Chapter 28:

Sleeping Memories

The Elder Scrolls Series is property of Bethesda. Familiar of Zero is (currently) property of Media Factory (I believe)

"Talking"

"Thoughts"

"Powerful (Dragon/Daedra/etc.) speech"

"DOVAHZUL"

/+/+/+/+/

Scarron pursed his lips as he read Jessie's letter. They were rather large lips; Louise couldn't help but notice. And…was he wearing lip balm? Odd to see in a Commoner, much less a man. Other than that, he was remarkably stone-faced. He moved aside, allowing his daughter, Jessica, to read the letter in full. She was much less subdued in her reactions, openly gasping and jerking her head up to stare at the three of them.

Finally, after Jessica fell back into her seat, Scarron dropped the letter on the table, sighing dramatically. "I knew I should have fought harder against that marriage."

"Uncle!"

"Daddy!"

"Oh," Scarron giggled, "I'm kidding…mostly." He leaned back, stretching his arms with a groan, "Still, can't really blame Marcus and his kin." He returned to a more natural position, grinning icily at Master Johan, "After all, this little development seems to be your fault."

Louise grew offended on his behalf, but the man himself shrugged. "You're not wrong," he said, "although I think we can both agree that it was better that I was there when the Titan did awake than not."

Scarron flippantly waved his hand, "That just goes back to my original objections to the relationship, and that's an old argument. This is new!" he crooned, "And far more interesting."

Master Johan was silent, before shrugging. He then snapped his fingers, the air above the table warping as a bundle of letters dropped onto the table. Jessica gasped, jerking back in her chair. Scarron, oddly enough, just cocked a brow. Something must have shown itself on Louise's face, because he turned to her, saying, "Darling, I run a tavern. The things I've seen, there's very little that shocks me anymore." He returned his attention to Master Johan, "I assume you want me to deliver these?"

"I don't know where the courier's office is."

"Fair enough. Have you eaten?" When they all shook their heads, Scarron rose to his feet, "Then let me get you all some food. If you want, I have some wine I've been saving for a special occasion." He shrugged, smirking lightly, "Was hoping for that occasion to be a happy one, but take what you can get, right?"

Siesta sniffed, "Just water for me."

"I'll take the wine," Louise said.

"Got any ale?" Master Johan asked.

"Nothing that isn't watered down, I'm afraid."

"Watered down?" Louise repeated, flinching when she realized she'd said it aloud.

Scarron giggled, "It's okay to be curious, Sweetie." He lazily waved a hand in the air, "While I myself enjoy a nice glass of wine, the folk that frequent my establishment prefer harder stuff. Alas," he sighed dramatically, "there's been so many patrons lately, I'm running low on liquor! Forced to draw out what little I have left."

Jessice snorted, "We still have fifteen casks left. He's just being cheap."

"It's called frugal, sweetie."

"Sounds dishonest," Louise flatly chimed in.

"Successful businesses don't care," Johan replied. He smirked at Scarron, "Decent ones, however…"

Scarron returned the smirk easily, "None of my patrons have every complained about their meals and drinks."

"That's because they're too busy eating the scenery," Jessica countered.

"Ah, one of those establishments," her Master drawled.

"It works," Scarron's smirk grew sharper, "And brings in extra money."

"For everyone?"

"Of course. I would never steal from my girls—believe me, they earn their keep."

"I'd certainly hope so."

Louise's head was swimming; they were stringing along so many words in so many ways that she wasn't sure which way was up. Alas, she seemed to be alone in her befuddled thoughts—Jessica, obviously, was privy to what her father and Master Johan were talking about. And even Siesta was able to follow the conversation. Louise was tempted to ask how Derflinger was faring, but decided not to, since neither Scarron nor Jessica had spared the living weapon a second glance. Wouldn't do to cause them further alarm by revealing his talkative nature.

The conversation continued for a bit—Master Johan and Scarron indulging in private jokes and japes as if they were old friends. Until Jessica took it upon herself to remind her father that he offered food and drink. Sheepish, the owner excused himself, quickly leaving to gather the promised meal.

