Summary: Talon and Rommy try to stab each other for funsies, then Rommy has some explaining to do. Chapter Text Dawn was just breaking. This far into spring, it would still be awhile until most people ventured out, unless they were in the farms outside the city. Most of the streets were quiet, but the sounds of conflict could be heard from the Pit; an arena once used for prisoners of the city to fight in, but since closed down when Ulfric discovered it. It had apparently struck too close to home for the jarl, so now it was simply a place for the guards to come and practice, the only entrance to it not bricked over leading right from their barracks. Rommy dodged and rolled, amused at the sense of nostalgia he felt. His last fight in the Arena had been the same day he'd been imprisoned on top of Uriel Septim's escape route. Still, it was nice to fight again, even in practice. Talon, a chronic insomniac apparently, had been practicing in it when he'd followed the stray thoughts of a waking mind. Since he'd once been more fighter than mage, he didn't mind sparring with the elf. And since he could ensure that Talon wouldn't die from any wounds, and since Talon was unable to kill him, neither of them were pulling their punches—or stabs, for that matter. "Get him, Grand Champion!" Fanny called, gushing. He hadn't had much opportunity to show off his Arena chants the last few centuries. He'd fallen right back in with them, though. Bjartr, who had trouble sleeping because of the cold, had joined their audience. After Talon lent the boy his heat-enchant, the child had stripped off his shirt just like Fanny, and they'd both drawn all over themselves with warpaint; Fanny an R, Bjartr a T. He wasn't sure exactly how Murril had found out what was happening, but she was jumping up and down pretending she was punching someone with a fierce expression on her normally fearful face. Haskill watched politely and sipped his tea. Talon was coming at him again. They'd both agreed no magic, since Rommy could out-power any mortal ever born. He was getting quite a few bruises out of this, though. Really, the only thing that could have made him more nostalgic was Felicia on the sidelines, huffing that he was an idiot even though she secretly liked watching him fight. He met Talon's strike with one of his own, knocking the mer's dagger aside and twisting it, trying to wrench it from his grip. Talon countered that by changing the angle of the blade, making Rommy pull back or risk having his fingers sliced off. They broke apart again, circling each other, their breath puffing out in small white clouds in the frozen air. Fanny screamed like a girl meeting, well, Gideon, he supposed, and swooned onto Bjartr, who shoved him onto a bench, looking offended. Murril was trotting around the edge of the arena with her fists raised in the air. Apparently she'd won her imaginary fight. A long low wolf whistle cut through the cold air. There, in the overlook, were Telki's sisters. Ama was outright drooling, Nala, sleepy but appreciative, and Wemie, smirking around the fingers still in her mouth from whistling. "Honestly, what are you knuckleheads up to this begotten early in the morning?" and there was Telki, leaning against the barracks doorframe. "What does it look like?" Rommy replied, grinning as he swept his hair back from his face. He and Talon both relaxed, pausing the bout by mutual accord as she dropped gracefully over the walkway and to the dirt arena below. "We're trying to stab each other." "So, these are the tryouts for Pincushions Anonymous, I see." She eyed a rising bruise on his collarbone. "Going for a Dunmer look while you're at it?" He waved that off with a laugh. "You know I'll just Heal it later." "Well, I do have to admit watching you two move is a rare and wonderful treat. Almost like music made motion," Telki fiddled with the collar. "I wonder," she got a mischievous look in her eye, "Think Talon ever learned to fight in front of an appreciative and loud audience before?" "It has happened a time or two," the elf replied, unbothered. Telki dimpled at him, "Wanna make my sisters hyperventilate, then?" His eyes flickered to the three Khajiit above them, then back down to the Dragonborn. "How do you mean?" he asked warily. He had ceased making assumptions about Telki's intentions somewhere around his second day of their acquaintance. "You are aware they find you very attractive?" Telki prompted. "I'll consider taking vows to Anu," he replied, heaving a sigh very deliberately. Telki snickered. "Now that would be a crying shame. The world needs more Talons." Telki shook her head. "Sidetracking, not nice. Anyway. They like you, you move divinely, and if you two fight like you've been