Darkening Sky, Chapter 10

  • Chapter 10

     

     

     

     

                    Lencius knew from the moment they came that his letter hadn’t gone through quickly enough.

     

                    He had been writing up a report for his last mission when the six kits arrived in his office. Some of the younger agents in the outpost were staring at them – most hadn’t seen shinobi before. He’d bidden them sit on the side of his desk, then continued writing.

     

                    The kits were patient. They waited in silence as his quill scratched over paper. Lencius studied them out of a corner of his eye as he worked – after all, he hadn’t seen them for almost five years.

     

                    Ambarro drew the most attention; that much hadn’t changed. He was the tallest of all the kits, standing at six feet of height. He wasn’t as unkempt as Lencius remembered him at thirteen, though he still left his tunic unbelted and his black mane was kept loose and windswept. His staff hung diagonally on his back as he dangled his feet from his seat. The prankster's glint behind his eyes was now accompanied by an adult’s fire.

     

                    Beside him sat Diia, still the most catlike of all the Po’ Tun he’d met. Like Ambarro, her body language sang a song of constant energy even while she was still, the coiled power in her lithe shoulders and thighs telling him that she could spring into a blur of brown-furred action at any given moment. She carried no visible weapons, but Lencius knew that that didn’t mean much for a shinobi. Probably has a dozen hidden blades on her body.

     

                    Harrow had grown beautiful. That was the only word that came to mind. Not handsome; not dashing – beautiful, even for an elf. Lencius had to resist the urge to stare. His features were as dainty and delicate as ever, and had only grown more refined with age. He was nowhere near as tall as an Altmer ought to be, and he had not gained much in width, either. A straight blade was sheathed on his hip, his first katana having shattered on the Twinstinger.

     

                    Lencius found himself scowling as he thought of Larethor, and stabbed his quill into his inkpot with more force than was necessary. Nacadi leant to a side to avoid the specks of ink flying her way.

     

                    ‘Sorry, lass,’ Lencius murmured. Nacadi smiled and waved a hand dismissively. She was sitting next to Rinka, and Lencius did not remember much about those two. He had seen them train and spar when he visited Tsukikage, and knew that they both fought with tanto – short Akaviri blades around a foot or so in length – but other than that, they were a mystery.

     

                    Yuuzen was making some adjustments to his bow. Had Lencius been in a better mood, he might have gone over to examine and discuss the intricacies of the weapon. It was nowhere near as big as the yumi that the kit had wielded when they last met. Quite the opposite – it was one of the smallest bows he had ever seen. For mobility and concealability? A shame having to sacrifice draw weight for that, given a shinobi’s unnatural strength.

     

                    Then he noticed that the bow was made of metal, in a design seemingly taken from the Dwemer’s. There were multiple strings attached to a series of interlocking gears set into the bow.

     

                    Yuuzen noticed his curiosity and grinned. ‘Taking a professional interest, Lencius-do? They’re for adjusting the draw weight freely,’ he explained, twisting one set of gears. ‘It can go up to thirty-five thousand angaids.’

     

                    Lencius ran the numbers in his head and eyed the metallic bow dubiously. ‘That’s more than five hundred pounds,’ he said, raising an eyebrow. At the same time, he realised that Yuuzen’s arms were twice as thick as the other kits’ – which was still slim by normal standards, but spoke volumes of his muscular power if one knew of the potions Tsukikage fed to their children.

     

                    Yuuzen nodded with satisfaction, slinging the bow back onto his back. ‘Enough force to stop a charging mammoth dead.’

     

                    Lencius was about to whistle appreciatively, then he remembered why the kits were in his office. His face darkened and he simply grunted. Sensing his mood, Yuuzen fell silent and waited alongside his fellows as he finished his report.

     

                    Scribbling the last line down, Lencius slotted the file into a folder, then swivelled to face the kits, his hands steepled. The Oculatus agent stared at the shinobi for a long while, the expressions on both sides inscrutable.

     

                    Lencius opened his mouth, and in a dead, even voice, asked one question.

     

                    ‘It was one of you, wasn’t it?’

     

                    Harrow dipped his head in a motion somewhat between a nod and a bow. ‘I struck the lethal blow, yes. I’m sorry, Lencius-do. Most messages arrive in Tsukikage at the end of each month, along with other goods and imports. Even the most important of them can take two weeks to deliver. By the time we got your letter…’

     

                    Lencius focused his stare on him. Slowly, bit by bit, he felt his shoulders relax. He’d expected to feel… more. To feel angry at his brother’s killer, to feel at least some kind of loss. And yet all he could feel was resignation.

     

                    ‘Longinus had it coming,’ he sighed. ‘A man like that, leading the life he did? I’m more surprised it didn’t happen sooner.’

     

                    He sighed again, his vision blurring.

