Chasing Death: Chapter 6, Proudspire

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    They were standing in front of a door, the silent and disturbing aura of Solitude hanging heavily on their shoulders and Decimus looked at the Altmer standing next to him. Äelberon was just as tired as Decimus, the Mer was only better at hiding it. The events of the day were resting on their weary shoulders and all Decimus wanted to do was get himself drunk and just fall unconscious under a table.

     

    “Why are we here again?” Äelberon asked with raised eyebrows and Decimus felt the corner of his mouth twitch.

     

    “To unwind,” he replied, taking a step closer to the door. You're going to hate this, my friend. And then you're going to love it. It’s high time you were deflowered.  Muffled sounds of laughter and voices were coming from the inside and Decimus sighed. You should be probably in bed already, Old Blade, but damn me if I'm going to sleep without a good fuck first. Couldn't probably fall asleep without one either. “That meeting was…” The Imperial paused and then regarded the Mer standing next to him. “You just never hold back, do you? Damn near talked for two hours. And then you had to go show them what you drew.” 

     

    “They needed to know everything.” Ronnie explained.

     

    “Aye, Thane Erikur’s vomit was a nice, new decoration for the palace floor. But, it’s still not everything, is it?” The Imperial pointed out.

     

    “Xarxes’ arse, Dec!” The Altmer exclaimed, throwing up his hands in exasperation. “You are not letting that go.”

     

    “Nope.” Decimus grinned.

     

    “Dammit. I have told you, we need in those Catacombs, find the remains of Potema and bring them back to be sanctified. Bah! I have cleared dozens of such tombs alone. It is much better to work alone on this...” He turned away and Decimus got a good display of the Mer’s “old codger” face, even huffing a few times for good measure.

     

    “But you’re not alone, you got me and Belrand this time.”

     

    “I know, and I trust you two as fighters, but General Tullius’ insistance on Legate Rikke…”

     

    “Aye.” His grin only got bigger to egg the Altmer on, but inside, the gears in his brain were turning. He suspected that Tullius was not a blind fool. He was too shrewd for that, seeing how the General observed Ronnie like a hawk during the entire court session.. Ronnie was at Helgen, his head nearly on a chopping block and the General had seen the whole bloody show, flying black dragon and everything. He had to have put two and two together by now, which means, my friend, that he probably knows you’re the fucking Dragonborn. Rikke’s mission isn’t to fucking help us in the tomb, it’s to assess you, to see if you’re enemy or ally. At least Decimus was pretty sure the General would keep quiet about what he knows until the job is done and Solitude is safe. The man had a rebellion to quell and this crisis in Solitude was definitely not helping him do that more efficiently. Typical Colovian pragmatism was at play here. Let the Dragonborn do his job so that he could do his.

     

    “You like her.”

     

    Decimus raised his eyebrows at Ronnie’s words. “What’s not to like? Tall and strong, just like I like them.”

     

    The Mer narrowed his eyes and then a sly smile creeped onto his face. Then he pursed his lips and blew Decimus a kiss. “Don’t I know it, ‘andsome...”

     

    Decimus shoved the Mer, making the old Fart chuckle. “You are gross.”

     

    “Ha! Best part of this trip so far was watching you crumple in front of that lass when I barged into the inn, claiming you were mine.” The Mer then grew somber faster than a Nord could down a tankard of mead. “You think Legate Rikke will hold her own?”

     

    “Hey, she’s Legion.” The Imperial scowled.

     

    The Mer blinked and opened his mouth in apology. “No, sorry. That is not what I meant. I know how the legion fights, Dec. Good soldiers, but has she faced draugr and possibly the undead? That we do not know.”

     

    “Well, old Fart, we’re stuck with her, so we’ll find out tomorrow, won’t we?”  

     

    “I guess so.” The Altmer grumbled. He then pointed with his chin towards the door. “So are you going to knock or shall we stand at the porch the entire night?” the Altmer cleared his throat and chuckled. “Not that I would mind that...”

     

    Decimus grimaced at that and shook his head. “Not all of us have balls made of ice like you, you know. It's fucking cold here and cold is the last thing I want right now.” Decimus then frowned and scratched his crotch. “Great, now I have to piss. In this cold.” He walked towards the corner of the house, into the shadows, and began unstrapping his armor and pants.

     

    “Just be careful,” the Altmer whispered, though Decimus could hear the sarcasm. “Something could leap out of the night and bite wee little Dec off…”

     

    “Only thing that is going to bite him off is this fucking cold,” Decimus growled, finally getting him out. “Just shut up and be on lookout. Just in case some fucking ghost shows up or something. And ‘wee little Dec’, my arse, snarky Altmer.”

     

    He heard the Mer snort. “If a ghost shows up, then all you will do is trip over your trousers.” Decimus shook his head, trying to concentrate. Not an easy thing with that bloody mer talking a hole into your head. Just focus, Old Blade. Focus. A hot stream began pouring against the building's wall and Decimus released a delightful sigh. When he was finished, he began pulling his pants up to lace them secure.

     

    “Is that all?” the Altmer asked, throwing his disguised accent out the window in favor of his typical speech. They were alone, it didn’t matter. It actually made him easier to understand and he didn’t sound so much like Grulmar, which made Decimus’ head spin, the accents were so similar. So that’s how Duskens talk, eh? Well, probably the really poor ones. Old Mer isn’t so far from you, Old Blade, a mason’s son and a fishermer’s son.  “For that little whiz, you had to pull him out?” Ronnie kept on, breaking the Imperial’s thoughts. “Not two hours have passed since you watered Morrard’s garden. I think those Nightshades and Deathbells are probably dead by now.”

     

    The Imperial chuckled at that. Okay, I give you that joke, old Mary. “Hey, maybe that's all we need to do. Get the whole city to piss on the flowers and Solitude will be saved.”

     

    “From your lips to Auri-El’s ears, if it were that simple.” The Mer smirked.

     

    “Besides,” Decimus continued. “Not everyone is a fucking Old Mary that only has to piss or shit only every couple of days. Fuck, when I start to drink, I have to go every half hour.”

     

    “That is just inefficient. And it is every five days.” Correcting me, are you? Decimus thought, studying Ronnie’s worn face in the night. The lines were deeper, and no color to his pallor since he left that cell. The features pinched, the brow just fucking permanently creased as if the gears in his brain were smoking like an overloaded Dwemer construct, they were spinning so fast. Focused on the work, constant prayer, constant singing, constant shit. You’re exhausted and you’re still correcting me. Dammit, friend, I think you need this night more than I do.

     

    Decimus laughed out loud at the Mer’s words, at how ridiculous he sounded, though it was to mask his concern. Different culture. Well, fuck, whole different… what's the damn word? Physiology? Fuck if I know. “Just be glad you're not getting old like the rest of us.”

     

    “Decimus Merotim, I am two hundred and forty--”

     

    “I know how old you are! I went to your party, remember? But you’re different, see. All magicky and stuff.” Decimus waved his hands as if he was trying to cast a spell.

     

    “All magicky?” The Altmer raised an eyebrow. “You are exhausted, that is not even a word.”

     

    “Oh, just shut up. Seriously, I'm telling you, getting old isn't fun. Your dick hurts like Oblivion and when you get him out, you manage to get only few drops out and those few drops hurt like you were trying to piss out an ash yam.”

     

    “Hmm,” the Altmer murmured, scrunching up his face in thought. “That seems to be more of a prostate problem rather than age, friend. Maybe I could look-”

     

    “No! No fucking way you're examining my dick or whatever you are talking about,” the Imperial barked and shook his head in disbelief. “Fucking Old Mary,” he muttered, going to the door, raising his hand.

     

    “Are you not even going to wash--”

     

    He quickly knocked before Äelberon could finish and Decimus then looked at the mer over his shoulder and stuck his tongue out at him.  

