A.D.W.D. Chapter 17: Jail Birds


    “I can’t believe you got me arrested!” Amari shouted at Trebonde as the guards dragged them from the Temple of Dibella.


    “Relax, we’ll be fine,” he replied idyllically while the young guard dragging him tried to avoid touching the nude thief as much as possible.


    “How is rotting in a dungeon fine! I didn’t even do anything!” Amari fumed, then shivered against a pre-dawn breeze chilling her soaked clothing.


    “That’s what they all say,” the senior guard leading her interjected. “Anyway, you’re not going to a dungeon, you’re going to Cidhna Mine; and nobody escapes Cidhna Mine.”


    “Mines?” Amari squeaked.


    “That’s right; you’re going to get some nice calluses on those dainty little hands.”


    Amari didn’t think she had dainty hands, but then again when compared to the burly Nord’s anything short of a troll’s could be considered such. 


    “Balin!” the guard continued, shouting at Trebonde’s handler. “Cover that man up already! Use your cloak or something; it’s not decent in front of the women folk.”


    “I’m not letting him get his stink all over my cloak!” Balin protested. “Why do you get to bring the girl?”


    “Seniority,” the Nord answered with a smug smirk and then wrapped his cloak about Amari as he led her past Balin and his charge.


    Trebonde caught Amari sneaking another peek as she passed. “Never seen a man before?”


     She blushed and that only made the three men laugh at her more. She lowered her head and quickened the pace down the steps, each impact jarring a collage of bruises over her whole body.


    When’d that happen? She thought grimacing.


    “Whoa! Slow down there missy,” her handler order. “Don’t think I’ve ever seen someone rush to their sentence before.”


    The senior then addressed both of the detained, “You should consider yourselves lucky; these types of calls are usually only to dispose of the bodies. The priestesses know how to handle themselves.”


    “That they do,” Trebonde agreed dreamily.


    “What did you do?” Balin asked.


    “I delved deep into the secrets of their Inner Sanctuary and I’ll tell you – all of it, if you release us. It’ll give your imagination fuel to the end of your days.”


    The senior guard cuffed him over the head. “Alright, not another word from your filthy mouth! Those are our respected priestesses you’re slandering! ”


    “I dunno Rupert; I’d like to hear,” Balin hazard. “Think I saw one of them makin’ eyes at me.”


    Rupert snorted. “Dream on; you’re not getting anything outside the Warrens. What are you laughing at Imperial scum!?”


    “Nothing, Rupert.” Trebonde answered, failing to stifle his laughter.


    “You have a problem with my name?”


    “No, no, not at all, Rupert is such a proud and mighty name; befitting a Jarl even.”


    The senior growled. “Come on Balin; let’s just be rid of this rabble.”




    The guards shoved the rabble rousers to their knees before the Orc warden - a very disgruntled Orc for being roused so late in the night. Then they left the mine tunnel calling over their shoulders, “They’re your problem now!”


    The Orc woman stepped towards them and grunted, unimpressed. She began pacing before them and started a speech that sounded as if she’d rehearsed it a million times:


    “All right, prisoners. Eyes front! I’m Urzoga gra-Shugurz and I’m the nicest thing you’ll see till you serve your time or die... You're in Cidhna Mine, now. And we expect you to earn your keep. There's no resting your hide in a cell in this prison. Here, you work. You'll mine ore until you start throwing up silver bars. You got it?"


     “Sorry, but could you repeat that last part?” Silver provoked.


    "Don't get smart with me! I'm in charge. You keep it up, I'll have your toes cut off." She looked down on the nude man. “Or maybe something more dear.”


    Trebonde swallowed and shut up.


    “That’s better, now give him a full cavity search,” she ordered one of the Silver-Blood guards then took Amari by the arm and led her into a side room away from the male guards.


    “Face the wall, place your hands on it, legs wide.”


    Amari complied and was roughly frisked. She bit her lip against the pain as the warden’s hands paid no heed to the bruises that had materialized at some point during their journey.


     “I’m innocent! I haven’t done anything!” she protested.


    Urzoga found Amri’s dagger and sniffed it.


