The Elder Scrolls: Fate of Tamriel

Prelude: Martine - The Family Business

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Second Seed, 4E 164

He found her on the short run of steps leading down from the door of the alchemist’s shop, foiling her escape with the gentle insistence of a hand on the girl’s stomach. “Good day, Martine,” he said with mock friendliness. “Been awhile, hasn’t it? I do hope you’re well.”

“I am, Theo; thank you,” Martine replied. She hadn’t seen him since just before her thirteenth birthday, three months ago. Longer than I expected to avoid him, she thought, but still not long enough. She stopped herself from swatting his hand away. “Did you have business with Marie-Helene?” she asked, easing to the side and aiming a thumb at the alchemist’s door, though she already knew what he’d say.

Theo shook his head. “No. I was looking for you.”

“Well, here I am.” She managed some false friendliness of her own. “What can I do for you?”

“You can put my mind at ease,” Theo said. Barely three years older than Martine, Theo acted like he’d never been a child. She’d never found anything to like about him. “How are you getting by, without your father?”

“Well enough. Marie-Helene pays for exotic ingredients, and I bring her nirnroot from up the coast now and then. It’s not much, but it’s bread on the table.” Martine’s father had taught her that a partial truth was easier to swallow than a whole lie…

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Prelude: Adrielle Gets Arrested

Posted by GnomeSplosion

Early Frostfall, 4E 171

The pilgrimage from the Imperial City was going well this time. Adrielle got to leave right as the summer heat had waned and given way to the cooler fall weather. This year her journey southeast would be during the cold weather she favored from her heritage and upbringing in the middle reaches of Skyrim.

Her journey along the Gold Road toward Skingrad had been uneventful other than the occasional trader passing, trying to get their wares to one city or another, and away from the creatures that roam the Great Forest.

The road to Anvil was a long one but she had made it several times, at least twice a year for the last three years. She had come to be acquainted with the folk of County Skingrad, Kvatch and Anvil and was glad to promote the teachings of her patron Dibella wherever hearts would open to them. Fortunately her natural physique and talents kept her safe from the occasional bandit or wild animal and she had been fortunate enough to only encounter a spriggan once on her journey.

A day outside of Skingrad toward The Gold Coast Adrielle spotted a young Argonian man on the side of the road looking flustered, a smashed cart beside him. She did not know this man and she knew many of those who held business in these roads. He dressed as a merchant and his broken cart with missing horse told her he was in some sort of dire straits. She touched her holy symbol of Dibella and approached the needful traveler with a friendly “Hail!”

He claimed to be a merchant from Bravil trading goods from Black Marsh, his wares came all the way from Helstrom and were very valuable, or they were before they were stolen from him. The scaled merchant spun a tale of a flight from bandits as they attempted to run him down, take his wares, steal his horse and smash the smaller of his wagons and taking the larger. He told a woeful tale of being unable to sell his wares to cover the costs of his travel now. He then fell to his knees and pleaded aloud for help from any of the Nine that could hear him. It was then that Adrielle realized she must have been put in this place by Dibella for a reason.

With a hearty chuckle, the towering Nord offered her hand and hefted the man up easily and stated to him “You are in luck friend, for Dibella has put me on your path, and it never hurts to help.” The Argonian, who names himself Wades-in-Shallows, was elated for the assistance and then declares that with all the goods taken, the wagon shouldn’t be too far ahead and if they hurry, they could catch up in a few hours. The turn about in temperament struck the Dibellan as odd, but she chalked it up to happiness at gaining aid in such a trying time and they made haste to catch the bandits who robbed Wades-in-Shallows.

They traveled fast along the Gold Road toward Kvatch and made good time. Adrielle’s large stride and dauntless endurance coupled with the cooler weather allowed her to travel miles in short time. It was not long before Wades-in-Shallows, panting, asked her to slow; that they should be around the next bend or so, that he could hear the merrymaking of the bandits. Adrielle tilted her ear and thought she heard the sound of wares clanking and horse hooves clopping. Girding herself for a fight she caught her breath and willed energy into her hands in preparation for trouble.

She came around the bend and caught the wagon and it’s driver and two guards by surprise. She demanded that they return the goods so that no one would come to harm. The rough looking guards immediately took up an offensive stance and the driver cowered which caught Adrielle off guard. She looked over her shoulder for her Argonian companion and found herself alone in the road facing off against two angry men at the back of the wagon. Realizing that things were going wrong she took a step back to re-evaluate her situation and raised her hands for peace just in time to glance up and spot Wades-in Shallows sneak up behind the wagon driver and cut his throat.

Adrielle choked out a “No!” and one guard turned to look while the other advanced on her, sword drawn. She realized she might be able to save the wagon driver if she got to him, but that meant getting through the guards first, which meant they may have to get hurt. She turned her focus from the scoundrel Wades-in-Shallows and toward the advancing guard and encased her hands in frost and channeled her magicka into an energy draining blast of cold, which enveloped the guard and brought him to his knees, teeth chattering, body shaking until he pitched over unconscious.

Her focus on the first guard distracted her enough to allow the second guard an opening which he took. Taking the primary threat to heart he leapt at the Nord woman and struck hard with his mace, hammering at her armor. Adrielle caught a glance at Wades-in-Shallows as he used her distraction to gather goods from the wagon before returning her focus to defending her life. The Dibellan magister extended her control of the elements and surrounded herself with a wreath of crackling electricity. The guard did not notice in time, struck hard and was rebounded with a loud pop and arc of energy, leaving him stunned on the ground.

The Dibellan shakily started toward the driver and noticed that Wades-in-Shallows wasn’t to be seen. Her halting steps became a swift stride and then a sprint straight to the front of the wagon to the aid of the felled man. She dropped to her knees and cradled the stranger’s head in her lap trying to channel life and care into his wound but it wouldn’t close. It took what seemed an eternity of prayer and focus and energy before Adrielle noticed that the blood had stopped pouring from his neck before she had even gotten to him; it had been a quick death. She slumped, the world drown out in a low buzz ringing in her ears and she didn’t arise until hands were on her shoulders and arms, twisting them behind her, lifting her up painfully. She did not resist as they bound her hands and began to march. The guards words were muffled, the scenery was gray and no birds sung as Adrielle complacently allowed herself to be taken to the Imperial City for justice to be done.

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Prologue

30th of Frostfall, 4E 171

Everyone in the courtyard stared in stunned silence at the grisly offering that had tumbled from the upended cart brought in by the Thalmor ambassador. His Imperial Majesty, Titus Mede II, schooled his features from shock to stern anger. The Blades, he thought, recognizing the Akiviri helmets encasing the severed heads that spilled callously on the stone walkway in front of the White-Gold Tower at the heart of the Imperial City. All of them? he wondered, but something told him that he knew the answer, and his face grew tighter still. He forced himself to look up at the Altmer emissary.

“So,” he said softly, “It has come to this.”

The high elf sneered. “Too long has mankind misruled Tamriel, and its glory has diminished with each passing moment. The Aldmeri Dominion will allow no further degradation under your stewardship. We lay claim to the lands we have demanded, and we shall seize them by conquest since we must. War is the only language you humans seem to understand.”

Now furious, the emperor roared, “Come and take them!”

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Session 1
Bars

5th of Sun’s Dusk, 4E 171

They were standing outside of the entrance to the City Watch entrance, having just been escorted out of the Imperial City dungeon by Astius. “Well, nice to see daylight again,” said Adrielle.