     

    “P’shaw! Sometimes you are no better than a child.” Ronnie chided, but Decimus could see the smile in the eyes. Yeah, yeah, all talk, but you love pulling this silly shit as much as I do. I definitely remember all the pranks you used to pull on me, you fucking asshole. You and Pelaex had a lot of fun at my expense.

     

    A hole then opened in the door and pair of lovely brown eyes hiding under delicately arched blond brows frowned at them. “Are you a ghost, wraith, vampire, undead or a serial killer?”

     

    “Do I fucking look like one, Jordis?” Decimus raised his eyebrows and growled at the Nord woman behind the door.

     

    The eyes focused on him and he heard a faint snort. “Well, just making sure, Old Blade. What about the other one? He's rather pale.”

     

    Decimus flashed a mischievous grin at Ronnie and then at the door. “Poor soul was raised by frost trolls and never seen a ray of sunlight until he was forty years old. Poor guy. Living with his mother for so long.” He could feel Ronnie’s eyes roll.

     

    Jordis' frown became even more prominent and Decimus turned around only to see Äelberon trying to suppress his laughter while he was rummaging through his pack. At least the crease in his brow was starting to lessen. “Whatever. You got coin? 'Cause the Madame said you’ve already run out of your free nights.”

     

    “Yeah, I have coin. Just fucking let us in before my tools freeze and fall off,” Decimus replied, really feeling the cold now.  

     

    “Wouldn’t that be a shame,” Jordis purred from behind the door and the Imperial smiled, locking eyes with her. Oh yes, you remember, don't you? We were quite drunk that day and I mistook you for one of Madame's girls. You took all my septims with no remorse, Jordis, but it was damn worth it.

     

    The hole closed abruptly and Decimus could hear clicking as several locks and latches were being unlocked.  The heavy door opened with a groan, flooding them with the smells of wine, perfume, flowers, food, and sex. Decimus walked in with Äelberon right behind.

     

    The entry room to Proudspire Manor was dimly lit with candles and carved sconces, with ornate chairs and silken pillows to their right and left. Men and women were lounging in the chairs or lying among the pillows, drinking and eating. Wine, sweets, fruits, cheeses, and fine meats from all areas of Tamriel, Proudspire did not spare any expense when entertaining its many clients.  It was enough to make Decimus’ stomach protest and faintly, from behind, he heard the Altmer’s stomach to.  The women were more naked than dressed and the men had their hands all over them. Decimus looked over his shoulder and grinned at Äelberon, noticing the way the Mer was averting his eyes from all that only to eventually look again, and Decimus could imagine the tips of those ears just starting to go crimson under his hood.

     

    “A knight and a priest walk into a brothel,” Decimus chuckled all of a sudden. “Now that’s a fucked up joke if I ever heard one.”

     

    “You forgot to include yourself,” Äelberon smiled and Decimus frowned. What? “I do not see any knight here.”

     

    The Imperial snorted and shook his head. “Good one.”

     

    “Your weapons and armor,” Jordis, the blonde Nord, said and Decimus smirked, eyeing the steel that covered the woman’s sensual body.

     

    “You might have to help me get out of my shell, love,” he flashed a smile at her.

     

    Jordis raised her finger. “Not a chance. I value my life.”   

     

    The Altmer behind him laughed and Decimus just shrugged, slowly unstrapping his chest piece. “I think we should take a bath anyway,” he murmured.

     

    “I agree. I feel vile.” The Mer nodded wearily, practically dropping his cloak, pack and weapons in a corner to start working on his brigandine. Immediately two servants appeared out of nowhere and started to pick up the gear only to stop dead at the Mer’s glare.

     

    “Easy, friend.” Decimus cautioned, gesturing towards the servants. “They’ll keep your things safe.”

     

    “Very well.” He faced a servant. “Be mindful of the crossbow.” The poor soul, a sliver of a Breton, still looked like he was going to crap his pants at the Altmer’s baritone.

     

    “Why in Hist’s nuts is the Goldpact Knight in my house?” a voice sounded through the stone hallway, the accent thick with south-eastern Tamriel. Decimus turned towards the source of the voice, a tall and lean Argonian female. Smooth dark green scales covered her lithe body, fading underneath to a light butter yellow. The narrow snout and fine lizard features were punctuated with bright splashes of paint; blue, orange, and red on her brow ridges, cheeks, and ear patches. No feathers, only two small horns adorned with multiple earrings of gold and jewels. Her bright orange eyes narrowed and her tongue flicked lightly over her sharp teeth. Her body was covered only in a flimsy robe of scarlet gossamer silk, which left nothing to the imagination, highlighting the curves of her body.  

     

    “Seif! It’s good to see you again.”

     

    Her eyes focused on him and his smile froze on his face. “You,” she hissed, slamming her tail to the ground. “No more free nights for you. Do you have money?”

     

    “As a matter of fact I do.” Decimus replied, nodding in satisfaction.

     

    The Argonian’s eyes twinkled with a warm fire and her tongue flashed between her teeth. “In that case, it’s good to sssee my favourite arsse back in the house.”

     

    “He is your favourite arse?” Äelberon chuckled and Seif-ij looked in his direction, her eyes narrowing. “What is wrong with mine?”

     

    “Well, well, well,” she murmured, gliding towards Äelberon as she measured him with her eyes. “If it isn’t my favourite bum,” she chuckled, slapping the Altmer’s arse. “Yesss, still the same.”

     

    “She says that to everyone these days,” Decimus murmured.

     

    “Nah, you can bounce a sseptim off this one’s.” She then hugged the Mer tightly. “Misssed you, old Knight.” She said in a voice that made Decimus blink while she snuggled against the Mer’s chest.

     

    “Likewise.” Äelberon replied tenderly, wrapping his arms around her.

     

    Decimus just stared. What the fuck is going on? This was meant to be a prank on the Altmer and now it’s revealed that he knows the local brothel madame? Well, fuck. I feel like someone just tricked me.

     

    “It has been some years.” She said quietly.

     

    “I know, I know. I have been a rotten friend.” He pulled her away from him and looked at her. “You have not changed, Seif, not at all.”

     

    “You have.” The Argonian replied, scrutinizing the Altmer. “I love the beard. It is very sexy, I think.”

     

    Äelberon smiled, his cheeks under his beard going a little red, and his hand went to his pouch. “I bring a gift as an apology, sweet Lifts-Her-Tail.”

     

    “I wouldn’t mind lifting your tail, O handsome Saves-the-Damsels,” she murmured.  

     

    “Handsome?” The Mer chortled and his laugh lines creased. “Auri-El’s Bow! You are still blind as a bat.”

     

    “I see better than most…” The Argonian retorted.

     

    “Well, then feast your eyes on this, my sweet.”

     

    Both hers and Decimus’ eyes went wide when the Altmer pulled his hand out of the pouch, revealing a big red-pink gem between his fingers, its facets catching the candlelight. “Oh! You certainly know how to lift this one’s tail, precious.” She practically squealed in delight, clapping her hands together.

     

    “I know all woman love things that are shiny.” He chuckled and the Argonian wrapped herself around him again.

     

    Barenziah’s stone! Damn it, Äelberon. You should have told me about that. Decimus counted his gold in his mind and decided the small amount was definitely worth the little mischief of trying to steer the events in their favour. “Yes, a gift, Seif. So usual deal? Ten free nights?”

     

    She looked at him with narrowed eyes. “Five. For each one of you.”

     

    That was met with a frown of disapproval from the Mer as he still held the Argonian. “No, Decimus. The stone is a gift. Not an exchange. We will pay. I have the Jarl’s letter, Seif. I thank you for your kindness, but it is too much.”

     

    The Imperial raised his hands. “Alright, alright. Was just trying to save us some money.”

     

    Seif’s tail slapped the ground few times to get their attention, while she leaned against Äelberon, one scaly hand on his thigh and the other had already deftly removed his hood to stroke his disheveled hair. “No! I offered the Jarl and you will have this, my friend. You consider it a gift from me and let Seif take care of you. The other one can pay.”

     

    “I will cover the Goldpact’s expenses.”

