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    Active Member
    The dragon crisis and the Skyrim civil war have been over for several years. The Imperial Legion gradually gave ground until they were out of Skyrim entirely, in a series of defeats known as "the long retreat". Ulfric Stormcloak was quick to seize power, unchallenged by the now unprotected jarls that had sided with the Empire and the Dragonborn, who some said, retired to High Hrothgar after his fight with Alduin, the World-Eater. Besides some minor skirmishes with holdouts, Ulfric has enjoyed a stable, if somewhat harsh rulership.

    Despite peace finally coming to Skyrim, all is not well. A so-far-unnamed ‘sickness’ is sweeping through the provinces of the Empire, killing hundreds. The best physicians, herbalists, and healers throughout Tamriel are stumped. Herbs and potions provide little, if any relief, and attempts to heal the afflicted through magical means tend to drive the caster stark-raving mad. The foremost minds on the subject seem to think that curing the symptoms early is the key, though the disease spreads so rapidly, there are yet to be any reports of success.

    To make matters worse, blame is on everyone’s mind. From the Summerset Isles to Skyrim, unrest is brewing. With the Empire’s withdrawal from the homeland of the Nords, Ulfric Stormcloak, once jarl of Windhelm, now High King of the former province, is drawing ire from former Imperial jarls and his own followers. To make it clear to the popular ce of Skyrim, at least, he has issued a notice to any able-bodied adventurer, sellsword, or gutter-scum that those who find and destroy the source of the sickness will be pardoned, and adorned with more coin than they can carry.

    Of course, collecting on grand bounty will not be easy. Bandits prey on unwary travellers on the road, strange, twisted monsters lurk in the wilds, and the dead do not rest easy. Our tale starts in the once quaint village of Rorikstead. As the autumn winds whip across the tundra, and pale grey clouds gather above, our “heroes” arrive in ones and twos, under the suspicious gaze of once hospitable villagers, passing through palisades and wooden watch towers that have been erected to keep the things in the night at bay.


    Active Member
    Solun Decius walked the stone and dirt road that wound through tundra like a mottled serpent, his destination the hamlet of Rorikstead. Why there, and not the larger, more populated, and much better defended hold capital of Whiterun, the former legionnaire wasn't sure. Not that he was complaining. While attitudes in the central hold of Skyrim were much more 'liberal' than those controlled by Ulfric's Stormcloaks, but they still wouldn't have taken kindly to Solun if they somehow uncovered his past.

    He glanced around, but as it had been when he'd set out earlier that morning of the mid-Hearthfire day, he was alone on the road. At least, as far as he could tell. "Now I'm being paranoid," he quietly chided himself. The chill autumn wind stole his words, and above, the clouds that had blanketed the sky began to darken. He pulled his cloak close and quickened his pace.

    The trek from Whiterun was not long, but it still left plenty of time for him to become drenched, should the weather turn foul. As if reading his mind, the clouds began to release their payloads. A light, though persistent drizzle commenced, the wind driving it into the former soldier's back. With a sigh, Solun pulled his hood up, put his head down, and walked onwards.

    A short time later, he came upon the village of Rorikstead. Once an unwalled, unguarded settlement, a change had come over it. Palisades had sprung up around it, and guards patrolled the perimeter. Those at the entrance gave Solun no trouble, only a muttered warning to not cause trouble.

    Once past the palisade, he made for a quaint tavern, not unique in any meaningful way, it offered sanctuary from the elements. A thin pillar of smoke rose from the stone chimney. Aware of the suspicious glares of the few villagers who were out and about, he stepped into the tavern, lowering his hood as the warmth of the building wrapped around him.

    "Looks like I'm the first to arrive," he mused. Aside from a few regulars, a barmaid, and a older man who seemed to be the owner, the tavern was empty.

    "What will it be, friend?" The mustachioed man called to him, wiping down the bar with a rag that had certainly seen better days.

    "A warm meal, if you please. And a tankard of ale." His accent, clearly imperial, rose a few eyebrows, but no one commented. He took a seat near the back wall, near the fireplace, and where he could keep an eye on the door. His food and drink arrived, he paid, and settled in to wait for anyone else that had decided to answer the summons.

    Hale Loneshadow

    Well-Known Member
    "Can't this thing go any faster, Kibell?!" Hale Loneshadow shouted at the bald Nord driver as they rocketed across the road southeast from Markarth.

    A pair of arrows flew past the driver and his crossbow messenger, the crew of bloodthirsty highwaymen hot on their tail.

    "Damn it all! The steeds are doing their best here," Kibell yelled back. "We're nearing Rorikstead soon bounty killer, just do what you do and I'll take care o' the rest!"

    Hale braced himself against the backside of the carriage and readied his crossbow.

    Hells, but I shouldn't have had that flin earlier, he thought as he took aim at the three lead bandits.

    Squeezing the trigger like he would the waist of a lover, Hale loosed a repeating volley of bolts that just a few years ago would have downed these brigands with relative ease. Now though, in the fog of fear and Cyrodillic brandy the former ranger missed all but two of his six shots. Still, it was fortunate enough that these outlaws had decades less experience than he, for those two bolts that hit struck true into the chest of the most finely decorated of the highwaymen. With a grunting cry the large man fell hard onto the rocky road, and much to Hale's bemusement was promptly trampled by one of his own companions who was subsequently tripped up and sent flying headfirst into a stout tree by his cheesed-off horse.

    The third brigand gave a shout and rallied the other five of his compatriots chasing Hale and Kibell. Only as they drew nearer could Hale see that they were donned in the worn armor of the Imperial Legion. Likely, thought Hale, those left behind in the Long Retreat.

    "Keep them off us, I can see the gates of Rorik--ughh, fluff!"

    Hale fired off the final few shots in his chamber, smacking one outlaw in the hip before craning his neck to peek at his friend's misery.

    "Hell's below, are you alive Kibell? Can you make it?!" cried Hale.

    "I'll, agh...I'll make it just fine bounty killer, just keep 'em off me for a few more, would yah?" Kibell groaned, the barbed arrow poking through his right clavicle, coated in crimson gore.

    With a snarl, Hale turned back towards the cadre of outlaws, a fresh cartridge slammed into his crossbow.

    "Damn you bastards! You cannot kill me, you cannot kill me! I am a ranger of Evondale, you cannot kill me!"

