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Trace: Chapter Thirteen: Conflict


blazingsai

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Trace (introducing cakesicle's Rosalie)
Chapter Thirteen: Conflict
 

Previous Chapter: http://www.loverslab.com/blog/521/entry-3431-trace-chapter-twelve-desperation/?_rcid[]=11266
Next Chapter: http://www.loverslab.com/blog/521/entry-3453-trace-chapter-fourteen-resolution/

 

Story

 

Part One

 

Under Vex’s gaze, Trace undid her bandages without hesitation after checking that there was nothing particularly wrong with her. She then proceeded to don one of her many outfits from within her bedside chest. When she finished, the Imperial did some light stretches and let out a relieved sigh.

 

Trace: I don’t know who you got to patch me up, but I wish you’d had told me about her three years ago after the Markarth job…
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Vex: Y-yeah… Right…

 

Trace: Is there something wrong?

 

Vex: No, just… do you absolutely need to go and help those murderers?
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Trace couldn’t help but laugh as she continued her stretches.

 

Trace: Come on Vexy, we’ve been through this. They’re just as much my family as you all are. They need me, and I’ve got to go help them

 

Vex: They wanted you dead! They were willing to kill one of the women you loved! If that’s a family--
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Trace turned around an shook her head at Vex.

 

Trace: It’s part of what they do. I can’t hate them for doing what I knew they would do…

 

Vex: *sigh* Seems like you’re as stubborn as your Nord bitch… Fine, then go already! Make sure you don’t get hurt, and… well… goodbye.
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Trace blinked a few times at the finality of Vex’s words. Was it just a simple goodbye, or did it have a greater meaning… Trace didn’t want this to eat up at her while she was tracking down that jester, and so…
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She inquired about it in a way that she knew Vex would be honest about it… pseudo tears.

 

Trace: Vex… *sniff* Do you really mean that? Goodbye? We’ll see each other again right? I do plan on returning, so… you’re not giving up on me… You’re not giving up on our love, are you?
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Vex lowered her eyes and answered in the quietest voice Trace had ever heard from anyone before.

 

Vex: Yes…

 

Trace: Vex… I couldn’t hear you. Could you speak up a bit?

 

Frustrated, Vex turned away from Trace and let out a heavy exhale.

 

Vex: Dammit, no Trace! I haven’t given up on your or our love! If I had, what would have been the point of all of this?
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Trace suddenly grabbed Vex around her waist, and as if the two were completely in sync with each other, they leaned forward and shared a short but intensely passionate kiss, that lit a fire under Trace.
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Vex: Listen Jalena… I know you’re good… damn good at what you do. But I already lost you once before, and I almost lost you again just this week… Please promise me that you’ll be safe… That you’ll return to the Cistern…
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Trace knew what she really mean was, ‘That you’ll return to me,’ and once again could feel a rush of energy flow through her. Separating from Vex, Trace did a fast 360 turn as she backed away and gave her a thumbs up accompanied by the grandest of smiles.

 

Trace: Even when it seems like I’ve got no hope of survival, somehow, someway, I’m always able to pull out of it. Don’t worry about it Vex, no matter what it takes I’ll return to you. I promise.
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After seeing Vex give a relieved nod, Trace started to walk off when suddenly Vex called out her name…

 

Trace: Huh? What is it--
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Out of the corner of her eye, Trace saw an object hurling toward her head, and with quickly grabbed it out of midair.

 

Trace: My sword…
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Vex: You DO know that trying to leave here without your sword is NOT a way to instill confidence in me that you’ll make it back safely…
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Trace placed her sword on her shoulder and smile again at Vex.

 

Trace: As I said, things just tend to work out for me. So don’t worry your pretty little head about me Vex. Besides… you’ve got a Guild to run!
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Vex: Haa…. Just hurry up and go…

 

Trace gave her a wink, and without needing to be told again, quickly left the Cistern…
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As soon as Trace seals the sewer cover behind her, Vex hears a calm but stern voice in her head…

 

???: I’m being lenient because I know how much she means to you, but you kept my artifact for a reason… Do make sure to not waste my time mortal.