Jessica eyed Siesta, a smile on her face. "Can't believe Aunty let you out of her sight, considering what's on this letter." She blanched, looking at the paper, "…Should we burn this?"

"As soon as possible," Master Johan nodded. "I can do it now, if you want?"

The young Commoner chuckled, a nervous grin on her lips, "I don't think father would appreciate you casting magic at the table. I mean, it's never come up, but it sounds like one of those unwritten rules."

Siesta smirked, "Like don't cut open the flour bags?"

Jessica grinned right back, "Or don't paint your hair."

"Don't juggle the produce."

"Leave the birds alone!"

Louise fisted her pants as the two Commoners laughed; she didn't know why it bothered her so much? Who cared that they saw fit to leave her behind as they went off into their own little world?

Scarron returned soon after with a tray; three plates—an assortment of vegetables and meat atop them—and their drinks atop it.

Scarron set them down, beckoning them to eat. "We can talk when your bellies are full," he said.

Louise took her first bite, somewhat surprised that it was actually good, even the wine (almost a shame to waste it on this, really). It must have shown on her face, because Scarron laughed, saying, "Better than it looks, Darling?"

Louise blushed, "Well, after that talk of cutting costs I…I assumed the worst."

"A sound philosophy!" Scarron cried, clasping his hands together, "That way, you can always be pleasantly surprised when your wrong!"

"Or grimly satisfied when you're proven right," Master Johan snarked.

"Either way, you're in a good mood," Scarron winked. Louise was starting to feel lost again and returned to her meal.

When they were all finished—Jessica clearing away their dishes—Scarron said, "I've got spare rooms for you upstairs. Well, the attic and a spare bed—but I'm sure you have a bedroll or cot or something." The burly man crossed his arms, "Siesta can stay with Jessica, though."

"Like when we were younger!" Siesta exclaimed.

Jessica smirked, "Without all the babies screaming in our ears."

The two girls smiling at each other rankled Louise once more. Reminded her of…darker times.

"You know," Louise turned her attention back to Scarron, who was nodding at Master Johan. "…You could bunk with me. Give Louise the attic to herself."

Before Master Johan could provide his input, Louise said, "I don't mind!" She blushed at the odd stares her outburst gained, "I-I'm fine sharing a room. Attics are big, right?" She prayed to the Founder that no one pried further.

"It's mostly stuffed with our holiday decorations," Jessica replied.

Thanking the Founder, Louise cleared his throat, "Well, I'm sure there's still enough space for my small self and Master Johan." She arched a brow at Scarron, "Unless your room is meant for two giants?"

Scarron chuckled, "No. Miriam—my late wife—was a small waif of a woman. Larger than you, mind," he nodded at Louise (who, just weeks ago, would have taken irrational offense at that), "but certainly smaller than Johan." His lips spread into a sad, wistful smile—Siesta and Jessica especially growing somber as well—before he clapped his hands. "Well, sounds like we've got all that sorted! Anyone care for a bath before getting some shuteye?"

Louise took a quick sniff of herself, scrunching her nose, "I would, actually."

"Anyone else?" No one else answered, to her mild disgust. "Alright then, Come with me, Darling! I'll get it drawn and hea—oh!" He grinned, "But I suppose you could heat it yourself?" Louise returned the grin—one of the many benefits of magic.

"Which way is the attic?" Master Johan asked, rising from his seat.

"I can show you," Jessica said, rising as well. "My room's on the way. Ah!" she looked down at Louise and Siesta's purchases, "Should probably find a place for—" Master Johan waved his arm, the bags and boxes disappearing into a void. "…or you could do that."

/+/+/+/+/

"And you're right up the stairs," Jessica said, opening the door to the attic.

Johan nodded, eyeing the dark staircase, "You have a lamp I can light?"

The girl blinked, "Er…I'd have thought you'd just, you know, magic yourself some light."

"Well," he chuckled, "I certainly could, but that sounds like one of those unspoken rules." Jessica blushed, turning on her heel and leaving to find a lamp.

