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> Teresa of the Faint Smile, Adventures of a Stringy Bosmer
Destri Melarg
post Apr 2 2010, 09:35 PM
Post #41


Mouth
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From: Rihad, Hammerfell



To quote mALX: “Grrr! Cliffhanger! Arrggh!”

The dream sequences are really vivid and add a supernatural undertone to Teresa’s story. Are they going to be a recurring theme? I guess I’ll have to keep reading to find out.

I like the reason that Teresa sites for not shooting the goblin. It’s interesting to compare her reasoning there to her reasoning for not killing a deer.

I also like the fact that in your version of Cyrodiil wolves travel in packs.


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canis216
post Apr 3 2010, 01:54 AM
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From: Desert canyons without end.



Mmm... deer. Very tasty. Not as good as elk though...

Ahem. Well written, quite enjoyable. Very heavy on character development, which is good. Keep 'em coming.


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Read about Always-He-Lingers-in-the-Sun, a Blades assassin, in Killing in the Emperor's Name and The Dark Operation. And elsewhere.
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SubRosa
post Apr 4 2010, 06:29 PM
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Destri Melarg: Thank you D. Yes, the dreams will be a recurring feature. They are a part of Bosmer spirituality that I am creating, completely outside of TES lore. I am hoping that it will add more depth to both the setting, and Teresa herself.

I believe ultimately Teresa does not want to kill things. She does have the ability to do it without hesitation when in danger, but that is about it. I suppose there is a bit of the proto-Teresa doctrine there. Don't kill unless you have to. Of course she has yet to learn in her heart that life requires death to survive, and that sacrifice is a part of the natural order of the world.

Wolves travel in packs IRL, so they do so in my writing. I want my writing to seem like a real world, so I do my best to model the behaviour of real critters.


canis216: Venison is quite tasty! I have had it a few times, and have always enjoyed it. Never had elk or moose, or anything larger though.

Thank you C. Character development is my focus, so expect more of that than action.



* * *
Chapter 4c - For The Emperor

Teresa woke as the sun was setting, and wondered at the strange dream. It had all seemed so familiar, she thought. She was certain she had it before, sometime after escaping from the prison. Yet she could not recall exactly when.

The croaking of a raven drew her thoughts, and she looked up to see the black bird sitting on a branch above her. It turned its head from one side to another, as if to look upon her with each eye in turn. Then with a loud cry it leapt into the air and flew toward the setting sun. On impulse, Teresa quickly rose, gathered up her things, and followed in the same direction.

The ground had been gradually sloping upward since she left the lake behind, perhaps as long as a week ago. Now she found herself climbing an even steeper slope, pausing occasionally to gather up the summer bolete, lavender, viper's bugloss, and fly amanita she found there. The sky had gone dark and the stars were coming out when she finally reached the crest of the hill. Atop it she was greeted by the sight of high stone walls in front of her and stretching off out of her view to either side.

She saw torches on the battlements, and lights emanating from windows in towers regularly spaced along the wall. Here and there she saw soldiers marching back and forth behind the parapets. Continuing ahead, she soon came upon a path that ringed the walls. Following it, she found herself at a huge gate in the wall, with a large stable and horse paddock nearby.

She froze when she saw the two guards standing at the gate. They stared back at her, and she willed herself to begin walking again. As she drew near she found that unlike the members of the Imperial Legion, these men wore coats of mail covered with only a few pieces of plate at the shoulders. A quilted vest was draped over their mail and split at the waist, hanging as far down as their knees. A white tree was emblazoned in the center of the vests, as well as on the round shields they held in their left hands. At their hips they wore the same steel arming swords she was used to seeing the Imperial Legion carry however.

"Good evening citizen," one of the guardsmen said as she approached. "Welcome to Chorrol."

Screenshot

Teresa stopped and resisted the urge to look to see if he had been talking to someone else. No guardsman had ever spoken to her in that tone before. It was... friendly. The way soldiers treated regular people. Teresa found herself at a loss for words.

"It looks like you have been traveling for some time ma'am," the other guard offered up, filling the awkward silence that was developing.

"Umm, yes," Teresa forced herself to speak. "A long time. I was looking for Weynon Priory."

"Not going to become a monk I hope!" the first guard said with a grin, then stopped himself abruptly. "Not that there is anything wrong with monks of course, praise Talos. Just a bit dull is all."

"No, I, um..." Teresa began, scrambling for something to say. "I'm looking for my brother. He is one of the monks there. I came out from the Imperial City to surprise him with a visit. Only I have never been here before..."

"I didn't think there were any Bosmer monks at Weynon?" the second guard said quizzically.

"Oh, he's my step-brother," Teresa replied quickly. "He's an Imperial like you men are. But we are so close I forget. It is been so long since I have seen him... I cannot wait."

"Well, Weynon is back down that road there," the first guard said, pointing down another road that lay beyond the stable. "If you follow that a few miles it will take you past some farms and right to the priory. But I would not try going there now. You better get a room here in the city for the night and go in the morning."

"That is ok, I like walking at night," Teresa said, turning to leave.

"Wait," the first guard said, reaching out to take her arm in a gentle grip. "Please. You look like you know your way around the woods, but that's not a good idea, not these days."

"Ever since the Emperor died, we have had reports you see..." the second guard said in a hushed whisper. "Of people disappearing, and legionaries turning up dead on the road, torn to pieces. It's the Daedra they say!"

Teresa's heart skipped a beat, not just from the guardsman's grip, but also from the news. They both seemed serious, and genuinely concerned for her safety. She was not sure how to feel about that. She was not sure how to feel about so many things these days.

"Oh," she said, thinking about her long journey through the wilderness. It had been very quiet and relatively peaceful, certainly more than the Waterfront had ever been. Yet if there really were Daedra roaming the land, what would she have done if one found her? "I had no idea. I had better stay here then."

The first guard recommended she stay at an inn called the Oak and Crosier that was just inside the gate. She took his advice and was glad for it. The common room was clean, bright, and filled with people eating and drinking. It seemed very friendly and comfortable-looking. Talking to the owner, a female Khajiit named Talasma, Teresa found that the rooms were not nearly as expensive as she imagined for a place so large and well apportioned. After exchanging more of her sewer-found gold she acquired a room, a bath, and her first real meal since escaping the prison.

The next morning she went shopping. Her first stop was the Mages Guild, which she had heard of from some of the people talking in the inn's common room. Their Altmer alchemist looked at her like she was a creature rather than a person. That did not bother Teresa, much. It was how she expected people to treat her after all.

The Altmer did give her a nice sum of coins for the plants she had gathered on her journey. Enough that Teresa began to think that roaming the countryside for alchemical ingredients might turn out to be well worth the effort. Certainly not enough to get rich, but far better than she was doing now.

