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Gopher's Minions

As Thick as Thieves: Search for the Gray Fox


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It was raining. Again. This time of year all it seemed to do was rain. Aslin sighed and pulled up her hood before exiting the Silverhome on the Water inn and into the downpour. The note that she had just found hidden in her sweet roll was wadded up in her left fist and still sticky with sugar. The lithe Bosmer strode mostly unnoticed in the pouring rain, her long gray cloak quickly getting completely drenched and hanging heavily on her thin shoulders.

As was her personal habit, she stopped to give a kiss to the statue of the Lucky Old Lady as she passed. “We’re going to need as much luck as we can get,’ she thought to herself as she pressed her lips to the wet, cold stone. ‘Every little bit helps.’

She then headed for the Skooma Den. In the past few years the Thieves Guild had expanded, especially in Bravil and the local chapter both owned the local Skooma den and had renovated a large portion of it to serve as a tavern called The Purple Bottle. It served as both a “legit business” front as well as a meet up point for the local thieves.

Aslin headed upstairs immediately upon entering and sat at an empty table in the loft that was mostly hidden in the shadows cast by the torchlight. A serving girl appeared at her elbow as she took off her wet cloak.

“Need anything, Ma’am?” The young girl asked the Wood Elf with a knowing smile.

“Yes, dear, can I get a bottle of Surilie Brother’s Wine and something to eat? My dinner at Silverhome was interrupted.” The blonde serving girl nodded and started to walk away but Aslin reached out and stopped her with a touch. “Also can you send a drink to Grom, Lillin Light-foot and Heth from me? Tell them it’s to say thank you for spreading the word.”

“Yes, Fair-Strider, Ma’am.” The girl bowed slightly and left quickly. Aslin had named three of the local beggers and members of her spy-network. They would pass on the news that she was at the tavern and looking to meet up. All she had to do now was wait.

When the girl returned with her wine Aslin was looking at the crumpled note, smoothing it out on the table so it was readable again, though still sticky in places. She sipped on the drink, re-reading the words scrawled there for the tenth time, as though hoping the message had changed in the last few minutes. It hadn’t changed. The message was bleak.

“Fair-Strider and crew,

Leyawiin has gone silent. It’s been several weeks with no contact and no word on the shipments going through there. Send your best to check it out.

Seek out contact, and if needed, rescue any Guild members possible.

Also the last contact of the Fox was in Leyawiin before the blackout. Contact needs to be made ASAP.

Best of Luck,

T. “

Her emerald eyes settled on one word… “Fox”… if the Gray Fox was missing and it was up to her team to find him… well… it was defiantly going to be interesting. She was sure of that.

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Forestgale said:

"The road goes ever on, over rock and under tree..........."

Astride a mild mannered mare, a cloaked figure gaily hummed a simple travelling tune, unhindered and uncaring of the ever growing downpour that was inundating the streets the Bravil. Though concealed in the depths of a deep cowl, mischievous grey-green and amber eyes took in everything, from the dilapidated shacks that lined haphazardly along the snaking path of packed dirt that served as the Bravil's thoroughfares, to gaudily lit brothels from which whores plied their trade, ever enticing the rich and the poor alike with promises of the most primal sort; from ragged bands of street urchins lurking in the shadows of dank and dark alleyways ever ready to pounce, to fleeting glimpses of solitary entrepreneurs, who raced surefootedly across the Thieve's Highway.

Bravil, ever a cesspool of the desperate and the greedy. But then again, so is every other city in Tamriel.

Having weaved through a veritable maze of meandering backstreets and turnaround alleyways unmolested, the cloaked figure and his horse came to halt before a curiously pristine yet rowdy tavern, a beacon of light, noise and laugther, out of place amidst the depressing atmosphere of Bravil's slums. Smoothly swinging off his mare, the figure shook the dozing stableboy awake, making sure to tip the very much bedraggled boy generously to tend to his admittedly much abused yet still tolerant mare. With the matter of his faithful companion settle, the cloaked figure deliberately signed to the kid, whose eyes widened to such a degree that he feared they would fall out.

The figure chuckled at the boy's reaction and merely turned towards the tavern, very much intending on claiming a warm bed and a hearty meal to soothe away the aches and pains that came with a breakneck journey from the Imperial City to Bravil. It was a simple enough task to slip into the crowded tavern unnoticed, but just as he stepped onto the relatively quieter second floor, the figure caught sight of a most comely Bosmer staring contemplatively at a piece of parchment.

Red head check. Horns check. Bosmer check. Definitely Traver's contact.

With a resigned sigh, the figure moved forward to claim the seat opposite of the Bosmer, pulling back his cowl as he did so.

Well, lets see what has Travers' britches in such a bunch.

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Mariela said:

Aslin looked up at the sound of a sigh and saw the dark man sitting down across from her, pulling back the wet hood of his cloak as he did so. She fixed his face in her mind in an instant, memorizing every blemish and scar, placing every visible feature in her memory from the different flecks of colors in his eyes to the hand he used to pull down his hood.

“Why, hello,” She said in a soft tone, raising one eyebrow in a questioning but mildly amused expression. “Please, why don’t you have a seat?” The question was obviously sarcastic as the bold man had already sat down and made himself comfortable.

The serving girl was back at her elbow, her delicate brows pulled into a frown aimed at the lean Imperial. “Is there anything I can help you with, Ma’am?” she asked Aslin, glancing between the elf and the stranger. “Or something I can get your… ‘guest’? The way she said ‘guest’ made it the more important part of the question, clearly asking if Aslin wanted to have the man thrown out. Aslin smiled at the idea but brushed off the girl’s concerns with a wave.

“Yes, dear, please bring my new friend here a cup.” She looked back at the stranger, a sly smile on her lips. “I’m sure you will help yourself.”

With one swift motion she brought her cup of wine to her lips and neatly folded the note on the table, hiding the contents from view. As she folded the paper, however, something caught her eye. Some words were scribbled on the back of the note that she hadn’t noticed before. They were clearly written in a rush and were harder to make out.

Also: I know your crew is light at the moment so I’m sending along a pair of hands to help

Should be there a few days after you receive this. He answers to Noct

Kind of an ass but he’s the best. May Lady Luck follow you

Aslin glanced up at the stranger sat across from her, re-assessing him. He did seem like the sort Travers would send to babysit her. In spite of her now being the leader of the Bravil chapter he would always see her as the young elf he had once saved and the protégé he trained for years.

The serving girl came back with a plate of food for Aslin and a clean cup for the man. The Bosmer folded the letter twice more and tucked it into her bodice.

“You must travel quickly, Noct.” She said casually, keeping her eyes fixed on his face as she began digging into her food, watching for any flicker of emotion to answer that her guess was correct.

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Forestgale said:

As a child he had always watched. What are you watching? People, animals, anything really. For some reason or another, he found pleasure in teasing out information from the barest of hints, be it a band faintly lighter skin about an estranged lover's ring finger or the slightly more developed calluses on a swordsman's dominant hand. And now, travel weary as he was and sat before a most fascinating subject, all he wanted to do (for now at least) was to observe.

Doesn't I can't have some fun in the process.

With messing about in mind, Noct shifted, leaning back and slouching low in his seat, lips pulled ever so slightly back in a roguish grin, eyes now half-hooded yet all watching. The girl's reaction was quick and sharp, not unsurprising considering his most brazen interruption. He would have replied in kind but prying ears held his tongue. Even so, he was still content to watch and listen, allowing himself a somewhat brief reprieve as he paused to admire the artful sway of the serving girl's most admirable behind and more importantly the ever so subtle note hiding that red disguised with a most certainly criminal act of distraction. If it were any possible, his grin grew, as grey-green and amber met emerald, neither the windows to the soul as the bards were apt to describe a person's eyes, but rather closed shutters that revealed naught but what they wanted. "You must travel quickly, Noct."

*Whistle* Banter and eye candy, my two favourite things. Well two can play at that game.

Head lazily cocked to one side, Noct wetted his lips, a simple, often times meaningless gesture, but as with all of Noct's body language, everything was designed to achieve his goal, which at the present moment was messing around. Deciding that an accent would best serve his interests, Noct shifted and for the first time since entering the tavern, spoke, "Red, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you've read up on me." Noct liked this accent the best, it might not be his normal way of speaking, but the ways the words seems to roll off the tongue and gruff burr that it lent to his voice had always made him wonder that perhaps he had some Nordic blood somewhere in his family tree.

Focus now. Muse later in the company of fine wine and finer women.Leaning forward on his elbows, Noct's grin grew positively feral, lips drawn back to reveal the points of his canines, "After all, its not everyday I get to go on a Foxhunt."

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Philosophercat said:

Falcona felt the crisp snap of her illusion spells dissipating like a broken soap bubble. She was now a good half-mile from where the poor lad had tried to rob her. He would have a long apprenticeship ahead of him, to be sure. She had been careful to linger in the shadows before approaching the tavern, intuitively sensing when her invisibility would depart. To suddenly appear in broad daylight, in a busy street, would be uncouth in the extreme. Opaque once again, she made her way to the tavern and whistled blithely as she went.

Heth had given Falcona the nod earlier that day. Having nothing better to do, she made her way to the tavern as quick as may be. Her little legs could be quiet enough but speedy they were not, so it was getting quite late by the time she spotted her friend in the loft of The Purple Bottle. The chair in front of Aslin was already taken, and by someone Falcona didn't recognise.