The Imperial Legionnaire nodded. “You have a few days in the city while we get a few things in order. Feel free to bunk at the barracks. Present your Conscription Paperwork to the sergeant there. Do you have any questions?”

“Well, do you have a preferred lodging?” asked the Nord. “I enjoy my lodgings at the Temple of the Nine. But if you prefer to keep an eye on us it’s understandable.” The Imperial shrugged and shook his head.

“I also have a home here,” said Kang.

“I … think that was seized by the crown when you were arrested,” said Astius. Martine half-stifled a snort.

“Oh no! That’s unfortunate, Kang. Can we help you retrieve it?” said Adrielle.

“Hmph … legal theft,” said the Orsimer. “The law is where the weak make everyone think that being controlled is for their own good. I’ll deal with that later.” Martine nodded in agreement then saw Astius doing the same and frowned.

“Okay, let me know and I’ll be glad to help,” said the Dibellan.

“The barracks it is then,” said Kang.

“As for me, I’ve got what I need,” said Martine. “Except a bed and a door I can close. And, Divines willing, lock.”

“Will we actually be outfitted now that I am a Legion man, or will I need to spend the next few days dealing with that?” asked Kang.

Astius nodded again. “You will be outfitted, yes. The quartermaster will get you set up.”

“I’m good then. Come get me when we need to start getting bloody.”

“Be at the SpecGold office an hour after daybreak on Middas. We’ll have your orders by then.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “Of course, if you change your minds and decide to go AWOL. Well. May the Divines have mercy upon you, because the Legion will not.” He smiled pleasantly.

“Oh, Dibella forgive me if something like that were to happen!” said Adrielle. “But no, I’ll be glad to help out, see you then!” Martine nodded, fastidiously avoiding eye contact with Astius.

“Don’t worry. I’ll honor the agreement. Until I don’t.” He smiled, just as pleasantly.

Astius chuckled. “Until then.” He saluted and turned to leave.

Adrielle saluted back. “Thank you!” she called after him.

Martine started to salute but dropped it once she realized that Astius wasn’t looking. “I may never get used to that,” she muttered to herself.

Adrielle’s turned to her two companions. “So, have any of you been in the Imperial City before? I’ve been here a couple of times in my pilgrimages for Dibella. We’re free, let’s go and see what there is to see!”

“This is my first time here,” Martine lied. “Please, let the way.”

Kang made a sour face. “What are the damn odds that it would be the two of you that I’d get stuck with? If I believed in higher powers I’d think this happened for a reason.”

“The Nine never act randomly,” said Adrielle. “The Daedra maybe. But I see it as a gift from Dibella that we all found each other again.” She started walking toward the market district, and the others trailed behind her.

“A gift! Right. Exactly,” said Martine.

“Well might as well make the best of it,” said Kang, bringing up the rear.

They passed a number of shops with a variety of offerings, and Adrielle took on a lecturing tone. “Down there is the Three Brothers Trade Goods and Jensine’s ‘good as new’ merchandise,” she said, gesturing to the left. Then, she drew her companions’ attention the other direction. “And here is Divine Elegance, Mystic Emporium, Slash N Smash…”

“This would be the best city to have some money in,” Martine groused.

“That’s what I was thinking,” said Kang. “Not too big on window shopping.”

“Someday,” she said, lingering a bit at Divine Elegance’s window.

“Oh, well do we want to try visiting the Elven Gardens District?” asked Adrielle, putting her hand beside her mouth. “Lots of rich people there. Or the Arena, Talos Plaza District? The city is a circle, so if we just keep going we’ll cover it all.”

“How about we head over to the Arena district,” suggested Kang. “I know a tavern keeper there that will set us up. He was a big fan. It’s been too long since I got my hands on good beer and better meat.”

“Okay! Drink is always a good go to,” said Adrielle. As Martine followed, she truly smiled for the first time in days.

It was early in the afternoon, so there was a good lunch crowd when they walked in. A brotherly cheer went up when the other patrons saw Kang walk in. The former Arena Champion bellowed out his signature roar, and the crowd cheered. “Weren’t you tossed in the clink for murder or summat?” someone asked jovially.

“Nah, it were for knockin’ boots with the Emperor’s Mother!” said another.

Your Mother!” retorted a third. A fight broke out. To Kang, it felt just like old times.

A table was cleared for the trio, before the Orsimer saw a familiar face sitting at the bar. “I’ll be back,” he told the ladies. See an old friend I need to catch up with.” He headed over.

“I-” Martine watched Kang depart then turned to Adrielle. “Do you know why he was imprisoned?”

Adrielle shrugged. “Actually no. But maybe we were put in his way to help him out with his reasons or consequences.”

A waiter arrived, forestalling the conversation and said, “What can I get you ladies to drink?”

“Oh, what a boisterous place!” said Adrielle. “Have you any mead?” A moment later, three varietals were brought for her inspection. She ordered a tankard of Honningbrew, and Martine chose a fine Alto Wine.

The Breton wrinkled her nose. “More of that pickle juice, Adrielle?”

“Pickle juice? You mean that sweet taste of honey and nectar down your throat with just enough of the good stuff to loosen up. I’ll never understand how you can enjoy Alto Wine over fine Nord mead. But I would never judge you for it. Most sacraments at the temple use wines so it’s good for that.”

Adrielle took a large couple of gulps from the tankard, which was almost small in her gargantuan hand. “Ahhhhhh. Taste of home,” said the Nord.

Martine’s eyes widened at the sight. She moved a little closer to Adrielle. “Truth is, mead is so sweet it’s easy for me to drink too much, too quickly. No telling what I might do in such a state.”

“Heh. Well, as long as you do not regret what you do in that state, it is no problem.” Adrielle took another large pull at the tankard then put a hand over her Dibellan holy symbol. “Bless this night and these friends.” Then she drained the last of her tankard.

Over at the bar, Owydon gave Kang a solemn look. “Glad to see you out, son. Thought I’d seen the last of you when I heard about your arrest.”

“I’m not really out,” said Kang. “Just traded imprisonment for enslavement really. You are looking at a bona fide soldier now. Can you believe they were stupid enough to do that?” he laughed loudly.

The Redguard snorted. “Soldier, eh? Strange times.” He seemed to have something on his mind, like he wanted to say more.

“How have you been?” Kang asked. “Still spending your time working around the arena, I see.”

Owydon shrugged. “Well enough. Someone’s gotta run the place. Buncha young bloods coming up, full of piss and vinegar and not much sense.”

“Sounds familiar. Why don’t you come join us at the table and tell us about it? I’ll introduce you to my ‘unit’. Whatever that means.”

The older man hesitated. “I don’t know. Gotta get back to work soon…”

“Oh come on. It’s not every day your favorite monster gets out of prison. Just have one drink with us.”

“One drink,” Owydon agreed.

“Great! You’re buying.”

After getting their ale from the barkeep, the two men walked back over to the table where the ladies were drinking. “Adrielle, Martine, meet Owydon. He’s the man who taught me how to ‘pretend’ to be civilized when I first came to town.”

“I will drink to that,” said Martine. “Well met, Owydon! That must have been quite a challenge.”

“I’ve had more difficult tasks, but that was in the top five easily,” he replied. She laughed a bit too brightly at that and looked down into her cup. The old Redguard, with his warrior’s build, reminded her of Tralen.

“Hello Owydon! Glad to make your acquaintance!” Adrielle stood and reached out to shake his hand.

