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> Outlanders (Morrowind Crossover)
SubRosa
post Aug 28 2022, 04:17 AM
Post #161


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From: Between The Worlds



Maybe J'dash should hire the Fighters Guild to deal with that rat problem. They love those contracts...

I think a pink moth-silk dress would be a great look for the guild! laugh.gif

Looks like bathing is not high on the FG priority list. It sounds like living in an old gym sock.

The Empire and its embrace of mercenaries sounds rather familiar...

Oh boy, Fox wants to stick around for months! ohmy.gif EEp!

OMG! They did get the rat contract! biggrin.gif

Hey, its Kavon! Maybe he will swoop in and scoop up that rat contract if Fox is not careful.


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Renee
post Aug 30 2022, 02:32 PM
Post #162


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Oh my gosh. The sisters want to dig up secrets on their parents! laugh.gif

Dad doesn't meet their Requirements anymore! sad.gif So he's no longer got the Strength or Endurance. He's no longer as skilled with Long Blade, Blunt Weapons, Axe, Blocking attacks, or Heavy Armor. Oh, or smithing. Geez, poor dad. And poor kids. Their time sounds awful.

Daria's got her book again! bigsmile.gif I'm giggling over here. I bet Fox and Willow won't even finish their rat contract. 🐀

Does Quinn kick any ass as she spars? Guess we'll find out.

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WellTemperedClavier
post Aug 31 2022, 04:26 PM
Post #163


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@SubRosa - The Fighters Guild could probably stand to expand its retinue. Fashion might not be a bad choice. The catwalk and the battlefield have a lot in common.

@Renee - Nope, he's let those skills decline. His Speechcraft and Mercantile have probably improved. Maybe he has a future in Great House Hlaalu?

You'll soon see how Quin fares...

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 4


Sure, Willow acted like she was all sweet and at peace with the world, but it turned out she really wasn't.

Quinn barely blocked another of Willow's swift strikes. The staff's ends were padded but it'd still hurt if she got hit! Plus, she had to wear a smelly cloth helmet which probably hadn't been washed in years!

She’d need another bath that night. This time she’d get first dibs.

Willow paused to take a breath, her face red and sweaty.

"Uh, so anyway Willow, I'm wondering what mom was like when she was my age! What kinds of crazy things did you guys get up to?"

"Twenty damn years," Willow muttered. "And I'm still on the road killing things to earn food and shelter!"

Quinn took another step back. "See, I didn't mean killing things. More like what kinds of fun things you did! Like staying out late with cute boys, or buying accessories you couldn't afford—"

"Why can't I have a house? We had one once, in Bravil. A son, too! But Fox had to keep on adventuring. We gotta be free," she mimicked.

"A son?"

Willow shouted and lashed out. Quinn blocked but the impact tore the staff out of her hands. Then Willow struck Quinn's calves and literally swept her off her feet.

Quinn landed on her back, the mat soft but smelling like the sweat of a million different people.

"Not bad," Willow said, acting like she was all normal again. "Want another try?"

"Actually, I think I'll just lie here a little while," Quinn said, too tired to complain.



*********



Daria inched closer to make sure she heard the brewing confrontation.

"Hey! My name's Kavon and I want to join the Fighters Guild!"

Eydis, still standing next to Fox, eyed the young Dunmer up and down. "All right. You want to read the guild bylaws, first?"

"Nah, I don't have time to read. I'm here to fight!"

Eydis smirked. "Just the way I like it."

"You need someone to kill a rat? 'Cause I'm your guy!"

"Hold on," Fox interrupted. "That's my job!"

"Oh." Kavon hung his head.

Daria whispered a curse. He was giving up too easily.

"Besides, Eydis,” Fox continued, “you don't want some scrub like this doing the job. You want a seasoned professional."

"Actually, Fox, killing a rat is a job for a scrub. I like this kid's hustle. Kavon, you with Hlaalu?"

"Uh, I'm not a member but I work for them! I help guard High Town."

"Interesting. How long you been doing this?"

"A year."

Eydis cocked her head, eyes still on Kavon. "I don't know, Fox. He's a gainfully employed guard and you're a vagrant who's behind on his guild dues."

"You can take the dues out of my payment for this job!" Fox offered.

"Except your payment won't cover all of what you owe."

Kavon scratched his head. "What are dues?"

"Don't worry about them, kid. I'm having a hard time making a decision here. Here's what I'll do: you both have the job. First person to kill the rat in Labor Town gets the fifty-septim reward."

Fox's jaw dropped. "What? You can't do that! Guild Act doesn't let—"

"I do whatever the hell I want."

"Thanks, Sera Eydis!" Kavon said.

"Kid's got a good attitude. Never too late to learn, Fox."

No longer pretending to read, Daria watched and wondered what, if anything, she should do next. If Kavon pulled it off, it might get Fox and Willow to leave Balmora. She didn't doubt Kavon capable of killing a rat, even the mean dog-sized variety found in Morrowind. But he might not be smart enough to find it on his own, and Eydis's directions hadn't been the best.

Daria, on the other hand, knew exactly where the client lived.

"I don't believe this!" Fox whirled to Kavon and pointed at him. "You're in way over your head. My advice to you is to stay out of our way."

"Uh, okay. Sera Eydis, can I get started?" Kavon asked.

Eydis laughed. "Whenever you're ready, kid."

"All right!" Kavon pumped his fist into the air.

Fox looked back over his shoulder. "Willow! We got a job and we gotta do it, pronto!"

Standing over a defeated Quinn, Willow jogged over to her husband. Dad, who'd been loitering by the weapons rack with a dejected expression on his face, took notice.

"What's going on?" he asked, shouting to be heard across the room.

"Me and the old lady got some work. You remember what a hustle it could be. We won't be back until late!"

A beaming Kavon walked by. "Thanks, Daria! I owe you one! Again!"

"If anything, Kavon, I might owe you one." Then a thought came to her. "Actually, Kavon, could you wait outside for me? I need to ask you about something."

"Okay!" he said before walking out the door.

Daria stood up. Fox and Willow were talking to dad, who seemed as confused as ever. If she was going to make her move, it needed to be now.

"Dad," she said, "I need to go to Jane's."

"Uh, sure thing, kiddo! Just be back before it gets dark."

"Will do," she said.

Remembering Quinn, Daria looked back to see her sister leaning against the wall, grouchy but none the worse for wear. No need to worry about her, she decided.

Kavon waited for her in the bright sunlight outside, as he'd promised.

"I have a proposition for you," Daria said.

"Uh," he grunted, rubbing the back of his neck. "No offense, Daria, but you're not really my type."

She wondered precisely how stupid he actually was and had a bad feeling she was about to find out. "That's not what I meant."

"Oh! What did you mean?"

"You know that guy you're competing with? His name's Fox and he and his wife are guests at my house. Guests I’d like to get rid of. I'm hoping that if you get the job done before he does, they'll give up on working here and annoy someone else in a different city. Thus, I have a vested interest in your success."

"Can't you kick him out?"

"No, because of this stupid human thing called hospitality. But frankly, he and his wife are disrupting my mom's business, keeping us up to obnoxious hours, and eating all of our food. If they stay on much longer, I'll probably have to smother them in their sleep and a murder rap is the last thing an upwardly mobile young person like me needs on her resume."

Kavon stroked his chin, clearly puzzled. "Man, you outlanders are weird. I'd kick him out. So if I kill the rat like Eydis wants, Fox has to leave your house?"

"That's the hope. I'll be happy to help you. I'm not much of a fighter but I happen to know the client."

"Cool!"

"On that case, let's do this while we still have a head start on Fox and Willow."



*********



“Say, Jake?”

Fox got that devious look he’d always gotten when he was about to go all out. It worried Jake, but he didn’t know what else to do but listen. Around him, fighters sparred and cursed. He felt every one of his forty-six years.

“Yeah?”

“You know where we can find J’dash? The guy hiring us for this contract?”

The name sounded familiar. One of Quinn’s friends?

“Uh, I’m not sure—”

“Maybe you could help us look for him, Jake,” Willow said. “You know this city better than we do.”

“I don’t get into Labor Town a whole lot.”

Fox gripped his shoulder. “Come on. You’re still a warrior, deep down. It’ll be like old times.”

Like old times: blistered feet and soaked clothes; the screams of stricken men and knowing that one moment of bad luck would bring him to a bloody end. The brandy had kept him from thinking about that too much the previous night. But now he was sober.

“I should check with my wife, first—”

The voice of his father, the Mad Wolf of Haafingar, cut into him like a cruel winter’s wind. “No true Nord shuns hardship, Jakob! Are you a man? A warrior? Or are you some cringing shopkeeper enthralled to a woman?”

Jake shivered. “I am a man! And a warrior.” His heart pounded. His mind reeled.

Why am I doing this again? he asked himself.

“Great! That Dunmer kid already has a head start on us, so let’s go!”

Jake, Fox, and Willow went out to seek violence. Just like the old times Jake hated so very much.

Musical Outro - Dirty Boots, by Sonic Youth

Ethan Yeager (Fox and Willow's son) - Ethan doesn't show up in the story, presumably still being in Bravil where his parents left him.