"After all, it's not everyday I get to go on a Foxhunt..."

She shuffled over to the table and blithely swung herself up onto a vacant chair, her feet dangling beneath her. Her little, chubby hand smacked the table top as she smiled, all red curls and teeth.

"Hello, there! Who's our new friend?" She cried. She absently produced the coin pouch from her pocket and turned it over playfully in both hands like a large apple.

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Forestgale said:

The new arrival was a surprise, considering his exceptional senses. It was not everyday someone could sneak up on him unawares but......

"This day just gets better and better," though Noct, his mental self very much as amused as can be.

Still, now within arms length of the admittedly short woman or large child (Noct was still debating on that), all of Noct's senses were screaming at him. FAKE. IGNORE. AVOID. And if Noct had learned anything from his father, trusting his senses to identify the subtle webs and weaves of magick would be that. With a newly added variable to the mix, one well versed in Illusion from what dissipating strands of magicka he sensed, Noct made the snap decision, and leant back, lips still fixed in a disconcerting, canine baring grin, even as he balanced his seat on its two hind legs, booted feet sitting comfortably where his elbows once sat.

Time to make use of our new player here.

Turning his gaze to the coin toying new arrival, and keeping well in character, Noct let out a short, barking laugh and spoke, "Lass, the names Noct. Anything else, just ask Red," Noct paused to winked cheekily at the eating Bosmer, "After all, she's well versed with my person through our mutual friend, ole Travers."

Now how will you react.

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Schmidy said:

Elik had been out of Bravil for several days on business, so was not surprised when Grom had informed him of a meeting that was currently being held. Throwing a few coins towards Grom he told the beggar to find somewhere warm for the night, the rain did not look like it was going to stop anytime soon.

Having worked his way towards the inn Elik made his way onto a shadowy porch to watch and see who was around. He had been in Bravil for just under year, but it was a habit of his to monitor who was doing what in the area. Seeing Falcona enter the inn was enough for him, Elik decided he should follow suit. Pulling his hood back over his head he made his way toward the inn door.

Easing the door open Elik slid into the inn. He heard rather than saw the group he was looking for, "Lass, the names Noct. Anything else, just ask Red,". Noct sounded like a familiar name, but Elik could not remember where he knew the name from.

The serving girl saw him enter and blushed, he winked and smiled at her while indicated he wanted a drink as he made his way towards the table of three.

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Philosophercat said:

Falcona nodded briskly. "Nice to meet you, Noct." She turned her gaze to Aslin and raised her brows inquisitively. "Travers?" Leaning back into her chair, she puffed her cheeks and slowly let the air out before speaking again. "I take it this hunt is quite an extensive affair if he's invited friends to the party." Falcona, noticing that Elik was approaching their table, hooked a chair around and nodded a greeting. "So, Aslin, where will the merry chase be held?"

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Mariela said:

“Alright…” Aslin drained her cup and sat it down with a sigh. “It’s not great news and we don’t have a lot of time to prepare but we simply have to play the hand dealt us. We’re all heading to Leyawiin as soon as possible. Our chapter there hasn’t been heard from in weeks and if Travers’ information is correct, and it usually is, The Gray Fox was in the city and is also missing.”

She watched while her words sunk in. The Gray Fox was mostly spoken of as a myth or a tone that reflected an inside joke amongst thieves. It was generally understood that The Gray Fox served as the ceremonial head of The Thieves Guild in Tamriel but very few people had ever actually met the current Fox. Even Aslin had a hard time believing their mission. It felt like a job to go and find Trinimac, the mythical champion of the Elven pantheon.

“Our mission is to gather information and make contact with our people. This is first-most a rescue mission.”

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Forestgale said:

"......The Gray Fox was in the city and is also missing......."

Noct blinked, the only outward. sign of his surprise.

"Well, unfortunate choice of words of my part then," the Imperial noted aloud, his tone dry and amused, before continuing with a shrug, " Travers, wasn't all that forthcoming with the dirt before he called me in. Definitely did not mention anything as crazy as a whole guild chapter going dark."

"Still, a four man rescue team for the vaunted Gray Fox?" I paused for dramatic effect, "Butthe amount of coin I'm milking from Travers and the possibility of meeting the Fox himself? Hell,I'd do this blindfolded and hogtied if I had to."Flashing yet another wolfish grin, I spoke once more, "So, what's our approach for this shebang?"

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Philosophercat said:

Falcona said "I'm in!" and began to gnaw at a breadstick. Planning ahead really wasn't her strong suit, but she had a vivid imagination. As she listened to the others, she mentally ran through a dozen scenarios. Maybe the Fox ran afoul of some rival- there always was one. Or maybe he drank a bit too much Argonian wine and was recuperating from the ill effects in some garret.

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Schmidy said:

Seating himself at the table alongside Falcona, Elik waited to hear what this little meet was all about.

“Alright…” Aslin began, what she continued to talk about came as a surprise and a shock. It was not common for a chapter within the guild to go dark. The shock however, came when the Gray Fox’s name was mentioned, years had been spent in the Imperial City attempting to get a peek of the famed Gray Fox. Now he was to be part of this rescue.

They say that no one ever knows who the Fox is, that the person he once was is erased from history. Is he real, or is he a myth. Deep in thought Elik was brought back to reality when he realised that Noct had been speaking.

“… folded and hogtied if I had to.” A grin spread across his face as he said “So, what’s our approach for this shebang?” Elik nodded and waited for a response.

Falcona who had been sitting quietly next to Elik pipped up “I’m in”, she then picked up a breadstick and began eating it in hear way.

Looking back at Aslin he waited for her response.

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Soris smiled. It was an action he did frequently, and easily. There was no reason not to smile; after all life was pretty good. A Dunmer raised by wealthy (childless) Bretons in the Imperial City had plenty of advantages. His adopted parents had doted on him, using their ample wealth to shower him with education that only someone with a very long life expectancy could hope to enjoy. And he enjoyed it. Whether it was the hand to hand fighting that he so excelled at, or the acting and oratory classes, or any of the odd little tips and tricks of infiltration, disguise, and the hours upon hours poured into practicing telekinesis to the point he could use it during a sword fight without losing concentration (or body parts). He was wealthy, educated, handsome, and fairly young for his race. With his resources, he had easily another couple hundred years of play ahead of him.

Yes, life was good.

He sipped his wine, and gently caressed the cooling body of the young courtesan laying naked on the bed. She had been lovely indeed, and a personal favourite of his. Her soft, tawny striped fur was luxuriant to lay beside. Yes, Soris would miss her, but a contract was just that, and the lovely young Khajiit had robbed one too many of her johns, and someone had been miffed enough to perform the Black Sacrament. And when the Speaker gave you a contract, you took it. Especially if you wanted to maintain the level of autonomy you gained by liaising between the Thieves’ Guild and Dark Brotherhood. Yes, she was beautiful, and he’d miss her, but it was time to go. Soris finished his wine, placed a gentle kiss on her now cold forehead, and left his now signature note on the table: a single nightshade blossom, and a sheet of parchment with a purple lip print inside the black hand of the Dark Brotherhood.

They called him the “Night Kiss,” and his neighbors would be shocked to discover their easy going, but helpful neighbor was a master assassin, infiltrator, and occasional procurer of fine art at discount prices.

Soris concentrated for but a moment, then cast Muffle, followed by Invisibility, and walked to the window, unlocking the bedroom door as he went with his telekinesis. He quietly scaled down his climbing rope, used his TK once more to retrieve the grapnel, coiled and stowed the cord and hook in one of the many hidden pockets in his jerkin and walked away casually, releasing the invisibility spell and muffle as he turned a corner, seeming to step out of thin air to one skooma addicted beggar.

He hummed a quiet travelling tune as he walked, one he had heard from a beggar with mismatched eyes a few years before.

“The road goes ever on…” Soris thought that was how it started. He just knew it had a jaunty tune that suited his mood. He noted a lovely, ginger-haired Bosmer kiss the Lucky Old Lady, and whisper a sort of prayer for luck. His eyes followed her as she walked away, memorizing the sway of her hips. He must find a way into her bed…or tree…(left, right, left, right) hells, in front of the Night Mother herself. She looked familiar, and he wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the particular shade of red in the wisps of hair escaping her hood…

Soris turned the corner, to be greeted by one of his Brothers, a one armed Argonian who jokingly called himself Sinks-like-a-Rock. The Argonian smirked as Soris passed by him, slid a note into his hand and deftly hooked a coin pouch on Soris’ belt, and walked away. Soris entered the modest ( 5 bedroom) house that made up his Bravil estate, opened the note, and read, “Mother sends her regards. She is loaning you to Nocturnal for a time. Your Brothers suggest you have a drink to celebrate your vacation at the Purple Bottle.” At the bottom of the page was a capital “L,” punctuated by an “ink blot” that looked strangely like a handprint. Soris smiled again. Thief’s work, huh? Maybe a celebration was in order.