    “Poison. Innocent my flea-bitten ass; not that it matters. I’m your enforcer, not your judge. Now strip.”




    “Standard protocol,” Urzoga grunted and tossed a set of prison rags at Amari’s feet.


    Once again Amari complied then yelped when she bent to pick up the rags. “There’s nothing hidden up there!”


    The Orc grunted. “Clean. You’d be surprised what and how people try to hide things.”


    Urzoga pushed Amari back into the main corridor where Trebonde, now dressed in similar sack rags, was arguing with the guards.


    “What’s this?!” Urzoga demanded.


    “This one says he can’t mine because he only has one hand,” a Silver-Blood guard replied.


    The Orc looked at his missing hand then took Trebonde by the arm and slammed it on a table. She then used several lengths of leather strap to fasten a pick axe to his forearm.


    “There, problem solved. All right, now get down there!” she said shoving them through the gate into prison mine.


    The gate clashed shut with a finality that filled Amari with dread. She followed close on Trebonde’s heels deeper into the mine as she tried to curl into herself. She felt degraded, humiliated, tainted. Nobody wanted her; she’d tried to do good, but all it got her was ending up locked in a prison camp. One she knew would be filled with real outlaws; it was going to be Robber’s Gorge all over again. Maybe this was always her fate and she’d been foolish to fight it.


    “What are you in for, new blood?” a voice voice interrupted. “Uraccen’s the name.”


    “Sightseeing.” Trebonde shrugged causally. “How about you?”


    “Sightseeing? That’s a new one; you and Brokul should get along just fine – That’s the giant Orc sleeping by that back gate. He's in for 'lolly gagging.' As for me, a Nord nobleman I served was stabbed in the night. Wasn't me, but I knew I'd be blamed. So I ran. Joined the Forsworn. Started killing. Got caught. Now I'm here.”


    “And here the upstanding guards assured me this was a Forsworn free zone,” Trebonde joked.


    “Far from it.” Uraccen grinned. “We remember how the old ways were. No Nords and their laws. One day, the Forsworn will paint the walls of Markarth in their blood.”    


    “Fuck the Nords; red suits this city.”


    Uraccen’s grin widened. “You’re no Breton, but your heart would still make a fine Forsworn.”


    “Let’s save that for the morrow; I hoping to get a few hours of shut eye before I need to pretend to work.”


    “Aye, may the old gods go with you,” the Forsworn blessed the new bloods as they departed to find a corner to curl up in.


    “What are you doing!” Amari hissed once they were out of earshot. “Did you already forget what their people were doing in The Tower?”


    “No, that is precisely I spoke so. I don’t think he’s the only one here and one of the first things you do in prison is make alliances. Do you want to make them enemies or let them believe you’re a friend? There’s never been a prison that could keep me; this one will be no different.”


     “Oh,” Amari let out in growing awe; he knew a way out of every situation.  Hope, there is always hope.


    As they drifted to sleep, the night’s events replayed in Amari’s mind. So much had happened, but what she voiced was:


    “Jolene is beautiful.”


    Trebonde caught the underlying tone of the words and sighed. He’d hoped his actions with Solena and Jolene would allow him to avoid this conversation.


    “Amari… you are beautiful too, but we’re at different stages of life. You need to find someone you can grow with as equals. I now you haven’t had much opportunity to look, but don’t limit yourself to only the cruel world you know now.”


    The words, meant to be softly delivered, still hit Amari like a sledgehammer. She rolled away from Trebonde and curled tightly in a ball, biting her lip to keep the tears silent. “That’s not what I meant; I just thought she was pretty.”


    What did that even mean? Like he’d ever followed that advice! How was that priestess equal to him? She didn’t know anything about him, not like Amari did. She hadn’t survived the Gorge, she wasn’t at the Tower, nor was she the one he told about his past. It wasn’t fair! Maybe the priestesses were right, maybe she was tainted…




    The next day was awkward for both of them, but they at least got to sleep longer than either had hoped for. The guards never entered that mine and the other prisoners let them be, so it was past noon by time they woke. Apparently the guards only came once a week to collect the ore and feed them, if the quotas were met.


