Acadian and BretonBlood:
The bonds of Brotherhood remain strong between the two, and it'll take some great misfortune or event to break it. It isn't so easily severed
Tivela is ever the treacherous one. We can count on her trying something.
Thanks! We're a handful of chapters away from conclusion Previously on A Victory That Broke The Chains: Shavaash and Lycus talk about the latter's lycanthropy. Nilphas, a House Dres member loyal to the abolitionist movement called the Twin Lamps, is still kept in captivity as his original plans took a bloody turn.
=The True Test Of A Man=
Lycus made the preparations for his departure from this accursed place. His knapsack full of food, his crates filled with drakes, septims and jewels he claimed as his own after the slaughter. These would set things right when he returns home. Among his items his armor and sword. The Imperial ran his finger along the sharp edge of the Daedric blade, sighing. How much blood this weapon had drank in just two days . . .
As Lycus sat there in the chambers of Andrano's tower, Nachael came into the room. The esteemed Blademaster looked to be recovering from his injuries, and even still he looked the strong and mighty Redguard warrior he was. Lycus and Shavaash owed him their lives, as well as every man who took upon gladiator training.
Nachael emanated a sense of mellow wisdom and a higher principle and great sense of morals; but his great age and vast experience sometimes made him seem a bit removed, even detached. His years in the deserts of Hammerfell and undergoing trials of age led him to naturally take the long view. Lycus, in contrast, had been thrown into a life of paternal issues and slavery and bloodshed. His demeanor was exactly opposite. Lean. Driven. Intense. He radiated incisive intellect and unconquerable will.
"This is what you wanted for so many years. At last you have it."
Lycus knotted his fingers together. A breath brought his voice back to its customary deep, flat dispassion. "A right long overdue, Blademaster. It won't be easy for us to get off this province but I'm hoping for the best. More will come at Tel Bratheru for our defiance. Best we be gone before they even get word."
"Running. Doesn't sound like you." Nachael noted. "You were my most stubborn student. Always looking for a confrontation even when there was none to be had. You were the one among them all that wanted to rise to the top. To be the hero. To be the best."
Lycus didn't meet his eyes. It was true.
Since the start he had wanted to climb to the pinnacle, to become an honored slave. Over the years had he realized the truth: there was no pitched battle. Nothing heroic or colorful. Just an unending series of gruesome killings for the entertainment of slave masters.
Which is why at this hour, soon after the wrath of slaves and soon before the retribution of slavers, as the men leave and warriors go quiet, when only time has meaning, Lycus sits on the chair and stares at his sword, and thinks of tomorrow.
Tomorrow or this week they leave this place.
Back to a province where baths are just clean water in safe places, instead of buckets and jail cells. Back to a province where people often sleep indoors, on bedrolls or beds, with clean sheets.
Back to a province that still lie, however temporarily, within a time of peace.
"I wanted to be," Lycus said. "But I don't think I am."
Nachael smiled. "You may be wrong."
When they left the gloom of Andrano's tower for the deeper darkness in Tivela's, Nachael accompanied Lycus, and he seemed to inhale serenity with the thick stinking air.
Everyone they passed—everyone they saw—There was no cheering, or even shouts; the welcome Nachael got was more profound than anything that can be expressed by voice.
A khajiit woman, huddled against a sweating stone wall, caught sight of Nachael, and pushed herself forward, and her face might have been a flower opening toward the sun. Nachael's mere presence brought light to her eyes, and strength to her legs. The woman struggled to rise, pulling herself up the tunnel wall then leaning upon it for support, and she stretched a hand toward them, and when Nachael gave her a nod of acknowledgment, the woman's hand closed to catch the Redguard's gaze from the air; she pressed that closed hand to her breast as though that one simple glance was precious.
As though it was exactly the one thing she needed to keep on living.
And that's what their presence there was: that woman, multiplied by a multitude. The warriors and the wounded. The aged. The sick and the infirm, the children—Lycus was more than a bloodthirsty killer to them. Not a god of some kind, they are not easily impressed by his powers. He was, to some of these people, a totem. He is to them what a hero should be to everyone, but writ so large upon their hearts that it has become a form of madness.
He was their hope.
"These people have nowhere to go," Nachel said. "Listen to me: We have to save them."
"I—I don't understand—there is no way—"
"They are coming. This entire place will be surrounded by enemies. These people are going to die, or worse."
