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    TheArgonianDrell

    Well-Known Member
    Aylira's smile did not reach her eyes. She was aware of the nord's foot on the leg of her stool, and how to get to the artery that ran up that leg, towards his groin. "Maybe I'm doing this for free? Maybe I want to see if you're going to be able to keep yourself under control, or if you're nothing more than a liability?" She reached out and flicked the rim of his tankard with the tips of her fingers. "Maybe I'm trying to see if we should leave you here, to drown in ale, or if I should kill you right now?" Her expression hardened, and despite having threatened someone at least a foot taller and almost twice her weight, her breathing was calm, her body was tense, ready for action, but maintained the facade of boredom, as if she wasn't in the least worried about what might happen. She could feel her heartbeat quicken, readying herself for sudden violence.

    "You wouldn't be my first, you know. Time was, the imperials paid nicely for the head of a stormcloak captain." Though her face showed no indication of it, Aylira was privately glad that Sothas was not in the tavern to see her like this. She'd hidden this side of herself away, gone along with the argonian, watching his back, helping people in need. 'And look where that's gotten you, you silly fuzzy kitten'. She thought to herself. Plodding along with a bunch that have so many secrets and doubts weighing down on them they can barely make it a day without running and hiding, or fighting in the street over some fool notion like 'honour'. 'And here I am in the middle of it all, because the only person in the world who considers you a friend has a pathological need to help everyone.'
     

    Telleroftales

    Well-Known Member
    Solun did not leave the tavern to watch the brawl between Alice and Liudolf. His mind was occupied with wondering just how, exactly, he'd been stupid enough to let himself get into a command situation again. The others seemed to have naturally accepted him as the one in charge. 'They don't know how poorly it went the last time' he thought grimly. The Long Retreat had been perhaps one of the greatest disgrace's the empire had suffered in recent years. Solun and thousands of other legionnaires had lived it. But they hadn't been the ones in charge. Hadn't been the one who lead men into ambush after ambush, hounded by Ulfric's armies, cut off from friendly forces. Growing more desperate as weeks turned into months.

    He shook his head, forcing the memories out of his mind, and looked up at a commotion, not where the orc and dunmer were, but to the door, where a group of people were carrying the limp body of Alice Psyrakon to a nearby room. Solun stood, and went to the door, but it was too crowded for him to see much but from what he could hear, the woman was in dire straits. He waited outside as the locals filed back into the common room, and stepped inside as Alice rasped words at the breton priest. Though her clothes had been changed, and her wounds tended, she was pallid in a way the Solun had seen too many times before. "Do what you can for her," he said shortly. "Be ready to move at dawn."
     

    Rafen

    Well-Known Member
    Beren had just begun to settle in for a long vigil, though he had no clue that Alice would survive the next hour, never mind the night. She stirred slightly, her eyelids fluttered, but she ultimately failed to wake. So it was quite the surprise when she began to whisper, a pitiful, rasping noise, that made Beren wince in sympathy for the woman. She managed six words, a rattling breath between each one. The first was his name, the others were what he took to mean as her last wishes. He took her hand in his, though he wasn't sure she could feel the rough calluses on his palm against her skin. "Hang on, my child. Arkay is with you. With his aid, you might just see your husband and Whiterun again." Beren didn't add that it would be an uphill battle,
    every step.

    'Why do you aid her?' The persistent little voice in the back of his mind was back, spewing its poison once again. Beren frowned. 'Your comrades, friends, brothers in arms, died because of her.' That wasn't quite true. The captain had become unusually harsh in the months leading up to that fateful day. If they hadn't crossed the stormcloaks, someone else would have had a bone to pick with them. Something moved in the doorway, and Beren frowned. Had that been the outline of a person, or had the events of the day worn him out more than he thought?

    A moment later, Solun stepped inside. The imperial looked at Alice, his face impassive, before telling him to do what he could for her, then informing him they'd be leaving come morning. Beren stood "are you mad? She can't open her eyes, never mind walk!"
     