    Amari couldn’t look at Trebonde and retreated to a campfire lit in the middle of the mines and stared into the flames. Trebonde looked after her and was about to say something, then stopped himself and let her have her space. Instead he started casing the mine. First checking the lock, an intricate piece of Dwemer technology that completely befuddled him, then he started rapping his new pick axe hand along the bars at the entrance to listen for any defects.  He found nothing he could exploit, so continued to explore deeper in the mine, systematically rapping on the walls and floor in hopes of hearing the hollow ring of a hidden passage.


    As he passed the other inmates, he took the time to learn their stories. Everyone their except for one Nord thief was part of the Forsworn or had joined once being sentenced to the mine, but most interestingly, one had slipped that their king, Madanach, The King in Rags, was imprisoned in a private cell with them and still leading their rebellion to regain the Reach through the filter of the Silver-Blood family. Only problem was that to reach the king, he had to pass Borkul the Beast.


    “The new meat. So soft. So tender,” The beast said as Trebonde approached. He stood a full head taller than Trebonde and had all the traits highly regarded among the Orsimer: great slabs of hardened muscle, large brow ridge, an overbite with large fangs, and a ridge of bones protruding on either side of his temples.


    “What was it like killing your first one, huh?”


    “The first death I caused was my own father’s and I felt nothing but joy, though it was one I once thought my friend whose blood first stained my hands. That brought me no joy, but it did not stay my hand then, or since.”


    The Orc released a laugh from his belly. "A true killer, like me. The gods put us here to fill their halls with souls. You'll fit in fine down here. What do you want?"


    “Madanach is expecting me.”


    “Only thing Madanach expects is a bottle of skooma.” The Orc snorted.


    “I have news regarding the Karthewasten operation; this can’t wait,” the rogue bluffed.


    “Ah, a deep cover agent, huh? Hmph. Fine. Go on in. But don't try anything in there. Madanach knows more than you think."


    The Orc opened the gate and Trebonde disappeared inside. The beast then saw Amari eavesdropping by the fire.


    “What about you girl? How was your first kill?”


    “Me? I haven’t killed anyone.”


    “Liar. I know a killer’s eyes.”


    Uraccen sat down next to her by the fire and offered her some stale bread and cheese with a bit of mold growing on it.


    “Don’t mind him. Here, you need to eat. I know it’s not much, but it’s all we get. I left behind my daughter Uaile when I was taken. How old is my daughter now, I wonder, your age maybe? In prison, you lose track of time."


    “I’m sorry.”


    “Don’t be. All of have a similar tale down here. Take Briag for instance, the oldest among us. His daughter tried to go in his place, but the Jarl made him watch as he had her executed instead and still sent him to the mines. He’s been here ever since. That is but one case; now image hearing the same story through different lips over and over. Outside they call us ‘the Madmen of the Reach;’ yes we’re mad! The Nords stole our land through treachery and barbarism, and continue trying to destroy our culture every day!”


    These people were nothing like the Rober’s Gorge bandits; they had been respectful to Trebonde and her privacy throughout the night, none of them leered at her, and now she was hearing a tale of persecution. Amari’s problems started feeling selfish by comparison, but one thing still bothered her:


    “I saw a Briarheart once. It was no longer a man, its soul was twisted and corrupted; its eyes nothing but empty voids,” she shuddered at the memory.


    “Ah, yes the Briarhearts. Those brave men are the real martyrs. They sacrificed everything so that one day our children will grow up in peace, in their homeland following the Old Ways. They all agree to the transformation knowing full well there will never be a place for them in society. They give up their soul, their identity, their home, for us.”


    Amari didn’t know what to think anymore; earlier it seemed so clear that the Forsworn were evil, but now everything was so muddy. There was no clear right or wrong; every choice seemed to hurt someone. These people were just trying to survive, just like her. This was a whole culture backed into a corner, fighting against extinction and she knew how desperate that struggle to survive could become.


    Was saving the Sybil the right choice in the long run? She thought about the girl, how she faced the demons of that ritual without fear, how Fjorta had held her hand in Temple, how she still accepted Amari despite everything she had seen and the priestesses had said. No, whether it was right or wrong in the end, she couldn’t leave the child to that fate.  