     

    Decimus groaned, rubbing his forehead and then signaling to Äelberon by rubbing the bridge of his nose. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to go.  He hated Ronnie’s generosity sometimes. “That won’t be necessary.”

     

    Another frown from the Altmer. And, of course, he’s not listening.  “Do not ever refuse an Old Mer his gift-giving.” He eyed Seif. “I have known this cub for over twenty-five years now and he still does not know all the rules.”

     

    “Some never learn.” She then looked up at the Mer. “Oh, they will be so happy to see you!”

     

    “Your sister? Walks-the-Road? She’s here?” The Mer asked.

     

    The Argonian brothel owner shook her head. “Oh no, she was spared this terrible mess. She is interviewing a Redguard Revolutionary in Hammerfell. Been away for some time, stuck in the Alik’r, I believe, but we often write. No, they will be happy to see you! Been many years since the Larsius--”

     

    “The old troupe? They are here?” Ronnie exclaimed, his eyebrows shooting upwards. Old troupe? Decimus frowned, what the Oblivion were those two talking about now?

     

    “Oh yes! They followed me to Skyrim. Barenziah… Pelinal… St. Jiub… Topal the Pilot... ” She listed the names and Decimus forgot that she had men under her employ too. Seif never discriminated.

     

    The Old Mer kissed the top of her scaled head and gave her a squeeze. “So much to catch up on.”

     

    “Of course, of course, as you bathe.  I will make all the arrangements.” She rubbed the Mer’s stomach and then gave it a few affectionate pats. “Ha! A full silver beard and now look at this belly! More fat, I love it. Fun to grab! I did not like you all starving and hungry from running. I have just the thing to fill this new little belly.” Then she looked at Decimus and winked. “And what’s it going to be for you, you fine Colovian stock? The Mane maybe?”

     

    Almost as if on cue, a tall Khajiit female - an Ohmes-raht -  with a wild mane and only a simple leather cloth covering her loin and breasts, came from upstairs and noticed Decimus. She was an exotic thing because the mer-like Ohmes-raht were rare in Skyrim. Her skin was covered with short and smooth fur, almost like velvet. Her face was more mer-like - flat - and the fur was the color of gold mixed with fire, her mane as red as dancing flames. Her cat-like green eyes got immediately wider and she slowly blinked several timed at him. “And here is my Colovian tiger,” she purred as she drew closer, her tail swishing from one side to the other. She pressed against him, her right hand around his back while her left began teasing his crotch. Decimus could also feel her tail wrapping around his thigh and he swallowed in anticipation. “I’ve been such a bad, bad kitty,” she whispered into his ear. “I know all your weak points,” she added with satisfaction as she felt the Imperial shiver.

     

    “I have no doubt about either of those things, kitten,” he chuckled. “But this Old Blade needs a bath first.” She sulked at those words and he knew how she resented bathing. “But don’t worry, kitten, after that, I’m all yours.”

     

    “Just save some strength for me, tiger,” she murmured before slinking up the stairs again and Decimus began scanning for his bathing companion. I feel kind of patriotic today. Hmm.

     

    He turned to Seif-ij and Äelberon who were watching him with smirks. “He’s like a child sometimes isn’t he?” Äelberon said with a twinkle in his eye and the Argonian snorted.

     

    “All men are, darling. Thinking with their spears and acorns first.”

     

    “What’s wrong with that?” Decimus shrugged, not really ashamed for his needs. Everyone had needs, and as long as they were within morally acceptable boundaries, why not fulfill them?

     

    Speaking of needs, he was slowly starting to feel the excitement, down there between his legs. All the nudity around didn’t really move him because he was quite used to it. What was making him excited was the prospect of what was about to come and sometimes that prospect felt much better than the act itself. He would lie on his back, gasping for air, once everything was finished, and he would think: Was it worth it? The question would come with a feeling of emptiness, of a void inside his chest and to to this day he still wasn't able to determine whether that was a good or bad thing.

     

    Just as he was getting excited he noticed that Äelberon wasn't - by looking at his crotch and he immediately cursed himself for that. The fuck's wrong with you, Dec? Looking at a priest's crotch to check if he’s hard? Seriously, one of these days, they're going to lock you up somewhere for how fucked up you are. But he quite understood why the Altmer wasn't getting excited. It was totally obvious. He was in a brothel for the first time, no doubt, being shy and nervous at seeing so much nudity. Decimus understood that. He remembered his first visit to a brothel in the Imperial City and how he couldn't get hard. Yeah, those days are gone, aren't they? Well, don't overthink it, Old Blade. Just wait few years and you might be too old for getting hard ever again.

     

    “Hey, Seif,” he said out loud, getting the Madame's attention. “Is Alessia free right now? I think she would be my perfect bathing companion.”

     

    Seif-ij raised her scaly eyebrows and chuckled. “Feeling patriotic today?”

     

    Decimus smiled at that, shrugging. “Exactly my thoughts.” He then looked at Äelberon and frowned. “And what shall we get you, my friend?”

     

    “Dec--” The Mer started his protest.

     

    No, not tonight, friend, and Decimus raised his hand to cut him off. “You know,  I bet you feel rather homesick, yeah, all that talk of fishing and court gatherings. That's about right.” He turned to the Argonian. “Seif? Let's have the lovely Queen Ayrenn meet us downstairs, alright?” The Imperial saw Äelberon's eyebrows rise and then he saw how that jaw clenched tightly and those nostrils flare.  Ah, finally getting under that shell?  I may have allowed you your gift-giving, old Mer, but we play by my rules here. “I really hope Ayrenn's not your relative or something,” he murmured towards the Mer as they slowly followed Seif-ij down the stairs. “That would be weird.”

    “...just remember my words, remember them well,” Decimus said, his eyes floating a little bit as he was trying to focus on the Altmer on the other side of the tub. Ain!t too too hard when he's as white as snow in a sea of warm candlelight, steaming water, dark wood and stone. Just focus on the white glare of his skin and you’ll find him. Ah, there you are.... “No matter what they say.” He slurred. “Surilie Brothers wine is the only real wine out there. Alto wine? What a load of bullshit. Tastes like if they mixed the grapes with goblin's piss if you ask me. Surilie Brothers, alright? That's all you need to know. Tamika's good too, sure, but not even close to Surilie Brothers, especially the 150 vintage. But if you manage to run into a 179 vintage of Surilie? Don't drink that. That year was terrible for the vineyards in Skingrad. But Surilie is just better than Tamika's, and it doesn't matter that all the nobles in Cyrodiil drink Tamika's. They wouldn't recognize a good wine even if it hit in them in the nuts.”

     

    “We get it, Dec,” Äelberon rolled his eyes and chuckled as he relaxed in the tub. “You know a lot about wine.”  

     

    They were all in the basement of Seif’s Proudspire, in a tub full of hot, scented bath water, a tub meant for eight people. Decimus was being tended to by Alessia, a chestnut-haired, creamy-skinned Imperial woman with some of the firmest breasts he ever had the pleasure of touching - and she was washing something firm under the water.

     

    He was getting drunk, he was capable of recognizing that. Sort of. His head was dizzy and he blinked several times, looking at the crystal glass resting at the edge of the tub, trying to remember how many glasses he had had already. One? Two? Probably two. It's the hot water most likely, getting in your head, Old Blade. He twitched a little and sighed in delight when Alessia's touch became too much to bear. He pushed her hand gently aside, because he certainly didn't want anything swimming in the water. That wouldn't be good. Plus the Altmer would laugh at me for the rest of my mortal life.

