Page 5 of 6
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2024 12:49 pm
Sellia and Gwindor
"So you are staying," Sellia said - this time a statement, not a question, as if reassuring herself of that fact.
"Good. That's good. I'm glad." Sellia started to bite her lip, the remnants of a human gesture, then felt the sharpness of her teeth and thought better of it. Shyly, she added, "I suppose you... do not have a place to stay yet?"
Gwindor shook his head. "No, that has yet to be established. I had hoped someone local might be willing to direct me. What do you think is best?"
With lip-biting off the table, Sellia had need of an alternate nervous gesture, and her hands twisted together self-consciously. "Well, I actually... I have a little cottage in Rivenspire. I've been away a great deal lately. It was my home before. Before I was... turned. Into this. It didn't feel much like home anymore afterward. I've been thinking, though. Perhaps it could again? It's a small place. There would be room for your garden, though. And room for my animals. And room for..." She glanced away, suddenly anxious about meeting his eye. "Room for you, if you would like."
When she dared to look back, he was smiling.
"Yes," he said. "That would be lovely. I would like that very much."
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2024 6:06 pm
She sat by the stream, alone, inspecting as much of her wounds as she could without removing any layers of clothing. Ineffectual, but removing them wouldn't do much at this point. She should have been making a poultice to draw the poison out of her body, but she was out of her usual herbs. And most problematically, none of the herbs in this world were familiar to her.
How was she going to fix this? By the heat, Nairn could tell that she needed to treat it now. But how?
She knew she could ask Anakita or Tempest for healing. She could. But she also couldn't. Still, she could ask Anakita for assistance...
The Norn slunk through the tents, avoiding people, until she found her friend the Ranger.
"Anakita. Do you have any linseed, nettle and camphor? I need some."
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Thu Feb 15, 2024 7:22 pm
"Lure him out?" she repeated. Of course. The Dres wouldn't be in the same place now that his slave boy had been stolen away. He'd be defensive. In hiding.
But...if he was anything like who she thought he was, then he'd probably want the boy back. Just to kill him.
"What if we pretend we know what happened to the boy? Like we know where he went or something? But I guess we would still need to find his hideout in order to find the evidence we're looking for."
The argonian fell silent, her brain working on the problem.
"Wait. He's probably still wanting to talk to the Duke, right? We could cover ground near the manor, put out word that the Duke still wants to meet...and...wait?"
As it turned out, greed was still an excellent motivator. She spotted him coming out from behind a bluff and signalled Ulga. The Dres spotted her as she did so. Their eyes met. He ran. In the end, neither his feet nor his money could save him.
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2024 5:16 pm
"Sure!" Anakita said cheerfully.
She started rummaging around in her pack and produced a small container of camphor, followed by a few handfuls of dried nettles...
She ruefully held up a chewed up bag and shook it, revealing the contents were all gone.
"So, on the up side, we've found out that raptors eat linseed. That's pretty interesting, right? But I guess I'll need to see if I can find some more. I'll be back. Oh..."
She took a step away, then casually knocked the ground, conjuring a small stream. In a stage whisper, she added, "I will just leave this here. In case. In case someone decides they want to heal themselves in an easier way while I am looking for the linseed. Goodbye."
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2024 5:47 pm
A change came over Ulga as they fought the slaver. She was different than Fira had ever seen her - cold, efficient, ruthless. It was a side that slavers uniquely brought out. After the things she had seen in Morrowind, she was no longer willing to give them any quarter.
After the deed was done, Ulga began methodically searching the body. She found a number of contracts, and quickly thumbed through them, dividing them into piles. Those that referred to illegal slaving operations in Pact territory would be forwarded to King Jorunn in Skyrim - she was under no illusions that there was much he could do, but at least he would know. Those referring to Telvanni territory, she would destroy; there was no authority to report them to, and if any of the enslaved mentioned therein had managed to escape, no evidence would remain that could lead to them ending up back in bondage.
"Got it," she said finally, holding up a freshly creased piece of parchment. "Signed by Esten himself. Once Casimir sees this, he's going to be in a world of trouble."
There was one more piece of paper on the stack, thicker than the others. Even though they had found what they were looking for, Ulga looked at it in the name of thoroughness.
"Oh," she said. "Oh my. This is interesting."
