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Secondhand Destiny: an Elder Scrolls tale


chaos_Leader

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Author note:

A large part of this chapter is a direct rip from the in-game book Ahzirr Traajijazeri, which I've included here mainly because it is central to the character and plot I've been toying with in my head for a while. I didn't write it (most of it), and I'd like to thank the writers responsible within Bethesda for providing such juicy material.

This is mostly just a side project, something I've been dinking around with in my head and just decided to put to paper. I'm not sure if I'll continue it or not, but it's a really fun and intriguing concept, and I'll run with it if there's enough interest.

Your feedback is most welcome, thanks. :-)

Prologue:

Foolish Concepts

Ahzirr Traajijazeri, with Addendum

by Anonymous, and Another Anonymous respectively.

The public manifesto of the Khajiit organization Renrijra Krin

This is an absurd book. But like all things Khajiiti, as the expression goes, "gzalzi vaberzarita maaszi", or "absurdity has become necessity." Much of what I have to say has probably never been written before, and if it has, no one has read it. The Imperials feel that everything must be written down for posterity, but every Khajiiti kitten born in Elsweyr knows his history, he drinks it in with his mother's milk.

Fairly recently, however, our struggles to win back our homeland from the rapacious Count of Leyawiin have attracted sympathetic persons, even Imperials, who wish to join our cause, but, it seems, do not understand our ways. Our enemies, of course, do not understand us either, but that is as we wish it, a weapon in our arsenal. Our non-Khajiiti friends, however, should know who we are, why we are, and what we are doing.

The Khajiit mind is not engineered for self-reflection. We simply do what we do, and let the world be damned. To put into words and rationalize our philosophy is foreign, and I cannot guarantee that even after reading this, you will understand us. Grasp this simple truth - "q'zi no vano thzina ualizz" - "When I contradict myself, I am telling the truth."

We are the Renrijra Krin. "The Mercenary's Grin¸" "The Laugh of the Landless," and "The Smiling Scum" would all be fair translations. It is a derogatory expression, but it is amusing so we have adopted it.

We have anger in our hearts, but not on our faces. We fight for Elsweyr, but we do not ally ourselves with the Mane, who symbolizes our land. We believe in justice, but do not follow laws.

"Q'zi no vano thzina ualizz."

These are not rules, for there is no word for "rules" in Ta'agra. Call them our "thjizzrini" - "foolish concepts."

1. "Vaba Do'Shurh'do": "It Is Good To Be Brave"

We are struggling against impossible odds, against the very Empire of Tamriel. Our cause is the noblest cause of all: defense of home. If we fail, we betray our past and our future. Our dead are "Ri'sallidad", which may be interpreted as "martyrs" in the truest, best sense of that word which is so often misused. We honor their sacrifice and, beneath our smiles, mourn them deeply.

Our bravery most obviously shows in the smile that is the "Krin" part of our name. This does not mean that we walk about grinning like the idiotic baboonish Imga of Valenwood. We simply are entertained by adversary. We find an equal, fair fight tiresome in the extreme. We confidently smile because we know our victory in the end is assured. And we know our smiles drive our enemies insane.

2. "Vaba Maaszi Lhajiito": "It Is Necessary To Run Away"

We are struggling against impossible odds, against the very Empire of Tamriel. Honor is madness. Yes, we loved the Renrijra Krin who died in brave battle against the forces of the Empire, but I guarantee you that each of those Ri'sallidad had an escape route he or she failed to use, and died saying, "Damn."

When the great Senche-Raht comes to the Saimisil Steppes, he will find himself unable to hunt, unable to sleep, as the tiny Alfiq leap onto his back, biting him, and running off before he has a chance to turn his great body to face them. Eventually, though he may stubbornly hope to catch the Alfiq, the Senche-Raht always leaves. They are our cousins, the Alfiq, and we have adopted their strategy against the great tiger of Leyawiin.

Do not ally yourself with the Renrij if you yearn to be part of a mighty army, marching resolutely forth, for whom retreat is anathema. We will laugh at your suicidal idiocy as we slip into the reeds of the river, and watch the inevitable slaughter.

3. "Fusozay Var Var": "Enjoy Life"

Life is short. If you have not made love recently, please, put down this book, and take care of that with all haste. Find a wanton lass or a frisky lad, or several, in whatever combination your wise loins direct, and do not under any circumstances play hard to get. Our struggle against the colossal forces of oppression can wait.

Good. Welcome back.

We Renrijra Krin live and fight together, and know that Leyawiin and the Empire will not give way very soon, likely not in our lifetimes. In the time we have, we do not want our closest comrades to be dour, dull, colorless, sober, and virginal. If we did, we would have joined the Emperor's Blades.

Do not begrudge us our lewd jokes, our bawdy, drunken nights, our moonsugar. They are the pleasures that Leyawiin denies us, and so we take our good humor very seriously.

4. "Fusozay Var Dar": "Kill Without Qualm"

Life is short. Very short, as many have learned when they have crossed the Renrijra Krin.

We fight dirty. If an enemy is facing us, we might consider our options, and even slip away if his sword looks too big. If his back is to us, however, I personally favor knocking him down, and then jumping on his neck where the bones snap with a gratifying crunch. Of course, it is up to you and your personal style.

5. "Ahzirr Durrarriss": "We Give Freely To The People"

Let us not forget our purpose. We are fighting for our families, the Khajiiti driven from the rich, fertile shores of Lake Makapi and the River Malapi, where they and their ancestors lived since time immemorial. It is our battle, but their tragedy. We must show them, lest they are swayed by other rhetoric, that we are fighting for them.

The Mane, The Emperor, and The Count can give speeches, pass laws, and, living life in the open, explain their positions and philosophies to their people to stave off the inevitable revolution. Extralegal entities, such as the Renrijra Krin, must make our actions count for our words. This means more than fighting the good fight, and having a laugh at our befuddled adversaries. It means engaging and seducing the people. Ours is not a military war, it is a political war. If the people rise up against our oppressors, they will retreat, and we will win.

Give to these people, whenever possible, gold, moonsugar, and our strong arms, and though they hide, their hearts will be with us.

6. "Ahzirr Traajijazeri": "We Justly Take By Force"

Let us not forget our purpose. We are thieves and thugs, smugglers and saboteurs. If we cannot take a farm, we burn it to the ground. If the Imperials garrisoned in a glorious ancient stronghold, beloved by our ancestors, will not yield, we tear the structure apart. If the only way to rescue the land from the Leyawiin misappropriation is to make it uninhabitable by all, so be it.

We want our life and our home back as it was twenty years ago, but if that is not realistic, then we will accept a different simple, pragmatic goal. Revenge. With a smile.

Addendum:

In recent years, it has occurred to those of us it concerns how disastrously out-of-date these text have become. After all, time shifts everything and everyone, just as time allows the winds to reshape the sands of Elsweyr so easily. Chief among the inconsistencies of this admittedly absurd book is the primary aim of the Renrijra Krin.