    Telleroftales

    Well-Known Member
    Solun turned to glare at the priest. "Then figure something out, priest. If she cannot come with us, then she'll have to stay behind. Whether or not you come with us, is entirely up to you." The words were harsh, but Solun knew that making compromises for a single person, regardless of her status, was not something they could do. Despite his feelings about the high king, the rebellion, and stormcloaks in general, this sickness was a much greater threat. Wasting time because of a single wounded member of their party was beyond foolish. He turned his back on Beren, and stopped when he saw the breton woman, looking paler than usual, and clearly disturbed. Closing the distance in half a dozen strides, he grabbed her shoulder, steadying her. "What is it?"
     

    fellowknight

    The Devil In The Details
    Liudolf snickered at the dunmer's decidedly open threats, a pitiful wheezing effort, before draining his mug and sloppily refilling it. It was finally starting to work its magic now. A smothering, cozy warmth nestled behind his eyes and in his stomach, spreading its embrace to the rest of his tortured body. His pulsing migraine was hushed and his bruises and cuts were soothed to tolerance, but nothing for his swelling face and throat, or the concerning amount of blood he was leaking. Even still, he wasn't nearly drunk enough to miss the split-second scowl from the dunmer, like how a swordsman might grimace before readying a swing. Even when the drunkard orc smashed a bottle on the counter, her eyes never left Liudolf's person. She was serious after all.

    "Maybe, maybe, maybe.." He drew a lazy finger around the rim of his mug, giving his warped reflection a sideways glance. "Maybe you should talk it over with your lizard lover. He seems.. calm and reasonable, gentle too. He send you to do his charity work?" He chuckled again, coughing up a spittle of blood and washing it down with the last of his ale. "Doesn't pay well, no glory in it either."

    The tavern door slammed open just then, the spectators returning in a chaotic rush, clamoring over one another and shouting and shoving tables aside. They were carrying someone to a room, guided by the priest. 'Gods, she's barely breathing!' one declared. 'Don't drop her, you fool!' another hissed. He stared on as they squared her away with care and dispersed, the priest taking a sort of watch over her. Alice was alive but it was only a lingering death, Liudolf was sure of it. The beating she'd taken, how her skull cracked on the ground.. There was no way she'd live to see dawn, let alone the end of this Sickness. And the villagers seemed none too joyed by it, sending their many pointed glares and dirty stares his way, blaming and shaming him from afar.

    He scoffed and raised up to snatch another bottle from under the bar, having to practically wrestle it away from the barkeep. He ran a long glance over the tavern's hall as he bit out the cork and swigged the dark, savory liquid. "Maybe you could let the fanclub in on the action? Or our gutless leader," he gestured to the aged-Imperial ducking into Alice's room. "..he might have the spine for a backstab. Imps are good at that sort of thing."

    Hooking his boot on the stool's footrest, he swiftly tugged her closer and closer, until their knees touched. His voice was a low, wheezing mumble. "Or.. maybe you make a habit of teasing your prey too much, too close. Killers don't give killers second-chances. But f*** it.." He topped off his mug and slid the bottle over to the dunmer, guard lowered and body relaxed. His eyes drifted down to hers in a cocktail of anguish and mockery. "You gonna drown with me, or you gonna cut me loose?"
     
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    Harkatti

    Sorceress Supreme!
    Katrina jerked back, violently, as the imperial grabbed her. For a moment her mind swirled with possibilities of retaliation, escape, but then she focused, remembering that she'd come back to the tavern explicitly to get help. "I..." she trailed off as her eyes drifted to the room that the priest had brought Alice's broken body into. She felt a twinge of guilt at being unable to help the only member of their group that had been halfway decent towards her. Now, it seemed like the despite his best efforts, there was little more that could be done for her. Aware that the imperial, Solun, was still watching her expectantly, she pointed out the door. "I need to show you something. Outside." Without waiting for his agreement, she stepped back into the chill night.
     