fighting, it's very possible those three up there will overheat from your combined hotness, and that'll give me material to heckle them with for the rest of their lives." "I would like to take this moment to point out that had your sister not interrupted, I'd be beating this elf into the ground right now," Rommy said, eyes shining. Talon raised an eyebrow at him. "Self preservation has always been Wemie's strong suit." Telki booped Rommy's nose. "So, whataya say, guys? Gonna help a girl out?" He glanced at Talon, who shrugged, and grinned down at Telki. "We could use a bit more exercise. I know I was just getting warmed up," he said, tying the neckline of his shirt to hide his scarred skin. Telki pouted and untied it again. "Please don't do that," he added, tying it once more. "But I was enjoying the view!" Lifting her hand and kissing the back of it, he sent a hint of Restoration magic to warm through her, "And you can enjoy more of it later," he promised. "Okaaay," Telki eyed where her sisters were. "Should I show off a bit myself?" She turned to Talon. "You may or may not have seen something like this, but I figured it out all my lonesome." She let the teleport dance in her hand a moment, before poofing herself to the bench next to Ama. "And you're teaching me that one today," Nala bopped Telki's noggin. Murril ran over and plopped in Telki's lap, for once all smiles, pointing proudly at Rommy. Telki gave the girl a squeeze and a kiss. "Yep, he's something fine, isn't he, baby girl?" Murril's head nodded so vigorously she slapped Nala with her flying hair. Telki laughed at Nala's expression. "Welcome to life with kids, Aunt Nala." Rommy and Talon were conferring at the moment, but they quickly moved to the side and each grabbed a sword. Rommy's was clearly Akaviri, Talon's a slender glass one. Both chose to use a dagger in their off hand rather than a shield, and the bout began again, both of them dodging and dancing around each other, and neither actually getting a real hit in with the actual sword, though there was enough elbowing and other deflecting going on to give them each a new set of bruises. The air filled with chanting again as Fanny woke up and went right back to what he had been doing before he fainted, Bjartr giving him a wide-eyed askance look. Haskill poured himself some more tea. Pearl crept out onto the walkway and concealed herself, not wanting to be obtrusive, but curious to watch anyone that could keep up with her trainer. Abruptly, the pair stopped, standing and regarding each other. "Dammit," Rommy groused, holding up his arm and examining the cut along the outside. "First blood. You win." Talon gave him a formal bow. "It is an honor to win against the Grand Champion." "Darn tootin!" Fanny called, irate. When Rommy gave him an exasperated look, he squealed "By Azura!" and turned into potatoes. Bjartr scooted away from them. Murril crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. Telki tsked, and pulled out Fanny's bag from her pocket dimension. "Murril, care to help me gather him up?" All three of her sisters still had their eyes glued to the arena grounds, color high and tails barely twitching. She snickered; she was not letting them forget this, ever. Murril nodded and hopped up, rushing over to gather up the Adoring Potatoes. Pearl came out from her hiding place to help, giving the Altmer girl a small smile that Murril actually returned before ducking her head. The spuds were all still complaining in conflicting voices about Talon beating Rommy, while Rommy himself was cheerfully going over the fight with Talon, who looked more animated than he had since the escape. He even showed a barely enthused expression or two. "Fanny! How long has it been since Rommy had a real sparring partner?" "Erm…By Azura…Sometimes Sam will fight him? The Girls, but they don't want to hit him? The Knights of Order?" "Exactly. Talon's the first real fight he's had in quite the while. Like any skill, it takes practice to keep up. Talon can help him stay that awesome Champion you adore, but it'll take a little while for it to all come back. Complaining? Not helping your Grand Champion." Telki's firm tone left little room for argument. Root vegetables were incapable of looking chagrined, but the grumbling got it across pretty well. Telki tsked at them and then checked on her sisters, who were quietly talking. "Sooo, thoughts?" Wemie shook her head. It had been a while since she saw fighting that pretty. So many bandit fights had let her almost forget that fighting itself could be an art form. "Sweet Mother Cat, but that man moves like water. They both do, but I'm thinking there's a currently 'no drooling' edict on Romulus. Otherwise, wooo-ooh." Ama was softly