After that a smithy known as Fire and Steel caught her eye. There Teresa found herself parting with her cracked and brittle leathers and her sword. But in return she found herself the owner of a brand new set of leather armor - cuirass, gauntlets, greaves, and boots - covering her from head to toe with the thick, yet supple material. Where the old cuirass from the sewer had felt bulky and stiff, this seemed to move with her willowy frame rather than against it. The owner said it was made for female wood elves like herself, so she was not too surprised. She also showed Teresa how to care for the leather with a solution of oils and beeswax that she sold to the wood elf as well.

From there Teresa stopped at the Northern Goods Trade Store, which she found was run by a friendly Argonian named Seed Neeus. From her Teresa purchased a simple linen tunic to replace her nearly ruined sack-cloth clothing, a pack, a bedroll, and other traveling equipment. She was pleasantly surprised when she saw that the Argonian merchant had a supply of ground henna leaves, and on a whim bought them as well.

Then she was back to the inn, where she went up to her room and set to the task of mixing the henna with water and applying the paste to her hair. She had never dyed her hair before, but knew enough other women who did, so it was not too difficult, just a bit messy and time-consuming.

When she was finished she stepped back to get a good look at herself in the mirror and nearly gasped. Not only was her formerly mousy brown hair now a brilliant crimson mane, but the rest of her had changed as well. The street urchin she had known all of her life was gone. Instead a lithe forester clad in leather had taken her place. She stood tall and straight, with emerald eyes that showed a quiet confidence behind them. The very picture of a wood elf from all the stories she had heard growing up, except for her ghostly pale skin of course.

Screenshot

"It is our choices in life that define us," she heard the voice of the Emperor in her mind, as clearly as if he was standing next to her. "Some people choose poorly. Some choose to be something better."

The thought of the Emperor made her eyes moisten and a lump form in her throat. Yet she willed herself not to cry. She owed him better than that, Teresa thought. Swallowing down the knot in her throat, she looked at herself in the mirror and wondered what the old man would think if he could see her now. She had the feeling that he would be pleased.

The thought brought a faint smile to her lips. Teresa found that she liked the new person she was becoming.

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Apr 12 2011, 09:33 PM


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minque
post Apr 4 2010, 07:40 PM
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Ohhhh
QUOTE
Teresa found that she liked the new person she was becoming.


i...am also liking Teresa more and more, as am I liking that the setting is oblivion, because i never played it really, my machine is not good enough.

Teresa is a very likable person, and your writing is purely professional

More please?


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Chomh fada agus a bhionn daoine ah creiduint in aif�iseach, leanfaidh said na n-aingniomhi a choireamh (Voltaire)

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Olen
post Apr 4 2010, 08:33 PM
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Yes I must agree that you've handled the development of Teresa excellently. She's quite a different character now compared to the beginning but the change was progressive and quite believable. Especially as it was already there and she was unaware of it but the change in circumstances and location have allowed her to become herself almost. I'm interested to see how she develops now she has (I think) developed in that way. Also the amount of killing in volved in the main quest is something I'm interested to see affect her.

So yes, I'm loving this character development and the writing.

More?


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Zalphon
post Apr 5 2010, 12:03 AM
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I like the description. Very nice work.


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Winter Wolf
post Apr 5 2010, 06:33 AM
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The thought of the guards caring about Teresa is highly comical. I love it!!

Our little & lost Bosmer girl might have to start changing her views on the outside world. The waterfront has been under the Hieronymus Lex spell for so long that Teresa does unfortunately have a biased view of the world. Not that it is her fault, of course, she has yet to experience the wider outside...

Ah, the red flowing locks. At last the real Teresa is standing up. Awesome. smile.gif


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Destri Melarg
post Apr 6 2010, 08:44 AM
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I think that might be the first time in your writing that I have heard Teresa use the word ‘confident’ to describe herself! This chapter has the feel of what could be many 'aha' moments in the development of the character. It comes across as very subtle and organic, the culmination of the first stage of her journey executed by a writer who cares deeply about ‘getting it right’. In this chapter, SubRosa, you have absolutely nailed it. goodjob.gif


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SubRosa
post Apr 6 2010, 09:05 PM
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minque: Oblivion can be quite the resource hog. I do find it to be more fun than Morrowind though. My fiction is mostly true to the game, except in a few places. The most glaring one is that in the game Cyrodiil is tiny, just 20 miles or so across. In my fiction I have dramatically expanded the size of the province, making it take weeks to travel across, rather than just one day.

More coming. smile.gif


Olen: Thank you O. Lots more character development coming as well. The first six chapters were originally written by me just to establish a baseline of who Teresa was before the real development began. But when I wrote them, I discovered that she was also changing quite a bit just in them. It is nice when that happens without real planning.

This chapter will be the last of the Main Quest for Teresa however. The events in the MQ will continue, but without her being directly involved. Teresa will learn of some of the events as she goes about her adventures, and she will experience some of the fallout however.


Zalphon: Thank you Z.


Winter Wolf: Thanks Wolf. Yep, she is finally red again. It was strange seeing her with brown hair. This of course means her temper cannot be too far behind though...


Destri Melarg: It is indeed the first time Teresa has ever looked in the mirror and actually liked what she saw. It is the first chance she has had to pause and really start taking in how much the Emperor has changed her.


All: This post will finish out Chapter 4, and include a guest appearance by another character...


* * *
Chapter 4d - For The Emperor

After buying some bread and cheese for the road from Talasma, Teresa set off on her journey to Weynon. The priory was not difficult to find, even for someone traveling across the countryside rather than by the road. The chapel tower loomed high enough above the trees that Teresa could see it from quite a distance. Drawing nearer, she found that a chest-high stone wall surrounded the grounds, which was divided up by low walls into cultivated fields, grazing for cows, sheep, and goats, a stable, and a smithy.

Screenshot

It was a miniature city all in itself, Teresa thought. People dressed in ordinary work clothes moved to and fro tending the soil or the livestock, and she received more than a few stares when she pulled herself over the wall and leaped onto the grounds themselves. No one tried to stop her however, and Teresa made her way to the chapel itself.

There she found an actual monk, a young Imperial who introduced himself as Brother Piner. While he wore the simple brown cassock of a cleric, Teresa noted the hilt of a sword rising from the folds of his robe. When she asked for Jauffre, his eyes narrowed.

"What brings you to Weynon?" he asked, extending his hand in greeting. It seemed odd to Teresa. Since when did anyone ever want to shake her hand? Yet by reflex she put her hand within the Imperial's. His grasp was firmer than she would have imagined for a monk, and she felt his thumb press into the gap between the knuckles of her first and second fingers. For some reason that struck her as being odd as well, although she was not sure why.

"What is your business with Jauffre?" the monk continued, releasing her hand.

"I was sent by Baurus," she answered, wondering if she had failed some kind of test.

The monk questioned Teresa further, but she refused to reveal more than that. The Emperor had trusted her to deliver the amulet, she thought, and after what had happened under the prison she was not about to take any chances with it.