 

Vex walks off to a secluded area of the Cistern and touches her amulet which then suddenly takes the form of the Skeleton Key and nods to no one in particular.

 

Vex: Yes, but of course Nocturnal…Trace13_14_017.png

Part Two

 

…Once she’d left the Cistern, Trace took off running. She knew that her time spent injured may have cost the Brotherhood, and who knows how many of them could have been injured at her tardiness.
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However as much as she would have liked to run the entire way there, a feeling crept up her spine as though she were being watched, which caused her to stop…
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…And turn to face her pursuers…
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…However, there wasn’t anyone of note to be found…
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Sheathing her sword, Trace shook her head.

 

Trace: Get it together Trace! Now’s not the time to be jumping at ghosts!

 

She then proceeded once again towards the Sanctuary…
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Trace was amazed by the lack of travelers on the road, especially with the Civil War past them, and she was even more surprised by the lack of wildlife impeding her progress. Then when she came up on Ivarstead, Trace once again felt like she was being followed.
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Trace: (They’ve got to be rookies. Anyone worth a damn wouldn’t purposely be exuding so much intent to kill their target… regardless of who it was.)
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Not wanting to get the local guards involved, Trace avoids Ivarstead and instead draws her pursuers into the woods where she finally could sense them coming out of their shadows.
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Trace: Listen rookies, now isn’t the time for this nonsense. The Brotherhood needs my assistance and their sake I can’t afford to play around with you all.
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???: Who said we were playing?

 

Trace took a few glances about her and found herself facing the eradication unit that had been following her. However, unlike in Winterhold they were a trio this time rather than a quartet
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Trace: Look, I’ll explain everything to Astrid, you don’t have to die here for nothing,

 

Khajiit Assassin: Khajiit thinks she speaks tough words for a dead woman.

 

Male Assassin: My thoughts exactly!
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Trace brought her hands to her side and let out a frustrated sigh.

 

Trace: You’re making this a lot rougher for yourselves than necessary. I understand that you’re trying to prove yourselves, but you’ll wish you’d have let me go when I’m done here.Trace13_14_029.png

Part Three

 

Male Assassin: Enough chatter! Get her!!

 

Before the words passed from his mouth, Trace had already set upon the two assassins behind her, giving one of them a deep wound right off the back.
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Shoving the injured Dark Sister’s companion out of the way, Trace delivered another slash to the assassin’s thigh, causing the Dark Sister to fall to a knee. Trace’s next word finally illustrated the severity of their situation to the assassin.

 

Trace: Don’t worry your pretty horned head. I’m going to save you for last.
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Suddenly, as if waiting for her opportunity, the Khajiit sprung towards Trace, but the Imperial hadn’t forgotten about her. After a short tussle, Trace delivered a heavy slash across the Khajiit’s chest that sent the beast flying,
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The injured assassin tried her best to assist her Dark Brethren. However Trace stopped that notion with another slash to the woman’s thigh…
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The male then came charging at Trace wildly from behind, but he was extremely sloppy. All it took was one well place slash from the assassin’s left shoulder to his right hip, and then suddenly he was a nonfactor in this fight.
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Trace: And then there was one.

 

Assassin: Wait please!! I-I-I just joined the Brotherhood less than a m-m-month ago! Please… have mercy!!!

 

Trace: Mercy?

 

Trace dealt the assassin a slash across her chest similar to the one she gave the Khajiit….
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Trace: If you wanted mercy, you fools should have let me go as I said!
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Trace didn’t even break a sweat in dealing with them, which although gave her a great sense of pride also mad her worry about the future of the Dark Brotherhood…
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Realizing that she’d once again broken the Fifth Tenet, even if her hand was forced, Trace dropped to a knee and delivered a short prayer for her slain brother and sisters…
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After rising, she let out her frustrated scream. It was truly an unavoidable situation. If Trace would have went easy on them, she would be the one dead right now…

 

Trace: Remember, all is in accordance with the will of Sithis… Even if it feels really shitty…

 

Trace’s words helped her calm down, and without wasting another moment, she continued towards the Sanctuary…
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When she arrived at the door to the Brotherhood’s Sanctuary, Trace could feel the death and chaos in the air, and hurried to go inside.