He looked up (and up) at Adrielle then took the Nord’s hand, shaking it firmly. “A pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“I actually met these two at different times before I arrived in the Empire. Adrielle is one of the few people I can say who have ever knocked me on my ass. Martine and I met under less appealing circumstances. Still trying to figure her out.” Martine attempted an enigmatic smile.

“Knocking on your ass was only out of necessity,” said Adrielle. “It wasn’t an easy feat.”

“I see,” said Owydon. “Kang mentioned you’re part of a Legion unit?”

“Oh, we are,” said Adrielle.

“They mentioned the name of the group we are with, but I wasn’t really paying much attention,” said Kang.

“Oh! It’s the Friends of the Empire Guild,” the Nord said brightly.

“I wonder if they’d entertain a change,” said Martine. “What’s Cyrodiil for ‘We Who Are About to Die’?”

“Arena Chum,” Owydon deadpanned.

“Ha! Arena Chum. Always got caught between my teeth,” said Kang.

Owydon nodded at the ex-gladiator then addressed the women. “Were you volunteers? You don’t look like typical Legionnaires.”

“I’ve chosen to think of it as community service,” said Martine.

“Yes, community service is about right,” said Adrielle. “But they could have just asked, I’d have been glad to help either way!”

“So, you were conscripted, too,” said the Redguard. Adrielle noticed him glancing surreptitiously at Kang, His expression looked a little guilty.

Martine snapped her fingers. “That’s the word! Right. Conscripted.”

The Nord grinned. “So how do you know each other Mister Owydon?”

“Well, when he came to the Imperial City, all he had was rage and raw talent. I helped him become a gladiator. Then he helped himself become Champion.”

“Shame he ended up in prison, I mean if he was Champion.”

“That makes it a real rags-to-rags story,” said Martine.

“Aye.” Owydon looked down at his drink.

“I was getting bored anyhow. Not much left after you kill the reigning champ. And besides, the riches were nice but even the prison was a step up from where I lived most of my life. Didn’t bother me. I knew I wouldn’t be there long.” Owydon looked up at the Orsimer, expression thoughtful.

“By the Nine such a shame,” said Adrielle. “Surely you both invested so much time and effort. We’ll have to get all of ourselves back up on top.” Martine spit-took into her cup and excused herself to get a refill from the bar. Adrielle snerked at the outburst.

“SpecGold!” Kang cried out suddenly. “That’s what it was. What a dumb name.”

“Yes!” Adrielle exclaimed. “Not Friends of the Empire Guild. However, we are friends of the Empire. Just not a guild as such.” When she returned, Martine set another tankard of mead in front of the Nord. “Dibella bless you, Martine.” She smiled and took a large gulp.

Kang looked over at Owydon again. “What’s the Arena action these days? Anything interesting?”

“Well, there’s a new ‘Champion’, for whatever that’s worth.”

“Anyone I know?”

“I doubt it. New guy outta the highlands. Fergus.” The distaste on his face was evident.

“Fergus the Champion!” said Adrielle. “Well, not quite the ring as Kang.”

“Sounds like a pussy,” said Kang.

Adrielle blushed. “Language.”

“A pussy isn’t weak,” Martine said into her cup. “She’ll push a whole baby out.”

“How does Fergus having female genitals make him weak anyway…?” wondered Adrielle. She drank down her mead and thunked the tankard onto the table. “Another please?”

“Already? What are you doing with it?” asked Martine.

Adrielle giggled. “Drinking it!”

Kang laughed loudly. “You two are definitely not the kind of women I’ve usually brought into this place.”

Owydon shook his head, bemused. “Will you be sticking around the city?”

“For the next couple days,” said Kang. “After that I don’t know.”

“Until they shuttle us off on our first task,” said Adrielle. “Which will probably be tomorrow.”

Owydon nodded and emptied his glass. Then he stood. “Ladies, a pleasure. Kang.” He leaned down near the Orc and said something in a tone not meant to carry. Martine cocked her head to the side and managed to overhear.

“Pretty sure Fergus is on the take. I know you’re no innocent, but you didn’t kill the man they say you did. I think you might have been framed because you wouldn’t take a fall. You didn’t hear it from me, but you might ask around about a merchant named Tristane.”

Kang’s eyes flared up for a moment. “Thanks for the info. If any of it were true, heads will roll. Literally.”

Owydon nodded. “Take care of yourself, son.” He clapped Kang on the shoulder and walked away.

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Session 2
Gladiators

“Do you know this Tristane?” Martine asked, ignoring the fact that she’d been eavesdropping.

“Not off hand,” Kang replied. “But I never really pay much attention to people unless they are a threat or prey. I’ll know him soon though.”

Adrielle downed the rest of her mead and put down her tankard, looking incredulously between her companions. “What? Who? I’m obviously missing something here.”

Owydon told me he thinks Tristane was to blame for my arrest. I think we should go have a talk with the man.”

“I suppose, if you can find his gladiator, he’d know where to find Tristane,” said Martine.

Kang snorted. ”Fergus? Sounds like fun.”

“This sounds like a wrong that needs be righted,” said the Nord. Then her eyes widened in excitement. “Oh, if we prove your innocence does that mean the SpecGold will have to free you from your contract? Or … is the goal more revenge?”

“I don’t mind being Legion now,” said Kang. “And really I don’t care enough about what happened to want revenge. But I don’t appreciate being controlled. And Tristane will find that out.”

“I would hate to be him right about now,” said Adrielle.

Martine opened her mouth to say something, but closed it as Kang stood up and bellowed to the room, “Hey! Where would I go to find this … Fergus!”

After a babble of conflicting answers, someone meekly suggested, “The Arena?” At that the Orsimer looked at his companions and headed out of the tavern.

Adrielle put her hand to her mouth and muttered to Martine, “Well that’s one way to do it.” Martine gathered her effects and followed Kang out the door. Adrielle got up swiftly, dropping a couple septims on the table, before trailing her companions outside.

A number of gladiator regulars were in the training yard running drills, sparring, and exercising. Martine looked them over like she was at the window of a butcher’s shop. Kang sized up the yard to see who the alpha was. Adrielle leaned sideways toward him and whispered out of the side of her mouth, “So which one is it?”

Kang pointed to a man in flashy imperial armor, replete with crested helm. “That one … the one that smells awful.” The indicated gladiator looked pretty smug, lounging and barking criticism masked as suggestions to some others as they train.

“Thankfully I can’t smell him,” said the Nord.

Martine nodded. “Neither can- Oh, no. Yes, I can.”

Kang crossed the yard and strode up to Fergus. Adrielle bowed up to her full height, pushed her chest out, and marched behind her friend. Martine brought up the rear, trying to focus.

“Fergus. I hear you rule the Arena now. I’m happy for you. I had my way with her and was done with her anyhow.” Adrielle glanced down at the Orsimer, surprised at his words.

Fergus looked up at Kang dubiously, with one eyebrow cocked. “And you are?”

“The person you were lucky enough not to have to face to sit in that cushy seat.”

“Uh-huh.” Some of the other gladiators nearby seemed to recognize Kang and either tensed up or started paying very close attention. The shift in the wind did not escape Martine’s attention.

“I’m looking for a man named Tristane,” continued Kang. “How about you tell me how to locate him. Let’s call it cooperation between warriors.”

“How about you piss off,” said Fergus.

“Ooh,” said Martine. Adrielle frowned.

“I only ask nicely once,” said Kang. “What’ll it be.”