    FelidaePrime

    Active Member
    Tavir watched impassively as the priest got the surrounding villagers to lift the imperial, barking at them to be careful as one of the men nearly dropped her entering the inn. Now that she was gone, she stepped close to Allesan. "The name's Tavir. Do you want.." she trailed off as the breton woman staggered from around the corner before lurching up the stairs and talking to their leader. After a short exchange of words, she turned on her heel, and Solun followed. "Hmph. Crazy's acting a little crazier than usual." The observation was a cruel one, seeing as she'd only known Katrina for a few hours, but it was clear the breton was unstable. Unstable being the kindest word that popped into her head. She shook off the urge to follow the pair, and turned back to her newest companion. "What would you say to a drink while we wait for our fearless leader to get back?"
     
    Allesan watched the group transport the limp imperial woman back inside. He did not know her but he found himself hoping she would wake again. The knight had seen enough death to know that very few people survived wounds like hers, even with immediate care. Whatever the priest had done had looked impressive, but he didn't see any change come over her. Before he could get a closer look, he ordered the bystanders to scoop her up, and the group retreated back inside. The khajiit woman who'd been speaking with him introduced herself as Tavir, and invited him inside for a drink after making a disparaging remark about the breton who led the imperial leader of the group out of the inn. "I would not say no to a drink...Tavir."
     

    Telleroftales

    Well-Known Member
    Katrina was moving at a brisk pace the moment Solun stepped out after her, leading him around, to the side of the inn. The former imperial officer took a moment to look around, at the empty houses, darker shapes against the moonless night. A sense of unease gripped him, and he shrugged, trying and failing to dismiss it as the stresses of once again being in command. 'That's not it, and you know it,' he chastised himself, 'what can make more than half a village up and leave, not coercion and if it is magic, it's none I've ever heard of.' He gripped the hilt of his gladius, the firm, leather wrapped wood giving him a small measure of reassurance.

    Katrina hesitated at the corner, fidgeting with her gloved fingers. Any urgency she'd possessed when coming to get him had faded, replaced with reluctance. Solun slowed his pace. Something wasn't right. "It's this way," she said, pointing to her right. "I'm...I'm not sure how to describe it."

    Solun stepped past her, and immediately saw what she wanted him to see. An upside down pyramid, formed of three fist sized orbs connected by three lines. The sigil, for lack of a better word, glowed a faint, sickly green. "You just...found it here?"

    Katrina nodded, keeping well back from the wall. "I don't know what it is, or how it got there, but perhaps it has something to do with the villagers up and leaving."

    "Perhaps," Solun murmured. Something else had claimed his attention. A soft, soothing noise. He looked at Katrina, "do you hear that?"

    She shook her head, frowning. "Hear what?"

    Solun said nothing, straining his ears, hoping to discern the source of the melody. Was it...coming from the wall itself? That couldn't be. But the sigil on the wall...it almost seemed to be calling to him. To him specifically.

    "Solun!" He turned his head at the shout, and saw that Katrina had stepped even further back. Or had he gotten closer to the sigil? "What are you doing?" The breton demanded.

    He knew he should have been concerned, should have kept well away from the thing that had just appeared on the building, but even as those thoughts drifted into his mind, they faded away, replaced by the soothing song. He heard Katrina shout again, but a pall had come over his vision.

    'Solun...'
    the voice seemed to be neither male nor female, and echoed inside his head. 'What are you Solun? Not a soldier, not any longer. Not a mercenary either, not really.'

    "Who are you?" Solun demanded, still blinded, unable to move more than his head.

    'You led young men to slaughter, over and over, and now you're too frightened to return home and face their families.'

    "No..." Solun growled, not wanting to admit what he knew to be true.

    'Oh,yes,' the disembodied voice whispered, 'you're no hero. In fact, you're no more than a deserter who's running from his past misdeeds.'