Mad Dog Morgendorffer (The Mad Wolf of Haafingar) - Jake's father never makes an appearance in the series, but his shadow looms large as an emotionally abusive parent who traumatized his son. It's much the same way here.
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SubRosa
post Sep 1 2022, 12:59 AM
Post #164


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Oh no, not a smelly cloth helmet! The indignities one must suffer in this world...

Willow is letting things slip, but not quite the fun things that Quinn and Daria were hoping for. It turns out that a life of wandering and adventure might not be everything that Talsgar the Wanderer makes it out be.

"Nah, I don't have time to read. I'm here to fight!"
He sounds perfect!

I never really liked Eydis much. She has always just rubbed me the wrong way. Though I never got far enough into the Fighters Guild questline to see if there was anything actually to that or not. I see you got that too, because she certainly seems unhindered by a strict sense of ethics here.

She wondered precisely how stupid he actually was and had a bad feeling she was about to find out.
That is one of those questions you really never want to learn the answer to.

Oh boy, there is poor Dad, and the never-ending trauma that his father inflicted upon him. One thing I really give Jake credit for is the realizes how fucked up that is, and he has worked very hard to not do the same to his children. He is still scarred by the abuse of course, but he's a far better man that his father ever was.


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WellTemperedClavier
post Sep 4 2022, 04:20 PM
Post #165


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@SubRosa - Yup, turns out that a life spent on the road has its pitfalls. Some folks can make it work, but Fox and Willow have been doing it too long.

As the Fighters Guild quest line may reveal (depending on how you play it) Eydis is bad. She's in cahoots with folks who are even worse.

Jake's got his flaws, but yes. There's no question that he's a much better father than his own father.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 5


The sun burned its way to the west as Daria and Kavon walked through Labor Town. Shadows grew long in the crowded streets as merchants made their last calls to the weary workers trudging to homes and cornerclubs.

"Isn't clearing the town of pests something the Hlaalu guards should be doing?" Daria asked as they walked. She had to shout to be heard above the hoarse cries of stubborn traders.

"Oh, yeah, we do that!" Kavon said.

"But you're killing this rat on behalf of the Fighters Guild."

"Us guards only do pest control in High Town and the Commercial District. Labor Town's big so it'd be super-expensive for us to keep it clean. My boss said that having the folks in Labor Town hire Fighters Guild guys means the rest of us don't have to pay as many taxes."

"What about the fact that people in Labor Town don't usually have as much money? Doesn't that mean they can't typically afford to hire fighters? And the pest problem gets worse?"

"Aw, they always figure something out. Anyway, this means more work for people like me."

"Classic Hlaalu. But you've killed rats before."

"Nope," Kavon said, almost proudly.

"What do you do as a guard, then?"

"I keep watch on the towers around High Town. But don't worry, Daria. A big part of being a guard is looking tough enough that nobody messes with you. And me?" He stopped and turned to face her, then took a flexing poise. "I look pretty tough."

"Kavon, you know I can't see you flex through that armor, right?"

"Huh?" His eyes widened, and then he let his arms fall. "Oh, yeah, huh. Anyway, I'm not worried. We'll probably scare the rat away."

They reached the apartment to find out that Jane wasn’t home yet. However, J’dash was happy to show Daria where he’d found the rat. The Khajiit had actually sniffed out the trail that morning, so he retraced his steps and led Daria and Kavon to a narrow alley a few blocks away from the South Wall Cornerclub. Filth and garbage lay heaped up against the dirt-streaked walls, their moldering forms studded with clay shards and dried beetle husks.

"Rat is somewhere here." He made a growling noise. "Khajiit finds the smell offensive. Perhaps noses of Mer and Men are less sensitive?"

If it reeked to her, it was probably borderline intolerable to him. The alley wasn't long, terminating in a wall about ten feet in. The rat likely made its nest under one of the heaps.

"Okay," she said. "First we find the nest."

"And then charge in! Yeah!" Kavon exclaimed.

"A rat nest is way too small for you to charge into," Daria said.

"But isn't this like a really big rat?"

"Not big enough for that. Rats tend to be retiring, so our target’s going to come out at night when there are fewer people around. What we should do is make a trail of food from the rat’s nest to the mouth of the alley. We wait for it to follow, and then strike.”

“Imperial is a clever huntress,” J’dash said.

“If I remember correctly, rats do like the taste of marshmerrow pulp.”

“Bosmer a few streets down sells marshmerrow. Come, this one will show you,” J’dash offered.

“Kavon, you stand guard.”

“Yes ma’am!”

A bit later, Daria returned with a few marshmerrow reeds in her hand. Now came the hard part.

Taking a deep breath, Daria stepped into the alley. It was like wading into a sea of stench and she suppressed a gag. Her eyes watered, mixing with the distortion of her glasses so that she could barely see.

"Dammit," she uttered. She took off her glasses and blinked away the tears. A soft step behind her revealed the presence of J’dash.

Daria again donned her glasses and stepped forward, her booted foot sinking into something wet. She wondered if the bathwater still in the tub from last night was clean enough for another go-around. Trying not to breathe, she peered through the darkness for some sign of a nest. The rat could be huddled underneath any of the decaying heaps.

"Rat is here," J'dash whispered, pointing to a partially collapsed barrel a few feet ahead. "Khajiit can smell it."

"Okay." Daria leaned in for a better look. She couldn't see a thing, but Khajiit had sharper senses than humans. She took one of the marshmerrow strands and tore off a chunk. Sticky and sugary pulp dripped out the ripped end. She threw the piece at the nest and it landed in front of the entrance.

Daria tossed another and another, making a trail. Doing this, she backed out of the alley, all the while hoping she didn't slip on anything and fall into the muck.

Finally done, she looked to Kavon as the last of the sun’s light slipped behind the adobe blocks. "Now we wait."



*********



“You win again, old man,” Jake muttered as he pretended to know where he was going.

The grid of Labor Town spread out in all directions, the big streets connected by winding alleys that ran between the rough earthen apartments and grubby shops. Jake mostly helped independent Dunmer merchants figure out how to pitch their goods to the shipping magnates that connected Vvardenfell with mainland Morrowind and the rest of the Empire, and those merchants usually lived in the Commercial District.

“Hey, Jake, you sure you know where you’re going?” Fox asked.

“This is like Karthwasten all over again,” Willow muttered.

“Uh, give me minute. They’re always doing construction in Labor Town. It’s like it’s never the same neighborhood two days in a row!” He faked a laugh.

Who was he fooling? He was a failed warrior and thus a failed man, like dad had said. He didn’t actually want to kill the rat. Sure, he got that rats were dangerous, but he’d seen enough blood for one lifetime. Poor rat probably just wanted a few crumbs, same as anyone else.

They came to a crossroads plaza where late shoppers searched for deals under the darkening sky. At the edge walked a Dunmer girl with bobbed black hair and a canvas under her arm.

“Oh! Jane!” he cried out.

Jane turned, eyes widening in surprise.

“Hi, Mr. Morgendorffer! Didn’t expect to see you in Labor Town.”

“Didn’t expect to be here! Say, could you do me a favor? My friends are from the Fighters Guild, and they’ve been hired by some guy named J’dash to kill a rat—”

“J’dash! Yeah, he’s my landlord. Didn’t know he’d hired the guild to take care of the rat.”

That’s how he knew the name! “Think you could show us where he is?”

“Follow me.”

“Yes!” Jake cheered. His smile vanished when he saw the puzzled looks from Fox and Willow.

Why didn’t they get it? He’d used networking to find J’dash. The great thing about leveraging personal relations for business was that you didn’t have to cut anyone’s head off. Not usually, anyway.

“Who’d you paint today, Jane-o?” he asked, to distract himself.

“Conemmus Terano. Big-shot silk merchant. He doesn’t live far from you.”

“Oh yeah, I know him. Nice guy. By the way, is Daria still at your place?”

“Huh? I don’t—oh, yeah, she left right when I went to go, uh, retrieve my painting from the Terano house. She must be home by now.”

“Great!”

Jane brought them to a cluttered junk shop with a tiny second story.

“Hmm, no lights. He might not be home.”

Fox groaned. “Great going, Jake.”

“Hold on,” Jane said. “The rat ran off when J’dash found it, but he sniffed out its trail. Khajiit can do that. I think I remember where he went. Let me put my things upstairs, first. And maybe get J'dash's club, just in case.”

What a relief. He was useful!

“You’re a lifesaver, Jane. Lead the way once you get everything!”

Musical Outro - Awful, by Hole
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SubRosa
post Sep 4 2022, 11:45 PM
Post #166


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Once again I love how you worked Classism into the story. The Hlaalu guards routinely kill these rats, but only for the people who matter. The Poors are expected to spend the money they don't have to have it done by a mercenary company. Or do it themselves. Capitalism!

So the rat lives in an alley filled with trash. If only there was some way to prevent places like that from turning into cesspits that attract vermin, like implementing social services such as trash collection. But I can't think of anything like that...

So Daria wants to lure it out with a trail of food? My plan was to burn down the alley and all the buildings adjacent to it. But, okay Daria, we'll try it your way first. wink.gif

Oh noes! Jane is going to unwittingly foil Daria's plan! I am sure hijinks will ensue however.

Jake is quite right. He did use networking to solve a problem. Without cutting anyone's head off.


