haute ecole rider:
You mean because he is a blackguard right?
Thank you h.e.o. That segment was one of the most fun ones I have ever written. Whenever I have the chance to highlight Teresa's social awkwardness, it usually results in something hilarious. Olen:
Thank you Olen. In spite of Teresa's newly won confidence, it all just vanishes when confronted by legionaries. That is something she still has to deal with, along with her changing feelings toward them. Acadian:
Thank you Acadian. The IC food stand sounds much better than Maulhand's soup! Destri Melarg:
Thank you Dest. I really wanted to get Martin's closing soliloquy into the story. At first I was tempted to have everyone hear it, but that seemed a bit much. I already knew I wanted to put some emphasis on the bond that Teresa and Julian share due to carrying the Amulet of Kings. So that seemed like the perfect vehicle.
The food stand was taken straight from the annals of history! Both in the stand itself and the food they served, it is straight from what has been discovered at Pompeii and other Roman sites. Winter Wolf:
So Foxy is a redhead too? I will keep that in mind for when I make him a courtesan...
Teresa is going to have a hard enough time explaining Nerussa to Simplicia (and dare I say Tadrose Helas?). I think her brain would explode if Simplicia got the impression that her and Vols were an item!Next:
Teresa confronts her childhood demon, and learns a surprising secret.
* * *Chapter 13.2 - The Promise
Teresa walked deeper into the room and scanned the beds for Volsinius. It did not occur to her until then that she really did not know what he looked like, not very well at least. To her he had always been just a bigger mountain of steel than most of the other legionaries, with blue glaciers for eyes and a voice like a snarling lion. The only time she had seen him without his helmet was during the battle yesterday, and then his face had been burned and covered in soot.
None of the men looked very big lying in beds and covered in bandages, she thought, let alone without all the iron-mongery she was used to seeing legionaries in. She walked among the beds and looked for someone with the same kind of wounds that she remembered Volsinius had, and finally came upon the right man.
The top of his head and left side of his face were covered in bandages, as was his left arm, which she saw was laid out straight between two long wooden splints that were firmly attached from wrist to elbow. His body was covered in a simple grey blanket from his midsection down, and Teresa wondered if his stomach was bandaged underneath it. He wore the same dragon-emblazoned tunic that the men on the lower floor had, and did not stir as Teresa walked up.
She wondered if he were asleep, and moved around the bed to the right side of his body, where his face was not bandaged. His blue eye popped open then and stared at her intently.
"No more of the damned laudanum," his words slurred as he raised his arm to wave her away. "Damn stuff makes me see things, I'd rather feel the pain."
"Oh see what Vols?" Teresa asked with a faint smile on her lips, stepping closer and setting the food and wine she had brought onto a small table between his bed and the next one.
"Is that really you Red?" His now hairless eyebrow furrowed as he turned his head to watch what she was doing. "Teresa I mean? Damn women and hair, how do the gods keep them all straight?"
Teresa was not sure what he meant, but she knew that if they were giving him laudanum he was probably seeing all sorts of things. Opium was something that Simplicia had warned her about since she was a child, along with skooma, and she had never touched either. However, both were certainly popular with the denizens of the Waterfront, so she had seen up close what they did to people.
She wondered how bad the burns were under those bandages on his face, for them to be giving him such a strong drug. They must be awful, she thought, given what she remembered from the previous day. She hid an empathetic wince by turning to pick up a stool. Placing it beside his bed, she sat down and looked back at him once her face was composed again.
"I thought you might be hungry, so I brought some dinner," she said, reaching for the wine and uncorking it, "I hope you like cheap wine and cheese dumplings."
Teresa took a sip of the wine and nearly winced again. It really was cheap, she thought. After what she had drunk at the priory in Weynon and Nerussa's inn, it was just awful. But she was thirsty and it was better than nothing. Still, she doubted that Volsinius would be so picky, and she offered the bottle to him.
The wounded soldier reached for the bottle and missed, eliciting another faint smile of amusement from Teresa. He really was out of his head, she thought as she set the bottle down and stood back up.
"Here, let me help you sit up," she said, and leaned across the bed to put her hands under his arms. Taking a solid grip she pulled up, and nothing happened. She tried again with a grunt of effort, and once more his massive body did not budge an inch. How much did he weigh? she wondered in amazement. She had thought that without his armor she would at least be able to pull him up.
"Argh, are you trying to smother me woman!" he cried out from underneath her. Looking down, Teresa saw that her linen-clad breasts were nearly pressing down against his face. She let go and stepped back while he pushed himself up into a sitting position with his good arm. An arm she saw was black and blue from bruises when he reached for the wine bottle again.
He raised the bottle to his lips, tilted his head back, and commenced to gulp it down as if it were water. Teresa stared in amazement. He was practically breathing the alcohol in! When he finally set the bottle down and let loose an ear-shattering belch she found it was nearly empty.
"Ah that hits the spot," he breathed in satisfaction, "kind of weak though. You didn't bring anything stronger did you?"
"You nearly drank it all!" Teresa fumed as she snatched the bottle away and set it out of his reach. She was regretting coming here more and more by the moment...
"Well you should have brought a bigger bottle wench!" he cried in exasperation. "A man gets thirsty, especially after spending all day cooped up in this dungeon!"