Soris checked his pouches, refilled his sheathes with their oil or powder based poisons, threw the note in the fire, smiled again (he did have an easy smile, and it usually kept his bed warm), and stepped out into the night, his cloak billowing behind him like trailing smoke. The Night’s Kiss was on the move…

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A small column of smoke rose up as the red glow of Naris' pipe briefly made his face emerge from under the shadow of his hood. He was sitting in his corner. The same corner he had been sitting in every evening of every day since he came here almost two years ago now. Had it been two years already? It seemed like yesterday that the old priest passed away. His hand automatically grasped the small amulet around his neck. It comforted him. The shape of the small metal anvil felt familiar, secure. It was a symbol of Julianos, the god of logic. Widely worshipped by mages and scholars, it was not exactly a common god to have as patron for a thief like Naris. He was no ordinary thief however, but only a select few knew this.

 

The tavern was busy. First he had seen the beautiful redheaded chapterleader walk in. He had been quite content to see her walk up the stairs. Many thoughts raced through his head every time he saw her, but he always surpressed them. He would not give in to primal lust. Besides, he wouldn't get anything done anyway. He wasn't very charming, and he didn't like approaching women by himself because he rarely made a good first impression. He always waited for them to come to him, which only rarely happened. For them to stick around longer than a few minutes was even rarer. There was also the fact that the small Bosmer did not seem like she had any interest in men. While he was still thinking about all this, a second figure slipped in, unnoticed by many of the other guests. The figure was excellent at blending in and going unnoticed, but he didn't escape Naris' keen eye. He also walked up the stairs. A plump woman walked in, and made her way upstairs as well. And a few minutes later, a man with a hood much like his own slipped in and also walked upstairs. Normally, the upstairs area was a calm and almost empty place, so it was odd to see these people go up there in such quick succession. Naris' curiosity was piqued. He had to know.

 

Careful not to make a noise he stood up. He didn't walk straight towards the stairs, but stopped at the bar on the way. The cute blonde girl behind it didn't seem to recognize him him, even though he practically lived here. Surprised to see he didn't take his hood off she blinked her blue eyes in a seductive manner. ''Please, make yourself comfortable. We have everything you'd ever want here. Why don't you show me that pretty face of yours?'' Taking his hood of was the last thing he wanted to do, and he didn't exactly fancy the interest of the easiest girl in the place. Besides, he had other things to do. ''Fetch me an ale, and keep the change. Buy a book with it, learn something. It'll do ya good.'' The girl looked at him like she had just swallowed a flie. ''A.. book?''  An sigh escaped Naris. ''Just get me an ale already.....''

The girl still looked at him funny as she shoved a big pint over the counter. He took the pint and finally made his way upstairs. He had barely stepped into the loft when his keen ears caught the name Gray Fox, which immediately piqued his interest. He settled down in the far corner and listened to the rest of the converstion with great interest.

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Soris was still smiling quietly to himself as he walked into the tavern. Not his usual sort of place, but this one had a good reputation with the right (or wrong) kind of people. A barmaid walked up to him, hesitant. "Darlin," he said, carefully making direct eye contact, "absently" stroking her blonde hair, "I'm supposed to be meeting some friends her, but they seem to have arrived ahead of me. Could you tell me where Aslin is seated?" The poor girl, lost in blush and overwhelmed with his intensity, stammered a bit and gestured up the stairs. "Thank you, love," he said, kissing her hand, "I do hope to see more of you, and soon. Do come by the table in a moment, love. I'd like to get the lay of the land before I order." He left her standing, a bit confused, as he pinned back his cloak and walked up the stairs.

"I'm in," the small plump woman said, and just as decisively began eating her breadstick.

"I'm rather inclined to agree," Soris said, smiling broadly, winking at the smaller woman, Falcona, if he remembered (though he'd not been around the guild enough lately to be sure), and carefully picking up and placing his chair quietly between Falcona (he was rather sure he was right about her name), and Aslin (who he realised with a momentary shock was the hips and buttocks he so enjoyed watching walk past the Lady). He smiled around the table, relying on his easy mood to smooth any ruffled feathers. Right at that moment, and so well timed it could have been planned, the poor flustered blonde walked up to take his order. "There ye are, love. There's a new drink I've been meaning to try, they say it packs quite a punch. Two parts Alto wine, one part Colovian brandy, served over muddled nightshade petals. Do you know it?" "The Night Kiss? Y-yes, si-, my, " "Call me Soris, love, and would you please bring me one? And a plate of whatever beast the cook has on the spit tonight, if you would." He smiled again, broadly, promising possibilities with his eyes. She flushed bright read, stammered out something affirmative, and walked away.

Confident he had her attention now, Soris carefully took Aslin's hand in his, turned it palm up, and said, softly enough that none would hear beyond the table, "Just this Night, Mother told me I should help my friends, to take a vacation. My expenses, it would seem, have been paid in advance."

Then he kissed the palm of her hand, leaving a faint lavender lip print in the middle, just where his calling cards would have it...

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It took Aslin just a moment to recognize the Dunmer; he was a local wealthy land owner, who sometimes dealt in stolen art and antiques. She had him vetted when she came to Bravil by the former chapter leader. What he was doing here, though, she had no idea. She was even more confused when he sat down next to her with an easy smile.

He spoke to the serving maid in a flippant, almost flirting manner of one who was used to getting his way. "There ye are, love. There's a new drink I've been meaning to try, they say it packs quite a punch. Two parts Alto wine, one part Colovian brandy, served over muddled nightshade petals. Do you know it?"

Aslin’s eyebrow raised at the cocktail. The Night Kiss, as the barmaid called it, was not a common drink, and was not for the fainthearted, seeing as it actually contained Nightshade and was therefore slightly poisonous. The obviously flustered girl left with his order and the suave Dunmer took Aslin’s hand. She flinched ever so slightly at the physical contact and resisted her natural urge to pull away.

"Just this Night, Mother told me I should help my friends, to take a vacation. My expenses, it would seem, have been paid in advance." Even Soris’ whisper couldn’t mask the smooth baritone in his voice and the kiss he left in her palm seemed to almost burn, in spite of the soft touch.

All at once the pieces fell into place in Aslin’s mind. Night Mother, Nightshade, Night Kiss… Could it be that Soris Renoit was the infamous assassin Night's Kiss? Her contacts in the Dark Brotherhood spoke of the assassin with respect bordering on reverence and he was reported to be the most prolific killer in the last several hundred years, blessed by the Night Mother herself. If even half the stories she had heard about him were true he was truly a force to be reckoned with. Had he really been living in HER town all this time? Aslin had a brief flash of irritation at having missed something that now seemed so obvious. It made sense in a lot of ways and it bothered her that she had never considered it before.

With a smile, to mask her annoyance, Aslin nodded to Soris. “We accept your assistance, Renoit, though a warning that this may not be the ‘vacation’ you are looking for.” She was choosing to trust this coy Dunmer, and also chose to keep her realization of his alter ego to herself, mostly to see if any of the others came to the same conclusions as she did.

“So who we are still missing …” she mused, looking around the table. “Jones and Rah’Kigh are on the road and won’t be back for a week or so… we’ll have to do without them. Galliton is still injured and on bed rest... Mickiale the Scribe will be staying here to take care of the day-to-day while I’m gone… Didn’t I see…” she paused to look around the tavern, her sharp eyes quickly finding Naris in a dark corner, as usual. “Ahh yes… Come along, Naris! Don’t be shy. You’ve just been recruited.” She waved the hooded Imperial over. “Sorry, my boy, but we’re stretched thin and need the extra hands. Time to earn your place in the Guild.”

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Naris had only just sat down in the far corner of the room when he suddenly heard Aslin say: ''Come along, Naris! Don’t be shy. You’ve just been recruited. Sorry, my boy, but we’re stretched thin and need the extra hands. Time to earn your place in the Guild.'' Oh great... He just wanted to sit here and find out who in Julianos name these people where, not actually meet them! He hated meeting new people without knowing anything about them. Granted, he knew a little about the short woman and the young man, well, almost just a boy, but he didn't know the fancy talker. Despite this he couldn't just ignore his superior. This may be a thieves guild, but you still have to obey some rules.

 

Without hesitance he stood up. ''Oh, shyness won't be a problem ma'am. I just don't like being noticable. Old habits and all that, part of the world we live in. Now, what would you wish of me?'' he said, calmly walking towards the table. In his hand was one of his many throwing knives. He loosely balanced it between thumb and indexfinger as he pulled up a chair with his other hand. ''I can do all sorts of things, but work with people I don't know, I can not. I'd say introductions are in order, as much as I hate them. Ma'am, of course I know you.'' he said, with a small nod towards his superior. ''You two on the other hand, I do not know.'' he said, pointing the pommel of his knife towards the woman and the boy. ''Allow me to introduce myself. My name, as you heard just a second ago, is Naris. My last name is irrelevant. I joined this guild officially a good two months ago, but I have been coming to this tavern for about two years, so I am not clueless of what goes on around here.''

 

He looked around the table from under the shadow of his hood, which concealed everything but his eyes. He saw the blonde maid come in with the meat and drink the Dunmer had ordered. As the girl put down the plate in front of him he said, smiling: ''Thank you, love. Would you give my compliments to the cook?'' And then, giving her a wellfilled purse: ''Here's a little something for the trouble. Buy yourself something pretty.'' A subtle wink accompanied his last words whilst saying that.

