: Thank you paladin. Big is definitely what I am going for with both the IC, and Tamriel in general. Winter Wolf:
Thank you Wolf. As you know I prefer the personal stuff, but writing the big sweep of battle last chapter was good exercise.
Quite right about lunch. I need to start feeding my computer more, so it does not continue munching on my words... haute ecole rider:
Thank you for those street names from the JF. It is little touches like that which help bring a setting to life.
If you favorite TF character is Jensine, then you are in luck! Just kidding.
Vols will be very prominent this chapter. Olen
: Thank you Olen. I think the thing that Teresa will remember the most about the IC is the smell.
I decided to keep the first comment, but went and changed intersection
, to give it more low-tech feel.All:
This will be slightly big, at 2.2k, but I think it breaks at a good point. Next Teresa catches up with Simplicia, and we see the first sign of a new personal issue which will trouble her for some time. Finally, we have another surprise visit from The Hero of Kvatch.
* * *Chapter 11b - The Knight of Swords
"My Teresa!" the old woman exclaimed, "You have been gone so long that I was almost afraid you forgot to come back!"
"I could never forget you Simplicia," Teresa breathed, feeling the other woman draw away. "I sent you a letter, did you get it?"
"Oh I did!" the beggar cried. Reaching into the folds of her skirt, she drew forth a folded up piece of parchment. "Jensine gave it to me just a few days ago! I could na' believe it. My little girl sending me letters, just like some fancy patrician! You should save your money though."
"None of it's wasted when it's for you." Teresa could not keep the smile - a real smile - from her lips. "Why aren't you wearing the new clothes I bought you before I left?"
"Oh I can't wear those when I'm workin'" the old woman waved her hand for emphasis. "Nobody'll give me half a drake unless I look poor."
"But you don't have to beg any more Simplicia." Teresa bit her lower lip. "I gave you enough money that you can stay at one of the plain inns, like Luther Broad's
. I've got more now too, plenty more."
"Oh I can't go to Luther's," the old woman said. "It ain't safe! There was a murder there! Not long after you left, two Redguards, one a big man and the other a woman with hair white as snow, killed them some poor Breton fella there. The legion didn't do a thing neither, so they must'a been workin' for one of the nobles."
A Redguard with white hair? Teresa thought, could that have been Julian, and the other man Baurus? She had not seen him since leaving the prison nearly two months ago. Nor had she seen Julian, in the flesh at least, in nearly as long as well. Had that Breton been a Mythic Dawn assassin?
"Well you could go to The King and Queen
then, or The White Mare
." Teresa insisted. "You shouldn't be out here begging at all. Let me take care of you from now on."
"Oh I can take care of myself Teresa, don't you worry none about me," the old woman said with a wave of her hand.
"You shouldn't have to, and I do worry!" Teresa insisted. "I'm doing good now, and I want you to do good too. You took care of me for all those years, now it's time for you to let me take care of you."
"Oh I'm just fine as I am, I don't need much." Simplicia said. Now the Imperial looked at the sacks of gear that Teresa had discarded on the cobblestones. Poking a hand into one, she withdrew a bronze-colored mace of Dwemer manufacture. "Where did you get this? Have you been stealing? I swear ever since you met that Methredhel you've been going down the wrong path!"
"I didn't steal anything!" Teresa grabbed the mace from Simplicia and thrust it back into the bag. "I came upon this fair and square! It belonged to some bandits who died."
"You been killing bandits!" Simplicia's eyes widened in shock. "What have you been doing out there? You said you were just picking plants!"
"I am!" Teresa felt herself flush with warmth. "I didn't kill anyone. Someone else killed them. I just found them afterward and took all their things."
"Who would do such a thing and not take it all themselves?" Simplicia gave the much younger wood elf a hard stare.
"I don't know. Maybe it was the Imperial Legion, or maybe it was trolls." Teresa tried to come up with any explanation other than a necromancer who had nearly killed her. "It doesn't really matter. All that matters is I found it and now I'm going to sell it, and we're going to live good for a while!"
"Oh Teresa, you haven't been yourself since you disappeared. What happened to you, to make you so wild?" Simplicia said. "You need to settle down, before you get hurt, or worse. Keep your head down and stay out of trouble, that's the way to go."
"Keep my fetching head down!" Teresa could not contain the snarl that escaped her lips. Her heart was racing, and her hands clenched into fists. "I'm not going to spend my life in the damn gutter! And neither should you blast it!"
"Teresa!" Simplica's eyes widened again, and the old woman stepped back from the wood elf. "What's gotten into you! You were never like this before."
Because I never had any respect for myself before, Teresa thought to herself. It took all the willpower she could muster to avoid spitting those words back into the old Imperial's face. Instead she closed her eyes and forced her shaking fingers to uncurl themselves, laying her palms flat against the top of her greaves.
Calm down, the forester told herself, Simplicia was just worried about her, like she always was. Why was she getting so angry?
"I'm sorry Simplicia," Teresa sighed. "I just can't live like I used to anymore. I can't." In her mind, she heard the Emperor's words: "You have no idea what you can do, but I do"
As if driven away just by thinking of him, her anger vanished as quickly as it had erupted.
"Let's go and sell this junk," she nodded to the bags of loot. "Then we'll get something to eat and catch up. I was thinking I would start at The Best Defense
, since a lot of it is armor."
"No, don't go there," Simplicia warned. "They got a whole bunch of stuff in just the other day, you won't get no good prices there. Try Jensine, she buys everything."
"Ok I…" Teresa's words trailed off at the sound of shouts and cheers that suddenly broke out in the street outside the arcade. She and the beggar both turned to look, and before their eyes crowds began to form along either side of the thoroughfare.
"Emperor Martin!" she heard someone shout, and her heart skipped a beat.
