
"Name is Nomine, Bannon to some, Nomine Walker to others". He pauses, tumbler pressed on his lips. The guard suddenly decides to put my dagger down. "Thats a familiar sort of name." The man takes a sip from his tumbler, watching me.
"It used to mean something to people in a certain circles."
"Expected you to be taller"
"Everybody is taller when they stand with the might of an empire underneath them". He nods in reply before motioning to the guard, his hand indicating my face. "I am not sure I believe him, make him more honest".
The guard tenses up, hands balled up into fists. I give him a slight nod, from one man to another and he starts to hit me. First strike lands in my ribs, the next in my chest as he works his way up to my face. Not long before I am in that place where all is dark and nobody can hurt you anymore.

Cold water wakes me up to a world of pain. Everything aches, from my cheek to my ribs. My face is pressed down against the ground. Sometime when I have been out cold they must have untied me, removed my armour and tunic. Just a damned shame they decided to tie my hands on my back and legs. "Welcome back to the world of the living". My reply is a groan, my throat feels to raw for any witty replies. That does not deter the man as he kneels down besides me, his hand gentle on my back, tracing the lines of a scar. I can hear how he smacks his lips. "Tomorrow you will tell me everything. Who you spoke to, where the others you used to work with are hiding"
I twist my head so I can catch a glimpse of his face. The bastard is smiling wide, all confident.

"You won´t get any price with the hand from this, no sweet goodnight kisses from the mother either. Just let me go and we can part as friends". My words come out slowly, each and everyone of them spoken with effort. His lips curl back into a wider smile. Don´t matter what he thinks, the words is´t for him. The guard seemed worried when he heard my name. Perhaps, just god damned perhaps. "I think you are mistaken Nomine, but it don´t matter." His hand slide up the back of my neck, before gripping my head, slamming it into the ground and the world turns dark once more.

Its a gentle shake that brings me out of the this time, a low voice telling me to be quiet. When the guard notices that I am awake he puts his hand over my mouth, waiting until I nod against his hand. Our eyes meet and I can tell he is nervous, conflicted even. "Are you the same Nomine that served in the 4th scout regiment, those who were inn" I twist my head away, words come out sharply "Yes. Damned I am". Something shifts in his body, shoulders drop and he looks back over his shoulder towards closed door. "Whats your name?" I ask softly, knowing I need to keep him talking, that its damned sight harder to hurt somebody, than something. He answers without thinking: "Aelius".
"Aelius, could I have some water please".

He offers it to me from a water skin, holding it so I can´t drink to much at once. "I used to serve with an Aelius, tall fella. Stubborn sort of man. Always got himself in trouble you know" Words are all a lie, but he smiles to me and lets me have another few mouthfuls of water.
"Sorry about all this. Did´t know who you where when I hit you" His words are soft, quiet an I nod. "No offence taken, damned good swing on ya - But ya seem like a decent sort of fella Aelius, why are you with em?"
He pauses a bit, before shrugging. Doubt he even knows his hand reached up to almost touch something underneath his tunic.
"If I let you go, will you forget all about this?"
I nod eagerly and he lets out a sigh of relief. Outside of the cabin, the first pink rays of sun shines through the window. Looks like it will be a beautiful day.

It only takes him a few breaths to cut through my ropes. I let out a soft groan, asking for my bag and he gets it to me. Not saying much as I rummage through it, until I find that one glass vial filled with a dark grey liquid. Tastes like tar, warm thick tar that fills your throat and chase the pain away. World slides back into full focus and even if there is a price to pay for this, I won´t hurt for a few hours.
"Thank ya Aelius, can ya get me my blade?"
I slip the empty vial back into my bag, watching as he finds the blade, and offers it to me hilt first. Both me and the voice in my head agrees on what needs to be done. Two breaths later I lay Aelius body gently down on the ground, cleaning the bloody blade on his tunic. He might have turned out good if offered a chance, would have turned on me if the brotherhood got a chance to question him to. Everybody breaks.

I owed Aelius a quick death, I owe his master Darkmore nothing. By the midday there is no more life left in him and I have learned all I can from him.
I take what I want from the cabin, before dragging the masters corpse out, leaving him for the animals. As to Aelius, I let him lie in the cabin as I set fire to it. Reckon the wind will take what the flames don´t take.

A couple of days of healing and I will be able to return to Wayrest without anyone asking questions about my bruises, or Laci losing sleep over what happened to me, what I might have done.
Perhaps, sometime during those quiet days of healing that I will open the locket Aelius had hanging from a thin silver chain, pressed against his skin. Perhaps I will find out that he was a husband, father or just somebody´s son.
Perhaps I will let it slip from my fingers and let the river carry it away.

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