 

As he raised his arm to grab his fork , his wide sleeve fell down under his armpit. The loud snap of steel hitting wood left his arm hanging in mid-air. When the Elf looked down he saw the knife that had just been in Naris' hand stuck through his sleeve, pinned to the back of the chair. It was a remarkably accurate throw, barely missing the arm. Naris bend over the table and said calmly: ''Let's get this straight. I don't like your type, you won't like me. As long a you don't try to talk me into anything with those honeyed words, we'll get along fine, if you're as good as you reputation is. Yes, I know who you are, and I'm pretty sure your precious Mother had something to do with the death of my parents. Now, you just stay out of my way, and I will refrain from throwing a bit higher and to the side next time. Are we clear? Good.''

 

As Naris looked around the table he said: ''My apologies for this my friends, my apologies ma'am, I needed to sort this out. Please continue.''

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Soris sighed inwardly. He was hoping they could all get along. He did hate bickering. He took a long look at the young man. Dark, hard, angry eyes, the clench of his jaw belied his calm words. Knows who I am, Soris thought. Not even Aslin had known, and she was legendary for her memory, and putting together the pieces. In fact, from what he knew of her reputation, Aslin was probably pretty upset with herself at the moment for not having figured it out sooner. No, the boy had to be bluffing. Soris decided he must stave off this fight, or the group would fester from within. If Travers was sending the chapter head on a mission, it was big, and they could afford no infighting. Besides, this angry young man needed to learn a valuable lesson or two, if he was going to live long enough to enjoy the wealth a long career in the Guild could provide. He did hate doing things this way. So very heavy handed, for him.

Soris smiled, arm still pinned to the chair, and used telekinesis to raise the fork and knife and begin carving his meat in to civilised, bite sized pieces. He used his free hand to lift his drink, sipped, and with a delighted sigh, quaffed straight down. He then began to eat, again, without ever removing the knife.

"Little brother," he said, carefully finishing the first bite before speaking. "I like everyone. There is no man nor mer on the whole of Nirn without value or merit. Only a fool fails to see this." He paused, eating another bite. "Pardon, this is delicious. Have you tried it? No? You must. I must remember to send a gift to the cook. To do so much with such simple resources! Genius. Forgive me, I can get distracted. Ah, yes," he wiped his mouth carefully with his free hand, then, while still holding his knife and fork aloft with telekinesis, used the same skill to lift the nightshade petals from his goblet, and began to eat them, one at a time, chewing carefully before swallowing them. "I don't know how your parents came to meet their end, but I am sorry for it, though I know I had nothing to do with it. It is a terrible thing to orphan a child, and a terrible thing to lose one's parents, no matter their age. Family is a sacred thing, something to be protected with all your might. And when your might isn't enough, your only recourse is to honour them with your life. So I am sorry for your loss. Don't for a single moment think that I don't know how fortunate I am. However," Soris said, finishing the last petal, and setting his knife fork down, "there are a few lessons they certainly would have taught you, had they the time. The first is this: never pick a fight with a man until you know his full strength," with this Soris, still using his frighteningly fine control of his TK, drew the knife out of the chair and carefully mended the cut in his shirt. "Damn, this shirt was expensive, too. Well, the mend will be faint, so few will notice. Ah, two: never pick a fight with a man whose done you no wrong." He floated the knife across the table towards Naris. "Three: never warn a target of vengance. And four: if you are going to throw a weapon at someone, kill them then, so your weapon doesn't return home with less grace than I offer you here today. Your name is familiar to me, little brother. You learn fast, and have great potential. Just don't let anger or pride drag you into decisions that will cut your life short. All of life is the art of the gods, and we may be thieves and scoundrels all, but to destroy art? Now that is truly criminal. Besides, you have not the least idea who I really am. The last one who did died sixty years ago, and she's buried next to my beloved father." He turned the knife point down, handle just within Naris' reach, easy to take. Soris spread his hands wide, smiled a gentle smile. "I am genuinely looking forward to working with you. If Aslin trusts your skills enough to conscript you into this mission, that is enough for me to place my faith in them as well." He paused. "Beautiful throw, by the way. I wish you hadn't seen fit to damage my shirt, but a lovely display...care for any of the beast? It really is exquisite."

And begin to set offer his plate around the table.

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The door pretty much exploded inwards. As if somewhat surprised by this, a huge hulking Breton staggered into the room, tripped over his walking stick and fell face first into a puddle of brandy.

"Barkeep, a flagon of your second finest mead!" Maurice thundered from the floor. He paused a second before making the supreme effort and climbing up the bar where he had landed. As he stood he noticed that the entire room was looking at him, not realy surprising given the nature of his entrance. He leaned on the par, wiped his face with his hand, swept his pure white hair away from his face, and beamed at the room before performing a very good estimate of a courtly bow. The room erupted in laughter and sporadic applause before settling back into it's customary low murmer.

"So my dear" he crooned at the barmaid "how ...*brrrp* ... how are you on this very fine evening?" The barmaid assumed the friendly disposition of her trade, she probably knw Maurice as well as anyone in this town, and better than most. "I'm good thanks gramps, I think the others are waiting upstairs for you"

"Upstairs? Upstairs?!" Maurice roared "There's an upstairs?!?!"

The barmaid rolled her eyes "You were there last week, with Travers,, remember?"

"Ah yes, of course ...*cough*... how foolish of me. Now, stairs?" The barmaid pointed to the other side of the room.

Leaning heavily on his walking stick (Which, if anyone had looked a little closer they would have noticed was actually a war hammer) and cradling his flagon in the other, Maurice began the long walk across the room. It wasn't really a long way, but the route that he took whilst trying to maintain his balance and ot spill his drink was at least twice what it needed to be.

By some miracle he made it to the top of the stairs but not without a great deal of huffing and puffing and many a pause to take a long pull from his flagon. Once there, he looked around until he saw the table of "comrades" that he was there to meet.

"Friends!" he thundered across the room, raising his drink in a salute and staggering towards them. At least one of the group raised their eyebrows, a few rolled their eyes and the youngest amongst them barely contained a giggle.

As he reached the table he noticed that the dark garbed man was offering food around the table.

"How very kind!" Maurice gathered up the lions share of the meat on the plate and collapsed into a chair that seemed to have appeared from nowhere. It creaked in protest. He nodded around the table, noting faces that he had seen in his house when goods needed to be sold, almost all of them were familiar. He didn't know the Bosmer though.

"Maurice Beaufort at your service my dear" he raised his flagon in greeting and drained it.

"Barkeep......!!" he thundered....

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Falcona flinched before she registered the cutlery lodging into the back of Soris' chair. Her most expressive feature by far were her eyes which snapped open like an owl's as she instinctively ducked. It took her a little longer than necessary to slowly peek back up over the table. She looked around in amazement, admiring the over abundance of sang froid at the table. Her hands were itchy, and there was a heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach. But this was not the place nor the time to give in to her impulse to vanish, and so she stuck her hands under her to better resist the urge to fall back on illusionary magic. She would not allow her talent to become a crutch. Nevertheless, her cheerfulness faded to a civil but guarded gravity. Outwardly she allowed her admiration for the impressive self-control and skill she was witnessing to show. Inwardly, she waited and listened.

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Rocking back on his chair and taking a bite out of his fistfull of meat, Maurice peered thoughtfully at the Bosmer opposite him.

"Esrin...no...Alfin...no...hmmmm..." he seemed to be running through names in his head, trying to pick the right one out of the mist. He took another bite, whatever this meat was, it was good!

"Aslin!" he boomed, spreading his arms wide and almost hitting Noct in the face with the meat he had taken. "How the devil are you, shame on you for trying to diguise yourself like that!"

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Since the Illusionist (Definitely a short woman…..I think…..) had inadvertently sneaked up on him (Dad and Sis will most certainly never let me live that down), Noct had ramped up his situational awareness, a sharp senses picking apart any aberrations in the surroundings, even as he reran his memories of the past hour.

Good thing, I did too,” Noct idly mused, “To think that Bravil is home to such talented individuals.

Travel worn and weary as he was, those were no excuse to have not noticed the attention that his person had attracted once he entered the tavern. Making his way across the crowded tavern to the stairs was simple but to do so without attracting undue attention was just that little bit complicated, enough for him to miss the persistent itch between his shoulders flaring to life, a sure sign that he had in fact caught someone’s attention. At the time, Noct had dismissed said itch, writing it off as a trick his tired mind was playing on him. After all a breakneck ride from Cyrodiil to Bravil was hardly something to scoff at.

Still, impressive, not many can see past my unseen movement, even if he was just sat there watching. Credit is due where it is due.

But, as he reviewed his recalled memories, there certainly was a hooded Imperial smoking in the corner watching the crowd, as if he was Strider from the unfinished tales written by Sis seven years ago. The very same Imperial that was trying and failing (now that he was exerting a modicum of effort at keeping alert) to make his way unnoticed to the corner of the loft, pipe stowed away next to an array of knives, and a pint in hand.

This was one rogue that Noct had met before, albeit in passing, as eidetic memories recalled the exact nature of their meeting. Elik Palge was his name, or at least that was the name he had been going by the last they had crossed paths, a year, three months and fifteen days ago.

It was a routine drop off, just passing on intelligence to Travers. Manpower is scarce in my’s profession, making it untenable for long term observation. The Thieves Guild on the other hand is more than willing to pick up the slack, so long as Septims keep flowing.