Finally the monk walked with her to their chapter house next door. It was a large building of stone, and even included a little arched canopy for carriages to stop underneath. To keep them out of the rain, Teresa imagined. The windows were narrow slits, too slender for a person to fit through. But her archer's eye noted they were wide enough to easily fire a bow through. While at first glance it seemed like a quaint country priory, she realized that it could easily double as a fortress.

Beyond the heavy oak front door she found a simple but comfortable abode. Yet for all of its size, it seemed strangely empty to the wood elf. Given all of its space and the number of laborers working in the fields, she would have imagined there would be dozens of monks in the monastery proper. Yet as Piner took Teresa to Jauffre's office on the second floor, she did not see another soul within the building. Had they all gone somewhere? Teresa wondered as the monk told her to wait in an anteroom, while he went through another door to announce her.

So Teresa waited, but the monk did not return, nor did anyone else issue from the office. Time seemed to drag on forever. What was taking so long? the wood elf thought. She only needed a few moments to give Jauffre the damned amulet, then she could get out of there and get back home.

Perhaps she should have told Piner that she had the amulet after all? she mused, that might have gotten some action. Memory of the red-robed assassins dispelled that thought however. Better to be safe, she reasoned, than sorry.

So with nothing else to do, she paced back and forth, growing more frustrated with every moment. Was Jauffre really in there? she wondered, or was Piner just stalling her? Why would he do that? Could he be one of the assassins? Could Jauffre be dead even now, and the other Blades whom she expected to be here?

No, she thought, not with all of the people going about their business outside. If there had been a bloodbath like under the prison, they would have all fled. Besides, there were no signs of fighting either inside the building or without. No broken furniture, or bloodstains, or smell of dead bodies, or clouds of flies that flocked to such things.

Finally Teresa could take no more, and shoved the door to the office open and burst inside. Within she found Brother Piner standing in front of a desk. Behind it sat a middle-aged Breton with a shaven head, also wearing an ordinary monk's robe. Teresa knew instantly that he was no priest. He sat with his back too straight, his eyes were too hard, and his every motion was that of a soldier. Teresa had seen it all her life. You could always spot a legionary, no matter how hard he tried to hide what he was. Their soldier's demeanor was burned into them like a brand into a horse.

Standing to one side of the room was a tall Redguard. Her straight, milk-white hair was tied in a ponytail, and her face was worn with care. She wore a full suit of leather armor, much like Teresa's own. An arming sword hung from one her hips, and a quiver of arrows from the other. She had that same stiffness in her frame and aura of danger hanging about her as did the seated monk.

Another soldier, Teresa thought, although at least she was not pretending to be a monk.

"What in Nirn do you think you are doing!" the shaven-headed man growled, rising from his seat. That also made the sword tucked under his robe plain to see. "We have important matters to discuss. Now wait outside and you will be dealt with appropriately."

Teresa felt herself wilt under his harsh words and even hasher stare. She wanted to squeak like a mouse and scurry off to hide. Exactly what she had done all her life when the Imperial Legion turned their wrath upon her. But she did not do so this time, much to her own surprise. Instead she shut the door behind her with only a slight tremble in her hand. When she turned back she saw the Redguard had a hand on her sword, as if it were just casually resting there.

"I am here for the Emperor." Teresa found herself spitting out with an extreme effort of will. "He sent me here."

"What?" the Breton said in surprise, his tone more gentle now. "Just who are you? What are you doing here?"

Teresa took a moment to calm herself. For days she had imagined this moment, rehearsed it all in her mind. But now that she was here she did not know what to say. It was nothing like she had imagined. She felt like she was fighting the goblins all over again. Her heart was racing, her throat was dry, and her skin cold as ice. She had to control herself, she thought. She had faced an assassin; she had faced goblins, she could face this soldier pretending to be a monk.

Rather than talk, she reached into one of her new belt pouches and drew forth the Amulet of Kings. The Redguard's hand fell away from her sword and her grey-green eyes widened, as did those of the two men.

"By Talos!" the Breton gasped.

"Jauffre," Teresa said. The surprise evident on all three of their faces made her feel more in control of the situation. She looked to the older monk. "Are you Jauffre?"

"Yes," the Breton said. His voice had lost all of its former anger, and now seemed filled with joy as he rounded his desk and stepped closer. He reached an eager hand out to her. "I cannot believe it. You have the amulet!"

For a moment Teresa recoiled out of reflex. Then she steadied herself, and set the Amulet of Kings in Jauffre's fingers.

"My name is Teresa, and the Emperor wanted me to give this to you," she said, now feeling calm, as if simply referring to the old man had brought her strength. She remembered his piercing blue eyes, and again felt their warmth fill her. "He said that he has another son. One the assassins did not know about. He said you know where he is. Find him, and give him the amulet."

For a moment Jauffre stared at the giant red gemstone in his hand with wonder. Then his features settled back into a mask of determination. He looked to the Redguard first and laid his free hand on the woman's shoulder.

"Go Julian," he said, voice now filled with enthusiasm. "Ride hard to Kvatch!"

"I will bring Martin back, sir." The Redguard saluted Jauffre, closed fist thumping against her leather-clad breast. Teresa almost felt like she would blush when she turned to her and did the same. Then she left the room, her pronounced limp barely slowing her determined stride.

"I do not know how you managed to get this," Jauffre said in amazement, looking from the Amulet of Kings to Teresa. "But you did the right thing coming here. You may have just saved the Empire, all of Tamriel, from destruction. When the Emperor and the Princes died, I sent all the Blades I had here at Weynon for his last son. We are waiting for them to return with him. He was illegitimate, so his birth was kept a secret to avoid a scandal, and to protect him from the Empress. Now he is our last hope."

"But where are my manners?" Jauffre continued, now the kind host as he lead her to a comfortable chair next to his desk. "Come and sit. You must be tired from your journey. Are you hungry? I will send for some food."

Teresa allowed herself be led to the chair and sat down. Her heart slowed with relief. It was finally over! she thought. The moment she had put the amulet in Jauffre's hand, it felt as if a heavy weight had been lifted from her.

She recounted her story at the Breton's prodding, and he plied her with sweet cakes and wine. She discovered that Jauffre had known the man who had died in the alley, saying that he was an agent of the Blades who was watching Daedric cults. When she told him that she had been arrested for his murder, the monk swore that he would have the charges against her dropped.

"Now," he said after she had finished, "how can I reward you for what you have done? I cannot give you a title, only the Emperor can do that. My order is not wealthy, but I am sure we can spare some gold though."

"No," Teresa said, shaking her head. "I cannot take anything."

"You have done a service to the Empire which cannot be dismissed," Jauffre said staunchly. "I must do something for you in return."

"You do not understand," Teresa said, tears welling up in her eyes. "He died right in front of me, and I couldn't stop it. He believed in me, and I just watched him die..."

"Do not carry that guilt with you," Jauffre said quietly, rising to lay a hand on her shoulder. Not the soft hand of a monk, but the hard grasp of a soldier. "Could have, would have, should have... Play that game with yourself and it will drive you mad. Believe me, I know better than most."