The border dispute between ourselves and County Leyawiin of Cyrodiil described in this text has long given way to a decidedly more troublesome issue: the Thalmor control over the land of Elsweyr, through the elves' puppet states of Anequina and Pelletine. Time and circumstance, it seems, has dragged this ragged band of thieves, thugs, smugglers and saboteurs that is the Renrijra Krin –which we still are, by the way– into a cause far more "noble" in many peoples' minds than we had ever intended.

However, do not think though that because our cause may seem "just" to you that we are to be trusted. I am thinking of a philosophy that more-or-less says, "beware of friends so easily gotten, for they are the ones best prepared to stab you in the back," a practical wisdom that our enemies, much to our delight, have either chosen to ignore, or have missed entirely.

For instance, many think us Khajiit foolish to have accepted the Thalmor as our "saviors" following the void years, when the elves supposedly returned the moons to their rightful place in the sky after vanishing, and perhaps we were. Yet in our foolishness there is wisdom yet to be found. You see, the lands of Cyrodiil, Hamerfell, and possibly Skyrim now, all go to great lengths and pain to fight the Aldmeri menace head-on, like a goat charging into a stone wall, at great expense to their resources and the lives of the ones loved ones. Our rather uncomfortably close intimacy with these self-important mer have provided our land with a peace –if a tense, uneasy one– that has kept our land fruitful, and ready to strike when the time comes. Furthermore, our relative prosperity and peace has given the Renrijra Krin a bountiful source of connections and opportunities, not to mention a all-too-bitter silent loathing as the Thalmor breath down our necks. Their recent defeats against the Empire's forces and those of Hammerfell are promising signs indeed, and the Renrijra Krin would see this trend continue. If not necessarily in Elsweyr itself, than at key points all across Tamriel. Remember though that there is only one thing you may be certain of us: that you cannot be certain of us.

If, by some chance, you are an agent of the Thalmor, reading this text in a hope to glean some sort of insight about our ways in order to better dispatch us: I wish you happy hunting my friend, and the best of luck, certainly, we do. No doubt you will soon experience the smiling vengeance of the Renrijra Krin firsthand.

---------

And at last, I'shiátt set his quill down after penning yet another addendum into a copy of the Ahzirr Traajijazeri, as was his chore whenever the caravan stopped somewhere quiet for the night. Though he penned the words in the book, there weren't his words, but someone else's, belonging to the original author of the addendum. He, or quite possibly she, was someone of some stature within the Renrijra Krin, but no one could identify who for certain.

I'shiátt was in a small tent, barely large enough to hold the desk and writing tools used for his tedious, but necessary work of "updating" the Ahzirr Traajijazeri books. Several copies of the text were also on the table; some updated, some still needing it. I'shiátt himself was Khajiit, with stone gray fur and golden mane with matching highlights; "Goldmine" the others called that pattern, since it appeared much like veins of gold ore in the rocks. He dressed simply, but warmly, yet even that couldn't hold off the bitter cold of this land. How the Nords could stand living here was beyond reason.

They'd set up camp in the ruins of a village called Helgen, said to have been attacked by a dragon. It certainly seemed a plausible explanation, given the extensive damage and burned out buildings. Few other events could cause the wreckage found, and all the locals we've found so far couldn't stop talking about the return of the dragons. They also however mention a "dragonborn", a kind of hero gifted with an old and powerful magic, like from their ancient tales.

And there you see, is precisely why the've traveled so far. Where ancient stories come to life, and heroes of old rise again, surely great opportunities follow in their wake.

This group however was no mere caravan, but a small band of Renrijra Krin agents, posing as another enterprising group of Khajiit heading into Skyrim, and even conducting the business of a normal caravan on the surface. Though coincidentally enough, the motives for both the honest caravans and this covert pocket of the Renrijra Krin were quite similar. Each sought to gain from the sudden turmoil that had engulfed the bitter cold northland; the merchants seek business opportunities, and the Renrijra Krin seek information, influence, and any opportunities to further their own goals...

"I'shiátt!" the sharp voice of S'darjo, the company's leader, called from outside the tent, "Put away your scribe's toys and help us pack! we leave for Falkreath in an hour."

Was it morning already? And I'shiátt turned to his unused bedroll on the floor, suddenly feeling the tiredness wash over him. Time sometimes gets away from you when writing, but the caravan waits for no one. And once again, the contradictions inherent to the Renrijra Krin rear their heads again; where there is no time, no chance, no hope, you find a way to steal some more anyway.

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Author Note:

Right, now this is much more like a proper "first chapter". Again, this is a speculative side project, and likely won't be continued if there isn't much support from you guys. I've got other stories simmering on the back-burner, mainly Star Fox: Legacy, and I won't neglect my other work any more than I can help.

As always, your feedback is most welcome.

Chapter 1:

More Than They Bargained For

The road north out of Helgen's ruin brought the caravan through a lush pine forest, rolling in the foothills of the Jerall mountains. It was a bright, clear morning without a single cloud in the sky, caressed by a gentle breeze. The Khajiiti caravaners in this party numbered four. They were centered around a cart drawn by a strong horse, heavily laden with the group's belongings and gear, along with the wares they bought and sold as the trade caravan they were meant to appear as.

Following some paces behind was the stout and stalwart Dojarq, encased in a gleaming shell of dwarf-make armor, with matching shield slung across his back. He didn't wear the helmet, which wouldn't have fit right anyway without tiresome alterations, and he let his wild reddish mane flow. Besides which, Dojarq claimed he could see much better without a bulky helmet in his way, and so avoid that fatal blow to the head by his keen warrior's awareness.

Khesýra was further ahead, nearly invisible against the forested background through which she scouted, keeping watch for possible troubles. She favored earthen-tones to help blend into her surroundings: a green hooded tunic in this case, with her trusty bow and quiver strapped securely to her back. If it was a dull day like today, she'd sometimes practice her deadly skills on the local wildlife, and provide the group with hunting spoils to supplement their rations.

The other two stayed close to their cart, walking close side-by-side. S'darjo was the group's eldest, his graying mane dangling in many braids adorned with intricate gold rings, as were his ears. The aging Khajiit also wore the finest clothing that was practical in these travels, which allowed him to easily act as the group's merchant whenever they did business. All that however was a ruse to conceal his true nature...

I'shiátt was the youngest of the group. He clung tightly to himself as he walked, hunched over, shivering, trying desperately to keep warm in the frozen land he found himself in. The fledgling Khajiit was brought along on this clandestine journey for mostly two reasons. First: he was a talented scribe, and could 'update' many, many copies of the Ahzirr Traajijazeri to be recirculated through the land, and so quietly spread word of the renewed Renrijra Krin. Second: he needed field experience, and what more efficient way to gain such experience than to fling the young one to the wind? If he had what it takes, he'd find a way to fly, or at least hit the ground without breaking any bones.

"Come, breathe deep the cool air of the northland, young I'shiátt." S'darjo said, and he inhaled a great lungful of the biting cold nordic air, "If nothing else, you may as well make yourself familiar with it– we'll be in these lands for a while, and it only gets colder."