    Her reflecting was interrupted by Trebonde returning from the King’s cell. He beckoned Amari to follow him to a discreet corner near the entrance. Her heart clenched and she fought off the tears trying to build up. She still wasn’t ready to face him, but they were still stuck in this mess together.


    He thankfully jumped straight into the heart of the matter. “There is an escape route out of here.”


    “That’s great!”


    “But it’s guarded by Madanach and I can tell he is a very capable Witch-Blade. However, if we prove our loyalty to him he’ll take us when they leave.”


    “Prove how?”


    “I’ll need to kill the Nord in here.”


    Amari was silent.


    Trebonde continued, “I spoke with him earlier. He’s a repeat criminal, nothing major, but he won’t be missed either.”


    Amari nodded, she didn’t like this and could tell he didn’t either. “Why haven’t they left yet if they have an escape ready?”


    “They’re waiting for the Silver-Bloods to lower their guard, then use the opportunity to lead their insurrection. I imagine he has spies and warriors waiting for whatever his signal is to strike.”


    “And turn the city red with Nord blood…”


    Trebonde nodded. “Yes, yes, and don’t forget they’ll gain control the Temple, be free to sacrifice the Sybil again, and most importantly: we don’t know when they’ll strike; we could be stuck here only for the night or for years.”


    “Oh,” Amari said again. After all they’d done to rescue the Fjorta, she was still only one lapse of attention from being throw among the Forsworn again.


    A commotion down the passage on the other side of the gate interrupted their conversation on cue.


    “Well I can!” a pitched voice was protesting.


    “No! No one see’s the prisoners. Get out of here runt!” Urzoga’s unmistakable voice shouted back.


    “Wait, Urzoga. I’ve seen this girl,” a guard interrupted. “That’s the new Sybil of Dibella! It’d be best for the Silver-Bloods not to anger them.”


    “Hmph. Fine, you have five minutes and I’ll personally escort you.” Urzoga relented.


    Trebonde and Amari exchanged glances; Fjorta was coming here? The Sybil saw the two waiting by the gate and slipped from the Orc’s grasp then rushed to them.


    “Amari! Trebonde!” She embraced them through the bars and whispered to Amari, “The priestesses think I’m still in the gardens, but I came to bring a present for you.”


    “Thank you! But listen, you’re still in danger: the Forsworn king is in here!” Amari whispered in a hiss as fast as she could and then urgently pointed into the depths of the mine. “They have an escape route ready and are only waiting for the time to strike!”


    Fjorta’s eyes widened in shock, then she was yanked back by a rough Orc hand. “’nuff of that! No touching the prisoners. Guards! Search those two; make sure she didn’t give them anything. I don’t care who you are girl; you’re leaving now!”


    The guards pinned the two prisoners against the bars as they searched them and Amari caught sight of Urzoga setting a bouquet of mountain flowers in a pewter vase on the Watch’s table. Her face lit in excitement; sure enough she felt Scuttle’s hibernating form still inside.


    Amari caught Fjorta’s eye as she was shoved out of the mine and called out, “You’re a life saver!”


    The girl beamed back at her before disappearing back outside. Amari was also beaming after the guard came up empty handed and shoved them back to the mines.


    “What are you so happy about? You just foiled our only route out of here.” Trebonde grumbled.


     “Not the only way; I’ll get us out here tonight and without any bloodshed thanks to Fjorta.”


    “What? The vase? How is that going to help? We can’t even reach it.”


    “No, no, it’s what’s inside the vase.”


    Trebonde arched an eyebrow. “Flowers? The flowers will set us free?”


    “Yes, the flowers will set us free…” Amari retorted dryly.




    Later the night, after the other inmates were fast asleep, Amari and Trebonde were once again crouched by the bars of the entrance. They had been waiting there with empty stomachs for over an hour while the guard took his sweet time separating his stew’s components onto a plate one piece at a time before eating them, but now he was finally finished and was dozing in his chair.


     “Alright, promise not to freak out over this next part,” Amari whispered.


    “Coming from you, this has me worried, but alright,” Trebonde tepidly assented.