Teresa gently took his hand and moved it off her shoulder. While part of her desperately wanted to be comforted, she could not let a soldier see her this way. Her entire lifetime had taught her to never show them weakness, else they would exploit it. She did not think Jauffre would do that, but old habits died hard.

She rose, knowing that she had to get out of there. Jauffre did not try to stop her as she walked to the door.

"The new Emperor will know what you have done, and I will never forget," she heard Jauffre say as she opened the door. "If you ever need anything, come and find me, or him. Anything..."

Teresa nodded. Part of her was screaming to take the money and live rich and fat for the rest of her life. But another part of her saw the Emperor's face in her mind and remembered his words. He had given her something no amount of gold could compare to. What she did, she did for him, and nothing else.

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Apr 8 2010, 03:18 AM


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D.Foxy
post Apr 7 2010, 01:01 AM
Post #50


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Yay for Teresa
Yay for Jools
None can beat her
That is true
Now let's read on
our story bright
while events creep on
see Teresa FIGHT!!!
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haute ecole rider
post Apr 7 2010, 01:43 AM
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QUOTE
Her entire lifetime had taught her to never show them weakness, else they would exploit it. She did not think Jauffre would exploit it, but old habits died hard.

salute.gif


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Destri Melarg
post Apr 8 2010, 08:59 AM
Post #52


Mouth
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From: Rihad, Hammerfell



Wow! So much to praise about this chapter! From the opening description of Weynon Priory that transforms it from the slightly antiseptic game location to a bustling, believable place of prayer. On to Teresa’s wait in the anteroom, where I fidgeted alongside her waiting for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn. Then the surprising appearance of Julian and your even-handed description of her. Finally, Jauffre’s change of demeanor when Teresa gives him the amulet brought a smile to my face.

Saying that Martin was hidden to avoid scandal and to protect him from the Empress was an especially nice touch.

QUOTE(SubRosa @ Apr 6 2010, 01:05 PM) *

"Could have, would have, should have... Play that game with yourself and it will drive you mad. Believe me, I know better than most."

Quoted for truth!


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SubRosa
post Apr 8 2010, 04:55 PM
Post #53


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From: Between The Worlds



D.Foxy: Well, if you meant fight a fish, that is coming up... biggrin.gif


haute ecole rider: I was wondering how many people would spot that phrase. It was actually in the original, from long before I had ever heard of my most favorite Redguard from Anvil. But when retooling this chapter could not restrain a faint smile. Talk about serendipity.


Destri Melarg: Thank you Dest. I tried to portray Weynon as not only a chapel and chapter house, but also an entire infrastructure of peasants who kept the place going, growing all the food, tending the livestock, working in the smithy, etc... I also wanted to present it not only as a holy site, but also show that it was well-fortified due to its being the regular headquarters of the Blades.

"Could'a, would'a, should'a" is a quote I know best from Farscape. In fact, I think there was even an episode by that name. Since then it has always stuck with me.

I have not seen much at all about Uriel VII's wife. I am not sure if she is even alive at the time of the crisis. What I did see was not at all flattering. They way they portray her, she was a cold, viscous creature who would drive the most virtuous man to infidelity. Given that, I am sure that she would have any bastards she found out about assassinated. In fact, I have often toyed with the idea that Nerussa was one of Uriel's mistresses, and the Empress is the one who ran her out of the courtesan business.


* * *
Chapter 5a - Gone Fishing

24th - 31st Second Seed, 3E433

Teresa's journey back to the city was uneventful. Once again she stayed off the road and walked east through the forest, traveling mostly at night. She found the going was easier this time, as it was literally all downhill. Once more she gathered plants with alchemical properties as she went. A bear followed her for a short distance, but a use of her Command Creature ability convinced it that she was a friend, allowing her to easily slip away from it.

A week later she once more found herself on the western shore of Lake Rumare. She could not pass up the opportunity to strip off her gear and dive into the water. She had always liked to swim, but ever since her escape from prison it had become her special treat. It felt almost as if the water could wash the muck of her past away, and allow her to emerge from its depths a completely new person. Afterward she dried herself in the morning sun and laid down to sleep.

* * *

She was standing in a large cavern whose rough stone walls were carved out by the forces of nature. Shadows clung to the walls of the cave, the darkest of which were smaller tunnels leading further into the bowels of Nirn. Before her the cavern was open to the sky. Sunlight beamed through the gaping hole, illuminating the center of the chamber in golden light. Beneath this Teresa saw a large pool of water, whose crystal clear waves held a small forest of marine plants.

She had been here before, the wood elf knew. It was the same dream again. As before, she stepped into the light of the sun, feeling its warmth fill her. Then she sat, sliding her bare legs into the clear water. It too was warm against her skin, and she watched how the light bent the image of her legs as she gently kicked them back and forth under the waves.

Now it was time for her to look up. Doing so, she saw the dark figure across the pool from her. Standing at the edge of the shadows, she wore not a cloak, but rather was covered in black feathers from head to toe.

Still, Teresa's breath caught in her throat, and she quickly pulled her legs from the water. Leaping to her feet, the wood elf stared at the other woman. Yet the dark figure did not move. Teresa was still not sure if she even breathed.

The wood elf took a step forward. Who was this woman? she wondered. How was she in her dreams? The figure turned as Teresa approached and began to raise her head. The wood elf reached out her hand, and her fingers touched the soft down of the stranger's hood, pulling it up and away.

Within, she saw her own face staring back at her.


* * *

Teresa woke with a start. How many times had she had that same dream? she wondered. Half a dozen times? More? Every time she seemed to get further, to learn more, yet always it slipped away from her memory. This time she willed herself to remember, and wished she had something to write down what had happened.

It was her own face in the cloak of feathers, she thought. It was herself, standing on the edge of the shadows, looking back her. What did that mean? Was she going mad? Or was there some deeper meaning behind it all?

Out of the corner of her eye, she spied a raven flying past. Lifting her head, she saw it winging south, along the shore of Lake Rumare. She was not sure why, but somehow the bird reminded her of the woman in her dream. Of me, she mentally corrected herself, for she was the woman in her dream.

Yet the other figure she saw had seemed like someone else, the wood elf mused as she followed the raven's path. It had definitely felt like there was another presence in the grotto with her. Not frightening, she realized, only different. Somehow she had the feeling that it had something to do with the ravens and crows she had been seeing lately, as if they were somehow guiding her.

Watching the bird as it winged its way ahead of her, Teresa found herself wondering what it must be like to soar through air as it did, free of all constraints. She closed her eyes, and for a moment she could almost feel the wind on her face, and hear the rustling of feathered wings beneath her.

With a faint smile she opened her eyes and followed the raven. The wood elf eventually came upon a small village of daub and wattle homes near the great western bridge to the City Isle. The sign on the road leading into it said it was named Weye. The sun had set some time earlier, so rather than pushing on to the Imperial City she decided to stop for the night.