"I'd sooner fill my chest with burning fire salts if I could." I'shiátt sputtered through his chattering teeth, "At least then I wouldn't freeze to death."

"If you'd rather hold your breath for the duration of our time in Skyrim, by all means, please do." S'darjo retorted quite cheerfully, "Though, there isthe slight issue of suffocation you'd have to circumvent first–"

Their conversation was interrupted by the sharp thwack of an arrow as it struck a nearby tree. It was one of Khesýra's arrows, with a small strip of yellow cloth tied to it. She used this method as a quick way to signal the rest of the caravan. The yellow cloth meant "likely trouble ahead, but no immediate danger." while a red cloth would've meant "immediate danger! Need assistance now!"

I'shiátt tended to the horse and cart, bringing it to a halt for a moment. In the meantime, S'darjo walked up to the tree where the arrow had embedded itself, yanked it free, and peered ahead to where it was fired from. There seemed to be some figures moving in the distance, but they were too far and too faint to discern clearly. Maybe it was bandits, or a skirmish between Imperial troops and Stormcloaks; the arrow method was never specific, just quick...

"Dojarq!" the elder Khajiit called out, but not too loud.

The fire maned warrior approached at the call of his name. He was an even more impressive sight up close; a tower of a figure by Khajiit standards, with square hard-edged features. He could've easily been mistaken as a brutish Cathay, rather than the common Suthay-raht he actually was.

Dojarq did little, but spotted the arrow with yellow cloth, being twirled absentmindedly in S'darjo's hand, and he knew immediately, "Trouble." which he stated bluntly.

The elder Khajiit went and rummaged through the cart a moment, muttering quiet obscenities to himself amidst the muffled clatter of his search. Soon though, S'darjo reemerged with a small bundle of scrolls, magical ones, which he handed to Dojarq.

"You know what to do."

"Hmm." the warrior grunted with a nod, and accepted the scrolls. Without another word, he stepped off the path and headed toward the distant commotion through the woods. After passing a tree though, he didn't reappear on the other side as he was supposed to. Those scrolls must've been invisibility scrolls.

I'shiátt watched all this in silence, feeling a chill up his spine that had nothing to do with Skyrim's frigid climate.

"What do I do, exactly?" he finally asked, nervous.

"Whatever you deem necessary..." S'darjo answered with a smile, but found that his answer had only further confused the young one, and left him more nervous, "Just... follow my lead, and act natural-like..."

He started down the road again, beckoning with a sweep of his arm for I'shiátt to lead the cart forward to follow.

As they approached the trouble spot down the road, the figures became much more clear. They were a ragtag group of bandits, common thugs found all across Tamriel. The approach of a pair of heavily laden travelers –neither of which appeared to be the fighting type– only whetted their appetite. Like a pack of wolves, the group of bandits closed in on their chosen prey. Most of them looked Nordic, though there was the odd Orc or Redguard in their midst as well. However, all of them were armed, intrigued by the easy pickings that landed in their way, and had that intent, hungry look in their eyes that meant only one thing...

"Well, what have we got here?" one of the tall, blonde Nords stepped forward, hefting a great battle-axe over one shoulder. He spoke with a more affected, more exotic seeming accent of Tamrielic than the Nords of Cyrodiil, "Another cat-caravan?"

S'darjo greeted this cocksure outlaw with open arms, and a wide smile, "Ah, our first customers in great Skyrim! Welcome! Welcome!" A few of the surrounding bandits looked at each other with slightly puzzled looks, muttering amongst themselves. Most simply chuckled quietly to themselves, confident in their certainty of a prosperous haul. "If you have gold, we will sell to you, it does not matter to Khajiit how you obtained it. All gold is good gold, all wares are good wares."

The hulking Nord just took a slow glance to his left and right, and returned his amused gaze back to the comparatively small forms of I'shiátt and S'darjo in front of him. And then he let out a low chuckle, savoring every moment of the imminent and easy victory he tasted.

"I've got a better idea."

The lead bandit was just about to swing his axe down to cleave S'darjo in two, when he slumped to one side with the sound of a hollow thunk, and an arrow that had pierced the side of his head.

Before the dead Nord even hit the ground, S'darjo's already outstretched hands started crackling and hissing with the arcane lighting; an imminent destruction spell. In another moment, cackling with a maniacal grin on his face, the elder Khajiit threw several great arcs of lighting into the gathered hostiles before him. Some of them fell quickly to the torrent of magical electricity, others retreated to try and regroup, but a few of those still with their wits took up arms and fought back.

One of these was an archer in the rear, taking aim at the mage with his bow, trying to rally his comerades back to fight, "The cat's a damned wizar–"

Whang! Dojarq rematerialized our of thin air as he smashed his shield into the archer, sending him recoiling. Before there was time to recover, Dojarq had already drawn his sword and run the hapless archer through. Then the snarling warrior dove at another adversary in the fray, a ferocious display of whirling blade and

All the while, arrows darted into the confusion from Khesýra's ever-shifting unseen cover point, picking off the scattering hostiles her comrades missed one by one. Between the onslaught of sword, spell and bow-sniping, the bandits were soon dispatched or routed. Other than the few who ran for their lives, all that remained of the proud, but ultimately shortsighted bandit clan was a mess of bleeding bodies on the road.

S'darjo flexed his hands as he looked over the party's handiwork, and the sparks disappeared into his palms without a trace, "There are few things like a classic bandit-bust to keep the skills sharp, no?"

Khesýra stepped out into the open from the trees, onto the road . Her hooded tunic covered most of her head and chest, but her midnight black fur showed at the exposed arms, and in her face beneath the hood. She stopped and knelt down at one body in the middle; it was different from those around it, had finer, more robust equipment for starters...

"The bandits were scavenging from of this one when I spotted them."

"Poor fellow," I'shiátt said, taking a closer look at the body, "They must have jumped him."

"It was not bandits that ended this one, look..." Khesýra pointed out the dead man's neck, which had been cut cleanly open, "He was slain with a single stroke to the throat, the way an assassin kills from behind."

"It could be the work of the Dark Brotherhood." Dojarq added, "Those infamous death-bringers are still active here in Skyrim."

"Regardless, the question still remains: why would someone want this one dead?" S'darjo puzzled for a moment, then he picked up the dead man's pack and tossed it to I'shiátt, "Check it, tell us what is inside."

I'shiátt tore open the pack and rummaged through it, "Some potions, dried meats... looks like adventuring supplies and... hold on..."

"What is it?" S'darjo asked.

The young Khajiit extracted a bundle of books and letters from inside the pack. Some of them looked like journals, others looked like important documents, "I need a moment to look through these." He opened up one of the volumes and started skimming as quickly as he knew how.

"That sword..." Dojarq had noticed the dead man's weapon: a thin, gently curved sword with intricate artwork carved in many places, "It is of Akaviri make, used by the Empire's Blades. I thought the Thalmor had wiped them all out though."

"I have seen these Akaviri swords in special collections," Khesýra commented, "and some of the Thalmor have used these as a sort of 'trophy weapon'."