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Acadian
post Sep 5 2022, 09:13 PM
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Had an enjoyable cruise. Some catching up to do here though!

Chapter 3

Keep the rats out if they don’t pay rent – great policy!

Quinn, in her so totally suitable pink moth-silk dress, continues to show us her particular form of cleverness as she touts the blackmail potential from their houseguests. Though I did have to laugh at her totally Quinnish reaction to the wonderful smells in the Fighters Guild.

Ahah, so Daria overhears how Fox plans to overmilk his friendship with her dad to stay for months – ugh!

Rats! I kind of hope the rats take down Fox and Willow – poof, problem of unwanted houseguests solved.

"Arrows just bounce off these old eye-plates," - - Daria has so much more wits than Kavon it is quite unfair. laugh.gif

Chapter 4

Aww, poor Quinn gets her pink-dressed arse kicked. . . but does learn that Willow is not a happy hippie.

The three way among Kavon, Fox and Eydis was a hoot! I will say Eydis knows at least a little about human/mer nature and did some good string pulling given that one prospect is lazy and the other dumb as a rock.

Daria has a good plan to pair her brain and location knowledge with Kavon’s young, dumb, strong sword arm. Damn, Fox is. . . foxier than I thought. Of course he’s going to pair up with Willow. Doubledamn, now the manipulative ashbag has sucked Jake into his quest. I’m guessing this could get real interesting. . . .

Chapter 5

I laughed as Daria described rats as ‘retiring’ – then of course went on to explain what that meant for Kavon’s benefit. A good plan team Daria has.

Uh-oh, team Jake gets some unexpected help from Jane. Too bad she had not been home when Daria popped by her house – then she would surely have been on team Daria. Not Jane’s fault that she’s unaware of what’s going on here. In true Jane fashion though she smoothly covers for her friend in response to the ‘Is Daria still visiting with you?’ question.

Well, here’s hoping the rat takes out Fox & Willow, then Kavon kills the rat. Poof, all problems solved. evillol.gif


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Renee
post Sep 7 2022, 02:27 PM
Post #168


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The sparring session between Quinn and Willow sounds awful! Shouldn't Willow be teaching the younger gal some moves? laugh.gif Sounds like she's just pummeling the poor child.

Cool. I actually like there's a contest between Fox and this Kavon kid. That's smart. Especially since Fox was initially complaining about being an exterminator. 🐀

Sonic Youth is great! ... Since you're new to this sort of music, it's important to know SY is one of the bands from the 1980s which inspired a whole bunch of acts from the '90s, like a lot of those Seattle bands. But I don't wanna get too off-topic. Suffice it to say that while SY was beginning, most popular heavy music from the times were a bunch of spandex-wearing, big-haired "metal" bands. Fun music, but not really raw and gritty (except Metallica, who was the huge exception).

QUOTE
"Isn't clearing the town of pests something the Hlaalu guards should be doing?"


Ha, you know? Anyway, it sounds like for all his words, Kavon is getting into something over his head. Because looking big & tough will definitely NOT scare any dog-sized rodents away. unsure.gif

Jake uses his networking skills. smile.gif Fox & Willow seem to disapprove of this. Wow.

This seems like it's going to be a cluster[censored].

This post has been edited by Renee: Sep 7 2022, 02:28 PM
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WellTemperedClavier
post Sep 7 2022, 04:29 PM
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@SubRosa - Technically (puts on pedant hat), Great House Hlaalu is mercantilist, not capitalist. With mercantilism, prices are determined by monopolies with powerful state-backing, and there's a general assumption that an entity should try to control all the resources particularly for export. While capitalists will typically claim that they support competitive market environments, and be against government monopolies, but plenty will end up supporting such things so long as they benefit. Maybe mercantilists are just more open about what they support?

Services like trash collection? Pah, the very idea! Clearly, those affected should just hire the Fighters Guild for the job.

(In Project Tamriel lore, there is a Ratcatchers Guild, but I think they're limited to Cyrodiil).

And as much as Daria dislikes networking, she's better suited for that than she is for combat.

@Acadian - Welcome back!

Yeah, the overall situation keeps escalating here. The characters that Fox and Willow were based on had tired of the hippie life, but didn't want to admit it. Same here, except the fighters' life is a lot more grueling and dangerous. I figure that being in the Fighters Guild is a lot like doing any other heavily physical job. It's extremely draining, and best to get on the business side of things once you hit middle age.

@Renee - Willow's got a lot of anger to work through.

Yeah, Nirvana's often credited with disrupting the rock scene, but I know that there were other bands that also played a big part. Kind of a repeat of punk arising as a reaction to disco, though on a much larger scale (since I think punk remained fairly niche).

Kavon's going to be in way of his head. Lucky for him, he has help.

Episode 10: The Worst Years of Our Lives

Chapter 6


Daria waited as sunset turned to dusk. Only stragglers still walked down the street. It was unwise to wander alone through Labor Town at night. Then again, she’d only ever been attacked in the Commercial District.

She and Kavon sat behind the corner of the abandoned apartment next to the alley, eyes on the trail of marshmerrow segments winding through the trash. Hopefully, the rat would follow the trail to them. Kavon would kill it, but as a precaution he’d lent her a short blade made of sharpened chitin. It wasn’t much, but better than nothing.

J’dash hovered behind them, apparently wanting to see this through to the end.

“Man, this is boring—” Kavon started.

Daria hushed him, not wanting chatter to scare away the rat. He was right though. The waiting was boring. She found it hard to believe someone as high-strung as dad could have ever put up with this sort of thing.

“Khajiit hears Jane! But what is Jane doing here?” J’dash said.

“Huh?” Daria turned around to see J’dash pointing back from where they came. Dad and Jane walked down the street, with Fox and Willow behind them.

She turned cold. This was bad. “Kavon, hide.”

“Huh? I’m a fighter, Daria, I don’t hide. And I thought you didn’t want me to talk—”

“Just hide, dammit! Your competitors from the guild are here, and I don’t want them to figure out that we’ve found the rat’s lair.”

J’dash made a rattling purr. “Maybe competitors are not so bad. Khajiit is concerned about that one’s competence,” he said, pointing to Kavon.

He had a point. “Look, let me see what’s going on,” Daria said.

Exhaling and hoping she didn’t smell too awful, Daria approached the quartet. Jane led the way, a stout stick in her right hand.

“Daria, is that you?” dad called, his voice echoing in the street.

“It’s me. What’s going on?”

“I thought you went home.”

She remembered her earlier excuse about going to Jane’s. “No, I hung around for a bit. I’m, uh, about to go home.”

They got close enough to speak at normal volume. “This isn’t a safe place, kiddo.”

“I know. I lost track of the time.” She decided to feign ignorance. “What are Fox and Willow doing here?”

“We got a contract to kill a rat in this neighborhood,” Fox said.

Kavon stepped away from the alley entrance. “Uh, hey! Me and Daria already found the rat. So you guys gotta find a different rat to kill.”

Daria put her palm over her face.

“What’s going on here?” dad demanded.

Fox glared at dad. “I think your daughter was helping the opposition. Maybe she’s sweet on the kid.”

“I am most certainly not,” Daria said.

Then Fox turned to Kavon and stalked toward him, his hand on the hilt of his sword. Willow followed close, the butt of her spear tapping on the ground.

“Look, punk. My wife and I have killed more people than you can count to. So you’d best get out of here before we turn mean.”

Kavon puffed up his chest. “Oh yeah? I’m not afraid of you.”

“Rat is here!” J’dash shouted. “Idiots!”

Daria looked in time to see an enormous rat barrel out of the alley. Bristling black fur as thick as a porcupine’s quills covered its muscular body, and the naked pink tail moved like a whip.

“Guys! It’s the rat!” dad yelled.

The rat ran past J’dash, trying to make a break for it. Dad moved first, shouting as he jumped in its path. It swerved toward Daria. She drew her puny weapon as the monster bore down, its incisors gleaming in the torchlight. It suddenly shrieked in pain as Jane beat its flank with her stick. The beast spun and lunged at her, but she ably hopped out of the way.

Hissing in rage, the rat whirled and scurried in the other direction. J’dash was already waiting. The Khajiit ducked low and lashed out with his hand. The rat tumbled, screeching as blood and worse spilled out from its body. Dragging itself a bit farther down the street, it collapsed and went still.

Meanwhile, Kavon still argued with Fox and Willow.

“I don’t care that you were here first, we’ve been with the guild longer!” Fox said.

J’dash stalked up to the quarreling trio and roared. He thrust out his clawed right hand, drenched in blood.

“Khajiit has killed the rat! Khajiit will not pay Fighters Guild! Guild has done nothing on this day.”

“Wait, you killed the rat?” Kavon asked.

“Yes, Khajiit has done guild's job. Khajiit will enjoy the coin Khajiit was going to give to guild. Only Khajiit’s friends helped.” He motioned to the rest.

Willow pointed at Kavon. “See what you did? Now none of us are going to get paid!”

“Hey, don’t get mad at me! I’d have been on that rat if you jerks hadn’t interrupted.”

“We needed that job!” Fox stepped back and drew his sword.

Daria gasped. Killing rats was one thing. People killing each other was quite another. There had to be something she could say, some clever remark.

Instead, dad stepped between the combatants with his arms held out.