     

                    ‘Eh?’ Lencius rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand and made a show of yawning. ‘That’s funny. I usually don’t get tired so soon.’

     

                    ‘Yes,’ Diia said gently. ‘Perhaps you should retire a few hours early, Lencius-do.’ The other kits murmured assent.

     

                    Lencius was slightly flustered that none of them were fooled.

     

                    ‘Oh, that won’t do at all,’ he said, forcing cheer into his voice. ‘Turning in early isn’t the Colovian way of dealing with such things. I’m hitting up every tavern I see on my way out, and I’m not stopping until I’m a quivering wreck on the floor.’

     

                    Rinka’s ears twitched. ‘Drinking… for the sake of getting drunk?’

     

                    ‘You don’t do that in your village?’

     

                    ‘…no, not really.’

     

                    ‘Ah. Then let me introduce you Akaviri to this custom of Tamriel,’ Lencius thumped his chest, still forcing himself to smile, to stay jovial. Drinking and making merry. No better cure for melancholy, and even better with company. ‘We’re going tavern-hopping!’


     

                    ‘Cheaters!’ Lencius leant on Harrow and Ambarro’s shoulders as they helped him out of the fifth tavern and into the street. ‘You’re all dirty cheaters.’

     

                    It had been five hours since they got started, and he’d finally realised why the shinobi didn’t drink much.

     

                    They couldn’t get drunk.

     

                    Every one of the kits had been drinking with him to be polite, and all of them were still perfectly coherent. ‘Our digestive tracts are extremely efficient,’ Harrow was explaining. ‘The base components of the material we take in are separated almost instantaneously and converted into energy. Ethanol is no different.’

     

                    ‘Cheating,’ Lencius sang, waggling his finger in the elven shinobi’s face. ‘Dirty… fucking… cheaters.’

     

                    Yuuzen and Nacadi winced, and Lencius grinned. ‘You don’t like it when people swear?’

     

                    ‘We… don’t really indulge in profanity, Lencius-do,’ Diia said awkwardly.

     

                    ‘Fuck,’ Lencius chanted. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck.’ He cackled as all of the kits flinched. All of them except for Ambarro, who cackled along with him and added, ‘Shit.’

     

                    Lencius let out a bray of laughter. ‘Cock!’

     

                    They stared at each other, grins widening as the other five in the party tried their best to look away and maintain some semblance of dignity.

     

                    ‘BBBBBBBBEEEEETCHHHH!’ they both roared, drawing disgusted glares from passing pedestrians.

     

                    ‘For crying out loud,’ Harrow mumbled through gritted teeth.

     

                    ‘Ambarro-to, please…’ Diia looked as if she was about to faint from sheer mortification.

     

                    ‘So, ready to head home now, Lencius-do?’ Nacadi tugged at her collar, fanning the underside of her jaw.

     

                    ‘Fuck no,’ Lencius exclaimed. ‘On to the next one!’

     

                    Ambarro whooped.

     

                    The sixth tavern’s owner looked reluctant to even let him in. That was quickly rectified with an entire purse of septims. ‘Long as you can pay,’ the man muttered, standing aside and glaring at the catfolk distrustfully. ‘And don’t start any trouble.’

     

                    ‘Wait wait wait wait.’ Lencius stopped midway, held up a finger, and pointed at Diia, Nacadi and Rinka. ‘What’re you women still doing here, eh? This is a boy’s night out now,’ he slurred, stumbling over to a table. ‘Shoo, shoo, away with you. Go home to your knitting already.’

     

                    ‘We do use needles, Lencius-do.’ Rinka’s eyes glittered dangerously. ‘But not usually for knitting.’

     

                    ‘It’s all right, the three of us should be able to keep Lencius-do company,’ Yuuzen said. ‘Don’t worry,’ he added, more quietly. ‘We’ll look after him.’

     

                    ‘I still don’t understand why Tamriellians intentionally poison themselves for fun.’ Nacadi shook her head, disgruntled. ‘All right, stay out of trouble.’ She clasped Yuuzen by the arm, then made for the doorway.

     

                    ‘I’ll see you back at the village, Ambarro-to!’ Diia smiled brightly as she left with the two other girls. Ambarro returned her smile, waving her goodbye.

     

                    ‘Ooo,’ Lencius hooted, slapping him on the back as the door to the tavern banged shut. ‘You two have a thing going, eh?’

     

                    Ambarro scratched his head, looking bashful for once. ‘We’re mostly taking things slow, but-’

     

                    ‘Oh, piss,’ Lencius snorted, calling for a round of ale. ‘Take it from me, slow is never the way to go. Seize the first chance you get and plant a fat, wet kiss right on that... snout?’

     

                    ‘They’re still only holding hands,’ Harrow chuckled.

