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Similar Deviations
"Name's Mercer Frey. And you are?"

His hands shifted to cross over his torso as his amber eyes burned into mine. They had a bit of playfulness in them – an innocence I would watch silently as it crumbled over time. But back then, the moment we met, his gaze held onto mine with the fiercest of grips. So many words were spoken over that glance; it produced an almost paralyzing effect over my limbs and voice. Without warning, I was trapped – caught like prey in a Frostbite Spider's web.

Forcing some sort of noise from my throat, my sentences finally formed after a few grunts. "K-Karliah," I mumbled, offering my hand. His larger palm fit perfectly around mine and proceeded in a friendly and inviting shake.

"I can tell we're gonna get along fine." The 'Spider' rasped, his face softening with a smile tugging at his lips. His irises were still ablaze, but somehow he had managed to ease my previous fears with that one simple expression.

I, the 'prey,' simply nodded and tried to form a grin of my own. It probably didn't seem as genuine as I wished it to, but the intended effect was achieved. Mercer Frey's smile stretched to a smirk, pure mischief glimmering in those amber orbs.

"Just try to keep up with us, Karliah."

My mouth spat back the first response that processed through my mind.

"I assure you – I will be fine, Mercer Frey." His name was hissed quietly as it escaped my lips.

My perceived hostility was met with a mere snicker. "My full name sounds rotten on your tongue. Call me Mercer." He gave one more soft chuckle and took his leave, his leather boots sounding thunderous in the sewer atmosphere.

"Quite the charmer, isn't he?" A friendly voice sounded from beside me, and I was conscious of my surroundings once more. Gallus was standing next to me, an inviting smile on his face. His eyes were much more gentle, directly contrasting Mercer's intimidating gaze.

Looking back, Gallus was the one to introduce us. We three would move on to greater heights, beyond the Thieves Guild, to form the greatest (and only) Nightingale trio of our generation. Gallus was our Guildmaster in those days, and I but a greenhorn in the ranks. Mercer was already of a high enough power to give newcomers like me orders, and so I had to listen to him - frustrating as it was. The Spider always had a way to make his prey uncomfortable but strangely intrigued. Once or twice he would catch me glancing his way and give the same curious, damned leer in response. I argued that my mind was simply rarely satisfied without vast exploration, and therefore it had taken a liking to Mercer, who was the pure definition of unpredictable.

The man was, admittedly, quite complex. He often had a wistful look about him, choosing the missions that required far travel for the pure reason of his desire for "personal time". He seemed to enjoy the rewards of our labor a sliver more than others, but I had no idea how vastly that greed would grow.

One night, Gallus assigned me a job; nothing big, simply to raid a quaint home in Whiterun of its valuables. When he mentioned that he would accompany me, a smile began tugging at my lips. Gallus had an effective way of calming me when I was at my most flustered, and had a strangely soothing way of authority. Looking back, I suppose it was Gallus that transformed me from a short-tempered newcomer to the patient Nightingale I am today.

Once I accepted the mission and prepared myself with the Guildmaster, Mercer clopped up to us. I had begun to recognize the sound his boots made on the brick underground; nothing could mistake the way he carried his arrogance around the Guild. He gave his infamous smirk to me; confused, I stood there, shifting my weight from foot to foot.

Gallus cleared his throat, sensing my uneasiness. "Karliah, Mercer is..."

Rudely, Mercer interrupted the Guildmaster. "Didn't you realize? I'm coming with you."


As I followed the two men out of Riften, I noticed instantly that we were heading in the wrong direction. Skyrim was a large place, but I was fairly skilled at knowing the general area of certain landmarks – especially major cities.

I couldn't help but voice my confusion, despite how disrespectful it may have sounded. "Guildmaster, are we... are you sure we are on the right path?"

Gallus smiled and nodded. "Yes, Karliah. We're heading somewhere more important."

Mercer chuckled. Was he aware of our true objective? Was I the only one in the dark? "Gallus is taking us somewhere... special."

I swallowed hard, unsure of whether this change of plans was in my favor or not. I didn't bother asking where; I would know once we arrived.

However, a sunset later, I was standing before a giant black stone settled into the dirt. There was a cave opening a few lengths away, leading who knows where. Before I had the chance to process my surroundings, I felt Gallus's hand on my shoulder.

"This is the headquarters of the Nightingales, cut into the mountainside by the first of our kind," he murmured. "It is here we will swear your allegiance to Nocturnal."

"Nightingales? Nocturnal?" I echoed, puzzled.

Mercer scoffed, his confident smirk illuminated by moonlight. "Wait, you're a thief but you've never heard of the Nightingales?"

I could do nothing but narrow my eyes at him, confirming that I was truly lost when it came to the subject matters.

He ran a hand through his hair, giving an annoyed sigh. "Well, if you're that curious, the Nightingales are-"

Gallus cut him off. "All will be revealed in due time, Karliah. No one will force you to do anything, but I hope you will at least consider." He gave a smile my way; my heart fluttered, but I shoved it aside. There was no need to act like a bashful child; we were thieves. Neither Gallus nor Mercer would become my number one priority.

In the end, we were all out for ourselves.


As I stood alone on the floor glyph, I gazed down at the sleek, black armor covering my body. Nightingale Armor; a beautiful display of leatherwork and protected by a power I didn't quite understand yet. This "Nocturnal," as I learned from Gallus only minutes before, was the mistress of night and darkness, and a patron of every thief in Tamriel.

Our duties, as Nightingales, were to protect the temple of Nocturnal – the Twilight Sepulcher – with our lives. Three are chosen from the Thieves Guild to become these great night warriors, and they become a trinity after Nocturnal's blessing is granted.

Mercer, Gallus, and I were to become the trinity of Nightingales.

Pride at being chosen swelled in my chest as I gazed over at Gallus and Mercer, both standing on their own glyph, and shrouded in the same armor as I. Gallus began the ceremony with those fateful words, ultimately sealing all members of the trinity's fates.

"I call upon you, Lady Nocturnal, Queen of Murk, and Empress of Shadows. Hear my voice."

A churning black and purple mass swarmed in the center of the room. Wind howled and a dark, feminine voice sounded from the shadows.

"Gallus, Mercer, Karliah. Welcome. I, Nocturnal, have come from the shadows to grant you my blessing."

Mercer nodded, his tone impatient. "Yeah, yeah, so hurry up and give it to us!"

"Patience," Gallus whispered.

"You would do well to listen to your Guildmaster," Nocturnal warned. "Very well. But my trinity must give something in return. I trust you know what it is?"

Gallus nodded. "We swear allegiance to you in this life and the next, Lady Nocturnal."

I swallowed hard, unable to process what was happening. Of course, Mercer had explained to me on the way to this room that the Nightingales were a prestigious group of thieves. My mother, Dralsi Indoril, always praised me on my natural craft for larceny. This experience could only benefit me. But was I to give my soul to this spirit? Was it worth it?

"The conditions are acceptable. You may proceed," Nocturnal's smooth voice sounded once more.

Gallus knelt down and continued, "Lady Nocturnal, we accept your terms. We dedicate ourselves to you, as both your avengers, and your sentinels. We will honor our agreement in this life and the next, until your conditions have been met."

There was a pause, and I nearly jumped when Nocturnal spoke again. "Very well. I name you three the Nightingale Trinity. Do not disappoint me." The mass dissolved into thin air as Nocturnal's voice faded away.

I looked to both Mercer and Gallus, and nodded. The three of us were Nightingales now; privileged thieves who were dedicated to Lady Nocturnal for the rest of our existences.


I had heard that other Guild members were involved with one another; I used this to reason with myself. There was nothing wrong with my strange feelings towards Mercer, I argued, and it was perfectly all right to indulge in them. It wasn't as if I was putting him before myself, and he wasn't doing the same for me. And Mercer was not what you would call a "friend," but he was a companion. A fellow thief, a Nightingale, and someone whom I believed to be watching out for me at the time.

One night with Mercer and Gallus alone was all it took for me to fall for the former's charms. I would never say I was in love with the man; love is too pure an emotion to describe what I felt towards Mercer Frey.

The prey's relations to the spiderweb are never innocent. They approach the web for some reason, after all, and do not realize what they have fallen into until the Frostbite Spider approaches.

Perhaps I was attracted to Mercer's 'spiderweb' of sorts; his love of mischief, his gruff voice, the way he put his arm around me as we walked to his manor night after night. Or perhaps it was the way he bedded me – with soft, gentle fingers tickling my breasts and the hungry lust in his eyes as his teeth and lips explored my bare skin. I also loved the way my name sounded in his voice, particularly when he was screaming it in a raw ecstasy that he hid from the rest of the world.

There is one night I still treasure; the only memory I have of a pureness now lost. It was a cold night, and as we huddled our naked bodies together under the covers to keep warm, Mercer opened himself up to me.

"Wouldn't it be great to be Guildmaster?" he asked with that frustrating smirk of his.

"Yes," I agreed quietly, settling into the crook of his neck.

He wrapped an arm around me idly. "I'm definitely going to be a great one."

It's not a question, but I feel the need to reply all the same. "Yes, Mercer, you will. There's no doubt in my mind."

With a soft chuckle, he pulled me closer, and I slipped off to sleep.

It was a brief exchange of words, but I will never forget them. I consider it the last of Mercer's innocence. In those days, his eyes gleamed with simple ambition, and perhaps more than enough mischief.

At the time, I was still foolish, focusing purely on the pleasure he provided to me, and thinking that he simply felt same fierce attraction in his veins as I did.

I could have never imagined what path he would choose to walk.


Moons passed and something new and evil began to take root in his heart. Greed began to tempt his ambitions, echoing clearly through his amber eyes' unsatisfied gleam.

The two of us drifted apart, as well. He had found new maidens to bed, and I had fallen in love. Gallus brought new feelings I could focus on, until I knew I was devoted entirely to him. A part of my mind was still Mercer's, but he had lost the control he once had. Once we became Nightingales, I began to focus more so on protecting Lady Nocturnal's temple, and had ceased my naivete when it came to Mercer.

The two of us could still be considered companions; friends, even. We often bought each other drinks at the Flagon, and there were rumors of our "relationship" spreading about the Guild. Gallus asked me about it once, and I denied it instantly, claiming I could never love Mercer.