In the center of the hamlet stood a building larger than the others. The lower half of its walls was of small stones, and the top of daub and wattle like the other buildings in the village. A roof of thatch covered its two stories, and the large sign in front proclaimed it to be the Wawnet Inn.

Screenshot

The common room was small, but the patrons were few. Teresa had no troubles finding herself an empty table and sat back over a glass of wine and a handful of fresh bread and Argonian olive oil. She had never drunk wine before Weynon, but ever since then she had been thinking about how lovely it had tasted. The Wawnet Inn's fare was not as exquisite as that of Jauffre's table, but it still tasted delicious after days of nothing but water.

The innkeeper was an Altmer woman named Nerussa, dressed in soft blue velvet. Her hair was a halo of golden sunlight, and her eyes a darker shade of amber. She had all the curves that Teresa lacked, and used them to deadly effect with every step she took. Teresa could barely take her eyes off the high elf, and every time she walked by the wood elf reveled in the gentle scent of lavender and pomegranates that followed in the statuesque woman's wake.

Teresa wondered what such a woman was doing in a simple hamlet such as Weye? Surely, Nerussa was from noble blood? the wood elf imagined, or at least a wealthy common family? What would bring such a person here, serving drinks to farmers and fishermen?

Just another mystery that she would probably never understand, the wood elf reasoned, like the dead thief and goblins in the sewer.

Teresa soon lost track of how much wine she had drunk. In any case, it was enough for her to work up the courage to ask the innkeeper about her wines. That prompted Nerussa to begin talking about how she liked to collect them.

Teresa liked how she kept her hair bound up behind her head with polished little sticks that dangled tiny jewels from their upper ends. It looked very elegant, and showed off the delicate curve of the nape of the Altmer's neck. Teresa wondered how Nerussa did it, and offhandedly fiddled with the unruly locks of her own crimson mane.

"So if you ever come across Shadowbanish Wine, you will be sure to remember me, right?"

Teresa blinked. She had been paying more attention to how Nerussa looked than to what she was saying.

"Yes, Shadowbanish Wine, in the old castles," Teresa replied, trying to remember what the high elf had been talking about. "If I ever find any, I will be glad to bring it to you."

A middle-aged Breton came in a moment later. He wore plain clothing of worn flax, and walked with a noticeable limp. Sitting down at a table next to Teresa, he gave her the same mildly interested glance that the other patrons had when she had entered herself. She got the feeling that they did not get too many Bosmer foresters in Weye.

"Bring me some of that pale ale Nerussa," Teresa heard him say to the innkeeper in that light, almost singing voice that all Breton's seemed to possess. "That'll ease the pain."

"Is that leg still bothering you Aelwin?" Nerussa asked a moment later as she brought him a tall glass of foaming liquid, which did not look at all pale to Teresa.

"Ahh, it still acts up," the Breton man fussed, rubbing his hip. "Never healed right in the first place the priest says, now they can't fix it 'cause it's too late."

"So what are you going to do about those fish?" the high elf asked as she returned to the bar.

"I dunno," Aelwin replied, staring morosely into his glass before downing a mouthful. "I was so close too, only a dozen more to go and I would've been set."

At that point the two of them looked over at Teresa, noticing that she was staring. That is when Teresa noticed that she was staring herself. Feeling like she had just walked naked through the Market District, she instantly lowered her gaze to her wine while her ghostly white cheeks blossomed a shade of crimson to match her hair.

She emptied her glass in one quick gulp. Feeling a desperate need to escape the common room, she rose and walked not a little unsteadily to the bar. Had she drank that much? she thought. This was only the second time she had wine. She wondered how much really was too much?

"You mentioned you had rooms?" she asked Nerussa, feeling proud of herself for not slurring her words. See, she told herself, she could hold her liquor.

"Yes, there are several rooms upstairs if you would like one," the Altmer replied with a smile that was like the sun breaking from the clouds on a rainy day. Teresa wasn't sure if she was smiling at her embarrassment, or if perhaps she saw something that she liked?

Probably the embarrassment, Teresa decided, taking Nerussa up on the room and passing several coins to her. Walking up the stairs was no challenge to a seasoned forester such as herself; nor was entering the room. Getting out of her cuirass was however, with all of its straps and buckles and laces. In the end she wound up spending the night in it and nothing else. In spite of how Teresa would have liked Nerussa to have come to visit, she was thankful that the Altmer did not.

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Mar 6 2011, 06:38 AM


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D.Foxy
post Apr 9 2010, 12:22 PM
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D.Foxy: Well, if you meant fight a fish, that is coming up...


Hmmm...

You mean you have to FiGHT your fish? I always thought you did the other thing with it..


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Destri Melarg
post Apr 10 2010, 12:35 AM
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From: Rihad, Hammerfell



Teresa dressed in a cloak of feathers, standing on the edge of the shadows, and being led around Tamriel by raven’s flight? That’s pretty symbolic for someone who continues to believe with an almost religious fervor how much of a hero she isn’t. Even her dreams betray her. wink.gif

Your description of Nerussa was great. I am eager to see how Teresa handles Aelwin’s quest. Those slaughterfish can be murder.

This post has been edited by Destri Melarg: Apr 10 2010, 12:35 AM


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SubRosa
post Apr 10 2010, 07:05 PM
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From: Between The Worlds



D.Foxy: Look and see, as Teresa joins the cast of BassMasters...

Destri Melarg: You almost made me fall out of my chair laughing! laugh.gif

I am glad you noticed that I tweaked the first meeting with Nerussa a bit, in order to help better set up future events. When I originally wrote Nerussa, I did not have her previous profession in mind. Now I made an effort to show its effects.


* * *
Chapter 5b - Gone Fishing

Teresa woke early next morning with a slight ache in her head. Her alchemical gatherings had borne fruit however, and she felt very pleased with herself when she produced an echinacea root. Having no mortar and pestle with her to grind it down, she simply cut off a small piece and ate it. That would take care of her head pains, she thought proudly as she dressed and headed down to the common room.

Nerussa was already awake and there to greet her, taking Teresa somewhat aback. She had hoped to slip out of the inn without any further embarrassment. Now she would have to talk with the high elf and try not to act like an idiot, something she seemed to be having a problem with since meeting the innkeeper.

"You know, someone really should help Aelwin," Nerussa said, apparently to no one in particular, as she produced a small bread roll for Teresa's breakfast. Since there was no one else in the room but the two of them, Teresa had the distinct impression that she was that no one in particular.

"With his leg?" Teresa asked. "I am not a healer. I would not know what to do."

"No, with his fish," Nerussa explained.

"With his fish?" Teresa replied, feeling completely lost. "What about his fish?"

"He only needs to kill a dozen more Rumare Slaughterfish to fulfill a contract he has with an alchemist in Skingrad," Nerussa explained. "He is doing some kind of experiments with their scales. Aelwin was hoping to use the money to retire and live in the city. But now he can't even do his regular fishing with his leg the way it is, let alone catch the slaughterfish.