     

    He vaguely remembered Seif-ij leading them downstairs to the tub and then she went to deal with some business first before she would re-join them. And then Alessia and Ayrenn came, two queens and for a second, Decimus wasn't sure if he shouldn't take both. Äelberon wasn’t interested, though Decimus struggled in his drunk haze to see why. Ayrenn, for an Old Mary, was pretty fucking stunning. Long graceful limbs, soft golden skin, clear light gold eyes, like a cat almost, and her hair. Dragonborn’s balls, she had hair. It was a light blonde, the color of wheat ready to harvest, and it had amazing shine. It was piled in twists about her head, framing her delicately angular features, and secured with jeweled clip that dangled with gold and gems. All that, and yet  Äelberon wasn’t interested, and by the look Ayrenn threw at the old mer, she wasn't either. Decimus wasn't sure why that was, but it had to be something serious because she completely and absolutely dropped her act in front of Äelberon.  Considering she was one of Seif’s girls, that just did not happen. If it was up to Decimus he would tell that to Seif, that her employee wasn't very cooperative. But what do I fucking care, right? I have my Slave-Queen wrapped around my nuts, what more do I need?

     

    And so Äelberon and Ayrenn were sitting next to each other in the tub, barely looking at each other, not even touching as Äelberon was rubbing the dirt and sweat off his skin, using one of the scented soaps Seif provided. Actually bathing, Decimus rolled his eyes. Because you’re in a tub full of naked people and the Altmer bathes. The priest then began working on his braids, unmaking them, all the while watching Decimus.  The Imperial blinked because for a moment he saw two pairs of those disturbing red-orange eyes probing him. “So you and Seif-ij,” Äelberon said and Decimus raised his eyebrows and then immediately changed the expression to a frown, not sure what the Altmer meant. “What is your history?”

     

    “Ah,” the Imperial nodded, finally understanding where Ronnie was going with his question. He pointed at the Altmer - at least he tried, because he wasn't sure which one he should point at. There were four of them after all. Hmm. Those two on the right were probably the Ayrenns. Yeah, gold. Ronnie is white, Ayrenn is gold. Which means the ones on the left were Ronnies. Damn it, as if one Ronnie wasn’t enough.  “Me and Seif, yeah,” he murmured and smiled at Alessia who was rubbing his chest. He moved his hand under the water, squeezing her arse and then his fingers began working their magic. She moaned against his ear and he grinned before facing the Altmer again. “We're business associates.” He continued. “Of sorts. I met her here in Solitude and she hired me to acquire a stone. Barenziah's stone, one of the set, just like the one you brought her. That’s the one from Jorrvaskr, right?”

     

    “Right.”

     

    “Tilma will kill you, you know.”

     

    The Mer flashed a grin. “Tilma was the one who made me bring it to Seif. Said ‘no cub of hers was going to go to a house without bearing a gift’.” The Mer then countered the grin with a pretend scared look.  “Or she would have killed me.”

     

    “Yeah, that’s Tilma alright.” The Imperial snorted. “Well, I found it, I brought it, and she was very grateful.” He chuckled at that and Alessia released another moan, which prompted a reaction from his crotch. “She was just opening Proudspire, so she was still in the first line if you get my meaning. So it was my payment, kind of. My first time with an Argonian too.” Decimus then leaned forward, looking at Derkeethus. “Sorry, Derp. I mean Derk,” he shrugged and the Argonian male hissed. “But it didn't work out, you know. It's just weird, really weird. You know that saying? About Argonians being always moist? Hahaha! Well, it's true, every single word of it. But it's still weird. When you roll an Argonian on her back you have the tail between your legs, yeah? And so you grind your nuts on that tail, the scales cutting and all that. Also...the scales. Everywhere! Even on the tits. It's just not...normal. For me at least. And then she stuck her tail up my ebony mine as if she had a canah bird on it and that's when I was done. My Goldpact Knight decided not to cooperate and even the damned Lusty Argonian Maid act couldn’t get him working again. So yeah, fucking an Argonian is just fucking weird.”

     

    Ronnie laughed out loud at that, tears forming at the corners of his eyes. Decimus just didn't understand what was so funny about it, because it seemed more sad to him. But the Old Mary often found humor in the most ridiculous things.  “Why would Seif-ij stick her tail in your ebony mine, Dec? Of all places…” the Altmer wiped the tears out of his eyes before resuming undoing his braids. Ayrenn looked like a marble statue throughout all of this. Oh please don’t tell me that fucking Thane Erikur is more fun than this?

     

    “Hey, you wanted to look there for something just before we entered Proudspire.” The Imperial retorted. Got you!

     

    “To check your prostate, moron,” Äelberon grinned like a fox who just got a chicken from the coup and Decimus frowned when Alessia's hand froze for a second. “And if you think that I would actually use my hands for that, you are an even bigger moron.” He got you back!



    He took Alessia’s hand and pulled it down, back to his crotch again. “It's not a disease, love,” he reassured her with a smile. “I actually have no fucking clue what that is. Typical Old Mary bullshit.” He looked at Äelberon, threatening him with a raised finger. “Would you fucking stop embarrassing yourself? Prostate, my arse.”

     

    Ronnie roared in laughter as he finished with the final braid, his incredibly long hair now floating on the water's surface. He then began to unbind his top-knot. Really, he was one ugly fucker. Well, not really, but he was an old Mary and old Mary males, mers, whatever the fuck were just ugly to Dec. But the hair?  He’d give it to the fucker, he had beautiful hair. It was a little wavy from all the braiding, but just as silky and shiny as Queen Ayrenn’s and it was white. And not the dull yellow-white of somebody old, but that pure silver-white.  Ayrenn next to him shifted and frowned at the hair, something that could only be interpreted as a sort of recognition written all over her face. More importantly, what's really interesting is that fact that both Ayrenns had the same expression right now. Weird.

     

    “Oh.” Äelberon sighed, massaging his scalp with his finger tips. “That feels bloody good. Been under a hood all day. Was pinching more than normal.”

     

    “That’s what you get when you wear it that way.” Decimus pointed out.

     

    The Altmer then eyed him and the Imperial could see the Knight-Paladin in Ronnie take over for a moment. “It had to be worn that way today. And it will be worn that way tomorrow. They will know who they go up against.”

     

    Spoken like he was making an oath, and Decimus knew that despite all the fun and nudity, Ronnie was all ‘tomorrow’ in his mind. Your stare alone, friend, is going to make them piss their pants.

     

    “Yeah, I know..” The Imperial watched the mer take the leather he used to bind his hair and fold it neatly before putting it at the edge of the tub. The Ayrenns didn’t change their expression and the old Mer paused quietly, facing forward, as if waiting for something.

     

    “You’re a priest of Auri-El.” Ayrenn said.  She took a deep breath before first lowering her head and Decimus saw her hand tentatively travel below the surface towards Äelberon. “Forgive me.”

     

    Ha! The hair! I bet it does it every time, Decimus grinned through his haze. Go for it, lass and Decimus wondered if there wouldn’t be something floating in the water after all…

     

    The old Mer looked her right in the eye and Decimus couldn’t tell if he was angry or hurt, or annoyed or tired, but the expression on his face was strange. “A nanni betoth.” Äelberon finally rumbled wearily and he then reached for her hand and pulled it out of the water, resting gently it near her side. Decimus saw how the old Elf looked almost like a grandfather then, his features softening. “And you are not a beast either, my child, to be used like a plaything.” She seemed taken aback by what he said at first and attempted to move her hand again. C’mon old Mer, she wants you. “No.” The Mer refused, narrowing his eyes. “You did not want me when all night you gave me airs, thinking me nothing but a Dusken pig.  Why would me being a priest of Auri-El suddenly make things different? Suddenly make them right?  We are not in Alinor now. Choose me for me, not for my station.” He gave her a hard glance and noticed her trying to mask her face. It looked like she was seriously revolted by him and Decimus wondered again if he shouldn’t complain to Seif. “Or do not.” Ronnie continued. “It makes no difference to me. I know my worth.”

     

    She flashed him a final scowl and scooted a bit farther from the Elf, ripples of water in her wake. “Gobliken.” she hissed under her breath.  

     

    Äelberon chortled. “Gobliken? Is that the best you can do? If you are that repulsed by me, then bloody go.” The old Mer replied. And with those words, both Mer resumed their side by side, yet distance stances while Äelberon began to wash his hair.