“All of you settle down!” he bellowed.

Again, Daria saw the warrior he’d once been: fearless and in control. Judging by the reactions, so did Fox, Willow, and Kavon.

“Look,” he continued, in a quieter voice. “You guys need to do some basic cost-benefit analysis. How much is this job worth?”

“Fifty septims. That we need!” Fox groused.

“Okay, fifty septims. And how are you going to spend that in prison if you kill this kid over here?”

“It’s not about the money!” Fox said.

“No, it totally is,” Willow corrected.

“It’s always about the money!” dad said, his voice turning cheery. “What kind of work do you do, son?” he asked Kavon.

“Uh, I’m a guard.”

“Hmm, I don’t think the guard captains would like one of their own getting into fights with guildies.”

Kavon nodded. “Huh, yeah, I guess you’re right. Uh, what were we fighting about?”

Fox shook his head. “Clever words, Jake, but words are no match for blades. Plus, uh, we still need that money.”

“I’m not finished yet!” Jake said. “That fifty wasn’t going to take you far. And I heard how you negotiated with Eydis, with all that stuff about unpaid dues. You never want to start a business relationship off from a position of weakness.”

“But the guild is all we know!” Willow protested.

“Which is why you need to diversify your employment opportunities! There’s plenty of guys looking for tough fighters like you. In fact, I happen to know that the East Empire Company is always hiring.”

Fox looked abashed. “East Empire Company? I don’t want to go corporate—”

“That sounds like a good idea,” Willow said.

Some of the tension left the air. Weapons were still drawn but held loosely.

Dad kept going. “Pay’s not bad and they’ll give you a place to stay. Spend a few years doing a good job and that mix-up with the guild won’t matter.”

Everyone was quiet for a moment. Then Fox spoke. “I can’t believe I got that worked up over a rat-killing job. Maybe you’re right, Jake. Maybe it’s time to settle down and let go of the past.”

“Long past time,” Willow muttered.

“So, uh, are we still mad at each other?” Kavon asked.

Fox shook his head. “Nah, Jake talked some sense into us. Sorry for going after you, kid.”

“Aw, it’s okay.”

Fox held out his hand, and Kavon was apparently familiar enough with Nord and Imperial customs to shake it. He repeated the ritual with Willow.

Dad raised his face to the starry sky and shook his fist. “Yeah, you hear that dad? I didn’t even need a weapon to get what I wanted! Who cares about Jake the Warrior! I’m Jake the Negotiator!”



*********



Fox and Willow left early the next morning. They seemed much more tolerable once chastened by their experience, and Daria almost felt sorry for them as they left for Ebonheart, where the EEC kept its Vvardenfell District headquarters.

Dad was still riding high on his success the previous night. Not long after their guests departed, Daria confessed her involvement to him over a pot of trama root tea in the kitchen. She felt partially responsible for the confrontation. As much as she’d disliked the people involved, she didn’t want to be responsible for death or serious injury.

“I guess it was a little impulsive to help Kavon,” dad said. “But you couldn’t have known they’d go that far. Frankly, it was pretty damn unprofessional of Eydis to set up a competition like that!” He scowled and slammed his fist on the table.

“For what it’s worth dad, you did an impressive job last night.”

He grinned. “See? Your old dad isn’t so lame after all!”

“Don’t let it go to your head.”

He looked taken aback for a moment, and then laughed. “Let me tell you, Daria. Guild life wasn’t that great.”

“Does this mean mom won’t pressure me to intern at them any longer?”

“Most guilds are fine! And the Fighters Guild is important but, well, I never liked it. You know, the only reason I joined up was to get away from my dad. He was about to march me off to the War of Bend’r-Mahk, but I didn’t want to kill people. So I did the guild instead. Figured that’d still be a way to prove myself and I wouldn’t have to do much more than guard caravans or fight monsters.

“And I had some fun with Fox and Willow. But a lot of it really sucked. I killed some bandits. I don’t regret it. I mean, they were killers, too. That sort of thing sticks with you, though. I met mom not long after that and we decided to go our own way. Except I always wondered if I was a coward for doing that. Knew my old man wouldn’t approve of me going into business.

“But last night I realized I don’t need to kill my way into greatness! I can talk my way into it, instead! I like that a lot better. Because that way, no one has to die.”

“Except for that rat.”

“Well, yeah. Except for the rat. But J’dash killed him, not me. Anyway, I like being able to talk my way into greatness.”

“On that case, Balmora’s legalism and intrigue probably suit you perfectly,” Daria said.

“Hell yeah!”

He raised his clay teacup over the table, and Daria did the same, the vessels clinking against each other in a heartfelt toast.



The End


Musical Outro - In Love with the Eighties, by Relient K

The next few episodes are single-chapter entries. Short episodes like that generally grow scarcer as the series continues, but there are still some in the works.

This post has been edited by WellTemperedClavier: Sep 7 2022, 04:30 PM
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Acadian
post Sep 7 2022, 08:36 PM
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Wow, Fox and Willow show their true colors. We knew they were self-centered moochers but now we can add mean spirited and spiteful to the list.

And Jake the Negotiator to the rescue! A masterful de-escalation of tensions between Dumb and Dumber. Jake is clearly a master of Speechcraft.

The best news of all though is the two moochers are gone. They give small canids and beautiful trees that symbolize fertility and new life bad names.

With this chapter, you did a fabulous job of crafting a rat hunting quest into a delightful story. smile.gif


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SubRosa
post Sep 9 2022, 04:06 AM
Post #171


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Trust Kavon to just throw the fat directly into the fire...

Wow, Fox is turning out to be a real dick.

Now this is poetic. It was J'dash who wound up killing the rat in the end. Not any of the people he had hired to do it. smile.gif

Way to go Dad! He is showing what he does as a consultant, using his brain (and networking) to solve problems for his clients, rather than his fists. Unlike Fox and Willow, he grew up.


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WellTemperedClavier
post Sep 10 2022, 04:54 PM
Post #172


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@Acadian - At least Fox and Willow aren't mooching off the Morgendorffers anymore. Instead, they're more deeply embedded within the Empire's corrupt extractive infrastructure in the form of the EEC. Victory!

Thanks, it was fun to put my own spin on the traditional rat quest.

@SubRosa - As J'dash knows well, sometimes to do the job right, you have to do it yourself.

Episode 11: Heathers

"What a splendid bunch."

Synda Grilvayn kept her eyes downcast as Serjo Nevena Ules glided past her and the other girls, all of them Dunmer.

"Off you go, then! Gather the heather by dusk's fading light, the flowers aflame shall keep our land bright," Nevana said, reciting the tradition’s age-old words.

"You honor us, Serjo Ules," the girls said in unison. Synda spoke the words with certainty; loud, but not so loud as to appear arrogant or brash. She knew that everyone watched and that everyone would be satisfied.

The girls filtered out from the tents around Ules Manor, set up for the great woman's 150th birthday, and onto the rolling hills of the Ascadian Isles. They split into groups of twos or threes, giggling and chattering as they searched the green lands for violet heather flowers, ready to pull them from the earth and ready them for the flame as their mothers and grandmothers had done before them.

Most of the girls here came from the plantations and manors all throughout the countryside, or from the teeming Hlaalu Canton of Vivec City. Synda's family was one of the few invited from Balmora. That they endured the rigors of such a long journey demonstrated the respect they held for Serjo Ules and Great House Hlaalu.

Likewise, with the Rowenis, who had brought their foolish daughter, Satheri, with them. Satheri stood on her own, her big watery eyes searching for a friend among her own kind, her hands nervously clutching her thick dark blue dress the way a child would.

The poor girl simply had no idea what to do. Hardly a surprise, given that she counted outlanders among her closest friends. But seeing the rest gathered in familiar cliques, Synda reasoned that she needed an ally.

"Satheri. Perhaps we should pool our resources and work together," Synda said. She did not use an honorific; the Grilvayns had less wealth than the Rowenis but more esteem.

"Oh! Thank you, Sera Grilvayn," Satheri stammered. "Um, you never talk to me at school—"

"Come now, Satheri. We are both from Balmora. The rest of these girls will never see us as being on their level."

"Yeah, it's kind of scary!"

"There's no need for fear. Come, let's gather up the heather."

They struck out on their own toward a ridge where tall grasses swayed in the breeze.

"I think I see some over there!" Satheri exclaimed, pointing at a bush covered with bright yellow blossoms. "Oh, wait. That doesn't look right."

Synda shook her head and frowned slightly in disappointment. "I see you lack familiarity with the flora of your homeland. Not surprising, given that your family must associate with outlanders. Look for violet flowers."

"Thank you. You're so smart," Satheri gushed. The sheer relief in her voice gave it a pathetic quality.

Synda doubted Satheri knew the origins of the heather-burning ritual. She decided to keep that knowledge to herself for the time being.

Satheri found a good collection a bit later, though only because Synda had guided them south toward the riverbank where she knew heather would grow. She stood by and let Satheri gather the blossoms, the girl giggling with delight as she pulled them from the ground.

"This is fun, Sera Grilvayn! Sometimes I wish I lived in a big manor here so I could go out and do this all the time. But I guess I like being in the city, too."

