@everyone - thanks for reviewing, and I am honoured that I'm remembered even a year later!
@Treydog - ah, you remembered the key important parts of interacting with Adryn. *g* Very glad you liked Llavani - one thing I really want to do with this write-up is make Morrowind feel like an actual place that actual people live in, not a computer game, and a key part to that is adding the missing children! But I actually haven't spent much time with kids since I was one so I was quite uncertain of my ability to write Llavani believably. And yeah, Adryn has some... interesting things to say about alchemy.
@Haute - see above re: Llavani! And yes, that +15 racial bonus to Destruction is coming in *very* handy for Adryn here.
@Grits - glad you like the humour, and ask and you shall receive!
I think I was updating every other day before, but you get an update today because I'm not sure I'll be able to do one tomorrow.
(Notes: I gave Elone a house although she didn't seem to have one in-game because... well... if she's based in Seyda Neen she has to live somewhere, right? I was going to have her live with Draren Thiralas, but I have plans for marriage and romance in Dunmer culture that I didn't want to spoil.
Also, Solitude is one of the major cities in Skyrim, described in lore as rich and prosperous, but it's also the northernmost city in Tamriel and looking at the map it seems to be at a similar latitude as northern Solstheim...)
Elone's house turned out to be one of the nice-looking thatched houses clustered to the north of the tradehouse. I was glad of it, as most of the other "buildings" in this place - I use the term loosely - looked as though the instant you set foot in them they would collapse on top of you and drown you in the swamp. (Traps set for newcomers, perhaps?) Inside, it was also furnished much as I expected from a Cyrodiilic home. I'd have spent more time studying the surroundings except that my attention got diverted by a truly amazing gift of the gods exuding a heavenly smell-
I'm sorry, where was I?
"It's not much, just warmed-up crab chowder from this morning, but I can't afford to spend much more time here and you don't look as if you want to wait much longer," Elone said as she put a steaming bowl of soup and a chunk of bread in front of me.
"Mmfgrmp," I answered. It was meant to be 'thank you', but somehow my mouth had filled itself with soup without my even noticing. Strange how that happens.
Thankfully, Elone didn't take offense at my lack of manners; instead she just grinned and dug into her own portion.
Despite the fact that I ended up taking thirds, Elone and I finished at the same time - her with a somewhat amazed expression on her face. I didn't see what the issue was; time in an Imperial prison teaches you quickly that anything resembling food is to be devoured as quickly as possible before anyone takes it away from you. Or it runs away. (I remembered that gruel.)
"Well, you certainly seemed to need that," Elone said, looking at me critically.
"Thank you very much," I said, comprehensibly this time. "It was delicious." Although honestly, what I was comparing it to was a very, very low bar - I'd almost have called Legionnaire hardtack delicious at that point - but I figured it was more diplomatic not to point that out.
"Almalexia's mercy, she does have manners after all!" I scowled and was about to snap a retort (probably proving her point), but Elone continued with something that made my blood run cold. "Pity she has next to no sense to accompany those, given what I saw from the lighthouse earlier today."
"I have no idea what you're talking about," I said woodenly.
"Oh? How strange. Then it must have been some other newly-released prisoner who stole everything that wasn't nailed down in the Legion's supply room and tossed it over the wall! Don't worry, I won't tell," she continued, correctly interpreting my expression as 'terrified'. "But you do realise the main reason you got away with it is Fargoth opting to help you? By all rights, you ought to be back in prison right now."
"It may have been slightly short-sighted-" I started.
Elone laughed. I glared at her. "Slightly short-sighted? Girl," seriously, two syllables, what is so difficult about this, "that was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen. Now, I can't say the other ones were particularly clever, but at least none of them decided to start their criminal activities when they hadn't even been officially released yet!"
"Look," I retorted, "I fail to see what business it is of yours anyway, but in any case what's done is done so if you're not going to turn me in-"
"What's done is done, yes." Elone didn't seem inclined to let me finish a single sentence. "Except that I can't help but think that now, after you've successfully robbed the Census and Excise office - thanks more to luck than skill, I should note - you'll decide to continue on in this manner. And next time, or the time after, or the time after, your luck will fail you and you'll end up in prison again. Which would be a right shame, if you ask me."
My shoulders slumped. Elone was right; by all rights my stunt earlier should have landed me straight back in prison. I'd been overconfident and hadn't thought about consequences, yes, but the main problem was that I simply wasn't used to working on my own. I'd always had someone else to go through plans with, be a look-out, cause distractions, bail me out of trouble when worst came to worst - at this rate I'd end up arrested or killed soon simply because I was relying on back-up that wasn't here. But... "It's not as if I can do anything else." I hadn't actually been planning on sharing, but the words just spilled out of me. "Not like anyone'd hire me for a proper job, and I have to eat somehow."
Elone's expression softened. "Of course. For a moment there, I forgot you weren't from Morrowind. Most of the people on that ship looked to be from Cyrodiil... but no. Skyrim, by your accent. Solitude, would be my guess?"
I nodded reluctantly. "Lived there since I was twelve. Just moved to Imperial City recently before... all this happened." Maybe I'd developed mind-control powers in the last five minutes so that the please stop asking about this I was currently thinking at her would induce her to change subjects. Hope sprang eternal.