"Speaking of Thalmor, these are Thalmor dossiers: one for an Esbern, and one for a Delphine..." I'shiátt held up two thin, leather-bound volumes, "It seems the Blades are not as completely wiped out as we thought."

"Questions, questions and still more questions, but not one single answer..." S'darjo paced back and forth at the dead man's feet, scratching his chin, until he issued orders again, "I'shiátt, find some charcoal and paper, and make a sketch of his face, it may come in useful to identify him. If he is someone important, than someone else will want to know that he is dead, and may have some of these illusive answers."

I'shiátt went to the cart and fetched the drawing supplies. He returned shortly thereafter, sat down with the pad in one hand and charcoal in the other, and started on the sketch. The dead man was a strong faced Nord, wavy light-brown hair, solid square chin, deep-set blue eyes... these Nords and other varieties of men may look so very similar at first glance, but each face had its own subtle nuances; nuances that needed to be captured accurately in order to–

Something was wrong.

The man's skin started to glow with bright light in places, and some of it flaked off and floated away. It was like his skin was a burning piece of paper coming apart with the flames, but it wasn't, this was actually happening. In another few seconds, dozens of bright, wispy strings shot out from the dead man, and streaked straight into I'shiátt. The young Khajiit flinched, expecting something painful from it, or at least uncomfortable, but it wasn't. If anything, he felt some great surge of power rise within him while it lasted.

"I'shiátt!" he heard S'darjo shout, but it sounded so distant through the roaring wind-like cacophony that filled the air.

Then as suddenly as it had started, the strange process came to an abrupt end. The bright glow faded away, and instead of the dead man that I'shiátt had started sketching, there was nothing left but an empty skeleton.

"Are you alright?" S'darjo asked. He knelt down next to the younger Khajiit, wide-eyed with concern and hand on his shoulder.

I'shiátt blinked a few times and shook his head, still trying to make sense of these strange sensations flowing all through him.

"I feel fine but, what happened?"

"I am not certain. That looked like it may be some kind of soul trap, but..." S'darjo took a long look at the skeleton; soul trap spells just didn't do things like that, "definitely something more."

"I..." I'shiátt looked down at his pad, with the dead man's face only half-drawn, "I need to finish this sketch, while I can still remember his face."

"Right, best to take care of that. We will need those answers more than ever now..."

S'darjo rose up and turned to the other two, who had just stood back watching the incident in speechless petrification. After taking another look at the mass of dead bandits littering the area, the elder Khaiit made up his mind and started doling out his orders.

"Dojarq, Khesýra, clear the rest of these corpses off the road so we can pass."

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what is this i dont even...

How..what...

Amazing. Simply amazing. Dude, this kicks ass, i need moar.

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what is this i dont even...

How..what...

Amazing. Simply amazing. Dude, this kicks ass, i need moar.

I've got a whole FF.net account's worth of material to see to that need: http://www.fanfictio...14/chaos_Leader knock yourself out ;)

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  • 3 weeks later...

Chapter 2:

A Peculiar Sort of Thief

-------------------------------

Compared to the great cities of Cyrodiil they passed through on the way to Skyrim, Falkreath amounted to little more than a small town of thatch-roofed houses. Still, this was the caravan's first contact with civilization since they traversed the Pale Pass from Bruma, and there was business to take care of. First: identify the mysterious adventurer, if possible. Second: meet their contact in the Dead Man's Drink inn, which was the original plan from the start.

Dead Man's Drink, while a meager establishment by Cyrodiilic standards, was a welcome change from tent-camping in the blistering cold of the Jerrals. The hearthfire was warm and the food fresh, even if some of the company was cold.

Dojarq and Khesýra occupied a table in the center of the main room, near the warm fire. They leaned across, close to each other and sharing intimate whispers as lovers are known to do. Dojarq still wore his dwarven armor like a second, and only allowing Khesýra to know what lay beneath his gleaming metal shell. Whether through the blazing depths of Oblivion or the frozen wastes of Skyrim, they at least had each other to see them through it.

One of the inn patrons approached the couple, but no one paid him much attention until–

"I can't believe we let provincials like you wander Skyrim..."

He was another local Nord, one who seemed to have some drink in him, but far more potent was the hate glaring from his beady eyes.

"It's bad enough we have to deal with the damned grayskins polluting our land, or those high-and-mighty mercenaries from Hammerfell strutting about, but you... you thieving, swindling fur-lickers can take your filth to Oblivion!"

"Please, leave us in peace." Khesýra said to the blustering Nord, trying her best to ignore him, "We are not causing you trouble."

The bard had ceased his playing, the waitress stopped her rounds, and all other conversations in the inn were silenced. They all looked on at the heated exchange, curious to see how this new development would play out.

"But that's where you're wrong, you see..." the hulking Nord loomed over the Khajiit couple, and pointed an accusing finger at Khesýra from where he stood above them, "You and your ilk started causing trouble the moment you set foot in Skyrim, or would that be set paw–"

"Enough!" Dojarq spat as he shot to his feet, standing up to the belligerent man, "I will not hear you dishonor Khajiit this way!"

Even for Dojarq's great height by Khajiit standards, the warrior only stood as high Nord's scruffy bearded chin, and was forced to look up to him to make eye-contact.

"Do not rise to his taunt." Khesýra insisted to Dojarq with stubbornness, "We need not indulge this barbaric nonsense."

"That's right, listen to your furry whore, like the milk-drinking housecat you are." he mocked at the Khajiit warrior below him, cracking the knuckles of his fists in an unspoken challenge.

Just as it seemed Dojarq would accept this challenge and throw a punch, S'darjo came behind the Nord and placed a hand on his shoulder. Those who looked closely may have seen a brief flash of light from the elder Khajiit's hand when he did this, but most did not, and certainly not the Nord.

"Come my friend, you look thirsty, let me get you something to drink." S'darjo offered with a kindly smile.

"Eh..." the Nord gave an indifferent shrug, but something about his eyes seemed a little bit blank, "I suppose I wouldn't mind another mead."

The elder Khajiit led him away to the inn's idle waitress, and presented her with a small handful of coins, "Here, give him a full mug of whatever he wants, and keep the change."

S'darjo left the Nord and waitress to their own ends. Dojarq sat back down, still quietly fuming, while Khesýra worked to calm him down. I'shiátt was nowhere to be found, nor was the contact, but they should both turn up any moment now. Until then however, S'darjo went to an empty stool at the bar, where he was received by the lady innkeeper.

"You shouldn't have done that, you know."

Her name was Valga Vinicia, and her accent sounded Cyrodiilic, much like those from the south.

"And what then?" S'darjo asked her, "Do I simply let Dojarq knock the poor fool on his rump?"

"Yes." Valga answered bluntly, "The 'poor fool' Bolund wouldn't have liked it one bit, but he would at least respect your friend for standing up for himself. That's just how things work here in Skyrim."

"Forgive me, we arrived from Elsweyr only yesterday."

"Believe me, it shows." the Imperial woman said with a small chuckle.