    A precision Hale had not known for months now melded with each bolt fired, two of the bandits dropping dead on the road and another two slowed by hits to their sides and arms.

    Just then, in the evening redness of the setting sun, Hale saw shadows themselves leap forward out from a copse of trees and boulders upon the harried bandits.

    "What in the great god's damned--"

    That pack of creatures, if Hale could be so generous to call these unknown beasts that, let out a cacophony of stabbing cries that felt to the ex-ranger as if they'd pierced his very essence, and set upon the stumbling outlaws with a bloody fury. Blinking furiously to deny the blazen setting sun dominion over his vision, Hale Loneshadow witnessed those shadowy creatures rip and tear and feast upon those poor brigands even as Kibell sped away from the scene.

    "What in Coldharbour was all that??" Kibell creaked from the front seat. "Agh, here we are -- AYE! RORIKSTEAD GUARDS, CARRIAGE COMING IN AN' BEING PURSUED, OPEN YER DAMNED GATES!"

    As the carriage groaned to a slowed pace as the stalwart guardsmen and women let them through the newly-built town palisade, Hale breathed a sigh of relief for the first time in nearly two weeks. He had heard about the High King's call some time ago, and only recently had run into his old friend Kibell for assistance on investigating the dark plague ravaging the land. Hale had not learned much, yet a scroll from a dying vampire showed that some answers might be gleamed in the long-dead mines of Karthwarsten. It could be a trap, or it could be answers, or both, Hale was not yet certain, yet he was determined to find a group that was bold enough to figure out what was what.

    "Guards! Find a healer for my brave friend here," Hale shouted at the nearest group of militia.

    He unhitched his beloved steed, Trinity, from the main carriage and tied the horse up on a nearby post. Two apples and a quick brushing later, Trinity was contently neighing like he hadn't just been through Oblivion itself.

    "Come on then, friend, take shelter with us," said a guardswoman as she and a burly helmeted fellow took Kibell by the shoulders and let him into a tent.

    "He'll be fine soon enough, go on into the Frostfruit, mercenary," said her giant companion.

    "Aye, ugh, I'll be fine yes," grunted Kibell. "You owe me one, ye' bastard ranger aye?" he finished with a wry grin.

    "I owe you more than that, old friend," Hale muttered, waving to the stoic driver as he pushed open the doors of the tavern.

    Pulling the remainder of the flin whiskey from his hefty satchel, the former ranger made a quick ocular patdown of the room. Seeing no one else but Mralki, his maid, and a few dusty travellers at the main oaken bar, Hale figured that the Imperial-looking fellow drinking at his own table must be a prospective questing companion.

    Hale took a deep swig of the flin, and walked up to the man, careful to approach him clearly and slowly. If the man was anything as he appeared, Hale Loneshadow figured he wouldn't appreciate being rushed nor snuck up on. Working his way to the far side of the central hearthfire, Hale held out his gloved hand and looked the man square in the eyes.

    "Hale Loneshadow, at your service, sir. Now how about we share a finer drink than that, and discuss the details of our dear old High King's request?"
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    Well-Known Member
    "I'm telling ye, it was shadow monsters!" The pale, shaking hunter exclaimed, not for the first time. His friends, primarily nords, muttered and shook their heads. Beren felt this was far from the first time the man had told the story. Still, the former mercenary was intrigued.

    "Here." The priest handed over his flask, "steady your nerves, friend." The nord eagerly accepted the drink. Once he'd finished, he handed it back to Beren. "Now start again, where did you see this 'shadow beast?'"

    "The hills, not far from here." The man pointed, "thought it was a wolf at first, but..." he shook his head. "It was too big and its hide was...dark and, I dunno, moving almost."

    Beren frowned. He had heard of attacks on the road by shadowy monsters, but he'd assumed they were exaggerations by witnesses that had seen wolf packs or such from afar. He reached out and patted the shaken man on the shoulder. "Arkay protect you, my friend. Keep safe out here."

    He stood, ready to take his leave of the hunter's camp. Rorikstead, the village the notice he'd come across was not far, but dusk was approaching. He had little fear of monsters, shadowy or others. And bandits were even less worrisome. He took his leave of the camp and headed towards the main road.

    The wind moaned, a light rain beginning to fall as he marched towards the village. I hope this weather clears up. Going on the king's errand in this doesn't seem like a fun time. Or some half-decent camping supplies.

    The village came into view just as the sun began to set. The priest was waved past the palisade by a pair of miserable-looking guards. Looking around, Beren noticed a wagon and a team of horses at the far side of the village. He wondered if one of his soon-to-be companions had used it to travel to Rorikstead, or if a travelling merchant was making his way through.

    "Not that I can afford much." He chuckled to himself, approaching the Frostfruit inn. He pushed the door open, and he eyes fell upon a pair of men that couldn't possibly be locals. Both were human, one wearing a mix of leather and chainmail, and the other was garbed in similar gear, with the addition of a breastplate. "Time for introductions," he murmured.

    He walked over, taking a seat at one side of the table. "Good evening, fellows. Beren Valtien, priest of Arkay, at your service." He glanced at the rugged, black-haired man. "You didn't happen to mention something about a drink, just now, did you?"


    Active Member
    "A freelancer, eh?" The guard said, rubbing a chin covered by stubble. The nord eyed Tovir's form suspiciously. She couldn't really blame him. After all, it was near dark, and the dark leather armour she wore had almost concealed her until she was nearly on top of Rorikstead. But she suspected there was more to it than that.

    "No, I'm the world's worst thief, walking in the front gates to rob your village blind."

    The guard's eyes narrowed. "Funny," he said, in a tone that suggested he found it quite the opposite. "Why shouldn't I just turn you away, hmm? Leave you out here for the bandits or shadows to get you? "

    "Oh, for Mara's sake!" The khajiit explained, fishing around in her pockets. Her hand came out clutching the notice she'd picked up in Markarth. She thrust it at the guard, he squinted as he tried to read by the guttering torchlight. "You can read, can't you?"

    The guard glared at her, and it occurred to her that she may need to find an alternative route into the village. Another few moments passed, then he shoved the note, now damp with rainwater, back at her. "Keep your nose clean while you're here, cat" He grunted, stepping aside.

    Rather than waste even more of her time arguing with the insufferable human, she stepped past him, into the village of Rorikstead. Ahead, lanterns had been lit near a building that must have been the local tavern. Frost-something, she thought it was called. Eager to get out of the wind and rain, and perhaps score a warm meal, she hurried to it, pushing the door open, and was hit with aroma that frequented most inns.