Moving through the hallowed halls of the First Gray Fox in the wee hours before dawn, I took note of the low murmur of conversation circulating amongst the younger recruits, most of whom were either back from a night of thieving or readying to head out. Most were unremarkable, good sure, exceptional no, save for a single dark haired Imperial, who at the present moment, seemed determined to fuse his face to a fetching flaxen haired Breton.

“Hand to hand is sloppy though, really sloppy. Getting decked by someone a foot shorter and thirty pounds lighter is usually a sign that you're slacking off,” Noct thought, his mental self grinning at the memory.

Still from the little he had seen and overheard, the boy, Palge was a rising star in the Imperial City’s Thieves Guild, a superb archer, an extraordinary fingersmith despite heavily scarred hands and a master at unseen movement, a brilliant resume for someone so young. Though, the whispers from his brief jaunt in the Cyrodiil but hours ago indicated troubles of a female persuasion that had forced a less than dignified exit from the Imperial City.

"Ahh..... the stubbornness of youth," Noct mentally noted, just as light footsteps climbing the last few steps of the stairs tripped his heightened senses, just as the short Illusionist piped up an, “I’m in.

“I’m rather inclined to agree.”

Noct’s brow furrowed imperceptibly at the sound of that silky smooth, suave baritone, at that deceptively calm and friendly demeanour, at his senses screaming CHANGE.SHIFT.MOVE. from the distinguished presence in their midst.

What is he doing here?

Soris Renoit. Dunmer. Merchant. Art thief. Womaniser. Intelligence indicates that he is a potential alter ego of the notorious Dark Brotherhood assassin “The Night’s Kiss”, among a number of similarly talented suspects. Still I know better. He is “The Night’s Kiss”.

"Call me Soris, love, and would you please bring me one? And a plate of whatever beast the cook has on the spit tonight, if you would."

Soris may not remember, but we've met...... Under less than ideal circumstances.

It was a full moon on that midsummer's night. A hunter's moon. It was suppose to be milk run, a simple infiltration affair, in and out as quick can be. But, no. Apparently, the svelte creature of sinful delights that was notorious Countess Elizabeta "Black Widow" Carmilla, had finally decided to rid herself of her thirteenth husband, Baron Guillem de Aldemar. Her murder tool of choice? Who else but the assured results guaranteed by the assassins of the Dark Brotherhood.

In his the safety of his mind, Noct shuddered, the Countess had made her delight and pleasure for a job well done known, both in coin and in payments of a more carnal nature.

That woman is man eater. I can just hope that Friedrich can handle her better than the past fifteen lovers.

With Baron Aldemar dead, there was little need to rush. After all, there sellouts don’t deserve a peaceful afterlife. Still as much as I disliked it, the Countess was a useful resource, even if she knew little of the late Baron’s affairs.

We were all out of position. The sudden assassination had taken all of us by surprise. Worse, Friedrich and Lywen had been sent away beforehand.

With the “festivities” ongoing, I disguised myself as a pox ridden beggar, a drunk, singing one at that. I was just making my rounds once the celebrations had wind down and lo and behold, Soris himself steps out of the estate all smug like, tossing a gold piece as he swept past, the stench of sex and violence still heavy about him.

Elizabeta definitely had more than her share of fun that night.

Careful to keep his gaze light, Noct watched the unfolding drama as the Dunmer slickly dropped hints that would mean nothing to the uninformed and the untrained. The Mer was deft ladies’ man for sure, the blushing serving girl was proof enough.

Soris spoke, tone low and soft, grasping Aslin's hands, "Just this Night, Mother told me I should help my friends, to take a vacation. My expenses, it would seem, have been paid in advance," before kissing the lass's palm.

"Excellent word play if somewhat theatrical. Without any inkling of his identity, his words are simply what they are, a greeting, nothing more, nothing less," thought Noct, only for the wry, dry sarcastice part of his mind to pipe up, “Unless, you count wanting to loosen her thighs.” Noct restrain the urge to roll his eyes at the Dunmer’s theatrics, though he did concede on letting his mirth show in his mismatched eyes, watching the lass’s response.

She knows and she’s not happy. Good, she should have known of his presence even if Soris is strictly professional in his killing.

The next few moments passed without comment, as Noct paid only half a mind to the Bosmer’s idle musings, while the other half played a fascinating game of Which Lass is more comely?. “Benefits of having eidetic memory, I’m never starve for entertainment,” Noct thought. The game continued apace until Red motioned for Smoker to come forward.

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A burst of killing intent, weak and unfocused, and a masterfully thrown dagger later, Noct nonchalantly accepted his long overdue drink, still watching on with a detached, amused gaze as he took a long deep draught of the bitter beverage, even as Soris handed out a much needed lesson to the Imperial. The discussion had stirred up old, unpleasant memories and while the pain had long since grown dull with time, it was still there like an old ache.

Your parents died. Boohooo…… well suck it up and move on. I know your kind, I was you eighteen years ago, alone, angry, full of hatred, and despair, and guilt. Except, I found my path, the cause that mum and granda lived for.

Callused hands. Gentle words. Patient teachings.

Black and gold. A haze of red, of green, of heat.

Roaring. Screaming. Burning.

Pain. Pain. Pain.

Darkness.

And if I had found those who had taken them from us along the way. All the better for me.

The tankard drained in a single go, found itself placed deliberately on the scarred planks of the table, as Noct let the memories naturally fade away, nerves tingling at remembered phantom pains.

Heavy footsteps, the kind that most certainly cared not a whit for stealth, and wheezing breaths up the stairs once again cut through the train of Noct’s thoughts.

A raised eyebrow. A bark of laughter.

Of all the places to meet that old grifter once again.

Typical Maurice. The old bastard is already pissed drunk at this early hour,” Noct mused idly, taking in the Breton’s shabbier than normal attire and appearance, “The years have certainly not been kind.”

Being on the run from a Nightingale was a bitch, even if being hounded by a hot Dunmer was fun as hell. Still I needed to eat and the necklace I “liberated” from an unscrupulous robber merchant should fetch a good price.

A chance meeting and a running war of cons later, we were both getting drunk in a local tavern. Even so, Dralsi was a persistent woman, and I was again on the run the morning later, not before dropping the old man in the Court of Night-Blooming Flowers though. Never did find that old bastard again. Until now that is.

In a practice maneuverer, Noct ducked under the old man’s wild swing in a movement so smooth and so practiced that it was almost second nature.

“Aslin! How the devil are you, shame on you for trying to diguise yourself like that!"

Noct did not even try, he let out a short bark of laughter and thumped the old bugger on the back, none too gently, “Maurice, you drunk old bastard. How long has it been? Ten? Nine years? Did you enjoy my parting gift?”

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As Naris looked around the table after his sudden outburst he saw a mixture of emotions. The short woman was peeking over the edge of the table, with a look of admiration in her eyes. The odd-eyed man at the other side of the table, whom he totally forgot about asking for introductions, looked at him with a slight twinkle of amusement in his eyes. He couldn't tell if he was amused by his outburst or the annoyingly calm response Soris had given him. Soris was still keeping the knife within his reach, and with a brisk move he grabbed it and hid it under his clothes in a single motion.

Naris was about to crawl back into his shell of silence, when a loud wheezing breath caught his attention. The stairs creeked and cracked under the weight of the man that was cimbing them. The man was truly massive, wielding a warhammer that looked like it could bash a Minotaurs head in as a walking stick. He stumbled towards the group and fell down an a chair, nearly breaking it in the process.

“Aslin! How the devil are you, shame on you for trying to diguise yourself like that!"

Oh great.... Another talkative one. This'll be the end of me.

The odd-eyed man let out a burst of laughter and asked: ''Maurice, you drunk old bastard. How long has it been? Ten? Nine years? Did you enjoy my parting gift?''

So they've met before.... Interesting. How did I never notice this man before? Am I going blind? Or is he just here when I'm not around? That's a pretty short window, but it would explain why I've never seen him before. He knows Aslin though, so he probably has some ties here...

In his mind, Naris was slapping his forehead for not knowing about this man. He wondered how the man slipped through his otherwise very reliable net of informants and observing friends. It didn't matter now, he'd just have to wait and see to find out.

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Elik was pleased to be among friends again, having been out of town for the last few days he hadn't had time to gather the news that he’d missed. He’d have to chat to Aslin after the meeting had run its course.

A party of four seemed a little small to Elik as he pondered whether any other member’s would be joining this “shebang” as Noct had put it. Lost in this train of thought Elik almost didn't notice that that Naris had shown up, although in his usual way he had headed for a corner on the other side of the loft. Naris was soon forgotten as in walked Soris, a man Elik had little time for. He watched as Soris pulled up a chair besides Falcona and Aslin, the blond from down stairs arrived moments later clearly flustered. Soris had clearly worked her up again, how easy these bar girls seemed to be. Flatter them, and they become as soft rich mans bed.

Elik quickly became annoyed as he realised that with Soris’ arrival his ale had been forgotten, he’d have to talk to the owner at a later stage as there was no time at this moment.

Aslin had finally called Naris over.

“You two on the other hand, I do not know.'' Pointing at Falcona and Elik he continued to introduce himself “… My name, as you heard just a second ago, is Naris. My last name is irrelevant. I joined this guild a good two months ago, but I have been coming to this tavern for about two years, so I am not clueless of what goes on around here.''