Synda listened as she plucked a few flowers of her own. She wished she could pull Satheri away from Balmora. Foolish young girls like her were too easily swayed by the lies of outlanders. In another life, Satheri could have come of age as a humble Hlaalu girl; one who lacked ambition, but able to support a husband who possessed that trait.

The Empire had taken that from Satheri.

"All Dunmer should know their traditions," Synda said.

Satheri paused from her labors. "Oh, I worship the Tribunal!"

"I would expect no less. But there is more to it than the Tribunal. Unfortunately, I think much of that is being lost."

"It's too bad, I guess." She said it utterly without conviction, her lament as fleeting as an Imperial fad.

Satheri had gathered a veritable panoply of heather by the time she finished, the flowers bursting from her cradled arms like a frozen firework.

"Come, let's return to the manor. I'm sure the others will be impressed," Synda said, speaking the words as an order.

"Thanks for the help, Sera Grilvayn. I wouldn't have found them without you."

"We Dunmer must look after each other."

"But those other girls are Dunmer, too."

Synda sighed, making sure she sounded a little exasperated. "Dunmer help other Dunmer. Each Great House helps its constituents. Each community helps those who are part of it, and so on and so forth. It's like sisterhood."

"You're so wise, Sera Grilvayn," Satheri said.

They walked back to Ules Manor as the first stars twinkled in the darkening eastern sky. Seeing the manor brought a swell of pride to Synda's heart: she loved the fine tents arrayed around the lavish adobe manse, and the crisp sound of Dunmer voices free of louche foreigners. Serjo Ules's sentiments about outlanders were well-known, and none had been invited to her birthday. Synda was surprised that Satheri's parents had been invited, given how closely they worked with the Empire. But wealth carried weight, as it must.

Synda's mother, Lynda, stood at the edge of the manor grounds. With her was Satheri's father, Vesleth, the two of them in quiet conversation until they took notice of the girls.

"Ah, Satheri!" said Vesleth. "I see you've already made a friend."

"Yes, father! Sera Grilvayn's been very kind." Satheri gave Synda a warm smile, which Synda returned with a barely detectable upturning of her lips. One should not be too open to an inferior, which Satheri had acknowledged herself as being through her behavior and word choice.

"We both go to Drenlyn but we, uh, never had the chance to talk before, I guess," Satheri continued. "I'm glad we did."

"Your family is always welcome at our house," Vesleth said to Lynda, bowing his head ever so slightly. The gesture of respect seemed sullied; Vesleth certainly capered before Imperials in the same way.

"The honor is ours, Sera Roweni," mother said.

"Looks like the bonfire is about to start. Seems our girls have gathered quite a lot!"

"Indeed. I must speak with Synda, a moment."

And the way she said that left no doubt that Synda had erred. A coldness gripped her heart, deeper than the chill of the autumn evening around her. Every action reflected on family, on great house, and on nation. Error meant shame a hundred times over.

Suddenly faint, Synda followed her mother to a secluded spot next to a leaning emperor parasol, the air beneath the cap smelling of fungal spores.

Mother stared down at her. "Serjo Ules's birthday brings notable young men and women from around Vvardenfell. I'm surprised you'd be so foolish as to befriend a rube like Satheri. Why not one of the Lleran girls? Or perhaps you could grab the attention of that Sandas boy so you can marry someone useful?"

Synda gulped. So much depended on her. Those families would all be strong allies for the Grilvayns. The Rowenis, for all their wealth, could never help that much. She searched for an excuse, her palms damp with sweat.

"I, uh, felt sorry for her, mother. I thought maybe I could turn her into, uh, an asset—"

Mother slapped her. The strike was light, but the sting struck deep. Synda hung her head in shame but held back her tears. Dunmer did not weep at hardship; mother had made this clear.

"Your father and I worked very hard to ensure this invitation and you have squandered it." Mother gave a frustrated sigh. "Go toss your heather into the flames. We'll discuss this later. Perhaps you can make up for your mistake tomorrow."

"Of course, mother."

Synda straightened herself as she and her mother returned to the party grounds, their faces betraying no emotion. Yet her mind tore at itself; she'd shown weakness. Many called Great House Hlaalu soft for how they traded with outlanders, but she knew that such business required strength. Strength to enrich oneself from foreigners without falling too deeply into their ways.

She could not afford another error.

Serjo Ules stood near the fire, her smile crooked. "Now, let the girls gather and give us light!" she proclaimed, her words running together as she raised her goblet above her, a bit of the drink within spilling over the edge.

The musicians began to play, a mix of heavy drums and ponderous bells held together by the strumming of carapace harps. None of the boastfulness of northern songs or the atonal bombast of Imperial music, the notes stately and spaced far apart.

Synda stood behind Satheri, the girl wearing a broad smile and sniffing the aroma of the heather blossoms she held. She'd gotten more than most. The line moved, each girl walking in tune with the music and tossing the flowers in the fire. Purple petals blackened and curled as the flames consumed them.

Satheri couldn't resist giving a little cheer as she flung her offering into the bonfire, some of the flowers fluttering off to the side. Synda followed, submitted her more humble offering, and joined Satheri at the edge of the fire's light.

"That was truly an impressive gesture," Synda said.

"Oh, thanks Sera Grilvayn! But it's because of you. Heh, I probably wouldn't have found anything if you hadn't guided me."

A dark joy stirred in Synda's heart. "Still, you gathered many flowers. It's especially surprising considering your father's business, and what the heather represents."

Satheri's smile faded. "Sorry? I don't understand what you mean."

"Well, your father works closely with the Empire, does he not? You yourself have many outlander friends."

"I mean, well, yeah. They're really nice though. I think you'd like them if you got to know—"

Synda did not let her finish. "You see, heather is not native to Morrowind."

"It's not?"

She shook her head. "No. It comes from Skyrim. It's a weed, Satheri."

"But it's so pretty!"

"A pretty weed is still a weed. Our ancestors burned heather because the weed symbolizes outlanders. We can use them for our purposes, to enrich ourselves and Great House Hlaalu, but they are a resource to be used. Nothing more. So it was very courageous of you to burn so many, considering who you spend time with. I’m glad to see your loyalties are with your people."

Satheri trembled. "Wait, you mean people will think—"

"You've shown that you don't need those outlanders you hang out with."

"But Muthsera Morgendorffer—I mean, Sera Morgendorffer—oh no!" Satheri's breath came in quick gasps, and she grabbed at her collar.

"Why are you so alarmed, Satheri?" Synda asked.

Satheri fell to her knees. Synda’s pity turned to disgust. How emotional. Much like an Imperial or a Nord.

"Oh my gosh, Synda, you can't tell Quinn I did this! I mean, I know it's important that I not get too close, but I really like her and she's my best friend and she makes me feel better and someday we’re going to go to like the Imperial City and—"

Synda wondered if the girl would pass out. She held out her hand to tell Satheri to stop, but she was already hyperventilating.

"You have nothing to be ashamed about, Satheri. With your father's business concerns being what they are, I can see why you'd not want people to know."

"So, you won't tell?" Satheri could barely get the words out.

"I can keep a secret, for now. Just remember who your true friends are. I will never judge you for burning some little flower."

Satheri was thick, but not so thick as to miss the implication.

"Thank you, Sera Grilvayn. Thank you. Truly."

Sera. Yet she'd called Quinn muthsera. Satheri might not have meant that as an insult, but it was one. Regardless, Synda had given Satheri a valuable lesson on how the world worked. The Dunmer valued such things, and perhaps one day Satheri could be a useful Dunmer.

Synda watched the sooty flames climb higher as the band played on, the ancient melody sounding across the ancient landscape. In truth, Quinn would not understand the symbolism of Satheri burning the heather, and neither would her father's business associates. Yes, heather symbolized outlanders, and had once served as a convenient effigy. Today it was mostly tradition, unmoored from the past.

Yet Synda knew there was value in the old traditions. The evening had proven it.


The End

Musical Outro - Heart of Stone, by The Raveonettes

Nevena Ules - Nevena is one of the local Councilors for Great House Hlaalu, so she's actually quite a big deal within their system.
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SubRosa
post Sep 10 2022, 09:31 PM
Post #173


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150th birthday. That brings home the fact that elves age a lot slower that humans.

Synda is clearly a very arrogant, calculating, socially ruthless character here. Just like in the show. She's not making nice with Satheri, she's enlisting her to her cause to beef up her own presence among the Ascadian Islers.

Also, her xenophobia is on subtle, but clear display as well. Not to say imperial conquerors do not deserve it. But it still plainly marks her out from other Dunmer, especially Hlaalu ones, who have learned to work within the Imperial system, in spite of all the warts.

Wow, Mom shows where a lot of Synda's worst traits come from. Quite an ugly family.


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Acadian
post Sep 11 2022, 08:29 PM
Post #174


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A fascinating look into the muck-filled dumpster that is the mind of Synda. And she’s only a marginal Dunmer according to her piece of work mother. Synda’s mother sounds even more serious about ‘networking’ than Daria’s mom.

The lore you presented about the heather weed was very interesting and really brought the purpose of this ceremony to life.

I suspect Synda plans to use poor Satheri’s naivete and gullibility for some unpleasant strike against one or both of the Morgendorffer girls.


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Renee
post Sep 13 2022, 05:25 PM
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What a mess! So they've all shown up to pwn this rat, which is a no-show, so far!