    Ale, cooked food, a hint of sweat, and burning wood, from the blazing fire. Throwing back her hood, she took a quick look around. Three men were sat around a single table, though they didn't seem too familiar with one another. Her rumbling stomach reminded her she hadn't eaten more than jerky since setting out from Markarth. 'Introductions can wait' she decided, going to the bar to order herself a bowl of hearty stew and a large tankard of nordic mead.


    Fight for the lost
    Thoras strolled down the road at a leisurely pace, as though without a care in the world. Which was untrue, of course. He'd heard the tales of bandits and worse attacking travellers on the road. He'd even dealt with a few who'd been taken in by his 'slightly eccentric dunmer' act.

    His mind wandered as he walked, thinking about the nature of the mysterious sickness that plagued the land. He guessed there might be more than natural causes behind it. While he had no love for Ulfric Stormcloak or his followers, he doubted anyone in the Stormcloak camp would resort to witchcraft.

    The elf stopped as he reached the summit of a hill, which gave him a good view of the surrounding countryside. Through the fine rain that fell, he could see the village of Rorikstead, not far from his current location. Pleased with his progress since leaving Dragon Bridge, he strode down the hill, glaive over one shoulder.

    A short time later he arrived at the gate and was allowed past by a pair of befuddled guards who didn't know quite what to make of him. He found the local tavern, its sign illuminated by a lantern that swung to and fro in a chill wind. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

    Three men sat at one table, while a khajiit woman was at the bar. He leaned on the bar next to her, "what, may I ask, is a delightful specimen like you doing in place like this?"


    Active Member
    Solun glanced up from his hearty meal and found himself locking eyes with a rugged, black-haired man who was headed straight for his table. The former soldier tensed subtly, though the newcomer did not seem hostile. The man, a breton by the look of him, sat across from Solun and extended a hand, introducing himself as Hale Loneshadow and confirming that he too, had read the high king's summons.

    "I like my drink fine as it is, thank you," Solun replied cautiously. "I agree that the summons by King Ulfric is worth discussing."

    Hale could utter another word, a second man joined them. He too, seemed to be a breton, and one who'd been in a fair few fights, if Solun was any reliable judge. He introduced himself as Beren, a priest of Arkay, though the warhammer he carried made the imperial doubt that was the man's whole story. In any case, Beren seemed more interested in Hale's mention of a drink than the summons.

    Hale Loneshadow

    Well-Known Member
    "Have it your way, Imperial, though I cannot fault your caution to strangers in a strange land," Hale said, taking a swift slug of the flin. "Glad to know we are here for the same task, and I may just have a lead to interest you!"

    As he finished his words to the grim-looking man, the man who had introduced himself as a priest promptly took the next available seat. Remaining standing, Hale took one more swig and set the half-drained bottle on the table, an open offer to the well-built newcomer.

    "Well met, Beren, and please take as much as you would, warrior-priest," Hale replied with a sly grin. "I say, I'm sure you'll be useful against these hellspawn plaguing the dark roads out there these days."

    Buzzed from battle-fear and drink as he was, Hale Loneshadow would still have to have been a complete fool to not notice the other pair of fresh blood to the Frostfruit. The Khajiit woman and Dunmer man would have stood out for better or worse on the most silent of evenings. Between the "attitudes" imposed by the High King's new order and the recent commotion wrought on by a bunch of sellswords converging on the town, Hale figured they could only be here for one purpose.

    Hale gave a slight nod at the duo seated a bit further behind them at the main bar.

    "Should we start our adventuring now, or wait for those two to join in?"


    An Excellent Site Member
    Night was falling and Alice was in trouble. For one thing traveling through Skyrim at night was never a good idea. Her father and experience had taught her that, she had taught her men in both the Stormcloaks and the Legion that and if she ever has any children someday she’ll teach them that. So of course, just like her father, it was fine when she did it. He was Simus Psyrakon, the great general and peacemaker and uniter of two armies against the Thalmor. And she was Alice Psyrakon, his right hand, an arcane trickster extraordinaire, brilliant strategist and and a revolutionary new historian!

    Alice Psyrakon was a fluffing idiot.

    She was out here on the Whiterun plains because this horrible, nameless plague had to be stopped. She was alone because she wanted to move fast and quiet and as the sun’s light faded she was starting to regret it. Her visions had come back and flooded her mind with the dead and dying. Hee dreams were dominated by their pain and suffering, the doctors and healers who tried to help them suffering the same fate and the madness that came over any mage or priest who tried to use their magic. Like any good doom prophet Alice knew she had to do something but unlike a good doom prophet she didn’t go around scaring people into giving her money or sharing a drink of poison with her. She keeps her visions to as few people as possible. Almost exclusively to her husband, father, aunt, siblings and a few trusted friends. They always try to understand, they always try to help and all too often they can’t. So they give her space to do what she needs to do and help when they can. This time it was letting her race to Rorikstead while they hold down the fort. An expression that, given Skyrim’s recent history, has become all too literal.

    She’d been moving through the plains as quickly and carefully as she could. Staying off the road, taking advantage of any little scrap of cover she could, hitting the dirt several times when she thought she heard someone and trusting in her training and her equipment to keep her safe. Her pack was light, her weapons were secure and her tight black suit let her blend in perfectly with the dying light. The only part of her not bundled up in stretchy black fabric was her thin pale face and even that was decently well hidden by Alice not using an active light source. The waxing moonlight would be enough.

    She’d been a ghost in the mist to the brigands along the road. Even the rogue legionaries didn’t see her. But the creatures she was looking at now had better senses. They were like wolves from the netherworld. Four legged monstrous creatures that looked and sounded like wolves if they were possessed by some evil spirit. They rippled with pure darkness, as if made of shadow rather than just a dark coat of fur. Three of them, chewing up a pair of corpses at the side of the road. She couldn’t sneak past them and the rock she was hiding behind was an obvious hiding spot. Her only choice was to engage. Her heart rate was up so she closed her eyes and started taking deep slow breaths. Her palms were getting sweaty and getting her suit hands slightly damp so she balled them up into tight fists. She held them there until she could feel her nails trying to dig into her palms through the hands and then released her fingers. After a few moments she felt centered and drew her bow Mother’s Fire. The three nether wolves were still distracted with their grisly meal and she had a clear shot at one of their flanks. She knocked an arrow, held her breath and fired.

