Dragon of the East - Arc 1, Chapter 9

  • Dar-Meena

    ~ ~ ~

    Riften was a straight shot upstream. I made it there in half the time it would’ve taken me on horseback. Might have been the first time I actually appreciated my amphibious traits. Most Argonians spend their lives staying close to water. My family didn’t. There weren’t any lakes or rivers near Chorrol where I grew up. Gills, webbed feet, a tail for swimming… I had these all things, but they never meant anything to me.

    Now they were the only reason I was still alive.

    The river widened into a small lake. I came ashore some ways away from Riften’s front gates, dripping wet. Nearly all of my gear had been left behind. The only things I still had were the clothes I wore, a knife, and a light soggy coin purse. There might’ve still been a lockpick or two in my pockets but I didn’t bother to check. I looked everywhere for the monster that attacked me. No trace, just sights of the city and autumn forest.

    The sun was starting to set. Thin dark clouds floated near the edges of the mountains against an orange-pink sky. I heard cattle mooing from farm and a constant chirping of crickets. Or were they tree frogs? I can never tell the difference. Fishing boats were tied to Riften’s docks, where fishery workers carried nets filled with salmon. Guardsmen kept on patrols.

    Everything was calm. Against my shock it felt so disgustingly uncomfortable. People stopped to stare at me, whispering to one another. I walked up to Riften’s entrance sore and shivering. There were two guards posted by the stone archway.

    “Hold there!” one of them said to me as I came near, signaling ‘halt’ with his outstretched hand. “That’s close enough.”

    They wore uniforms of fur and leather over chainmail, with purple cloth matching the color of the hold’s banner. You couldn’t see their faces behind the blinds of their metal helmets – tall, slender looking things with small spikes at the top.

    “I don’t know your business,” the man continued, “but sorry looks won’t get you into Riften for free. You pay the visitor’s tax, just like everyone else.”

    I straightened from my tired slouch.

    “A tax?” I snapped. “What for!?”

    “For the privilege of entering the city,” he said. “What does it matter?”

    Unbelievable. A shakedown, of all things. Whatever fear I had at that moment thawed away. My shoulder started to flare and sting. I was pissed.

    “What makes you think I’ve got anything worth giving you?” I growled. “Daedra and Divines, do I look like–”

    “If you don’t want in, that’s fine,” the guardsman interrupted. “Makes no difference to me. Have a good walk to the next city.”

    I lost it and angrily shoved back the guard. He reached for his weapon.

    “Let off, you bastard!!” I yelled. “I didn’t survive being attacked by some giant flying lizard just to get panhandled by gate keepers!”

    The men froze. They passed glances at each other.

    “Giant flying lizard?” the other asked with a hint of fear. “You don’t mean… a dragon?”

    “Is that what you call those things!? Huge wings? Sharp teeth? Breathes fire?”

    I swear I saw the guard gape behind his helm. People working the stables and farmland stopped to listen. I was causing a scene.

    “It can’t be… She could be lying,” the second guard whispered to his cohort.                   

    “You,” said the other to me. “When did this happen? Where did you see this dragon?”

    “Further down river, along the side of the road,” I grumbled, “It killed my companions and wrecked a caravan. Head there and you’ll see it. The place is a graveyard.”

    The guardsman started running down the road. I almost stopped him out of frustration. Where did he think he was going all of a sudden?

    “I’ll pass on the news to the watchtowers,” he called back. “Get this Argonian to Mistveil Keep!” The guy had a good pace going down the road. He was spooked.

    “You heard him,” the other guard said to me while unlocking the gate. “The Jarl’s going to want to hear about this herself.”

    So much for the visitor’s tax. These larcenous Nords were taking my news awfully seriously. That didn’t sit well with me. Pushing open the heavy wooden doors of Riften’s entrance, the guard stepped inside.

    “What’s a Jarl?” I asked, following close behind.


    Didn’t take long for me to have my answer. Jarls are the men and women who govern Skyrim’s holds, like counts or countesses back in Cyrodiil. They’re usually accompanied by a steward, someone who handles logistics or legal matters, and a housecarl, a sort of personal bodyguard. There’s a court wizard too, naturally. Thanes as well, members of the Jarl’s court. They’re important for some reason, but I couldn’t figure out why.

    All of these people were assembled in Mistveil Keep, Riften’s castle. We stood in a warm dining hall, a large brick chamber with a high vaulted ceiling. Dark wood dining tables boxed around a large fire. They were set with all sorts of roasted foods and cold drinks. I must’ve interrupted dinner. Mounted deer heads hung on the walls next to banners bearing Riften’s insignia, two crossed swords stitched in yellow on purple cloth.