fanning herself. "I want one." Nala decided simplest was best, then sighed. "I would love to see them fight again with magic." "If you tell Romulus you were drooling over him, please, I want to watch." It was rare Telki managed to sneak up on her sisters. The foot high jump they all did was a rarity she'd treasure the rest of her days. "He's bound to color up like a tomato." "Ooh, okay, how 'bout now?" Ama rarely turned down a chance at lighthearted devilry. Leaning far over the safety rail, she hollered, "Hey Rommy! Talon! You're a pair of hotties!" Talon raised a single eyebrow in response. Rommy's face flushed bright red. It might have been their imagination that steam came out of his ears. Nala snickered, while Wemie covered her face with her hands. "I can't take you anywhere." Telki joined her sister leaning over the rail, both of them giggling like school girls. "I love you, Rommy!" Still flushing but managing to chuckle a bit, Rommy sent her one of those floating, sparkling kisses that he'd invented just for her. "I'm not sure who's the bad influence," he told Talon quietly. "Technically," the elf said dryly, "you are." "Only technically?" Rommy gave him an arch look while Ama demanded her own sparkly air kiss. "Sorry Ama," he called, "I'm not for sharing!" "What? Sisters don't get cheek kisses now?" Ama pouted, doing the most pitiful kitty droop over the railing with a pouty wobbly bottom lip, drooping ears, and all. His smile turned a little wicked, "That is not a platonic kiss spell," he shared. All three sisters turned interested looks to Telki, who flushed and examined the rose of the dawn sky, looking innocent. Ama wasn't to be deterred, "Can you make a platonic sparkly kiss spell?" He thought about it, then noticed Murril looking hopeful, and sighed, "Give me a minute." He thought it through a moment, then tested it on Telki. ''Yes, safe for Murril consumption." Telki gave him a thumbs up from her place on the railing. "Thanks, Love," he said, eyes shining, then blew a kiss to Murril, who looked so happy she verged on giddy, then to his new sisters-in-law (all three of them, even if Wemie did look somewhat stern at the moment), and then to Fanny, who had been making some unhappy whimpering noises. He probably shouldn't have done that last one, because the potatoes broke into smaller potatoes, which had certainly never happened before. Pearl was watching with a thoughtful look on her face, then quickly climbed down to the arena, walking over to Talon and having a few quiet words with him while the others were occupied. "What is it, Pearl?" he asked once they were out of earshot. "Are you staying this time?" Pearl asked, face serious as she gazed up into his. She'd been afraid of him for so long, but it felt almost like another life, sometimes. As if she had truly died when Ilmiyon had tossed her off the dock, and reawoken in a better world. He waited a long moment before answering, obviously thinking through what all his possible paths were, "I don't know," he finally said. "For a while, there is use for me here." She nodded. That was good enough. "I would like to resume my training." Talon blinked, clearly astonished to show even that much surprise. "You have no need for it now, Pearl." "Magic," the girl elaborated, "and some weapons. Most do not expect mages to know weaponry, and if I ever need that skill I will regret not progressing it, though it will not be my focus." He peered at her another minute, as if weighing her resolve, "Why have you not asked your mother?" "You are a better battlemage," she said simply. "Mother was a courtesan. Her training focused elsewhere, and she had to continue practicing combat in secret." Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath. "I do not wish to have a repeat of what happened here a few days ago. I watched Orien and Blossom be taken, and I could do nothing. I trained for twenty years, and I could do nothing." "You are still a child, bellani," Talon told her softly. "No matter your human grandmother, you are more elf than human, though your mind is older than your body." "I do not want to be weak," she revealed, her voice holding a fierceness few ever saw. "Talon, may I join your conversation?" Telki had only overheard a little of it. She didn't much care for eavesdropping, especially on what she considered family, but what Jyggalag had said was still nagging her. The mer glanced at the girl, since she was the one asking favors. Pearl nodded gravely as her mother ever had. Her looks favored her father, but in temperament, she was so much like her mother sometimes it was almost comical. "Even if I didn't have this from a Daedric Prince, I would beg you to train these children. Their parents make