 

Door: (What… is the music of life?)

 

Trace: Silence, my brother.

 

Door: (Welcome… Home)Trace13_14_040.png

Part Four

 

As soon as she came down the Sanctuary’s steps, Trace encountered the Dunmer Gabriella who took one look at Trace…
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…And all of a sudden collapsed to the ground in a heap of emotion.

 

Trace: W-what’s wrong? I know Cicero went mad but--
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Gabriella: Hail Sithis… you’ve finally come. A-Astrid is waiting for you, but… Gods… Thank goodness you actually showed up. I couldn’t imagine what would have happened if…
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Trace got to her feet and placed a comforting hand on the Dunmer’s shoulder before looking for Astrid.
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Trace: (That damned fool… He’s going to pay for what he’s done here…)
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Trace’s mood didn’t improve any when she finally found Astrid and saw that the Nord was beside herself. Anger, sadness, fury, fear… the woman who had taught Trace how to become a blank slate being overcome with emotion gave Trace a new perspective on the ‘cool beauty’ she had followed into the night two years ago.

 

Astrid: Damn fool… He injured everyone, but gave Veezara a nasty cut. I don’t think he’ll ever be able to do another contract again…
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Astrid finally looked at Trace and glared at the Imperial.

 

Astrid: Then you go and assist those damn thieves rather than your real family.

 

Trace: Helping the Guild took priority because they at least knew where Mercer was headed. Have you all even found a lead on the jester yet?
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Trace could see Astrid forcing herself to hold back all of the complaints and criticisms she had, and ultimately Trace was thankful for it. Had Astrid continued the way she was going, Trace knew it would be only a matter of time before she turned her back on the Dark Brotherhood… and Astrid.

 

Astrid: *sigh* I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again… I want you to find that miserable little fool and end his life! But first...
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Astrid: Please Trace… find my husband. Make sure he's all right. I had sent some of our younger brothers and sisters out to track them, but they disappeared into the wild and I haven’t received anything from them yet…
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Trace: You know how I feel about Arnbjorn… But I’ll do this. I’ll put a priority on finding the werewolf… for you Astrid. But before that, where should I start looking for clues?
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Astrid: That means a lot to me Trace. I know you’d rather see him dead than the two of us together so… thanks.

 

Trace: Anytime.

 

Astrid: Right, well… Search the fool’s…

 

Astrid held back a bit on the command she was about to give and asked it as one would properly ask for a favor.

 

Astrid: …Could you search Cicero's room? Maybe there's something in there that I missed in my anger and haste that’ll shed some light on where he might have gone.
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Trace: I’ll go looking there, but in all honesty… If you all haven’t found something by now, how am I supposed?

 

Astrid’s silence confirmed Trace’s suspicions, and so she started to walk off when suddenly Astrid grabbed her by the arm.

 

Astrid: Please Jalena… Let me know the minute you find something… Anything…
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Trace saw the look of desperation in the leader of the Dark Brotherhood’s eyes and simply nodded. She knew the probability of finding something was slim, but if she was indeed blessed by some external force…Trace13_14_053.png

Part Five

 

Trace: (It’ll probably work itself out…)

 

That was Trace’s exact sentiments when she entered into the fool’s room. There was nothing, nay, less than nothing about that could possibly give a hint to where Cicero had went, but she’d made a promise. And Trace was quite keen on keeping her promises.
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Trace: Haaa… May as well get down and dirty… How bad can this be?
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And so Trace checked the shelves… only to find a skull, some drinks that looked like poison, a few apples, and a pot…
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She checked thee drawers… only to be forced to take a sniff of the worst smelling dresser drawer that she’d ever encountered in her life…

 

Trace: Is… is that a hand?
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Trace then searched behind and under everything that she could move with her bare hands, before finally searching under the table… which yielded no results.