    The magic of Mother’s Fire ignited the arrow as it was loosed, causing it to streak through the night like a comet. The cherry red arrowhead struck the nether wolf square in the left flank, causing it’s shadowy body to ripple link black ink. A normal wolf would have been brought down instantly but this one howled in rage and pain! It turned towards the direction of danger and immediately spotted Alice, it’s empty purple eyes seeming to lock onto her very soul! It charged her position with terrifying speed and let out another otherworldly howl! Alice’s instincts told her to run away but she forced them down, knowing she was as good as dead if she ran now. She knocked another arrow and fired. It hit the nether wolf just like the first but it didn’t even slow down! It would be on her in a matter of seconds and she knocked a third arrow and fired! In a desperate second of calculation she timed the shot to land right into the beast’s open mouth and this time she met with success. It swallowed the red hot arrow like a pool of black ink and collapsed into the ground, immediately being trampled by its two companions. It was a spectacular shot but Alice had no time to enjoy it. The other two nether wolves were mere feet from hee rock and would have no trouble bounding it. In a single fluid motion she shouldered Mother’s Fire and drew her gladius Father’s Steel. The shortsword crackled with blue lightning as she gripped it and made herself ready for the only stab she would get. The nether wolf leapt over the rock as if it were a track hurdle and aimed its teeth and claws right toward Alice! She dug the low rugged heels of her high boots into the ground, gripped her sword with both hands and took her stab, praying to Talos that it would be enough. The beast fell right on top of her blade, skewering itself in the chest and howling with pain! But the blow wasn’t fatal and it didn’t stop any of its momentum. Both the nether wolf and Alice bowled over each other and off their feet but with Alice landing on top. She felt stinging pain in her upper back and shoulders from slamming into the ground but she didn’t feel any new holes in her or her suit so she fought through it. The nether wolf roared in anger at its awkward position. Being stuck on its back and being sat on by it’s prey was definitely not how it was supposed to work! Alice should have been terrified but now she was just mad. When the nether wolf roared she roared right back! Fear, anger and adrenaline melded into brutal bloodlust! She straddled the nether wolf’s sides like an upside down horse, raised Father’s Steel with both hands and struck it in the face. It hit with a crack of lightning just like her first stab. Then she did it again, and again and again, yelling in fury as she did so and her sword arcing aback and forth like living lightning! After six brutal slashes the second nether wolf fell dead. Alice made ready to face the third and final one but she was too slow. Like a meteor of darkness it hit her, knocking her right off its dead pack member. Slamming her into the ground again but with no quick recovery. She struggled to breathe as the wind was knocked out of her and her shoulders felt like they weighed as much as a mammoth with the creature’s massive front paws resting on them. Her sword was knocked out of her hand during the impact, her shoulders were pinned to the ground and the nether wolf’s snapping void jaws were inches from her face. It was trying to rattle her, to get her to use up the last of her strength before she gave up and accepted her bloody death. But Alice had one last card to play before that happened. Her arms were still free.

    Her hands shot up to grab the nether wolf’s sides and with as much power as she could muster she filled it with lightning! Sparks leapt from her hands and into the nether wolf, following its nervous system like a river and literally lighting it up in blue electricity! The air itself started to sizzle with Alice’s spell and she could smell burning ozone as her attacker howled in agony! After what felt like years but was only a few seconds the nether wolf rolled off of her, its body smoking and singed like seared meat. Clearly, not even monsters from the void could stand up to refined magical power but Alice was taking no chances. Drawing the dagger she still had she plunged it into the beast’s heart with both fists! There was no blood but it’s shadowy essence spewed from it as if it was losing the darkness that made it whole. It was more fearful than satisfying to watch but after a few seconds its death throes ceased and it fell to the ground, never to rise again. The last nether wolf was dead.

    Alice gave herself a quick check. Her whole body was trembling, her back and shoulders ached and were likely bruised and her suit was soaked with sweat but otherwise she was completely unscathed! No blood or broken bones, all of her limbs were there, and her suit was completely intact! No rips, no tears, not even a hole in the fingertips. Even the feet were just as they should be when she unzipped her boots to check them. She took a moment to consider just how lucky she had gotten and began laughing so hard she started to cry. That triggered the shock. The very mortal feeling of literally being an inch from death and surviving. She held herself close and began to sob.

    She wasn’t ashamed. She knew exactly why she was crying, knew that was both normal and not her first time and knew that it would pass. Ninety second later, it did. She began to sooth herself with an old coping mechanism. One that was taught to her when her mind was broken and the College was helping her put it back together.

    “What’s one thing you can see?” She asked herself softly. “My little black hands.”
    “One thing you can hear? The wind on the plains”
    “One thing you can feel? My suit zipper. Going up my back.”
    “One thing you can smell? The sweat on my forehead.”
    “One thing you can taste? My dry mouth.”
    “Are you ready to get moving? Yeah. Let’s go.”

    After a drink of water and a bigger drink of white wine she was ready to move on. She wiped her face and hands with a handkerchief, tucked in a strand of hair that had come out from under her close fitting hood and then she was off.

    It was proper night now and the waxing moon was indeed able to guide her to Rorikstead. Half an hour later she arrived at the palisades. Hee suit’s enchantments had cleaned and dried her sweat at this point and she was relaxed enough to not look like she was just attacked. She was able to calmly walk up to the guards with her papers ready.

    “Good evening.” One of them said. “Please state your name and your business in Rorikstead”

    “Staff Commander Alice Psyrakon, 10th Stormcloak Legion Commanding. Commanding General, Jost Strongback.” She handed the guard both her rank pin and the matching seal on the hilt of Father’s Steel that served as her badge of office. “I’m here to answer the High King’s summons to combat the Sickness.”

    The guard nodded in approval of Alice’s credentials. “Nice to see a proper soldier among the volunteers and mercenaries. You’ll find them at Frostfruit in the center of town. I’m…guessing from that suit you’d like to show up unannounced.”

    “That would be the idea, yes.” She answered.

    “What are you even wearing anyway?” The other guard asked. “It looks like it’s all together. I don’t even see how you put it on.”

    Alice turned around to show them the converging back and hood zippers and touched them for emphasis.
    “It’s a special stealth suit. Very light and very stretchy.” She stretched the sides of her hood with her two index fingers, then removed them so they could snap back to her head to illustrate. “And yeah, it’s all one piece. Even the hands. A little inconvenient at times but they’re easy to clean.”