     

    What the fuck just happened here? Dec wondered, exchanging looks with Derk and Alessia, feeling the wonderful hardness suddenly slip away and it was Decimus’ turn to scowl at the old Mer. You always fucking kill my mood, you dumb fuck. First my prostate, whatever the fuck that is, that scared poor Alessia here, and now you’re being a shit. So what if Ayrenn thinks you’re ugly. She’s being paid to fuck you and you say no. Dumb principles. Didn’t our conversation sink into that fat head of yours at all - Alessia turned his head to face her and gave him a sympathetic look.

     

    “I will just have to work harder.” She murmured in his ear. “Ignore the Elves…” She then whispered against his lips before giving him a soft kiss. “I will save you…” Ah, my queen, thank you for rescuing me from these oppressive elves…  

     

    Decimus then noticed Seif-ij walking towards the tub and he raised his glass in a toast, gulping it down and then shook the glass. “My favourite Argonian lady!” he shouted, laughing.

     

    “More Tamika's, O Goldpact Knight?” she asked and Decimus frowned, looking at the glass as if he suddenly wasn’t sure about something. You better not have slipped me Tamika’s, you lizard.

     

    “Now you're pushing it,” he murmured. “And there is only one way you can repent for that.”

     

    “I'm not plucking your bristles, Decimus,” she hissed and he shook his head. Ronnie just laughed robustly as he washed his hair. “Got a mental image of that didn’t you, old Knight?”

     

    “Oh, I definitely did.” The Mer smirked, a silly look on his face. And he looked silly too. The noble Knight-Paladin was definitely gone now with all those soap suds all over his head, as he gave his hair a sound washing.  Aye, you’ll bathe. So fucking literal. In a tub, it’s now bath time, regardless of the fact that you are surrounded by beautiful naked women with their tits bobbing in the water. Tubs are good for other things, you know. Decimus then shook his head at the Mer, taking a lazy sip of his refilled wine. Bless Seif, and her efficient servants. I had hoped Ayrenn would’ve stepped up to show you that by now, but damn old Marys.  

     

    “He is so literal sometimes.” Seif shook her head and it was then that Decimus noticed that Seif was carrying a bottle. Ronnie, dunked his head in the water to rinse his hair. Waves rippled throughout the tub and a few moments passed that left Decimus narrowing his eyes. He will come up for air, right? You’re drunk, Dec, of course he’ll come up for air. “Hey, you are not Saxheel, stop showing off!” She yelled from her position. He saw several bubbles pop to the surface and the Altmer resurfaced with a laugh, wiping the water from his eyes.

     

    “Nah, I was checking Decimus’ prostate.” He gasped through his chuckles.

     

    Hook, line, and sinker… The fucker.

     

    His words were met with peals of laughter from Derk, Seif, the servants, and even Ayrenn’s eye twitched, which made Decimus blink - ah, you like his humor, eh? He’s a bonafide rascal under all that priest - but Alessia’s hand moved away again. “Will you fucking stop with that, you shit!” Decimus growled. “This is what I put up with, Seif. All the time. Like a funny man.” He grabbed Alessia’s hand back. “Serious, lass, the Mer is yanking chains, something he just does.” He gave her hand a kiss of reassurance and lowered it back to the water, before he faced the Mer, trying not to laugh through his scowl. “Now you both owe me.”

     

    “We are in trouble now, Seif. What do we owe you, Dec?” The Altmer grinned.

     

    “I want a tale,” he grinned, pointing at one of Äelberons. “It’s storytime! How you two met. That should be lovely.”

     

    “He is quite drunk now if he wants storytime.” The Mer’s eyes narrowed at the Argonian and then they shot to the bottle she was carrying. “That what I think it is?” Seif silently winked and tossed the Mer the bottle before shrugging off her robe. Ronnie caught it and eagerly popped the cork. He took a long sip and groaned in pleasure, bending his head back. “I have been waiting for this.”

     

    “It’s milk isn’t it?” Decimus quipped, feeling his eyes roll.

     

    “Delicious.” The Mer smiled.

     

    “I know my old Knight well.” Seif answered, sliding into the tub next the Mer. “Derk? It is alright, yes? It has been so long.” And Decimus could have sworn those orange Argonian eyes were pleading.

     

    The male Argonian nodded. “It’s fine. I know you love my acorns best.”

     

    Seif responded with a happy squeal and snuggled next to the Altmer who didn’t protest. He even put his arm around her shoulder as he drank his milk. It made Dec blink a few times, just the idea of what he saw. He had refused lovely Queen Ayrenn and yet he’s completely comfortable with an Argonian prostitute naked next to him. How they met was a story he definitely needed to hear now. Decimus’ eyes drifted to the two Ayrenns. Oh yeah, she doesn’t  like that at all. Jealous are we? Well, maybe if you didn’t treat him like a gobliwhowhat, he’d put that strong arm around your shoulder instead.

     

    “Does he not drink?” Alessia suddenly asked, distracting Decimus.

     

    “Nope.”

     

    “That’s terrible.” She murmured, bending her head.

     

    “Tragic, my queen. It makes me very sad.”

     

    “As your Slave-Queen, I command you to be happy.” She whispered against his lips and he kissed her.

     

    “How can I refuse a direct command?” Decimus then felt water crash against his face.

     

    “You want a story or not?” Seif hissed. “Besides, you should be saving yourself for the Mane. She has been a very bad kitty.”

     

    “Alright, alright. Storytime.” Decimus grinned, though he moved Alessia’s hand back to his crotch and flashed her a wicked smile. Our little secret, my queen.

     

    “Picture it. Bravil. 188. Frostfall…” Seif began.

     

    Decimus immediately perked up, as much as his drunkenness would allow. “During the skooma wars?”

     

    “Aye.” Ronnie nodded and then the Mer glanced at Ayrenn and tilted his head to the side in thought. “I was traveling a great deal during that time and I happened to be in Bravil...”

     

    Decimus nearly spit out his wine. Traveling a great deal,my arse. Running was more like it!  Priceless Ronnie. How ‘bout we tell her that the fucking Thalmor were chasing your white arse all around Cyrodiil after you saved a bunch of snot-nosed Altmer nobles’s kids from vampires.

     

    “Hmph, typical Dusken. You would like Bravil.” Queen Ayrenn scoffed, crossing her arms over her chest.

     

    “I did!” The Mer smiled slyly, cocking an eyebrow. Good boy, not taking any of her shit. “I was staying at the Lonely Suitor’s and let me tell you…” The smile morphed into a low chuckle and Seif’s shoulders shook with suppressed laughter. “The rooms are not soundproof like they advertise that they are.”

     

    “I don’t follow you.” Decimus furrowed his brow. Has he been pulling my chain all these years? They?

     

    "The Lonely Suitor Lodge is ideal for all Bachelors and Bachelorettes.” The Mer started, in a voice that, to Decimus, resembled a town cryer reading an advertisement, complete with their terrible inflections. “Our rooms are private and soundproof. Our staff asks no questions and tells no tales. Reasonable rates for food and lodging." He turned to Seif, the silver-white brows lowering in thought and he broke character. “Did they really need to make the last sentence a fragment? It is incorrect.”

     

    “Hahaha!” Seif laughed, clapping her hands together. “Wish sometimes you had joined the troupe. That was perfect. What a memory! And what a voice!”

     

    I’m beginning to wonder what I got myself into…

     

    The Mer made a sour face and shook his head quickly. “Oh, Seif, I am far too shy for that sort of thing.”

     

    “But not too shy to say some pretty lines for your Seif?” The Argonian asked, placing a clawed hand on the Mer’s chest, and if the lizard had eyelashes, Decimus could swear she would be batting them right now.

     

    “Plenty of time, my sweet, plenty of time…” The Altmer purred with his low baritone, making the Argonian squeal with delight.

     

    She turned quickly to face the still-sulking Altmeri queen. “He knows all the plays, Ayrenn. He really does. And he plays the Altmeri lute too.“ The lizard’s eyes found Ronnie again. “You will grace us then, later tonight?”