 

Trace: *sigh* This is pointless… I told her I wasn’t going to find anything… Cicero might be a fool, but he’s not--
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Suddenly something caught the Imperial’s eye, and she couldn’t believe what she was seeing.

 

Trace: No way… but if it’s in there, that’d be the last place anyone would look…
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And indeed under a bed that for as long as any of them had known had had a large amount of straw under it would be the last place anyone would look… Mainly because no one would want to dive head first into a bunch of straw…
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However Trace didn’t simply dive, she almost completely submerged herself within the straw. Was it smart? No. Was she terribly itchy all the while she was immersed in the straw? Yes.
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But did it yield results? After flailing around in the straw for about five minutes, Trace emerged from it and after getting straw out of all sorts of places on her body, she was able to say with the slightest of smiles…

 

Trace: I found… something…
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It was a book, a worn out book. Knowing that this was ultimately going to be the only thing she’d probably find in this mess of a room, Trace quickly began to read though the book’s contents.

 

Trace: Hmmm… ‘I have written the letters. So polite. So official! To Astrid, in Skyrim. Her Sanctuary still stands. Still operates. But how? No Listener means no Black Sacrament, no Black Sacrament means no contracts. Her family can abandon the Old Ways, and still survive, still kill, but is that family still Brotherhood? Or something else? Something new. Something different. Something wrong?’
Trace13_14_063.png
Trace: What is this fool talking about? How is the Brotherhood wrong?

 

Trace flipped the pages until she found one that caught her attention… mainly because there were splotches of blood on it.

 

Trace: Let’s see… ‘Sick sick sick of the _________ _______ rolling throwing upon the gray gray waves! I've been reading of Skyrim, of the good days, the old _________ ________ Ways. There was another Sanctuary once. A Dawnstar Sanctuary. Good, ___________ _________ _______ by Sithis. Cicero will go there! No need of Astrid!’ Ha! Seems you weren’t as clever as you thought you were jester…
Trace13_14_064.png
Having found what she needed, Trace went to exit the messy room when suddenly she came to a halt.
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The image of the fear… the desperation on fear on Astrid’s face when she spoke of Arnbjorn flashed before her eyes and made Trace’s heart clench.

 

Trace: (Maybe this was what I needed… Because I finally realize that things may never have been possible between Astrid and I, even with her coming onto me a few times before...)
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Trace: *sigh* But does that even matter right now? Getting Cicero back for what he did to the Brotherhood takes precedence. I’ve just got to keep that in my head right now…Trace13_14_067.png

Part Six

 

And so Trace returned to Astrid and told her everything that she had found out, making the Nord’s eyes widen in response.

 

Astrid: The Dawnstar Sanctuary? Whatever for? Never mind, it doesn't matter. You need to leave. Now. Every moment counts!
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Trace: Don’t you think I know that every moment counts? I’m not cut from the same cloth as those inefficient eradication units you’ve been sending after me!

 

Astrid: I know you do but I…
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Again, Trace could see Astrid struggling with what she truly wanted to tell Trace. It was as if her brain and her heart were at war with each other and for the first time in a long while… her heart was winning…

 

Astrid: Look, I want you to take my horse. His name is Shadowmere. You'll find him outside, by the pool. Let's just say he's... one of us.
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Trace’s jaw dropped to the floor.

 

Trace: We’ve had an assassin horse the entire time and you only decided to bring it up NOW?
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Astrid let out an unexpected chuckle, and Trace could literally see the tension melt away from the Nord’s face, which actually calmed Trace down quite a bit.

 

Astrid: Yes, my horse IS an assassin. Deal with it. Anyway, he'll speed your passage to Dawnstar.
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Trace saw the somber look reappear on Astrid’s face, and once again felt like her heart was being torn in two directions.

 

Astrid: Trace… Find Arnbjorn.
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Trace: I already promised to do so, you don’t have to--

 

Astrid shook her head and repeated herself.