    "No!"
    Something clamped down on his forearm, and he spun to face it, and as he did, his vision cleared. He was facing Katrina. Lightning danced on the fingers of one hand, and her eyes were wide. "What-" Solun's head pounded, as though someone were banging on a war drum inside his skull. "What happened?"

    She shook her head, "you touched that...that thing on the wall, then you started mumbling to yourself and shaking. I thought you might collapse or hurt yourself, so I grabbed you, tried to shake you out of it."

    Solun pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes shut as the headache subsided. "Thank you.I...I think I'm alright now."

    "Is that so?" Katrina eyed him warily, "then maybe you could sheathe that." She nodded to his left side.

    Aware that his right hand was cramping badly, Solun glanced down and was shocked to notice that he'd drawn a third of his gladius from his sheathe. He didn't even remember reaching for his sword. Shaken, he took one more look at the sigil, before saying, "let's head back inside." Together, the pair returned to the inn, pale, shaken, and silent.
     

    FelidaePrime

    Active Member
    Tavir grinned at the handsome Breton, and led him inside. She'd been expecting a quiet,boring night. But with the knight around, it seemed things might turn out a little more 'exciting' than she'd thought. Not that she was about to complain...then the door to the inn opened and Solun and Katrina walked in. No, they staggered in, looking like they'd come face to face with a horde of ghosts. "Oblivion's gates! What happened to you two?"
     

    TheArgonianDrell

    Well-Known Member
    Aylira's dagger was in her hand and the tip pressed against the nord's inner thigh in the moment he pulled her close. A flick of her wrist, and she'd open up an artery. "You've never met a killer like me," she growled, letting the tip of her blade dig into the fabric of his trousers. She glanced towards the retreating imperial, then towards the patrons of the inn, who were shooting dark looks towards the big nord. "And what are stormcloaks good at, I wonder? Shouting about Skyrim being theirs, but whining when no one else wants wants to join their little uprising?"

    She sneered, looking at the sorry state of the man. "I think I'd be doing you a favour, putting you down." She flicked the dagger away. "And I'm not in the business of doing favours." She stood as Sothas stepped into the building. The argonian looked from Liudolf to Aylira, and cocked his head, an unspoken question. The dunmer shook her head, before snatching the bottle off the counter. "We'll call this a good faith payment."
     

    Morbidbread

    Fight for the lost
    Thoras listened to the orc go on, surprised such a seemingly brutish individual could be so attuned to the state of things. Of course, it was more than likely the ale that had him babbling on about damned souls and something coming. It was all stuff he'd heard before, even prior to taking the job. It was often said that every crisis had its doomsayers. And it appeared Unkmarog was the unlikely individual who'd taken that mantle.

    Nevertheless, Thoras nodded politely, while keeping an eye on the quiet, intense conversation taking place between his fellow dinner and the bloodied nord. A sudden movement on the stormcloak's part shattered the tense calm. Several patrons, Thoras included, reached for weapons, while his drinking partner bellowed and shattered a bottle. He quickly spun to face the orc, holding his hands out placatingly, and this missing the return of Solun and Katrina. "Remain calm, my friend. I'm sure our companions are more than capable of sorting out their own... disagreements."
     

    HurrHobo

    forum hobo
    Unkmarog was about to unleash hell upon the tavern, but Thoras's quick and mature thinking put a stop to an escalation. The steaming frustration started to fade away as the drunk orc eyed his dunmer friend up and down, the broken bottle still in his hand.
    "Yeah," he snorted and dropped the bottle. "Yeah, yeah, yeah... I guess you're right... You're alright..."
    Unk gave Thoras a small but a tired smile and gently patted his shoulder as he was wobbling towards the front door. He bumped into a few patrons on his way, whether it was accidental or not, no one could know for sure. Before he reached for the doorknob, he glanced over his right shoulder.
    "Hey, pups. I'm going to take a crap and get some sleep. Don't *hic* kill each other."
    He opened the door, wobbled outside and then slammed it shut behind him.
     