     

    “If it pleases you, Seif-ij of the Larsius River’s Actor’s House.”  The Mer nodded formally.

     

    “It pleases me, noble Saves-the-Damsels.” She nodded back.

     

    I will definitely be banging the Mane by then, sorry Ronnie. Poetry and lute playing and me don’t mix.

     

    “Well, anyway. As I was saying.” The Mer chortled. “Not soundproof. I was in my room, resting in my bed, reading--”

     

    “Reading?” Decimus raised his eyebrows, letting a smirk form.

     

    The look on Ronnie’s face made Decimus groan silently. It was so earnestly innocent. “Aye, verily I was reading.”

     

    Only you would read in in a city in the middle of a drug war, in the middle of a city known for sin. Probably taking a break from helping the local law enforcement bring in dealers. Yep, that’s you. I can picture the bottle of milk in hand and everything.

     

    “It is a good thing to read, my old Knight.” Seif cooed, patting the Mer’s shoulder. “Ignore the Colovian dog and his drink. We Saxheel appreciate fine culture.”

     

    Decimus decided to let the joke forming in his brain go, in case she decided not to give him anymore free nights or Surilie’s for that matter. Seif would indeed do that. She’d throw him out naked, still wet from the tub. He had seen her do it to people who pissed her off. Or, she’d have Derk and her guards do it. So hold your tongue, Old Blade, and just think about how wonderful your Slave-Queen is being right now…  

     

    “Well, I was in my room reading. It had been a long day. Managed to find some work helping the local law enforcement deal with the skooma dealers.” The Elf frowned. “What people do to others for coin is beyond me sometimes. They were so overwhelmed.”

     

    Knew it. Decimus shook his head. Ronnie was something else.

     

    “All of the sudden, I hear this terrible screaming.” The old laugh lines then creased. “Like the gates of Oblivion had been opened--” He grunted when Seif’s hand slammed on his chest.

     

    “You are telling it wrong!”

     

    “Am not.” The Mer shot back. “Screaming, like Oblivion. So naturally when I feel like the gates of Oblivion are about to open, I go and investigate, grabbing my scimitar for good measure.” He winked at Dec. “The sound was coming from down the hall.” And then the Mer’s mood changed and Decimus could have sworn that the tips of his pointed ears were starting to go red. “As I approached, I started to smell wax, like candle wax, and the screams became louder. I opened the door. Seif was tied to a wall, naked, and an Orc was pouring hot wax on her, on her bottom. She was screaming, he was sneering, enjoying her pain, and it looked like...”

     

    Shitshitshit, Decimus felt the smile creep over his face and he shook his head, totally believing it. Ronnie walked in on some intense sex and he thought Seif was being attacked. You are so innocent, my friend. “What did you do?” The Imperial grinned, feeling his shoulders shake with laughter. Alessia and Derk were biting their teeth too and even Ayrenn’s eye twitched. That humor keeps creeping up, my Altmeri Queen. The red on the Mer’s ears extended to his cheeks and he saw that her eyes were on the bashful mer. He’s not so ugly when he’s blushing, is he?

     

    “Walked in on some hot sex, eh old Mer?” Decimus burst out, starting to laugh. “Literally! Hot! Oh, that’s priceless! Love it!” He pointed at Ronnie with his wine glass, still laughing. “You are redder than a tomato!”

     

    The Mer chuckled and opened his mouth. “I gue--”

     

    “What did you do?” Decimus interrupted, wiping the tears of laughter from his eyes. He looked at Seif. “He pulled that Orc off you and clobbered him, didn’t he?”

     

    “He saved me.” The Argonian said quietly, narrowing her eyes.

     

    “Huh?” Decimus blinked. “I thought you were--”

     

    “What?” Seif-ij raised her eyebrows and crossed her arms over her chest. “Do you think I like having hot wax poured over my arse? You think that feels good? No, it doesn’t and I screamed and he heard me. He took that Orc and beat the shit out him.” Decimus brows furrowed. He wasn’t quite sure what was wrong with Seif now. She looked almost mad.  “Then he walked me back to the theater, where he spent the night.”

     

    “Oh?” Decimus raised his eyebrows and he knew he had a sly tone, but this was much too fun. Did she try to reward Ronnie the way she rewarded him?

     

    “The city was in chaos. They may tell no stories at the Lonely Suitor, but they still threw him out of the inn and into that mess for what he did to the Orc and to some of the furniture.”

     

    Decimus’ eyes shifted to Ronnie, who was averting his gaze. “Furniture? I thought you had your scimitar?”

     

    “Well, I did not want to actually kill him, so I dropped my sword and I grabbed the thing closest to me. A chair.” The red-orange eyes narrowed. “And then a small table. Was a strong Orc.” The Mer nodded, as if agreeing with himself. “Yes, quite strong. There were bits of wood everywhere...”

     

    “So, I took him to the Larsius.” Seif continued. “And we barely got there.”

     

    Alright, Seif is being dead serious now. “Why?” Decimus asked.

     

    “It was the night they took down the Old Lucky Lady.” Ronnie explained.

     

    Shit!

     

    “People were taking to the streets, like bandits, Dec. I was not in my armor, nor did I have my old shield and bow. Bumph still had them locked away safe in Bruma. I just had what I had on me from the Symposium. I even left the House armor behind.” He bent his head and looked really old to Decimus for a moment. “Not that it matters now. Bastard took all those things in the end when I arrived in Skyrim.”  

     

    “Wait? Your armor?” The Argonian madame asked. “That shiny armor I saw once when I visited you later in Bruma? With its eagles!  That is gone? The old golden bow too?”

     

    The Mer nodded sadly, the face looking old again. “Everything, Seif, gone.”

     

    “Xuth!” The Argonian cursed. “Thalmor bastards.”

     

    “Thalmor?” One of the Ayrenn’s asked, her eyes widening and her jaw then dropped. Alright, she doesn’t like them either. “A golden bow?”

     

    “Another story.” Seif replied curtly, waved her hand in dismissal, though the She-Elf looked like she still had questions. You know who that fucker is now, don’t you? Aye, the real Pale Elf, in the flesh. Slayer of Bet. “I better get back to this one before the old Knight starts wrinkling in this tub like a sun-dried grape and his snails go bad--”

     

    “Snails!” Ronnie exclaimed happily, the eyes widening in surprise, only to grunt again when Seif slapped his chest.

     

    “Shh, story first, then food.” Seif cleared her throat. “We were just actors at the Larsius…” Decimus frowned, giving Seif a look - don’t lie, lizard, you’re not that helpless - and Seif tilted her head to the side. “Don’t give me that look, Goldpact. Yes, I am a University of Gwylim Illusionist, but...” she raised her hands and shrugged her shoulders. “But this Saxheel could not charm her way out of this one. And I can only steal small weapons off people’s belts, little things no one misses, for tricks and such. It is a bit different to try to pickpocket a warhammer or a sword.” She gave Derkeethus a dirty wink. “I am far better with spears.”

     

    Derkeethus splashed water in her direction and laughed. “Don’t I know it. It needs polishing by the way.” He smiled.  

     

    “Later…” She purred before turning back to Decimus. “You were not there that night, Goldpact, so you don’t know.” Seif continued, losing the playful tone she had used for her lover just seconds ago. “There were bodies on the streets. You could hear the screams all night, and I’m sure what was being done to them was a lot worse than hot wax on your bum. The old Knight stayed and set up a barricade, protecting the theater, our home, from them.” Seif rested her head on Ronnie’s shoulder. “Stayed up all night making sure we were safe. Didn’t know me, didn’t know my troupe, but he stayed. An Altmer stayed and helped a Saxheel, a Dunmer, and the rest of my cast of misfits.” She looked up at Ronnie. “Ah, precious, you looked like Oblivion the next morning...”

     

    “It was alright, Seif. I was glad to help.”