A smirk crossed Eliks face, he claims to know the on goings yet he does not know us. Elik had been a part of the Bravil chapter house for several months, the only saving grace is that he would find himself working outside the town itself. Aslin had helped get him settled quicker than expected, but they did share a brotherly, sisterly bond.

Watching Naris it had come as a surprise when he withdrew a throwing knife and without warning let loose so that it found itself wedged into the sleeve of Soris’ evening wear. With things seemly set to boil over Soris calmly continued to eat before he decided to put Naris back into his place.

With the situation seemingly calming down a roar from down stairs could be heard "Upstairs? Upstairs?!"

Elik smiled to himself, “it would appear that Maurice had decided to show himself”. It wouldn't be long until this party’s conversation grew louder than it needed to be, he sat himself down on a chair that seemed more than reluctant to take his considerable weight. Having helped himself to Soris’ meal he spoke out once again “Aslin! How the devil are you, shame on you for trying to disguise yourself like that!"

This night certainly couldn't get more entertaining than it already had, however Elik wasn't here for entertainment. He was here to hear about a job.

Speaking for the first time since his arrival Elik turned to Naris, “The name is Elik, you claim to have been a part of the guild for several months yet you know not who I am, part of me feels satisfied for keeping a low profile, but shocked that you could be so unobservant to who is part of this Chapter House.”

Turning back to Aslin he continue “Aslin, if you please. Can we get this meeting rolling? My journey out of town was less than pleasant, and as entertaining as this night promises to be with such excellent company, I require sometime to regain my wits.”

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Naris’s normal prickliness was no surprise but it seemed as though Soris was determined to keep confounding her. The level of control he seemed to display with Telekinesis was beyond mastery… it bordered on impossible. Many years before Aslin had watched her brother, Alkinna, learning and practicing the spell but she had never imagined the level of control that Soris showed. As he mended the cut in his sleeve made by Naris’s throwing knife by apparently reweaving the cloth with Telekinesis she couldn’t keep her eyebrows from raising in disbelief. Her estimation of this enigmatic Dunmer continued to fall short.

She quickly took stock of and categorized every visual detail of him. The fine quality of his clothes was expected, she knew that he was very wealthy, but the smaller personalization’s seemed to tell their own story. The image of a horned skull on his bracers and broach rang a bell… horned skull, horned skull… her impeccable memory swiftly recalled that Sithis was often depicted as a skeleton or a horned skull…. more evidence of his Dark Brotherhood alter-ego. The embroidery she could see showed delicate flowers, of the poisonous variety, Nightshade and Deathbloom. She also noticed what looked like gray bears depicted on his belt… interesting…

Her visual inspection was distracted by the booming voice from downstairs. “Upstairs? Upstairs?! There's an upstairs?!?!"

Aslin resisted the urge to sigh and cover her face with her palm. When she asked the beggars to round up her crew she hadn’t really meant Maurice. As the massive Breton staggered up the stairs Aslin’s sharp eyes noticed on the other side of the loft an aged Altmer slipped out of one of the back rooms. As all other eyes in the room were on the booming Breton, Mickiale the Scribe made eye contact with Aslin and crooked one finger to her, beckoning her to follow him. She gave him a subtle nod, hiding it with a drink of wine and the High Elf slipped back behind the door.

“Maurice, you drunk old bastard. How long has it been? Ten? Nine years? Did you enjoy my parting gift?” Noct clearly knew the drunken Breton, though Aslin had never seen or heard about him before, he clearly ran in similar circles. She re-examined him, looking for clues to who he might really be. Noct was brimming with weapons, both overt and concealed… she took note of the subtle but tale-tell outlines in his boot-tops and bracers. On the larger blades on his belt she could see the hilts designed to resemble a bird of some sort, a falcon or a hawk. She tucked this bit of information into her mental tapestry of the odd-eyed Imperial.

Elik took her out of her careful examination. “Aslin, if you please. Can we get this meeting rolling? My journey out of town was less than pleasant, and as entertaining as this night promises to be with such excellent company, I require sometime to regain my wits.”

“But of course, Elik, and I apologize for not welcoming you back. You’ll need to tell me about your journey when we have the time.” Aslin smiled at him warmly. It was good to have him back in Bravil, the dark-haired boy had become a close friend over the years she had watched him grow up and she couldn’t help but feel a bit protective over him and relived to have him safely home.

The Bomer’s bright green eyes peered intently at the group around her table. She took stock of each person and the weapons they carried like a general viewing their armory. Her organized, detail-oriented mind examined skills and aptitudes, running through possible plans and determining strengths and weaknesses. She did this very quickly while taking another deep drink of her wine to buy a little time before continuing.

“As I mentioned to some of you earlier we are heading to Leyawiin. Our chapter there hasn't been heard from for several weeks and we need to find out why. Since no doubt this is because of nefarious means our first priority is rescue. We NEED to find our people.” She paused to let this information sink in for the new-comers, while taking another drink from her now almost empty cup. “Locating and rescue is highly important, not only for the sake of our Guild-mates, but because the Gray Fox was in Leyawiin and is also now missing.”

Aslin looked around the table at each person, evaluating their reactions to this information, from shock to disbelief, to… whatever expression that was on Soris’ face… slight amusement? It bothered her that he was so hard to read, a skill she was usually very good at. Putting that mild irritation aside she drained the last of her wine and stood up, grabbing her still wet cloak.

“Take the time you need this evening to get ready for our journey. There is no time to waste and we will be leaving at dawn. Meet outside the Northern gates near the stables. Do not be late.” She said this last part directly to Maurice, though she wasn’t sure how much was getting through his drunken state. She dropped a few Septims on the table. “Oh and Elik? Falcona? If Relvin happens to show up give him the information, will you? I have other matters to attend too…”

The lithe Bosmer gracefully weaved her way around the now full table and chairs and crossed the length of the tavern, slipping into the back door that she saw Mikiale the Scribe use earlier.

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...Aslin looked around the table at each person, evaluating their reactions to this information, from shock to disbelief, to… whatever expression that was on Soris’ face… slight amusement? It bothered her that he was so hard to read, a skill she was usually very good at. Putting that mild irritation aside she drained the last of her wine and stood up, grabbing her still wet cloak.

“Take the time you need this evening to get ready for our journey. There is no time to waste and we will be leaving at dawn. Meet outside the Northern gates near the stables. Do not be late.” She said this last part directly to Maurice, though she wasn’t sure how much was getting through his drunken state. She dropped a few Septims on the table. “Oh and Elik? Falcona? If Relvin happens to show up give him the information, will you? I have other matters to attend too…”

The lithe Bosmer gracefully weaved her way around the now full table and chairs and crossed the length of the tavern, slipping into the back door that she saw Mikiale the Scribe use earlier.

"Where is that girl?" Maurice sounded impatient as he looked around the room following Aslin's departure. He paused, and a look passed over his face as if he had just had a wondrous idea.

"Noctis you old thief, how about I repay you for all those pleasant hours I spent in the company of the House Orchis? I have never laughed so much, especially whilst naked... Ha! Drink with me!"

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A barely noticable twinkle appeared in Naris' eyes as he heard Elik say: ''you claim to have been a part of the guild for several months yet you know not who I am, part of me feels satisfied for keeping a low profile, but shocked that you could be so unobservant to who is part of this Chapter House.”

You still have a lot to learn my young friend.... Naris wasn't the kind of man to give away everything he knew. He had given away the fact that he knew Soris, but that was on purpose. He knew just as much about Elik and Falcona as he knew about every other person in this tavern, except for Aslin and the tall, odd-eyed man who's name appeared to be Noctis.

As he was thinking about this he noticed Aslin making her way across the room towards the door Mikiale had just appeared in. For a brief moment he smiled at the sight of her graceful posture, but then he heard Maurice invite Noctis to a few (barrels that is) ales. The smile quickly faded, because the last thing he wanted was being anywhere near these guys when they where drunk. He stood up abruptly, tucking away his pipe in the process. Doing that, the shaft of the pipe moved a little, and the glimmer of the metal within it was visible for a split second. Only the most perceptive person would have noticed, but Naris made an effort to hide it as quick as possible anyway.

As he slowly walked away, he turned towards the table and said with a straight face: ''I will see you all in the morning. Have a good night. Oh, and Soris, good luck getting your sleeve fixed. Send me the bill.''

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The meeting was starting to wind down now, Aslin had gone off to a back door somewhere, likely at to meet that crotchety, old Altmer. Red certainly was a diamond in the rough, always observing, assessing, judging her surroundings and those around her, combined with no small measure of charisma, and the experience of managing a Thieves Guild Chapter, the lass would be a reliable cornerstone amongst their little party of seven.....no eight.

Better her than someone more prickly like Naris.

Smoker would definitely be a pain to work considering his apparent suicidal desire to deliberately antagonise one of the better combatants, and likely the most deadly of their number.

Only time will tell.

"Noctis you old thief, how about I repay you for all those pleasant hours I spent in the company of the House Orchis? I have never laughed so much, especially whilst naked... Ha! Drink with me!"

And there was Maurice. The old bastard was fun if somewhat erratic to enjoy life with. Their last escapade had ended with Maurie in the House of Orchids, and Noct leading an ever increasingly pissed off Nightingale on a merry chase across High Rock.

