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The Elder Scrolls: Insurrection - Chapter 14

A Quiet Night

Having shed most of his Legion armour, Drubgurz sat in contemplation on one of the Dwarven pipes. The sun had set and everyone else was asleep, making do with the little comforts they possessed. Sleeping in a cave was never very restful anyways, but after what they went through they welcomed any they could get. At this moment however, there was too much on Drubgurz's mind, and the silence of the night afforded him an opportunity to run his mind over the events that had transpired. So he stayed up and sat on the cold Dwarven metal, listening to nothing but the sound of water rushing through the pipes and the beating of ancient machines that still worked away ages after their makers were gone.

His plan had succeeded- he was now the leader of this band of outlaws and their close escape seemed to have earned him some trust from the ex-Blade. Technically, he had accomplished everything he was hoping to achieve from his scheme, but it was not all as he had expected. Drubgurz was the leader, but he barely led anyone. Losing Fort Dunstad he had foreseen; even if they held off the Legion once they would still have to abandon the fort as they would be identified as a threat, and it would only be a matter of time before the Jarl of the Pale decided to send either guards or mercenaries to attack again.

But the large Legion force that had shown up outside their doorstep, that Drubgurz could never have predicted. So soon after the war with the Aldmeri Dominion, the Empire was still scrambling to rally their forces and reinforce their borders should the Elves decide to strike again. The only Imperial soldiers in Skyrim now were the guard contingents of each Hold (which were also dwindled due to many having gone to the front lines and never returned) and a small token force comprised mostly of tired old officers and fresh-faced recruits. It was nothing more than a gesture of reassurance for the people of Skyrim and a way to quickly secure an area and start setting up camp should the Legion need to retreat into the province once again.

What they had faced at Fort Dunstad was not a group of Hold guards as they did not wear the distinctive vest with coloured cloth, nor was it the token force he had scouted out in Skyrim. These were seasoned soldiers who fought with the discipline and strategy that the Legion was known for. It was likely that many of these very men and women had survived the decisive Battle of the Red Ring. What were such troops doing in the north, when their attention should be focused upon the southern borders of the Empire?

Drubgurz had no time to ponder the greater politics of the realm. There would come a day when these things would be his concern, but for the moment he had other issues to deal with. He had achieved his goals, yes, but the clash with the Imperial Legion left their group as nothing more than a band of survivors rather than the formidable group of able-bodied fighters he had hoped to command. These people were still thinking of ways to guarantee their own safety and survival and would no doubt prefer to lay low. Of course with them having killed a number of Imperial soldiers, staying out of sight for a while was the sensible course of action, and Drubgurz knew the value of patience. He still needed a plan for what was to come after though, a way to attract new numbers and rebuild their group to fit his vision.

Recruiting for outlaws was no easy matter; usually it was the outcasts of society that sought them out and not the other way around. He thought of selling themselves as mercenaries, but to do that they would need to make a name for themselves while hiding the fact that they were criminals from the Empire. His mind began to systematically form and dispose of different ideas when he was interrupted by the sound of movement. He turned to see a figure approaching which froze as it noticed Drubgurz by the cave entrance. The light of the two moons that shone into the cavern revealed enough of the figure's physique and clothes for him to discern that it was the Nord woman, Asa, with her bow slung across her back.

Drubgurz looked up at her as he asked, "Going somewhere?"

"Yes," Asa replied honestly. "I was on my way out."

"I thought we agreed to stick together."

"Cato agreed to stick with you," she corrected him. "I offered to help."

"I appreciate you checking out the cave for us. But it's safe for you here, and we might still need your knowledge of the land and your hunting skills."

"That's exactly what I'm doing. I won't go far. I'll be able to keep an eye on the roads, warn you if I see Legion nearby. And if I catch something big I'll bring some back to you. Just like what I was doing back at Fort Dunstad."

"We didn't have the Imperial Legion at our backs when we were at Fort Dunstad," Drubgurz pointed out. "Or at least, we didn't know about it and weren't as careful."

"If you want my help, you need to give me permission to come and go," stated Asa.

"You could still help us here. You were learning restoration magic from the mage. We can always use someone with healing knowledge."

"Celata? Well, she's gone too now. Must've slipped out with one of her invisibility spells."

Drubgurz changed his stance for once and shifted to peer deeper into the cavern. It was difficult to count the number of people in the cave in the dim moonlight, but he trusted that Asa had garnered a closer look as she came from where everyone slept. Drubgurz knew less than he liked about the mysterious mage. The story was that she had joined the bandit group by making a deal with the previous Nord leader and promised to clean up signs of their crimes. They had used her to deal with corpses a number of times and that combined with the fact that she stayed with outlaws made him suspect she was a necromancer who sought to perform experiments on these bodies.

He had to admit he was both fascinated and slightly unsettled with the Imperial woman. She seemed to be the type that always knew more than they said and Drubgurz was ever hungry for more knowledge. However, someone with great intelligence was also someone very dangerous. He had only directly interacted with the mage a handful of times, but every time he felt as if she could see into his very soul, and it was more than the unusual glow of her golden eyes. Such people did not usually make for great followers for they could more easily see through lies, not to mention those who liked to think often made their own plots behind their leader's back. Drubgurz had himself as an example, and he didn't need another like him serving under him. Regardless, he never expected the mage to stay anyways. If she were truly a sorceress delving into the secrets of death, she likely had higher aspirations than playing with the odd dead body from someone they killed, and it would be a while before he could provide incentive for her to stay.

Drubgurz turned his attention back to Asa for now, "It's the middle of the night. Surely you don't sleep under open sky all the time and spend some time in caves."

"I don't like this cave," the Nord said. "It's...wrong. It feels like I'm in a natural cave, but it sounds like I'm in a Dwarven city. You know what I mean. You're not sleeping either."

"We got what we came here for. We'll move soon, find a better place."

"Then let me scout some out for you. You said you wanted my knowledge of the land."

"Fine," the Orc relented, knowing that he couldn't persuade the woman and that this was the closest he was going to get to keeping her talents in the group. "You know what we're looking for, right?"

Asa nodded, "Somewhere unclaimed and remote where you can make a home for yourselves without attracting attention."

"And don't get yourself captured out there."

"I know the land better than Imperials or Elves. You make sure you don't get into trouble when I'm gone."

Drubgurz let out a long sigh as Asa stepped out of the cave. There was no assurance that she would come back, but he knew Asa to be a woman of her word, and he expected that she would keep true to it. Her leaving did not help his doubts about the faltering numbers of the group though. There were too many different concerns on his mind, and he was beginning to feel the weariness from the battle and the ensuing journey. Drubgurz decided that their first act would be to secure some equipment by trading with what was in their cache, and then finding a more permanent place to settle which Asa would hopefully assist in. From there on, he could think about growing the group. For now, fatigue was taking its toll on him.

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