Skyrim fiction, written because it was a good idea at the time.
The Markets are always exciting. Pick-pockets jousting with merchants, and its a toss up between who gives a better steal, black smiths show their wares, and drunks, oh the drunks, it's always a fun experience. Snow paints the blackened stone brickwork lacing the many paths, and old buildings, most in disrepair, are good for giving one a sense of lost hope, while bright flags and streamers of cloth hang, like makeup on a corpse.
I stood in the markets, a cup in my scaled hand, and my claw-tips hold to the tin, trying not to freeze. Snow falls lightly, for the north anyay, and I wrap my snout in wool, and admittedly it makes drinking hard, but cold is a bane to those without the motly hair and manes of the other races. The drink is mead, sugary sweet and stomach churning, but the price is cheap and it leaves my guts feeling warm. Watching the crowds mill about, a lovely fair-haired woman catches my eye, and shares a smile with me. I bought mead from her, no wonder.
It is cold, a bitter, tail-shivering frost, and it makes me wonder the sanity of these folk. They are wild eyed and vicious, striking me as perpetually ready to go into a frothing frenzy at the slightest of provocations. I don't understand them. I scratch a claw over the edge of a horn and lean back, resting my cloaked shoulders against the wall. It has been quiet, of recent. For this, I am thankful.
Quiet, of course, is relative in a marketplace.
"Spare a coin?" A voice beside me speaks. I look to a grizzled old man, his left leg missing and closed off in a tatter of cloth that would be called pants. I observe him, a frown on my snout, and look up to those tired blue eyes. He was a warrior, once. Now? He's hollow, empty, broken. I pity him. I pity him enough that I hand him the second bottle of mead in my hand, and nod once. He can sleep warm with that. His thanks reads in his eyes. I suppose it is enough. His eyes, eye, I note that one is milky, gaze at me in thankfulness, and I give him a nod.
"Blessings upon thee." He says. I nod, and return to watching the markets.
This city is Windhelm, old and ancient, beautiful and bleached of life as the corpse of a king. People here are hard, but beaten, and this civil war has been rough for them. They want to stay independent, and by the divine, I know I understand their plight, but perhaps they are wrong, and more, perhaps they are also right. I press a hand to a hidden amulet beneath the warm cloth of my tunic, and understand more than they know.
"Shouldn't you be at the Assemblage?" I hear asked from the old warrior beside me. He leans against a barrel and props his missing leg up, and holds his walking crutch against his arm. I smile to him and roll my shoulders in a small shrug.
"I'm taking the day off. Mead, fresh meat, I'm shopping for the rest of us. I might even get that axe I've had my eye on." I gesture to a merchant off near his forge, the great bear of a man working the edge of a great marked axe - easily a months wages. I love the look of it - two handed, double headed, and engraved with the mark of fire. Not enchanted, of course, by no means. But, oh, it is beautiful.
"Didn't strike me as a warrior." The beggar replied to me, and took a long swallow of his mead. He savored it, not spilling even a drop into that long, scraggly of a beard he wore.
"Oh, I'm not a warrior." I replied, soft to the tone. I scratched at my chest, and pulled out the amulet, to let it show before the beggar. I had found it on my journey here, and I had taken it from a broken shrine - after doing what I could to bury the dead priest and priestess. I had built a pyre, to honor them, and sent them to sovengaard with their weapons on their chest. To the dead Thalmor, of which there were five, I left to rot. After gathering their coins, of course; I'm not that honoring of the dead. "Just a traveler, all the way from Black Marsh."
"Oh? A dangerous place. And yet you come to here, of all places? Why?"
"There is a fortune to be made, and ruins to explore. Things to see, to learn. I'm unmarried, and without young. Why not do as I can, here?"
"Sounds like me, when I as younger." He chuckled then, and shook his head, amusement filling a tired voice. "I was a legionaire, back when the Thalmor attacked. I lost my leg in the war, and they sent me here, with nothing but my coins in my pocket. And with the rebellion, I do not even get my owed coin."
I pittied him further, and tossed a second to him. And a third.
"I hope that keeps you warm and fed for tonight. I cannot offer much else than this, sir." And I meant it. Three coins could feed him, and ten could get him a room for a night. I couldn't do that. He had pride, still. I tipped my hood to him, and returned to shopping.