    Laila Lawgiver, the Jarl, sat on her throne near the back of the room on an elevated platform. She was probably a stocky Nord beneath her regal robes, with white fox fur wrapped around her neck. The woman wore a silver circlet on her forehead, keeping her red hair collected back. She studied me with unpleasant scrutiny.

    “And you swam the entire way here?” she asked. Her voice was deep and poised.

    “Yes,” I said. “I don’t know if the dragon tried to follow me or not.”

    I was told to give a full account of what happened. So I did. The Jarl and her dressed up court listened to my story with rapt attention. I just wanted to get it over with. My clothes were still cold and damp. It wouldn’t have killed them to let me talk while warming up to the fire, but I guess that didn’t cross their busy minds.

    “Anuriel,” the Jarl said, speaking to the Wood Elf steward beside her, “have our scouts come up with any other reports on this dragon?”

    “There have been scattered sightings by folk living out in the woods,” the woman replied, “but nothing substantial until now.”

    “I trust we have someone looking into the site of this supposed attack?”

    “Yes milady. A small party has headed there now to investigate.”

    “Good,” the Jarl said, relaxing somewhat. “Then we’ll find out the truth of this matter soon enough.”

    It turned out that rumors of dragons were widespread as of late, though nobody heeded them. They hadn’t been seen for thousands of years. Not that they’d be able to say that anymore.

    “How are you going to defend this city if the dragon attacks?” I asked. “The walls sure aren’t going to keep it out.”

    “We’ll have a contingency plan in place for Riften’s guard, once we have proof that your account is accurate,” Anuriel said.

    “You think I’d make all this up?” I scoffed. “What happens if your men don’t come back? What’s to stop the dragon from picking them off too?”

    “Our men know the risks. Even if there is a dragon, they’ll make it back,” the Jarl’s housecarl asserted. His war painted face and moonstone armor were glowing with candle light. A huge sword rested on his back. He had the guise of a Nord who’d lop your arm off if you looked at him funny.

    “You haven’t seen it,” I hissed. “You don’t know what it can do.”

    “And you should learn when to hold your tongue,” the man retorted, a scowl lifting the hair of his goatee.

    “Leave the girl be, Unmid,” Jarl Laila said. “Whether her story is true or not, she’s clearly been through an ordeal.”

    The Jarl turned to me, sitting back in her throne.

    “I’m afraid we can’t offer you much aid,” she said. “Our resources are spread thin from the war. Speak with Talen-Jai and Keerava. They own the city’s inn, the Bee and Barb. I’m sure they’ll be willing to help you.”

    Nodding, I dismissed myself, stepping back out into the freezing air outside. I slowly walked along the city’s dark streets, brushing my hand against a cold stone wall. Shivers ran down my tail.

    Talen-Jai and Keerava… those were Argonian names. Is that why the Jarl figured they’d help me? Sure, I thought, let the lizards take care of their own kind. I honestly didn’t expect any Argonians to live this far north. Dead leaves crunched beneath my feet. The pain in my shoulder was intense. Nothing to do but suck it up and trudge on, though. I’d never be able to afford a healer with what little money I had left.

    The city had a darkish blue hue. Guardsmen were lighting lanterns. I skirted around the town center, walking on boardwalks that rimmed the chasm of a water canal. I knew better than to whine out loud, but I wished things would stop happening so quickly. Couldn’t get Lisaa and Ertius out of my head. The gods know I had no love for them, but the way they died…

    I wouldn’t wish deaths like that on anyone…

    The sight of a stranger walking out of the shadows interrupted my melancholy. I slowed to a stop. He was leaning against a house beneath the shade of a balcony. The man looked enough like a Nord, clad in iron armor with a dark coat draped over. There was a mien of menace on his rugged face.

    “I don’t know you,” the man spoke with a gruff and surly voice. “You and Riften looking for trouble?”

    I didn’t like where this was going.

    “That depends,” I replied tetchily. “Is it looking for me? Or can I keep walking…?”

    “Don’t say something you’ll regret,” the Nord said. “Last thing the Black Briars need is some wise-ass mouthing off in their city.”

    “Uh-huh. And the Black Briars are who?”

    “Someone oughta’ told you by now.”

    “I’ve been a bit busy…”

    “They’re the family runnin’ this place. And they don’t like people who meddle in their affairs. Best keep that in mind while you’re here.”