Teresa could see where this was going. Her instincts told her to bolt. There was no way she was going to go out and tangle with slaughterfish. A lifetime on the Waterfront had taught her that. There was a reason they were called slaughterfish after all.

So a half hour later she was standing on the shore of the lake, wondering why on Nirn she had agreed to catch the fish for Aelwin.

It was Nerussa's eyes, Teresa thought, those damned soft amber eyes that sparkled just so when the morning light shone through the window. Teresa sighed. She had always heard of women using their wiles on men, but never on other women. It was not at all fair! she thought indignantly.

Well, there was nothing for it now but to get it over with, she decided. Stripping off her leather armor and leaving it in a pile on the beach alongside her bow and her arrow bag, she waded into the lake wearing nothing but her tunic. Normally she liked the water. But normally she did not go looking for slaughterfish either...

In one hand she held a small cage filled with cut up fish. As soon as it hit the water it began to ooze blood and fish guts all around her. Aelwin explained that he used this to attract the slaughterfish. He had offered to give her the spear he used to kill them, but she had declined. She did not know the first thing about spears. It was just a big heavy stick to her. Instead she clutched her dagger in her free hand, and willed her fingers not to tremble as she stared out at the lake.

So, feeling completely disgusted, she waded out into the reddening water and went hunting for slaughterfish. It did not take long before Aelwin's bait proved its worth, and Teresa found one of the serpentine creatures winding its way toward her through the murky water.

She had seen them often enough in her frequent trips into the lake. However, on those occasions she had never tried to actually get their attention by ringing their dinner bell. Now as the slaughterfish closed in, she wondered how it could even shut its mouth with so many big sharp teeth.

That is when Teresa remembered why she liked bows. You could stand far away from your enemy. As the slaughterfish closed in, she wished she had taken Aelwin up on his offer of the spear after all…

The slaughterfish's first strike was at the cage of fish chunks, propelling itself forward with a flick of its rope-like tail and sinking its teeth into the iron bars. The metal bent slightly with the impact, and Teresa was barely able to hold onto the cage with her left hand as the slaughterfish jerked to and fro.

Gritting her teeth, Teresa thrust her dagger into the body of the slaughterfish with all of the strength she could muster. It let go of the cage and turned to look at her with its glassy black eyes. Teresa did not like that look at all, nor that of its long fangs as they came at her. That was all the incentive she needed to drop the cage and hastily kick her legs for shore. Years of swimming had taught her to move swiftly through the water, and she called up every last measure of that speed as the slaughterfish pursued her into the shallows, nipping at her very heels.

Teresa said a silent prayer of thanks to the Nine when she reached the shore alive and with all of her toes. Taking a moment to catch her breath, she felt herself want to shrivel up and hide under the sand. She had been beaten by a fish! she thought in disgust, a fish! She had even lost the bait cage in the bargain.

Looking back out into the lake, she saw that her antagonist had followed her right up to the edge of the water, still snapping its teeth and trying to bite her. Teresa skipped back out of reflex, and noticed her bow out of the corner of her eye. A faint smile came to her lips as she ran to grab it and her arrow bag.

The slaughterfish was still where she had left it when she came back. It seemed to have trouble swimming in the shallows, and could not get back out into the deeper water. That gave Teresa plenty of time to nock an arrow, take careful aim, and shoot it through the head.

This gave Teresa a plan. She made the short trip to Aelwin's home to obtain a length of rope. While he could not conceal his surprise at seeing the soaking wood elf on his doorstep, he quickly produced the cord she desired.

It was only when she was on her way back to the beach that Teresa wondered if it was only surprise he had been looking at her with. Looking down at herself, she saw that her linen tunic clung tightly to her wet body, leaving nothing to the imagination. She may not have possessed the soft curves of Nerussa, but what she did have was clearly on display.

That made her turn red again. Especially when she started to notice how the rest of the people in the village were watching her as she walked by. By the time she had returned to the beach she was thankful to be back with the slaughterfish.

Teresa took out her arrows and stuck them point down into the sand next to her bow. That would make them easier to grab than if they were in the bag, she knew. Then tying one end of the cord around her ankle, she swam back out into the lake to find the fish cage. Thankfully she had not gone too far out when she had encountered the first slaughterfish, so it was not difficult for her to recover. Tying the other end of the cord to the cage, she then began swimming along the shore looking for more fish.

Once again, it did not take long until one showed up to feast upon the fish parts in the cage. Teresa did not try to use her dagger against it, but rather swam for shore immediately, and repeated her previous tactic of shooting the pursuing slaughterfish when it became trapped in the shallows.

She spent the rest of the day fishing in this manner, moving along the coast with her bow and arrows when she had exhausted an area of fish. Aelwin came out at midday to treat her to a lunch of honeyed bread and goat's milk, and remained to watch in amazement as she continued to draw the fish into the shallows and shoot them from shore. By the time the sun was setting Teresa had caught the last of the slaughterfish that he needed.

"I cannot believe it!" Aelwin said in amazement. "You got them all, and without a scratch on yourself. You are unbelievable little lady, and so kind to help an old man like me. I don't know how I can ever thank you."

"Well..." Teresa mumbled, feeling a little embarrassed. After all, she thought, it was really Nerussa who had talked her into it...

"I do not have much, but I suppose I could give you this, seeing as I am not going to need it anymore." Aelwin held up his right hand to show Teresa the ring he wore. It was turquoise, and decorated with dolphins leaping over waves. She thought it was quite lovely.

"It's called the Jewel of the Rumare. My father gave it to me," Aelwin explained as he took it off his finger. "It has been my secret weapon every since I started as a fisherman. It allows you to breathe underwater you see, and prevents anything you carry from being damaged by the water."

Teresa was dumfounded when he set the ring in her palm, and could not suppress a faint smile as she set it on her finger. It was far too big, but instantly shrank to fit perfectly around her skin a moment later.

"It's beautiful," she breathed. Then she wrapped her arms around the old Breton and gave him a hug. She felt very warm and content. She told herself it was because of the ring. She was only beginning to imagine the things she might do with it. Like swim with her leather armor and bow. But there was a nagging feeling deep inside of her that was telling her that her joy came from somewhere else entirely, perhaps even from the look of gratitude she saw in an old man's eyes...

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 6 2010, 01:33 AM


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Acadian
post Apr 11 2010, 04:10 PM
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From: Las Vegas



I have been reading since you started, and your new version of Teresa's story is wonderful. I love the improvements and am enjoying this even more than the original. This last one was very fun to read - and clever too. Well done SubRosa!


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minque
post Apr 11 2010, 11:00 PM
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From: Where I can watch you!!



Ohhhh wonderful! Yes tonight is my reading-night, what joy to read about Teresa...she's gorgeous!

The description of the dream was really great....makes me wonder, dreams tend to come true somehow, don't they?