S'darjo presented Valga with the sketch I'shiátt had made earlier of the confident, strong-faced mystery adventurer.

"Can you tell me? Have you seen this man?"

"Hmm... I've seen him, but not a whole lot." the innkeeper replied after a moment of pondering, "He passes through Falkreath once in a while, trades with the merchants, and sometimes beds down here for the night, never talks much though. Why do you ask?"

"We found him dead on the road east of here. He seemed like someone important, and I was hoping somebody here might know who he was."

"That's a damned shame." Valga sighed, "Was it bandits? Dragon maybe?"

"Assassin, we think..."

/

-------------------------------

/

In the commotion caused by the blundering blathering Nord confronting Dojarq and Khesýra, I'shiátt slipped away, unnoticed. Nobody saw him pick the simple lock to the innkeeper's room, and then duck inside, so distracted they were by the possibility of a lively tavern brawl. It was the perfect opportunity to perform the task at hand.

There wasn't much of note in the innkeeper's room: just the usual collection of furniture, a few odds and ends, and some unique personal effects. None of these concerned I'shiátt however, and even if they did, there didn't appear to be anything worth the effort to steal anyway. No, the young Khajiit did not break and enter a humble innkeeper's room to take from it, but instead, to plant something there...

Taking great care to remain undetected, I'shiátt silently pulled an 'updated' copy of the Ahzirr Traajijazeri from the lightly packed satchel slung over his shoulder, and looked for an ideal spot. The end table next to the bed looked like a good spot; already cleared, and an obvious place where the book would be easily found. The innkeeper had quite a reputation for gossip, and should speak plenty of this strange book and its contents.

The young Kahjiit traded carefully across the floor, avoiding any odd floorboards that may squeak or creak, then lightly set the volume on the end table, and made his way out–

He wasn't alone...

Standing between him and the door back into the inn's main chamber was a ghost, or spirit, or some sort of ethereal manifestation. It had human form, a Nordic man by the shape of him, and upon closer inspection, I'shiátt recognized his face. He was the dead man found on the road.

"You're a peculiar sort of thief, to leave something behind instead of taking away..." the spirit said. His voice sounded to I'shiátt as quiet as a whisper, but it seemed to penetrate his very being when the apparition spoke, "I'm dead, and it seems you've absorbed my soul."

I'shiátt was frozen in wide-eyed speechlessness, not sure if anyone else could hear the spirit, not sure what to make of the spirit at all actually. The spirit just gave him a small chuckle and continued on.

"I wouldn't worry yourself, cat. Only you seem to be able to see or hear me..." the dead Nord's spirit appeared intuitively aware of the Khajiit's thoughts. He could even feel that awkward foreign presence within him, piggybacking on his own being, "I must be bound to you alone, or something... I don't know, I was never all that great with magical whatnot."

"But... how could I have captured your soul?" I'shiátt asked, keeping his voice down. Besides, if the spirit was in his head, then he probably didn't need to speak very loud anyway. "I didn't do anything to you."

"I'm... not sure," the spirit pondered, "not unless..."

"What is it?" the Khajiit asked.

"Just... stand right there, and don't do anything." the spirit gestured to I'shiátt to stay put, and then stepped back a little, leaving about five feet between each other, "I've seen the Greybeards do this easy enough, so it can't be too hard for me..."

The ethereal Nord bend hes head to the floor, and whispered a word, "Fus..."

The word seemed to thunder in I'shiátt's ears, but still no one from outside the room seemed to notice. Then a series of sharp, angular runes appeared on the floor, like burning embers spelling out a word, but there was no heat, no smoke, no flame.

The word spelled out by the runes was Fus, or force, an unrelenting force. But there was no way the Khajiit should've been able to comprehend those runes; he'd never seen anything like them in his life. Nevertheless, understand them he did.

"Great Gods..." the spirit uttered, amazed, "You're like me: Dragonborn."

"What?"

"You can consume the souls of dragons, and learn the ancient draconic words of power, or Thu'um, effortlessly." the fallen Dragonborn explained, "You see, I am, or was, Dragonborn, and had a dragon-like soul I guess. That's how you could absorb my soul like you did, as if I were a dragon myself. Ha! It all makes sense now!"

"I'm sorry, I don't even–"

The spirit began pacing around the innkeeper's room, almost frantic in his excitement.

"Find Delphine in Riverwood, she has to know what happened– go to the Greybeards even, they can help you make sense of all this– but by Oblivion, they'll never believe you–"

The fallen Dragonborn's spirit flickered, and he seemed to stagger a moment, like he was hit with a sudden pang of agony...

"Are you... alright?" the Khajiit asked, still a little bewildered by the odd situation.

"No." the spirit answered bluntly, "You have to, what's the word?... consume my soul, and use its essence to fully comprehend Fus it's the only way they could be convinced you really are Dragonborn."

"Won't that destroy you?"

"I'm already dead, my spirit is weary, and I'm trespassing in your mind as it is. If my final act in this world is to help you carry on where I left off, then that'll be enough for me..." The fallen Dragonborn's words slowed down, and slurred some now, as if he was out of breath, "I am... very tired, and I need to rest..."

The spirit walked over to the innkeeper's bed, and laid himself down upon it. In a few seconds the spirit began to fade away, until there was not a single trace of him left to be found. It became quiet again, at least from I'shiátt's prospective. For all he knew, the whole ordeal was completely silent to anyone else.

For that matter, was any of that real at all? Did it actually happen? What was that word again? Fus?

"Fus!"

The startled Khajiit clapped his hands over his mouth, but it was too late. It was like a sudden and powerful gust of wind had leapt out from his throat. Loose items that were around the room toppled over, some of which clattered to the floor, and resonated beyond.

In the sudden and awkward silence that followed, a voice from outside the room was heard, "What was that?" it was the innkeeper, soon followed by approaching footsteps.

No time to lose, I'shiátt tore open the satchel and scrambled inside it until he retrieved a small magical scroll and unrolled it, activating the spell.

The door to the room burst open, and Valga Vinicia stormed in with mace in-hand, scouring the room. She was accompanied by a powerfully built and lightly armored Nord wielding an axe. Apart from the fallen items however, there didn't see to be anything amiss, and nobody there.

"Is everything alright? Any trouble?" the Nord asked, standing back while Valga did a quick search.

"No Valdr, doesn't look like it," the innkeeper answered, calming down, "just some things knocked over."

"I hope there aren't any damned skeevers around." Valdr commented, slipping the axe back into his belt as he gave an inquisitive look into Valga's room.

"There better not be, not in my inn."

/

--------------------------------

/

Much to the curiosity of the inn patrons, and to the annoyance of some, yet another Khajiit had entered the inn and made himself at home. The newcomer was an older, far more weary looking specimen than the others though. S'darjo approached this one, greeting him with open arms and a smile.

"Ri'saad, my friend! Come, let us discuss business." S'darjo led his quiet comrade to an empty table nearby. Only when the were both seated did Ri'saad speak, and did so in Ta'agra, the native tongue of the Khajiit.