     

    “You were tired and on the run. You didn’t have to stop.”

     

    “Yes, I did.” The Mer smiled, giving her a light peck on her scaled head. “Honor all Women, be they Mer, Men, or Beastfolk, as you would honor the Mother who bore you.” He then said softly.

     

    Her eyes traveled to Decimus and he saw her weighted stare through his haze, giving her a nod that he understood. It was just Ronnie. Know you for a second, he’s your friend forever. Uphold the tenets, all that bullshit. Regardless of the position it puts him, he will drop everything and help you. Aye, you make fun of him for it all you want, old Blade, but if he had not barged in on hot sex, you’d not be in this tub right now with your beautiful slave queen.  Her voice broke his chain of thought. “What does your Knight say all the time? The one who found Derk for me? The Saxheel?”

     

    He felt Alessia’s hand and he knew he’d have to leave the tub soon, or ha, he’d be a sun-dried grape too, there would be something swimming in the water, or he’d fall asleep. Or a combination of all three. And she had been such a bad kitty... Wake up Dec. His eyes snapped open and he blinked a few times to clear his vision. “Teineeva.” He murmured, moving Alessia’s hand away. She pouted and kissed his shoulder. Ah don’t sulk, my queen. you have cleansed me well. I am now ready to formally greet the Mane of Elsweyr…  

     

    “What does your Teineeva say?” The Argonian madame pressed, her impatient tail  quivering causing ripples in the water. Damn, she is a pushy one sometimes. “‘Contracts, contracts… not…” The eyes narrowed. “I can’t think. I think I am finished with this tub too.” She clapped her hands and servants appeared from the shadows. “You have your orders and my appreciation.” They nodded silently and Decimus saw them scurry about, blurs of motion, bringing fresh sets of clothes and linens for drying. He snapped to attention when he heard the sound of a hand slapping a forehead and his eyes shot back to Seif.  “Oh, causes. That’s it. ‘Contracts not causes.’”

     

    “That’s Teineeva, alright.” Decimus replied, beginning to stretch his shoulders.

     

    The Argonian sighed and nestled her head on the Mer’s shoulder again. “I am just glad that on that night, this one saw things the other way around.”

     

    Alessia gave him another kiss. Aye, me too, Decimus grinned.

    Seif-ij studied the Mer that was perusing through the shelves of  books in her library, the long, pale fingers of one hand running over the worn leather bindings, tracing the embossed writing on their spines. Running through their titles, remembering the stories they told in his mind. The other hand held a smoking pipe as he moved and Seif saw delicate wisps of smoke in the Mer’s wake, highlighted by the moonlight. When he passed, her nostrils flared slightly at the faint traces of frost mirriam mixing with the moon sugar he was smoking.

     

    He had needed something very strong tonight.

     

    They had been quiet for some time after she brought him there after dinner. The meal had been a fine affair; the troupe happy to see their gallant knight return and he was more than happy to oblige them with songs and quotes from the plays they all treasured. But now, they were quiet and reflective.

     

    “Thank you for the meal, Seif.” Ronnie finally spoke. “It was…” He paused, looking up from scanning a book shelf and then a warm smile found his features. “Something I have not had in years. Just the right amount of Dragon’s Tongue.”

     

    “Not everyone can eat as the Saxheel do. Was very surprised when you told me of the snails.”

     

    “Bless Tanan-Ze of the Black-Tongue tribe. Saved my life when work took me to Argonia early in my Exile. May he  know many more lives through the Hist.”

     

    Seif chuckled, lifting her glass of Argonian Bloodwine in a toast. “Oh, I’m sure he’s enjoying his new life.”

     

    “Never met a smarter person, Seif. He knew everything about his homeland. I learned much from him.”  The Mer sighed, letting his laugh lines crease. “Probably going through every plant species and searching the jungles for new animals. Or playing a game of Shells and Stones.”

     

    “Or not.” Seif laughed, taking another sip.  

     

    “You don’t think so? It was what he loved most.” The Mer raised his eyebrows, and she watched him puff his pipe thoughtfully in the candlelight. The smell of moon sugar teasing her nostrils. It always did.

     

    “We Saxheel keep only flashes, scents, feelings of what we were, friend. To keep on the same path for every life, however, is boring, yes?  So who knows what he is doing now? We will never know. We only know that he showed you snails when you two were friends all these years ago and now little Seif makes them for you because they are your favorite and she is your friend too.”

     

    “They are indeed.” The Mer replied with a pat of his sated belly, turning his attention back to the walls of books that went from floor to ceiling. “This is a bigger library than Jorrvaskr’s. I am envious.”

     

    “Ha! Give yourself another year in Skyrim and you will surpass me.” She gestured to one of the noble chairs. “Come sit, I am not such a fool to not notice that you have something on your mind.” The old Knight released another heavy sigh, but listened, finding a seat closest to the window.

     

    He faced the window and observed the night sky, only to turn away from it later in disgust, wrinkling his nose. “I can smell the death in the air, the stink of the deathbell. I hate it.”

     

    “Me too. It even stifles the sea breeze and in my time in Solitude, nothing has managed to do that. You will give little Seif back her sea breeze, yes?” She asked.

     

    “Knight’s Honor.” The Mer said softly and was quiet again. Seif chose to sit at the edge of the Mer’s chair and reached for his hair with a clawed hand, stroking it. He had unbound it for the evening. After dinner, she watched him tuck away that lacing in a pouch sewn to his woolen trousers like it was the most precious of things. A different one than the one she remembered. One end of the lacing was now lined with three hawk feathers. Hawk feathers dipped in blood. The hair seemed to be resting from the stifled confines of the braids he had worn earlier, spilling over his shoulders and down his back like white, rippling silk against the brown of the modest wool he wore. And she stroked it, partly because she liked it, the texture of it against her scaled hand, and partly because the action seemed to soothe him.

     

    The Goldpact Knight did not know the full story and perhaps he never would. Ayrenn had been a humiliating mistake, but she knew then that Ronnie had not told Decimus. Few knew. Seif knew, their shared love of books and plays and his sadness opening him up soon after their ordeal at the Larsius, making him confess to her all the horror that had happened to him. What the monsters that were his people had done to him. And then they had tried, because why not? There was admiration, respect, friendship, he was kaj, both were lonely, and time can heal such wounds, yes? After all, she was the Lusty Argonian Maid, she smirked bitterly, silently. If anyone could, she could. Not in love, but in loneliness, her heart aching for Derkeethus and his… his? In another place entirely. Songs of the mysterious Ebonaynne sung in his dreams while he slept. She wondered who that beautiful woman was. Because he only seemed truly happy in those dreams.

     

    But he never worked and she respected his wishes to stop her efforts. Damaged by his own people. They remained close friends. A whore and a virgin. An Altmer and Saxheel. Seif smirked again. She thought about mentioning the salve from Hammerfell when she knew that Ronnie was going to stay at Proudspire. It had worked wonders on some of her oldest clients and she had hoped that maybe one of her girls would strike his fancy, but… She sighed, still stroking his hair. Not now, not after Ayrenn. It would be like salt on a wound. And besides, you know Ayrenn is not really what he wants.

     

    He released some air and his shoulders stooped. “Why did you lie, Seif? You were with the Orc. I had acted in error. Decimus assumed correctly.”

     

    “Assuming correctly doesn’t make it right. I no longer wished for you to be the butt of his jokes. I love him like you do, his good cheer and his ready humor,  but he took it too far this time. You were offended and I will speak with Ayrenn in the morning.”

     

    He faced her, shook his head and then fiddled nervously with the sleeve of his tunic. “Please don’t.”

     

    “She treated you like shit and abandoned her character.”

     

    “Just don’t. I will be gone soon and it really doesn’t matter.”

     

    “Ah Ronnie, you sure?” Seif asked.

     

    “Yes. Please, just leave her alone. She does not know any different.” He replied, still fiddling with his sleeve and he was close to going distant. That was not what she wanted, but it was the Altmer way. To retreat from the deep emotions they could not process instead of face them. It was the Saxheel way to some extent too.