    “Hm.” The guard said, a little unsure what to make of it. “Well , you’re brave to not be wearing armour.”

    “If you’re fast and quiet enough you don’t need armour.” She said matter of factly.

    “Fair enough.” He said chuckling. “Welcome to Rorikstead.”

    She was waved through and found her way to the Frostfruit tavern. It was a warm, cozy place. Enough to where her suit was starting to cool her down rather than warm her up as it did outside. She ordered some chicken and dumplings, garlic bread and the biggest, coldest ale they had. While she was waiting she spotted a table with two men she’d never seen before and one other she instantly recognized. Someone she had last seen lost in battle outside Windhelm years ago, who’s legendary story she had shared and printed and who’s return she’s been watching for ever since?

    “Hale?” She asked, speaking up over the din of the tavern. “Hale Loneshadow?”
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    Well-Known Member
    Beren grinned with anticipation as the dark-haired man set his bottle, still half-full by the sound of liquid sloshing, on the table in front of him. "Much obliged, friend," he wasted no time in grabbing the drink and taking a swig ,appreciating the burn of the whiskey as it made its way down his throat. "With Arkay's blessing, we'll triumph." He said, the alcohol making him sound perhaps a little too confident. "Or die horribly, I suppose," he said with a grin and a shrug, glancing at the quiet imperial to his left.

    His new friend, Beren was fairly sure his name was 'Hale' drew his attention to a couple at the bar. The priest frowned. He was sure they hadn't been there when he'd walked in. Hale wondered whether the three of them should set out on their own or rope the pair into their task. "They say there's safety in numbers." He pointed out, as the door opened yet again, revealing a petite woman in a dark catsuit. Her eyes fixed on Hale, and she called his name. "A friend of yours?" He asked.


    Active Member
    Tovir heard the elf approaching before she saw him, even over the din of the slowly filling tavern. His comment forced a quickly stifled chuckle from her. She swivelled on her stool to face a very...unique looking individual. A dark skinned dunmer, his face covered in tattoos, and a rather...ostentatious coat. "I might ask you the same thing," she said with a grin, "though 'delightful' isn't the word I'd use."


    Sorceress Supreme!
    Katrina heard the howling. She froze, her eyes staring into the darkening night, her ears straining for an approaching foe. While she waited, she analyzed the noise. She'd heard wolves before, howling in the wilderness. This wasn't that.

    She shivered, wondering what manner of beast would mimic the cries of a wolf. Then she decided she didn't want to know. Her thoughts were interrupted by a change in the pitch of the beasts. They were fighting something. Someone, she corrected herself, hearing a woman's cry.

    Lightning crackled across her fingers, but she quickly suppressed the urge to action. She was no hero. She was a survivor, had been for most of her life. Which meant not running off to rescue whoever happened to be in need of rescuing at the time.

    If not for the pitiful amount of coin on her person, she would have ignored the call to arms entirely. She could fight, but she wasn't much of a healer, magical or otherwise. But coin was coin, and joining a group was safer than wandering the wilds on her own. Like she was doing right at that moment. "Stupid," she scolded herself, casting a wary eye on her surroundings.

    It was quiet now, she realized. Either the wolf things had brought down their prey, or their 'prey' had proved much more formidable than they'd assumed. Either way, it was time to move. Katrina left her improvised hiding place at the side of the road, and increased her pace, not wanting to draw the attention of anything else that might be lurking about.

    A little while later, she had the answer to who'd won the skirmish. Three 'wolves' if they could be called that, lay dead, on or near the road. Several men, in tattered imperial uniforms, lay nearby, but Katrina guessed they'd been dead for time. She gave the corpses, especially the things that lay in pools of their own shadowy blood, a wide berth and continued onwards.

    Rorikstead, illuminated by torches and braziers, waited ahead. The guard at the gate looked her up and down, unimpressed by the frail, slightly bedraggled woman in front of him. "We've no handouts to give to strays," he warned her. "You're better off going to Whiterun." He pointed.

    "Not looking for handouts," she insisted, her voice cracking from lack of use. "I can fight." She patted the hilt of her sword.

    The guard looked unconvinced, but stepped aside. "Your funeral," he said.

    She followed the road through the village, until she came upon the Frostfruit tavern. Pushing open the door, she was met with the sounds and smells of a typical tavern. The clientel, for the most part, were far from what the tavern probably usually entertained. A tattooed dunmer, a khajiit woman, three men who were obviously no strangers to violence, and a well armed woman dressed in an unusual one piece outfit, that clung to her form.

    Katrina hesitated. She'd made it to the meeting place, it seemed. Now came the hard part. Introducing herself. She chewed her lower lip, a nervous habit, eyeing her future companions, and unsure of where to begin.
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    Active Member
    The former soldier looked from Beren to Hale, fairly certain that neither man was planning him harm. In fact, they seemed to be in Rorikstead for the same reason as he was. As were the steady stream of men and women that were now arriving at the tavern. Hale mentioned bringing the most recent pair, a khajiit and dunmer, sitting at the bar, into their group. Beren, the warrior-priest, seemed agreeable to the prospect, so Solun shrugged.

    "Can't hurt," he said, as the door opened and two women entered, one right after the other. They didn't seem familiar to one another, though both were armed. That was where the similarities ended. Though neither were tall, the first woman had an air of confidence and authority, while the other was frail, timid, her eyes darting this way and that as she hovered at the door.

    Hale Loneshadow

    Well-Known Member
    What happens when your past catches up to you?

    This was a question that had long plagued Hale Loneshadow's thoughts in the darkest hours of the night. He had of course read Alice's popular historical books, if nothing else to make sure those that he had abandoned had survived despite his cowardice. Word of Simus' semi-peaceable retirement had placated his anxiety dreams somewhat. Yet when that all-too-familiar voice echoed through the soft din of the Frostfruit Inn, the ex-ranger found his demons catching up to him quicker than those haunting Skyrim's roads.

    "Hold those thoughts, my new comrades...it seems I'm not as unrecognizable as I'd thought. Go ahead though good priest, take all you need," Hale stuttered out. "Though do save some for me, for I feel I'll need the comfort soon more than ever..."

    Turning on heel towards the sound of that lilting yet stoic voice, Hale came face to face with a piece of his past. Though also, he noted, perhaps a piece of his future, noticing the striking Breton warrioress just a few feet behind the indomitable Alice Psyrakon.