them targets, my enemies make them vulnerable targets, and a precognitive Prince tells me they need the best training available. That's you. Will you please consider it?" Telki was actually nervous enough, she was wringing her tail. Not even Alinor had made her wring her tail. A hint of a frown hovered around his brow. "Tell me more," he said, feeling a bit of a chill run down his spine, and not from the cold of Windhelm. "We may need to sit then. Um, gimme a moment." Telki rummaged her dimensional space, and pulled camp stools out for them. Talon's eyebrows actually shot up and Telki looked up at him in surprise. "Um? I thought you knew this one. I can show you?" "I am familiar with bags of holding. I am not familiar with ones that can fit things bigger than the opening of the physical vessel." That was actually supposed to be impossible. Trust Telki to take the impossible and run roughshod over the entire concept. Pearl shrugged, "I once saw Rommy put Murril in his pocket," she said philosophically. "Rommy is a special case," Talon reminded her absently. "Well, it's easy when you make the opening to the holding space elastic. You can also use a drawstring opening that unfolds much larger, but things tend to get lost in the folds," Telki explained, setting the legs of the stools firmly into the leather seats, offering Talon the first completed camp chair. She had Pearl's done quickly after. Pearl sat right down, but Talon waited for Telki to seat herself before taking his own stool. Seeing them settled, Telki went back to wringing her tail, wondering the best place to begin. "So, you know precisely who Rommy is. Well, his predecessor is still around, only he goes by the name of Jyggalag, and he was mighty miffed with us torquing the business out of his 'perfect timeline.' Apparently, something big is going down, and he's not exactly confident my kids, or Fey's kids, are going to sidestep trouble as easily as I did. So, training, the best you can give them, is about the only thing going to save them from some of the fallout I've created." Talon looked at her hands, then reached out and shook them from her tail—one of the few times he'd freely touched someone other than Healing them or battle. "Yes," he said simply. He perhaps should have warded before he did so, because next thing he knew there was a relieved Dagi-Raht throwing her arms around him. It was faintly horrifying. Pearl was snickering. Feeling decidedly awkward, he patted her back gingerly. "Okay, from tail wringing to hugging. Have you ever seen a more awkward hug?" Nala felt like she should have a program, and maybe snacks handy. It was the most interesting pantomime she'd ever watched. "Needs practice holding women, should we offer our services?" Ama heard Nala's huff before she pushed her shoulder for such words, but Ama couldn't help it! The mer was fine, and so far, unattached. "Wonder what it was about?" Wemie could count on the fingers of one hand the number of times in her life she'd seen Telki go dishrag limp with relief. They weren't many. Whatever they had been talking about, it was serious. Given Telki's latest projects, she wouldn't be above believing deadly serious. How the two with her missed that boggled Wemie's mind. It was probably part of why she was the eldest, and they weren't. No wonder she was always pulling them out of trouble. "Telki…please let go of me," Talon finally managed, feeling more awkward than he could remember this century. "Um, if I let go, I'ma fall. Sorries." Pearl snickered and took pity on them both, nearly skipping over to where Rommy was reassuring Fanny that it wasn't an official match so he was still the Grand Champion, Fanny didn't have to follow Talon around now if he didn't want to, and informed Rommy that his fiance had melted and Talon really wanted her off him. Truly, the Mad God was divided between a slight surge of protective jealousy, or leaving her there to watch the mer squirm a bit. In the end, the chance to cuddle Telki won out, and he picked her up as Talon looked so grateful it took all he had not to laugh. "Sooo," Rommy drawled, using a hint of Illusion magic to make his voice carry to the others, "it's still a bit early for everyone to be up, but I did make some cinnamon breakfast rolls if anyone's interested." "Honey nut treats?" Four voices, in unison, and so hopeful it hurt. His inability to say no to sad or hopeful looking females reared its fearsome head again, and Rommy sighed. "If we all go to the kitchen I can make some." The kiss Telki leaned up and gave him made him feel considerably better about it, even if Talon was giving him a look that suggested the other man had noticed and noted the weakness. He had a strange feeling any