"There's nothing that can be done. They can survive." Conviction faded in his eyes, and Lycus sagged. "But of course it's true. How could I have thought otherwise? How could I have thought I would win this for these people?"
"There is a path that can be taken. If they wait here, they won't have a chance. Whatever chance these people will have, we have to give them. You have to give them."
"Me? What can I do?"
Nachael handed him a key to one of Andrano's rooms. He dangled the chain between them.
"You can make a choice."
He looked from the key to his eyes and back again; he stared at the small metal as though it might whisper the future. "But you don't understand," Lycus said faintly. "No choice of mine can matter here now . . ."
"It does to me."
"Have you learned nothing, Blademaster? Even if we do save them—it doesn't matter. Not in Morrowind. Look around you. This isn't something you can fight in one battle and win."
"Of course it is."
"It's not an enemy, Nachael. It's just the law. We're all fugitives. You can't do anything about it. It's just the way things are. We secured our freedom and now they must secure it by their own efforts."
"I think," Nachael said gently, "that you're the one who has failed to learn the lessons you have been taught."
Lycus shook his head hopelessly.
"Don't tell me you can't fight the system here," he said. "That's what warriors do. Don't you understand that? That's what men like us do. We are fighters. Combatants. But what is a man's greatest battle?"
"A riddle for your student?" Lycus said bitterly. "A lesson? I am done with lessons."
"We are never done with lessons. Not while we live. The answer is right before your eyes. What is a man's greatest battle?"
He opened his hand as though offering him the answer on his palm.
Lycus' eyes fixed on the key that held Lord Nilphas locked, and something entered him then: some faint whisper of breeze from a cool clean place, a breath of air to ease his suffocating pain.
"The greatest battle . . ." His voice was hushed. Reverent.
Awed by the truth.
"Are the ones within ourselves . . ."
"But . . . but . . . you can't fight the way things are . . ."
"But we do. Every day. That's what warriors do."
Lycus sighed. "You can never win—"
"We," Nachel corrected him gently, "don't have to win. We only have to fight. You've fought, in your own way, and done terrible deeds in the name of your quest. But for these people, there is a way to fight. A different way."
"You can't . . . you can't just forgive me . . .for what I've done? For what I am."
"I have told Shavaash this many years ago: there are great things given to us in this life but what we do with such blessings . . . that is the true test of a man. As your former instructor—you're right. I can't. As your Blademaster, I won't. As your friend—"
His eyes stung. The smoke of the flames around Tel Bratheru, perhaps.
"As your friend, Desselius, I can forgive everything. I already have."
Lycus shook his head speechlessly, but he lifted a hand.
His hand shook. He made a fist, and sighed.
Nachael said, "You did not do the things you did for revenge only. You did it to save these people and to rescue me. The worth of a man is not based on the people he's killed or the great exploits of his battles, or the riches he possesses. He is judged by the people he helps. The difference he can make. There is value in life, Desselius. Remember this. Laurels do not seize here. The gods bless us for every good we do."
Despite the lashes Nachael inflicted, Lycus had a deep love and respect for the man. The Blademaster was not only knowledgeable of various fighting styles, but was also skilled in multiple ways of fighting, and had several years of training dating back to his childhood. He stood among the highest echelon of fighters. Combined with his expertise in swordplay and pugilistic, as well as his speed and strength, he was almost unmatched in combat. But his wisdom was priceless alone.
"I am blessed to be alive because of your training. Free men create their own fortune, Nachael. Your instruction has made my victories possible. Grab a bottle of wine and we'll raise cups in celebration and gratitude after this is over."
Nachael smiled. "The offer is well-received, but wine has not passed my lips in many years."
"Your gods forbid it?"
"No," laughed the Redguard. "But it is a matter of discipline."
Lycus chuckled. Often times his mother had tried keeping from from drinking his father's wine. "My mother cautioned towards the same."
"A wise woman," Nachael noted. "And now you return to her and your father. The gods have truly blessed you."
Alessia was always a devour follower of the Nine Divines. Steadfast in her faith.
"If she knew what I've been through, she'd say the same."
Nachael tilted his head. "And you?"
Lycus lowered his gaze. "The gods and I do not tread common ground, although my mother has made efforts on placing us at equal footing."
"Wise and understanding, to love a man despite his shortcomings. To find a love such as this is a rare and fortunate thing." The Blademaster said. There was something there . . . knowledge or perhaps experience.
"You speak from experience?"