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Remko
post Apr 12 2010, 11:46 AM
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From: Ald'ruhn, Vvardenfell



You broughgt in Hautee's Julian? Nice! Now I gotta read that again as well to see if Hautee has changed her story accordingly... Conspiring minxes... all of you biggrin.gif


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SubRosa
post Apr 13 2010, 12:39 AM
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From: Between The Worlds



Acadian: Hey you old warhorse. Good to see you again. I am glad you are enjoying the new and improved Teresa. smile.gif


minque: Thank you minque. The dream sequences are based on my own personal experiences (although not while dreaming in my case). More will be shown about their significance in later chapters, especially chapter 8.


Remko: Actually it was Jauffre who brought Julian in, from where she has been stationed in the provinces... wink.gif Haute has not changed Old Habits any though. It would be difficult, as Julian's being there when the Emperor dies is even more critical to her story than it is to mine (that is the problem with all crossovers, at some point, usually that one, they do not mesh together perfectly). So this is just an alternate reality Julian. She fills a spot - The Hero of Kvatch/Bruma - that I intentionally left vague.

* * *

Chapter 6a - You Can't Go Home Again

1st Midyear, 3E433

After spending the evening enjoying Aelwin's tangy grilled slaughterfish, Teresa spent the night in his home, spreading her bedroll across the floor in front of his hearth. She knew it was not the smartest idea. Methredhel's roommate Adanrel had made that mistake and paid for it. It was not something that they talked about, but everyone knew what had happened to her. Still, somehow Teresa did think that Aelwin was something to worry about, and the night passed without incident.

The next morning Teresa bathed in the lake again, and washed herself with the extract of a vanilla plant she had gathered, giving her skin a soft, welcoming scent. Thinking of how lovely Nerussa's hair was, she spent nearly an hour fussing with her own back at Aelwin's. She could not make it as elegant as the tresses of the innkeeper, but after finally combing out all of the snags, parting it on the side, and brushing it across her forehead, it at least looked better than before.

Screenshot

When she finally felt presentable she said her goodbyes to Aelwin, who was preparing for his journey to Skingrad to deliver the slaughterfish scales. Teresa debated saying goodbye to Nerussa. Part of her very much wanted to see the high elf again. Just thinking of the statuesque woman made her breath catch in her throat. But another part of the wood elf sensed that Nerussa was trouble, at least for her. After all, she was the entire reason Teresa had spent the previous day swimming with slaughterfish...

This time Teresa listened to the prudent half of her nature. Turning away from the Wawnet Inn, she set her feet to the Western Bridge and the Imperial City beyond. She was not used to being awake so early in the morning, and could not stifle several yawns as she made her way across the massive stone edifice. The span stretched on for miles, and by the time she reached the other side she was well awake.

Screenshot

Teresa's heart beat faster when she set her eyes upon the familiar sight of legionaries standing guard at the city gate. Were they on the lookout for her? she wondered, could Jauffre have had time to clear her name already? Did the senior Blade even intend to do so, or was that just a lie he told her before sending her right back to her prison cell?

Teresa did not really think he would do the latter. He seemed to be a man of his word. But that did not mean the legion was not looking for her in any case. So just as at Chorrol, she forced herself to act calm and relaxed as she walked toward the city gate. I am just an ordinary Bosmer woods-runner, she thought, nothing to look at here.

"Good morning citizen," one of the legionaries said as she walked up to the gateway. Teresa felt the urge to bolt rise within her. With an effort of will she retained her casual pace, and turned to look at the Imperial.

"Good morning," she said, doing her best to pretend that she was not an escaped prisoner. She even forced a faint smile to her lips and paused to talk to the man. "How are things in the city? I have been away for a very long time."

"Everyone's talking about the Emperor's murder," the legionary said, and Teresa detected a quaver in his voice. "Emperors have been assassinated before, but never anything like this. No one even knows who was responsible. Now with no heir..., we are in for dark times friend."

Teresa was stunned. In all of her life the men of the Imperial Legion had seemed like towers of stone; incapable of fear or doubt, and unmoved by pity, compassion or any other form of kind emotion. Yet this man - who she suddenly noticed might be even as young as herself - sounded like any ordinary person.

"Do not worry," Teresa found herself saying in a conciliatory tone, thinking of Jauffre and the secret heir. "Things will work out, you'll see."

They had better, Teresa thought as she passed through the gate. Until this moment she had not thought of anything beyond delivering the amulet to Jauffre. What the guard said was right though. Who were those assassins who knew so much about the Emperor, down to his secret escape route? Who was behind them? Did this mean a civil war throughout the Empire?

Screenshot

Normally such thoughts would never have entered her mind. Until she woke up in prison and met the Emperor, she had never thought further than how she was going to eat that day, or how to stay out of the way of the Imperial Legion and the ruffians that did not obey the Thieves Guild's rules about killing.

What would a civil war do to the city, and the people in it? she wondered. Starvation? Disease? An army breaking down the walls and storming in to murder everyone? Now she understood why that legionary was so shaken.

Still, she reminded herself that Jauffre and Julian were out there looking for the heir. They would set things right. Then there was Baurus. Teresa did not need to be told that the Redguard would stop at nothing to find those responsible and take revenge. As strange as it felt, Teresa was glad to know that there were people like that in the Empire, who would do the right thing.

She broke from her reverie in time to notice that her feet had taken her completely through the Talos Plaza district and into the Elven Gardens. Unlike the Talos Plaza, which was purely for the elite, the Elven Gardens was a neighborhood of artisans, merchants, nobles on hard times, and other folk who never had to really worry about where their next coin was coming from. It was not rich, Teresa thought, but it was nowhere near poor either.

After her time in the forest she felt a new appreciation for the quiet bedroom district with its numerous trees, flowerbeds, and bushes. Yet still, the hard stone walls of the city seemed to close in from all around. She had never really thought about it before, but everywhere she looked in the city there was a wall. Everything was shoved tightly between those walls, pressed together like the contents of a too-small backpack.

In Chorrol every shop or home had its own individual building, Teresa remembered. Yet here in the Imperial City each entire block was taken up by a single stone structure, or insula. The massive buildings brooded over the street below like dull grey mountains. Teresa knew that they were subdivided into sections for businesses and domiciles, but from the outside they just looked like cliffs that stretched for hundreds of feet, dotted with the occasional window or door.

Screenshot

Teresa shook herself. What was she thinking? This was home after all. Nothing in Tamriel compared to the Imperial City. Nothing was bigger. Nothing was grander. Looking up at the exquisite shape of White Gold Tower, she was reminded of the graceful lines of the strange ruins she saw outside of the prison sewer. You could see that tower everywhere in the city. Even when she had journeyed from the city for days, she had still seen it rising in the distance.

Looking back down to the street, her eyes fell upon a dirty man in ragged sack cloth who was begging for coins. Now this was the city she knew best, she thought with a sinking feeling in her heart. It was place of people with no hope and no future. As she looked on, two legionaries marched over to the beggar and with barely a word grabbed him by both arms and dragged him away.