    Telleroftales

    Well-Known Member
    Solun heard the khajiit woman's exclamation, but he was still attempting to come to terms with...whatever it was he and Katrina had just encountered. He brushed past the orc on his way out, past the dunmer woman and her argonian companion, and the bleeding nord, until he was at the center of the room. "Your attention, please. Any of you that wish safe passage to Markarth should be ready to leave at first light. " He spoke up, so that even Unkmarog, already out the door, would be able to hear him. "To my companions, I suggest you get your rest while you can."

    The next day
    The former legionnaire was outside, awaiting his comrades as the rising sun burned away the early morning fog. He'd slept poorly, his mind plagued with nightmares of battles past. He looked around, watching as the villagers of Karthwasten gathered their belongings and prepared to make their journey to Markarth. The mystery of what had happened in the village still nagged at him. There was no promise whatever strange madness had taken over two thirds of the folk in the village wouldn't happen in the City of Stone. But it was safer behind city walls than it was anywhere else. Probably.
     
    The drink he'd been sharing with Tavir was cut short by the drunken orcs sudden exclamation and the reappearance of the Imperial and his fellow breton. Both looked badly shaken. So badly, on fact, Allesan instinctively reached for his sword. However, when the man, Solun, spoke his voice was firm and in control. He urged the villagers and his comrades to get some rest for the road ahead.


    The next morning dawned, and Allesan found himself filled with a restless energy. They were preparing to move on, moving forward meant progress...perhaps towards finding the vampire he'd spent nearly a decade searching for. Stepping outside, he saw their imperial leader watching the villagers prepare to depart. "A new day dawns, but you seem disturbed. If I am not overstepping, may I ask what troubles you?"Ahead, the gates to the village were pulled open, and the former inhabitants of Karthwasten began to move.
     

    Rafen

    Well-Known Member
    Beren spent the night watching the young imperial, ensuring she kept breathing. That, and fuming at their leader's callous attitude. When dawn came, he rounded up several volunteers, most of whom had helped bind Alice's wounds and bring her inside the previous evening. Together, they constructed a bier out of an old cart, padded with cushions and straw and the occasional oak. As they left Karthwasten behind, Beren touched the stormcloak hero's throat, feeling a faint, thready pulse. "Keep breathing, girl. We'll handle the rest." As he spoke, he channeled a trickle of healing energy into her body.
     

    FelidaePrime

    Active Member
    Tavir walked beside the bier, carried by volunteers from the village. The day was bright and good for travel, but the khajiiti mercenary was in a foul mood. Their self-appointed leader's announcement had cut her evening short, and she'd not had time to seal the deal with her handsome knight. So her mood was something less than stellar, as they took the winding road towards Markarth. Besides, she'd heard stories of Forsworn ambushes being commonplace throughout the Reach. Yet she hadn't seen so much as a single antlered helmet. "Anyone else find the lack of screaming savages strange?" She peered into the cart with the comatose woman inside it. "What about you, dead girl?" When the woman expectedly didn't respond, Tavir nodded, "yeah. Me too."
     

    Telleroftales

    Well-Known Member
    Before they set out, the breton who'd joined them the previous night asked what was troubling him. The events of the last night came back to him, and he repressed a shudder. He shook his head, "I'd rather not. No offense." The former legionnaire joined the throng of people heading out of Karthwasten. The breton's quiet intensity made him uneasy. He worried the man might have ulterior motives for joining them. No one simply walked out of the night to join with an adventuring group.

    As they walked onwards, the unnatural silence began to grate on his nerves. It was a well known fact that the Forsworn preyed on merchants and travelers on the road. Yet, despite the tempting target a caravan of unnarmed villagers and a few sellswords, not so much as a pebble was tossed their way. The khajiit woman brought up what he was thinking. "Stay sharp. Just because we can't see them, doesn't mean we aren't there."
     

