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The Crimson Dirks, V1

Author: 
Gathers-the-Coin
Librarian Comment: 

Book added by Alternative Armor - Ebony Plate from the Creation Club

Tyra Blood-Fire didn't want just any crew.
 
Bandits never built Great Houses. They had no structure, organization, nor legacy. They had few tactics in the field and little design for the future. Worst of all they had no loyalty beyond filling their own pockets. A bandit clan was a pack of stray dogs fighting for scraps, willing to bite the hand if it dared to feed them.
 
Growing up in Balmora, Tyra knew that the Great Houses of Morrowind were built on blood. Yet as an orphan child and a Nord amongst Elves, her concept of family was one forged from experience. It wasn't the bandits and cutthroats, but the loners and outcasts she identified with most. So when she picked out the crew that would become the Crimson Dirks, she sought out the qualities that best defined herself. 
 
What she wanted were survivors.
 
To find them, she would first need connections. For this, she sought the help of a Dark Elf named Reaver. 
 
The Dunmer had no real name to speak of. Some speculated he was once a noble, having abandoned his titles and claims for a new one. Others believed he was with the Morag Tong, assassins having little use for their birth name. Tyra, meanwhile, had first met the brigand as a child begging in the streets. The Dark Elf had fixed his blood red eyes upon this orphan girl, ashen and starved, and deigned to fill her alms bowl. 
 
When she looked down, she found neither food nor gold, but a knife.
 
"This isn't a gift, little netch," the Dunmer cautioned, throat scarred with ash, "your first score belongs to me."
 
That night young Tyra would make good on that promise, delivering a single ruby into the ashlander's palm. It glowed crimson like fire and blood, and from that day she was known as Tyra Blood-Fire, earning her name just as Reaver did from his deeds. As the years passed, the Dunmer kept a close eye on the Nord, tracking her growth from a cutpurse to a bandit. And while she considered her debt to Reaver paid, whenever their paths crossed, he would continue to demand a cut.
 
Eight years later, and the two had gone their separate ways - not just in distance, but in spirit and mind. Tyra had matured into a tenacious warrior, her physique chiseled and rough, a body forged in a crucible of blood and ash. Reaver, on the other hand, had grown fat and lazy, content to skim off the labor of his subordinates while he spent his days in quiet repose.
 
As Tyra stood before him, he played with a ruby in his palm, occasionally using his forearm to wipe the saliva from his greasy lips. While Tyra recognized the gem almost immediately, the Dark Elf bared little resemblance to the vicious killer she once knew.
 
Perhaps it was Cyrodiil that changed him. He had traded his netch leather for fine silks, his dagger for a silver spoon, and his ashland cave for a highborn residence in the heart of Skingrad. His scowl was not one of rage, but irritation, chiefly at his guest for tracking mud on his freshly waxed floors. Only the eyes, scarlet and piercing, betrayed his former identity.
 
"I'm new to Cyrodiil," she said, placing a bag of gold on the table as tithe, "and I need a crew."
 
The Dunmer beckoned a servant to hand him the gold, as he could no longer be bothered to reach for it. He examined the bag briefly to judge its weight, before shooing the servant and the gold aside. Tyra wondered if she had been better served filling the bag with cakes.
 
"I will help you find these men," the Dunmer croaked, finger rapping the table, "but remember, little netch, your first score belongs to me."
 
Of men who fit her requirements, there were three. Aesrael, the High Elf hunter, had grown up in an orphanage. Peladius was a former guardsman, dismissed for beating a pickpocket to death. Antonius was a hedge mage who spent more time at the tavern than the guild. 
 
There were still others she wanted before the crew could be whole. She wanted a blacksmith to forge arms, and muscle to wield it. She wanted a thief who could stalk their prey in the shadows, and assassins to slit their throats. She wanted scouts to glean information, and sharp minds to decipher their code. And she was willing to travel the breadth of Tamriel to find them.
 
But for this first job, three was more than enough. One was all she needed. After all, she had already cased the building, having been invited as a guest. She had seen the servant girl deposit the gold in the next room, and the piles of riches scattered throughout the house. And she had watched as their plump, horker of an owner, lost his edge and taste for the work. For it was the reaver and all his riches that they would come for first.
 
A week later, the three sealed their pact in blood. Aesrael and Peladius, being trained warriors, made quick work of the guards. Antonius bespelled the servants with his magic, and together the crew filled the wagons with their spoils. 
 
But before all that was done, Tyra first found the once fearsome reaver in his bed chambers, helpless to stop what his greed had ordained. 
 
In the shadow of a lantern's light, the Nord approached him with arms extended. In one hand was the bag of gold she had given him the week prior. In the other was the knife he had placed in her alms bowl so many years ago. 
 
"I want you to have this," Reaver said, placing the ruby on the nightstand beside him. Tyra, for her part, never said a word. 
 
"I wasn't always a reaver," the Dark Elf continued, "I used to have a proper name. Casival, they called me. Funny story, there's a Dunmer boy, peddling for alms outside the Two Sisters Lodge with the same name."
 
Upon hearing his words, Tyra's eyes met Reaver's for the last time, standing over him as he once did her. Perhaps in that moment another deal was made, understood but left unspoken. 
 
Seconds later, she plunged the knife into his heart.
 
When it was done, Tyra wiped the blood-stained dirk on the bedsheet and picked up the ruby from the nighstand. In the hours that passed the crew sacked the place clean, all save the bag of gold, which she left next to her former employer's corpse. 
 
The first score, after all, belonged to him. The rest she took for herself.