"The name's Noct now, you mangy old cut purse. Times have change. Still drinks are on me, knowing you, you'd call for flavoured water," Noct hollered an answer back Maurice, waving down the increasingly flustered serving girl at the same time, "Bring up a barrel of your finest Nord mead, lass."

A glance at the remaining members of their gathering, Elik, Falcona, Soris, led Noct to make a snap decision. Lips pulled back a wry, wolfish grin, Noct .

"Elik lad, my lady Falcona, Soris my friend, fancy joining Maurice and myself in the festivities? The night is still young after all. And what better way to spend it than to talk over a barrel of the finest grog this place can offer."

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"Elik lad, my lady Falcona, Soris my friend, fancy joining Maurice and myself in the festivities? The night is still young after all. And what better way to spend it than to talk over a barrel of the finest grog this place can offer."

Soris smiled wider. I did sound like a wonderful idea. Elik was a bit distant, but that was to be expected. Soris knew his reputation, both here and back in the Imperial City, and was looking forward to working with him. Not that he expected the sentiment returned, really, from any of the crew. Until tonight, most of them would have viewed him exclusively as a wealthy property holder and occasional procurer of "otherwise owned" art. Aslin knew almost for certain now that he was the Night's Kiss, Naris thought he knew, but how much he knew as opposed to good conclusions without hard evidence, well, if Aslin hadn't known, Naris couldn't. He simply wasn't in her class. Yet. He was sharp, learned quick, good mind. Soris genuinely hoped the boy didn't cross the wrong people. He was dangerous enough that Soris himself would be the one the Night Mother would task with the assassination. I must remember to find out what happened to his family on our return, he thought to himself. He made a habit not to pry into other people's lives until he was tasked with ending said life. Everyone is entitled to their secrets, thieves most of all. He thought a small prayer to Sithis that the boy lived a long life before embracing the Void, and that he kept his young temper and ego in check long enough to enjoy life. Noct...something in his gut told Soris that Noct had a strong inclination of exactly what had just transpired. Which meant that Noct may have evidence. Hm...Noct will have to wait. If the Brotherhood doesn't have a contract out on him, he's good enough at disappearing that no one can identify him well enough to do the Black Sacrament. Hunting him down would probably be a pain.

Soris glanced down at Falcona and smiled. Now her he genuinely admired. He envied her command of Illusion, and allowed himself to enjoy watching a master at work. He was worried about her skittishness, and mentally made a note to try to keep her well protected, or at least make sure any violence steered away from her quickly. If she disappears and bolts, we'll never find her; I'm pretty sure she could stand on my head and I'd scarce notice.

Soris thought back to just before Maurice arrived. Aslin was "observing" him, he knew. By now she will have memorised every nuance of my attire and started analysing. She'll have figured out everything...but that. Only his adopted mother had know that little secret. She even kept certain details from Soris himself. His eyes twitched for the faintest moment, remembering his parents. They had taught him so much, given him so much. Sixty years since his mother passed. Sixty five for his father. He missed them still, but he knew they'd be proud that he carried on their work. Sithis will must be done.

He noticed Aslin leaving with the old Altmer, he guessed to do some last minute research and planning before they left in the morning. Speaking of which...

"No, Noct, I'm afraid I'll have to pass, generous an offer as it is. Despite young Naris poor opinion of me, I do have businesses I oversee, and I must make arrangements for my absence. I think I shall send a raven ahead, as well, to some friends I have in Leyawiin. I have a couple of tenants there I've not visited in far too long, and if I don't miss my guess, my house there will make an excellent base of operations. In fact, Elik, since I expect you to see our Fair Leader before the rest of us, would you be so kind as to let her know that my residence in Leyawiin is at her disposal. She'll know the details, I'm sure, by then. " He paused, recognising a young Khajiit waitress as she walked by, the fur around her eyes blackened and matted from crying. The courtesan's sister; they shared a resemblance, and she probably had relied on the joint income. This girl was barely old enough to be on her own. Soris felt a pang for the loss of family connection. The death didn't bother him, never did, really. But beauty had been lost from the world, and this young thing had had her sister taken. "Excuse me, miss, I know you've got your shift to finish here, but I'm looking for someone to look after my house while I'm away on business. Would you be so kind as to stop by my residence, you know it, yes? good, just before dawn. I'll go over what I'd like you to look after while I'm away. It won't be much, and won't interfere with your work here, but it'll be a little extra pay, and it'll give me peace of mind knowing the place is being looked after." The girl (and she truely was barely more than a cub) wiped her nose, and nodded, wide eyed. "Good," he said, taking her petite paw and bowing over it, "I shall see you just before light, then, and do feel free to pack a few things. I would be grateful if you'd just stay there while I'm away. One never knows when unexpected deliveries may be dropped off."

Soris glanced around one more time. Yes, this could prove to be quite the diversion. He really did need to visit Leyawiin anyways; might as well visit in good company, and he was curious how bad it would be if he was being sent on an open ended contract by Listener himself.

"Gentlemen, again, I must decline, but reluctantly. But let it not be said that I cannot, at least, take some small part by contributing to the festivities, at least! Waitress!" The blonde from earlier hurried over. Soris leaned in, whispered in here ear, smiled, kissed her cheek chastely, stepped back, winked less chastely, and stepped off saying, "Gentlemen, she has a figure that I'm being billed for, and you won't pay a shaved Septim til you hit that figure. Enjoy, and I'll see you in the morning."

Soris stepped into the night, chuckle on his lips, gleam in his eye, murder in his heart, and began his roundabout way home. He must send word to his Speaker, to Leyawiin, and prepare the house for the young Khajiit's arrival in the morning. There were rooms that needed sealing until his return.

Yes, this would be fun....

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Glancing around the room Elik had noticed a glare enter Naris’ eye, clearly the Dunmer come Imperial knew more than he was letting on. An error in Elik’s opinion, ignorance or claiming ignorance wouldn’t get you his support. Naris may well be an interesting character, a good thief he may be, but at times he seemed a little unstable. Although Elik had to admit though that he didn’t know all the much about him.

“But of course, Elik, and I apologize for not welcoming you back. You’ll need to tell me about your journey when we have the time.” Returning Aslin’s smile with a nod of his head Elik was pleased that the meeting would finally begin.

Aslin had been somewhat of a lifesaver all those years ago when she took him under her wing. She had become that older sister that he never had. Well, that in fact was a lie he had a younger half-sister, but Elik was sure that she did not know he existed. Aslin had helped get him back onto his feet with the thieves guild, and when she had left the Imperial City it had been tough on him. With his little, problem that had arisen it was an easy choice to move to Bravil to be near her again.

As Aslin spoke to the group Elik observed his fellow companions, he had noticed that Aslin was taken aback by something Soris had said, he’d have to make sure that he found out later what that was. All he knew about the rich Dunmer was that he had a keen eye for art, having pawned one off to him or it might have been one of his associates, he also seemed to have a cunning ability when wooing the ladies.

Eliks train of thought was broken as Aslin looked at him and Falcona “Oh and Elik? Falcona? If Relvin happens to show up give him the information, will you? I have other matters to attend too…” nodding he watched as Aslin left the room.

Maurice was up to his usual shenanigans, inviting Noct to more drinking and what promised to be an interesting night. Elik grinned, if he hadn’t been out of town these last few days he may have been interested to partake.

Preparing to leave Elik rose to his feet. He looked across the room at Noct who had a wolfish looking grin on his face. "Elik lad, my lady Falcona, Soris my friend, fancy joining Maurice and myself in the festivities? The night is still young after all. And what better way to spend it than to talk over a barrel of the finest grog this place can offer."

Before Elik could return a response Soris had joined in on the ongoing conversation “… In fact, Elik, since I expect you to see our Fair Leader before the rest of us, would you be so kind as to let her know that my residence in Leyawiin is at her disposal. She'll know the details, I'm sure, by then."

Turning to Soris, “Not a problem.”

Turning to face Noct Elik had a small grin on his face offering a small nod of his head Elik replied. “I’m afraid not this evening Noctis, I would rather return to my bed and be fresh for the journey ahead. I do hope another opportunity arises soon.”

With that, he offered a small bow to the room before making his way towards the staircase.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What the hell where you thinking? Throwing a knife at arguably the best assassin of Tamriel?

As Naris laid himself down on the bed he thought about the events of that night. Everything happened extremely quick. He had to admit, it did not go as planned. At all. His temper had overtaken him, and this bothered him immensely. Was he really that bad at controling himself? Was he that weak?

I may just have overplayed my hand.... I don't even have any evidence to back my accusations up. Although that look in Aslins eyes left little room for doubt... Still, I have to control my anger. I don't want to end up death with a Nightshade blossom on my chest.

He couldn't sleep. The noise from downstairs was not the problem, but the noise in his head was. He swung his legs of of the bed, into his boots. His daggers where on his nightstand. He took them and hid them under his cloak, in their usual spot. With the grace of a cat he lept out of the window, on to the roof of the building nextdoor. Slowly he made his way towards the edge, where he sat down under the moon. He looked across the street and saw the Renoit estate. He smiled faintly.

He felt something against his back. When he looked around he saw the tiny black cat that jumped into his room every night. He never knew who it belonged to. He never bothered trying to find out. As long as the cat kept returning every night to keep him warm, he didn't mind. It was the only thing that brightened his day. He gently stroked it's back, which led to a pur. He eased the cat onto his lap and scratched it behind the ear. A smile crossed his face for the second time that night.