Oh no! Kavon did NOT just say ... Ha, not that it matters. Neither of them exterminated the rat. 🐀 Wow, so dad managed to calm them all down. That's some good Speechcraft at work there.

Since a handshake might not be known to Dunmer, what would Kavon normally do while greeting?

Gotta get back to work. Catch up with Heathers later, or maybe tomorrow.
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WellTemperedClavier
post Sep 14 2022, 04:19 PM
Post #176


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@SubRosa - I couldn't find a clear answer on how quickly Mer age compare to humans, so for the sake of my sanity, I assumed that Mer and Men age at more or less the same rate until they hit their early twenties. Granted, it might be interesting to have a fifty-year old Jane who's still effectively a teenager, but it just raised more headaches than I wanted to deal with. For what it's worth, I figure this version of Trent is in his early thirties.

Synda's a pretty dark character. As much as I love Morrowind, there's no question that the society in it is pretty dysfunctional, and her family displays a lot of the worst traits. She lives in a pressure cooker, and that will take its toll as the series progresses.

@Ascadian - You'll eventually see just how ruthless Synda's mother can be. Living up to that might not be so easy for Synda, in fact...

The stuff about the heather was my own idea, but it is the only (or one of the only) herbs in the base game to be an actual RL plant. Hence, it made sense to decide it's not native to Vvardenfell the way willow anther or stoneflowers are.

@Renee - Speechcraft is a pretty handy skill, even if Morrowind's persuasion system is... less than intuitive. Oblivion's was kind of complicated, but worked well enough once you figured it out.

A few stories mentioned that Dunmer bow, though typically not that deeply.

Episode 12: The Balmora Beat

It all came down to the uniform. They'd drilled that fact into Maiko's head since he'd been a raw recruit: anything you did for the legion had to be in legion colors.

Of course, there'd been some guys who did stupid things in legion colors. Most of them smartened up after the first flogging. As for Maiko, keeping his nose clean just came natural. Dad always said it was usually easier to follow the rules. Maiko hadn't always seen eye to eye with his dad, but the old man had been right about that.

Maiko was polishing the metal of his cuirass when Larrius Varro marched up to him that morning, the dawn no more than a bright sliver above the jagged eastern ridges.

"Agent Maiko," Varro said by way of greeting.

"Yes, sir!" Maiko stood and saluted.

"Go to Balmora today. You'll be paying your contacts a surprise visit."

"Understood, sir. Is there anything going on?"

Varro gave an arch smile. "That's what we're trying to find out! Speak to your liaisons in the Hlaalu constabulary but also get in touch with some of your... unofficial sources. Write a full report on the state of the city and have it on my desk by sun-up tomorrow. Should be routine."

Maiko saluted again. He always liked heading off to Balmora. Gave him a chance to get a feel for the city he protected, see who was who and what was what. Not to mention some extra time with Jolda.

Which meant his uniform had to be spotless.

It was a bit ridiculous, he thought as he marched out from Moonmoth Legion Fort in full array. Half the time the uniform made him feel more like an advertisement than a soldier. But maybe that was a good thing. Maybe as long as the ads worked, he and his buddies wouldn't have to go into battle.

He'd seen battle once. Once was enough.



*********



Maiko's meeting with Captain Hleren Llarlo that day went exactly like all the others. They exchanged formalities, Hleren flattered him for a minute or so, and then reported that everything was fine.

Which was what Varro expected Hleren to report. The guy was a Hlaalu so he'd say anything to make other Hlaalu look good. Same as any other great house, or the legion itself for that matter. Boosting your boss was always part of the job. So Maiko nodded, said he was happy to hear that, and walked out of the guard precinct in search of more honest answers.

He could sort of get those from Kavon.

He found Kavon in his usual post atop one of the blocky towers that encircled High Town. The Dunmer guard slumped in a chair, dozing in the shade of a canvas tarp. He didn't hear Maiko open the trap door and clamber up from the ladder.

Maiko looked out onto the humming city before him. From up there, Balmora looked as tidy as a paper map, the streets straight and the houses clustered into neat squares. The Hlaalu had their problems, but they sure made their cities simple to navigate. Things only got complicated up close. But up on the tower, with a cool breeze chasing away the volcanic smog, it looked safe and understandable, a problem easy to solve.

"Oh, hey Maiko!"

He turned around to see Kavon waking up from his nap. Talking with the guy got annoying, but Maiko knew how to handle him.

"Hi, Kavon. Thought I'd check on you since I was in town."

Kavon yawned. "Cool. Hey, you guys hiring up in the legion?"

"Moonmoth's already got a full garrison. Someone told me that Fort Darius up in Gnisis is accepting recruits. Why, you planning on signing up?"

Might do Kavon some good, Maiko thought. Legion discipline worked wonders. On the other hand, it'd be easy for a guy like him to get in over his head. Crooked officers loved dumb rookies.

"I need more money, bro!" Kavon sighed. "I tried this thing with the Fighters Guild a month ago, but it didn't work out. And I gotta get something nice for my girl."

“Legion’s not your best bet if you just want more money. Commission’s eight years, minimum.”

“Aw, man!”

"What kinds of things does your girl like?" Maiko asked.

Maiko had gotten a little packet of Hammerfell spices for Jolda. She missed Hammerfell, and the smile she'd have on her face when he handed her a little piece of her homeland would make it all worthwhile.

"I dunno. Girl stuff."

"Such as?"

Kavon scratched his head. "Uh, like, dresses?"

"Any particular color?"

"I don't know that kind of thing, man!"

"You'd better start learning. But if you want something cheap, maybe some flowers? Saw a lot of stonepetals blooming on the way here."

"Huh, yeah that'll work until I can get something nicer. Like, uh..." he trailed off, lost in thought. "You think Briltasi would like a helmet?"

Maiko shrugged. "Only one way to find out. What kind of work did you try to do with the guild?"

"They wanted me to kill a rat out in Labor Town. But then some other guys tried to kill it and I kinda get confused on what happened after that."

So Labor Town still had a rat problem.

"You guys don't go down to Labor Town much," Maiko said.

"Nah. No need."

"But how do you know there's no need unless you go yourself?"

Kavon pulled back. "Hey, that's what my boss says! We're busy with the important stuff."

"Don't you live in Labor Town?"

"Yeah, but I spend most of my time up here. Or with my babe, you know?" Kavon chuckled. “Labor Town sucks, so why would I spend more time there?”

Varro worried that the lack of investment in Labor Town might lead to bigger problems down the line, and Maiko could see where he was coming from. This demanded a closer look.

But first, he wanted to pay Jolda a visit.



*********



Not even the most outlandish outlanders attracted much attention in the Lucky Lockup. It was one place in Balmora that visitors could call their own. Not that a stake in it meant much; most patrons drifted through like seeds on the wind, coming in and out on boat, on strider, and on foot.

Jolda reached out across the table and grasped Maiko's steel-clad left hand, her fingers running along the grooves in the metal.

"You know, I don't think you need to worry about the uniform here, Maiko," she said, a mischievous smile on her lips as she looked right into his eyes.

Maiko's mouth went dry. He still didn't know how he'd managed to get a girl as drop-dead gorgeous as Jolda. "Guess you're right," he said.

He glanced around one more time to be safe. Nobody here except bored traders and a few curiosity seekers. Low chance of danger. He unbuckled one gauntlet and then another, tension growing between his shoulder blades as he did.

"Wearing your uniform is part of the job!" echoed the voice of his old drill sergeant.

Putting the gauntlets on the side of the table, he took Jolda's hands into his own and lost himself in the sensation of skin on skin.

"Just how much of the uniform you want me to take off?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

Jolda giggled, then smirked. "I think the gloves are good for now. As for the rest? We'll see what the future brings."

The future. How much of one did they have, anyway? Maybe it was best to leave that well enough alone for the time being.

"Have you told your dad about us?" he went ahead and asked, half-regretting it as soon as he opened his mouth but wanting an answer all the same.

Her hands stiffened. "Uh, I'm working on that."

"So no, in other words."

She shook her head, eyes downcast.

"It's okay."

"No, Maiko. It's not fair for you to feel like you have to hide this." She paused, as if concentrating. "I'm not worried that he'll say no. He likes you."

"Then what's the problem?"

She sighed. "It's hard to explain. I really like you, Maiko. But you're legion. I have no idea how long you'll be in the area. If my dad finds out I'm dating a soldier, he'll probably want us to marry."

"Okay, so we tie the knot, and you can go with me. Who knows where I'll be posted next? Could be the glitz and glamor of the Imperial City." He chuckled. "Or maybe some fort in the middle of Black Marsh."

"I want to go back to Hammerfell. I miss seeing other Redguards. And everything I'm learning here I can use back home."

"Yeah. Back home." Home for her, anyway. Maiko was Redguard by ethnicity, but he'd been born and raised outside the Imperial City. Never set foot in Hammerfell. He wouldn't mind going there. He'd also be okay with not going there. The legion was home for him, more or less.

They were quiet for a moment, listening to the buzz of conversation around them. Maiko took it all in out of habit: EEC caravanners here to pick up Caldera's ore and ship it elsewhere; saltrice and comberry merchants bringing in the goods from the Ascadian Isles; sharp-eyed traders in exotic wares fresh from Seyda Neen.