As I've said before, love is too pure an emotion. That is what I felt towards Gallus, and no one else. Love was innocence – something Mercer no longer had.

However, the part of my mind that couldn't shake him was irritating, to say the least. It was the constant reminder that Mercer had charmed me before; that I could fall victim to the ambitious and confident gleam in his eyes.

All the same, I still did believe he could be a great Guildmaster. He seemed a bit odd-tempered at times, particularly with the other members besides Gallus and myself, but he had all the qualities of an ideal leader.

I believed in this until, however, I hadn't seen Gallus at the Guild for a few days. Mercer handed me a letter on the morning of the third day during Gallus's absence, claiming it was written by my love himself.


Meet me outside the Snow Veil Sanctum. I'll be waiting, my little nightingale.


I smiled and tucked the letter into my pocket, announcing my journey to the Guild.

"Be safe, Karliah," Mercer told me with that smirk of his. I gave a nod and bid him and the rest of the Guild farewell.

Little did I know that was the last of the Guild I'd see for twenty-five years.

Once I reached the Sanctum, Gallus was not outside waiting for me like I'd hoped. In fact, I had to explore deep into the ruins just to find any trace of him. And what little traces I did find worried me; usually one does not find blood unless a fight has happened. But who could have broken into the Sanctum? No one I knew had the key...

Unless, of course, this was Gallus's doing. Perhaps there were bandits in the ruins, trying to collect the treasures, and he had slayed them. Yes, that had to be it; I repeated this to myself as I delved deeper into the Sanctum.

In one chamber – one I nearly overlooked – I finally found who I was looking for. Unfortunately, he was no longer... alive.

I crumbled to my knees, composure broken. Gallus was laying in one of the chambers, blood pooling around him and a deep cut in his chest. I crawled over to him, shaking his shoulders in denial.

"Gallus..." I murmured, tears threatening to flow down my cheeks. Who had done this? Who would have a grudge against Gallus? Pure, sweet, innocent Gallus, whom I loved more than life itself?

It was then that I noticed faint markings on the walls. They spelled a message, backwards. I glanced at it for just a moment, and stood up, my fists shaking as I finally comprehended.

"One step ahead. -Mercer"

Fury filled me veins and I screamed. Usually, I am quite softspoken and prone to mumbling, but hatred for Mercer shook me to the very core. I hissed his name in anger, wanting very much to take out my Nightingale Bow and shoot an arrow into his kneecap, watching him writhe in agony before I send another one through his eye socket.

But for whatever reason, I didn't run back to the Guild. Mercer had planned this perfectly; if I went back to the Guild and reported Gallus's demise, the blame would be mine.

The Mercer I had once had "feelings" for was gone. Mercer Frey was a traitor, and I hated him. Hatred was only one step away from love; both emotions bring out the most raw passion, and can swallow the sufferer whole.

Perhaps that was what I felt towards Mercer all along. I had the passion for him, but love was too innocent. Hatred brought a darkness to one's heart that made even Lady Nocturnal seem bright in comparison.

I hid from society for the next twenty-five years, eventually settling into Snow Veil Sanctum again. I didn't dare go looking for Gallus's body; no doubt it had been either removed or decomposed, and I couldn't prepare myself for either of those fates. I had already lived a quarter of my life in agony, regret, loneliness, and above all, fear.


Damned arrow! I only had one with the poison on it; one chance, one shot to bring Mercer to justice. To slow his greedy heartbeat and restrain him.

It wasn't my intention to kill him. I wanted to Guild to decide his fate; after all, they needed to know the truth behind my exile and Mercer's ascension into the Guildmaster position. But it was not my place to let them know – or at least, not yet. He took the Skeleton Key, a vital treasure of Nocturnal's temple, and was surely using it to rob the Guild of its wealth. I planned on carrying him out of Snow Veil Sanctum, taking back the Skeleton Key, and hopefully see him exposed as the spider he is.

I had purchased Goldenglow Estate and funded the Honningbrew Meadery, all in the hopes of ensnaring the spider in my own web. Surely he would learn of my involvement somehow, and pursue me. I had spent enough years in hiding; it was my hope to finally free myself.

His smirk haunted my dreams, as well as the message he carved into the cave walls. But this time, I was to be one step ahead. I was to poison Mercer with my arrow, obtain what he had taken, and have him at my mercy.

It was not supposed to shoot his companion, the Dragonborn.

Mercer scoffed and glanced down at his unconscious partner. He gazed those amber eyes on me once more, for the first time in two and a half decades. My heart fluttered a bit underneath my Nightingale armor, and for a moment I felt the same attraction tugging me. However, I then remembered Gallus, and I reached for an arrow, drawing it back and pointing it towards my foe.

Mercer was not at all surprised by my hostility, but he didn't seem threatened, either. "Do you honestly think your arrow will reach me before my blade finds your heart?"

"Give me a reason to try," I hissed back.

That familiar smirk returned to Mercer's face, and it was as if I had taken a step back in time – back to when Mercer was a man I admired, one I was never separated from, and someone I trusted with my life. "You're a clever girl, Karliah. Buying Goldenglow Estate and funding Honningbrew Meadery was inspired."

"'To ensure an enemy's defeat, you must first undermine his allies.' It was the first lesson Gallus told us." My gaze softened at the memory of my beloved.

"You always were a quick study," Mercer sneered in response.

My grip tightened on my bow. "Not quick enough. Otherwise, Gallus would still be alive." If I had realized who Mercer was when I first fell for his charms, perhaps Gallus could have been saved...

"Gallus has his wealth, and he had you. All he had to do was look the other way." The words had a bitter tone to them, though I couldn't understand why.

"Did you forget the oath we took as Nightingales? Did you expect him to simple ignore your methods?"

He cringed slightly, but after a moment's hesitation, snarled tauntingly, "Enough of this mindless banter! Come, Karliah! It's time for you and Gallus to become reunited!"

I shook my head and disappeared into the shadows, murmuring, "I'm no fool, Mercer. Crossing blades with you would be a death sentence. But I can promise the next time we meet, it will be your undoing."

I didn't see what Mercer did after that, but I wasn't surprised to hear his betraying words to his companion. The Dragonborn was near death when he finally left, and my arrow had managed to save her, and I carried her outside to safety.


I could never have hoped to be accepted back into the Guild. It was one of my sweetest dreams come true (the other, of course, being reunited with Gallus). Brynjolf gave me something I never hoped to achieve for the rest of my life: trust. He trusted me. The other Guild members even walked ahead of me; turning one's back to another is a deep form of faith in them to not slay you from behind, after all.

When it was decided that Mercer should be slain, I was not surprised. Had my rawest emotions not died along with Gallus, I would have felt pity for him. Mercer was a victim of himself, but a victim nonetheless.

But there was no turning back now. Anything I revealed that could link me to caring about Mercer would surely label me a traitor. They would assume I was working for him, or lying about everything. I couldn't risk it.

I decided to make Brynjolf and the Dragonborn Nightingales. They were hesitant at first, but Nocturnal's blessing gave them strength to pursue Mercer further. I explained to the Queen of Murk that my motive was pure revenge now. And it was – simply not in the way the others thought. I wished for Mercer to see his wrongdoings and suffer as I had; if death could bring him that, then so be it.

We found him after making our way through the maze that is Irkngthand. The cowardly spider even carved the same message into the walls of the ruins – no doubt to mock us. He was extracting the Eyes of the Falmar from the giant statue near the exit of the cave.

"Karliah, when will you learn you can't get the drop on me?" Mercer hissed, turning around to face the Trinity.

The room shook, and I found myself and Brynjolf trapped behind pieces of rubble. We could do nothing but listen now as Mercer taunted the Dragonborn. However, I could not help but notice the bitterness in his voice as he spoke.

"...oaths ripe with falsehoods and broken promises? Nocturnal doesn't care about you, the Key, or anything having to do with the Guild!"

Such hatred. Such anger. For the Guild, for Nocturnal, for everyone but himself. Perhaps Mercer wished to betray us before we betrayed him.

"It's clear you'll never see the Skeleton Key as I do: as an instrument of limitless wealth!"

The greed in his heart was speaking. I had known that the Mercer I had befriended – the one who caressed my body so tenderly and shared drinks with me at the Flagon – was dead. A victim of his own choices, leaving behind a hollow man in his wake.

He attacked. Somehow, he found control over Brynjolf, who was screaming in anger and trying to fight the urge to attack his allies. As the Dragonborn and Mercer's blades clashed, I tried desperately to calm my controlled friend.

And, as quick as it came, the battle was over.

The spider died, and his prey was free.

"Shadows... take... me..."

From my position, trapped into immobility and helpless, I could still hear Mercer's last words as the Dragonborn sliced her blade into his chest. It was a pitiful plea – one that did not suit Mercer at all. In all my years as a Nightingale, and as an outcast, I had never expected Mercer to greet death with those words.

I narrowed my eyes in anger; how dare Mercer think of himself as a Nightingale. After stealing the Skeleton Key, after killing Gallus, after betraying everyone...

Yes, a part of my heart pitied him. But the rest of me still felt the burning hatred as I did the day I lost Gallus. The day I was no longer Gallus's naïve "little nightingale," but a falsely accused and highly wanted murderer.

I never wished for Mercer to stray from his path. And I certainly never wanted him to become ensnared in his own wretched avarice. Inside the monster I still hate today was the man I once felt so strongly for. The man whose smirk I could not resist, even when I had an arrow pointed at him.

As the room quickly flooded with water, I looked once more at Mercer's limp body. Despite myself, my heart ached; it was unfortunate that our powerful Trinity had ended up like this.

"Shadows take you," I murmured, feeling a rush of closure enter my being.
Because it's not getting any reviews on ^^;

So here's my Skyrim fanfic, Nightingale!

Summary: Mercer was always one step ahead.
Pairing: Mercer/Karliah, Gallus/Karliah
Warnings: Implied sex... but that's pretty much it? I mean, Skyrim is an M rated game, so what do you expect?
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   Nirn knows only Stasis and Change (Good and Evil are just concepts made by mortals in an attempt to understand the reason of the Stasis and the transition through Change), the two forces, a dual aspect of the Divinity, found in TES.

   Magicka is Entropy, a measure of the "disorder" in Creation. By Magnus, the Mathematician, who knows the Alphabet of the When and Where, Nirn, an Entity-Realm not yet known, Became. With the Earth Bones, the Laws of Nirn (Lex Naturalis) were established. Through Magicka, the Change could become Stasis and the Stasis could become Change.