Fergus considered the Orsimer with a bored expression. “I’m thinking Cyrodiilic may not be your first language, so I’ll speak more slowly. Piss. Off.”

Kang pounced. A little surprised, Fergus tried to roll out of the way and trip the Orsimer up in the same move, but only managed to wind up Off Balance.

“Crap,” said Adrielle, turning toward Martine. “Run interference,” she said, nodding toward the crowd of gladiators.

Martine turned to face the other gladiators. “This is between them,” she said. “Let them have their … their tussle.” All of the gathered warriors seemed content to watch the fight play out.

Kang turned and threw a punch at Fergus. The man’s eyes widened in rage as he got his feet beneath him, pulling a nearby practice sword and striking for Kang’s head. The Orsimer stepped inside his opponent’s reach and caught Fergus’ sword arm in one hand. Kang snapped his head forward, but the Imperial pulled back and retreated a few steps away. Then he lunged forward, feinting high before sweeping his sword at Kang’s legs.

Kang fell On His Ass hard and his expression showed his surprise. “Stay down, Orc,” hissed Fergus.

“Crap,” Adrielle said again. Both she and Martine had stopped watching the other gladiators, eyes fixed on the conflict.

Kang roared with rage and lunged from the ground with a clawed hand. Fergus’ eyes widened at the ferocity and speed of Kang’s attack, before the Orsimer’s claws raked across his forehead. Blinded By Blood, the Imperial held one hand over his eyes and lashed out wildly with the practice sword.

Kang rushed forward in a powerful shoulder tackle, slamming into Fergus and knocking him to the ground. In his frustration at being Sprawled Out, the Imperial threw his sword at Kang, but the Orsimer sidestepped the projectile with ease.

“Daaaamn!” said Martine.

Kang advanced, applying fist to torso. Fergus winced at his Bruised Ribs and put a hand up. “Enough!” he shouted, conceding. “I don’t have time for this. If you have a problem with Tristane, take it up with him. He owns the Copious Coinpurse.” A few of the other gladiators exchanged looks. Some shuffled off toward the Arena proper, and others went back to whatever they were doing before the fight.

Kang nodded. “I’ll be seeing you, Champion.” He turned and walked over to his companions.

“Nice work,” said Martine.

“Thanks for watching my back there,” he said.

“I was afraid we were going to have to pull you off of him,” said Adrielle. “Murder wouldn’t go over very well probably, but well done otherwise.”

“I wanted to kill him,” said Kang. “Owydon taught be how to hold back, because it’s frowned upon to kill in the Arena without the approval of the crowd.”

“I did not know that,” said Martine.

“So where is the Copious Coinpurse?”

“Oh, this way!” said Adrielle, leading her companions away from the Arena and back toward the Market District.

“May as well get on with it, sure,” said Martine, trailing the Nord.

As they neared their destination, Kang talked strategy. “So normally I would do to Tristane what I just did to that pussy. I was right about that, by the way. But I don’t think that will actually prove anything. Any ideas?”

Martine looked over the building, scowling. “I don’t know that a confession would do much good; it’d still be his word against yours.”

“I’m not trying to settle this with any authority other than myself. I just want to know for sure that he did it.”

The Breton looked skeptical. “And if he says that he did? You’d be satisfied with that?”

“Are we expecting anything other than a ‘yeah that was me, please don’t kill me’?” asked Adrielle. “If we get that, then what?”

“I’m sure I could scare him enough to admit to every murder in the last 2 years,” said Kang. “But I can’t stand people pulling my strings. And if he didn’t do it, then my strings are being pulled by someone else. Would people keep any kind of evidence of something like what happened to me?”

“A man like this probably writes down every septim he makes, so yeah, maybe,” said Martine, continuing to case the joint.

“That’s good, Martine. We could look for something like that.”

“But what do we do with that new information?” Adrielle persisted.

“My instinct is always to remove the threat from reality,” said Kang. “But there are other options.”

“At the very least we should probably turn him in, once again, murder wouldn’t serve us very well,” said the Nord.

“Turning him in wouldn’t serve us very well either.”

“It may not serve us, but it would serve society and the greater good.”

“I bet I can get in after dark,” said Martine. “Or, if somebody wants to run interference, I could poke around right now.”

Kang grinned. “I knew you were a good person to have around.”

Martine smiled.

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Session 3
Shops

“Feel like doing some shopping?” Kang asked.

“I always feel like shopping…” said Adrielle.

“How much time do you need?” the Orsimer asked Martine.

“Give me ten minutes.” She sounded pretty sure.

“…But what is the plan?” the Nord continued. “So we go in and confront this guy, he admits to things… Then you say you remove him from the equation, but what does that mean?”

Kang shrugged, unconcerned. “I won’t know until I talk to the man. But first I just want to give Martine time to go through the back rooms and offices to find some evidence. I’m pretty sure if the two of us walk in there we will draw everyone’s attention.” Martine nodded once, shrugged one strap of her pack off her shoulder, and started down the alley to the back of the building.

“Well, I’m glad to look at their wares in general,” said Adrielle. Then she crossed the street and entered the shop, with Kang tromping in behind her.

As they came in, the shopkeep looked up. He gave Kang a mildly concerned look before smiling at the Nord. “Welcome to the Copious Coinpurse. Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with.”

“Yes! Do you have these blue velvet shoes in a size ten?” Adrielle asked. In short order the shopkeep was distracted by shoppers, and she was happy to talk to him about clothes and ask for assistance in sizing. He directed her attention to a number of Altmer clothing items that appeared to be deeply discounted.

Behind the shop, Martine found a back door. It was, predictably, locked. Having expected that, she glanced around to make sure no one was in line of sight, then took a knee and fished her lockpicks from her readied pack. A couple of skilled moments later, she quietly opened the door and slipped inside.

The back room was apparently used for storage and office space. Martine noted a door that presumably led to the front of the shop, then approached a nearby desk in what appeared to serve as the office for the Coinpurse. Several books rested atop and around the desk, and it had a couple of locked drawers. The whole area was pretty fastidiously clean.

Keeping an eye on the door to the shop, the Breton swiftly and silently picked the locks on both drawers. She found sacks of septims, a couple of wooden chests containing gemstones, and a pair of hardbound ledgers. She skimmed through the ledgers, looking for any mention of Kang.

A whole section of one of the volumes appeared to cover transactions related to the Arena, but she found no reference to Kang. The only tenuous link she could fine was that the first entry was from about six months back – around the time that Kang had been arrested and tossed into the dungeon. She sighed, put the Arena ledger into her bag, took two sacks of loot and headed out the back door.

Closing it behind her, she sauntered back around to the front of the shop and casually strolled through the customer entrance. The shopkeep glanced over at Martine with a smile and said, “Ah, welcome, Miss. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

“Any luck?” Kang asked her in an undertone. She shook her head in the negative. The Orsimer cursed quietly. “We need to find Tristane.” Martine nodded helplessly, then made her way to Adrielle’s side.

The Nord was busy fawning over a gorgeous green gown. Beside her lay a tidy stack of clothing that the shopkeep was pleased to sell her. Martine glanced at the goods. “Find anything I have to buy for you?” she asked.

“If you’re offering,” Adrielle said with a smile. She waved at the shopkeep to gather her things, which he did, placing them on the counter. After polite and cursory haggling, Martine handed the merchant some of the money she’d pilfered from the office in exchange for the clothing.

Adrielle grabbed Martine up in a big bear-hug. “Thank you!” she exclaimed. Martine’s reply was mostly raw exhalation as she felt some ribs creak.

