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Dances-Like-Bear

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It's not easy being scaly.

After all, it wasn't exactly a barrel of laughs back home in the swamp, either. Everything wanted to eat everything else and an Argonian was just part of the food chain. Especially for the flies. Those scales weren't just for show - one of the things that kept the homeland impenetrable was that anyone relying on skin for protection was literally eaten alive in a swarm - but that just meant they went for the ears and eyes.

However, right now Sees-With-Teeth was downright pining for the quicksand. If he was back home, he would not be waiting in a small, dark stone cell with some irritating elf taunting him from across the way, hoping he might have one last chance to convince the Imperial Guard that he was not the infamous highwayman Eater-Of-Seedcorn.

The trouble had really got going when he had tried to do a good turn, of course. Normally, in the wilderness, if you saw a bear rearing up towards a passing traveller you stabbed first and asked questions later if you wanted anything to be left of the traveller to thank you - or even if you were pretty indifferent, but didn't want to be the next snack when the bear was through with that one.

True, bears were pretty rare this far south, but he wasn't going to take his chances. However, when he was done and wiping his blade on the grass, wondering if he could get the hide off in a saleable piece, he noticed that instead or terror or gratitude, the khajit he'd just saved was primarily looking pissed off. He might expect that reaction from mer, or even the snootier amongst men, but from the other 'Beast race' he didn't think it could just be disgust at being saved by an overgrown lizard.

"You murdered Bertha!" exclaimed the khajit, after Teeth had sheathed his weapon and generally looked like less of an immediate potential threat.

"...Bertha?" asked Teeth with a sinking feeling that he didn't fully comprehend the situation after all.

"Yes!" insisted the stranger. "Bertha, the Dancing Bear! My pride and joy - all the way from Skyrim - my life's crowning achievement - not to mention, my livelihood..."

There was a calculating look behind the righteous anger and grief on the khajit's face, and Teeth feared that this conversation was about to take a turn for the expensive.

"I don't see how I could have known that," he pointed out, quite reasonably. "She hasn't any obvious means of restraint or marks of ownership. If that had been a wild bear, I would have been saving your life."

"Would have been, could have been," the khajit waved away his statements dismissively, giving a dramatic sniff of despair which suggested the possibility of disconsolate wailing barely held in check by anger. "Instead you have ruined it - ruined me! How dare you be so... so cold-blooded about it?"

Oh, a reptile 'joke'. Like he hadn't heard all of those before.

"Look," he tried again. "I don't want any trouble..."

"But you have already brought the greatest trouble upon me!" declaimed the khajit. "My life's work, reduced to a bleeding carcass before me! How ever can you compensate me for such a loss?"

Sees-With-Teeth was sure the khajit could think of plenty of ways, and that he wouldn't much like any of them.

"Unless..." the khajit continued, predictably. Here came the demand that he would p arley his loss into. "Can you dance?"

Teeth knew he should not have even given the khajit chance to open his mouth. Even at that point, he should have turned tail and disappeared into the undergrowth, sparse as it was in Cyrodil. Maybe found a nice river to hide out in for a bit. At least the rivers were pleasant and full of fish, if a little clear and transparent to make good hiding places.

But instead, against his better judgement, he felt kind of sorry for the khajit. It was tough, making ends meet in Imperial lands.

"I have an engagement tonight in the Imperial City," continued the khajit. "I need some kind of performing animal. But you know what those Imperial nobles can be like."

"Sure," Teeth had found himself saying. "It's the least I can do."

He had noticed the guards eying him suspiciously on his way into the city, but human guards will tend to side-eye an Argonian at the best of times, and one travelling with a khajit even more so, so he thought little of it. Even when his new companion discreetly pointed out that they were being followed, he just shrugged and aaked if that was not normal.

So he really hadn't been expecting, while he was up on a table with bells on his ears and his tail, trying to ignore the noble teenagers shyly poking his webbed feet when they thought the adults wouldn't notice, shimmying his heart out to the khajit's indifferent flute-playing, that guards would burst in, knock over the buffer and the wine, and level swords and bows in his general direction.

"So, Dances-Like-Bear," said the captain, "or should I call you, Eater-Of-Seedcorn - what made you think you could just waltz into my city unmolested?" He smiles triumphantly. "Or, I suppose, that you could shimmy into my city and be molested by the children of the great and good?"

"There must be some mistake," protested Teeth, standing down from his pose but staying on the table and making no sudden moves - he didn't want to give the twitchy guards any reason to twitch in a 'shooting him' or 'running him through' direction.

"I do not make mistakes," declared the guard captain.

"But I'm not Eater-Of-Seedcorn!" cried Teeth desperately, hoping that some of the nobility whose house had just been invaded might stand up for him, or at least against the guard. But apart from one matriarch already remonstrating with a member of the captain's retinue, most of the party - including the khajit, of course - had swiftly made themselves scarce, and those few still clutching their plates and glasses at the edges of the room were mostly staring at him accusingly, as if it was his fault.

"That's what he would say," the guard captain declared, mostly it seemed for the benefit of people who weren't Teeth.

"Please," he begged. "I'm not him. I'm not even Dances-Like-Bear. The only other adult name I've ever used is Sees-With-Teeth. You've got the wrong Argonian."

"Black scales, green highlights, I've seen enough," insisted the guard captain. "And I've heard enough from you. Men, seize him!"

The guards approached with a ridiculous level of caution - what was he going to do, spit on them? - and chained his hands roughly behind him. He considered protesting some more, particularly about how the description covered about a fifth of all Argonians, but he decided that doing it in public would just increase the captain's resolve not to be shown up in front of his men.

Maybe he could find some inducement to use on someone later, he had thought, or fashion a lock pick from something - usually he would have had one stashed, but the dancing 'outfit' left very little to the imagination and even fewer useful hiding places.

Alas, now he was safely ensconced in the Imperial dungeons, both possibilities seemed as remote as the Emperor himself coming to rescue him personally.

Wait a minute. Was that... no, he had to be hallucinating...