    Forget it you fool, she'll know the truth of you soon enough anyhow.

    Turing his attention back to his past, he saw that Alice had grown up in the years since they had been "separated" last. Of course that was to be expected, but Alice showed more than just her maturing of those days gone on their own. Hale had heard through the alto-grapevine about her marriage and of course her establishment as a figurehead amongst the reformed Stormcloak Army since the Second Great War. Seeing her look expectantly for a response -- and Hale of course could not fault her for that -- the bounty hunter stepped forward a pair of paces and hesitantly held out his gloved hand.

    "Ali..cough--Alice Psyrakon! It's been, ahh, well, it's been far too long," Hale sputtered out, his typically singsong-baritone voice cracking unexpectedly.

    "I, err, you were FAR too generous of my character in that book of yours...and whose your lovely compatriot behind you there??"

    Oh yeah, great job Loneshadow. That definitely wasn't an exceedingly awkward way to greet an old friend and not to mention charisma-dead way to flirt for the first time in months. Ranger-Captain of Evondale, indeed.

    Shaking away the sudden onset of memories of his true homeland, Hale threw his other hand up and stuck his thumb out towards the two men now behind him.

    "Ah, either way, looks like we've found ourselves a new adventuring group after all these years! And I might just have the information we need to get a decent head start..."
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    Fight for the lost
    Thoras grinned and leaned against the bar, signalling for the innkeeper's attention. "Two glasses of your finest wine, if you would." He dropped a small coinpurse on the worn wood of the bar. The nord ducked behind the counter for a moment, before emerging with a bottle and a pair of plain, though functional, goblets. Turning his attention back to the black furred khajiit, he asked "and just which word would you use?"
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    An Excellent Site Member
    Alice looked like a black mannequin as she stared at Hale, her eyes boring holes right through him. He had abandoned her when she needed him most and she wanted vengeance. She wanted him brought back to Whiterun in chains, made to kneel before her father and explain why he had caused the Imperial Legion's worst defeat in Skyrim since the Battle of Solitude. She knew full well she wouldn’t get that. Circumstances made that quite impossible and it would be far too draconian even if they didn't. It was a nice though for a few seconds but Hale didn't really deserve it. He had done her a horrible wrong and he would certainly answer for it but he didn't deserve to die for it. That wasn't how her family did things and it was never really what she wanted. Something terribly wrong had happened to her friend that day and all she's really wanted for the past five years was the truth. There were enough people with the wrong idea that she'd laid it out in her book. Page 248 she believed.

    Chapter 6: Setback and Despair

    The Battle of Windhelm was the low point of our rebellion and none of us saw it coming. For six months my father and I had been savaging Ulfric's armies. We had cobbled together our own Stormcloak units, the remnants of General Tullius' and Legate Rika's legions and a large number of civilian volunteers into an effective resistance against Ulfric's rule and we soon had an army with which to do battle. We had an eclectic group of warriors from all over Tamriel and many Stormcloaks not under dad's command defected to our cause as Ulfric's rule became increasingly draconian. We had fought and won major battles outside Riften, Falkreath and Dawnstar and had successfully sieged Fort Greymoor and Fort Snowhawk. The Stormcloak armies in central Skyrim had been bled dry and our identity as the 1st Skyrim Legion had been truly established. Dad even had a letter of commission from Emperor Titus Mede III. As grand a gesture as it sounds this was little more than permission to act. Cyrodiil had been able to spare virtually no reinforcements to Skyrim when the 3rd, 4th and 5th legions were at full strength. We were certain they wouldn't send help to a defeated army and a Stormcloak splinter group. The Emperor's letter confirmed this but it did give us a generous chest of gold and one critical boon. Legitimacy. We had the authority to rally the Legion survivors and end The Long Retreat. Our army was ready and more of Skyrim joined our cause every day. It was a pleasing mirror of the Stormcloak Rebellion. We felt ready to strike at Windhelm and end things a year before they started. It was to be our greatest triumph but it turned to disaster.

    The Skalds make it sound like one side or the other was swarmed over by the hordes of Oblivion. In one song we led a hundred thousand men to swarm Windhelm like locusts and in another the city was defended by fifty thousand brave souls. In truth the numbers are significantly more modest. We had assembled a force of eight thousand, the core of which comprised of two thousand Legionaries from The Long Retreat. Galmar Stone-Fist had an army of twelve thousand but many of them were conscripts and we had a significant advantage in cavalry. Hale Loneshadow, whom we met in the last chapter, had received a contingent of knights from his distant homeland of Evondale and were to back up the lancers that now bore my namesake. These forces gave us the confidence to engage Galmar's army while it was still massing and initially we succeeded.

    Our cavalry charge killed hundreds and got the enemy to pursue. Galmar kept his infantry in formation but his cavalry went ahead. We cut them down without trouble and led the enemy ranks into a smokescreen that concealed our numbers. The Stormcloaks slowed down and spread out into skirmish lines to avoid bunching up, just as we had predicted, and when they revealed themselves we charged in full force. Their front lines were absolutely smashed by our infantry and when Hale and I reengaged we had them in a double envelopment. A third of the army was killed or routed and our catapults, archers and mages had the rest suppressed. We didn't see how we could lose at this point and dad ordered us for a final charge. The Chosen Axemen and Hale's knights were twenty meters behind us, ready to back us up as soon as we opened a hole with our lances. In that minute we'd lost the battle. Garumn the Sorcerer was hidden in the formation and I was at the head of our wedge. Less than ten feet from impact Garumn stepped forth and unleashed a cloud of whizzing, stinging locusts. It was the same as being hit by a hundred crossbow bolts, stopping our formation cold and flinging us from our horses. My head was ringing when I realized I was on the ground and in some of the worst pain in my life. Six of the locusts had punched knuckle sized holes in me right through my leather legion armour and my spidersilk catsuit. My horse was dead, having taken four times as many locusts and had pinned my legs to the ground. I could see through the haze that I was surrounded by the corpses of men and horses and the Chosen were having at those of us that were moving. It was all I could do to get out from under my horse and prop myself up by a lance onto my knees, desperately searching for Hale and his knights to come help. When I finally saw them my heart sank. Hale was riding away at full gallop, screaming "Retreat! By the Angels of Evondale, retreat!" I tried to call out to him, to let him know we were still alive and needed help but no breath left my mouth. I could barely breathe and the holes in my stomach and left breast answered why, along with the two that had crippled my legs.