     

    “Will you at least speak with him? You are not happy, my friend. He embarrassed you badly.”

     

    “He was just being Dec.” He seemed to flash an apologetic smile for the Imperial, but his heart wasn’t in it.

     

    “No, I disagree.” Seif argued. “Just because he is like family to you doesn’t give him the excuse to treat you poorly. I do not treat you that way.”

     

    “Right now, Seif, I have more important things to think about, than someone’s drunken jokes or a lady’s airs.” He delivered flatly, and Seif could feel him starting to retreat.

     

    Seif frowned and the reality of him being right set in. “I know.” She nodded, conceding that Ronnie didn’t want to discuss the matter further, lest he retreat anymore and then not want to talk at all. She moved a stray lock of hair away from his face. Shorter than the rest and she wondered how it got that way. “The Mage, We heard.”

     

    “The Mage?” The Mer suddenly laughed, turning to face Seif. “Auri-El’s bow, Seif, that Garlythi is the last thing on my mind. The city is being oppressed by a dangerous force that when alive put Solitude through Oblivion, and I am like St. Jiub in a nest of fucking cliff racers.” He smirked bitterly. “Minus the Saint part, because - oh, how I have sinned - and the Cliff racers in Skyrim all wear black and gold.” The Mer growled, pounded his fist on his thigh and faced the window, his frustration building. “And I do not want to ask you for help, because it means I cannot handle my own proble--”

     

    Seif put a clawed finger to the Mer’s lips, silencing him. “No, you are my friend and I will help you. What do you need from Seif?”

     

    “No, Self--” He started to protest.

     

    “Yes!” The Argonian hissed. “It is not fair. I will not have you do what you are going to do. Make the sacrifice that you will make, only to be hunted down by those dogs. If little Seif can help you, she will. Tomorrow, when you go into those catacombs, when you chase that awful death, the Saint must not think of the Cliff racers. Tell me what you need and I will get it for you.”

     

    He hung his head in silence for a few moments, his face beginning to mask over, about to close himself off, and she could not help herself, she wouldn’t let him, not this time. Her hand brought his head to rest against her shoulder. She was surprised when there was no resistance and then her chest grew heavy when she felt the warm wetness of his tears against her scales, accompanied by the stifled sobs of one who is trying to release and still suppress at the same time. At odds. Quiet tears. His quiet ‘thank you’ and his quiet pain. Oh, my dear friend, what is on your mind that is making you like this, your little Seif will perhaps never know. He let her hold him for a moment before she felt him suddenly stiffen and pull away, clearing his throat, the rawness now over, though she could still see the struggle on the poor knight’s features as he awkwardly wiped his face. “There is a secret entrance to Solitude, through the docks.” He finally admitted hoarsely. “The Spellsword, Belrand, brought me there to get me into the city.”

     

    “Go on.”

     

    “My horse is at the stables. She will need to be moved there. My things loaded. I will head there directly after the catacombs, gods willing.”

     

    “But surely they will give you time, old Knight? Who knows how you will emerge from that place? What if you are hurt? Or the Gold-” The hunted look on her friend’s face stopped her from continuing. The sad resignation that what she was saying was a lie. “They will still hunt you.” She said quietly.

     

    “It never stops, Seif.” And she then understood the tears.

     

    “I know.” She stroked his hair again and felt a lump in her throat while he again faced the window. “My poor old Knight.”

     

    “I do his work.” He smiled, though the smile did not find those normally dancing eyes and the voice lacked his usual strength. Frail, like brittle glass. “It is all I know.”

     

    Seif cleared her own throat and gave the Mer a quick kiss to the cheek. “You smoke your pipe and enjoy your time at the library, then. Eat all the sugary foods you want, the pantry will be open all night for those cravings and that new little belly. Say your tenets and then go to bed.  I will make all the arrangements. You only think of one thing tomorrow.” She mustered a smile and turned the Mer’s head to face her. “You put on your priestly paint and get ready to enter the stage. Shining, and pure. The White Knight.”

     

    “I play my part.” The Mer mused and Seif, for an instant, regretted her word choice, remembering what had happened in the tub. He doesn’t want to be the pure knight, not anymore.

     

    “We are all actors on this arena, my good friend.” She replied thoughtfully. “You know your lines and the songs you must sing. Sometimes it is a role we covet and sometimes…” She sighed, her scaled brow furrowing. “We no longer wish to be typecast. We yearn for something more. Your little Seif has deeply felt this too, but we must sometimes still play the part we are best known for, yes?” He nodded, understanding her words. “So you perform your greatest role and leave it to Derk and me to handle the rest.”

     

    “My backstage crew?” The mer chortled and Seif saw the old eyes start to snap with their fire.  

     

    ”You are the lead in this play, not I, old Knight. And It is a part you play beautifully.” Her clawed hands gestured towards the window. “The night will give way to the dawn. It will back down. The Saint will slay the demons and free this city, little Seif knows this of her brave old Knight.” She chuckled. “Besides this old actress is retired.”

     

    “Oh?”

     

    “Aye,” she started, giving him another kiss to the cheek before she made to leave her library, her gossamer robes rustling. “Because someone kind once reminded me that hot wax hurts.”

     

    The Mer chuckled and raised an eyebrow. “You know, there’s a spear waiting to be polished.” and she smiled at his words. Derk was probably indeed waiting.  

     

    “Plenty of time, my sweet, plenty of time...” She whispered before leaving.


     

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Comments

8 Comments   |   The Lorc of Flowers and 7 others like this.
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  September 11
    "So a Goldpact Knight and a Priest of Auri-el went to a brothel one night..." It sounds like one of those stories you tell your friends during a night out drinking. Oddly enough, I could picture this whole chapter pretty well in my head. Kinda reminds me ...  more
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      "So a Goldpact Knight and a Priest of Auri-el went to a brothel one night..." It sounds like one of those stories you tell your friends during a night out drinking. Oddly enough, I could picture this whole chapter pretty well in my head. Kinda reminds me ...  more
        ·  September 11
      "A priest and a knight walk into a brothel." Yup, that's precisely it. Though we originally wanted "A priest, a knight and a dog walk into a brothel." :D
      • KaiserSoSay
        KaiserSoSay
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        The Lorc of Flowers
        "A priest and a knight walk into a brothel." Yup, that's precisely it. Though we originally wanted "A priest, a knight and a dog walk into a brothel." :D
          ·  September 11
        Tis' a shame Koor couldn't join in on the fun. :P
        • The Long-Chapper
          The Long-Chapper
          KaiserSoSay
          KaiserSoSay
          KaiserSoSay
          Tis' a shame Koor couldn't join in on the fun. :P
            ·  September 11
          Koor is having a night to remember with Farkas, Teineeva, Erik, and Grulmar. :D
  • Paws
    Paws   ·  September 10
    Wot a chapper, Lis and Karves! Humour and eroticism in spades along with the appearance of an old friend, Seif, whose build is in the Workshop as I type. My face lit up like king Olaf's Effigy on festival night when I saw her name. I was taken aback by th...  more
    • The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      Paws
      Paws
      Paws
      Wot a chapper, Lis and Karves! Humour and eroticism in spades along with the appearance of an old friend, Seif, whose build is in the Workshop as I type. My face lit up like king Olaf's Effigy on festival night when I saw her name. I was taken aback by th...  more
        ·  September 10
      Thanks Phil. Yep, the little Argonian bard made into the Straag Universe and I'm happy you like her characterization. I just didn't want her being this shallow person, you know? Only a femme fatale or a brand. Somebody with depth. 
  • Ben W
    Ben W   ·  September 10
  • A Shadow Under the Moons
    A Shadow Under the Moons   ·  September 9
    Ehehehe, leave it to a cat to exploit... weak points.

    And phew, that's a lot of dirty chapters. Quite sad for Albee, though, being in a place that constantly reminds him of his 'infirmity'.