The way to the docks took me down a long flight of stairs, and under the houses of the rich. Here it was dark but for sconces lit with guttering torches, and the scent of urine cloying in the windy tunnel. I shook out and was glad for the wool to be good at blocking smells. I made my way through while carrying a pack over my shoulder. It held food and items, a few tools and, for Scouts-many-Marshes, a new knife to cut rope and gut fish. He was rather a kind lizard, of fair scales and brilliant eyes.
I walked through, towards the great gates that were opened to the docks, and stepped through, to look on the cold river and ice-flecked shore. A great place, really - but cold, bitter, and filled with monsters. I gazed up to the great mountains and breathed deep of the cold air, muffled as it was by my wrap, and let my lungs chill. Refreshing, I was always stunned by the great mountains, sticking high to the heavens and cracked with gorges and dips and rises; dotted along it were ancient ruins, of a great wonder and greater age.
And then my view was obstructed by the ground, as my left leg was hooked and yanked, and I stumbled forward, bashing my snout into the ground.
"Lost, little lizard?" One of the fair-haired bullies who plagued the district. Thonronr. I laid, dizzy from the pain in my face, then slowly pulled myself up to my knees, only for a leather boot to hit me in the stomach. I grunted, and slid back a bit, my tail hitting the wall. Three of them, I counted, sitting back and facing the bastards. "Isn't Blackmarsh that way?"
He pointed rudely to the south east.
A boot kicked at me again. This time, though dizzy, I skittered to the side and pulled myself up - my back to the wall as the tall, menacing figure of three Nords faced me. Brothers, bullies, I knew them well, and all of we in the docks had dealings with them. Sons of the Stout-Bear family, they had a rather cushy posting here, in the Stormcloaks. I knew them as bastards.
"Just let me get my things, and I'll be on my way, lads." I didn't want a fight with them.
They smiled to each other. A look of menace was on their faces. I didn't have a choice. One lunged at me, and his fist brushed my jaw. I ducked, and lunged into him, bringing my curved horns to bare and slammed into his chest. He wasn't wearing armor under his fancy wool tunic, but he was a solid bastard, and it made my neck ache. Shoving, I barreled over him, and stomped my foot into his stomach as I dove to pick up my pack, only to run into his older brother.
Damn, I had to deal with Knurid?
He grabbed me by my throat and lifted me, holding me up as I grunted painedly. My eyes closed tight as I grunted, choking under the grip. I kicked at him, and my hands held onto his wrist, trying to get air. He laughed - he was a big brute of a Nord, easily seven feet in height. He laughed again and slammed my against a wall, my back aching and the feathers on my crest breaking.
"Little lizard got lost. Lizard should go back home." And then I was airborn, thrown into a barrel and tumbling over it - my ribs suddenly on fire. I coughed painfully, as foot caught my stomach, and sent me up again.
"Don't do this." I breathed, spitting blood onto the ground. I rose up on shaking legs, and stepped back, my foot on the edge of the stairs - a good ten foot drop behind me. A close one. A very close one. "Please."
"Coward! Begging now?" A guffaw from the last, the stout Balfhe. He sneered, his face scarred from the knife of a whore many years back. He came close now, holding a truncheon in his hand, and tossed it, preparing to beat me. I cringed. "Skyrim belongs to the Nords, not you, boots!"
He swung, and I responded. My forearm shot up and twisted the truncheon out of the way, and I grabbed his chest. Shoving forward, I brought my foot up into his chest, and slammed my elbow down into the join between his shoulders. He grunted, and yelped in pain when I twisted, slamming him into the stonewok of the stairway. He went limp - and I turned, glancing up at the next two. They looked surprised. I brought my hands up to defend myself, and swung my hip around, facing them both. Knurid lunged at me and swung his fist for my snout, and I ducked down, bringing my forearms up to catch his swing. He grunted, and grabbed one of my horns and wrenched back - but I swung my foot up to catch his knee - making him growl. Big bastard.
Shoved back, my neck felt like it was on fire as he twisted, and I spun with it, my foot kicking his other knee. We collided, exchanging blows and fighting for control. My hand flew up to grab his face and I pulled down on his jaw and twisted, until there was a gratifying pop as it was torn down. He gave a strangled yelp, even as I shoved him back and brought my palm into his temple. He would need a healer.