Well, at least I have someone that cares about me. If only humans were cats.....

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Stepping into Milkiale’s private room was very much like entering a library. For one thing, the cramped room was literally full of stacks of books, scrolls, journals, and loose sheaths of parchment, going all the way up to the wooden ceiling. For another, from the moment the door swung shut behind her, with a slight shimmering light rippling around the room, it was completely silent. Not a single noise from outside could be heard and the sound of Aslin’s breathing seemed suddenly loud in her ears. As Mikiale had explained to her it was a variation on a Muffle spell… instead of making the caster silent it added a sound proof barrier to the walls of the room. A handy trick as the Scribe lived in a naturally loud tavern.

The elderly High-elf stood up from the solitary chair in the room as she entered, a sign of respect and a lingering Altmer manners. Aslin smiled warmly, though the gestured irked her slightly, a reminder of past pains… but Mikiale couldn’t possible know this, he was just being polite. The old Mer was always polite. He reminded her of an old servant her family had as a child. Only spoke when it was completely necessary and the soul of respect and civility.

“Thank you for coming, Ma’am.” The old elf bowed deeply, graceful despite his old age. “I fear I have received grave news from the Blooming Rose. One of the… *ahem*… Courtesan’s… has been discovered murdered this evening. Madame Ridditam is most distressed, and seemed convinced that it was the work of a member of the Dark Brotherhood.”

Aslin raised one eyebrow and a let out low whistle. “What makes the Madame think that? How was the woman killed?”

“Oddly enough the body had no visual signs of violence, though quite obviously dead. The Madame did find a note on the table and this…” Mikiale held up a small wilting purple flower, a Nightshade flower. He handed the folded piece of parchment to Aslin but she already knew what she would find on it, an image of a black hand with purple lips on the palm, the now familiar signature of Night’s Kiss.

Her mind reeled… She was completely convinced that Soris was Night’s Kiss, and that the Dunmer had purposefully let her know this in their meeting earlier. She re-examined every moment of the meeting in her mind’s eye, looking for any clue that this man had in-fact just come from murdering and who knows what else with a Courtesan just one building over. It seemed impossible that the calm and rather cheerful elf had been moments before killing someone in some means that left no visual sign. She imagined Soris’ little speech earlier while he showed off his skill with Telekinesis and casually ate poisonous Nightshade. Who was this person? She started to regret accepting his assistance in this mission as it now seemed he was a complete psychopath.

“Mikiale, my friend, I need all the information you can give me on three names.” Aslin folded up the calling card and tucked it into her bodice. The Altmer nodded silently and pulled out a clean piece of parchment and a quill.

“Night’s Kiss. Soris Renoit. And Noct.” As she said the names Mikiale wrote them down in his precise, elegant hand-writing. The elf then placed his hand on the parchment and closed his eyes. The three names began to glow bright blue as the spell was cast. Suddenly, all around the room random scrolls and books and pages began to glow the same blue. This curious spell was one of Mikiale’s own invention though it took after the Clairvoyance, from what Aslin understood, and only worked because the Scribe had written every letter of every word with a special, magically infused ink. She had limited understanding of magic, since she did not practice it, but it seemed useful, if overly complicated.

Mikiale gestured for her to sit down by the cramped desk and began swiftly moving about the room, gathering the glowing documents and placing them in piles in front of her. She scanned over the first page, easily finding the name ‘Soris Renoit’ glowing in blue, brighter than the rest of the page. It seemed to be a list of buildings purchased in Llayawiin over the course of a few years. The Guild kept tabs on large property transactions in cities that they had major stakes in. She quickly memorized the information and moved onto the next page, also a property transaction. He seemed to own at least some small holding in every city in Cyrodill and many taverns and businesses. After glancing through more and more records of Soris’ vast wealth and property she moved over and picked up the top parchment from the second stack. This seemed to be record of confirmed Dark Brotherhood assassinations and the words “Night’s Kiss” showed up several times on just the first page. The other pages also seemed to be so full of references to this prolific and notorious killer that she struggled to keep count.

The pit in her stomach grew as she read more and more about the exploits of this strange Dunmer. She barely noticed when Mikiale apparently finished gathering glowing documents and sat down silently on his bed, the only other piece of furniture in the room. The minutes passed into hours as she read, just the records of the assassinations alone was in the hundreds and went back over thirty years. This man was more dangerous then she could have possible imagined and she wondered if maybe she should in fact refuse his help and not allow him to be a part of her crew. She swiftly dismissed the idea thinking, ‘Keep your friends close and your enemies closer... and super wealthy murderous psychopaths even closer than that.’ She would keep a very close eye on him but she didn’t want to refuse a highly useful tool even if it was a bit dangerous and unsettling. ‘Silk dipped in poison, is what he is... a monster with a smile. With maybe more reach and wealth then the Guild itself…’

After filling her head with as much as she could, she noticed a single scrap of paper in its own pile. She picked it up curiously and read, “Noctis Accipitris, aka Noct. Sometimes Guild contact and agent. Possible connection to the Nightingales. Unconfirmed.”

“Is this really all we have on Noct?” She asked, her eyebrows knotted in a frown.

“Aye, Ma’am. My collection is not infallible but it seems this “Noct” is extremely elusive.”

‘Another one to keep an eye out for.’ She thought to herself. ‘Having no information is almost scarier than having all this that Soris does. Just what have I gotten myself into with this crew?’

Near the bottom of the stack Aslin found reference to a “Matthias Renoit”, possibly a relative of Soris’, in a list of past Speakers. The Speakers are only revealed as such after their deaths, though the Dark Brotherhood is very secretive of their members and the information could always be falsified. Looking back through some of the pages she did find several other references to Matthias, but only a handful of major property transactions. It seemed most of what he used to own was now owned by Soris, so she assumed it must have been his father.

She continue reading while the candles grew short and Mikiale started to hide sleepy yawns. When she noticed this she gave Mikiale her heart-felt thanks for his help and left him to sleep. The Purple Bottle was mostly empty by the time she came back out and she wondered what the hour was. She didn’t see any of her crew left so she headed out into the still raining night. She lived in the building right next to the tavern so she didn’t have far to go. At least the rain was good for her plants. When she had taken ownership of this house she had adapted the porch on the upper floor to become her garden, with all sorts of plants and flowers teaming for space and growing up her walls. The inside of the one room home was the same way, covered in greenery and exotic plants.

Aslin locked the door behind her and hung up her soaked cloak before slipping out of her leather clothes and into her sleeping hammock, wrapping the soft, rabbit fur blanket around her for warmth. Just as she started to drift off to sleep she heard a very familiar rapping at her window. With a sigh she climbed out of her hammock and crossed to the window, opening it up to allow a very wet and disheveled looking crow to hop in.

“Sorry Tak-tak… I almost forgot about you.” Aslin grabbed an apple from a bowl on her table and cut it up into bite sized chunks for the bird. Tak-tak started preening his wings and feathers, trying to dry them, all the while chittering and cawing at her in a most unhappy way. The crow had learned to repeat a few simple words but mostly just cawed. She gave him a few apple pieces and some chunks of bread to keep him satisfied and climbed back into her hammock, falling asleep almost instantly to the familiar sound of Tak-tak’s continued chitters and caws.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Aslin’s finely tuned internal clock woke her up before dawn. She awoke abruptly and hopped out of her sleeping hammock, full of excited energy. It had been sometime since she had been out on a mission and this one seemed like quite possibly the most interesting job of her career. Tak-tak woke with a loud complaining squawk, clearly not as excited by the prospects of morning as Aslin was.

“Come now, Tak-tak,” The Bosmer was in the habit of talking to this crow as though he could understand every word. “No need for your crabbiness today. I am in far too good of a mood.”

“Tak-tak! Kah!” The crow responded before flying across the small room and landing the windowsill. Aslin set a few chunks of bread and some cooked nuts on the table for his breakfast before dressing in her Deerskin jerkin and boots. She strapped her archer’s gauntlet to her arm and filled her leather satchel with the items she might need for the trip like a spare sleeping hammock, some dried meats, herbs, poisons and potions, as well as her burglary tools.

A glance out the window told her that the weather was determined to remain gloomy so she put on her long gray cloak and strapped her quiver on over that. She filled the quiver with her stockpile of arrows and grabbed her favorite long bow.

“Tak-tak! Time to go!” She called to the bird as she unlocked her door and pulled up her hood. The crow cawed “Tak-tak!” again before fluttering over and landing on her shoulder. He often rode around like this, until he’d inevitably get bored with the slow, earth-trapped, pace and would fly off, though always staying close. The two had been almost inseparable since she nursed him back to health after finding him with a broken wing as a young bird. Almost three years had passed since then and the crow had learned to repeat several short words and did in fact seem to understand Aslin most of the time. This was in part because of the natural cleverness of crows but also the special animal Magicka that the Bosmer people had natural command over.

Aslin locked up and headed out into the steady drizzle of rain. Passing by the Lucky Old Lady statue she gave it her customary kiss for luck and a few whispered wishes. The gray clouds had just begun to lighten with the approaching sunrise as she passed through the north City Gates and headed towards the Bay Roan Stables, whistling a cheery tune.

Now all she needed to do was wait for her crew.

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