The shopkeep smiled broadly. “Is there anything else I can help you ladies with? Or you, sir?” He included Kang as an afterthought.

“Nah. I’m just keeping an eye on the ladies,” said the Orsimer, assuming the role of bodyguard and porter. The merchant nodded at him somewhat dismissively.

“Thank you too sir!” Adrielle said to the merchant as he bagged her garments and offered them to Kang. The Orsimer concealed his gritted teeth as he accepted them. The Nord hooked her arm in Martine’s and started to the door, half-dragging the Breton out into the street. Kang trailed behind them.

“Come again!” the shopkeep called after them.

Once they were outside, Martine took point, leading her companions away from the shop. “Did you learn anything at all?” Kang asked once they had stopped.

“There was a ledger of Arena payments that started about six months ago,” Martine said, reaching into her bag. “Nothing that mentioned you, though.”

“Let me see it. I might recognize some of the fighters at least.” He reviewed the section the Breton indicated. Most of the entries appeared to be bets, but some of them had names called out. Kang recognized some of them – lesser competitors for the most part, but some of the more recent ones were for higher amounts to better gladiators. The profits from the bets always seemed to be higher than the amounts apparently paid to the gladiators. The ledger painted a picture of someone meticulously rigging the Arena games and profiting from their slow game.

“Do either of you think you can go back in there and sweet talk the guy into telling you where Tristane is? Or where he lives?” Kang asked. “Tell him you are looking to buy a lot more and want to talk to the owner or something.”

Adrielle nodded. “I could try to talk to him, ask about Tristane.”

“Go for it. If that doesn’t work, I’ll go beat it out of him.”

She frowned. “Poor man, I’ll be glad to ask him.” She went back to the shop, Martine following her.

The shopkeep was pleased to see them return so soon. “Oh! Welcome back! Decide to get something you were wavering on. That high elf ball gown, perhaps? As I mentioned, we have a tailor I could recommend to make adjustments.”

Adrielle smiled at him. “I’m so sorry to be a bother sir, but I kept thinking about these Altmer dresses that are heavily discounted. Are you the head proprietor Tristane?”

The shopkeep chuckled politely. “No, my dear. I simply run this establishment on Master Aurilie’s behalf. As for the discounts, well.” He looked a bit abashed. “Well, since the declaration of war with the Aldmeri Dominion, I’m afraid such garments immediately fell out of fashion in the Empire.”

Adrielle and Martine exchanged a glance when mentioned the war, but that gave the Nord an idea. “Would I perhaps be able to find him or set up a meeting with him? I may be able to help him get a better price on these wares if he were interested.”

The shopkeep’s expression turned skeptical, and in a cautious tone he says, “We … are trying to get out of the business of Altmer goods as quickly as possible to avoid a loss of reputation.”

“Oh, but considering the state of things, and as you said, he is trying to get out of the business, wouldn’t it do him better to sell it in large quantities and make a bit better coin that the paltry prices he is selling it for? It’s a win-win situation if you ask me, but I understand some keepers prefer to do things their own way I don’t wish to upset his business practices.”

“You represent another vendor, then? One with the capability to unload such tainted goods?” He sounded mildly suspicious.

“Oh, I have friends with the means to buy such goods. Cloth is still cloth and just because its form is that of an Altmer dress doesn’t mean that it can’t serve as the means of keeping a displaced refugee warm at night. But as I said, all I am asking is to speak with the owner Tristane, if he dislikes the idea then so be it.”

“I take your point, but…” the shopkeep said. “Well, never mind. It’s not for me to decide the master’s business arrangements. I could tell him you’d like to schedule an appointment, though I’m afraid he’s booked up for the rest of the week.”

“That may work in our favor,” said Martine. “It’ll give us time to attend to that other matter.”

The shopkeep gave her a blank look. “If you’d like, I can check his schedule for certain. I’ll just have to step into the back for a moment.”

“Very good, I’m glad to make such an arrangement,” said Adrielle.

Martine elbowed the Nord in the ribs, concerned that he might discover the burglary from the office and figure out that she had been the burglar. ”Or … perhaps we should come back once we’ve had a look at our own schedule,” she said.

“Oh, yes,” said Adrielle, trying to hide her confusion. “I suppose we should return. Our friend has been waiting with our goods outside and he gets very cranky. I’m sorry, we need to go check on him. Thank you!”

Martine nodded. “Just so. Good day!” Now she was the one half-dragging Adrielle out the door.

“As you like,” the shopkeep said, a little mystified.

Once they’d made it back to Kang, Adrielle asked, “What? Why? You wanted me to get an appointment!”

Martine whispered, “He’ll notice that the – the ledger is missing.”

“This is why we need a better plan!”

“What plan? I’m making this up as I go.”

“I know.” Adrielle sighed and then smiled. “It’s more exciting this way, I guess.”

Kang raised one big, bushy eyebrow. “I take it things didn’t go smoothly.”

“He isn’t Tristane,” said Martine. “We got that far.”

“He wanted to check the schedule to help us set up an appointment with Tristane, but the schedule and ledger locations were trouble I guess?” Adrielle added with a shrug.

“I could put it back?” the Breton offered, meekly.

“Oh, I’m not saying that,” said Adrielle. “I just didn’t think about it.” She offered Martine a reassuring smile.

“We are leaving soon,” said Kang. “There’s no time for an appointment. Time to do it my way.” With that, he stormed off toward the shop

Martine stood still, shocked. “Well, shite.”

“Oh, crap,” Adrielle agreed. “He’s a bit of a hot-head isn’t he? He’s going to get us arrested again.”

“Meet you back at the barracks if this all goes south?”

“Well, if it goes south, and he hurts that man, we are responsible to help him… Kang is somewhat our responsibility.”

“True. He might not be the type to cut and run.”

Kang’s violent entrance sent the shop bell flying across the room. “I beg your pardon, sir!” the shopkeep protested. “This is most improper!”

“TRISTANE! WHERE IS HE? NOW!” Kang demanded. He rounded the counter, grabbed the shopkeep, and pinned him up in the air against the wall with one hand.

Eyes wide with fright, the shopkeeper said, “I don’t know where he is minute to minute, sir. But he can usually be found at the Merchants’ Inn for supper most evenings.” His voice almost didn’t crack.

Kang released the shopkeep, who shakily smoothed the front of his tunic as he tried to summon his dignity. “Will that be all, sir?”

“Great,” said Kang. “You’re a smart guy. But I recommend you don’t get any smarter. You are going to finish your day in the shop without attempting to reach Tristane. If I find out otherwise I’ll be back.” Without another word, he turned and left.

6 PM, Merchants’ Inn

The unit sat at a table picking at a tray of snacks and nursing their drinks while they waited. They had spoken with a couple of the other patrons to get some more details about Tristane. He was a Breton in his late twenties or early thirties, with dark hair and a haughty disposition. He was notably not part of the Merchant Consortium, but that apparently didn’t stop him from frequenting the establishment.

They looked up as the front door opened and the man they’d been waiting for strolled in.

Martine recognized him from a former life.

Theo.

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Interlude: Clothes for the Poor
Adrielle Makes Good on a Lie

Posted by GnomeSplosion

The distracting and lying to the poor merchant at The Copious Coinpurse didn’t sit well with Adrielle. The further lying to find out about Tristane was even more disconcerting and so she set her mind to remedy that. As soon as she had a chance she would go to the Temple of the Nine and petition the priests to use the church funds to begin purchasing up Altmeri clothing for use to comfort the poor refugees from wartorn regions.