Last, and not least, Thonronr faced me, a knife in hand. A rather big boar-sticker, he approached me with murder in his eyes. My neck hurt and my horns were sore, not to mention ribs stomach, and hips. Stepping back, I lowered myself down and ducked a swing that slid high - and felt the tip slash into my cheek and up, across my snout. I hissed in pain, and swung at him - only to take the dagger into my arm, and pulled back. He swung a third time, and narrowly missed my chest. He was good.
But I was better. Bleeding heavy, I lunged in and dove over his knife - laying it flat to my body and pinning his arm. Pulling harshly, blood making me dizzy, I lowered my head and tore my teeth into his shoulder, biting down and latching on. He yelped out loudly, as I removed the knife from his hand, and pulled back, and brought the knife up. He could fight with a knife, but he wasn't good at defending. I couldn't stop myself, as I brought it up and slashed over his chest, and sent blood leaking down his expensive tunic.
I grabbed him and spun him around, and drew the blade up against his throat.
"Don't, no, don't kill me!' He exclaimed in a sob - and I knew him for a coward. His brothers were down, and he was worried more for his own life - some bravery this bastard had! I snarled, teeth sticky with blood. I hissed, and pulled my hand forward, and turned his head to the side, and sliced up - and took his left ear from base to top, then kicked him away from me, shoving forward and forcing him back.
"Come near me again, and I will kill you, and everyone of your brothers. Do you understand? You will leave me, and the others, alone."
He gazed at me, in fear and pain, and nodded. I smiled, a vicious thing, and turned, gripping the knife in one hand. Steel. Not a bad edge to it. I limped away, listening to the sobs of a man bereft of his manhood.
I'm not a warrior. Warriors fight fair. I didn't. And I knew, holding the bloody knife, that I'd made a rather big mistake.
I made it back before the light of the sun passed to night, and I laid heavily on a bed - panting, and shivering in pain and cold. My clothing was ruined and my arm would need a proper healer before I could return to work - and I couldn't afford one. I had bandaged it as best I could to staunch the bleeding, but my muscles burned, muchless the rest of me. Sitting back, I let the fire roar as it warmed me, and watched the others come into the dry place of stone and cloth. I looked up to them with a long sigh, and turned my head away, to just drink the mead I'd stashed for special days. A fight like this was going to be painful for me, and them. I regretted it - but I didn't have much of a choice.
"Fighting again?" The gravely voice of Stands-in-Shallows caught me, and I looked up with a snort. His light scales were hard in the cold, and though he did not make high enough wages, he had a good attitude about life. I shrugged, and pointed to my bandages.
"Ran into a bear." I said. It was half true, I could swear Knurid was half bear.
"Fair enough. Did you get my book?" I nodded - pointing to the goods on his bed - including the green bottle of Skooma. An addict, he had it bad, but at least he wasn't dying of it. I hoped.
"Yeah. With your stuff. Sorry if anything is beaten up. You know how rough the bears can be."
"Yeah. Lucky you survived, I met a grizzly who wandered too close to the docks once. Nearly ate my tail!' He laughed, a hearty sound. I smiled, then laid my head back with a sigh.
The others came in - there were plenty of us, at least ten, but I only kept council with half, if one could call it that.
"The boys again? That's the third time this month they've attacked us!" A hiss from Under-the-Root came, and I gazed up at the dark scaled stalker. She peered back, her yellow eyes luminous in the firelight. No feathers, just scales and horns, adorned with small rings. I liked her well enough. "Ornery bastards."
"I don't think they'll be coming back this time." I murmured, slurred from the herbs I had ingested to dull the pain. We kept a stash of Blisterwort around for minor aches and pains, and I'd used enough of it to last me for the night. If I was able, I'd go see one of the healers.
"What did you do?" She asked me, suddenly very nervous. I looked over - she was young, barely two years since she licked the tree, and so very worried about life. She could have been a great hunter, or even a scout, but her dreams lead her here, to the northern lands of ice wnd wind. So be it, I did not begrudge her dreams or her destiny.
"I'll be gone at first light. You can have my things." I said, a hand over my eyes to block out the light. "But you won't be harassed by them again. I promise you that."