Magicka is the manipulation of the Divinity - the Spark of the Creation.



Morokei, Glorious Dovah Priest.

Nirn and the Dualistic concept.
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   Is Padomay a deity who wants blood and sacrifices (Sithis), or it represents the Everlasting Change, full of mysteries and uncertain stories? Which one of the possible realities are the Truest? Perhaps the answer can be obtained from the PSJJJJ.

   With the Elder Way, the vision of Mundus becomes something deeper and comprehensible, without just a meaning, but with all the possible meanings. The Word is made True, and with True, the Impossible is made Possible.

   The Meaning of the Eye, coming with the Dragon and in a Time without The Crown: All was made possible because it was seen a long time ago, and in all possible ways:

The Red Flame Jewel, which was broken by the Moon-and-Star Soul of the Houses is the Key. The Key of Change and the Key of Sight. Look into the Tower, and you will See: Eight Times and One Choice are made in Oblivion. Look in the Sigillum... All is Sanguis. Seek the Hidden Knowledge but be prepared. Do not carry what you can not if you do not deserve it. But if you choose to, use the Strength of Faith to Guide you through the Void Waters.

All is in One. All is in PSJJJJ.

Sunnabe Tam-riel: Magnus Na Latta Ye Yando Sancre Lattia Va Silaseli. Arctavoy: Latta Ae Ageasel.


Morokei, Glorious Dovah Priest.

Insights about the Mysticism of TES and The Way.
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This was inspired by Gaming Gourmet

This is how to Make the legendary sweet roll, by my Skyrim Character's sister: Fiora Tullius Buell, 'the cook'.
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This is a online version of an Star Trek Euderion magazine, we produce in 2008. It serves as an introduction for our first fan film, which we shot in the same year. Unfortunately only available in German language.

Here you'll find some backgrounds about the production, as well as interviews with the crew and "actors", tech-guides and photos.
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Chapter three
Two choices, one fate

