Chapter 31 was 'Dancing with Darkness', episode two of four. The city of Chorrol was opened from 'lockdown' after the murder of Earana, and Buffy made preparations to leave. She learned that Jauffre, from nearby Weynon Priory had been murdered almost immediately after receiving the Amulet of Kings from Buffy. It seems that perhaps the Amulet was stolen as well. Buffy dismissed the information and implications, assuming that if there had been an heir living in Kvatch(which she questioned) he would not have survived the Daedra attack. It seems she is now headed to the Inn of Ill Omen to see a man named Rufio. Rider-
Buffy asked me, that since she refused to go fetch Martin, why would not Jauffre dispatch his Blades to do it? It seems she just found out why. Admittedly, Jauffre's death is one of several steps we will take to enhance (as best we can) the believability of delaying Kvatch so long. Thanks for your wonderful words about Buffy's cojones (heehee). Buffy is a young orpahan, and you are right that her naivete is on display regarding the allure of a family of loving brothers and sisters; Lucien certainly knew which button to push.mALX-
Thank you so much! I am so pleased that, while your head is spinning, you trust me to deliver some clarity before this miniseries concludes. My intent at this point is to have readers wondering.hazmick-
Buffy will grow to accept the killing of Earana as necessary, and something she would do again if required. She will explain some more about her desire for a 'loving family' in the final two episodes. Remko-
Thanks for the kind words about Buffy's scene with the Dunmer stablehand, Nardhil. I was hoping to show that Buffy is merely a small part of her complex world. SubRosa-
Thank you. My intent was to open this miniseries with the shocking coldness of Buffy's assassination in part one. In part two, I was hoping to reveal, after the fact, that Buffy's instincts about Earana were correct. While Buffy recognizes it as premeditated murder, she will also embrace the resolve to repeat such an act if preemption and vengeance so require. In Buffy's world it represents the lighter side of gray that she deems essential to keep her butterfly butt alive. Her true dance with the darker end of the spectrum occurs in this very next chapter. My intent is to portray what Buffy encounters at the Inn of Ill Omen in challenging shades of gray as well. Alas, no easy or black and white decisions for this girl. treydog-
Thank you! Yes, we made some significant choices in this episode and I am so glad to have earned the endorsement of your wise old doggie eyes.
Lucien: What to present on or off camera is the stuff of hard choices indeed. Admittedly, I am trying to manage the length of Buffy's saga to some degree by not presenting a Lucien Lachance scene. My hope is that references to him in both of the final two episodes will flush out what is needed. I truly hope you will enjoy the emotional roller coaster that is this next episode.
Jauffre: As a simple elf from Bravil, Buffy is quite ignorant regarding 'affairs of state'. As surely as her eyes glazed over when Uriel Septim was discussing 'Emperor stuff' way back in the Imperial Prison, she figures that sorting out who is in charge of the empire and how to run it, are matters for nobles who understand such things. I will not be surprised to see Buffy begin to grow beyond that simple understanding as she travels and gains experience. Any involvement she may have in the Main Quest however, will be triggered by individuals she holds precious, not by vague concepts like 'the empire'. Destri-
To say that Buffy captured your heart in Chapter one of her original story brought tears to our eyes. Thank you, my friend.
Regarding Buffy's Dance with Darkness, I hope that I am working from the unfair advantage of seeing all four episodes laid before me and knowing what is coming. To dance with darkness requires both light and dark. In Buffy's world of hiding in the shadows, we mean light gray vs dark gray of course. Earana's death, believe it or not, represents the light (well, lighter gray anyway). It is a decision she will grow to embrace without apology, and be quite ready to repeat if/when necessary. It will become a part of her true nature. What Lucien is asking her to do represents the dark (well, a darker gray anyway). I hope to present the choice Buffy will face in this next episode as darker than Earana, but still very gray. I assure you that the choice Buffy makes when faced with Rufio will be . . . gray. Wolf-
I am so pleased you dropped in, for no dance with the DB would be complete without your oversight. Thank you for the soothing words. Buffy's moral compass exists in the shadows, just as she fights. She would sacrifice herself for her horse, yet cruelly torture the highwayman who would swing an axe at that same precious mare. She will grow a great deal in the next two episodes.
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32 Dancing with Darkness, Part 3- A Knife in the Dark
By the light of several flickering candles, I studied how the tail of the arrow in front of my right cheek fit to the partially drawn silk bowstring of Slayer. My eyes slowly trailed along the shaft of the arrow as it passed the junction of my left hand and bow staff. Moving ever so slightly up and down with my breathing, was the broadhead tip of that arrow - centered on the sleeping Rufio.
The stirrings of concern I felt from Acadian, rippled from my head to my heart and were not making things any easier. He didn't understand.