After watching Kang return victorious from the shop and a brief exchange about how he had uncover his quarry’s whereabouts the party had several hours before they needed to meet Tristane so it was time to turn a lie into a truth. Adrielle excused herself from the group and stated she needed to check into the Temple and let them know she was safe. No time was wasted for words, Adrielle, eager to do right, was off.

She hastened toward the Temple of the Nine in hopes that her plan would bear fruit. Why hadn’t she thought of it before, there are always materials for those who will look for them. Her feet took her swiftly up the steps of the temple and through the gates of the Dibellan quarter where she was greeted with smiles from the first couple of followers as she slowed and asked for the whereabouts of the High Priestess Corelia.

A little leg work and some zig-zagging through halls and shrines to the various Aedra before she found herself approaching Corelia, the high priestess in charge of accounting affairs for the temple. Slowing to catch her breath she approached the older woman calmly.

Adrielle mustered up all the presence and determination she could to present her idea and spoke passionately about her plan that would surely benefit everyone involved. Corelia listened intently but posed her own concerns. “Who will disassemble the garments?” “Who will sew the cloth back together into something useful for the poor?” “Where shall we store these things?” Adrielle thought for a moment about it and the answers came to her. She proposed that the deposed families, in exchange for shelter, food and divine blessings provided by the church, could aid their fellows in these tasks. Surely there would be families in need who would benefit from this exchange and the more aid provided, the more assistance could be gleaned. People would need shelter, the wounded would need healing and blessings. The homeless would need food and clothes and blankets. Dibella teaches love and kindness to her followers and what better way to show this than to alleviate the pain and suffering of the stricken in their time of need.

Corelia listened to the armored priestess intently. She was moved by the fervor in Adrielle’s words and the determination in her plan. Perhaps it would do the temple good to show it’s support of the Empire against the Altmer. The human worshiped Aedra were, after all, part of the reason the high elves hated man so much. Corelia smiled, convinced by Adrielle that this was the right and just course of action and took the hands of the Dibellan. “Yes child, I believe your heart and mind are in the right place. I will allocate what funds and resources are necessary and present this to the other priests and priestesses and we will get in touch with this Tristane about a contract. The deal is not done yet, but we will indeed try. You are a special one and I am glad that Dibella found her way into your heart.”

Content with this reaction Adrielle was practically skipping with delight through the halls of the Nine. Her armor jangling and clanking with each boisterous footstep she made her way out to the city proper. As she passed the gates to head off to meet back up with her allies she breathed a sigh of relief and praising her favored goddess.

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Session 4
Deals

Tristane looked smarmily around the room before strolling up to the bar and ordering a drink. The other merchants had a few disgruntled looks for the young man. The barkeep didn’t seem to give a rat’s ass, happily pouring the man’s drink and accepting the sizable tip he provided. Drink in hand, the Breton merchant chatted amiably with a couple of nearby patrons who didn’t seem to share the other merchants’ distaste for him.

Martine’s eyes widened and she gasped sharply, as if she’d been punched in the stomach. Adrielle looked over at the Breton, confused. She leaned over and put a hand on Martine’s arm. “I am thinking you recognize our quarry?”

The Nord’s reassurance snapped Martine back to her senses. She looked at Adrielle and nodded until she remembered how talking works, then blurted, “He’s the reason I left High Rock. He’s a guild thief there.” She looked back at the man she knew as Theo. “Or he was.”

Adrielle felt the muscles of the Breton’s arm tensing. She put her hand reassuringly on Martine’s and gave her a smile. “It will be okay.”

“You think so?”

Kang quirked an eyebrow at Martine’s reaction. “So, he’s an ex. Great.”

“What? No!” she insisted with more disgust than was necessary. “He, um…” She was determinedly avoiding eye contact now. “He did make things complicated with my ex, though.”

“So he messed with your ex, and you ended up here. And now he’s here. Do you think he came here for you? Maybe you should tell us more.”

Adrielle frowned a little at Kang. “We have your back, and I’m pretty sure that he will not want to anger us.”

Martine smiled and relaxed, a little. “Yeah. Yeah, you’re right. He isn’t here for me. He can’t be. Why would he be, you know, a merchant here?”

Kang shrugged and suggested, “As a front for criminal enterprises, such as fixing gladiator fights. I think I like this guy.”

“There’s no accounting for taste. But, in the end, he hurt you more’n he hurt me, Kang. So if you want to take point here, I’ll back your play.”

“Oh!” said Adrielle. “Maybe this would be a good time to discuss plans for when we get his confession? Because now this affects both of you.”

“I think both of you are starting to think the worst of me. I wonder why?’ Kang said with a toothy grin. “But in this case, you’d both be wrong. I respect people with the influence cleverness to seize power in the world. It’s the way of things. My plan was to call him on his part in framing me, and then make him cut me in on his profits.”

Martine’s smile broadened. “Oh, don’t worry. He won’t go for that at all.”

“Well, then I could rip his arms off.”

Adrielle frowned. “I don’t think I like this plan, after all. But he sounds like a terrible man, and I, for one, am much more resolute on taking him down a peg or two.” She squeezed Martine’s hand once more. “Shall we approach him together?”

Martine nodded. “I mean, he’s got a new name; maybe he’s got a new bag. I guess we’ll just have to see.” She stood and headed toward the bar, still holding onto Adrielle’s hand until she had to let go to let a serving wench pass between them. The Nord marched alongside trying to appear imposing.

In typical Kang style, the Orismer bellowed from across the room. As he moved towards Tristane “Tristie! Is that you! How the hell are you? People, I give you the man that made me what I am today. Let me buy you a round.” He took a seat next to Tristane, clasping a giant hand on his shoulder in ‘friendship’.

To his credit, the Breton took this development in stride, casually turning his head toward the giant Orsimer. He smiled disarmingly, “My old friend. It has been awhile.” Tristane tapped the bar with two fingers, and the barkeep brought a pair of ales.

“It’s a fine evening for reunions,” Martine said, appearing on the merchant’s other side. “And, it could be said, Kang made you who you are today, ‘Tristane.’”

Tristane turned his attention toward Martine, squinting a little in hazy recognition. “I do know you from somewhere, don’t I?” A moment later, he snapped his fingers. “Little Martine! As I live and breathe. My, this is turning into an interesting evening.”

“And it’s just getting started, friend,” said Kang.

Adrielle came up behind Tristane, boxing him in between the other two. “Hello, new friend!”

Tristane glanced over his shoulder and chortled. “We should get a table, it seems.”

“Fine with me,” said Kang. “But let’s get a private room. The tables in the main room of places like this are always too small.”

“I couldn’t agree more.” He gestured to the barkeep, who directed the party toward a curtained area. Martine headed in that direction, glad she got some kind of reaction from the man. In short order, they found themselves seated in a private booth with Tristane. Food and more drinks were brought, and they began to dine.

Tristane started the conversation. “Well, Martine I know. Knew,” he amended. “But I’m afraid I’ll need to be properly introduced to Old Friends and New.” He gestured to Kang and Adrielle in turn. “I’ve heard a couple of tales about you today, but….”

“Kang, former champion of the Arena. This is Adrielle. Sweet girl. But don’t piss her off. She packs a punch.”

Tristane smiled. “Noted.”

Adrielle washed down a large gulp of mead “Hello. I am also a priestess of Dibella. A pleasure I’m sure.”