It was two days after Bellatrix’s arrival when Sheogorath sent for her once more. He had been so kind as to let her rest, deciding that she was in no condition to be running ‘errands’ for him quite yet. He had refused to tell her more about Xedilian, however, causing Bellatrix to blatantly ignore him for those two days.
Bellatrix was sitting out in the courtyard, simply enjoying the feel of the wind on her face and the sweet taste of freedom when Ellette came not long after midmorning, bearing the news that the Lord Sheogorath had requested her presence immediately. The assassin grudgingly complied, finding Sheogorath standing at a small round table near the base of his throne. Bellatrix studied his lean build for only an instant before gliding her way to his side. Her eyes were drawn to the parchment spread out on the table; a yellowed, detailed and rather beautiful map.
“So- Xedilian falls Southeast of The Fringe. You see this here, lass? Where the heel of Madgod’s Boot is, that is where you will find Xedilian.” Sheogorath glanced sideways to Bellatrix and arched a brow. “Think you can manage?”
What a ridiculous question, Bellatrix thought, but she refrained from voicing this and merely gave Sheogorath a slight nod in reply. The Madgod straightened and rolled up the map of the Isles, handing it over as he said, “You’ll find suitable clothing for the journey in your rooms. I do hope you make it back, lass. It will take me so very long to replace you. What I want you to do is clear the place of the nasty buggers that have taken it over- take this.” He held out a hand, in which Haskill, who stepped forwards, placed an odd-looking tool. It looked like a slingshot, though somewhat crooked and bronze. Sheogorath handed it to Bellatrix, his golden eyes watching her expression carefully. She took the strange object, her fingertips tingling as it seemed to tremble at her touch.
“What is it?” she asked quietly, fascinated by the trinket.
“It is called the Attenuator of Judgment- something our Lord was never able to use, but might help you,” Haskill replied, receiving a slightly incredulous look from Sheogorath.
The madgod soon returned his golden gaze to Bellatrix, saying, “so- let us hope you have better judgment than I do. Let us hope you find your way back to us.”
“I will return,” Bellatrix said in a low tone, offended suddenly by the madgod’s doubt. “You can be sure of it.”
“Can I?” Sheogorath asked lightly. “How peculiar. I suppose we’ll wait and see how brave you are, lass.” He lifted his gloved hand then, his golden eyes glittering as fondly he nudged her chin. Bellatrix turned her head almost subconsciously away to avoid his touch, despite the warm sensation it gave her.
Sheogorath turned away then, whistling absently as he meandered back to his throne, and, as he sat back down and took up his staff, he gave Bellatrix a mocking little salute.
“Is that all you’re telling me about the place, then?” Bellatrix demanded, one brow arching sharply. Sheogorath smiled then, though she did not return it; instead she pivoted on her heel and tapped her palm with the end of the rolled up map she held, a bemusing mixture of emotions swirling in her chest.
As soon as she had changed into leather breeches, sturdy boots, a loose white tunic and a leather jerkin, Bellatrix began to find all the knives around her room that she could, hiding them in various places on her person. She had also located leather bracers, delighted to find them already broken in and soft. As she was retying her long hair back at the nape of her neck, a soft knock came at her door.
“ ‘S unlocked,” Bellatrix called. She looked up from her mirror then as the door slowly opened and Ellette peered into the room.
“Oh- there you are,” the woman chimed when she caught sight of Bellatrix. “Brilliant. Sheogorath spent a little time thinking and he came to the conclusion that you might require a guide to Xedilian- the Isles can be trying the first time you attempt to traverse them.”
“A guide, eh?” Bellatrix asked, snorting a little. “Maybe. Who is it?”
“One moment.” Ellette disappeared from view then, and Bellatrix could hear her talking quietly with someone else- though the other voice was too soft in order for her to place a gender on it. After nearly a minute the door opened again and Bellatrix looked up to find a tall, pretty high elven woman step past Ellette. Her long, pale red hair was tied back as well, though it was near the top of her head, as was the High Elven custom. Her face was thin and long, her skin lightly tanned and her pale blue eyes kind. Bellatrix returned the smile the woman gave her only half-heartedly before looking back to her mirror.
“So you got a name or what?” Bellatrix finally asked, her gaze flickering back to the woman as she finished tying back her hair.
“Yes,” the elven woman replied. “Depends on if ye want to hear it or not.”
Bellatrix froze for a second or two at the reply, but then, she couldn’t help but give a short laugh. “Good answer,” the assassin said, finally letting a real smile curl her lips. “I’d like to hear it, yeah. Unless you want me to refer to you as ‘Altmer.’”
“The name’s Valania. And if ye didn’t have my name, you were also welcome to calling me ‘High Lady.’”
“Right,” Bellatrix snorted. She hated to admit it, but she was starting to think that she would get along quite well with this elf. “Well, my name’s Bellatrix. In case you didn’t know.”
“Sheogorath only referred to ye as his lassie- Ellette just now told me what ye’re supposed to be called. It’s amazing- only two meetin’s with our lord and ye’ve made such an impression as to receive a pet name.”
“Is that a good thing?” Bellatrix asked, unable to help a bitter laugh.
“Tis,” Valania replied seriously. “Means he likes ye.”
“Is this how things with Relmyna started too?” Bellatrix asked, looking around Valania to Ellette. The woman merely smiled faintly, while on her forearm, little Hazzy gave a snorting sound. Bellatrix let out a long sigh, though before she could say anything more, Valania demanded, “Why are we still standing here? Ye ready to go, Bellatrix?”
“Yeah,” the assassin replied. “Yeah, I’m all set.”
She strode for the door then, grabbing her jacket along the way and pulling it on over her loose-sleeved tunic. Valania followed along, calling back to Ellette, “Tell Lord Sheogorath that his champion shall return as soon as she can.”
“I’m sure he’ll miss me terribly,” Bellatrix said with a snort. “Since you know, I’m that important to him after he’s known me for what, five minutes?”
“Ye’d be surprised,” Valania said coyly. “He seemed impressed with ye.”
Bellatrix merely snorted at this, shaking her head. “Then he is easily impressed, isn’t he?”
Valania only laughed at these words. Bellatrix scowled and her brow creased. She returned her sapphire eyes ahead as they continued on in silence; though in the back of her mind, Bellatrix could not help but think about what Valania had said- nor could she help sparing one last glance towards Sheogorath’s throne as they circled the hall. The Madgod must have felt eyes upon him, for a moment later, he looked up and his gaze locked over hers. Bellatrix lifted her chin and arched a brow, though this only drew a smile from Sheogorath, who lifted a hand and mockingly saluted the assassin. His lips suggested laughter, but his eyes held something darker and deeper; something Bellatrix could only place as anxiety and misery. She watched the madgod for only a moment longer before returning her eyes ahead and following Valania out into the bright courtyard of New Sheoth.
“We’re almost there, Lady Bellatrix,” Valania said after what seemed like several days of traveling melded into one. Bellatrix looked over to the high elven woman, blinking blearily several times in order to see her clearly.
“Didn’t you say that about two hours ago?” Bellatrix asked in a tone of mere curiosity, though Valania arched a brow, able to see right through the guise. The high elven woman returned her gaze back to the road ahead then before she replied lightly, “Ye certainly are an impatient one.”
“When it comes to missions such as this, yes, I am. Can’t we ride any faster?”
Without waiting for a response, Bellatrix clicked her tongue at her horse. The animal snorted almost indignantly, though after a few seconds, the stallion picked up his pace. Unable to keep back a smile, Bellatrix lifted her chin as wind swept past her, brushing against her skin like the tips of soft feathers. She suddenly felt so free and more alive than she had in almost two years- the sharp, brisk air of the Isles was intoxicating, while the sounds of rushing water and birdsong lifted her spirit.
“Bellatrix!” Valania shouted after what seemed like only seconds. “Xedilian!”
The assassin reined in her horse, drawing a whinny from the animal. Her gaze swiveled to the left, settling over the moss-stained stone bridge that led up to a massive, engraved wooden door. On the bridge stood a creature that looked like a twisted frog. It held a knife in one hand, a club in the other, and from its protruding lower jaw dripped slimy, murky green saliva.
“A grummite,” Valania mumbled under her breath, dismounting from her horse a moment later and drawing a blade from her saddle. She seemed to briefly consider her blade, but, after a moment, she looked to Bellatrix and smiled, saying, “ye get this one, Bella. Ye should get used to them- Xedilian’s infected with the things.”
Bellatrix did not even hesitate. She slid down from her horse’s back, lithely drawing her blade as she began to stalk towards the grummite. Her steps were light and silent and she did not dare draw breath. The grummite, however, easily picked up her scent. It gave an odd sort of grumble; it almost sounded like it was trying to form words. It rushed towards Bellatrix, who caught the blade of the creature’s knife with her own. She then twisted and ducked low, kicking out her right leg to catch the creature’s, sending it flying to the ground. Letting out a low snarl Bellatrix plunged her knife into the grummite’s throat. A weak, low gurgle came from its mouth before it fell still and limp, life slipping from its body. Bellatrix removed her knife, cleaned it on the grummite’s loincloth and got to her feet. She felt a small stab of pride at how easily the thing had gone down- it had been quite some time since she had been in combat, too.
“How unfortunate,” Valania commented when she reached Bellatrix’s side. She studied the dead body of the grummite and snorted. “Too easy for ye, Bella.”
“A child’s target,” Bellatrix replied, surprising even herself with the grave tone. “Come on. We’ll be cleanin’ this place out of these.”
“I’m ready when ye are.”
Bellatrix smirked faintly. After she had twirled her blade once, the assassin strode towards the doors to Xedilian with a confidence she really only partially felt. Only for a little while did she trace the patterns in the door with her forefinger, her eyes narrowing a bit when she heard a faint sound from within. Finally she curled her fingers around the handle and pulled. She gritted her teeth at the grinding, unpleasant groan the hinges gave, and as soon as there was enough room for her and Valania to slip through, she did so, sparing their ears of more torment. The first chamber was small and dimly lit with a single low-burning torch. Valania immediately when to take it, murmuring a few faint words that caused the fire to mount, whilst Bellatrix drifted to the gate closing them off from the rest of the inner temple.
“These doors always open somewhere else,” Bellatrix muttered to herself, searching already for a switch or a lever, or even a stone that seemed somewhat out of place. “A trigger or something…”
“Sort of like this, eh?”
Bellatrix tottered back as the gate started to rise. Her eyes flickered to Valania, who smiled and tapped an odd stone with what looked like a glowing face engraved upon it.
“Right,” the assassin replied slowly. “Just like that.”
Valania gave a little wink as she stepped through the arch and into the first massive chamber of Xedilian. It was dim, the vaulted ceiling shrouded in darkness. Bellatrix quickly scanned the place, her ears perking as the croak of a grummite reached them. Her fingers curled further around the cool hilt of her dagger, her fingers already accustomed to the comforting feeling of the metal against her skin. She crept along the wall to the stairwell, biting her lip as she assessed the chamber. There were two grummites wandering about the grand hall, croaking and schlepping about aimlessly with staves in their webbed hands.
“Right,” Bellatrix muttered, her gaze remaining on the grummites. “You take one, Valania, I take one. Yeah?”
“Of course,” Valania replied quietly. “I would be disappointed if ye took ‘em both for yerself.” The high elven woman didn’t waste any more time with chatter. She slipped around Bellatrix as fire swirled up around her hands. Both of the grummites were drawn to her like flies to honey; and this was when Bellatrix joined the fray. Her knives twirled quickly, slashing deep into grummite flesh. Murky green blood splattered over the stone floor and up along the side of a pale blue crystal that jutted up from the base of a pillar. Bellatrix’s nose wrinkled as she cleaned her blades, though it was not because of the blood- Valania had burned her grummite alive, and the heavy, raw stench of burning membrane and flesh was sharp in the already musty air.
“Lovely,” Bellatrix commented. “Val- don’t you have any other way to get rid of the things?”
Valania snorted. “Not if ye want them gone quickly- and trust me, ye do.”
‘Wonderful,’ Bellatrix thought dryly, though she did not voice this as Valania lead the way towards another gate at the far end of the dim, vaulted chamber. Bellatrix let her gaze wander over the tall, crumbling pillars and piles of rubble, but soon, Valania had pushed the next face-stone into the wall, and the gate slowly rose up to open the way to the next vaulted, fire-lit chamber. There was a set of steep steps that went down to the main ground, but another set of steps also led up to the next gateway- a gateway blocked by a huge grummite wielding a staff topped with a pale blue crystal.
“Aha,” Valania murmured. “So that is why it’s not working properly. Damn grummites took the stones.”
“Focus Crystals,” Valania replied softly. “They used to be set in the Judgment Nexuses, but I suppose the grummites decided to change that. We gotta get rid of that bugger- fuck!”
Bellatrix suddenly found herself on the ground next to Valania, who had yanked her down to avoid impalement by grummite arrow. Bellatrix leapt to her feet like a cat a second later, rushing towards the grummite that had fired at them without a second thought. Her knife tore into the creature’s skin and she ignored the pain that flared up in her arm when another grummite fired at her, the arrow grazing her flesh. Blood swelled from the wound, though Bellatrix barely noticed, her attention drawn away from her wound as fire swirled past her to strike the second grummite.
Whilst Valania fought, Bellatrix slipped lithely past her own fallen grummite, heading for the one gripping the staff in one webbed hand. It croaked and raised a finger as she neared, sending lightning flashing towards her- though it struck the rock and sent rubble flying as the assassin rolled out of the way. She felt a trickle of blood running from her cheek, though she merely brushed it out of the way and leapt at the grummite witch, drawing her other dagger from her belt. The creature panicked and swatted at Bellatrix with the staff, the focus crystal catching her jaw and leaving a line of blood from the bottom of her ear to her chin. Bellatrix snarled and inwardly cursed before flying at the grummite once more. It slammed back to the ground as Bellatrix’s body collided with its, and it struggled for only a moment, falling still and limp when the cold silver of the assassin’s knife plunged into its throat.
“Val,” Bellatrix rasped hoarsely. “What do I do with the crystal?”
“The nexus,” Valania replied, schlepping up to the top of the stairs, brushing a few stray locks of her hair back. Bellatrix nodded and reached for the pale blue focus crystal, tearing it from the top of the staff. She staggered to her feet then, smiling faintly and waving the crystal as she turned to the nexus. When she placed it in the center, it gave a soft click and slowly rose, giving off a pale glow.
“How many more of these are there?” she asked as her gaze turned to Valania.
“Two more,” was the elven woman’s reply. “Come.”
She swiveled towards the next gate, and Bellatrix took an unwavering breath prior to following after her guide, wiping blood from her jaw.
The next two focus crystals, though difficult to locate, were fairly easy to regain from the grummites that held them captive. Bellatrix received several more bruises and another cut under her ear over the course of the small skirmishes, though it was near effortless to ignore the wounds while they focused on the task of locating the nexuses.
Eventually they came to a massive chamber in which a giant pale blue crystal was housed, sprouting from the ground opposite the door. The Attenuator of Judgment started to buzz and hum as they approached the giant crystal, trembling faster when Bellatrix held it close to the glassy surface.
“Here, Bella,” Valania offered, placing her hand over a spot in the crystal, where a small indent was. Bellatrix shifted over and pressed the Attenuator into the spot; immediately there was a soft ringing sound and the giant crystal began to shine, pale blue light radiating from the core, bathing Bellatrix’s face in the glow. The assassin felt a tingle go down her spine, and a moment later, a familiar voice murmured a faint, “well done, my fair lass,” deep in the back of her mind. Bellatrix closed her eyes and listened, for the briefest second, to the echo of his voice, if only for the strange sense of comfort it gave her- an odd sense of pride, as though she had finally done something right for the first time in her life. She looked up at the crystal and allowed herself a small smile, though a moment later, Valania took her arm and said, “come, Bella. Lord Sheogorath will want to know of yer success.”
“How do we get outta here?” Bellatrix asked after pausing to consider telling Valania that she suspected Sheogorath already knew, but she quickly decided to keep that to herself.
“The resonator pad up ahead,” Valania replied, nodding towards a gate through which was a glowing, pulsating stone set into the floor. Valania pushed a stone in the wall, which in turn raised the gate, allowing access into the resonator chamber.
“Ye go first,” Valania ordered. “Just step on and it should take ye right up to the entry chamber.”
Bellatrix only got to hesitate for an instant. Before she could speak, Valania pushed her up onto the resonator, and a vortex of glimmering, star-like light whirled up around her, kicking up a small wind and sending her hair flying. Bellatrix squeezed her eyes shut, though within a split second the vortex was gone and she found herself in not the entry hall, but another, smaller chamber. Slowly she stepped down from the resonator and studied the chamber, her eyes soon locating a red-robed man hunched over a table, flipping rapidly through a small book.
“Er- excuse me,” Bellatrix began, and immediately the man jumped, his red eyes fixing widely over the assassin.
“Oh, thank the gods!” the dark elf cried, his voice cracking as he shuffled over to Bellatrix, enthusiastically shaking one of her hands. “I was wondering when Sheogorath would send someone to help me- Oh! Two of you! Brilliant.”
Valania had appeared on the resonator pad as the dark elf spoke and he hurried over to her as well, taking her hand excitedly. The high elven woman arched a brow, though she warily said, “Well met, sir.”
“Well met, well met indeed!” he chuckled. “So I assume you two are the ones that got the nexuses fixed and the main Resonator up and running, hmm?”
“If you meant that giant crystal, then yes,” Bellatrix replied, her lips quirking into a slight smile when the dark elf’s eyes lit up.
“Wonderful! Well, that means that the poor folks who wandered in here earlier will be the first to be tested- this is brilliant. You know, I am rather glad you showed up- it would probably be best if an agent of Lord Sheogorath decided the fates instead of myself, not that I doubt my judgment, mind you, but-“
“Sir,” Bellatrix interjected wearily, “please. Just tell me what I have to do. And what we should call you- that might help.”
“Oh- my name is Killiban, miss,” the dark elf replied, bowing cordially to Bellatrix. “And all you have to do is simple- the group comes in, you push one of two buttons, and they either go insane or are ended. Mania and Dementia, you see?”
Although she didn’t, Bellatrix nodded and her eyes followed Killiban as he scuffled over to a balcony overlooking a large, well-lit room. A grate was built into the floor, reminding Bellatrix much of the arena back in the Imperial City. A strange sense of homesickness washed over her, though she soon pushed it back as voices reached her ears. Killiban slipped away and the lights in the upper chamber Bellatrix was in dimmed down.
“Just stay close and follow my lead. We’ll be outta here in no time, boys.”
A male orc’s voice preceded it’s owner, and after he had stepped into the room, a dark elven man in green robes and a Breton in leather armor stepped down as well, warily eyeing the chamber they had entered. Once they had gathered near the grate, peering down into the abyss locked beneath it, a faint ring echoed softly near Bellatrix’s ear. The assassin’s gaze slid first to her left, to the stone that had begun to shimmer a pale blue, then to her right, to the pale orange stone.
“Mania on the right,” Valania whispered in her ear. “Dementia on the left. Choose wisely, Bella.”
Bellatrix already knew her choice- Dementia would lead to an unnecessary death; and though it was not directly by her hand, she would still have caused it. The assassin reached out and pressed on the orange stone. A grinding sound began to reverberate around the chamber, a form starting to swell up from the grate. Soon, a massive, tree-like being had materialized before the group, startling Bellatrix as well. It had at least five root-like appendages for legs and two huge branch-arms from which vines sprouted and sliced through the air.
“Take it down!” the dark elven man shouted as the tree-creature let out a deep, loud growl, heading straight for the Breton dressed in leather. While it seemed to be solid to the other two, it passed right through the man, leaving him cowering on the ground behind it. He had soon scrambled to his feet, however, only to be charged down by the creature yet again. It flailed its branchlike arms, screeching and toppling over the leather-clad Breton like an angry wave in a storm-ridden sea. The dark elf was trying to shoot fire at the creature, his expression only one of rage when they passed through it, whilst the orc swung his axe through empty air as he tried to chop the creature’s root-legs. Bellatrix watched in horror as the Breton man fell to the ground, sobbing and whimpering, his entire body shaking. The tree-creature suddenly evaporated, leaving an echo of a snarl hanging in the dead air.
“D-doesn’t work,” the leather-clad Breton mumbled. “I- I should be dead. Shouldn’t- doesn’t… Why?”
“Lewin? The dark elf asked hesitantly, but the man merely rolled away, hysterically sobbing, “no- stay back Stay away!”
“Leave him, Syndelius,” the orc growled. “He’s useless- We’ll pick him up on the way outta here.”
“I don’t like this place, Grommok,” Syndelius grumbled under his breath, but whatever Grommok said in reply was lost as they slipped into the next stairwell. Bellatrix backed away slowly from the railing after watching Lewin for nearly half a minute, turning as Killiban chuckled and said in a tight, excited tone, “oh, I do love to watch that. They always scream so nicely… Anyways, are we all ready to head to the next part of the madhouse, hmm?”
Bellatrix eyed Killiban as she stepped into the next chamber, but she clenched her eyes shut once more when she hopped up onto the resonator pad. The vortex swirled anew, delivering Bellatrix into a chamber almost identical to the one previous to it. Within a minute both Killiban and Valania appeared, the latter trailing after Bellatrix to the next balcony that overlooked a dark room. In this chamber was a raised platform upon which was a mound of gold and valuable jewels, glimmering like stars under the dim firelight. These jewels, however, were trapped within an iron cage, the bars too thin and close for a hand to slip through.
“We’ll be outta here quickly, Syndelius, I can feel it.”
“Whatever you say, Grommok,” the dark elf answered wearily- though Bellatrix could see his face brighten in the dim firelight once his greedy eyes had settled over the gold. The elf rushed past his green comrade, scrambling up the steps to the cage and gripping the bars. Bellatrix was already reaching for the orange stone when Syndelius said hungrily, “look at all of it, Grommok- we’re rich! It’s what we came here for! We’re rich!”
Grommok didn’t seem nearly as impressed by the gold as his companion, though he did remark, “too bad Lewin isn’t here.”
The bell sounded; Bellatrix pushed in the orange stone and her attention was drawn away from the two idiots gaping at the gold, fixing instead on the waterfall of brass keys that cascaded from the ceiling, clattering nosily on the stone floor. Syndelius practically flew down the stairs, landing on his knees before the keys and digging his hands into the pile, laughing almost manically as he lifted some and let them slip from his grasp like sand.
“Look at this, Grommok!” he cried. “One must fit the lock! One of them! We’re rich! One of them will fit!”
“Sad thing is,” Killiban’s voice said in Bellatrix’s ear then, causing her to jump. “None of them fit.” He giggled, then took the assassin’s arm and began to lead the way towards the last resonator pad.
“What’s going to happen to them, Killiban?” Bellatrix asked then, her brow creasing. “To these three?”
“They will all find a place in the isles,” Killiban replied, ushering Valania into the chamber after Bellatrix. “They will be taken care of, my Lady. Don’t you worry- no worrying.”
“I hate it when people say that,” Valania muttered, and Bellatrix snorted in agreement prior to stepping up onto the third pad. Once she had reached the last chamber, her nose wrinkled immediately at the putrid smell of rotting flesh. The assassin actually gagged a little, feeling a wave of nausea turn her stomach. Her gaze, however, was not drawn to the hanging bodies over the balcony, but to a faintly pulsing crystal near the back of the chamber. As Valania swore when she appeared, Bellatrix drifted to the crystal and her brow creased as she lifted it slowly from its table. It was warm and pulsed against her hand- almost like a heart’s beat.
“What are you doing?”
As Killiban’s voice came in her ear, Bellatrix started again and cursed as the crystal slipped from her startled grasp. She attempted to catch it, but it fell fast and hard, shattering on the harsh stone. A faint sound, almost like a sigh, slipped into the air as smoke curled up from the glimmering shards, fading into nothing within an instant.
“You know what I hate?” Bellatrix began lowly.
“People who sneak up on me,” Bellatrix said sharply. “Now move it, dunmer.”
She was starting to feel her patience wearing thin, and as she approached the third balcony, she silently prayed it was the last. Human corpses hung everywhere, while some were nailed to the wall. As Grommok entered, he began to speak to himself, though his fear was evident.
“You’ve been through worse before, ol’ chap,” he grumbled. “Just stay calm and you’ll make it out alive.”
For the third time the bell sounded, and for the third time, Bellatrix pushed the orange stone into the wall. There was a grinding sound and a hard clank as a ball of bright magic shot right for Grommok. The orc collapsed immediately in a crumpled heap- for a brief moment, Bellatrix panicked, thinking she had killed the innocent man. A second later, however, a silvery, ghostlike apparition rose from the body.
“W-what?” it murmured. “D-dead? How can I be dead? Nothing hit me- nothing came at me. No chance… I had no chance.. How? How!?”
Bellatrix caught her lower lip between her lips- she could no longer stand it. The assassin felt tears sting her eyes as she turned away and strode across the chamber to the fourth resonator pad, stepping up once more. Valania slowly followed after her, her expression almost sad as her eyes met Bellatrix’s for only an instant before the assassin vanished.
When Bellatrix next emerged, she found herself in a larger chamber- one that she knew must lead out. After saying a silent prayer, Bellatrix slowly slunk up the stairs and peered around the corner- directly into the entry hall. Valania was soon at her side, looking just as relieved, whilst Killiban’s voice said, “well, that was exciting. Thank you, my lady, for getting Xedilian back in business. You are free-“
Before he could finish, however, a horrid, high-pitched grinding erupted around the hall. Pale blue crystals spurted up from the ground, just as strange beings that looked almost to be made of ice bounded up the stairs. There were five of them, each wielding a sword and each bringing a sense of peculiar foreboding to Bellatrix’ stomach. When they caught sight of the other three, the ice-beings bounded right for them.
Valania immediately sprang into action, felling two with powerful blasts of fire, whilst Bellatrix locked one in combat, eventually dicing its head off with her blade. Another leapt at her back, the tip of its blade sinking an inch into her calf. Bellatrix snarled in pain before she turned sharply, her dagger plunging into the being’s chest and without mercy she tore straight down. As its torso was rent apart, Bellatrix suddenly felt as though all warmth had been drained from her body. Something was pulling it inwards- the abyss of the being’s empty body was drawing away her warmth and replacing it with a deep, unfathomable chill. She staggered back, leaning against a pillar as Valania finished off the last one.
“Bella,” she muttered, placing a steady hand on the assassin’s shoulder. “You alright?”
“Yeah,” Bellatrix replied a few short moments later. She pushed herself away from the pillar, saying, “let’s- head back, yes?”
“Yes,” Valania agreed, and her tone was grave as she said, “Lord Sheogorath needs to know that the Knights of Order, the underlings of Jyggalag, have returned to the Isles once more.”