uncomfortable requests Talon might ever have for him would be coming through a small, big-eyed intermediary. Ducking through a door and up some stairs to the overlook, Rommy staggered slightly with surprise as Murril got a bit jealous and hopped on his back. Pearl grinned behind her hand and picked up the Fanny bag, while Talon politely opened the door for them all. His expression was unreadable again, but that didn't stop the Daedra from knowing that Talon was amused. Maybe he should have left Telki there a few more seconds. The kitchens weren't too far away, and the cook was out, bread already in the ovens and nothing more for the man to do until they were ready to come out. Rommy suspected he had either gone back to bed, or went to flirt with Jorlief, who seemed about as clueless to it as he did to other things. Setting Telki down on the bench by the table, he turned to survey the kitchen, ingredients already floating out of their places to where he wanted them. Murril hopped down and stared pointedly at the already completed cinnamon rolls. "I demand quality control checks on the nuts," Telki prompted. "I name myself head nut checker." "You do know in some places they grind the nuts down, mix them with oats, honey, and warm milk, and eat them like porridge?" Rommy told them, separating the nuts into several small bowls. "Oooh, can we have ground nuts and large pieces? Why limit yourself to one or the other?" Telki could already imagine the flavor explosion ground nuts in the batter would provide. "You're lucky I don't have to do this by hand," he sighed, bringing over a mortar and pestle and setting it to grind nuts without ever once touching it. Murril was chasing the flour bag around like an otter chasing a butterfly. Rommy caught it, measured out a cupful, then sent it around the room again. "Rommy, how in Aetherius are you doing all this?" Nala's jaw had hit the floor with the second item in the air. Now? She was afraid of stepping on it. It took more magic power and skill than most mages ever attained to lift and hold three items in the air. This man had several dozen small baking items zinging about the room, and was obviously keeping absent-minded track of them all. The chill she felt had nothing to do with the climate as she studied him in mixed awe and wariness. Wemie picked up on it immediately, glancing from her to Romulus with narrowed eyes. "Uh…" he flushed a little. Whoopsie. He'd forgotten himself for a bit, apparently. "I'm, uh, older than I look, and I've picked up a few things." "If they were just hovering, I might buy that," Nala pressed, unable not to when magic and her sister's possible safety was involved. "However, a fork just danced off with a spoon and that is Daedra-deal-level hijinks." "I did not deal with a Daedra for magic power," he asserted truthfully. "Or the Ideal Masters, or the Aedra, or any other Power I'm currently forgetting, so get that nervous look off your face." "Honey. They're family. Might as well spill all the beans while we're at it," Telki filched another nut, popping it in her mouth completely unconcernedly. "I promise you, they'll freak a li'l bit, and then they'll get over it and handle it just fine like I did." "Hopefully not just like you did," he winked. "You'll probably get more hugs, though," Telki wrinkled her nose. Sharing a husband with a sister? Eeeeh, that one weirded even her out a little bit. "I'd rather not tell anyone else just yet, anyway," he went on, as if they weren't right there listening tensely. The bantering tone Telki was using was putting them a bit more at ease, but now that they knew for certain something unusual was going on with him, he didn't expect them to drop the issue. "You're the one that said it was unfair that Talon knew before Tyr, and you're right. I don't know how to tell Tyr, but I'd rather it wasn't after everyone else already knew. Besides," he added, finally glancing at the girls, "it's driving them batty trying to figure it out." "Honey, they're my sisters. I confuse you as it is," Telki gave him a droll look, "Do you really want three separate cases of Telki-level batty to contend with?" "It doesn't bother me," he said. "Sort of bothers me," Tyr said, leaning against the doorframe looking annoyed. He'd been awakened by Orien requesting mammoth milk so Bacon would quit honking and found his cousin talking about The Big Secret. At least he could console himself that it was apparently a Big Secret to everyone but Telki. "Oh goody, there goes your excuse. Hear ye, hear ye, family share time is now in session. Romulus, you have the floor." From her seated position at the table, she gave a flourish to Romulus like the best barrister in Cyrodiil. Rommy sighed, wiping flour off