"I think you're shattering her preconceptions of mages, Boss" Derflinger snorted.

"Well," Johan smirked, "I've always been fairly good at breaking things." She returned quickly enough, handing Johan a lit lamp. "Thank you. Ah, wait a moment!" She paused, turning back around and tilting her head. "While I was walking through the city, I heard something about refugees from the south, from a town near a lake?"

Jessica nodded, "I've heard about that. Something to do with a spirit, I think."

"Have you heard anything more specific than that from your patrons?"

"I haven't," the girl shrugged, "and I doubt my father has either."

"People don't talk?" he asked with a raised brow.

"Not that," she waved a hand, "We cater to a more…upscale clientele. Not folks from the palace, mind, but this place is a bit rich for refugee blood. And they're too busy whining about their own problems to bother caring for the less fortunate."

Johan clicked his tongue; he'd have to find a less affluent tavern, then. In any case, he nodded his thanks, heading up to the attic.

Derflinger whistled when they reached the top step, "They weren't kidding about the holiday decorations."

"Indeed," Johan intoned, arching a brow at the colorful items strewn about the room; mostly decorative chairs, mugs, and utensils. There were also four closets—one labeled 'autumn feasts', another 'winter holidays', the third 'spring festivals', and the fourth 'miscellaneous'. After summoning a spare cot for himself, his curiosity got the best of him. He opened the first closet. He then blinked, starring nonplussed at the dozen or so…risqué autumn-themed outfits held within. No doubt the other closets would reveal similar seasonal outfits.

"Wo-o-o-oh!" Derflinger crooned. "Does Scarron have a little side business going on that we should know about?"

"Doubt it," the Nord replied. "There aren't near enough rooms in the building."

"Could always send them out with clients."

"Scarron doesn't strike me as the kind of man to risk his employee's safety as such."

The living blade hummed, "Greed can make a monster of anyone."

Johan paused, staring down at his friend, "Speaking from experience?"

"Probably. Second-hand, I hope."

"Care to find out?"

"…Sure. Then I can spend the rest of our little trip ruminating on whatever horrible deeds I was complicit in."

"That's the spirit!" Johan nodded, closing the closet and walking over to the bed on the other side of the room. He placed Derflinger upright on the headboard, recreating the spell he used back in Tarbes. He chuckled when he finally got it going, "I should probably write this down."

"Write what down, Master?" Louise called out from behind them.

The Nord shrugged, "This spell I've either invented or unknowingly recreated." He turned around, grunting at the sight of her smooth, damp hair and clean, almost glowing, skin. "Enjoy your bath?"

Louise sighed, a smile worming its way onto her face as she dropped onto the bed. "It was heavenly! Scarron has an assortment of oils and gels that would put most Nobles to shame!" She cocked a brow, eyes narrowing at the magical energy swirling in his hands, "What's this spell, then?"

"Just a little thing to help ease Derflinger's recollections."

His student nodded, "Should I leave?"

"Nah," the blade said, "you're fine where you are, little lady. Let's get this over with." Johan nodded, pulling his hands apart and placing them on either side of the living weapon. The blade vibrated, cross guard clanking. "Ooh, tingly!"

"Any pain?"

"Nah, I'm good, Boss. Ten minutes, right?" Johan nodded, after which Derflinger fell silent, focusing on his forgotten past.

Silence reigned for a few moments, until Louise asked, "Master, what is that spell? Rather, how are you accessing Derflinger's memories?"

"I'm afraid your mistaken, mah lahzey. This is just a mishmash of a Calm and Courage spell. I'm not accessing anything, just easing the pain and confusion Derflinger feels when he searches the depths of his mind."

Louise frowned, scratching her chin, "Is there not a spell that could just…bring those memories to light?"

"I've no doubt." At her deadpan stare, he elaborated, "Memory spells are…tricky business. Despite what you may think, the mind is fairly resilient to magical intrusions. In fact, most trauma from hostile illusion magic comes from what victims are forced to do, not the spell itself. But memories…well, to begin with, that's more Dunmer territory."