    At first I thought my friend was falling back with his unit for a countercharge but they were thirty yards behind him and still charging towards. He was running away. I couldn't believe my eyes and his knights couldn't either. Half of them stopped and turned to flee with him, assuming they didn't hear the order. The other half had seen and heard him and were determined to save us. They only got myself, Friga and Stefan out on their horses. All of ours were dead, and our entire army had seen what happened. Garumn led the Choesen Axemen and the rest of the Stormcloaks in a countercharge and our entire line collapsed. Half our army was killed or captured before we could escape. No one had caught up with Hale but everyone had seen him run. His exalted status, so far a beacon of courage, was the instrument of our doom when his courage failed. Dad was fully ready to hunt him down and kill him. His knights that had stayed to fight explained that a Lord of Evondale never runs from battle and those that do are brought back in chains. Dad asked them to bring him back on his knees.

    Even when my mother died I didn't feel the despair I was lost to that night. Alice's Lancers had been fifty five men that morning. Now we were three. Virtually all of my men were dead because I had led us into an ambush. I had six bloody holes in me and I was so feverish from the hellish poisons from the locusts that the healers told dad to prepare for my death. I was ready to die. I was certain I should already be dead. with my men. All I could do that night was cry and for the next week I was fighting a fever and constant nightmares. Hale had abandoned me when I needed him the most and if if weren't for braver men than him I would have been killed. When I asked dad why he didn't he couldn't say but Hale did ride past him during his flight. "I'm sorry my friend." were his words when dad yelled at him to get back and fight. His knights were thirty meters behind trying to catch up when they went from rallying around their leader to hunting him down. We never saw any of them again. Windhelm was the first and only major defeat of our army and thanks to the betrayal of my friend it was personal.

    In the long run, Windhelm wasn't the end of days we were all sure it was over the next few weeks. We eventually recovered from our losses and both sides were much more willing to negotiate when the Thalmor invaded Skyrim. The battle ultimately mattered little but like all the events in this book it changed me profoundly. It taught me that everyone has their breaking point. A battle they simply can't win and some of them even recognize it. That happened to Hale. No one's seen him in the last four years. There are plenty of people in that army that want him dead. Everyone there considers him a coward. I will get answers to this some day but misunderstand me correctly. Hale Loneshadow is no coward. He was one of the bravest men I ever knew and he performed extraordinary deeds for Skyrim and its people. Something terrible happened to him on the fields of Eastmarch. Something none of us know about and none of us could help him with. I hope I can find him someday and after I get my answers I'm going to help him. So Hale, if you ever read these pages, please come back. Answer for your crimes, accept your punishment and then let us help you. You can still be redeemed. It's not too late.

    That was one of the more controversial chapters in her book and despite her promise at the end all of her anger came back now that she had found him. She waited for him to stop babbling, folded her arms and waited some more. Letting the discomfort seep in. After a minute, she finally spoke.

    "You have no idea what to say to me do you?" She said icily. "That's okay, because I know exactly what to say to you. You ran away Hale Loneshadow. You know exactly what I'm talking about and you caused an entire army to rout. An army that gave you a place to belong to and friends who were ready to quite literally die for you. But you weren't ready to die for us and you betrayed me. If you weren't such a hero you'd be killed for wartime desertion. But we both know something happened to you in Eastmarch and you're going to tell me what it is. If you don't, you and I are going to find some nether wolves and you're going to tell them. Make your choice."
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    Hale Loneshadow

    Well-Known Member
    His hand went to the hilt of his bastard sword, for just a moment or two.

    Then Hale relaxed, some. Alice was right in the end, and he could not fault her for her innocent ignorance of his reasons. Indeed, Hale could hardly reckon his own rationale that overtook his psyche during that horrible day. Alice was correct in another regard; he had no answer for her. No justification could be made, in this realm or his own, for abandoning allies -- much less dear and trusted friends -- on the field of battle. Hale's shame had followed him in the long, dragging years since that penultimate fight, and although he had yet to find or even begin seeking the redemption he yearned for, Alice's words twisted in his guts like a poisoned mage knife. It was that clearer, easier reaction of anger that the former Outrider Knight reacted to.

    Hale's typically go-lucky demeanor fell, wearing that anger-ridden shame on his sleeve so to speak as he replied to his former friend and comrade in arms.

    "Then kill me here and now, Princess Psyrakon," murmured Hale as he snatched back the near-drained bottle of flin to take a final, deep swig of the calming liquid.

    "It was...a brutal day, for all of us. I--" he started, the words cutting off in his throat.

    fluff. Alice had brought him back to a moment in time that he had run from for too long now. For years, even before that manic battle where the former Evondalian had unexpectedly come face-to-face with his people's greatest foe. Even now, he could see the obliteration of nearly half of his kinsmen in Garumn's first fatal blast. Those men and women who he had been close with since his damned birth and hardcore training, lying in smoldering heaps along on a dank Eastmarch field. Hale could smell their burnt flesh and hair and blood, the necromantic-electrical magicks of Garumn stealing their very souls as he cut down his friends.

    fluff. You were still meant to be a guardian of the Light, Loneshadow. You failed utterly in that, and Alice knows it. And now they all know it.

    You have never had your people, your whole realm, slaughtered before you, and then see the one who enacted such brutality afore your eyes and murder more of your longtime compatriots!" Hale whisper-shouted at his former friend.

    "Garumn was the one responsible for the fall of my own homeland, damn you, and I just--I was meant to face him, promised my kin that I would, yet when it came to it...well, you're not the only noble family I have to answer to, and so I give you leave to slay me for your grievance, if you can. Otherwise," Hale gestured at the roof the Frostfruit, "Be grateful that there is somebody looking out for you where the failings of us lesser mortals fail you, and fall in with the rest of us degenerates, if you can stomach it."

    Giving a halfhearted wave at the shockingly blue-eyed Breton woman a few feet or so behind Alice then giving a look back at the Arkayan priest and Imperial merc behind him, Hale fell back on the short stone wall surrounding the hearth fire. Looking at the bottle that had, for years now, given him a halfhearted comfort, Hale threw it with a violence against the far wall of the inn, its blueish-grey ceramic shattering with a resounding crash. The final few drops remaining dripped down the wooden wall.