She passed the parchment to Fira. It specified the kidnapping of a large number of Bosmer for enslavement. That alone was not entirely unusual. Argonians and Khajiit were typically favored for forced labor, but when push came to shove, the slavers would take whoever they could get. The part that had caused the Orc's eyebrows to raise was the instruction for what to do with them. Normally, the vast majority of slaves were used for farming or mining, while a handful might serve other purposes, perhaps as household servants, or in a brothel, or as fodder for mage experiments. The fate of the Bosmer was to be none of these, however. Instead, they were to be stripped of their money, weapons, and belongings, and stranded in Glenumbra. The contract holder was stipulating the intentional creation of these elf refugees.
"This could help Farsight's cause," Ulga mused, slipping back to using her friend's pseudonym with practiced Twin Lamps ease. "If he can present this as evidence that the 'crisis' here is largely manufactured, surely people will see that fighting is pointless - for cost reasons alone, if not for compassion. I'll send this to him. And look... there's a name. This contract is signed by a Keladin Sakar, and gives an address in Camlorn for correspondence. If we can take him out, it probably won't definitively end the crisis, but it should take down the aggression level significantly to have one of the big instigators out of the way."
Ulga then quickly finished going through the slaver's effects. The Orc kept the dead Dunmer's signet ring and house sigil necklace - these would be sent to King Casimir and King Jorunn respectively as proof of the provenance of the contracts. The rest of his jewelry she handed to Karolas, along with a coin purse containing a few hundred gold - mere pocket change compared to the profits the contracts reflected, but the rest was surely in a bank out of reach. It was something.
"This will buy some people passage to Black Marsh or Elsweyr," she instructed - posthumously the least the slaver could do as restitution to those he had wronged.
"Will do," Karolas agreed. "You've got the boy?"
Ulga nodded. "I'll see that he's cared for."
"Pleasure doing business with you both," he said, nodding to both Ulga and Fira. "Farewell, until our paths cross again."
They returned to the Tiefling camp.
"I need to take a quick trip home," Ulga said. "The longer we linger here with the boy, the more chance of something going wrong. He's too visible here. He'll be safer as one more Argonian face in Stormhold."
Much as she hoped the only person who would recognize the child was dead, she couldn't be certain of that, and connection to a recent corpse - even that of one who was considered an outlaw by Glenumbran standards - surely wouldn't help his future.
"I'll try not to be long. Thank you for all you've done."
Shortly after Ulga left with the child, another group showed up - not Melar Sadus making good on his dinner invitation, but six hooded and cloaked figures.
"We are looking for Drina," one of them told Fira when she arrived to greet the newcomers and size them up. The voice had the unmistakable echoing quality of a Daedra.
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sat Feb 17, 2024 6:19 pm
Ulga gra-Shatul and Sesscoo
As the Orc made her way to the wayshrine, a figure trailed in her wake, staying in the shadows and out of sight. No one questioned her about the wrapped bundle in her arms, but when she arrived on the Stormhold side and had started walking away, a priest stopped her.
"Excuse me, ma'am," he said sheepishly. "You didn't pay the correct toll. You're short seventy-three gold."
"Oh," Ulga said, surprised. "I must not have been paying attention. Sorry. It's been a long day."
She counted the balance of what she owed into the priest's hand.
The shadow behind her, unnoticed by them both, again blended in with the scenery.
When Sesscoo woke up, he wasn't in pain anymore. For a moment, he considered what this meant. Perhaps he was dead. He had decidedly mixed feelings about that concept. If not dead, then he must have been lying unconscious for a long time after his beating, to have healed so thoroughly. If so, he would surely be in even more trouble now for being lazy. He would have to use extreme caution.
Carefully, his eyes opened, barely slits at first so he could take in his surroundings without doing something that would get him in trouble. From the wall beside him, he thought he was in a mud house. That was tremendously reassuring. He didn't know how or why, but that meant he was in Black Marsh - as far as he knew, the only place where these traditional dwellings could be found.
There were people around. Sesscoo hastily squeezed his eyes shut again. He shuddered. He couldn't face the thought of the whip again, couldn't bear it...
"Good morning," someone said.
Sesscoo made a panicked noise. He hastily put his hands over his eyes. That way there was no way he could be accused of the disrespect of looking at someone.
"What's your name?"
It was a trick. A trap to make him misbehave so they could beat him again. That was why he was still alive, why he was healed. Just the sort of game his master liked - pretend to be kind, only to spring the trap and claim disloyalty and disobedience. He kept his hands over his eyes and his jaws firmly clamped shut.