“Ah, wonderful! You’re back! But… Oh my. Lass, you look terrible.”
As Bellatrix staggered wearily into the throne hall, Valania following behind, Sheogorath stood and tossed Haskill his staff. He trotted quickly down the stairs before his throne, closing the space between himself and Bellatrix within a few moments. Bellatrix was about to speak, though Sheogorath merely shook his head and shifted closer, gently taking her chin in his hand. The chill that had settled deep in her body since she had slain the Knight of Order was suddenly washed away as the warmth from the Madgod’s touch seeped through her entire body. Bellatrix, too tired to turn away from him now, settled with remaining somewhat tense, muttering, “I h-hated that place.”
“It hated you,” Sheogorath snorted, lifting his free hand. Lightly he ran his fingertip along her cut jaw and the skin immediately began to mend back together as though it had never been broken. “Did you get everything up and running, lass?”
His thumb stretched then to heal her cheek, but Bellatrix reached up and caught his hand gently in her own, her sapphire gaze hardening marginally as it locked onto Sheogorath’s.
“Yes,” she replied, her grip tightening reassuringly around Sheogorath’s hand. She released it then, though her gaze never left the madgod’s. “Xedilian is up and running, Lord Sheogorath.”
Sheogorath seemed almost dejected for the briefest of instants as he lowered his hand, though a few seconds later he smiled and said with a hint of pride, “you’ve done well, Bellatrix. Very well. Now… Go get some rest. Am I too forward to request your presence here in the throne room tomorrow morning?”
Unable to help a slight smirk, Bellatrix replied, “a little forward, yes- though I suppose I can humor you.” She arched a brow ever so slightly, then smiled a genuine smile before pivoting and striding away, briefly catching Valania’s eye. The high elven woman mouthed, ‘he adores ye, Bella,’ and winked, disappearing from view a moment later. Bellatrix rolled her eyes skywards, though her smile returned and a faint pink colour rose in her ears- perhaps she would grow to love the Isles after all.
Okay, finally chapter three. ^^
I dun like. But whatev.