    Amari sat in full lotus and sent her spirit along the link to her hibernating familiar. She had to reroute the line of energy around the damaged runes again and then set to climbing out of the vase up the flower stems. Jolene couldn’t do this. If Jolene was here instead, they’d just rot in this damn mine.


    Through the familiar’s ghostly eyes she saw Trebonde flail and contort in an effort to suppress a yelp at the sight of the emerging skeleton. She laughed to herself, then raised a boney claw to their skull to shish him. That only made him flail again and risk waking the guard, but his discomfort was oh so worth it. They hopped off the table and crept to the keychain hanging from half asleep man.


    Shit, Amari thought. While she knew the keys were before them, she could barely see them through her familiar’s eyes. The keys were metal, metal had no life, so it appeared as only a dim blue outline that was easily masked by the guard’s aura.


    She was studying how the aura’s flames danced around the lifeless metal, trying to determine how to unfasten the latch to the nearly invisible belt when a wraith passing by the mine’s mouth caught the scent of their essence once more and let out a wail.


    Shit. Shit. She thought as the wraith began to drift down the mine tunnel and others started to follow the first in a quickly forming mob. The specters had dispersed through the city, siphoning what bits of life they could from the dreaming forms of the citizens, but that pure, unprotected essence they’d tasted earlier had flared back into their hollow existence. They wanted more; needed more.


    Scuttles climbed up the chair and along the underside of the seat to the keys. There wouldn’t be time to unfasten them, so they bit the keys and used an entropy charged claw to disintegrate the ring about them. The duo dropped back to the floor and rushed the mouthful of keys to Trebonde.


     To his credit, Trebonde took the keys without hesitation and unlocked the gate. The latch opened with a mechanical clank that alerted the guard, but Trebonde was already charging and knocked guard out cold with the side of the pick axe fastened to his arm. 


    Amari sent the squirrel back into hibernation and rushed back into her own body. She gasped to life and immediately searched for the wraiths. Now relying on only her sight the spirits appeared as nothing more than shadows, flickers, and shivers at the edge of perception, but that enough to locate them. She extended the lines of power that ran through her arms and lit her hands in purple flames. The specters attention turned from the squirrel to her and she swatted them from existence like flies until the mob finally broke.


    “Uhm, what are you doing?” Trebonde asked as he shackled the guard to the gate and she flailed at the empty air with hands burning with violet fires.


    “Ghosts, they’re attracted to my familiar.”


    The rogue shook his head. “You have so many questions to answer for when we get out of here.”


    Amari grunted and then started to help Trebonde loot the room. He took the guard’s sword and she took the man’s dagger. The guard was wearing heavy iron armor, but Trebonde still stripped him for his trousers and undershirt. Amari found a closet with Urzoga’s clothing and stole a shirt and trousers. They were still much too large and she had to rollup both the shirt sleeves and trouser legs, but at least they were fitted for a woman.


    They shoveled some food in their mouths then stuffed a sack with more rations and a few gold pouches they found. Amari found a cheese cloth and a leather strap that she quickly made a crude necklace to carry Scuttles bones in.


    “So those creepy bones you’ve always carried around your neck, you’ve been able to reanimate them this whole time?” Trebonde asked eyeing her new necklace. “I thought those were only a memento or something.”


    “No, Scuttle’s is still alive, I just wake him up. And he is a memento; Scuttle’s is the only thing left from my old life.” Amari spoke quietly while holding the bones tightly.


     Trebonde didn’t know if that was better or worse. “Come on; let’s go.”


    Between Trebonde’s experience and Amari’s sight, the two easily passed the sleeping mine guards evaded the city patrols, but the keen eyes of one stopped them in their tracks at the last stretch to the main gates.


    “Halt! Who goes there!” an authoritative voice boomed at the shadows the two had been slinking through.


    “Oh, hi Tyranus; didn’t see you there. Glad to see you survived!” Trebonde lied as he stepped into the light of the Dwemer lanterns.


    Tyranus looked well rested, but his clothing did not. Those had more scorch marks and blood stains than cloth visible.  


    “That I did, though the same cannot be said for the Forsworn of the Broken Tower Redoubt. A passing Imperial convoy transported me to the temple, a place I was thankful to learn the Sybil reached safely, but was less than pleased when I heard of your indiscretions. Why are you free now?”