his hands. "I am very annoyed with you right now," he informed her tiredly. "I know, still love you." "I still love you too, I'm just heartily glad I'm already insane," he rubbed the bridge of his nose as if he had a headache. Tyr was still waiting by the door, growing more stern by the moment. He really resembled his grandmother when he did that. "Would this be easier talking to Tyr alone? I can herd people out?" Telki always worried when he got that particular beaten down expression. It made all her caretaker instincts roar. "You wanted a family forum," Rommy groused, "You were quite pushy about it, in fact. Ask away," he told Tyr, Nala, Ama, and Wemie, as close to snapping as they ever heard him. "Okay, I'll bite," Ama, fearless, clueless Ama, was the first one to take him up on it. "Why'd you hide your chest during the fight this morning?" Rommy opened his mouth, then closed it, then simply ripped open the tie at his collarbone, showing off the top of the network of burn and sword scars that marked his torso. "Not too keen on people staring," he said shortly. "Sweet gods above, Rommy, what hells have you been through?" It took Wemie a moment to find her voice. Ama actually had tears in her eyes, and Nala's jaw still hadn't found its way back to the rest of her. Telki's eyes were dripping into her filched nuts. She hated when he got like this, and knew, as much as she wanted to hug him right now, he wouldn't let her. That hurt worse than the rest of it. "Specifically?" he asked, "The Deadlands." "Imperial, Deadlands, and named Romulus? How?" Nala's jaw finally agreed to cooperate. Rommy sighed, closing his eyes, and Tyr burst into furious curses in both Common and Dunmeris, several of which were blasphemous. "Bloody fecking hell, you're the Champion of Cyrodiil?" he finished, his voice loud enough to make Rommy wince. "You're my bloody GRANDFATHER?" The palace shook. Finally, Rommy nodded, his eyes shut tightly, unable to look at him. Tyr's jaw tightened. "So all that bullshit about you supposedly dying or vanishing or whatever, and Father having to grow up alone, in hiding, and you've been alive all this time? Where were you?" "Shivering Isles," Rommy managed after a moment. Nala gasped, ears and tail tucked. Wemie and Ama looked at her questioningly. "Where?" Tyr, like most non-mages, didn't quite make a habit of knowing the names of all the Oblivion realms. "Where in Oblivion is that?" "Oblivion," taking a deep breath, Rommy finally opened his eyes, locking onto Tyr's. "When Felicia died and they told me Orien was nowhere to be found, I lost myself, and ended up in the realm of Sheogorath. I was trapped there for a time, and…now I rule it." Tyr stared at him for a long moment, completely at a loss. Then he cursed and stormed from the room. Rommy took a deep breath and sat right where he was, back against the counter and covering his face with his hands. Telki slipped down on the floor beside him, laying her head on his shoulder. If she had to remind him the rest of his life, she wouldn't leave him alone, never again. He stiffened for a moment, then put an arm around her, still hiding his face. His hair was getting lighter in stress. Ama went after Tyr; after a conflicted glance at Telki, Wemie went after Ama. Nala was still frozen in her seat, trying to absorb the fact her sister was engaged to a Daedric Prince…and if he was a Daedric Prince? Then Sam? Sweet Nine above, did she really make a deal with Sanguine? For a few long minutes, there was silence. When his voice finally broke it, even Talon jumped slightly. "I need to go back to the Isles for a while." "Please let me come with you?" Telki was loath to leave Romulus by himself, especially when she felt she'd made everything a mess. "I need some time alone," he said. "I need to think and...and maybe scream at something. Haskill can bring Murril and Fanny back later." "You'll remember to come back, too? Don't make me find my own way to the Isles to get you back. I will, and then you'll be even angrier at me." She looked down at her hands, ears flat in distress at the thought. Another silence, "I'll see you soon," he finally said, then vanished in a burst of black light, skipping even the appearance of butterflies or portals. Murril started wailing, her head whipping around like he'd just moved too quickly for her to see and would still be in the room. She ran over to Telki and grabbed her hand, looking around and tugging on her arm, wanting the Queen to show her where her Daddy had gone. "Shh, love, he just went back to the Isles for a moment. He'll be back." Telki pulled the poor child into her arms, cuddling her up close, trying to reassure herself as much as Murril. "He'll be back, or we'll go get him."