"I know what you are, 'Smiling Scum', and I know what you would ask of me: a way to travel across Skyrim with minimal suspicion, an invaluable asset to your kind." Ri'saad spoke with the sharp dexterity of a shrewd negotiator who would not be manipulated by S'darjo's faux-friendly ways. "I can provide you with what you seek, but the question I have is what can you offer us in return?"

"The skills of my band are unmatched, surely you have use for such talents." S'darjo assured.

"Hmph. Bold words, S'darjo. Don't try to promise something which you can't deliver."

"If you have doubts, then let us lay them to rest: what would it take to earn your support?"

"Simple: Trade in my name, as do all the caravans in Skyrim, and we pool a small portion of the profits to share among all of us. You do this, contribute to the success of my little merchant coalition, and I'll see to it that you have no interference through us."

"So, that's all we have to do? Make money?" S'darjo questioned, searching for the inevitable catch.

"Ah, but it isn't nearly as simple as it sounds." Ri'saad replied.

"How so?"

"We started doing our business just with the major cities and those we ran into as we traveled, but with your group adding to our numbers, I believe we can expand our routes to include the smaller settlements and the Orc strongholds. Specifically, your group will take a broad, full tour of Skyrim. Show me your map..."

At this, S'darjo produced and unrolled a map of Skyrim on the table between himself and Ri'saad, which the latter used as a reference, pointing out each successive location as he listed it off.

"You will start eastward through Riverwood, Ivarstead, and Riften. From there it's north through Shor's Stone, the Orc stronghold Narzulbur, Kynesgrove, Windhelm, and Winterhold. Then you turn west to Dawnstar, Morthal, Dragon Bridge, Solitude, and the Orc stronghold Mor Khazgur. The next part is south through the Reach to Karthwasten, Markarth, and the Orc stronghold Dushnikh Yal. The final leg has you turn east through Rorikstead, and ending at Whiterun, where we'll divide up your profits once you arrive."

S'darjo followed along with the route prescribed by Ri'saad, making note of the locations on the map.

"Good, this route takes us all across Skyrim, and we can use our caravan as a moving 'base of operations'."

"The route I have you on is dangerous, far more dangerous than any of our other caravans have attempted." Ri'saad warned, "I am giving this route to you because I trust the Renrijra Krin to be capable enough to defend yourselves from the vicious threats you will face. So do us both a favor, and don't get killed."

"We are the best of the best at what we do, Ri'saad." S'darjo confidently reminded the other as he took up the map, "You won't have to worry about us."

A muffled clattering sound was heard from the back of the inn, like a table had been knocked over. It attracted the attention of the innkeeper and some others who went to investigate.

"What was that?" Valga wondered, and she headed toward the noise in her room.

S'darjo had a brief flash of intense worry; that was where I'shiátt was supposed to be going. If he's caught here and now, it'd seriously complicate matters, none of which needed those kind of mishaps right now. Ri'saad caught on to that panic, but other than a suspicious, almost skeptical look, he didn't press the issue against S'darjo directly.

"Follow the route, turn a profit for us, and you can conduct your Renrijra Krin business as freely as you will."And with his business concluded, Ri'saad stood up and made his way out of the Dead Man's drink inn.

Bordering on panic, S'darjo turned his attention back to the innkeeper's room, where Valga and Valdr emerged; just Valga and Valdr, which meant I'shiátt hadn't been caught. This relieved the elder Khajiit, but not much. He scanned the inn and its patrons, searching for any sign of I'shiátt–

Someone tapped on S'darjo's shoulder, causing him to nearly jump out of his chair. It was I'shiátt, standing there and looking remarkably sheepish, even by his meek standards.

"Merrunz's claws, young I'shiátt! It doesn't get any simpler than 'get in, place book, get out'!" The elder scolded, still speaking in Ta'agra, "Do you know what would've happened if you were caught?"

"Something odd happened–"

"Clearly." S'darjo scoffed, rolling his eyes.

"No, I mean it." I'shiátt insisted, "It has to do with the dead man, and the strange soul trap thing. We need to go to Riverwood."

"Lucky for you that we're heading to Riverwood next anyway..."

S'darjo stood up, furrowing his brow as he worked to contain his frustration. If I'shiátt truly was telling the truth, then he shouldn't be so hard on him. These strange anomalies should be investigated, if for no other reason than to minimize unpredictable mishaps like this one.

"Apologies, young I'shiátt. You'll have to explain this better while we're on the road."

/

------------------------------------

/

Author Note:

Yay plot stuff!

I'm still in the experimental dabbling stage with this story. So far it seems to be going well, but I will abandon it if there's not much reason for me to keep writing it. I do have another rather hefty story I'm working on, and quite frankly that story takes priority over this one. So if you want more, you're gonna have to say so, because you guys and gals are the only thing keeping this story alive. I don't mean to take hostages like this, but that's the situation here...

Gosh that seems grim.

Anyways, I highly appreciate any feedback you can give.

Good fortune and good spirits to you!

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  • 3 months later...

Chapter 3:

The Sleeping Giant Wakes

---------------------------------------------------------

The sky the next day was overcast by a blanket of low-hanging gray clouds. Something like this rarely happened in warm lands of Elsweyr, and when it did, it was almost always the precursor to a ravaging storm that'd threaten to flood. Here in Skyrim however, the gray silken veil of clouds simply glided overhead, caressing the rough landscape with its gentle touch.

I'shiátt walked the road to Riverwood alongside S'darjo, with one hand clutching the reigns of Baan Dar, the caravan's cart horse which S'darjo finally gave the name, and his other resting on the hilt of the Akaviri sword at his side. He seemed to have inherited the man's soul, the gift of the dragon blood, so it seemed fitting that he would inherit his blade as well.

This is when I'shiátt, with the clattering of their cart and the snorting of Baan Dar behind him, explained the incident of the Dragonborn spirit as best as he knew how. He hesitated to tell Dojarq and Khesýra about the Dragonborn though, preferring to know S'darjo's thoughts before doing something he'd later regret. Even if he did tell the two others of their little band, they'd simply direct him to S'darjo anyway.

After hearing all of what I'shiátt had to say, and taking some time to ponder the situation, S'darjo finally turned to the young Khajiit and gave his response, "This is a most curious turn of events, no?"

"That's an understatement if I've ever heard one." I'shiátt joked back.

"Perhaps, but consider the history of Tamriel, and the great heroes of their time." S'darjo began listing several figures, "Cyrus, who led the Hammerfell rebellion in the second era: Redguard. The Nerevarine, who ended the Blight of Red mountain: Dunmer. the Champion of Cyrodiil, who helped Martin Septim end the Oblivion crisis: Imperial. It only stands to reason that this mythic Dragonborn of Skyrim ought be a Nord."

"But he was a Nord." I'shiátt reminded him, "It's just that he's dead now."

At this, S'darjo gave his apprentice a certain, insidious smirk, "Hmm, but is he truly dead?"

"What kind of a question is that? Of course he's dead!" I'shiátt snapped back, "We saw his body, I consumed his soul; he's gone!"