I started to draw full tension on the bowstring, but just as with my two previous attempts, I stopped. Gently easing all tension off the bow, I returned the arrow to my quiver. Standing in the basement of the Inn of Ill Omen, I now stared at the sleeping Breton. Lucien Lachance had told me that killing Rufio would complete my initiation into the arms of loving brothers and sisters who were waiting for me.
I don't know if you can truly appreciate a family unless you don't have one. I never knew my father before he disappeared. My mother died when I was twelve, and I was an only child. Many were the nights I cried myself to sleep wishing I had brothers and sisters who loved, or even picked on me - just someone I could belong to and who would accept me. Lucien said this new family would welcome me into their loving embrace. I longed so much for that. He had even presented the gift of a beautiful dagger to demonstrate the love of my new family.
That's why I was trying so hard to kill Rufio. Unlike others I had killed though, Rufio was no threat to me. He was a complete stranger. What did he do that would make Lucien want him dead?
On the nightstand next the sleeping Breton were some of his belongings: a broken quill, two septims, a half-eaten apple, a piece of parchment and an amulet. I moved closer to examine them.
The parchment was actually an article cut from the Black Horse Courier. It told of the unsolved rape and murder of a young woman named Idonis Arcadia. The crime had taken place recently in the Imperial City.
The amulet glowed softly with some form of enchantment as I picked it up by the delicate gold chain. Turning it in my hand, I saw the back was engraved:
'For my sweet Idonis on her sixteenth birthday. Your loving father.'
Narrowing my eyes, I moved closer and nudged Rufio with the toe of my boot. I then stepped back, ready to paralyze him if necessary.
The Breton jumped from his bed in surprise. "Who are you? What do you want? I ain't done nothin'!"
I quickly agreed with Lucien's description of Rufio as weak. Perhaps some threatening would get him to enlighten me. "Oh, but I think you have, Rufio." I nodded my head towards the items on the nightstand.
Rufio's beady eyes darted to the incriminating evidence, then shot a glance over my shoulder towards the door behind me.
Reading his intent, I added, "Don't try. I've locked it."
His eyes then jumped to Slayer, before finally stopping their travels to stare at the ominous green glow gently pulsing in my right hand. "N-no! Please! I didn't mean to do it, you understand me? She struggled! I-I told her to just stay still, but she wouldn't listen! I had no choice!"
"Blaming the victim, are you?" Perhaps he would tell me more if I emphasized just how much danger he was in. I allowed the magic in my hand to fade, then slid an arrow from my quiver and took one step back. "Would you like to try attacking me?" Yes, self-defense would be a lovely excuse to kill this wormy man.
"Oh, please, no! I can pay you! Name your price! Anything! Anything! Please, just let me live!"
My response was to fit the arrow's nock to my bowstring.
Separated from me by the bed, Rufio cowered into the corner.
The pathetic Breton wasn't going to make my decision any easier by defending himself.
He must have killed this Idonis Arcadia. The victim's father probably asked for Lucien's help to set things right. I fought to dispel images of Rufio leering over a young girl. My skin crawled and stomach churned into a knot as I imagined the fear, helplessness and violation she must have felt. Then rage welled up within me.
As the bowstring came back to my ear, my fingers should have instinctively uncurled. They did not. I just stood, staring at the quaking man over the tip of my arrow.Buffy, is this the path you choose?
The paladin was right. He knew why I had paused. As my arm began to quiver from holding full tension on the bow, I reluctantly eased the tail of my arrow forward.
Now what, Buffy? As I stared at the cowering Breton whose fate was in my hands, a plan formed.
I slid the arrow over my shoulder to rejoin its companions, then filled my hand with magic. As the spell hit Rufio, he became rigid, falling to the floor. I spoke, surprised at the coolness in my voice. "I know you can hear me; you just can't move. When you recover, you will climb onto the bed, lie perfectly still on your back and do exactly as I say. If you do not, I will paralyze you again, then pierce your heart with an arrow."
After a few seconds, Rufio was able to move. He clambered from the floor to the bed and dutifully lay upon his back, eyes wide.
I rubbed my glowing fingers together and continued. "Did I make myself clear?"
Rufio looked up at me from the bed. "Y-yes, milady. Whatever you say. Please just don't hurt me."
"I am not your lady, Rufio. And yes, you will indeed do exactly as I say."
I shouldered Slayer and reached into my pack. Passing over the dagger Lucien had given me, I pulled out a pair of a green vials. I then unsheathed my hunting knife and coated the blade. "Just lie still. If you struggle, I will have to kill you. Since those are the same instructions you gave young Idonis Arcadia, they should be easy for you to follow."
Rufio's eyes were like saucers overflowing with fear, but he didn't move.
I dragged the blade of my knife down one of his forearms, drawing blood and allowing the poison to enter his body. I then reached for the second green vial and repeated the process.