This voice was different. Argonian. And, more importantly, not that of an adult. This was another child. Sesscoo cautiously opened his eyes.
The girl was smiling at him.
"Hi," she repeated. "My name is Jamira. What's yours?"
He looked around hastily. None of the adults were around now.
"Sesscoo," he whispered, so only she could hear.
"Hi, Sesscoo," she said. "You're going to be staying with us. I live in this house with my mom and my dads, and my brother and sister, Izeel and Ribbons. They'll be nice to you." She glanced around. "I didn't think you'd be by yourself when you came."
Sesscoo whispered again.
"Okay," Jamira said, confused. "I won't tell anyone. What do you like to do for fun?"
Sesscoo had absolutely no answer to that - not out of caution this time. He truly had no idea what leisure time meant. Work consumed his days from before dawn till long after the sun set.
"That's okay," Jamira said. "We can show you what we like to do. Come out into the yard."
Sesscoo followed shyly. At first he was startled by the guar, but they seemed docile enough. There was a low stone and wood palisade fence around the property, but it seemed to be mostly for the purpose of keeping the guar in. A person could easily climb it. That was good, for when he needed to come and go.
He noticed two lamps hung high side by side next to the gate.
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2024 5:09 pm
It took a significant amount of persuasion and cajoling from Jamira for Sesscoo to believe her that he was not expected to jump to work around the farm. She had to gently pry his hands from the broom before he would go sit in the grass with her to make flower chains, which was completely new to him and his efforts were clumsy and fumbling.
After a short time, they were called for a meal, which was served on a stone terrace outside the house. Sesscoo thought he now knew what to do - he had served the food at table plenty of times - but he was stopped short again when he saw the food was already on the table in pots and dishes that the family would pass. What was expected of him? It was unclear.
He was given a whirlwind round of introductions, but the only names he remembered were Izeel and Ribbons - he had heard about them already from Jamira's friendly chatter. The presence of the Khajiit puzzled him; the old man was clearly a slave, based on the scars and the bearing, but he was seated at the table with the others.
Sesscoo usually ate by himself in the kitchen, but he wasn't sure where the kitchen was, and everyone seemed to be expecting him to do something - and it didn't appear to be to leave. Sometimes the master had him sit on the floor to eat, when there wasn't a convenient room to banish him? That was probably it. He crouched into a seated position on the stone, hoping that perhaps some spare leftovers would be directed his way, even though he hadn't done any work yet to earn it.
The other Argonian children didn't join him. They sat at the table too.
There was an extra stool. Jamira motioned him toward it.
Sesscoo panicked utterly.
There was no way. This had to be a trick. There was no way they would let him sit at the table. He was going to get in trouble again. He put his hands over his eyes again and started to rock helplessly, torn between an order he knew was a trap and disobeying it.
"It's alright," the Dunmer said.
Sesscoo stiffened when the Dark Elf spoke, but bafflingly his voice remained kind.
Lias was smiling at him, but with his head still buried in his hands, Sesscoo couldn't see it. "You don't have to sit at the table today if you don't want to. We'll talk about it another time. I'll come sit with you instead." He picked up his plate and utensils, and lithely dropped to a seated position across from Sesscoo on the floor.
Never, in his life, had Sesscoo eaten with a Dunmer. He would have been beaten to death for even considering such a challenge to his station. But this seemed to satisfy the family's expectations. They started their meal, while Lias put food on Sesscoo's plate, and then his own. The Dunmer and the former Argonian slave ate in silence - Sesscoo preferred it that way - but it felt companionable. Nothing had ever confused Sesscoo that much in his life.
The food was delicious. In deference to Sesscoo's malnourishment, the meal was simple and easy to digest, a mild fish stew and bread. It was an Argonian recipe, and the first bite took him back in time. He barely remembered his parents, but he remembered sitting at the table in his grandmother's house, eating fish stew with his brother. He hadn't thought of that memory in years, and he was glad to have it back.
Gradually, he decided he was fine with Lias sitting there. He... kind of liked it.
It did pose a problem, though. Normally, Sesscoo saved as much of his meal as he could. That had gotten harder when his master had started starving him for being 'greedy' and eating too much, but he'd always tried. It was impossible, though, with the Dunmer watching, so he ate - guiltily, for not saving any - all he wanted. He couldn't eat much anymore, after being deprived for so long, but he couldn't remember the last time his belly had been full. It was a comforting, sleepy feeling.