Still there, are we? Continue the journey ~~~> [link]
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Part 1

    Meosho, the young Khajit cursed her luck that she ended up in this situation.  As she, with her hands bound, craned her neck to see the cart in front of theirs.  It was a racially diverse group.  She could see a couple of Stormcloaks, rebels, traitors to the emperor, or so she had been told by her older brother.  He knew a lot about many places in Tamriel.  He had even explored it from time to time.  Their father had been an explorer of Tamriel, wandering, exploring until the day he died.  As did his father before him and his father before him, and so on.  That was what she had been told anyway.  Meosho didn't remember their father.  She herself had never actually been outside of Elsweyr.  Until now.  She could also see an Argonian, a High Elf, an Imperial, an Orc, and 2 more Khajits.  They clearly were not Stormcloaks.  They weren't dressed like all the other Stormcloaks.  They were dressed in typical prison clothes, a ragged tunic and footwraps, just as she was.  She wondered what they had done to end up there, remembering how her and her brother were fleeing from Elsweyr, as he had been caught with skooma, and they had been caught crossing the border into Skyrim.  They had gotten separated when they tried to escape the Imperial soldiers.  It was too much to hope that Ma'iq had escaped and was alive, though she didn't see him there anywhere.  She was in a cart with some Stormcloaks and a horse theif from Rorikstead.  They were talking amongst themselves, the horse theif mostly whining about how he wasn't a rebel and how he didn't deserve to be executed.  She wasn't paying much attention to their words, though, as she sat contemplating her fate.  She was glad at least, that when they confiscated her possessions, they didn't strip her of EVERY piece of gold she owned.  She had been allowed to keep her gold jewlery, the pairs of gold ring earrings she had in her ears, and the gold rings she had fixed into her brown hair.  Doing so would have been like stripping her of her very dignity.  Many female Khajits were adorned with such things and she had had them since she was a cub, only adding more of them as the years went by.
    The extent of her mistake had just completely sunken into Tar-Meena, the young Argonian, hit her like a brick wall actually.  If stupidity had been a crime, then maybe she would have deserved to be where she was at that moment.  She felt sick as she thought of her older brother back home in Riften.  He would never even know what happened to her.  That is, until her remains were shipped back to him, and she would never get to say goodbye.  She sat against the back of her seat, glaring with her steely yellow eyes, not making eye contact with anyone.  There were others in the cart around her, some Stormcloaks, a High Elf, an Imperial, a Breton, 2 Khajits, and an Orc.  And she was almost positive she could see another Khajit in the cart behind theirs, with another man and some Stormcloaks.  But everyone in her cart was quiet for the most part, probably letting their fate sink into them.  She and her older brother lived in Riften.  They had moved there from Blackmarsh with their parents when they were young.  But their parents had died since, and Modesi had taken care of her ever since.  He had a small stand in the middle of town where he sold the jewlery that he made by hand.  He had taught her a lot about smithing and making things as well.  She was always close with her brother, but where Modesi was always content in Riften and went about making a life there, Tar-Meena had always wanted something more.  She had especially always wanted to return to Blackmarsh, and she would always wander across the border of Skyrim to the provinces beyond.  But, she would always return to her brother, the only thing keeping her there.  This time, however, one of her escapades had gone awry, and she was caught by Imperial soldiers during her returning to Skyrim.  
    Erranil, the young Altmer, questioned why she hadn't just stayed in the Somerset Isles, where someone like her belonged, instead of leaving on a whim of wanting to travel Tamriel.  She hadn't seen much of it before she was caught by Imperial soldiers upon entering Skyrim.  Erranil thought of her home.  She couldn't remember her parents.  They had died when she was very young.  She lived with her aunt, who was a member of the Aldmeri Dominion, the Thalmor Embassy, and had always taught her to be a proper Altmer, or, as they were more commonly called, High Elf.  But, she was recently deceased.  The wind slightly ruffled through her shoulder length golden hair, almost the same gold that her skin was,  her bangs which she kept tucked behind her pointed ears.  She pouted as she observed the others, particularly noticing a small Khajit, sitting in a corner of the cart she was in, a small, thin, Khajit with fur such a light grey that it was almost white, with black shoulder length hair, and gold ring earrings in her ears, a poor, quiet thing that just sat there looking off into the distance.  She had to be the youngest of the group, and something about her struck pity into Erranil's heart, something that rarely happened.  But, to pick on this poor sad Khajit, to her, seemed bullying.  There was an Orc, her dark brown, almost black hair done up in some kind of bun style.  She just sat, arms crossed and scowling.  Or, at least, Erranil thought she was scowling.  It was hard for her to tell with Orcs.  There was the green skinned Argonian, her yellow eyes lined with purple and red makeup, her maroon, feather like hair being ruffled by the slight breeze as she sat there glaring, looking as if she hated the world.  Erranil wondered if they had done the same thing as she had to end up here as well.
    The young Orc, Snak, sat in the cart, looking at all the others in the cart with her.  She couldn't believe how she had been thrown into the cart with these others.  She had been in the mountains near Markarth when she walked into the Imperial ambush.  They had mistaken her as crossing the border into Skyrim, even though she had never even left Skyrim.  She lived in Solitude all her life.  Her mother used to live in an Orc stronghold, but not wanting to be "just another wife to a chief", she left to join the Legion.  That was when she met Snak's father, who was a city Orc.  They still taught her in the ways of Malacath, and about her heritage.  Her mother was killed in battle one day, and her father had died just recently.  Snak had wanted to see a stronghold for herself, but, unlucky for her, she was taken in by the Imperials before she could make it to one.  She didn't deserve to be there, but what could she say?  No one would believe an Orc.  Many people looked down on her kind, she knew that.  And there was no use whining about it.  She would face her death with courage.  That is what Malacath wanted for all Orsimer, or, as they were more commonly known as, Orcs.  
    The young Khajit, Kalia, the younger of the 2 Khajits in the cart, sat studying the group that was with her in the cart.  They were probably the last people she would see before she died.  Particularly the other Khajit caught her attention.  Confident and rough looking, trying to work away at her binds, this Khajit would sometimes cast a mischievous smile in her direction.  She seemed everything that Kalia herself was not, and maybe wished she could be.  Kalia had lived in Elsweyr all her life.  Upon her parents recent death, she left Elsweyr, looking to look for her older sister, Atahbah, who, when Kalia was still a cub, left to become a traveling merchant.  A recent letter from her sister let Kalia know Atahbah was in Skyrim, so that was where she went.  She watched the other Khajit, her ears, adorned with a loop earring in each one, twitched curiously every now and again, her black shoulder length hair, half in a ponytail, half hanging down, blowing slightly in the slight breeze.  Little did she know, her purpose was almost the same as this other Khajit's.  This Khajit, Shivani, had also always lived in Elsweyr all her life.  Her parents had died when she was a cub, leaving her to live with her grandmother.  Her(Shivani's) older sister, Khayla, had left when she(Shivani) was a cub, wanting to improve her skills, leaving home to become a guard for hire.  Upon her grandmother's recent death, Shivani left Elsweyr to look for her sister after recieving a letter from her saying that she was in Skyrim.  Shivani's long, black ponytail worn low, close to her head, was adorned with at least 3 gold bands.  She was a tan-orange color, with some black spots and markings, and in each of her ears, was an earring that looked like a claw.
    The young Imperial, Silana,  sat, looking at what she knew would be the last things she would ever see before her death, taking in the surroundings.  Her father, a soldier in the Imperial army, died when she was young.  Silana had come from Cyrodil to Skyrim with her mother when she was a teenager.  Now, a young woman, she did not fear death.  Maybe when she was young and innocent, but not now, not anymore.  She had endured much worse.  At first glance, if you saw her from the right side, you would see a beautiful young Imperial woman, with full lips, her long, dark hair worn in a low ponytail, her beautiful hazel eyes lined with black liner.  But when you saw her head on, the other side of her face, the left side, left remains of a painful past.  She was blind in the left eye, and it showed, as it was completely a hazy white color.  Scars went from across her eye, down across her cheek.  And, if her body had been visible and not covered with clothing, you would see that the left side of her body also beared scars.  Constant reminders of her torture.  The Thalmor had taken her when she was a teenager, dragging her and her mother off, just because they didn't worship the Divines.  They killed her mother in front of her eyes to teach her a lesson, and they tortured her to get her to relent, but she wouldn't give in.  She stuck to her beliefs, which only caused them to torture her more.  The only reason she was not dead, was because she had escaped.  But, it caused her to have a deep hatred for the Thalmor.
this part 1 of a story about mine & my sister's current batch of Skyrim ocs.

Tar-Meena, Silana, Shivani, Arranil, & Snak are (c) me
Meosho & Kalia is (c) my sister :iconwolfgirl-el:
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A Little Introduction

While this is called the 'Team Fortress Character Guide', a lot of the information contained within can be applied to fan characters with many different origins.

Team Fortress 2. A team-based FPS romp through a crazy little world set in an alternate universe version of the 1960s. With a story told mostly through comics and official timelines, an economy based on hats, accessories and bizarre weapons, and a very blurred line between reality and fiction, the game has many fans and an incredible potential for fan fiction. Where there is potential, there are stories...and unfortunately, when stories are written, Mary Sue tends to rear her speshul snowflake head. Mary waltzes in through the Fortress doors and, like a black hole, she warps the very fabric of time and space around herself to fit her needs. Also like a black hole, it's hard to tell where Mary will show up next. Alright, ladies and gents. Mission begins in ten seconds. Last one alive, lock the door!

Deploy a Backstory, here!

This is the essence of a character. Give them a good one, because your past defines you in ways that you don't even know. Amnesia is generally a bad route. There are multiple kinds of amnesia and multiple causes for each, and unfortunately the brain doesn't work immediately, so it sometimes takes years for an afflicted person to regain things, if they ever do. Try to avoid an overly-abusive childhood. If your character does have a particularly nasty childhood, the worst thing you can do is have the character whine about it all the time. Generally when people experience terrifying events, they refuse to talk about it. Above all, be logical and historically accurate. Even in the crazy world of TF2, there is a history that you have to follow. As for how your character gets into the mercenaries, they have to know what they're getting into. The motto of Mann Co. is 'We sell things and get in fights'. RED and BLU hire mercenaries, not secretaries. They would be legally required to mention 'Oh, by the way, you're going to kill people.'

