“He’s mine,” the mer growled venomously. “What he looks like in any private situation is only between us.” Electricity condensed as he charged a shock spell. “Leave me. Do not disturb either of us with such nonsense again.”
Sparks arced along Sier’s hand as he glared. “Mind your own damn business, greymage.”
The young mer’s face twisted into uncertainty. “Gods… I love him, I would do most anything to see him happy… but…” He hesitated before giving a disheartened sigh. “So long as I’m Rankless… as long as the Thalmor continue to not trust me, and treat me as beneath them… I don’t think it would be right. He deserves far more than to be tied to the lowest members of Aldmeri society.
“…Besides, I doubt it would be so simple. I’m here serving a sentence, after all, and I’m not sure they give reforming criminals time off for such things.”
((Sier gets to face off against Morlindil’s ghost. That is all.))
Anahiil laughed, “Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve met my birth parents a couple times. They seem to always have something stuck up there. You’ve actually caught me on a good day when I’m pretty hospitable.” He chuckled again. “That drink?”
“Aye, jus’ down a’the Winkin’ Skeever,” Aldari motioned behind him. “P’raps a bit early fer a pint, but we c’n always chat o’er a meal.”
“I… well I suppose I could share a drink,” he said, noticeably nervous about the prospect of having alcohol for the first time. He got a bottle of mead and a mug from the bartender, which took most of his coin, but he decided that it would be worth it if he ended up becoming friends with the old elf.
He took a seat by Aldari, but he made sure that his back was to the wall so that no potential assailant could sneak up behind him. He filled his mug only about half full, hoping that no one would notice. Taking a cue from some nearby Nords he raised his cup and suggested, “should we make some form of ‘toast’? I’ve been led to believe that that is the local custom”
The old mer settled back a bit, relieved and quite pleased the man had calmed down—and was even attempting to join in the festivities. The modest amount of alcohol wasn’t lost on him, but Aldari only thought better of the Redguard for it; such mindful thinking meant the man wasn’t a fool, at least, and wasn’t so bad as his first impression would have led him to believe.
“Sure,” Aldari held up his own mug. “‘eres to a new friend, aye? Name’s Aldari, by th’way.” He took a swig of his mead. “Well met.”
Nimraen still wasn’t fully convinced, but who was he to deny his love? If they ran into something, he would be able to protect him should he not be recovered enough to fight.
“That it is.” He chuckled. It was turning out interesting. And dangerous. But… As long as they could get through it, they would be alright. “Hopefully… We don’t run into anything too bad.”
A frown came to his face when that noise reached his ear drums. That was… A familiar sound. He couldn’t quite place the sound. But he finally did once the skinned hound came into their line of vision on the path. That beast wasn’t what he wanted to run into, but at least it wasn’t attacking them?
He didn’t get to finish the thought before he heard the laughing and his frown deepened. He stumbled at first, surprised by the sudden tug of his hand and Sier running. It only took him a few seconds to get his footing right and to catch up with Sier. “I didn’t like the sound of that…” He said, glancing to Sier as they ran.
The young mer didn’t answer, face a mask of panic as the laughter sounded again—and closer. The cobbled road suddenly seemed full of loose rocks and debris, the better to trip them up and nearly have Sier faceplant more than once. Each time he regained his footing before falling, practically dragging Nimraen to his feet if he stumbled as well.
Finally he skidded to a halt, stomach dropping as he realized they’d run right into a dead end. Trees packed so tightly together they almost became one encircled most of the open area, a wall of rock looming over them where the trees weren’t. Sier panted, shaking from far more than exhaustion as he looked around, hoping against hope for somewhere to hide.
”All this time and you’re moronic as ever,” a voice gargled, hoarse but still recognizable.
Sier turned slowly, not really wanting to face the mer he knew would be behind them. He clutched Nimraen’s hand as if it were a lifeline, stepping closer as much for comfort as to protect him.
At first all Sier could see was an empty cobblestone path—then mist swirled, slowly, coalescing into the shape of his late mentor as if reluctant to do so. A jagged arrow wound pierced his throat, nose and finger still broken like Sier had last seen him. Though transparent, the ghostly Thalmor looked every bit as terrifying as Sier had feared.
The Thalmor Officer’s eyes stared daggers at the young mer, but his mouth was twisted into a cruel smile: the one he usually carried when he was about to get his way, to the discomfort or humiliation of another. It widened when he took in the terror of his old apprentice.