“Indeed, a pleasure to make your acquaintances. I am, as you know, Tristane. Though Martine knew me as ‘Theo’ back in High Rock.” Martine nodded and sipped her wine, as the merchant turned his attention to Kang. “I have it from two reliable sources that you are not a force to be trifled with. So, tell me. Why have you been seeking me out?”

“Well, to congratulate you on your dealings this past year. My own reliable sources have told me all about the real circumstances around my arrest. And I’ve seen the evidence of your hand in the pocket of the arena as well. Takes big stones to play at that level.”

Tristane pursed his lips. “I understand half of that.” He looked over at Martine. “I assume you absconded with my ledger and some petty cash earlier?” Adrielle’s eyebrows shot upward.

“Not as riveting a read as I’d hoped,” admitted Martine. “Half the cash you got back already. Would you like the rest?”

He seemed to think about it for a moment then shook his head. “Buy dinner and we’ll call it square.” Turning back to Kang, he didn’t see her look of disappointment. “As for your arrest, I assume from context that you’ve been led to believe that I am responsible. It is not so. Would I orchestrate a frame job? Sure. But murder is bad for business.

“In truth, I approached Owydon before your incarceration to see if you would be open to the prospect of a little side cash. He seemed offended by the notion.”

Kang shrugged. “I respect your resourcefulness, Theo, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to trust you. Convince me.”

Tristane smiled, bemused. “Well, I suppose I could leverage my resources to discover who really had you put away for a murder you didn’t commit. Would that satisfy you?”

“Depends on what you find out. But I’m on a timetable. Twenty-four hours.”

Tristane stroked his chin. “That is not much time, and the case is cold.”

“Maybe he could have something for us when we get back.” Martine offered. The merchant watched the Orsimer, awaiting his reaction to the suggestion.

“No deal. Someone is due for a reckoning, and now that I am out I don’t intend to let that wait for however long it takes us. I’m willing to consider that it’s not you that pulled my strings … until tomorrow evening.”

Tristane sighed, nodding. “Firm but fair. Were I in your position, I doubt I would accept any less. Tell me, who was it that put my name in your ear?”

“I’ll share that with you once I’m convinced you’ve been set in my sights. Because if you were, then someone is still pulling my strings, and we’ll all deal with it together.”

“You drive a hard bargain. Out of curiosity, would you have been open to a little side action? It feels as though I missed out on a great opportunity not having the chance to meet you face to face those months ago.”

“He’s a good boss,” Martine told Kang. “Or so the people who worked for him always said.” Tristane nodded to her in gratitude for the recommendation.

“Would I have done anything to affect the outcome of any of my fights? No. I’ve been killing in arenas too long to disrespect it. But I had influence, and I wouldn’t have had any problem using that to our mutual gain in other ways.”

Tristane tsked. “Pity. Owydon’s honor precluded what is clear to me would have been a profitable venture.”

“Owydon has always looked out for me. I owe him. But he’s a fucking goodie-goodie sometimes.” Martine couldn’t keep her eyes from flicking to Adrielle.

Tristane chuckled politely. “So, it would seem. Well, with that resolved until tomorrow evening, may we talk business?” he asks Adrielle.

“Sure!” she said, a little surprised. “That sounds good.”

The merchant nodded. “The bloody High Elves have really made things annoying. I guess I should really pay more attention to world politics. Can you truly take all of my stock for a better markup as you claimed?”

“I am confident after speaking with the priests at the temple of the Nine, that we can make good use of the cloth utilized for elven fashion in order to clothe those most afflicted and displaced by the actions of the Altmer themselves.”

Tristane smiled, pleased. “Well, then. I will have my man prepare for your offer.”

“Please do, I will be glad to negotiate this transaction for the good of the impoverished and for future good faith. Dibella teaches us kindness, faithfulness and love. It only makes sense to use such goods to aid those suffering a lack of these things.” She smiled warmly. “Praise Dibella.”

Tristane lifted his glass. “Praise Dibella,” he said before draining the cup.

Adrielle poured another tankard full from the mead provided and raised her fresh tankard before draining it. “Praise Dibella indeed!” she exclaimed as she finished it.

Tristane smiled and shook his head in amusement. “Nords.”

Martine looked on in awe. “I still don’t know how you do that?”

Adrielle smiled. “Growing up strong in Whiterun means learning to hold your mead.”

“Have we any other business to discuss?” the merchant asked pleasantly.

“I believe Adrielle and I have said our peace,” said Kang. “The two of us could head into the main room to find other amusements if you and Theo would like to discuss business yourselves, Martine.” Tristane smirked at Kang’s continued use of “Theo,” but he didn’t correct him. Adrielle offered her a reassuring smile.

“I think we’ll catch up later,” said Martine, trying not to squirm.

“For the best, really,” said Tristane. “With Kang’s deadline, I’ve little enough time for pleasantries. May I have the ledger back, or…?”

“Oh yes! I almost forgot.” Martine retrieved it from the pack and, not finding any space for it on the table, just put it in his hands.

“Appreciated. Well, I’d best get to work. It has been … an experience.”

“To say the least. Be seeing you,” said Martine.

Tristane smiled and got to his feet. With a wink told her, “Thanks for dinner.” He paused for a beat then added, ”Shadow hide you.” With that, he turned and left.

“Thank you for the opportunity,” Adrielle called after him.

“Well,” said Kang in the silence that followed Tristane’s departure. “Tomorrow night he’ll either come with evidence, or with an army. Either way it will be a wild time.”

“Both, if he’s still the man I remember,” said Martine.

“I hope we can avoid too much bloodshed,” said Adrielle.

“You should really try bloodshed more often,” said Kang. “You’re a born survivor. Make it work for you.”

“Oh, I don’t know…” said Martine.

“Survival does not necessitate killing,” said Adrielle. “But should I have to survive, I will.” She winked at him.

“You’ll come around. I rub off on people.” Kang laughed and grabbed his drink.

“Who knows, maybe I’ll rub off on the both of you.” Adrielle smiled at both of her companions.

Martine laughed, rather too loudly, then muttered, “I do need money again.”

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Session 5
Friends

The unit continued the dinner that Martine’s pilfered coins were affording them. Adrielle drank until she had an actual buzz going, and the Breton, trying to keep pace with her friend, indulged until she thought she might regret it come the morning. Kang laughed long and loud at the women’s antics, drinking right alongside them and generally enjoying himself for the first time since his arrest. After a couple of hours, the money ran out, and they made their exit from the Merchants Inn.

When they stumbled out into the street, a small mob awaited them, with a familiar face in the lead. Fergus smiled nastily when he saw Kang and his companions. “Having a good night, Orc?” he asked.

“Always. We’ve drunk this place dry, eaten our fill, and demolished their women. You’re welcome to go in and have my scraps though. That seems to be your thing.”

“Ooo,” hooted Martine.

Fergus snorted. “Get him.”

Adrielle slurred something about “Dibella” and “buzzkill,” while Martine fumbled her sword free of its sheath and readied it. “Okay, so we’re doing this,” she said.

Fergus leapt first, swinging a club at Kang’s face. The Orsimer tried to dodge, but his reactions were slowed by the alcohol and the Colovian’s weapon cracked into the side of Kang’s skull, jarring his head to the side. The former Arena champion slowly turned his head back to face Fergus, grinning without mirth as his split cheek healed in seconds. A beat later, the rest of the mob surrounded Kang and tried to bring him down with a flurry of truncheons. His fighting instincts, developed in slavery to a Daedric cult and honed in the Arena, kept him ahead of the attempts of the small fry.