"How many people do you think know that the Dragonborn is dead?" S'darjo postulated, "For that matter, how many people do you think know that he specifically was the Dragonborn? My guess is only a very small handful. As far as everyone seems to know, their great Nord Dragonborn still lives: in their minds, their hearts, and in their spirits. Even now, they still sing of his glorious return in the taverns– catchy tune too. Don't you see it, young I'shiátt? The idea of Dragonborn is nigh immortal to these people, even if the body of the Dragonborn is all too mortal."

"I could only imagine the Nords here would feel nothing but insulted to know that their Dragonborn is now a foreign Khajiit."

"Ah, but that's the beauty of it: they don't have to know..."

"What do you mean?"

"Consider further how history recalls the old heroes as we know them, regardless of who they truly were in their time. The Nerevarine could've been Argonian for all we know, and the Champion of Cyrodiil a Bosmer. History, as well as the people of Skyrim today, may well choose to recall their Dragonborn as Nord."

"But there's still– if I actually am Dragonborn, what does that mean for me? What am I supposed to do?"

"Those are questions I don't have answers for, but your spirit friend said something about Graybeards, and Delphine. That seems as good as any a place to start."

"Right..."

They closed in on the town of Riverwood, considerably smaller than Falkreath, amounting to little more than a handful of thatch-roofed houses, a lumber mill, and an inn. That inn was their main focus for this stop, where a Delphine was supposed to be the proprietor.

"You are certain it is this Delphine, no?" S'darjo asked, pointing toward the inn.

"Yes, Delphine in Riverwood." I'shiátt confirmed, "That's what the spirit told me."

S'darjo sighed with a careful thought, and held up a thin leather-bound volume: one of the Thalmor dossiers recovered, "The Thalmor believe her to be a Blade; an agent of the Emperor, guard of the Dragonborn, and mortal enemy of the Thalmor. So think for a moment what that means: she will be suspicious, alert, likely paranoid, and infinitely more so if you ask her piercing questions. She will also no doubt be talented in combat, and will not hesitate to turn on you if she has reason to suspect, which she may very well have. Do not underestimate her, nor do anything foolish that may provoke her–"

"I can handle it," I'shiátt cut him off, "I... have a good feeling about this."

And without another word, I'shiátt left S'darjo behind and climbed the steps of the Sleeping Giant inn.

When I'shiátt stepped inside the inn, he found it had a very similar layout to the inn at Falkreath: built around a warm hearthfire, with a bar at one end, and lined with several rooms. A gruff looking Nord this time minded the bar, and a brash young bard plucked away on a lute, singing that 'Dragonborn' song again.

Our hero, our hero claims a warrior's heart

I tell you, I tell you the Dragonborn comes

With a voice wielding power of the ancient Nord art

Believe, believe the Dragonborn the comes

It's an end to the evil of all Skyrim's foes

Beware, Beware the Dragonborn comes

For the darkness has passed, and the legend yet grows

You'll know, you'll know the Dragonborn comes

I'shiátt tried not to listen to the bard's song, tried not to think about what 'Dragonborn' meant to all these people. Instead, he focused on looking for the woman who matched Delphine's description: female, Breton, mid 50s. A quick scan of the inn found a blond-hared mid-aged woman with toughened features; a likely match. The Breton woman even had an anxious, restless air about her, as if she were waiting for someone.

I'shiátt dug inside his satchel for the sketch he made, and held it out to the woman as he approached her, "Excuse me, but do you know anything about this man?"

She looked up, pausing to consider the Khajiit before her. Her eyes glanced down to the Akaviri sword, then immediately back up to I'shiátt's face. All while expertly hiding the signs of her suspicion.

"He stayed here at the inn a few times." the woman answered, her voice tightly controlled, "Why do you ask?"

"We found him dead on the road to Falkreath a couple days ago." I'shiátt explained, "He seemed like someone of importance, and we've been asking about him ever since."

The woman went quiet, still as a stone, staring blankly into the distance, "Dead..."

"I am sorry." Her mask was slipping, she must've known him, had vested interest in him. No doubt now, this was Delphine for sure.

After a moment, Delphine quickly composed herself, and started toward her room by the bar.

"Come this way." she directed over her shoulder, "I can tell you more, but only in private."

"Of course." and I'shiátt followed, working to hide his uneasiness.

"Orgnar, I need you to hold down the bar a minute."

"Yeah. Sure." the Nord barkeep grunted back, not entirely interested.

This was an odd play. She suspected him, she must have suspected, and this was in all likelihood a trap that she was luring him into. Trap or no, I'shiátt needed to find out what she knew, and if she could be of any help. So he followed her, quietly wary of the tangible tension...

"Close the door." Delphine instructed once he was inside with her. "I need to show you something."

I'shiátt did so, and approached the Breton woman, who stood hunched over a table in her room, fiddling with something.

The Khajiit came alongside her, curious, "What is–"

He never finished the sentence.

In an impossibly brief moment, Delphine had leapt into the air and slammed a twisting dropkick into I'shiátt's chest. The impact shoved him back, crashing through the doors of a closet behind him, but it didn't stop there. Instead of hitting a wall, the back of the closet gave way in a splintery crack, and I'shiátt found himself tumbling backward down a narrow flight of stairs.

By the time the Khajiit reached the bottom in a dazed, crumpled heap, Delphine was already upon him, dagger in hand, fire in her eyes, and thunder in her voice.

"Who sent you?" she demanded, her words twisted by a vicious snarl.

"What?"

"Don't you dare play dumb with me– just– don't. " Delphine growled while she pinned him down on his back, "Did the Thalmor send you?"

"No!" the Khajiit snapped back.

"Then who?"

"The dead man, on the paper." I'shiátt answered, "Hesaid you could be found here–"

"I am not in the mood to play games, you filthy fur-licker, so I'll make this simple." she brought the tip of her dagger up to the Khajiit's throat, quivering in her white-knuckle grip, "Either you answer my questions, and answer true, or I start making cuts–"

"Fus!"

The force of the shout knocked Delphine off of him, sent her staggering back, mentally as well as physically.

"Gods above!" she exclaimed, "The thu'um? How did you–"

"I am not your enemy, Blade!" I'shiátt managed to shout back, then he got up and dusted himself off.

He finally got a clear look at the room he'd tumbled into. It was a decent enough size, dominated by a table with a map of Skyrim on top of it. There were also shelves laden with books, potions and other items. A rack of weapons adorned one wall, with an alchemy lab in one corner and a simple arcane enchanter in another. This was a safehouse, a hideout, an ideal place for a Blade to lay low.

With his surroundings assessed, I'shiátt continued, "We found your Dragonborn friend dead, on the road, but I somehow absorbed his soul into me. After that, his spirit spoke to me, said I was Dragonborn, even taught me 'Fu–' that word I just shouted at you. Then he directed me here, to you, so I could tell you of his fate."

"I... I don't believe you." Delphine said, shaking her head, "I can't believe you."

"Why would I lie?"

"You're a spy, or assassin, or thief; I can tell. It's in your nature to lie, and in mine to suspect."