     

                    ‘You’re shitting me,’ Lencius laughed. ‘What is this, one of those copper-coin novels? Get on with it, lad! What’s keeping you?’

     

                    ‘Missions keep us busy, what with the current affairs-’

     

                    ‘Oi! What did I say?” Lencius waggled his finger again. ‘No talk of politics! And that’s a poor excuse. Maybe you’re just too gutless to take things further, hmm?’

     

                    Yuuzen’s lips twitched, as if he wasn’t sure whether to laugh or not. ‘I… alcohol makes you much more candid, Lencius-do.’

     

                    ‘Hey,’ Ambarro said defensively, his hackles rising. ‘We’re getting married!’

     

                    Harrow and Yuuzen spat out their drinks.

     

                    ‘Phhhffffppp- You’re what?’ Yuuzen yelped, looking at Harrow wildly.

     

                    Harrow wiped his lips, blinked, then, as if nothing had happened, replied calmly, ‘I have not heard of this.’ And he fixed Ambarro with a deathly stare.

     

                    ‘Well, um,’ Ambarro stammered. ‘After we both come back from our three-year journey, we’re planning on it, yeah.’

     

                    ‘So it’s not in another four years,’ Lencius said dismissively, draining his ale in one gulp. ‘But still, good for you! What about you, Yuuzen? Any marriage plans? To anyone other than that bow of yours? You seem very close with Miss Nacadi.’

     

                    Yuuzen grinned, stroking one limb of the weapon still slung on his back. ‘It’s hard to find a fairer lady than she, no? As for Nacadi-daro… well, we’re very good friends, but I see no reason to move beyond that.’

     

                    ‘Hmph,’ Lencius shrugged, losing interest. He took a swig of yet another pint, then smacked his lips and turned to the last person on the table. ‘What about you, my young elven friend?’

     

                    ‘What about me?’ Harrow said mildly.

     

                    ‘Oh, come now, you know what I’m talking about!’ Had Lencius been just a little more sober, he might have noticed the subtle change in the atmosphere, the grins cooling on Ambarro and Yuuzen’s faces.

     

                    Harrow smiled lightly, a smile that did not reach his eyes. ‘Is this what Tamriellians call “boy talk”?’

     

                    ‘No changing the subject,’ Lencius leered. ‘Let me be very clear, then, I’m-’

     

                    Yuuzen tugged on his sleeve, his eyes downcast. He shook his head, ever so slightly.

     

                    It took Lencius a long while to take a hint, but he still didn’t understand. He looked over at Harrow, frowning. He was completely inebriated, but his eyes were still that of Cyrodiil’s finest archer. No detail escaped their sight.

     

                    Narrow shoulders and even narrower waist, with hips that were much wider in contrast. Sweet Mara, I didn’t think it was possible for a man to have an hourglass figure. Not a trace of stubble anywhere on the chin and jaw. And then the way he sat… legs turned inwards, thighs pressed together, closer and tighter than any normal boy could ever bear.

     

                    Oh, fuck.

     

                    Harrow raised his head. ‘I cannot reproduce.’

     

                    ‘Fuck,’ Lencius said dumbly, feeling painfully insensitive. ‘Does it have something to do with…’

     

                    ‘The potions? Yes, Lencius-do, but let’s not mention their name in public.’ Harrow tilted his head to a side and raised a finger to his lips, his eyelashes coming down to obscure one silver pupil in a lazy, teasing wink. He seemed amused for some absurd reason.

     

                    Ambarro and Yuuzen were no longer smiling, their eyes clouding over with guilt. ‘Oh, please, you two,’ Harrow chided. ‘I’ve had half a decade to make my peace with this. There’s no need to feel uncomfortable.’

     

                    He turned back to Lencius. ‘Yes, Lencius-do, I cannot reproduce. The… third potion modifies our muscular structure and induces growth, making a select few hormones unnecessary. Those hormones can also affect mood, influencing judgement, so their elimination was only logical. As this potion is applied to a kit at the onset of puberty, the effects on the reproductive system are quite severe. The potion’s formula allows a Po’ Tun to retain the ability to procreate, but… well, the hormonal balance of an Altmer is very different from that of a Po’ Tun’s.’

     

                    ‘Fuck,’ Lencius repeated, raising his hands to his head. ‘Did you know when you were drinking that shit?’

     

                    ‘Not then, no,’ Harrow said. ‘But over time, the signs became unmistakeable. My stunted growth, compared to a regular Altmer. My voice, too – lighter and softer, lacking the lower pitch of naturally matured male vocal cords.’

     

                    ‘So you don’t have…’ Lencius looked at the base of those thighs, still pressed tightly together. Squeezing. He shuddered.

     

                    ‘Oh, the biological structure is still there.’ Harrow laughed. Lencius used to find the sound pleasant, a high and tinkling melody, like a schoolgirl's giggle. He would never be able to listen to that laugh the same way again. ‘They simply haven’t grown or emerged from the intestines.’