Business as usual in Balmora. Something else he could add to his report.

"Maiko?"

He'd drifted. "Sorry, Jolda. Uh, okay. You know, if I get to an officer rank, I can petition to be sent to Hammerfell."

"Will they honor that?"

"Maybe. It won't be up to me. But there'd be a chance."

Jolda sighed. "It's important to me. I never wanted to go to Morrowind. My dad's always talking about how I have to be a perfect citizen of the Empire here, both to impress the Imperials and to set a good example for the Dunmer. Not that most Dunmer even care. In Hammerfell, I could just be me."

Maiko nodded. "All I have to do is be a good soldier. Doesn't matter where in Tamriel I am. Guess that makes things simpler." Maiko wasn't so sure that was true, actually, but he didn't press the issue.

"How long do you think it'll take until you become an officer?" Jolda asked.

"A while."

She gave him a searching look. "How long is a while?"

"Couple years at least. It doesn’t matter how good you are: you don't get an officer's commission at my age."

"I know." She took her hands out from his, and then grabbed them, her fingers pressing into his flesh. "I guess we have to see how it goes."

"Should be good for a few more years," he said. "Varro and Radd both like having me around."

Although the truth was that if the legion wanted him elsewhere, they'd give him a few days' notice at most.



*********



The problem with the uniform was that nobody acted their honest selves when they knew a soldier was around. Maybe they'd get on their knees and praise him for being part of the thin line that defended Tamrielic civilization from chaos and barbarism. Maybe they'd clam up because they feared saying the wrong thing might bring the wrath of the legion down on the heads of them and their families.

But Maiko was only Maiko: a promising soldier, but not one with any real authority. He wouldn't be the one to decide where the legion held the line or where it pulled back. Not unless he made it to general, and that didn't look too likely. Generals didn't have to be of noble birth, but it sure helped.

The uniform spoke louder than him. This meant he had to earn people's trust to get any real info. Trick was to figure out some common ground. He usually found something.

Maiko walked through the afternoon bustle of Labor Town, on the edge of the Dyer's Square and its fumes. A rainbow of colors stained the flagstones as workers dipped cloths into big clay pots brimming with pungent dyes. The crowds gave way for him. More accurately, they gave way for his uniform.

Labor Town was rough by Balmora standards, but not too bad. It sure beat the slums of Dragonstar East back in the Reach, with its reeking mud streets and crumbling stone houses all cowering in the shadow of the jarl's castle. He'd learned a lot when his unit had been called to town during the riot. Some of it he didn't care to remember. But some of it proved useful.

He found his contact in an aimless little alley a block north, sitting cross legged on a filthy guar hide laden with charms of wood and bone. Dark eyes peered out from a face as round and pale as the moon, her shaggy black hair blending into her shapeless black robes.

"Droagach," he said, using the Reachman greeting.

Andra snorted. "Your accent still sucks. The way you say it makes it sound like you're coughing up your guts. After me: dro-a-gach."

He tried. The mixed d and t in the first phoneme always eluded him. Andra snickered.

"Sorry, but that's probably the best I can do. I'm Redguard, but my tongue's Imperial," Maiko said.

"Nah. You don't lie enough for that."

He laughed. "How's business?"

"It's okay. Temple priests haven't hassled me much lately."

Andra broke no law, but the Tribunal Temple didn't look fondly on good luck charms sold by outlanders.

"Good," Maiko said. "What about life in general?"

"It sucks. Things are breaking down here and no one's fixing them."

"Sounds familiar. I hear there's a rat problem?"

Andra nodded. "Yeah, a big one. Guards won't do anything and the Fighters Guild's too expensive for most of us. Though sometimes I can turn a problem into an asset." She pointed at a polished rat skull on her rug. "I decided it'd be a fertility charm, what with how rats breed."

"Good thinking. Are the rats attacking people?"

"Oh yeah. Pretty sure they killed Old Maba a week ago. Something ripped her throat out, anyway."

Worse than he'd expected. "I'll let my boss know. Anything else?"

"Been seeing rich Dunmer strut around at night. They talk to some of the young Dunmer toughs here. Might be Camonna Tong outsourcing their dirty work again, but I can't be sure."

"Okay." Maiko reached into his coin purse and took out a fistful of coins, which he handed to her.

"You want my rat skull?" Andra asked, her eyes suddenly big and wistful.

Maiko grinned. "Don't think I need a fertility charm. Not yet, anyway."

"Oh, come on, this is all junk. Only rubes think I sell real charms. I'd feel better if I were selling something for the money. Professional pride, you understand."

"Sure thing."

They made the exchange, Maiko putting the rat skull in one of his pouches. Thanking Andra, he set off on the long walk home.

Corruption, rat infestations, and organized crime: all pretty normal for Balmora. He'd put it down in his report and make his recommendation.

He hoped someone would let him do something about it.



The End

Musical Outro - Feels Like Summer, by Childish Gambino

Andrea (Andra) - Andrea's a goth supporting character in Daria who's quite well-liked by fans despite her scant lines (she has like four in the entire series). Given the presentation of the Reachmen, it seemed appropriate for the Morrowind version of her to be one.
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Acadian
post Sep 14 2022, 08:37 PM
Post #177


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An interesting day in Balmora, seen through the eyes of this young legion soldier. I really liked how you developed Maiko as every bit a soldier without falling into the trap of depicting him unidimensionally as just a walking set of legion armor. And you did so while paying full homage to the impression a legion soldier in uniform undoubtedly creates everywhere he goes. Yet, like any man, he has a history, wants, needs, fears, concerns. He does seem overall a good sort who is interested in both representing the legion well and trying to do some good. A very enjoyable read!


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SubRosa
post Sep 17 2022, 12:34 AM
Post #178


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From: Between The Worlds



"Varro, bring me back my legions!"

Sorry, the ghost of Octavian took over my keyboard there...

"You think Briltasi would like a helmet?" biggrin.gif
I do not think Britalsi would like a helmet. They give you helmet hair! ohmy.gif

I liked the contrast you created between Jolda and Mack Maiko. They are both Redguards. They both process that very differently. And somehow I do not see Jolda being happy in some fort in the middle of Black Marsh...

I liked how you gave us a day in the life of an Imperial Legionary through Maiko's eyes, and how he navigated the various strata of Vvardenfell society. From the Hlaalu officer, to the schlubby guard like Kavon, to his girlfriend, to his grifter and underworld-adjacent contact. You create a picture of what Balmora is really like, in addition to the nice, pretty version that the postcards show.



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WellTemperedClavier
post Sep 18 2022, 04:15 PM
Post #179


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@Acadian - Thanks! I mentioned earlier that these single-chapter entries become scarcer as the series continues, but I did realize they gave me a pretty good way of showing things from an alternate perspective. Satheri and Jeval each get a single-chapter episode, and Synda gets another as well (though her second is probably long enough that I'll have to split it).

@SubRosa- Ha! Those legions ain't coming back...

Briltasi wouldn't want the helmet hair. But as we saw in the paintball episode, Brittany can be a pretty formidable fighter with how able she disarmed Mr. DeMartino. So who knows?

Thanks! One thing I always kept in mind in writing this (or in writing anything, really) is that no two members of a group are ever the same. Granted, Jolda being born in Hammerfell and Maiko being Cyrodiilic is already a pretty big difference, but them being the same race (ethnicity?) won't lead them to have the same conclusions.

Mack also tended to get overlooked in the show. He doesn't play a big part in this series either, but I thought it would be nice to grant him some time in the spotlight. Armies and warriors are a big part of the fantasy genre, but usually in the context of war. I wanted to explore what life in peacetime would be like. Which, of course, also lets me give a broader picture of Balmora.

Episode 13: All the News That's Fit to Primp

Chapter 1


Sure, things did get all cold and gloomy in autumn, but that just meant it was time to buy an outfit with layers. And it’s not like Quinn had bought any new dresses (that second-hand one didn't count) since coming to Morrowind so she had to mix things up. Like always, fashion had a solution. She only needed a mantle to drape over her shoulders. That’d keep her warm and she was sure she could talk mom and dad into letting her buy a new dress (like actually new) for the Old Life Festival in a few months.

But no one ever said choosing the right mantle would be easy.

Quinn stood in front of table displaying the best moth-silk mantles at Kashad’s. The best mantles mom would give her money for, anyway. And it was definitely one of the more fashionable outlets on Silk-hawker’s Street, with clothes from some of the better mid-range moth farms back in Cyrodiil, like Tartus and Locutto Silks.

“Guys?” she asked. “Do you think I should get the blue Locutto or the white Tartus?”

Satheri was suddenly right next to Quinn, her eyes wide. “The blue looks cool.”

“Yeah, but my hair would really stand out against the white.”

Satheri pressed her hands into fists. “Oh, this is so tough. Tiphannia?”

But Tiphannia was lost in her own world, like always, staring at a see-through scarf.

“Tiphannia?” Quinn called.

“You can like see… right through this...” she said.

Quinn sighed. She loved Satheri and Tiphannia to death, but she was starting to think the Fashion Club needed more than three members. Sure, she knew what looked good and what looked lame, but it’d be nice to hear someone besides Satheri agree with her. Not that she didn’t value Satheri’s opinion. But Tiphannia just wasn’t all there.