"What did you do...?" She asked, her voice was sad. She wouldn't argue to stop me. She knew it wouldn't help. By way of answer, I pulled the steel knife out and laid it on my stomach - it was still bloody. The blood had half frozen onto it.
"What I had to."
I held her in my arms that night, and kept her close. The blankets insulated us, and her body heat felt good against my naked chest, even with the wound. I held her close, and my hands hugged under her chest. She was curvy, and her hips were appealing, but she, no, I couldn't do more than be a brother to her. I loved her as a sister, and had cared for her when she arrived, until she had enough to make her own way. I did not begrudge her her pain, and wished that I could spare her from it, but I didn't have a choice. Times would be rough for us, up here, rougher now with what I'd done hanging over them; but, I knew I'd done the right thing.
I held her until the shadows grew long and the fire burned low, and rose up from the bed. Pulling myself up, I drew from her body and tucked the blankets around her, and walked to the flames, to put on fresh wood and stoke it for the sleepers to stay warm by. My body hurt, but I would not bleed out, even being sore.
Looking back at the sleepers, I sighed, and turned to walk to a back wall, and moved the barrels off of a hidden hatch. Pulling a key out, I turned the lock and lifted the small lid up, and gazed upon a black bag. I pulled it up and began to strip out of my garments - to slide into something far more familiar and comfortable. Leather clasped my hips and a belt my middle, while a waxed grey and black marked leather covered my torso, snug and quiet, polished for strength and dulled for shadowing and held that way with tender care. I stretched in it and touched the gloves over my face-mask, the thing smelled of swamps even to this day. My fingers traced the rune engraved to protect my crest. A rune for shadow, a rune for night, a rune for dark deeds.
This was a night for dark deeds. I unwrapped next a sword, and beheld it in firelight - a marvel of Argonian craftsmanship. Two feet in length, the tip was angled back to create a wicked pry, and grooves ran along the sides of the blade, useful for making blood flow and panicking ones foes. It was an old friend, and I kissed the pommel, the leather was still wrapped tight, and the engraved serpent ready to strike at its foe. She had seen many dark deeds, and had saved many more lives. I kissed her once again, and slid her onto my back, after attaching the scabbard. Beside that, a smaller blade was slid onto my hip - a twisted blade - it made a wound that would not close. Old friends, Hydrophis and Eunectes.
I slid the bag back into cover and placed the steel blade ontop of it. I was ready for my night. I let out a sigh, regret and shame - I had a good life here, and now it was over. I walked through, creeping in silence through the assemblage, and placed a note on the stand beside where Under-the-Root slept. Thinking again, I placed a pouch of coins, saved from my time. It would buy her passage to a better place, or even back home. I kissed her good bye, and stepped into the cold.
Dark deeds in night, I walked through the city. I had grabbed a great cloak from the wardrobe and slid it over my armor, as well as down to hide my face. I moved with ease through the grey quarters, and walked past the drunks who reveled and harassed and fought, and tipped my head respectfully to the old Begger. He looked at me, and gave a faint confused smile. He did not know me in this wear - no one did. I was glad for that fact.
I let amulet of Talos land in his lap as I walked past - and climbed up into the more well to do district, Valunstrad. Tugging the cloak shut, I walked past a guard and ducked into a side path - and then grabbed up and vaulted a fence, to land, crouched, and my dagger out. The curved tip gleamed in moonlight, and I stayed low, walking quiet through the back property of a small manor. There were none here I wanted, and I moved towards the Stout-Bear house. It was large and imposing, the doors menacing with a broad depicted eagle above the main hall entryway, and an old gate keeping most out. Most. I leapt to the top and slid down into the snow, which crunched lightly beneath my feet.
Standing, I listened inside, the lights burning thrugh a window, a fire place at low heat - a servants quarters. I slid a hand to feel for the catch to the window and pushed slowly - to let the window open to a cold breeze and wind - and pulled up and over, ducking down with a hum. The sleeping servants did not stir. The window closed with a small click and I moved past them. Good.
I pressed my back to a wall and listened, hearing the thumping steps of a guard walking through, and turned, trailing after him. At his hip hung the keys which would open many doors. I debated taking them, and ducked past him, into the kitchen. My back lowered to rest beside the counter, and in it, a servant ate quietly of what was left over - pilfering from his masters. I heartily approved.