As I waited for the emerald tinge of Rufio's skin to return to its pale Bretonic color, I calmly said, "Neither your wounds nor these poisons will kill you. The toxins coursing inside you however will damage your speed to the point you cannot move. You will remain so until someone - I expect a healer from the Imperial Prison - fixes you."
Cleaning my knife on Rufio's shirt, I continued, "Cheer up. Things could be worse; my blade could have strayed into your pants." I slid the weapon home into its sheath. Turning towards the nightstand, I carefully arranged the incriminating Courier article and amulet so they would easily be found.
"Since you can't move and have plenty of time, you might reflect on just how it feels to be helpless and vulnerable. Oh, and you might also hope that the Legion finds you before a hungry rat does. I understand the smell of blood can sometimes attract them, and with you being unable to move and all. . . ."
I turned to leave, casting a spell to free the lock's tumblers. "Farewell, Rufio." I closed the door behind me.
As I reached the ladder beneath the basement's trapdoor, I paused. "Acadian, Rufio's an evil man. I don't suppose the Dark Brotherhood is a family that exacts justice against those who have eluded it?" You were born in the morning, Child of Dawn - but not this morning.
I sighed. "You're right. It would be too naïve - even for me - to expect my assignments would involve exacting justifiable vengeance. Rufio almost fit that, you know. I wanted to believe. . . ." I stirred the dust on the floor with the toe of my boot. "I allowed my desire for the loving family that Lucien promised to push my judgment aside, didn't I? Even though I might have been able to rationalize that Rufio deserved to die by my hand, I know I would be asked in the future to kill innocent people without even knowing the reason. I can't do that. I guess I wouldn't make a very good assassin."
I reached for the ladder, but then stopped again and added, "Acadian, you know I will kill to protect myself and those I love - I have readily done so before and make no apology for it. I'm not proud of murdering Earana, but I have no regrets and would do it again if necessary. I know she would have tried to kill me - and succeeded had I not preempted her. Rufio was different though. He was no threat to me. Whatever he did is best handled by the Legion. My killing is not for hire, and the Dark Brotherhood is not the family I seek." I'm proud of you, my bowgirl.
I smiled faintly as I grasped the ladder to climb upstairs. "Thank you, my paladin. I need you right now. I feel kind of empty, like I just abandoned a family I never had."
Closing the trap door to the basement behind me, I looked around the main floor of the inn. The Redguard, Minerva was slouched in a chair at one of the tables, deep in her cups. A small fire crackled, providing much of the dim light that flickered across the walls.
Manheim Maulhand was behind the bar. The publican had always been nice to Daenlin and I whenever we stopped here during hunting trips. City Swimmer had told me he could be trusted, and that she sometimes sold stolen goods to him. He had directed me to Rufio, and I was confident the innkeeper's silence could be bought if necessary. "Hail, milady." The Nordic voice boomed effortlessly across the small inn. "What can old Manheim do for you?"
I climbed onto a barstool and looked up at him. "Perhaps some Tamika's wine, please?"
"Sure, milady. I take it your, uh, meeting with Rufio didn't cause any problems?" He filled a stone cup and placed it before me. Before continuing, he lowered his voice even though I suspected Minerva was oblivious to our conversation. "Buffy, you know your secrets are always safe with me."
I smiled at his cheerful discretion. "And I appreciate that, Maneheim. Rufio cannot help me find what I seek. He does need to talk to the Legion though. Do you know when Riveus, that handsome Imperial Forrester assigned to County Bravil, will stop by on his rounds?"
The Nord swept the low ceiling with his eyes and rubbed his chin for a moment. "Well, it's been several days, so I'd expect to see him on the morrow or perhaps the day after. He usually fills up on S'jirra's potato bread up the road, then stops here for some target practice and an ale."
I placed a large pile of gold coins on the bar and leaned closer to Manheim, allowing the front of my brown blouse to fall open a bit. "Can you do a couple favors for me?" I smiled sweetly and batted my eyelids like City Swimmer taught me.
Manheim's eyes went to the stack of gold first, then traveled down the front of my blouse, seemingly ignoring my fluttering eyelids. "Of course, milady. Whatever you need."
"Rufio is not hurt, but he is indisposed. I want you to make sure no one goes into the basement until Riveus arrives. When the Forrester does get here, I need you to make sure he goes downstairs and talks with Rufio right away. Will you do those things for me, please?"
Manheim's gaze traced a path from inside my blouse up to finally meet my eyes. "Of course, Buffy. And shall I tell Riveus you had a role in this?"
Smiling, I lifted the cup of Tamika's. "I'll leave tonight, as soon as I finish this. I was never here."
* * *From Buffy's scrapbook: Screenshot