"Why?"

"Because they place a great deal of reverence towards their ancestors." Louise nodded after a moment—it was then that Johan recalled that she'd spent a great deal of time researching the elves of Tamriel. So much so that, if he didn't know her as well as he did, he'd tease her about ha ving some sort of fetish. "To be sure, every race across Tamriel respects their forefathers, but Dunmer take it a step further. Crafting spells that allow them to view the memories—in some cases, live the lives—of their ancestors."

"Right, I'd read about that." She shivered, "Can't believe they just allow ghosts to roam their homes."

"Well, the spirits offer their services."

"Why?" Louise shivered, "It can't be pleasant, leaving the afterlife for the mortal plane."

"It isn't, from what I've been told. And I honestly couldn't tell you why deceased Dunmer across the board continue to do so. I asked a friend, once, and she said that its different depending on the spirit. Some do it out of obligation. Some do it out of a desire to live vicariously through their decedents. Some do it out of sheer spite for death itself." He smirked, remembering the blushing scowl that stole across Brelyna's face, "And some are forced to teach young Dunmer things that their parents are too afraid to broach."

His smirk was met with a frown, "…You mean sex, don't you?"

Johan chuckled, "It is a terribly awkward topic of conversation." Louise paled, no doubt recalling her own experiences with the one of the most adult of adult activities. Of course, given what little he knew of her mother, it was probably more harrowing than most.

Louise wasn't the first of his companions whose personal life he knew little about. But he'd be lying if he said he wasn't curious as to the family dynamic. She didn't speak much about them, but he picked up things here and there. She despised her eldest sister, Éléonore (which was heavily reciprocated), but adored the second oldest, Cattleya (also heavily reciprocated). She'd said little of her father, but she at least seemed to like him.

But the one Louise had the most to say about, the one she feared, was her mother. And wasn't that just grand?

Skyrim was no stranger to odd families, but even Maven Black-Briar never evoked such a visceral response in any of her children—of course, Sibbi and Hemming were content to suckle on their mother's teat until she finally kicked the bucket, and Ingun was…odd.

Regardless, for the woman's child—her youngest daughter—to act as such towards her…it didn't paint a pretty picture. Especially in light of Louise's falsely given, magically inept status.

When he finally returned Louise to her home, he anticipated a rather…lengthy conversation. Ah, and that raised another issue; what would he do when he was done teaching Louise and Siesta?

Were he able, he'd stick around Halkeginia for a few years, travel the breadth of the continent. Alas, there was Odahviing to consider, who would no doubt prefer to return to Tamriel, to the 'intelligent conversations' of their scaled kin. But…he didn't want to just leave this land behind forever—if only because he'd like the chance to see his latest students again.

There was also the matter of Rowley. There must've been more men and women that travelled from Tamriel to Halkeginia. In both the human and elven continents.

Oh, and yet another thing. These elves and their six-thousand-year stalemate with Halkeginia's human population. Honestly, who maintained the same war for that long? At least the Argonians and Dunmer made an effort to recontextualize their ancient conflict every few centuries. And the Aldmeri Dominion's more dogmatic policies had a habit of phasing out once or twice an Era. And the Orcs, for all their brutality—

"SASHA!" Derflinger abruptly shouted, startling Johan out of his musings (and spellcasting), almost sending Louise sprawling off the bed.

"…Who is Sasha?" Johan slowly asked.

"My…My first wielder," the living blade whispered, voice an eclectic mix of relief, awe, and grief. "Her name…is Sasha."

Louise nodded slowly, "Is there…anything else you can recall?"

"Yes!" Derflinger readily replied. "She's…kind, considerate, graceful. Always laughs at my jokes. Keeps my blade sharp and clean. She's…wonderful." Derflinger's voice quivered, and Johan was sure, had he eyes, the living weapon would be crying.

"Is there anything else you can recall about her?" he asked.