Prepare for your examination...

I'm going to go ahead and say this. A girl with oversized breasts, a skinny waist, stick-thin limbs or muscle-less arms is not going to be a good fighter. Maybe it's just because I've taken a lot of health classes, but it drives me absolutely crazy when I see little girls(usually their age is early to late teens, but they're usually so skinny they look like 6-10 year olds) with the title 'Heavy'. The Heavy's minigun, Sasha, weighs 150 kilograms. If your character only weighs 90 kilograms, they probably won't be able to lift Sasha, let alone be able to carry 'her' while 'she' fires 200 rounds per minute...and that doesn't even get into the weapons with kick-back. (Not the Insecticon, the force of momentum from a discharged gun.) Soldier's rocket launchers have exhaust ports in the back to account for recoil, but the hand-held weapons don't account for it, so you're getting the force of it. Thin characters are much more acceptable with Snipers, Spies or Scouts, but a Scout has to have quite long, muscular legs to run with. Long, unbound hair is dangerous. Long hair is easy to grab, easy to get tangled in things, and incredibly easy to light on fire, especially in the era of beehives and gallons of aerosol hairspray.On that note, abnormal hair colors tend to stray towards Sue category. Most people didn't have hot pink or electric blue streaks in their hair. If there was any hair highlighting at all, it was just a slight bleaching.

You're a disgrace to the uniform!

Skimpy clothing, exposed skin, unbound hair, skin-tight clothing, graphic T-shirts...please stay away from these. I'm very much aware that this is the same universe that lets you wear a giant eyeball for a hat, but since Saxton Hale can recognize hippies on sight, the world still runs on the fashions of the late 60s. The early years of the 60s were a lot like the 50s. Women were dressed conservatively, usually in little dresses with pleated skirts, silk gloves for formal occasions, and rather simple patterns. If a woman wore pants, she wore them for only the most casual occasions. Pants weren't popular in the workplace for women, pants were never worn to school, and they were really only acceptable at home. The latter half of the 60s gave birth to the fashions everyone remembers. Bell-bottom pants, belly buttons, wide collars, floral patterns, miniskirts and go-go boots. That being said, it ruins the illusion when a character, especially a girl, shows up in, say, a graphic T-shirt and a pair of baggy jeans. Another problem with exposed skin, skin-tight clothing and unbound hair is that it's impractical for battle. If your character is prancing around on a battlefield with exposed flesh, they are a prime target for bullets, hits with a baseball bat, syringes, lasers, and fire especially.

Here's a gadget you should build...

Unless your character comes from, say, the future or the 'real world', you should not have an I-Pod. In the TF2 Canon, the only place that would have technology like that is Australia and possibly Mann Co. However, Mann Co. exists to 'sell products and get in fights', so most of their technology is used for weapons or silly hats, and judging from the fact that the rest of the world still seems to have developed along the same technological path that the real world did in the 60s and 70s, Australians are very stingy with their technology. In some cases, a person from the future or the 'real world' can work well, but it's harder to pull off.

You're a wee lil' lass, ye are!

Age is important! While there aren't really canon ages for the mercenaries, most of them are older males. Scout is an obvious exception(although one of his items says he's 23). As for the others, with possible exceptions of Sniper and Pyro, these are grown men, hardened from years of war, hardship, getting 12 PhDs or misplacing skeletons. I have seen a lot of underaged Medics and Engineers. You can't graduate high school at 14. Child prodigy or not, it is extremely difficult to skip a grade, let alone several. I skipped kindergarten because I could already read at that age, but the school officials were completely against the idea until my parents proved it beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Everyone thinks I'm just a one-eyed bloody monster...

The pinnacle of Fortre-Sues is that everyone loves them, everyone hates them, or the worst one, which is everyone important loves the Sue and anyone who doesn't is evil/a jerk/creepy/humiliated, etc. And usually, everyone loves/hates the Sue before they've even met him or her. This can be justified with some characters,(I.e, Pyro, Scout, and possibly Engineer. Pyro sees the world as a magical rainbow candyland and just wants to 'play' with the 'cherubs' of BLU Team, so he/she/it/the Pyro loves pretty much everyone and everything. Scout's a womanizer and Engy's usually a soft-spoken, hospitable ol' boy.) but you're going to have some trouble befriending a man who avoids everyone else and throws his own piss.

Lot o' good that Soldier training did ya!

I mentioned this earlier, but the character has to know what they're getting into. They need some training or at least experience. That's why people in the army go through boot camp. You can't just pick up a gun and expect to know everything about it.
Even if there's no specific 'training' they can go through, they should have experience. Sniper spent years in the wilderness hunting animals, which prepared him for spending time up in high places, shooting Scouts. Pyro...let's just leave that one alone. The fact that Spy can instantly kill someone with a single backstab implies that he's been doing it for years.

I could go into a lot more detail, but these are the most obvious ones that apply to TF2 Sues. It's always important to pay attention to the details of the world your character is from!
I've been seeing some Mary Sues in TF2 fandom for quite some time now...
And honestly, it's been annoying. There are better ways to make a decent characters than making someone with a tiny waist and giant breasts...
This isn't meant to be hateful or mean towards anyone. I do not want to offend anyone's fan characters, I just think there are some things that need to be done.

Edit: Eee! This has only been here a short time and already I've got such a positive response!
Even if you guys critiqued it, I'd still be happy. I love hearing opinions from others, it helps me figure out what to improve. <3
It's not an immense number of likes and favorites, but I'm still extremely thankful to all of you!
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Long ago, when I was young,
My family would keep me strong,
And keep me warm, though cold winds stung…
What have I done to make things wrong?

Now I’m all alone,
With no healing hands that could calm the pain within;
Now I’m all alone,
Among strangers that shun these streets and fear my skin…

Mom, you said you’d never leave,
That you just had a common cold,
I was so foolish to believe
All those sweet lies I had been told…

Now I’m all alone,
With no healing hands that could calm the pain within;
Now I’m all alone,
Among strangers that shun these streets and fear my skin…

Ryn, so father threw you out –
You could’ve tried to make your peace,
You could’ve stopped and thought about
Your bestest friend, your baby niece…

Now I’m all alone,
With no healing hands that could calm the pain within;
Now I’m all alone,
Among strangers that shun these streets and fear my skin…

Dad, it hurt so much to watch you fall,
I love you so, despite your sins,
When I lost you, I lost it all;
Now I am open to all winds!

Now I’m all alone,
With no healing hands that could calm the pain within;
Now I’m all alone,
Among strangers that shun these streets and fear my skin…
If my Skyrim fan fic was a Disney movie…

So I am revising the paragraph on English adjectives when – boom! – I come up with something that rhymes. For the first time in, like forever. Sheesh.  Reading 

This is supposed to be sung by Illa, my Dunmer gal, as she runs about Windhelm and throws stones in the windows of Nords’ houses. She has her reasons – the kid has just lost the last member of her family: her mother died of some pesky sickness, her uncle Teldryn left home after a disagreement with her father, who did not approve of him working as a sellsword for humans, and finally, the dad himself, worn out by years of drowning his sorrows, died of a heart attack in the middle of a confrontation with Rolff and buddies.

By the end of the last chorus, Illa is supposed to bump into her Ancestor Guardian for the first time and realize that she is not alone, after all. I need to make this into a comic. Golden Bucktooth 
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Unexpected end to kidnapping case
[Sunnyvale Tribune 23 Feb 2007]

In an unexpected development, police have closed the case against the kidnapper of twenty year old Nicole Cantrip. 'The circumstances surrounding Miss Cantrip's alleged disappearance have become clearer,' Inspector Frank Jones told the Tribune, 'and it's come to light that the case was filed in error. There is no evidence whatsoever that a kidnapping took place.' Since Cantrip is over eighteen, the applicable missing person legislation is almost non-existent, much to the dismay of her mother.

'Something has gone horribly wrong when a girl can be forced away from her family by people she's never met and it's called normal,' said a tearful May Cantrip. 'Nix wouldn't have abandoned us, dropped out of all her classes and left everything behind unless
somebody was forcing her.' Mrs. Cantrip claims that her home was invaded by several men who demanded that her daughter accompany them to what she describes as 'a kind of bizarre betrothal ritual'. When she attempted to summon help, the telephones, computers and even
a state-of-the-art panic alarm system appeared to be disabled, said Cantrip. However, police investigations of the equipment have not uncovered any signs of tampering.

'Young people are not always as happy at home as their parents imagine,' said Inspector Jones. 'Legally, Miss Cantrip cannot be held accountable to her mother.' Meanwhile, the missing woman's elder brother, Matthew Cantrip, has launched a wide-scale private investigation into his sister's disappearance. Members of the public with relevant information are urged to contact him using the details below. He is offering a substantial reward for information leading to her recovery.

Wedding Bells Ring for Geek!Lord
[SC3N3 & H34RD E-zine Feb 2007 issue 3]

Geek!Lord Alan Hardy is best known for his work on quantum entanglement and communications. At just eighteen years old, he prototyped the lagless holographic video systems that have become the norm in Turing districts around the world. In the five years since then, we've seen him hard at work as an inventor and intellectual - but last week Hardy showed the world that his romantic side is just as impressive. Following a secret engagement of nearly six years, Hardy formally introduced his fiancėe, Miss Nix Cantrip, in a dazzlingly elegant ceremony at the district hall. The young bride-to-be was nervous but fetching as she stepped into the romantically draped hall. Hardy would not allow the ceremony to be holographically broadcast saying that he felt he '[knew] the pitfalls of going virtual as well as the benefits'. You can, however, view the engagement photos in the Hardy-Cantrip Betrothal Gallery.

EXCLUSIVE interview with newlywed geek!queen Nix Hardy
[Geek Chic magazine May 2007]

On Valentine's day this year, inventor Alan Hardy introduced his then-fiancée Nix Cantrip. Through a whirlwind of preparations and a fairytale wedding, this woman has impressed the Turing community with her style, intelligence and practicality. Geek Chic
get to know a little more about Nix Hardy, hailed as Turing's newest geek!queen.