He had practically dozed off when he noticed the table had already been cleared. Had he been supposed to do that? Nobody said anything. Nobody seemed angry.
Not yet, anyway. They would be, surely, if they found out what he did next. He hadn't been able to save any of his own food, so when Jamira was distracted, he located the kitchen and slipped a bread roll and a couple of carrots into his shirt.
"Sesscoo?" Ulga asked gently. "Were you still hungry?"
Sesscoo's stomach sank, and he suddenly felt ill. They had noticed. They had seen. It was just a bread roll and some carrots! He started to cry.
"It's alright," the Orc said. "We aren't mad at you. As long as you're with us, our food is your food. We just want to make sure you have what you need."
But he was beyond hearing her. He dropped to his knees, rocking again, tears dripping down his cheeks and onto the floor. They must be getting the whip. He was sure of it. They would tear his shirt off, bare his back, and then...
There was a touch on his back, and he startled, but it was just a hand. The Orc's. She was rubbing his back...
"It's for his brother." Jamira's voice cut through the fog in his brain. "Sorry, Sesscoo. I know you didn't want me to say anything. But he didn't take the food for himself. He took it because he has to feed his brother."
"Your brother?" Ulga was confused. "You know where your brother is?"
Sesscoo was now completely hopeless. Now it wouldn't just be him who was punished...
He whispered to Jamira.
"He says yes he does."
"Okay," Ulga said, a little off balance from this new revelation. "Well, that's a good thing. Your brother can come here too."
Sesscoo shook his head. He whispered to Jamira.
"He says his brother can't come here because they sacrificed him to Peryite."
This took Ulga a moment. The brother had been sacrificed to a Daedra...? Oh. It suddenly clicked.
"Is your brother very sick?" Ulga guessed.
More whispering to Jamira.
"He says yes. He says his brother is contagious. That's why he has to hide all the time. But that's why Sesscoo brings him food."
Of course, Ulga thought. Of course a slave child sacrificed to the Lord of Pestilence wasn't dead. He had been forced to live in that state to pass illness on to others. Argonians were highly resistant to disease; the whole thing must have taken a lot of magic to invoke.
"Will you take us to see him?"
Miserably, Sesscoo nodded. He led them out of the house and into the swamp, away from the village. He looked around, then pointed to a letter K subtly carved in a tree. "Kuwi?" he called softly.
Another Argonian boy emerged from the swamp. A thick grey blanket was draped loosely around him, over ragged clothes - a simple disguise that allowed him to blend into the shadows when no one was looking for him. His scales were a sickly yellow color. His eyes were bright with fever. Numerous scabs and boils covered his body. It seemed he'd been living like this a long time - some of his flesh was practically rotting off. The odor was beyond words; Ulga had to make an effort not to react. This was definitely a magical pestilence. Beyond what even a talented mage like Tempest could heal. But Ulga knew someone who could.
"I have friends at the Pariah Abbey," she told Lias. "I'll take him there. We need to go quickly. Can you run home and look in the trunk at the foot of the bed? I have a Twilight Shard, wrapped in a black cloth. We'll need that."
Sesscoo was just looking on, terrified and confused.
Ulga smiled at both children. "Hi, Kuwi," she said. "I'm going to take you to someone who can help, okay? Sesscoo, do you want to come along and make sure we take good care of your brother?"
Sesscoo nodded. Lias returned shortly with what Ulga had asked, and then the Orc and the two Argonian children departed by wayshrine for Stormhaven.
"Ulga!" The purple-robed priest of Azura greeted her with a smile. "What brings you here today?"
"Good to see you, Brother Alphonse," Ulga said. "I came here to ask for your help."
"Certainly," the priest replied. "We more than owe it, after the help you've given us."
"To ask for Azura's help, rather. This boy is sick. Not just ordinary sickness. It's a curse of Peryite..."
The priest's disgust of the other Daedra registered on his face. "I am confident Azura will heal him. We'll need a Twilight Shard."
"I brought one."
"Good. The ritual will destroy it - I assume you do not object to that?"
"No, it's fine." She handed Brother Alphonse the Shard, as well as a pouch of gold, as was customary reimbursement for services. He probably wouldn't have demanded it, but Ulga didn't want to stretch her favor too far - she might need another one someday.