"Sort of. There's a…some sort of large building—clay and stone. I think it's her home—well," his voice dipped into a growl, "her owner's home." His cross guard clanked as he hissed, "Hng…getting a headache."

"Ah!" Johan recast the spell, "Is that better?"

"Yes, tons." His voice dropped once more, though this time disgust tinged his voice, "Ugh, I can see her…owner."

"Who is he?"

"…I don't know, not getting a name. He's…pretty young, though. Looks like a slob. Got this stupid smile on his face." He sucked in a breath, "He's smiling at Sasha! Undressing her with his eyes! The vile, arrogant, perverted son of a—oh," Derflinger cut himself off.

"What?" Louise asked, entranced. "What's the matter?"

"Sasha's…smiling back."

Johan hummed, "Probably for the best—no sense in pissing off her slaver."

"No," Derflinger whispered, shocked. "No, she's really smiling…they're laughing and hugging and…kissing" Johan drew back slightly, exchanging a bewildered stare with Louise. "…They love each other."

"…Is that a problem?" the Nord asked.

"Yes, no, maybe…I don't know," Derflinger confessed. He took a long, deep sigh, "…I'd like to stop."

"Of course," Johan replied, cancelling the spell. "Do you—"

"I don't wanna talk about it," the blade sharply cut him off. Johan bowed, raising his hands. "I think…Could set me down at the other end of the room?" Derflinger asked, voice small and weary, "I want to be alone for a bit."

Johan nodded, performing the request. "If you need anything…" he trailed off.

"I'm good, Boss. But, thanks. Night, little lady!" Derflinger called out, before falling as silent as any other ordinary weapon.

Johan stared at his friend for a moment, before returning to the bed. Louise was resting against the wall, knees drawn up to her chest, a frown on her face. "Have anything to say?" he asked with an arched brow.

"It's just…weird to think about," she said, drumming her fingers along her knees. "A human and an elf…being intimate."

"I don't see what's wrong." He smirked at the glower she sent his way. "Of course, do remember, when Derflinger was first created, this world was a very different place."

A snort. "No kidding. Clay houses?" She shook her head, "No one builds their homes out of clay anymore—not even the poorest Commoner."

"The poorest people tend to not even have homes."

"Not the point," his student growled.

"But one that needs stating." Louise scoffed, but Johan continued, "It makes you wonder, though. How mixed were men and elves before Brimir rose to power?"

"Mixed enough that humans were able to own elvish slaves; and," Louise shuddered, "love them." Could have done without the disgusted voice, but considering what she'd grown up with, Johan considered that exceptional progress. Louise hummed, tilting her head towards Derflinger, "Do you think Sasha and…her owner…were alive when the Founder waged war with the elves?"

"Perhaps," Johan nodded. "They may have even been killed by fanatics that refused to accept the idea that peace between the races was possible. They may have been able to avoid the war in its entirety—hiding away when the fighting reached a fever pitch. Hell, they may have lived decades, if not centuries before Brimir was even a twinkle in his father's eye!" He shifted his gaze to Derflinger, "We'll just have to wait until Derflinger unearths his memories to know the whole story."

"…Should he?" Johan blinked, narrowing his eyes at his student. Louise flushed, "I mean…we found him in a bargain bin, rusted to hell. His past…can't be a happy one."

The elder mage looked down, "It most likely is not—and if Derflinger ever decides that the memories become too much, we'll stop. But it will be his decision."

Louise nodded, "Of course, of course. Just…" she ran a hand through her hair, "I'll be honest, this is all a little overwhelming."

"Yes," Johan stroked his beard, "I'll admit, I did not anticipate any of these events when I offered to teach you."

"You and me both," Louise huffed. Only to smile not a second later, "Still, can't say I'm entirely disappointed with how things turned out."

"I should hope not," Johan chuckled.

/+/+/+/+/

A/N: So, it's been awhile since I've seen/read FoZ in its entirety, but whatever happened, Scarron cannot be 'on' 24/7. Don't care how boisterous you are, everyone has limits. Also, on the fence on whether or not he's a pimp. Be sure to leave a review. Later.