He should have known better, Teresa thought. The legion did not tolerate begging in neighborhoods like the Elven Gardens or Talos Plaza. They would let you pass through as long as you did not stay. But stopping and asking for money was right out. If the beggar was lucky they would toss him into the tunnel to the Waterfront, she thought. If not, he would probably spend the night in the prison.

Now that was the Imperial Legion that Teresa remembered. Yes, she was home indeed.

Teresa noticed people looking at her as she made her way down the main thoroughfare to the Market District. Only then did she realize that she walking directly down the middle of the main boulevard. She never did that. It was the surest way to be spotted by the legion and shaken down. No, she and all the other street urchins kept to the alleys and side streets in neighborhoods like this.

Out of reflex she looked for the nearest side street and headed for it. Then she stopped herself. She was not going to skulk in the shadows! she told herself. Not after what she had been through. Pulling herself up straight and tall, she went back to walking right down the middle of the street.

That is when she noticed not only that people were looking at her, but how they were looking at her. It was not with the usual scorn, disgust, or pity that the well-off reserved for gutter rats. They were looking at her altogether differently. As if she was a person, and apparently an interesting one. A few of the men even gave her the same kind of hungry glances that she had only seen cast at women such as Nerussa, while some of the women gave her looks of what might even be envy.

She looked down at her willowy, leather-clad frame. It did not really show anything at all, she thought. But the leather did move with her rather well, and the greaves did cling tightly to her legs and hips. That was one of the things she liked about them. The leather fit good and snug, but flexed easily with her movements. Still, she was certain that she did not detect even a trace of feminine wiles, not like she had seen in Nerussa's statuesque figure...

Putting the Altmer out of her mind, where she belonged, Teresa thought about her first stop as she made her way through the gate to the Market District. Not nearly so clean and neat as the Elven Gardens, the markets were a working class neighborhood. The stones of its buildings were worn and rough. Shoots of grass could be seen erupting from cracks in the cobblestones of the streets, while here and there toadstools blossomed in perpetual shadows cast by the high stone insula and higher city walls.

A noisy, chaotic, melting pot of all Cyrodiil, there were more shops here than the rest of the city's districts put together, Teresa thought. The streets were busy with carts loaded with goods from all over the continent. Working men loaded and unloaded crates, while shoppers of all races and social classes dodged between looking for everything from armor to wine. Here no one would spare her a second glance, she knew.

Yet Teresa froze an instant later, when she saw the face of the legionary standing watch on the market side of the gate. It was Volsinius. She knew him only too well, she thought. Her tongue reflexively sought out the gap between her back teeth where he had knocked one out with a backhand slap of his gauntleted hand. She had been eight years old, and Teresa could still remember it just as clearly as when it had happened. He had caught her trying to steal a sweet roll from a street vendor. The blow had been his way of going easy on her. It was that or prison, and he made her thank him for it afterward.

Every instinct in her said to break and run as he turned to look at her. She dug her fingers into her palms, and if it were not for the leather gauntlets that she wore, she might have drawn blood. His eyes locked onto hers and she gritted her teeth. He was about to recognize her, she knew.

"You have my ear citizen," he said in the same neutral tone that soldiers reserved for ordinary, law-abiding people.

Teresa stood there, not believing what she had heard. Was this a game? she wondered. Some sort of joke on his part? But the Volsinius she knew was not one for humor or subterfuge, Teresa thought. He was a blunt instrument.

"Nothing," Teresa stammered, forcing herself to speak in order to break his gaze. "It's nothing. I just thought I knew you."

"No," he said. "If we knew one another, I would remember. I never forget a face, especially one as striking as yours Bosmer."

Teresa blushed in surprise, and quickly moved on without another word. By Nocturnal he was complimenting her! Her head swam. This was madness, pure madness. What had the Emperor done to her? she wondered. What had she done to herself?

Then she set her eyes upon an aging Imperial woman in the street outside of Edgar's Discount Spells. Her face was more lined and careworn than the cobblestones upon which she stood, and her shoulder-length hair had long since gone to grey. She wore a simple dress of coarse and dirty green flax, laced up the front with rawhide. Teresa approached with a quickened pace, and the old woman looked up at her.

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"Spare a coin for an old woman?" she asked Teresa in a quivering voice.

Teresa smiled. Not the faint smile she typically cracked when she was amused or otherwise pleased, but a wide, joyful grin. "Can you spare a hug for a little girl Simplicia?" Teresa beamed, holding her arms out and stepping closer to the beggar.

"Teresa!" Simplicia exclaimed in shock, wrapping her arms around the slender Bosmer in a warm embrace. "Is that really you?"

Teresa buried her head in the old woman's shoulder and clung to her as tightly as she could. Closing her eyes, she felt Simplicia's arms holding her close in return, and for once everything felt right with the world. After what seemed like far too short a time, Simplicia let go and stepped back a pace to look at Teresa. The elderly Imperial could not hide the amazement on her face, nor the pleasure.

"Why look at you!" Simplicia beamed with pride. "Little Teresa! I did not even recognize you. You look so different. You changed your hair, and scented it too! Oh and look how you are dressed. You look like one of those forest folk, not a city villain at all."

"Do I really look so strange?" Teresa asked. It was something she had been wondering for some time now, since even before returning to the city. "I am still the same as ever."

"Oh my girl, you don't look the same at all," Simplicia replied. "Sure, you still have that flour-white skin, but the rest of you, it's so different. Look at all that armor, and a longbow now I see too. You walk so proud and tall, all respectable you are. You look like you are about to go out and slay some monster like Empress Alessia in the old stories..."

"I do?" Teresa said, eyes widening in surprise, "Really?"

"Really," Simplicia said quietly, stepping close again, and taking Teresa's arms in her own. "It's in your eyes. You used to always look down when people talked to you, even me, now you look right back in the eye. You look like you could take on the world Teresa."

"I... I really don't know what to say," Teresa stammered, feeling her head whirling again. "I am just glad to see you again. You're the closest thing to a mom I have ever had."

"Oh my little Teresa..." the old Imperial gently sighed as she hugged the young Bosmer again. "Ever since I found you crying in the alley that night, I knew you were special. You were always my special little one you know."

"So how have you been old lady?" Teresa asked, trying to slip her voice back to the casual banter they used to share before she had been taken to the prison. "How many coins have you gotten so far this morning?"

"Two drakes!" the elderly woman exclaimed with glee. "And it's barely past mid-morn!"

"But what about you little Teresa?" Simplicia's features lost their joy and took on a serious cast. "Something happened to you didn't it, when you disappeared? We have all been wondering where you went to. Even that fetcher Volsinius asked me what you had gotten up to."

"It's a long story, and some of it I cannot tell even you, not yet," Teresa said, losing her easy tone as she thought of the Emperor, Jauffre, and the heir. "How about we go to the Feed Bag and I'll treat you to breakfast while we catch up?"

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Apr 12 2011, 09:36 PM


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