"I only lie when it is in my interest to do so, and it is not in my interest to lie now." I'shiátt explained, "I have no idea what under the twin moons I am supposed to do about this shouting magic. I need to make sense of it, I need your help."

"I can't help you."

"Why not?"

"How am I supposed to believe you are Dragonborn, when you may have just been taught the thu'um by regular means?" Delphine questioned, "How am I supposed to know this isn't a Thalmor trap?"

"If I were a Thalmor agent, I wouldn't have been so careless. I wouldn't have blundered blindly into what was so clearly a trap."

"It wasn't that obvious, was it?" she asked, only a little embarrassed.

"You're a Blade, aren't you? You've had dealings with the Thalmor before, so you tell me: is this how the Thalmor would've handled the situation?"

Delphine stopped and considered the question a moment, until she finally answered, "No. For one, they'd never send a whelp like you to take me in. Which begs the question: who in Oblivion are you if not Thalmor?"

"My name is I'shiátt, but I think this will help better tell you who I am." he dug out a copy of the Ahzirr Traajijazeri from his satchel, and handed it Delphine.

"The Krin's 'Foolish Concepts'?" she said with a little disbelief as she leafed through the book's pages, "You don't actually expect me to believe that you're one of these drunken hooligans,do you? The group was dissolved well over a century ago, and they weren't much to brag about even then."

"And the Blades aren't supposed to exist anymore." I'shiátt retorted, "The Renrijra Krin is an idea, a philosophy; one that survives far beyond the people of some group, and that can adjust itself according to the times. The reborn Renrijra Krin, the people I work with, aim for the same goal as the Blades did: to remove the threat of the Thalmor by any means necessary. Am I to assume that this is still your goal?"

"It is." Delphine answered.

"Then you of all people should appreciate an ally in these difficult times. Our intents are parallel; we can help each other, but we need to trust each other first."

"If it's trust you want, then tell me this: how did he die?"

"We weren't there when it happened, but it looked like an assassin." I'shiátt asnwered, "There's more though, he was carrying certain... sensitive documents on him–"

"What documents?" Delphine demanded.

"Tell me where he was going, what he was doing, and I'll tell you what he found while he did it."

She thought about I'shiátt's proposition for a while, but only a short one, "I sent him into the Thalmor embassy outside Solitude, looking for any clues to the dragon attacks there might be..." she paused, her rage welling up for a few moments before it discharged, "Dammit! I was such a foolto send him in there alone, somehow I knew this would happen, I just..." and she trailed off, face buried in the palm of her hand.

"It's a damned shame what happened, but I don't think his efforts in that mission were fruitless." I'shiátt waited a few moments for Delphine to look up before moving on, "Does the name 'Esbern' mean anything to you?"

At this, Delphine's face lit up, and a new energy seemed to fuel her, "Esbern? He's alive?"

"The Thalmor seem to think so." the Khajiit replied with a nod, and dug out Esbern's Thalmor dossier to give to Delphine, "They believe he may know something about these dragons, and they have a lead on where to find him."

She snatched up the thin leather-bound volume and read furiously through its pages, eating up each word like manna from the Divines.

"This is... By the gods..." she uttered as she closed the dossier, a new sense of purpose driving her actions, "I'm heading to Riften, now, and you're coming with me."

"Excuse me?" I'shiátt asked, confused.

"I will not let his sacrifice be in vain, and if you really are Dragonb–" Delphine stopped short. Something nearby and unseen had caught her attention, and the little flame returned in her eyes.

In a rapid, fluid motion, she flung her dagger toward an empty corner in the room. Instead of hitting the wall, the dagger stopped itself in mid-air, and the figure of S'darjo materialized, holding the dagger suspended by a telekinesis spell. After a slightly awkward second exchanging glances, the elder Khajiit offered Deplhine and I'shiátt a little grin and chuckle.

"So, just how long have you been listening in?" Delphine demanded.

"Long enough, I think." S'darjo answered, and took hold of the dagger in his hand as he approached the woman, "Please, forgive me for my rudeness. I simply had to be sure young I'shiátt was safe, surely you understand."

"I take it you two know each other?" Delphine gestured between the two Khajiit.

"This is S'darjo, the 'leader' I suppose of this little outfit of ours." I'shiátt offered with a shrug.

"A pleasure, Miss Delphine." he greeted, offering Delphine her dagger back.

"Charmed." she took the dagger back, her verbal response laced with sarcasm.

"I understand your plans are to go to Riften in search of this Esbern character, yes?" S'darjo inquired.

"What of it?"

"Hm," S'darjo gave a quick nod, and then turned to the younger Khajiit, "You will go with her, I'shiátt, just as she wants you to."

"Are you sure?" he asked, a little unsure about all this, "What of my other duties with you?"

"Dojarq, Khesýra and I can handle our duties well enough." S'darjo waived off these concerns, "For you though, this must take precedence. Whatever destiny the other Dragonborn may have had, it seems now to have fallen into your hand. It is foolish to not see it through."

"But, I'm not cut out for all this hero business!" I'shiátt protested.

"I don't know." Delphine commented, "You approached a paranoid Blade on your own, asked biting questions, stood your ground, and are still very much alive to tell about it."

"Do you know why I recruited you for the Renrijra Krin: you who were but a meek and struggling scribe's apprentice?" S'darjo asked, speaking in the most solemn tone he'd ever used.

"You needed a scribe," I'shiátt answered, "someone to make copies of the new Ahzirr Traajijazeri."

"Yes, true, I was searching for a scribe, but I selected you, when there were countless others more qualified and far less scrupulous." the elder Khajiit clarified, "I could sense in my old bones that you had a... certain ambitious quality about you, something hidden deep below the surface. Perhaps what I felt was your dragon-blood, or that little glint of destiny the Deadra often pick up on. Whatever the case, I could tell that something would be heading your way, and so it has. Perhaps you too, Delphine, sensed something similar in our poor deceased friend, no?"

"I know what you mean." She agreed, "There was just something about him: you could tell he was meant for greater things, and I see it again here."

And for a moment, the thee of them just stood there in the hideout. Delphine with a rekindled sense of hope, I'shiátt accepting the responsibilities thrust upon him, and S'darjo appreciating a newfound sense of pride. This lasted only a short time though.

"Well, what are you waiting for?" S'darjo asked in a somewhat urgent tone, "You mustn't waste time this way! Go! Find this Esbern! I will inform Dojarq and Khesýra later!"

Jarred out of their not-quite-trance by this, I'shiátt and Delphine scrambled up the stairs out of the hideout, and began their journey to Riften.

-----------------------------------------------

What will I'shiátt and Delphine find in Riften? Will they make it before the Thalmor? and what of the th'um? Stay on top of this story to find out!

Thanks to all of those who've read and supported this story. I wouldn't have made it this far without you guys/gals; really, I wouldn't have. It's all of you out there who're keeping this story going. And as always, anything you'd like to say here would be an awesome thing. ;)

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OMG AN UPDATE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

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OMG AN UPDATE

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

I take it you liked it then? :-P

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