"A wife," Nachael said. "The thought of her ever upon my mind."
Lycus paused. He's never seen Nachael's lover nor seen him with any woman in all these years of service to Andrano. He had to ask: "Does she live?"
Nachael took a moment to reply, and sighed as his jaw tensed. "Only in memory."
Lycus nodded. "I would have desired to meet her and tell her of her husband's worth."
Nachael smiled faintly. "Come. Let us see these people free."And Nilphas
, Lycus thought. The man is owed his freedom.
Nilphas stared at Lycus with a contemptuous glare as he sat atop the pack guar outside the back gates of Tel Bratheru. Blood and wine still soiled his expensive attire, and the man looked fatigued both mentally and physically.
Lycus spoke to him. "Have hope, Nilphas. You are free to go."
"Hope of what?" a man said bitterly. His face was gray; he wore a patch over a chest wound and clutched a broken hand. "Everything I have fought for you've destroyed."
"No, I haven't," Lycus said: "You can still make a difference as I hope to make."
"I'm supposed to just take your word for it?"
The man spat blood on the ground. "We know what that's worth."
Lycus wanted to tell him that he had nothing to fear, but that would be a lie. He wanted to tell him that he wouldn't let anyone hurt him. That was another lie: he already had. Nilphas ran the risk of being discovered by his fellow dark elves as a helper of slaves and murderers.
There were so many things he should say that he could only keep silent. There were so many things he should do that he could only stand with his arms dangling at his sides.
When all choices seem wrong, choose restraint.
And so he stood motionless.
"As long as I live I'll never forget what you have done for us. You are an honorable man, Nilphas. And your honor shall not go unnoticed nor pass unrewarded."
So a group of slaves, young and old, men, women and children, climbed in a wagon which Lycus' most trusted men would use to deliver them to Nilphas' manor, and always Lycus was haunted and perplexed by the docile equanimity and good cheer with which these simple people, irrevocably uprooted, would set out to encounter a strange and unknown destiny. Although they might cast backward what appeared to be the faintest glimmer of a wistful glance, this final parting from a place which had been their entire realm for years caused them no more regret than did the future cast over them worry or foreboding: Freedom was once something thought of as far away as the stars, or as near as the next plantation, it was all the same to them, and with despair Lycus marked how seldom they seemed to bother even bidding farewell to their friends who decided to tarry behind. Twittering and giggling, they mounted the wagon poised to carry them to an impossible fate at the uttermost ends of the Morrowind, and they could speak only of an aching knee, the potency of a hairball from a horses stomach as a charm against witches, the proper way to train a hound to tree a squirrel, and mumble incessantly about eating.
Slumbrous in broad daylight, Lycus was certain they would flop asleep against the side boards of the wagon, lips wet and apart, nodding off into oblivion even before they had been taken beyond the gate, even before they were carried past the bounds of the land which had composed the entire smell and substance and geography of their lives and whose ashen fields and meadows and shimmering coast now dwindled away behind them, unseen and unremarked, forever. They cared nothing about where they came from or where they were going, and so they would snore loudly or, abruptly waking, skylarked about, laughing and slapping each other, and trying to clutch at the passing overhead leaves. Like animals they relinquished the past with as much dumb composure as they accepted the present, and were unaware of any future at all. Lycus prayed that they would find the best.
Nilphas had agreed, though bitterly, to take them to safety. Lycus reflected on the dead dark elves and the men outside all in the name of freedom, and as he saw the wagon wobble away in the light of the sun, Lycus chased it down for one final, parting word.
"Nilphas!" he shouted, as he reached the man who had helped and sheltered him. The dark elf did not so much as offer a gaze into the Imperial's eyes. He stood fixed, staring ahead.
Lycus swallowed a lump in his throat. "Nilphas, be the lamp, and guide them to freedom. I have done both great and unspeakable things for my cause. Fight for your quest with more honor than I have."
The dark elf turned to him and said his old name. The voice was familiar, but it seemed to come from very far away; or perhaps it was only an echo of memory of their mutual treatment. "Kraven . . ."
And that was all Nilphas said as he left to his uncertain future.This post has been edited by Darkness Eternal: May 16 2017, 07:04 PM
"Every human spends a night or two on the dark side and regrets it. But what if you only exist on the dark side? We just want the same things that you do: a chance at life, at love. And so we try and sometimes fail. But when you're something other, a monster, the consequences are worse. Much worse. You wake up from your nightmares. We don't."