She took a chance and went with the white mantle. If she was going to make a statement, it might as well be a statement. She put the mantle on after buying it and then headed out with her friends. There’d been a big rainstorm the other day, so they had to lift the hems of their dresses to avoid all the gross puddles.

“It’s so hard to know what to buy,” Satheri complained. “I’m still worried that the fabric I chose is too thin for this weather.”

“Lighter is better because you can always double-layer!” Quinn proclaimed, taking the wide way around a cart to avoid getting splashed.

“You’re so smart, Quinn!”

Quinn drew herself up. “I wish there was some way for us to tell everyone else what to buy to look their best. I mean, nobles get the most stylish stuff because they’re like nobles, but we can still help regular people look good.”

“But like… lots of people… wear whatever...” Tiphannia said.

“Exactly. And we can do something to fix that!”

They turned a corner and almost ran into a big crowd of people standing around the town crier. Dunmer like Satheri got all their news from each other, but outlanders like Quinn had to listen to whatever the criers were paid to talk about.

“… as of Fredas, honorable Bertrand Reauchamp will be retiring to Pelagiad with his wife and will pass his shop unto Clagius Clanler. This means there’s still time to take advantage of the going-away sale! Affordable work clothes, endurance potions, earthenware goods, and glassware will be even more affordable for the next few days.”

Outlander merchants always hired criers to let people know about sales. If she wanted to let everyone know about fashion—and maybe get a few more members in the club—why couldn’t she hire a crier of her own?

“Ladies,” Quinn said. “I just got the most wonderful idea.”



*********



Drenlyn Academy had tons of people. Quinn knew that not all—face it, hardly any—had the talent to be a good town crier. But there were plenty who wanted to try and impress her and that was always fun to watch.

She stood with Satheri and Tiphannia next to the library as the last few guys in line tried out. At first, she’d figured they’d pick someone with a nice voice or something, but when she thought about the crier she’d heard yesterday, she knew they needed someone who could put on a show.

“Hey, Quinn!” Jonus said, standing at the front of the line with his friends behind him. “I’m the best crier you’ll ever find.”

Everyone in the line cracked up, and Jonus blushed as red as his hair when he realized what he’d said. “I mean best town crier! I never cry with tears. Ever.”

“Pick me instead,” Julien pleaded from behind him.

“Guys, don’t rush me on this!" Quinn insisted. "One at a time. Jonus?”

“Uh, right.” Jonus cleared his throat. “Uh, hear ye! Hear ye! I’m the guy with all the news you could want. Like, uh…”

He was sweating, which was totally gross! The last thing the Fashion Club needed was a sweaty town crier.

“Next!” Quinn called out.

Jonus fell to his knees. “Wait! Give me one more chance,” he pleaded.

“I’m sorry, Jonus. But it wouldn’t be fair to all the other guys who want to try.”

“Out of the way, loser!” Julien said, pushing Jonus to the side. Julien posed like he was on stage or something. “Hear ye, hear ye! Julien here with the news to please ye!”

Ugh, he rhymed a word with itself? Not even the laziest bard would do that.

“Next!”

“Aw, come on! I got this whole rhyme thing—”

“If you keep going, I won’t give you the chance to help me the next time I do something.”

He hung his head low and wandered off to join the other losers. “Yes, ma’am,” he said. “Sorry, ma’am.”

“Jervas!” she announced, calling up the next guy.

“Jeval,” he corrected. “Uh, hey, Quinn,” he said, “so are you paying us for this?”

“Of course. I’m paying you with the chance to hang out with me.”

“And the rest of the Fashion Club,” Satheri added.

Jeval shook his head. “I mean with money. Since we’re doing a job we oughta get some, you know, cash.”

“Oh, well you’ll get lots of experience that you can use if you ever want to do it, like, for real," Quinn said.

“Think I’m going to pass, then.”

That was not the answer she’d expected. But Jeval had already wandered off to join his buddies, who were making fun of him.

“You idiot!” Julien said. “Quinn’s not going to pay with money.”

“Why do you care? Me getting the job won't give you a chance with her,” Jeval protested.

Jonus stepped in. “Yeah, but at least one of us could have gotten in. And then helped out his bros.”

“Whatever," Jeval said. "If you’re good at something, don’t do it for free.”

Quinn took another look at Jeval. Was he actually good at this? Next in line was…

“Oh, gross,” she whispered. Karl the Unctuous stood at the front, with that icky grin stretched across his face.

He stepped up without being invited, which was so like him, and then bowed which might have been nice from someone who could make it look courtly. Karl was way overdressed for the part, with an orange silk frock coat so bright that it hurt to look at.

“Make it quick, Karl,” she said.

He straightened up, put one hand on his chest and pointed his nose in the air. “Hear ye, hear ye! Are you struggling to decide on autumn colors suitable for this drear land? Do you fear your silks are so last decade? Fret not, for you will find the answer at the fashion event of a lifetime, the opportunity of a century, where Quinn Morgendorffer, maiden of reputation most sterling and the scarlet-crowned queen of the sartorial realm, shall be sharing her wisdom on the best fabrics, dyes, cuts, and styles for comely young women like yourself.”

Wow. One of the key things about being popular was not to get impressed too easily. But he’d made it sound exciting. She looked to Satheri, then to Tiphannia who was staring at herself in a mirror, and then back to Satheri.

“A moment,” she said to Karl, holding out her hand. Then she whispered. “Do you think he’s going to be a creep if we hire him?”

Satheri shrugged. “He did a good job. Maybe if we tell him to behave himself?”

“Karl, did you make that all up on the spot?” Quinn asked.

“Extemporaneity is one of my many virtues, dear lady. Though some find my vices more interesting,” he added in a lower tone.

This was tough. Everyone hated Karl and for good reason. But no one else came close.

“All right, Karl, but if you get the job you have to promise not to be a creep or a loser or anything. There are rules here.”

He grinned and leaned in so close she could see all his gross pores and smell his breath. “Ooh, you’re feisty!”

That made her decision way easier. “And you just lost the job.”

Karl blinked, and then stepped aside.

Quinn wanted to get the ball rolling and she did not have time to go through the rest. “Jeval! You said you’re good at this, right?”

“Uh, yeah.” He cleared his throat, then spoke: “Do you want to look your best this season? Quinn Morgendorffer can tell you how!”

Okay, it wasn’t terrible. Not as good as Karl’s but at least he said it like he meant it. Satheri seemed all right with him, going by the expression on her face.

“Fine, you can be our crier. And I’ll pay you two septims every time you announce something.”

“Cool!” he said, as his friends wailed. “What do you want me to say?”

“Uh, that’s your job.”

“Yeah, but I gotta know what you’re planning. So I can tailor the message.”

“That’s easy,” Quinn said. “We’ll be talking about fashion, duh!”

“And? Like are you going to talk about dresses? Accessories? Dyes? Trends?”

“Uh, all of that. Maybe?” But Quinn realized she had no idea.

Ugh, who thought that advertising would be so much work!


Musical Outro - Mambo No. 5, by Lou Bega
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Renee
post Sep 18 2022, 05:14 PM
Post #180


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Satheri might be a little color blind. cool.gif But Heathers is different from the others right away. Sort of more ... I don't know, mysterious? What is this heather ritual? For some reason I feel like something bad's gonna happen.

Louche... new word for me. wink.gif

So it's autumn now, in this chapter. It was summer in previous chapters, right? Therefore a bit of time has passed by? Heh, maybe I'm wrong, and it's just been a hot autumn in Vvardenfell. Sorry, I get obsessed with the passage of time in some stories.

Uh oh. What's going to happen to Synda? sad.gif What's happening to Satheri? Seems like she's got a spell cast on her as she struggles to breathe.

Pretty disturbing chapter, I'm bummed. The Raveonettes is a band I'm not familiar with though. Really like this song.

QUOTE
Speechcraft is a pretty handy skill, even if Morrowind's persuasion system is... less than intuitive. Oblivion's was kind of complicated, but worked well enough once you figured it out.


Speechcraft is Hard in Morrowind! laugh.gif There's even a warning about NOT trying to use it as we start the game. Therefore, dad seems as though he's at least rather good at it.

Oblivion's system (with the mini game) is pretty clunky and makes no logical sense, but at least we can take a shot at influencing pretty much anybody in Cyrodiil, you know what I mean? Depending on the person we're playing, we can make people like or hate us. Yes, I had a few characters who wanted to be hated! 🎃 We can make this happen in OB. I'd rather have this than nothing random or variable at all (as in Skyrim).


The part in the next chapter when it says "the Hlaalu made their towns easy to navigate..." Huh. Very true, in fact. I'm not so familiar with Telvanni yet, but Redoran locations (Ald-ruhn, for instance. Ald Velothi, too) do tend to meander. Not as organized. Again, never really realized this until now. smile.gif


QUOTE
"Moonmoth's already got a full garrison. Someone told me that Fort Darius up in Gnisis is accepting recruits. Why, you planning on signing up?"


laugh.gif Joan just went through all of this!

Maiko buys the rat skull. Maybe he will need it somehow.

Holy [censored] am I caught up? I am! Sweet!

This post has been edited by Renee: Sep 18 2022, 05:18 PM
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