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Feb 16, 2020 8:32 PM
the dark brotherhood gets a contract on the last dragonborn
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The next morning, the villagers give her some cold weather gear - they apologize and say they can't afford to spare any provisions. She waves them off, too tired for this song and dance. She's not persuasive enough to wring more out of them, and it'll burn daylight trying to do so.

Her horse apparently escaped in the night, when the dragon burned part of the paddock, but it stayed with the cows, who came when their farmers called, so she has it back. With her things, even.

She's slow on the road that day, lingering soreness from the burn and her horse's exhaustion from the night before meaning she doesn't get nearly as far as she'd wanted. She's grateful for the cold weather gear when she winds up having to camp between villages. All told, she's probably lost a day.

The next day, when she's left a little crossroads village behind and is approaching the last village before the contested lands - which will be fun to argue her way through - she sees a man with a broken cart. There's a box on the cart, and the man's wearing a jester's outfit, of all things. How he hasn't frozen to death yet is a mystery.

He's shouting as she approaches, apparently talking to himself. Something about his mother.

Ena slows, and sighs.

Great. Just what she needed.

She tries to go past him, but he gets in her way, and her horse is skittish, unwilling to just run him down, so it dances out of his path. Ena glances at him, jaw firm. "Need something?" she asks.

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"Yes! Yes, Cicero needs something! Cicero's poor mother is cold, and will never get to her new crypt if my wagon remains stuck!" he wails. "Poor mother! Her children do not have her guidance, no, there is no listener, and her keeper cannot take her to her resting place..."

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Something about those phrases twinges in the back of her mind. "Who is your mother?" she asks, almost idly, while plotting a way to get around him without her horse dancing into the deep snow.

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"The Lady of all! She's everyone's Mother - and you're one of hers too, aren't you? You know the words to speak to the Night Mother - but oh, she doesn't speak back! Not in years, and not to poor Cicero..." he sighs.

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The Night Mother.

Of all the luck.

If she wants to stay in the good graces of the Dark Brotherhood - assuming she gets away with protecting Lianda - well. She doubts Astrid will like him or his distraction much. (But if people are torn, between the Night Mother and Astrid, she may just have an opportunity there...)

She nods, distracted.

Should she help him? It'll slow her down, but she's been making good time, and the later rewards might be worth it. But, she very well might never even have a chance to collect on those rewards...

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"Alright, I'll help," she says - soon enough her hesitation shouldn't be too obvious. While it will slow her down, she should get to Lianda's general area before Babette. And the Keeper's favor is potentially invaluable.

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"Oh, happy day!" Cicero cries, dancing a bit, as Ena swings down from her horse.

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She nods, absently. "You coming down from - Dawnstar?"

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Cicero hums. "Yes, yes. We took a ship in. It's a long walk to Mother's new home, but it is worth it!"

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There's something odd in his eyes, Ena thinks. Not mirth. Not insanity.

He's the Keeper, likely for a reason.

She makes a vaguely agreeable noise, and circles around the wagon, examining what broke. It looks like the wooden axle snapped - probably an easier fix than an entire wheel, but she has neither tools nor knowledge.

Ena sighs.

She knows where will.

The village she passed this morning. It's only a few hours behind her, but that's a greater delay than helping him roll his wagon out of a ditch.

"There's a village two hours' ride the way I came," she tells him. "I don't have any tools for fixing this, but they will. Are you alright staying here?"

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He nods and quivers a bit. "Oh, yes! Yes! Cicero has warm clothes, and food, and is prepared for the winter - but not for how few people there are here, no not at all..."

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She sighs. "I'll be back in - probably five hours, okay? Whoever I get to help might take a bit longer, but I'll be able to let you know when they're coming."

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"Oh thank you, thank you so much!" he cries, dancing about. She waves him off, then returns to her horse, and turns its head back to the village.

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Convincing a wagon-wright to come out out with her is a bit difficult. The folk here are suspicious of outsiders, especially since the outbreak of the Civil War, and Ena's never liked having to talk people into things. Plant rumors, sure. Command, sure. Persuade? That's always been her sister's job.

There is an apprentice, though, willing to help out even a described eccentric, who borrows a draft horse and rides out following Ena. The apprentice apparently can fit all of her tools in a few packs, and she's traveling light enough they make decent time back.

The apprentice develops a rather strained smile when she actually sees Cicero, but is polite enough not to say anything. She waves off any offers of help, beyond occasionally asking them to help lift this or that, and sets to work.

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Ena stands to the side with Cicero, prepared to say her goodbyes and move on, when he turns to her and says, "You've helped us quite a lot! I hardly know what we would have done without you, alone in the cold. In return, whispers for your ears - Cicero hears much, sees much, knows much. A riddle just for you!"

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A valuable trade indeed, Ena thinks, and gestures for him to go on.

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[Rumor placeholder during vote]

[One of:

"The sleeping ones are waking, yes, and people do not listen! They do not know what is coming."

"No one remembers the clock's story, do they? Lost, lost, lost, and it spins deep below."

"There's a game being played. Many, many players. Many pieces, falling apart."]

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She blinks, thanks him seriously, and files it away - it's not obvious now what he even means, but perhaps it will be, later. And it seems like the type of thing to not dismiss out of hand.

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He nods, dances back over to the apprentice, and calls out a thanks again as she rides away down the road.

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It's another six days to Fort Dunstad, currently held by the Imperials, marking one of their skirmish borders with the Stormcloaks. They eye her, and question her, but let her through when she professes to be merely a traveling storyteller, going to Dawnstar.

The two days between Fort Dunstad and where the Stormcloaks have expanded Fort Fellhammer to block the road is desolate, inhabited only by snow-covered ruins, some of them fresh.

The Stormcloaks are harder to get past, and one mutters under his breath about her, but she's able to talk her way through eventually.

She makes good time over the next four days, getting to where she was planning to turn off in search of the Hall of the Vigilants when she was originally scheduled to, despite the two delays on the road. She camps there, gathers her strength, and then sets out. It's treacherous going, the small path covered in ice and snow, and it takes her five days to get to where the path forks, one pointing towards where her map says the Hall should be, one climbing the mountain.

...There's fresh tracks in the snow over there.

Ena jumps down from her horse, instructs it to stay, curses the snow, and creeps around the bend.

Of all the luck.

Her sister is there, with a companion Ena doesn't recognize.

Ena ducks back, just as her sister turns, scanning the horizon.

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"I know you're there," Lianda calls, voice strong and sharp. "Come out, whoever you are."

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Crap.

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Ena stills for a moment. She contemplates staying where she is, and only revealing herself if Lianda persists, but, well, Lianda persisting is likely. She contemplates sneaking back to her horse - but while Lianda's not a tracker, she knows nothing of that companion, and the snow is unfortunately crunchy.

So she steps forward and calls out, "It's been a long time, sister."

Even though she'd steeled herself against it, looking at Lianda full on - even in the dying sunlight - is uncomfortable. Precarious.

She doesn't like it when plans go awry.

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Lianda pauses, examines her. "Ena," she says after a few moments.

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"So, I'm guessing this whole family reunion wasn't exactly planned," the woman with Lianda says, voice somewhere between skeptical and amused.

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