”Still the cowardly little shit you’ve always been, I see. To think Skyrim would have hardened you… pheh. There’s no hope for a sniveling deserter like you after all.”
At the sight of the nearby dogs, Medeia tightened her grip on the shoulder strap of her satchel. She eyed the creatures with dismay and suspicion clearly written on her features. Those filthy mongrels had better not approach her, or-… Oh gods, here they come.
Only one of the dogs approached her, but that was bad enough. It held its nose up in the wind, sniffing curiously for any treats she might have with her. After all, the stray had been lucky with the other elf before as well. The young womer stiffened before she tore one of her hands away from her shoulder strap to make a dismissive little wave, intended to repel the creature. It had quite the opposite effect and the dog drew closer, likely thinking a treat was about to fall from that hand.
“No, no, no. Go away. Shoo. I haven’t got anything for you,” she hissed and wrinkled her nose as she inched back. It was then that she noticed the other mer. Her cheeks almost immediately flushed a bright red. She was making a fool of herself and someone else was watching.
Further back, Astarill narrowed his eyes in the direction of his niece’s outline. “What in Oblivion is she doing?”
Seeing the new girl react in such a way to his—no, he reminded himself sternly, just ‘a’—stray disheartened him, but the novelty of speaking to a civilian Altmer overpowered his misgivings. It was a mark of either loneliness or maturity that he didn’t much care if she disliked dogs, so long as she wouldn’t think less of him for the opposite.
Pushing off of the wall, the mer whistled softly and pulled out another scrap of meat. The animal that had been bothering Medeia bolted to him, tail wagging as he approached and ate the scrap eagerly. Another motion as the mer stepped further into the crowd was enough to disperse the dogs; they new this particular source of food only fed them in this particular spot.
“Afternoon,” he muttered as he approached. “Don’t mind the beasts around here; most leave you alone unless you feed them.”
Aldari squinted in the direction Medeia had been traveling, brows shooting upward as he caught sight of the dogs retreating—and the black-clad figure he couldn’t help but think looked familiar. “No’ sure,” he replied slowly, “bu’ she may’ve jus’ found a good place t’start lookin’ fer Sier.”
Without waiting for response he made his way closer, heart quickening as he spotted a dark blue mark on the mer’s face. Only one Altmer he’d ever known had sported that.
Traveling to Winterhold was becoming a welcome respite for Sieralon; he only ever had the one agent to converse with, and while they never really chatted informally, he could tell he was making a decent impression. The college students and masters had also proven to be the least objectionable group he’d seen outside of the Thalmor. All in all, he mused as he climbed the rickety bridge up to the college, he wouldn’t be opposed to finding a station here more permanently.
After dropping off his parcels and being ordered to hang around, Sier meandered to the Hall of Elements to eavesdrop on their daily lecture. Most of them held no information he didn’t already know, but—every so often—one of the lecturers would indulge a snippet of information that he found useful.
Taking a seat in a relatively shadowed corner, the mer fidgeted idly and waited. He was a few minutes early yet; most of the students hadn’t even arrived at this point.
Nimraen kept his arm around Sier, making sure to keep him steady. He wasn’t so sure about continuing on just yet, but Sier wanted to go on ahead, so who was he to deny his lover what he wanted?
“If you’re sure. Just don’t push yourself too hard, love.” He murmured. His voice was laced with concern. He knew that the fight had taken a lot out of him. He didn’t want Sier to push himself too far.
His arm stayed securely around Sier’s shoulders. He looked between the two paths. There was probably something at the end of both of them, but just what was waiting for them was the question. “The cobbled path?” He suggested with a shrug, looking at Sier.
Sier nodded at Nimraen’s decision; the small road did stretch rather invitingly off into the distance, and would provide more stable ground for him to walk on. He knew he’d need such for a little while, at least, until his strength returned.
“Let’s be off, then,” he smiled up at his love, wanting to reassure him that he really was okay. “I admit this is turning out to be more interesting than I thought.”
The pair wouldn’t get too far down the path before hearing a wet, strangled howl, ending in a yelp of pain that had Sier stopping in his tracks. Had he heard something like that before…?
The skinned hound from earlier stumbled onto the path, snarling at them weakly before dashing off again. Sier didn’t have time to comment before hearing someone laugh—a cold, malevolent chuckle that turned his blood to ice and drained all color from his face. Without comment he grabbed Nimraen’s hand and ran.