 

Astrid: Find Arnbjorn, Trace. Make sure my husband's all right. And then…
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Suddenly Trace saw a malicious look appear on the Dark Sister’s face…

 

Astrid: …And then send that jester's twisted little soul to the Void, in as many pieces as possible!
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Trace heard and understood Astrid’s words… however that look…

 

Trace: (I… I don’t like that look… If… If I’m really doing this out of revenge for Astrid, and not because the entirety of the Dark Brotherhood’s future in Skyrim was compromised… What could this mean for the future of the Brotherhood? Killing is killing, I know that, but killing one of their own? Killing out of revenge? The Brotherhood was never about this.)
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As Trace was still mulling over her conflicted feelings, Astrid got into her face and began glaring at her.

 

Astrid: What are you waiting for? My husband is out there somewhere with that lunatic. Find them! Do what you've been tasked to do!
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When Trace still didn’t move to leave, Astrid opened her mouth to complain again and then suddenly Trace kissed her. Trace knew that there was no time for this, but rather than ask Astrid if there could possibly still be anything between them, she chose to simply let Astrid’s body answer for her. And by the way Astrid grabbed Trace around her waist and squeezed her behind… Trace was quite satisfied with the answer she was given.
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When Astrid seemed to want to take their little make out session a bit further, Trace escaped her grip and pressed the Nord against the wall. It took a few moments for Trace to calm her racing heart, but when she was finally able to she glared at Astrid who seemed to be unable to look her in the eye…
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Trace: Whether or not you’ve ever loved me, I’ve always had your best interests in mind and I’ll protect you… and them until the end of time. That’s all I’m going to promise you.
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Astrid nodded knowingly, and whether or not she knew that Trace was talking about Vex and Mjoll when she said “them” was irrelevant to the thief. Trace released her and began to head out when Astrid called out to her.
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Astrid: Hey… *pant* *pant* I thought you might want to know that I’ve also sent the vampire out to track them as well. If she’s *pant* as good as she once was, she may have already tussled with the jester.
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Trace: The vampire? Babette?

 

Astrid: No… The ‘other vampire.’

 

Trace sucked her teeth and cursed as she proceeded to exit from the Sanctuary…Trace13_14_083.png

Part Seven

 

Outside, Trace headed over to the pool Astrid had spoken of…

 

Trace: ‘You'll find him outside, by the pool,’ she said.
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Trace: Then tell me…Where in Oblivion are you Shadowmere?!
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At the saying of the mare’s name the pool began to come alive and something began to stir in its depths. Seconds later Trace stood in utter disbelief at what she had witnessed.
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Trace: Are you kidding me? This thing can’t be of this world…
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Whether or not it was, one thing was certain, the beast was impatient. It began stomping its hooves and blowing fiercely from its nostrils as to say, “You summoned me, now hurry up and ride!”
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Trace: *grins* Oh Astrid… With a stallion like this, no wonder you turned down Frost as if he were bottom of the barrel trash. Heh… better not keep him waiting any longer.
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As soon as Trace mounted Shadowmere, she felt the full brunt of his impatience as the mare tried to buck her off of him. However, this wasn’t her first time atop a beast this furious…
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Trace: Whoa Shadowmere! Take it easy… Yeah... just like that… Wait Shadowmere!!!
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Astrid’s horse wasn’t one to be calmed down, and so rather than fight its nature Trace embraced it and the duo began to set out for Dawnstar.
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Trace: (I’m coming for you Cicero! Just you wait you bastard…)Trace13_14_093.png

Part Eight

 

Night had feel by the time they reached Dawnstar, however they had arrived hours before she could have dreamed to have had if she had walked or rode a different horse.
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Trace: Whoa Shadowmere! Whoa!

 

This time the mare came to a halt which actually startled the Imperial.

 

Trace: Wait so now you’re going to listen? *sigh* Seems like someone’s getting sleepy.
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Shadowmere bucked again as to say he understood and did not like her last comment.