"I am not your wench you s'wit!" something snapped in Teresa then, and all of the tension that had been building within her throughout the day finally burst loose in a torrent. Before she knew it, she jabbed her finger into the wounded man's chest with all the force her slender arm could muster. "And if you call me that again you'll get that bottle upside your head! Why in Nocturnal's name did I ever come here?"
"Gah, enough, enough!" Volsinius cried, raising his one good arm to try to fend her off, "What did you come here for anyway?"
"I came here to say thank you dammit!" Teresa shouted, "I was trying to be nice because you saved my life! Now I wish I let you die on the floor instead of making you that last healing potion!"
"You made me a healing potion?" he asked, his voice suddenly quiet. His one eye looked up at her with a completely different light in it. Just what it was, Teresa had no idea, she only knew it was something she had never seen in him before. "I thought you used them all on Jensine?"
"I did use them all on her," Teresa breathed softly, feeling the anger flowing out of her as quickly as it had erupted. She sat back down on the stool, and was keenly aware of how everyone else in the room was staring at both of them. "I got the ingredients out of my pack when you were unconscious and made another one for you. You were lucky, I only had enough lavender for that one potion."
"You did that for me?" he said, genuine surprise in his face. "I thought you hated me, and the legion?"
"I don't hate you," Teresa looked down from his gaze. She could take the steely hard glare that she was so accustomed to, but not this new thing she saw in his eye.
"I came to thank you for what you did, for me and the others," Teresa continued, raising her head and setting one hand over his. "You stepped in front of everything that came through that door to protect the rest of us. I saw what it cost you then, and I can see it again now. What all of you go through. No one has ever done that for me before, and I never thought anyone ever would."
She was not sure what she saw in him now. He opened his mouth to say something, but no words came out. He swallowed hard and licked his lips. Finally he closed his eye, and gently moved his hand over hers and squeezed it so softly that Teresa was not sure if she really felt it.
Then a growl from Teresa's stomach broke the moment, and the next thing she heard was Volsinius laughing. She managed the ghost of a smile herself, and reached for one of the dumplings. They ate in silence. Teresa was not sure what to say, and she could see that the legionary did not either. When they were finished she made sure she had a drink from the bottle before she gave it to him to finish.
"You're just like her you know," he said as he plunked the empty bottle down on the table, "a real fireball!"
"Who?" Teresa wondered.
"Simplicia," he said, "back in the old days, when she was a working girl over at the Peony Pavilion. Won't find it no more though, 'cause it burned down years ago. Oh she was something else back then!"
Teresa almost spat out her wine. Simplicia had been a prostitute! The old woman had never said anything about it to her. Then again, Teresa thought, it was not exactly the kind of thing you mentioned in passing. Still, she would have expected to have at least heard about it by now.
"I was just a young kid back then, fresh from Skyrim and still wet behind the ears from the snow," Volsinius went on starry-eyed as he gazed into the past, seemingly oblivious to Teresa's amazement. "I had no idea women could be like her. She could curl your toes! Shame about what happened to her..."
"What?" Teresa asked, wondering if he was really talking about the same Simplicia who had been her surrogate mother for her entire life.
"You don' know?" he said, staring at her in surprise. After Teresa shook her head, his voice regained the hard edge that she was so used to. "Some Dunmer piece of dreck got ahold of her and cut her up bad. Cut out her livelihood, if you take my meaning. Like I said, I was just a kid back then, I never imagined someone could do a thing like that. It made me sick. If it wasn't for a priest of Mara in the next building she'd have bled out."
Teresa felt sick now too. No wonder Simplicia did not want to talk about it, she thought. She could not even imagine what that must be like. As bad as she had felt for those poor men and women laying maimed in the Temple District and here in the watchtower, it was nothing compared to the deep abyss that she felt open in her heart at the thought of Simplicia being so horribly tortured.
"The fetcher did it to two other women too, before I finally caught up with him," Volsinius growled, once more the lion of the street she was so accustomed to.
"What happened to him?" Teresa asked, feeling a hot, angry sensation beginning to grow within that empty space inside of her.
"I gave him what he had coming," the legionary spat, his eye as cold as Skyrim. "I cut him up one piece at time and fed him to the damn slaughterfish in the lake. He didn't die 'till I was halfway through."
Teresa looked down, the anger in her dying as quickly as it had arisen. So that was how Volsinius had lost his humanity, she thought, and how Simplicia had lost her way. Part of her wanted to cry, but she could not find the tears. She just felt numb.
"I never told anyone that, not even her," Volsinius explained softly, his eye losing that steel it had briefly held, "must be the damn poppy juice they're giving me... They'd kick me out of the legion if anyone could prove it, probably put me in a cell too. I guess you should know though, if anyone. I know you love her like she was your real mom. Such a damn shame what happened to her..."
Teresa sat in silence, trying to digest everything he had said. Then the legionary's voice broke her from her thoughts. "You better run along now girl," he said, "before I start gettin' all teary-eyed over the old days. People will start thinkin' you're my girlfriend."
"Oh they think that already!" Teresa exclaimed, feeling a smile creep to the corners of her lips. That made the legionary squirm in his bed, which she only found to be more entertaining. But she could not retain her amusement for long, not when she looked down at the bandages that covered most of his head and thought of the charred flesh underneath.
"Thank you, for everything," she rose and took his hand in both of hers, "I'll never forget."