The Traveler’s Bargain — ESO

Also on AO3 and Entering Skyrim!

“Butterflies!!! I want to see the butterflies!”

Sigh. ‘Poor Valaste,’ you look back at the woman who is being held still by your companion, Argo, then turn towards the spectral form of Shalidor. He is not happy.

You turn to Sheogorath, who is still grinning like a madman, and you consider his offer for a moment. A Book or the Girl’s sanity?

Only the Mad God could come up with such a “bargain” like that.

You approach him to talk in whispering distance, sending an uneasy glance towards Haskil in the process. “Alright, Sheogorath, Let’s talk.”

“Ooo hoo hoo! I do so love it when mortals get such a determined voice to them!” Sheogorath ran his hands together, giggling as he did such. “So! What do ya want to know?”

“If I let you take Valaste…” You begin, speaking quietly so as not to alarm the others, “Will she be Happy?”

“As happy as an Argonian who was just gifted a swimming pool filled with hot Chocolate icecream sundays!!” Sheogorath replied. Whatever the hell a ‘sunday’ is….

You grimace, “Sheo, for the love of everything that is at stake here, PLEASE, just be serious for once in your life? Surely there’s enough chaos inside that head of yours to bring up some sanity for a simple conversation!”

Sheogorath seems taken back at your little outburst, which you managed to keep low enough that it didn’t echo through the room, or at least managed to be covered up by the sound of burning books. You glance back, Argo seems uneasy at the way you tensed up, but with that barely bandaged wound on her neck from one of Haskil’s attacks, she’s not in any position to do any negotiating at the moment. You’re not in any better shape either. Your left leg feels like it’s been broken in three different places, and your right shoulder feels dislocated, but at least you can talk without tearing open a wound. Better make the most of the opportunity before the Mad God decides to make the entire room a swimming pool, or something…

“Alright, alright, I promise on me own head,” Sheogorath said, holding a hand up to his heart, “I’ll be serious for the duration of this very important decision that you have to make. Just don’t tell anyone, alright? I have a reputation to hold up after all!”

“Thank you.”

“Will Valaste be happy in the Shivering Isles? Sure, sure!” Sheo’s voice lowered to a near conspiratorial tone, one that You had heard many times during your book collecting “adventures”, and you know that he is definitely being serious here. “I mean, who wouldn’t be? It’s a place of chaos and madness for all the insane folk like meself! And Valaste… Poor girl.” he ’tisk’ed thrice. “Never had any friends but books. Even her relationship with you and ol’ Shally over there isn’t really all that ‘friendly’, after all. More business than anything. Shalidor DID send you after her to kickstart this whole mess, didn’t he? Think about it. Would you even have spared her the time of day if not for that little quest that Shally sent you on?” For a moment, you think back and remember how many times you’d walked into that Guild Hall on Auridon, walked past her without saying anything. How you only ever had a chance to say anything beyond a brief ‘hello’ in passing until that fateful day you lost your soul- escaped Coldharbour- returned… and what is the first thing you end up doing for the girl? Business. Hunting Books. A Quest. If Shallidor hadn’t appeared with that one certain book, told you to bring it to her…? You might very well have just ignored her after that.

“So if I have her cured, she won’t be happy, will she?” You ask.

“Oh, sure, she might try to pass it off as ‘yes, I’m happy as a rainbow!’ But, you know what even makes rainbows? Thunderclouds. Rain. Such depressing things, really,” Sheogorath took the opportunity to wave and smile at Valaste, who waved and smiled back with a “Hiiiii, Uncle Sheoooo!” Sheogorath sighed, even though he didn’t appear to do such physically, “Well, that’s how people are, really. Pretending that they’re okay with something when they’re very clearly not. It’s why I do what I do, ya know? Sometimes all it takes is a little madness to bring someone’s true feelings to the surface, and you know that nine times out of eight, they’re usually better off for it!”

You consider it, looking back to Argo and Valaste with a tired look on your face. Argo tilts her head, grimacing slightly at the stretching of her neck bandages. You don’t have a clue how she’d react to this, or what she’d say…. But the look in her eyes says that she’s willing to support you in whatever it is you decide.

“Alright, Sheo, I’m going to make you a counter offer,” you say suddenly, quietly, still in that same tone.

“A counter offer ya say?” Sheo’s eyes shimmer and sparkle. Good. You’ve got his attention.

“I’ll take your damned book, you take Valaste to the Shivering Isles….”

Sheogorath cuts you off, “I KNEEW IT! I knew you wanted the book!” He says it loudly, the whole room can hear. “I saw it in your eyes!”
“HOWEVER!” You yell just as loudly, and narrow your eyes, “II find out that if she’s not happy there- if Valaste has been hurt in any way… Sheogorath, I am coming straight to the Shivering Isles to get her back, and I’ll give you your damned book right back in exchange for her sanity.” You poke your finger at his chest- and he stumbles backwards. “Do you understand me? I’m not doing this for your thrice damned ‘Book-o-Insights,'” You say in your best impersonation of the Mad God, then lower your voice to a dangerous tone while still keeping the audio levels loud enough to be heard. “I’m doing this for VALASTE. As the friend I should have been the entire time. Do I make myself clear?”

Sheogorath’s eyes narrowed at you dangerously, as did his voice. “Perfectly.


Shalidor is mad, to say the least. He doesn’t understand why you did what you did, but even so, he grants you the spell of Infinite Recall. “Perfect Memory” Or something like that. You don’t care.

“So…what are you going to do with the book?” Argo asks, once her throat wound is healed up enough to let her talk without too much trouble. Might have been easier just to throw yourselves off of a cliff and let everything heal up properly at a wayshrine…. but there will come a day when you won’t be able to do that. Might as well get used to letting things heal up naturally again.

“Cold storage,” You reply. “It’s my insurance policy for Valaste’s sanity. I was being serious when I said that I’d charge into the Isles to get her back if I find out she’s not happy.”

“And how are you going to do that, I wonder?” Argo asks.

You smirk, “I slipped a tracking spell on her, one that a familiar I’ll summon can trace back to the isles so that way it can keep an eye on her. If something happens, I’ll know.”

“Sheogorath’s going to be mad about that,” Argo replies.

“But he’ll keep his word,” You say, “somewhere deep down, I think he actually cares for Valaste. Might have set up this entire gauntlet just to get her away from the life she was living…” With a sigh, you shake your head and mutter something about sanity being overrated.

Argo grips your hand with her own, and smiles at you silently. You grip back and together you look out over the ocean as you watch the sun set over the ocean’s horizon.

“Maybe it is,” She says after a moment. “Who knows with the way this world is right now…”

You continue to sit and watch for a few minutes when you hear a familiar set of foot falls running towards you.

Both of you look down towards a staircase to see Silica running up towards you from the Wayshrine, a bow rests on her back.

She seems panicked, and yet determined.

“ARGO!” She yells, “Merric finished it!” With a bit of a slowing pace, she comes to a halt, and pulls the bow off of her back to hold it up. The way the light hits it from the setting sun almost makes it seem to radiate a rainbow of color.

Idly, as Argo and Silica converse, you chuckle to yourself.

Seems Sheogorath was wrong about one thing. Not all rainbows come from thunderclouds and rainstorms.

 

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