I snuck a slice of beef myself and held it in my mouth, to savor and chew on as I worked. He did not notice me as I walked past him, and crept up the stairs.
Bedrooms. A second floor glittered with small treasures - trophies of hunts and battles, war axes and heirlooms of family life that paid me no interest - I could care less who their forefathers killed. Walking silently, I pressed against a door and heard only light breathing, and slid down, to peer through the keyhole. It was occupied, and I slid in to meet the sleeper.
Dim, I pushed the door open and stepped in - glowing crystals giving the room a blue cast. In bed lay Balthe, holding to his chest a pillow. He slept heavily, bandaged from where I had done quite a number on him. He did not look good, and did not stir when I crept forward, and moved to the bed. It was quick, my hand slashed out across his throat and I held his head down as he thrashed for the few moments it took him to die. The stench of urine clung heavy in the air. I knew him to be a coward. He gazed at me in fear, and tried to gurgle, until blood and bubbles stopped coming from his torn throat.
He died a coward, and would not know Sovengaard.
I took quiet inventory of the room, and rummaged around drawers and a lock box - pulling out coins and small gemstones of some value. These I slid into my coin pouch, as well as the family ring he wore on his right hand. He had nothing else of value, and I peered into the hall, to make sure it was clear. Pleased that it was, I stepped out and moved to the next room - to that of the sleeping bear, Knurid.
The room was bare and simple - he did not care much for the simple comforts, and often, clothing was special made for this bear of a bastard. His bed was far too small and he slept, curled around a blanket. On the floor lay a battered Brenton, her body covered in bruises, and her clothing tattered. Her eyes opened at my aproach, and but for my hand covering her mouth, she would have screamed. I also noted she smelled of skooma.
"Shh." I whispered as a quiet hiss, and touched my other hand to her face. She shuddered and paled, before I gestured down to her hand. My tail was stiff as I slid the knife out and cut through the binding rope, and gestured to her. She looked at me, not sure what to say, until I motioned, with my tail, towards the wall. It had a family axe on it - gilded silver and made of steel. I just smiled, and stepped back into the hall. I let the door close behind me - it was not mine to do with. I could see glee in her eyes, and knew the room would soon be as red as her hair.
He would die a monster. Monsters would not know Sovengaard.
I had one target left - as the meaty thump of an axe fell, muffled by the walls. I listened to the third room and heard the soft rambling and angry mutterings of two people inside. I grunted - that would not be good, but I had dealt with far worse. I rose up and pushed the door open - and held Eunectes in my hand. The tip touched the ground, as I gave a smile of wicked intention. This faltered, as a leather clad khajiit leapt from his chair and launched himself at me - two short daggers whirling at my face. He hissed, and spat, and moved fast. I brought my sword up to catch one blade, and danced backwards out of the way of the second slash. He backed off when I hit him in the snout with my free hand, then busied it by filling it with the slender dagger, Hydrophis.
Behind him, the bastard son Thonror approached, holding a great double headed axe in hand. He stepped in and swung, slamming it into the wall and alerting that activity was happening up stairs. It also nearly took one of my horns, so there was that. Stepping back again, I pivoted and leapt back from the mad-cats strikes, and could clearly admire his talent. His garb was familiar, red on black, and tickled my memory. I didn't dwell on it, as I interposed my sword between his daggers and caught him through the ribs. He pulled back, spitting blood, and launched at me again. He had spirit!
My blade caught his again, and we clashed, striking, while I dodged around the axe of Thonror. Grunting, I backhanded him away and dropped my dagger, using both hands on my sword. I danced with the khajiit, he snarling and slashing across my armor - and I felt it rip at something, though not enough to get through. I was glad - this armor was valuable. Once again I stabbed and pivoted with him, and he lunged up - nearly catching my chin. I felt the blade press my lips, but not enough to put me down. He was damn good.
But when I brought my elbow down and smashed between his shoulders, he went down, and I followed through with a clean sword stroke across the back of his neck. He twitched, then lay still. He shuddered, and his head rolled past my feet. He fought well and brave. I paused, to commend his soul to where Khajiit frollicked to upon death. He would know Sovengaard... if he wanted to.