"Well, no wonder then," Elone said decidedly. "You've got pretty limited career choices in a city where going outside the gates is a near death sentence close to nine months of the year. And Imperial City's no better for all that the climate isn't so extreme. But," she fixed me with a stare, "you've got to remember that you're not in either of those places anymore. You're on Vvardenfell. It was a Temple preserve up until recently, you know?" I didn't - in fact I didn't even know what that meant - but Elone didn't seem inclined to let me get a word in between. "So most of it's still unsettled and a lot of the settlements that do exist are new. Vvardenfell is wild, untamed, dangerous, and in a place like that there's a lot of ways a bright, resourceful girl like you can make a living without resorting to crime."
"Like?" I couldn't help but be dubious, as this did not correspond with my previous experience in the slightest.
"Well, you could follow in my footsteps and become a scout." Elone grinned. "Honestly, I might find myself resorting to crime in Solitude myself - not much call for scouting if you can barely get outside without braving frostbite. Or if you're not so much for the wilderness, there's a lot of organisations and guilds recruiting these days, and they usually offer room, board, and a lot of ways to make money. If you're more of the adventuring sort, I know quite a few people who make a tidy sum of money by hunting smugglers and bandits - although by the look of you I'd guess that's not quite your thing." However could she have guessed? I mean, I'm sure I cut the precise image of an imposing warrior. They'll ask for my portrait to put next to 'adventurer' in the Imperial Dictionary any day now, I'm just waiting for the letter.
Elone continued, "If you can cast a water-breathing spell or get an item enchanted there's pearl-diving, although you need to be wary of the slaughterfish. Or you can gather ingredients in the wild and sell them to apocetharies or merchants, or make potions from them to sell yourself- aha, that caught your interest." She'd noticed my eyes light up. "Should have guessed when I saw you spend most your money on a mortar and pestle. Alchemy's an excellent way to make money here. There's enough call for potions that most merchants will buy home-made potions, and it's easy to get ingredients just by stepping outside and plucking flowers. Most everything growing out there, and some of the things walking, have some alchemical use. Who knows, you might even manage to open a shop if you play your cards right."
Alchemical ingredients just growing outside for anyone to pick up? Which you didn't have to dig out from under several inches of ice? Or have to beat the other dozen poor people with alchemical pretensions to? I hadn't seen anything like it since I was a child. If Elone was right and ingredients were readily at hand and it was easy to sell homemade potions, I might be able to eke out an honest living that way... and getting away from a life of crime had more advantages than she knew.
At that point, Imperial guards couldn't have stopped me from going outside to test this myself.
"Wait!" Elone might succeed, though. "Are you planning to go unarmed and unarmoured?"
I stared down at myself (still clad in dreadful prison clothes and conspicuously devoid of anything resembling armour), at my hands (empty), then back at Elone, raising an eyebrow. Honestly, did I look as though I had anything like that on me? Perhaps she thought I'd mastered the art of storing items in some sort of dimensional pockets, a feat I'd read about in books. If so, I was going to have to reconsider all the advice she'd given me; I prefer to take my guidance from people with at least some resemblance of sense.
"Don't be cheeky," Elone said, fixing me with a look. "And I wasn't joking when I said this land was dangerous, you know. You're not safe even close to town, and going outside without any way to defend yourself is just asking for trouble. In fact..."she sighed heavily, then stood up. "I have an old iron short-sword I was planning to sell to Arrille one of these days. Giving it to you is probably a good investment."
"But... Elone, I don't know how to use a sword," I pointed out.
"Which end would you stick into whatever's trying to kill you?" she called back from where she was rummaging through a chest.
Was this a trick question. "The... pointy one?"
"Wonderful! See, you already know how to use a sword better than some Imperial Legion recruits." Seeing the quality of their officers, I honestly wasn't all that surprised. "And 'the sharp bit goes into the enemy' is just about the most important thing to know when you're looking at a charging nix-hound or alit. Here, how's this?"
She pressed a sword into my arms, which sagged immediately. I pondered who on earth had come up with the idea of calling this thing a 'short-sword', as I had no idea what was meant to be so short about it. I could barely lift the thing.
"Well," Elone said, "I'm sure you'll get used to the weight in time."
I wasn't convinced. "Look, Elone... I owe you a lot, for the food, for the advice, for... er... keeping quiet about certain things which the Imperial authorities really don't need to know." I gave her my best smile. "But honestly, I'm no good with weapons. I'd probably stab myself by accident instead. And I know a Destruction spell now," I held my hand up and let flames play around it. "That'll probably be more useful in a pinch than a weapon I can barely lift. So thank you, but..."
Elone's brow furrowed. "I take your meaning, but... how about this. I'll probably be here for another half an hour, gathering up some things before I go back out to search for Processus. If, during that time, you redecide, just come back here and I'll give the sword to you."
I smiled at Elone. "I'll do that. And honestly, thank you for everything. I don't know why you're spending so much time on me..."
"Let's just say I have a suspicion you might just become a productive citizen if you don't get yourself killed first. Now, off you get." She smirked. "See you in five minutes."
It took ten.