 

Trace: Okay, okay… but I’m glad you finally stopped. I can’t exactly waltz into Dawnstar riding you. I mean you have glowing eyes you know? Those aren’t normal on horses… or most animals if I’m going to be honest.
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Shadowmere nodded knowingly and stood still enough for Trace to dismount. He then lowered his head and Trace immediately accepted the invitation and gave the mare a hug around the neck.
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Trace: I knew you were a big softy. I don’t know why you put up such a front.

 

Shadowmere bucked once as to say, “I’m no softy,” but it wasn’t strong enough to make Trace release her grip from around his neck.

 

Trace: There there. I’ll be back as soon as I can, so PLEASE don’t go running off anywhere.
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Shadowmere responded with a big huff, and taking that as a yes, Trace began walking around the perimeter of Dawnstar in search for the Dawnstar Sanctuary Cicero had mentioned in his journal…
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After quite some time had passed, Trace had finally found the Sanctuary, but what she also saw had made her quite annoyed with this whole situation.

 

Trace: You damn abominations… I know your kinds can’t stand one another, but you’re on the same side dammit! Learn some self-control!
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Trace looked at the woman who was still on her feet and scowled.

 

Trace: Especially you, vampire! Considering you’re back, you decided to disobey a direct order from your leader? Are you kidding me, Rosalie?
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The vampire in question took a few deep breaths before she finally was able to gather herself.

 

Rosalie: You honestly think… that this mutt would still be alive if I had truly been meaning to kill him? I may have been out of the Brotherhood for a while, but I’ve been killing people for much long than you’ve been alive…
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Trace: Seriously? This is why I fucking hate you werewolves and vamps! You both think you’re so much better than everyone else. It’s plain as day what happened here, you attacked him! *sigh* A traitor never changes… I don’t know why, but it’s clear that you had to have attacked him from behind! Damn it to Oblivion!! Why would you do this? Why--
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Arnbjorn: As much as I’d like to *cough* place all the blame on that vamp… I was like this when she got here for the most part…. *cough* *cough*

 

Trace: Wait… what?

 

Arnbjorn: Me and Cicero got into it… She got me good and deep, but I’ll live. As for *cough* the fool, I ought to have hit an artery… So if you can get to him… *cough* he should be easy pickings. As for why the blood sucker is tired out with blood on her…

 

Rosalie: I had to play ring around the werewolf while this idiot tried to kill me because in his weakened state his instincts took over and he saw me as an enemy. Ended up taking a big hit to my chest, but I’m okay.
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Trace: (“She?” I could have sworn he said “she…”) Sorry I overreacted…

 

Trace truly meant it. In hindsight she should have found out what happened from both parties first. However, with Cicero tuning on the Brother and what it look like occurred…

 

Trace: I do apologize, Rosalie. But, I still can’t deal with your kind… Especially after what they did to my--

 

Rosalie: It’s fine… And I’ve never blamed you for it or anything, so don’t worry.

 

Trace: Now that that’s handled. You two stay here. I’ll handle Cicero. Shouldn’t be a problem for me by myself.
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Suddenly and with rejuvenated stamina, Rosalie jumped in front of Trace and spread her arms out, barring the Imperial’s passage.

 

Rosalie: No way cupcake. I’m not going to sit on the sidelines and allow you to get hurt. I’m back in the Brotherhood because of Babette, and if I allow you to get hurt Astrid’s not only going to be mad at me, but her as well. I’m not going to let that happen, just because you don’t play well with vampires!
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Rosalie: I’m coming with you whether you like it or not!

 

Trace gave Rosalie a good hard look before she ultimately swatted the vampire’s hand away and shoved her way past Rosalie.

 

Rosalie: What gives? I’m not going to stand here and--
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Trace: I’m not expecting you to stand around out here. All I know is that if you stab me in the back… You won’t live to gloat about it!

 

Rosalie: Right… I’m SO afraid now. Don’t worry Miss J, I’ll be on my best behavior!

 

Trace did her best not to react to the vampire’s sarcasm, but it was impossible for her to hide her disdain for the vampire or her kind. So instead of even trying, Trace simply entered the Sanctuary with Rosalie right on her heels.
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