The battleaxe bit into my shoulder - catching the pauldron and sending me down - feeling fire race my limb. It would have been clean if I had been facing any other way, and I stumbled down to my knees. Pain ripped down my bad shoulder and ribs - I could feel the aches of the day returning.
"Thought you could kill me, you bastard? Huh? I got the brotherhood on you! And I get to kill you!" He was mad, and not just angry. He pulled the sword back and I turned, reaching for my dagger, and brought it up to stab. He swung down and my blade came up to catch under the axe head, but it was enough to jar it from my already weak hand. I grabbed for my sword, and brought it up to stab, when an axe magically sprouted into his chest. A grunt followed through - the Nord gazing down at his chest, then up, at the fiery, blood-stained Bretton woman from Knurid's room. She was wet with blood and rage. I liked it. A certain... pizazz.
He went down to one knee, and I rose up, holding my sword. He gasped, he was pierced through the sternum, but rose his own axe to try to take me with him. I batted it away and stabbed forward into his chest, and then spun - bringing the blade clean through his skull. His head fell before his body, and I pulled my weapon back, staggering against the wall. I was damn weak.
"You will never know Sovengaard. Coward."
She looked at me, and held a faint smile. Blood stained her lips, and I saw the peeking tip of teeth - she wasn't exactly man or mer or beastfolk. But I smiled a bit to her - and gave a pained sigh. My body hurt all over. Guards would be running to see what the hell was going on - and I wasn't in condition to run.
Of course, she smiled, and stepped forward to kiss my bleeding shoulder - the lips were euphoria. But I didn't let her drink - and politely held a hand to her shoulder to stop her.
"We have to go." I said to her. She nodded, and drew a hand up and touched my face. Her fingers curled into a particular patern, and she touched my face, before everything grew dark, and faded away.
It was evening when I found myself awake again. Laying on the bed, I found myself bandaged, and a red frothy vial laying beside me. I knew that bitter scent and downed it, feeling the lingering alchemical affects knitting tattered skin and muscle together, and making my bones lose their throb. My armor was lain and repaired upon a table, as well as my swords - which looked better than new. Sitting up, I gazed upon the face of the lady vampire - who simply, softly, smiled to me.
"I dressed your wounds. You will survive this." She murmured down to me. Her bruises were gone, and her hair was straightened, pulled back into a neat tail. Her clothing was also in better repair - more fitting with her stateliness. She smiled to me and stood. "Thank you for the rescue. It had been two weeks since he grabbed me. Thankfully, I had not lost my mind to hunger. I owe you my life."
"Think nothing of it. He deserved to die." I noticed food on the table, and reached to pick up a wedge of cheese. It felt good, going down my throat.
"Indeed." She replied, with a perk of her delicate brow. "I am glad for your timeliness, then. And what is your name, rescuer?"
"My name?" I laughed a bit, and sighed. It felt good to be whole. "I'm Touch-of-Shadow."
"Indeed. I am Margaux." She smiled a touch more, and sat down beside me instead. "I thank you, Touch-of-Shadow, again."
"A pleasure. I ... gathered some coin from the house. Do you need to...?" I asked, trailing off. Sitting this near made me uncomfortable, but I worked not to show it. It wasn't polite to offend the woman who saved ones life.
"That is sweet of you, child." She said, with a soft chuckle. "But I can recover what was mine, and return to High-Rock. I have had enough of this wintery land. And what of you? What will you do?"
"Well, now that I've done my job, I suppose, I will travel. I've wanted to. I have enough to last me a few cities."
"Good." She murmured, then turned my head with her fingertips. "If you wish, you are welcome to travel with me."
"Maybe." I replied. Then I paused, frowning. "How did you get us out of there, anyway? I mean, I should be in a jail cell..."
"Now, a lady does not kiss and tell, dear sir." She considered, and looked up at the window, as the moons rose slowly. "I could use your strength on the road. It is not safe for a Brenton to walk alone, you know. And I could get hungry."
I grunted at that. Always with ulteriour motives, these kind.
"I'll think about it." I said. "I don't want to live forever, if I catch..."
"Oh, it's not so bad, you know. I'm almost two hundred, and don't look a day past thirty." She smiled, still bright and cheerful of expression. "It's all in how you use it. Imagine living forever, killing those who hurt sweet and innocent women.
I laughed a bit, and continued to eat.