     

                    ‘And you’re fine with this,’ he said in disbelief. ‘You’re fine with what your village has done to you.’

     

                    ‘Of course,’ Harrow said, tilting his head.

     

                    ‘They might as well have cut it off outright!’ Lencius yelled. ‘There’s no excuse for unmanning a little boy who’s never- never even-’

     

                    He trailed off, sputtering.

     

                    ‘Tamriellian ideals of manhood and masculinity.’ Harrow was almost smirking. ‘Look at me, Lencius-do.’ He scooted around the table. There was a subtle shift in his bearing and aura, and all of a sudden Lencius realised that he was looking at the slender elf in a very different light.

     

                    ‘Look at me,’ Harrow said gently as he leant close. Those ethereal, moonlike eyes were hypnotic. He lowered himself to chest-height. ‘Ahnn,’ he whispered, gazing upwards. ‘Your heart is racing, Lencius-do.’

     

                    ‘I don’t…’ Lencius croaked. ‘I don’t swing that way.’

     

                    ‘That’s what one of my targets insisted when I first met him,’ Harrow breathed, lips curving. ‘Do you know what he was doing an hour later?’

     

                    Then, just as quickly, the moment passed. A dash of colour suffused Harrow’s cheeks, and he returned to his seat. Lencius found his breath again.

     

                    ‘I’m sorry, Lencius-do,’ Harrow said, bowing in apology. ‘That was most improper.’

     

                    ‘No, I…’ Lencius cleared his throat. ‘I didn’t mind.’

     

                    ‘Perhaps you can now see why I don’t mind myself, then.’ Harrow rose from the bow, and this time his smile could be seen in his eyes. ‘This body that my masters and seniors have gifted me is perfect for a shinobi’s purpose.’

     

                    Once again Lencius was reminded that, despite the similarities in their line of work, the Oculatus and the Shadeclaws lived in vastly different worlds.

     

                    ‘So I see,’ he said, having sobered somewhat from the excitement.

     

                    ‘A pity you let things stop at that, Lencius-do,’ Ambarro sniggered. ‘Didn’t you tell me to “seize the first chance I get”?’

     

                    ‘I’ll say,’ Yuuzen chimed in. ‘Letting a beauty like that slip through your fingers? Tsk, tsk.’

     

                    ‘All right, you little tykes,’ he grumbled, swaying as he felt a wave of drunkenness return.

     

                    On the opposite end of the table, Harrow hugged one leg to his chin, snuggling his nose into his knee. ‘Boy talk?’ he offered, peering outwards mischievously.

     

                    Lencius groaned, thankful that nobody else from the Oculatus was here. I’d never live this down.

     

                    ‘Boy talk,’ he agreed, and called for another drink.

     

     

     

     

     

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Comments

7 Comments   |   KaiserSoSay and 3 others like this.
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  October 15
    I was wondering when you'd address Harrow's traits again. I thought it too coincidental that he had such an androgynous quality to his character. 
    • A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      The Long-Chapper
      I was wondering when you'd address Harrow's traits again. I thought it too coincidental that he had such an androgynous quality to his character. 
        ·  October 15
      Yes, I was going to have to address it sooner or later. Decided to write it from Lencius' perspective for an outsider's point of view on the full impact of Rendanshu.
  • The Lorc of Flowers
    The Lorc of Flowers   ·  October 15
    :O 
    Not completely sure it was a good idea to read during lunch. Should have waited for evening and bottle of something strong, hehehe :D
    • A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      :O 
      Not completely sure it was a good idea to read during lunch. Should have waited for evening and bottle of something strong, hehehe :D
        ·  October 15
      Maybe go tavern-hopping, hmm...? Heheheheheheheh.
  • KaiserSoSay
    KaiserSoSay   ·  October 15
    Whoa, what kind of sick gender-bent plot twist did you just give us here, Harrow?!
    Seriously, that is as fucked up as an Argonian sex-change. That's a compliment BTW.
    • A Shadow Under the Moons
      A Shadow Under the Moons
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Whoa, what kind of sick gender-bent plot twist did you just give us here, Harrow?!
      Seriously, that is as fucked up as an Argonian sex-change. That's a compliment BTW.
        ·  October 15
      *covers ears and runs around*
      I'm not sick! I'm not perverted! I'm not perverteeeddddd! >.<
    • The Lorc of Flowers
      The Lorc of Flowers
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      KaiserSoSay
      Whoa, what kind of sick gender-bent plot twist did you just give us here, Harrow?!
      Seriously, that is as fucked up as an Argonian sex-change. That's a compliment BTW.
        ·  October 15
      Wanted to read this chapter after my lunch, but this gender-bending compliment makes me want to read it now...Thanks, Kaiser :D