Brother Alphonse smiled at the ill child. "What's your name?" he asked kindly.
Both of the children were far too overwhelmed to speak. "His name is Kuwi," Ulga supplied.
"Well, Kuwi. Let's see what we can do about your cure, alright?"
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Mon Feb 19, 2024 6:01 pm
All he could do was wait, now. Wait for the priests to finish. Wait to see if his brother was going to be alright.
It should have been maddening, the waiting. But somehow, he felt more at ease than he had as long as he could remember. For so long, they'd been striving to stay alive. There was no more striving to do, and that felt strange. Sesscoo had to admit, though, that their connection with this family had brought resources the two of them could never have dreamed of. Connections with Azura's priests. A Twilight Shard - who just has one of those lying around? All the gold the Orc had spent. It hadn't escaped Sesscoo's notice that the Orc had not only paid the priests, but had been spending money every time they used the wayshrines. Of course, money changed hands to buy slaves, and he was used to that; that was the nature of the transaction. He wasn't used to people spending gold on their behalf, though, and for their good.
So he waited. He didn't speak - Jamira wasn't here to speak for him. But he sat very close to Ulga, hoping she might rub his back again like she had when he was crying. Eventually, she got the message and did so.
Sesscoo wasn't sure how much time had actually passed. It seemed like forever. But eventually, the priests emerged, with Kuwi trailing along beside them. He was dressed in clean clothing, and his wounds had been dressed and bandaged. Ulga was given some salve to help with the healing process. The Twilight Shard - now looking infected itself with the pestilence that had been drawn out of Kuwi's body - was wrapped back up and taken away.
"He'll need time to heal," Brother Alphonse said. "But he's no longer infectious. There's no danger to anyone now."
For the first time in years, Sesscoo was able to hug his brother.
Back at the house, Ulga sat the two boys down.
"You're no longer slaves," she told them. "You're free now."
Sesscoo realized that he had been told that before. When he first came here, when everything was knew and strange - they had said that. But it hadn't sunk in. He'd been so scared, so worried about hiding, and he hadn't had any context for it in his previous experience.
Could it be true? Were they really not slaves anymore?
"You can stay here, if you want. Be part of our family. If that's what you decide."
Sesscoo decided that possibility was well worth considering.
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2024 4:18 pm
Tempest and Cullen Rutherford
After healing two people back from the brink of death - as well as tending multiple other more minor injuries - Tempest was exhausted, but she felt good. Not only would the Argonian child survive, but Tempest was confident he would thrive in the warmth and love of Ulga's home. A best case scenario end to his horrible ordeal.
Cullen was right, though; she did need to rest. She lay beside him, rested her head against him, and closed her eyes. He was warm, solid and safe. She was happy, but...
"I miss our other children," Tempest said softly.
"I do too," Cullen replied.
"I was thinking..." she mused. "I was thinking there would be so much we could do here. So many ways we could help. Even once the fighting ends, there will be refugees here who will need help. And Ulga's group, the Twin Lamps - they rescue slaves. I'm sure they could use a healer too. I don't want to be away from our family. But I was thinking perhaps they could join us here for awhile? All the work we could do. We could find a place to stay, to make our home."
She could hear the smile in Cullen's voice, even though his tone was serious. "I was thinking the same," he said. "At least for awhile. You're right - we could be useful. And for now Sol-- uh, for now the Dread Wolf has his eye on Tamriel. It might be best for us to focus our efforts here for that reason too."
Tempest nodded her agreement. She was so sleepy; her eyelids were starting to flutter. Cullen kissed the top of her head.
"We can talk about it more after you rest," he said. "But I think you're right. I think the Maker set us on this path for a reason, and we should see where it leads."
Re: Finding Home
Posted: Sun Feb 25, 2024 5:45 pm
Nairn held the supplies gingerly in her hands as she watched her friend duck out through the door. She looked down at the magical water flowing smoothly beside her feet. Taking advantage of the offered healing, however? Out of the question. She did not even consider placing a toe into the spring before leaving the tent herself.
It wasn't until she was alone in a half-burned tent with her injuries bared that she realized quite how problematic her rejection of healing magics could be. She stared at the thin purple tendrils crawling out of the gashes on her side and thigh - then slathered the areas with the tincture she'd made of the nettles and camphor, sucking her teeth as it burned the flesh with every dab.
Her mistake. She must bear the consequences.