    “Good behavior. How’s your investigation going?”


    Tyranus snorted in disbelief. “No one is speaking as usual, but this house is peculiar; the people truly have no memory of it. I was about to investigate it myself, but that can wait for the guards whom I’m sure will verify your story.”


    The house looked no different than the other stone and brass structures lining the corridor, but it was true that this house was difficult to focus on. The eyes tended to slide past the house and it took a force of will to look directly at it; the perfect hiding place.


    “No need,” Trebonde continued, purposefully ignoring Tyranus’s suspicions of them. “We’ll help you look.”


    Before either Amari or Tyranus could stop him, he rushed inside the house.


    “Damn that man!” Tyranus cursed, then turned to Amari. “Well, I’m not letting you at of my sight either!”


    He grabbed her by the arm and dragged her inside the house with him. She screamed in protest and dug her heels in, not caring anymore if the guards heard. Something about the house made her stomach clench and knot, but she could not resist the vigilant’s strength and soon the brass door was slamming shut behind them, trapping them all inside.  


    The insides of the house looked no less ordinary than the outside:  clean, well lit with candles, fresh food set out as if waiting for someone to come home for dinner; but now they could all feel something was inherently wrong with the space.


    Amari broke free of Tyranus’s grasp and rushed to the door. She heaved with all her strength, but it didn’t budge in the slightest, as if it was frozen in time.  She plastered her back to the door and whispered:


    He’s here.” The other two turned towards her, realizing their peril too late. “Molag Bal is here…”


    With that the Prince of Coldharbor, the Lord of Domination laughed. The malevolent sound reverberated through the walls as if the whole house was but an extension of the Daedra and the party’s blood turned to ice in their veins at its passing.  







11 Comments   |   Felkros and 1 other like this.
  • SpottedFawn
    SpottedFawn   ·  September 24, 2017
    Love it whenever wraiths and other monsters start showing up. That Scuttles is a magnet for supernatural attention. Amari too! 
    Well done handling Amari's feelings in this chapter. xD I'm in the same boat. I'm the same age as one of my protagon...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 7, 2016
    lol! Ya, I've just been using that as a chapter placeholder for awhile now.
  • Lyall
    Lyall   ·  January 7, 2016
    I was wondering what the ~????~ linked to, and then I found out what it was. Something that should be in a chapter. Lol, I can imagine the character's reactions now.
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 7, 2016
    No Sean Bean! Don't make me kill you!
    @ Lissette: Dang, my attempt at sabotage was thwarted
    @ Loka: Thanks! Always glad to hear when the characters make a connection with the reader.
    I was starting to write the next chapter right before...  more
  • LokaCola
    LokaCola   ·  January 7, 2016
    Another nice chapter, I agree that you seem to portray Amari in a realistic fashion (although I can hardly relate to that personally, but it seems realistic to me).

    I'm actually surprised that you have made me like Tyranus, as I could barely ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 7, 2016
    Do it! Do it! Nope, like Amari and Trebonde too much. Tyranus will have to remain, Skyrim's version of...

    Sean Bean.
    One day, someone will have to tell the biggest "What if" story in Skyrim. 
    Dremora seem to have black souls in th...  more
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 7, 2016
    That's good to hear; I was definitely worried about this part. Unrequited loves are a special sort of tragic. Trebonde may be able to talk his way out of (or into) most problems, but he's clueless about how to deal with Amari. Can't say I've ever been in ...  more
  • The Long-Chapper
    The Long-Chapper   ·  January 7, 2016
    You did a great job with Amari, having been a 16 year old girl myself once. It was very sensitively done but at the same time realistic. My favorite quote. 
    Amari sat in full lotus and sent her spirit along the link to her hibernating familiar. She ...  more
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 7, 2016
    Can relate to that. Try a 22 year old girl with werewolf issues (You'll find out all about these later).
  • Exuro
    Exuro   ·  January 7, 2016
    Lol, that deserves an award She'll probably have some excuse like working or sleeping
    Thanks I was going to post this in the review discussion first, but I got excited and forgot to.  I'm worried if whether I captured Amari acting like a 16 year-old...  more