"The Hero of Kvatch!" came another cry, prompting Teresa to take Simplicia by the arm and step closer. The crowds blocked their way though, and there was no pushing through them. Then the wood elf's eye spied a group of crates nearby, and a moment later she leapt atop one. Reaching down for Simplicia, she dragged her up as well, in spite of the older woman's protests.
Looking back to the street, she now saw that a group of riders were slowly making their way through the cheering mass of people. Leading the way was a middle-aged Breton wearing the banded armor of the Blades and carrying a curved sword. Close behind him came a thickly-muscled Redguard dressed in the same. Both looked worn and tired, and were covered in dust.
"It's Jauffre!" she cried out, pointing them out to Simplicia, "and that's Baurus!"
"How do you know who they are?" the old woman asked. Before Teresa could reply, a third rider came into view.
Like the other two, he rode a rather ordinary-looking brown horse. However, unlike them he was dressed in gleaming ebony armor emblazoned with golden dragons. A sword of the same dark material was slung at his hip. His helmet sat on his saddlehorn, allowing his dark hair to flow in the breeze that had suddenly kicked up. Blue eyes flashing, he greeted the crowds with a smile. It was Martin Septim, Teresa knew, the new Emperor himself!
What really drew Teresa's eyes was the great red jewel hanging from his neck however, bound in gold and surrounded by eight smaller gemstones of varying colors. She recognized it instantly, for she had once held it in her hands. The Amulet of Kings.
Had he been wearing that at Bruma? she found herself wondering. No, he had not, she realized. Was that because he had been afraid of it being broken in the battle? Somehow she doubted that. The Emperors always wore the amulet. Or at least all the statues and paintings of them showed them that way. Had he somehow not had the amulet at Bruma? But why not?
Teresa lost her chain of thought as the final rider came into view, bringing up the rear of the group. She was a middle-aged Redguard, whose snow white hair trailed down behind her shoulders in a ponytail. She wore mail armor covered in a white surcoat, with a back wolf's head across the chest. Suddenly she realized that was the symbol of Kvatch, as she heard people crying out: "The Hero of Kvatch!"
Julian of Anvil, she thought. She had been seeing her so much in her visions, and heard tales of her exploits so often on the road, that Teresa felt she knew the Redguard. A silly idea, the forester told herself, but still she felt that way nonetheless. Even though she had actually only met Julian for a very brief moment at Weynon.
The Redguard's eyes locked upon her own then, and the other woman nodded her head in acknowledgment.
She remembered! Teresa could not restrain the grin that crossed her features, nor keep her hand from rising up to wave at Julian and the other riders as they slowly pushed their way through the crowd.
"Look Simplica!" Teresa now turned to the older Imperial. "That's Julian of Anvil! And that's the new Emperor in front of her, Martin Septim!"
"Bah, none of them mean a thing," the beggar waved a dismissing hand at the riders and began to clamber down from the crate. "They're all the same, livin' their great big ivory tower. They don't know or care a fig for people like us down here in the street."
"That's not true," Teresa found herself saying. She reached down to steady the old woman as she stepped back to the cobblestones, and followed her a moment later. Long habit made her eyes dart to her bags of loot, and a feeling of relief washed over her when she saw they were still where she had left them. "They do care. They just fought a huge battle to protect all of us from the Daedra. All of them were in the thick of it. Now that the Emperor's back here, then the war must be over!"
The thought was like a tremendous weight being lifted from her shoulders. Ever since leaving Morcant, the Witch's chilling prediction had been gnawing at the back of her mind. The images of the cards had always been just beneath the surface of her thoughts: The Daedric Prince, The Tower, Death. Yet now that the battle had been won, and the Emperor returned to the city victorious, then it was all over, was it not? Was not that battle what the reading had been all about?
For some reason that made her think of Julian, standing in the wreckage of the Great Oblivion Gate, holding that strange orb in one arm. What had that been? Teresa wondered once more. Had that had something to do with why Martin had not been wearing the Amulet of Kings that day?
That had only been a few days ago, she found herself thinking, how had they gotten here from Bruma so quickly? Glancing back toward the street, she realized that they were not riding the same horses that they had in the battle. That is when it came to her. They must have used those dispatch posts she had seen on the road. They could have ridden nonstop since the battle, drinking Restore Fatigue potions to stay awake, and changing horses at every station. That could have gotten them here so quickly.
"How do you know about a battle?" Simplica asked as they walked back to the loot. "I haven't heard anything about that?"
"I found out about it on the road," Teresa said. "It was at Bruma. There was a huge army of Daedra that attacked the city, like at Kvatch. But the Emperor led the army against them and won!" At the cost of many people's lives, Teresa remembered. The sight of Morcant kneeling in the wheat beside Attius was burned into her mind. How many other people lost their loved ones that day? she wondered. How many soldiers had died, to protect people like herself and Simplicia?
"The Nine forbid anything like that happening here!" Simplicia reflexively looked up as she slowly walked from the edge of the street and back into the shade of the arcade. Teresa followed, forcing herself to slow down to match the older woman's glacial pace. For not the first time, she wished she had learned to create Cure Disease potions sooner. If she had been able to cure Simplicia's stonejoint quicker, she would probably walk much better today.
Well, if wishes were horses we all would ride, the wood elf thought to herself as they made their way back to her sacks of loot. Lifting one after another and hoisting them over her shoulders, she led Simplicia down a small alley that cut right through the insula. It led them back to Commerce street, and the Market Gate rose not far beyond her left shoulder. Pushing her way across the boulevard, she took another alley through the insula at the other side. Finally that led them into another arcade lined with shops The two of them made their way through the nearly deserted space, and Teresa was thankful for the crowd having gathered in the street. It was nice to have some elbow room once more.