    "That goes for the rest of you," he grunted, "If any of you have the need to kill a punished coward, I say try your best. Many have. Otherwise, I say we gather and begin this quest that may give each of us a final redemption in turn, in any case."
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    An Excellent Site Member
    Hale's "Princess" remark hurt. Alice had always been and still was afraid of being judged. Of not living up to the expectations of the world around her. Or in feeding people's bad biases. Hale was right in her being from a noble family. Both her parents were born commoners but had earned their status as imperial nobility through their deeds in the Great War and with the help of friends who knew how to correctly manipulate their family trees. Alice and her siblings had inherited that noble status and that had always bothered her. She'd had an easy life as a child and never had to work for it. She was worried about being seen as arrogant and entitled and sometimes she acted that way. She really did feel she was better than most other people but that was because of her responsibility. Her goal had always been to lead and protect the common people. Not to be fawned over by them. Despite all she's accomplished in her life that need for approval has never gone away.

    "I didn't deserve that." She said, blinking back tears of pain. "How dare you accuse me of being some entitled brat? I've sacrificed more than you have and that's what's got you so ashamed. You watched a mad wizard burn your home to cinders and slaughter your people? My entire family was thrown out of our home after our people turned against us. Then they started a war against the only people to take us in when we got here. I spent four years killing my countrymen. People I grew up with, people I cared about. My mother and brother are dead because people they trusted betrayed them. You've never had to live with that. You've never had to kill your own friends."

    Alice was silently crying at this point. Just like an hour before, she wasn't ashamed. She just accepted those tears and let them fall. "I believed in you Hale. How can I ever do that again after what you did?" She walked up to him slowly and gently placed her small suit-wrapped hands into his much larger gloved ones, letting him cradle them to help him feel safer. "It really was Garumn wasn't it? He really messed you up bad. If I had to face Tarahil again I'd probably have the same reaction. At least you didn't have to kill Garumn inside your own mind while you were locked up in an asylum." She moved her hands up to his wrists and rubbed them gently. "Look at us. We're not gonna solve anything by hurling blame at each other and none of the people in this tavern came to watch us try. We both know why we showed up here tonight so how about we sit down and have some dinner with your new friends? We can settle accounts with each other after The Sickness is cured. Does that sound okay?"

    The barmaid had arrived with Alice's dinner and ale as if on cue. Alice sat Hale down when he was ready and then seated herself. The barmaid leaned in closer to talk to her. "You handed that well miss. You have my thanks. Are you by any chance a mother? Because you talked that man down as if you were one."
    "No, I'm not, and I don't plan to be one any time soon. But thank you for the compliment. I've worked with frightened soldiers and upset children before and both of them just need a little attention. Could I get some extra napkins by the way? I can't take my gloves off and I just want to be careful." The barmaid noticed the hands of her suit and smiled endearingly. "Of course. Those are cute by the way. Does your suit have feet too?" "It does actually." Alice said, smiling with acceptance. "I'm completely wrapped in stretchy spidersilk." "Well, you look very sweet." The barmaid said. "Enjoy." "Thank you." Alice said. "I will." The barmaid left her to enjoy her dinner and Alice gave an audible sigh of relief as she swallowd the first forkful of chicken and dumplings. That was the second close call she'd had tonight but for the moment things were okay. She could relax and then she could get some rest. From what her visions had shown her they would all need some.


    Active Member
    Tovir downed the offered drink, then eyed the dunmer. She wasn't sure if he was flirting, or simply being abundantly nosy. As for his question..."Flamboyant." She said, eyeing his outfit, "definitely the word that suits you the best." She ran a delicate, dark furred finger around the rim of her goblet. "So. What brings you to a little place like this?"

    As he was giving his answer, one of the recently arrived women confronted the dark haired man who'd been sitting with the two others. The khajiit woman's keen ears pricked up as they proceeded to have a quiet but energetic argument. She picked up some words, but they made little sense to her, and truly, Tovir had no interest in involving herself in whatever their quarrel was. Instead, she grabbed the bottle and refilled her glass, content to remain on the sidelines.


    Well-Known Member
    Sothas knelt by the bodies, his turquoise, reptilian eyes straining in the gloom to make out just what he and his companion had stumbled upon. Men in uniform, though poorly maintained and further destroyed by the manner of their deaths. "Bandits," he concluded, straightening to his full height.

    Beside him, his dunmer companion sighed impatiently. "So?" She demanded, "we're to be meeting in Rorikstead to discuss this plague, not investigating the deaths of a few dead highwaymen."

    The argonian's pebbly lips drew away from his ivory fangs as he grinned at his friend. "Your compassion is astounding. Truly." He commented, standing to his full height. The torch in his hand cast a flickering ring of light around the pair, revealing the massacre.

    Aylira pursed her lips. "Still more than they would have shown us," she countered. Then her brows creased as she noticed something beyond the torchlight. "What's that?"

    Several shadowy figures lay on or near the road, pools of a black viscous substance around them. The elf and her large friend exchanged disturbed looks. They had heard of 'shadow monsters' lurking in the countryside when they'd left Riften. Sothas's grin vanished, and Ayliira's hands drifted to the hilts of her weapons.

    "We should get moving." She urged, "now."

    Sothas nodded, looking away from the dead creatures and towards the braziers and moving dots of light that represented patrolling guards. The pair moved briskly towards the promise of safety, all their senses on alert.

    A short while later, both had cleared the gate checkpoint, though not without giving the guards there the scare of their life. It wasn't every night a huge argonian lumbered out of the dark at them. And his small, angry-looking companion hadn't done much to put them at ease.

    "They must really be desperate," Aylira remarked, "they didn't even tell us to stay out of trouble."

    Pausing just outside the door to the Frostfruit inn, Sothas gave her a wry look. "They probably knew it would just encourage you, Come on. Let's see if we're the only ones to arrive. Try to behave yourself."


    Sothas pushed the door open, and the odd pair stepped into the warmth of the inn. It seemed they were in fact not the only folks to have heard the call for aid, as the argonian noted several men in various armours and weapons, a black furred khajiit, talking to a rather uniquely garbed dunmer, and a small breton woman, who he almost ran over as he walked inside. "Excuse me," he said sidestepping her.

    Together, they approached the bar, with the dunmer going off to purchase food and drink while Sothas engaged the khajiit and elf. "Good evening. Am I correct in thinking that we have a common purpose?"

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