Martine called out “Hey! Get offa him!” and started hacking at the closest of the mob. Her attack put them off balance and Fergus yelled at her to stay out of it.

Neither she nor Adrielle were inclined to do that. The Nord said, “Hey, you guys! Freezed!” She then evoked elemental cold across three of the men who were completely unprepared to face a magical assault. Adrielle’s hands splayed and waves of frost coated the rabble, draining their strength and rendering them unconscious. As they fell, the Nord giggled about her pun.

“I shoulda remembered the jokes,” said Martine.

Kang laughed, too. “You are a fool, Fergus. You think I am the dangerous one here.”

The Colovian snarled and swung savagely at Kang’s knee. The Orsimer moved his leg back, but it cost him his balance. Kang decided he’d had enough and launched forward out of the mob to shoulder check Fergus, knocking the man back a step. The mob followed, but Kang easily kept ahead of them, and a few even stumbled.

“Show you who’s little,” Martine grumbled as she pursued the gang to reach Fergus. Jode’s Claw shined brightly in the shadows as she worked like a graceful butcher, felling three men where they stood.

“No time for jokes, you guys are in the wrong place, you need to leave before it gets too shocking for you,” quipped Adrielle. Lighting arced from her outstretched hands, stunning two more thugs into submission. She hiccupped. “I am not enjoying this.”

Fergus raised his club in both hands, an expression of utter fury on his face as he saw the fight turn so thoroughly. However, his blow never fell, as something hits him from behind. He dropped the club, then fell to his knees. Owydon stood behind him, looking a little startled. Fergus fell face first to the stones, a dagger in his back.

The unit looked at the Blademaster quizzically. “I … I thought he was about to kill you,” said Owydon.

“I’m sure he was about to try,” said Martine, glancing distractedly at the blood on her blade.

“Oh crap! Move!” Adrielle ran over and checked Fergus for signs of life. Then she poured healing magic into his dying body, stabilizing the man. Martine wiped the silver sword clean and sheathed it, moving to watch Adrielle with a sort of puzzled curiosity. The Nord fell back on her haunches. “It’s okay, it’s okay. Fewer deaths the better, now he can be arrested.”

“What about them?” Martine asked, pointing at the men she’d killed. Adrielle stood and walked over to the bleeding men to try to help them as well. They were already gone, and she shook her head sadly.

Kang nodded to his gladiatorial mentor. “Thanks for looking out for me, Owydon. As always.”

Then Tristane emerged from the shadows of the nearby alley. “That’s one interpretation.”

Owydon narrowed his eyes at the Breton. “What? You.”

“I don’t think I’m going to need the full twenty-four hours, Kang,” said Tristane.

Kang glanced over at the man. “Tell me what you believe then.”

“It never would have occurred to me if only Fergus hadn’t been so prideful.”

“You shut your mouth, criminal,” Owydon said harshly. “I know the type of man you are.”

Tristane chuckled. “And I thought I knew the type of man you were.”

“Boys! Boys! You’re both pretty,” said Martine.

Adrielle looked up and said loudly “Nooope! No more drunken life-saving tonight! No more fighting gentlemen!”

Tristane’s posture remained relaxed, and he didn’t even spare the women a glance, as he continued speaking to Owydon. “But maybe it was your honor that wouldn’t allow even a potentially crooked Arena Champion.”

“Enough,” said Kang. “Plain words. If you have an accusation, make it.”

Tristane glanced at the Orsimer. “Remember how I said I asked Owydon about you? You weren’t the only one I approached. You’re just a bit more difficult to reach. That man you ‘killed.’ He was a gladiator, too, wasn’t he?”

“Shut up,” said Owydon. His voice had lost a little conviction.

“Do I really need to spell it out, Kang?” said the Breton. “Ask him.”

Kang blinked. “You are saying that Owydon killed the gladiator and let me take the fall for it.” Tristane nodded slowly, a self-satisfied expression on his face. Kang turned to Owydon with narrowed eyes. “Speak. And make it the truth.”

“I … knew you would have dealt with this scum. I saw you talking to Drev, and I knew he’d already cut a deal. Him, I didn’t care about so much. But you?” Owydon looked up at Kang’s face. “I wanted you to be so much better. I thought if you spent some time locked up, it might cool your rage. Curb your … demons.”

“So you did what must have been very hard on an ‘honorable’ man like you, and committed murder for me,” said Kang.

Martine aimed a glance at Adrielle. When the Nord looked back, confused, she raised a hand for a moment, shook her head, and lowered it again. Adrielle shrugged and turned her attention back to the Redguard.

“Killing Drev was no dishonor,” said Owydon. “But using his death like that surely was.”

“If you say so,” said Kang with a shrug. “I’ve never understood the concept anyhow.”

Owydon winced. “I … I guess I always knew that, too.”

“Either way it took guts. Conviction. That I understand. And respect.” Owydon frowned up at the Orsimer. “But. Today you turned to me toward Tristane, using me for your ends. You manipulated me while you hid in the shadows. I knew people like that once. They raised me. I’ve told you all about them. And I swore I would never be controlled like that again!” Kang released his full rage with a punch to Owydon’s head. The Redguard fell hard on his ass in the street, stunned as Kang turned toward the barracks and stalked off.

“Oh, by Dibella…” said Adrielle, wincing.

“Ouch,” agreed Martine.

“Well, then,” said Tristane, glancing from Kang’s back to Martine. “Bit of a mess there,” he added, indicating the dead men.

“Hm?” said Martine, following his gesture. “Oh. Right. Them. Hey, I’m not strong enough to subdue big, strong men.”

Tristane shrugged, unconcerned. “Fortunately, I am a citizen in good standing and witnessed the entire altercation. You were defending yourself and your friend against these armed hooligans. I will say as much to the Watch.”

“You will?” Her face lit up, but it vanished in an instant as she (for once) thought it through.

“Of course, my dear. What Are Friends For?

“And old friends twice over.” She moved her hands beneath her cloak to ball them into fists out of sight.

Tristane looked up as booted footsteps began to approach. “Ah, here they are now.”

“Thank goodness,” said Adrielle.

The Watch approached and started questioning the conscious. Tristane gave them an account that makes the unit smell like a rose. He didn’t even mention Owydon’s attempted murder of Fergus, nor that the Arena champion had been the ringleader of the mob. The Watch hauled the unconscious men off, while Tristane compelled Owydon to help him get Fergus up. They walked off together, speaking in low voices.

Martine looked back at Adrielle. “Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I may have had enough to drink tonight.”

“Yuuup!” said the Nord.

“Do you still see Kang?”

“KANG” Adrielle called after the Orsimer, drunkenly loud. Then she began to jog after him.

“QUIET!” shouted an annoyed voice from some upper window.

“Shit. SORRY!” the Nord said in a stage whisper.

“Oh please don’t make me run,” said Martine. Walking briskly was perilous enough, but she managed.

Adrielle began to veer a little drunkenly and slowed for Martine to catch up. She then crouched and looked back at Martine. “Hop on! We should catch up to Kang and get to the barracks.”

Martine’s eyes widened appreciably. “Oookay…” She saddled up.

Adrielle began to follow Kang at a steady pace again. “Wait up Kang! You okay?” she called as they headed down the road. Martine giggled like a little girl, wondering when she had ever had fun like this. Kang chuckled as they caught up to him, and the unit continued to the Barracks for sleep.

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