    TheArgonianDrell

    Well-Known Member
    Sothas rose early, more by habit than necessity. He knew full well that the others would be readying themselves and more than likely, be impatient to leave. And he had no intention of making them wait for him. Or his less than cordial companion. He left his room, nodding to those leaving or making ready to leave the inn. He didn't see Alice or her priest caretaker, but assumed they were already outside, with the crowd of villagers gathering their things and preparing to leave. He wasn't sure how they would safely move such a gravely injured woman through the mountains. 'Very carefully, I suppose.'

    He knocked on Aylira's door. A moment later, it swung inwards, revealing the dunmer woman, armed and ready for travel. Her gaze slipped past him, to the occupants of the tavern. He knew she was searching for the stormcloak. 'That will be trouble later on. I can all but guarantee it.'

    Not finding her desired target, she focused on him. "Is it time to go?"

    "It is," he confirmed.

    They left the building and joined the procession of folks headed towards Markarth. For some time, the procession continued on in near silence, save for the occasional comment, cough or curious child's questions, quickly hushed by wary adults. Both seasoned mercenaries knew the reasons for the tension in the faces of the villagers. "Strange. Everyone says this area is so dangerous, but I haven't seen so much as a feathered headdress."

    "That's not a bad thing. From what I hear, Forsworn are formidable foes."
     

    fellowknight

    The Devil In The Details
    Liudolf resisted a knee-jerk when the little dunmer pressed her blade into his thigh, twisting the point and hissing in his ear about her killer instincts. How she'd be doing him a favor, how pointless the stormcloaks had been, and he knew, how much she was resisting the urge to gut him here and now.

    It was fairly obvious that's what he'd wanted. Leaving himself open and exposed, getting so blind-drunk the pain would blur into bliss, and pulling an armed, cold-hearted killer into his grasp. Maybe it was the people in the tavern that swayed her, the terrified and wide-eyed children, the distraught families angered by his brutal display in the mud. He'd die of old age before any one of them rose to challenge him, and she knew it. Only a killer had the heart for it. Truth be told, Liudolf didn't give a damn what kind the little elf was, what category she fit into. He knew what she was made of now, she couldn't hide it anymore.

    The only difference is how long she'd wait to wet her blade, and who's life it would cost.

    The next morning, Liudolf stirred from atop a dirty pile of straw in the stables, confusion and pain writhing his expression as a horse licked his face. He'd remembered the elf took his bottle, and he claimed another from some fool or other, but.. As he unsteadily rose to his feet, his body aching in protest, throat and face swollen and temples throbbing, it struck him. He'd been determined to take on a watch, dragging his pack out with him and armoring up, positioning his polearm axe longways across the wooden awning and taking up his knife in the other hand.

    Wouldn't have done him much good, he knew. Even still, he'd survived the night and missed some of the morning rush, giving him time to take a piss and dunk his swollen head in the cooling waters of the horse trough. He threw back what he hoped was a healing potion and was up-and-addem when the villagers came to fetch the horses and his cart, albeit with hesitation. After helping them load up and tie down he marched on with the others, Griever's Reach resting across his shoulders with each arm looped over the top, one hand leading the horse-drawn cart.

    He heard the others voicing a clear unease over the eerie silence and unusually absent Forsworn, a sentiment echoed all throughout the group it seemed. Liudolf just snorted as he gazed through the sparse treelines and craggy ridges. Looking for ghosts he knew wouldn't appear, yet they'd left the refugees shaking in their boots. Ridiculous.

    "They're meat and bone. They'll die as easy as any man, or woman.." He at side-eyed Aylira, catching the same death-glare from last night. "What comes in the dark, when the fires die out.. That's what worrying is for. We make good time, that won't happen. Keep up, everyone. Light's always dying." He tugged the reins and led the cart ahead, taking a guard in the left flank. He couldn't help but spare a look into Alice's bier, her resting face, fur-swaddled and shadowed by the careful watch of the priest who'd saved her. Liudolf simply nodded to the man, knowing that one way or another, the ex-commander wouldn't be strong enough to make this journey.

    She'd die, and drag the rest of them down trying to save her.
     
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