GC: Is it true that you didn't know Turing existed until you arrived here in February?
NH: Absolutely! It was quite a shock to discover it then. Alan is passionate about maintaining this haven for the scientific community. I think people here sometimes
take their freedom from government, industry, even the general population for granted, but where I come from, it's incredible. It could never maintained without absolute secrecy and Alan is very committed to that. So, no, I definitely didn't know about Turing until I arrived here.

GC: Tell us about your first impressions of Turing.
NH: Well, wow! Honestly, I think I was just reeling from the shock for the first few days. It was the first time I'd actually met with Alan in nearly six years, too, which was a little distracting. In some ways I'm only really appreciating it all now. I think the most incredible thing is the sense of intellectual freedom. What's considered insane out at places like MIT or Stanford or Cambridge - maybe a little less so at places like Cambridge, but still - those things are perfectly legitimate avenues of enquiry here. It's exciting to see!

GC: Whoa, can we back up for a moment here? You said you didn't see your husband for six years. How did that happen?
NH: (Laughs) Actually, I'd only met him once, six years ago, before arriving here. I think that's part of what he means when he tells people about the disadvantages of 'going virtual'. Anyway, six years ago - I was fifteen - I got out of the pool after training and found that Alan (although I didn't know him then) had stolen my towel. So I was confronted by this good-looking guy who grinned and said he was only giving my towel back if I said I'd marry him! I didn't think he was serious, so I said, sure I'd marry him and could I have my towel back, please. You can imagine how surprised I was to find his email later!

GC: And did he expect you to stick to that promise?
NH: That's kind of tricky to answer. It was never a case of my being pushed into something I didn't want . . . but I think Al always assumed things would go that way. He gets very intense when something matters to him. I'm not sure I was really certain he was serious about anything until February. It's not that I didn't trust him, but - yeah, doing everything virtually is hard.

GC: Any tips for other young couples doing things online?
NH: I think it's going to be different for everyone. In retrospect, it would've been much easier if we'd actually met up a few times. I think my family would've been a lot more comfortable with that and it wouldn't have been the risk it seemed. But at the time it was much harder to see clearly. Maybe the best advice I have is just to follow your heart.

GC: Well, enough about the past. What can you tell us about
your plans for the future?
NH: Alan's got plenty on his plate, of course, and I can't imagine that's going to change any time soon! Now that I'm starting to find my feet there are a few projects I'm
excited to be getting involved with, especially relating to the human-computer interface. There's plenty to keep me occupied and then when we're a little more settled - well, I've always wanted to be a mama.

GC: I'm melting from the adorable! Mrs. Hardy, thank you very much from taking the time to talk to Geek Chic magazine and best of luck with all your future plans.

'The best anniversary gift'
[Turing Times 15 April 2008]

Yesterday evening, Nix Hardy, Turing's unofficial 'geek queen' gave birth to twin daughters. The so-called royal birth has ignited a festive atmosphere throughout the community, sparking impromptu parties and celebrations at every turn. To add fuel to an
already-roaring fire, yesterday marked the first anniversary of Nix and Alan Hardy's marriage. 'It ought to happen once in three hundred and sixty five births, statistically speaking,' one reveller told The Times, 'but it's a happy coincidence that it's our own royal couple.' At a nearby punch bowl, the conversation turned on the task awaiting the new mother. 'She's got her job cut out for her and no question about that, but if anyone has the gumption to handle it, Nix Hardy does.'

Mrs. Hardy was not available for comment, but Mr. Hardy went on record declaring that the birth of his daughters was 'the best anniversary gift we could have wished for.' Mother and babies Mackenzie and Melissa remain at the Turing Medical Centre and are doing well.

'Twins in Turing' - Nix Hardy on Motherhood
[Geek Chic September 2010]

Geek Chic have asked me to write something as an encouragement to mothers and mothers-to-be in the Turing community. This strikes me as rather ironic, because it's you who have been my greatest encouragement in bringing up my girls. All of you: the people who let me know that this is a hard job and that it's okay to struggle; the people who've reminded me that I'm immensely privileged to be doing the job I am; the people who, when I've felt discouraged, have shown me that, yes, it can be done. Sometimes I hear these things from you in words, but more often I see it in your actions. All over this community kids are growing up as amazing people and valued members of the community. We're doing it right.

Perhaps because my girls are twins, or maybe because my husband is rather well know, people sometimes seem to think that I must know some great secret of bringing up kids. I suppose I do. Are you ready for it? You might know that the movie Kung-Fu Panda was
released while my girls were infants. There's a line of that movie that's stuck with me ever since I watched it: 'There is no secret ingredient.' Can I say that again? There is no secret ingredient. If you're doing the best you can for your family, I promise you, you're doing a fantastic job. You're not missing that supposed secret ingredient.

Sometimes I feel like I'm not making it. I think we've all been there. A few weeks ago I had one of those days: I'd given Missy something she shouldn't have had for lunch and her allergies were flaring up. Mackenzie was wailing because her sister was getting all my attention. There were a number of projects sitting neglected on my computer and I couldn't even remember what time my husband would be home. I sat there trying to comfort two wailing toddlers and I thought I've missed it. I've completely lost the plot. Yet
here I am today, writing this article as my girls play on the living room floor. Not perfect, but getting by all right. I have horrible moments as well as lovely ones. The rational part of my mind tells me that you do too. That's okay.

It's easy to look at things that have gone wrong. I should have checked the ingredients of everything I used to make lunch. I should have done x, y, z and possibly q. Should haves go on forever, but they're not helpful! There isn't a secret to doing things perfectly. We all make mistakes. What matters is how we recover. All over this community, kids are growing up with kids who love and care for them. Those parents might not be perfect, but they're more than good enough. Those parents are people like you. Parents who most days answer 'Why's the sky blue?' and 'What's a 'lectron that Daddy said about?' with the delight of discovering the world all over again, but also, I hope, parents who aren't distressed over when it doesn't work out. My mother-in-law tells me to cut myself some slack - kids are difficult. I'd like to pass that advice on to you today. There is no secret ingredient. Kids are difficult. But they're delightful, amazing and dearly beloved too.

Man Dies in Family Feud
[Sunnyvale Herald 28 Dec 2011]

For one Sunnyvale family, holiday tension escalated to tragedy this festive season. Alan Hardy was found dead two days ago, allegedly at the hands of his brother-in-law Matt Cantrip, who claims he was acting in self-defence. Matt Cantrip, his sister Nix Hardy and their families had gathered at the Cantrip family home for the holidays. Alan Hardy was not staying with the family, but may have arrived in response to a phone call from his daughter, whose cellphone was found near the scene of death.

Hardy's wife and daughters have not been seen since his death. The remaining members of the Cantrip family made no clear statement of their beliefs of the missing persons' whereabouts, although May Cantrip darkly referenced her daughter's supposed disappearance nearly five years ago. Police are reluctant to involve themselves in this aspect of the case, saying that the Hardy family's movements are beyond state authority.

Hardy Echoes May Never Fade
[Turing Times 23 Jan 2012]

The Turing community was rocked late last year by the deaths of the Hardy family. Now researcher Brett du Toit has new light to shed on the case of the so-called Hardy echoes, the binary permutations that have become ubiquitous across the world wide web in the last
month. He has revealed that these permutations are not the first of their kind, but only the most prominent. 'Nix and Alan seem to have used them to communicate during their courtship,' he said. 'It may even have been this shared skill that originally brought them

But why are the signals we're seeing now so much stronger? du Toit believes that Nix Hardy may have thrown all her vitality into creating these echoes. Stuggling to speak, he explained, 'It seems that Alan went out in response to a call from his daughter Missy's
phone. The activity records show a failed attempt to log in to Mackenzie's phone without her password and shortly thereafter an eventually successful attempt to use Missy's phone. After Alan's death Nix may have discovered that their daughter had - had unintentionally betrayed him.' du Toit's team have suggested that in her distress, Nix may have somehow used her daughters' and her own life force to perpetuate the signals she sent out. We shouldn't expect to see them fading any time soon.

It seems likely that this development will only serve to encourage the trend of incorporating the permutations into programming projects and even naming them for members of the Hardy family. They will remain indefinitely as a memorial to Nix, Mackenzie and Missy.

*nix, Mac, MS. (Okay, I apologise. I thought it was at least a little bit clever.)

"The next question was - what makes planets go around the sun? At the time of Kepler some people answered this problem by saying that there were angels behind them beating their wings and pushing the planets around an orbit. As you will see, the answer is not very far from the truth. The only difference is that the angels sit in a different direction and their wings push inward." -- Richard Feynman on the theory of gravitation

This is a retelling of the Baltic myth/folk tale Eglė, Queen of Serpents for #transliterations' Modernising Myths contest. When I started thinking about the contest, I decided that half the reason we enjoy myths and legends is that they are about something old and different: trying to modernise them took away my favourite part. Presently it occurred to me that the people who originally told these stories didn't exactly live on Mount Olympus sipping nectar and nibbling on ambrosia either. So that culture shift was a real thing that could, in fact be modernised. So that's what I tried to do.

In the original story, Eglė finds a serpent in her clothes after going swimming. He refuses to leave until she promises to marry the serpent king, and she does so, not thinking that her promise could be enforced. But the next day a carriage pulled by serpents arrives at her door and despite her family's resistance she is forced to go with them. The king of the serpents turns out to have a rather handsome human form and Eglė is not unhappy in her new home. Eventually, her children ask to visit their grandparent and she convinces her husband to let them go. While there, her brothers try to force first her sons and then her daughter to reveal how to summon their father. The daughter bends under pressure, the brothers summon the serpent king and he is killed. In her grief Eglė turns herself and her children to trees. Eglė is the Lithuanian word for spruce and the children are named similarly. The sons become strong trees, while the daughter is swayed by every passing breeze.

This format seemed like the best way to build atmosphere and advance the plot without getting too hung up over the details of the characters, which tend to absent from myths. Newspapers and such have a quality of being almost certainly right on the whole, but rather shaky abut the details. which appealed. I'm not sure I've got the balance of different kinds of articles and different aspects of story quite right, but I think it's at least at a point where you can see what I'm trying to do. Any suggestions will be gratefully accepted and seriously considered, whether they relate to that or to any other aspect of the story.

:phew: If you made it through all of that: :cookie: :cookie: :cookie:
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