    “Cut the tough guy act,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I get the message. I’ll stay out of your hair. Are we done?”

    The man took a step forward. He did not look happy.

    “You’d better not be this stupid. I’m not here to make empty threats. The Black Briars have Riften’s guard in their pocket and the thieves’ guild watchin’ their back.”

    I let out a small chuckle.

    “Aw, so that makes you their little guard dog, doesn’t it? Adorable.”

    If he’d been angry before, he was furious after that. The veins on his neck were bulging. The Nord strode up and grabbed my collar, slamming me against a wooden beam. He was pressing into my bad shoulder. I fought the urge to scream in pain.

    “That’s enough out of you,” the man growled. The scent of his oily black hair was thick in my face. “Think I ought to send you off with a couple of broken bones. Teach you some manners.”

    Can’t imagine it would have been hard for him to do that. I mustered what bravado I still had and cracked a smile.

    “Not afraid to get your hands dirty, huh?” I said.

    “I’m gettin’ really sick of hearing you talk.”

    “Then I’ll keep this simple… My hands aren’t exactly clean either. If you can set aside our squabble, you’ll see we’re on the same side.”

    The Nord wrinkled an eyebrow.

    “Is that so?” He doubted.

    “You mentioned a Thieves’ Guild,” I said, still fighting against the pain. “It just so happens that I came here looking for them. Point me in the right direction and the Black Briars can have themselves an ally.”

    The man mulled over my proposal. That last part I told him was a lie, I just wanted to sound convincing. Didn’t give a damn about the Black Briars. I promised myself I wouldn’t get too cozy with folks in this city. A safe distance is always healthy. The blades that cut deepest are in the hands of people close to you. By the time I learned that lesson, I was already bleeding to death. And I don’t mean figuratively.

    “How do I know you’re not some half-assed poser?” the Nord grumbled.

    “You don’t make empty threats, right? Well, I don’t boast…”

    I made a quick glance downward. The Nord followed my eyes. He saw the tip of my knife pointed at a chink in his armor.

    “…I’m just good at what I do,” I assured, a smirk on my face.

    The man pushed away. My arm was trembling. With his pressure off the pain eased, but only a little. Still, it was sweet relief.

    “Guess you’re not as a dumb as you look,” the Nord said with some surprise.

    “Is that a compliment? I’m flattered,” I chirped, feigning amusement. “You seem like someone who knows this city. Anything else you’d like to tell me about the Thieves’ Guild?”

    “Hmph… What’s not to tell?” he snorted. “My brother Dirge works in their hideout. I used to run with them myself before they started hittin’ a rough patch.”


    “And I’m Maul. I watch the streets for the Black Briars, now.”

    Some names. They sounded more like job descriptions. That was probably the point.

    “Okay,” I said, “so how do I contact them?”

    Maul stopped to look at the town center for a second.

    “You’ll want to talk to Brynjolf when he gets back. He handles recruitment.”

    “When he gets back?”                                                                                                

    “He’s out on some business. You’ll have to make your own way around for now. Just take my advice – don’t go thieving yet ‘till you’ve joined. The guild doesn’t like competition.”

    That figured. Still, no competition if you don’t know someone’s competing. I wouldn’t get caught.

    “Fine,” I said, stretching my arms with a grunt. “Now, are we done? It’s cold out here.”

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17 Comments   |   Fallout Night likes this.
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 31, 2015
    Haha yeah I always have a bit of trouble distinguishing the Bosmer ladies from Altmer ladies. XD They have a very similar choice in hairstyles.
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  August 30, 2015
    Fixed and fixed. That first bit was weird. I don't know why I assumed Anuriel was a high elf. Must've been the hair or something... 
  • The Wing
    The Wing   ·  August 30, 2015
    “Anuriel,” the Jarl said, speaking to her high elf steward close by...

    Anuriel is a Bosmer.
    The city had a darkish blue hue, except where Gaurdsmen were lighting lanterns.

  • Idesto
    Idesto   ·  July 11, 2015
    I like this Dar-Meena :)
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  May 14, 2015
    The more I read about Da-Meena, ,the I think about Han Solo. It's sad realy how my mind works. I can imagine her talking to Maul sitting in a bar with a crossbow hidden under the table as she talks to him.
     It just goes to show how much of a strong ...  more
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  February 7, 2015
    Hey, I've improved a lot of these chapters with editing since you stopped reading. Waiting might not have been such a bad thing. I'm just glad you thought enough of the story to come back. ^^
  • Raid
    Raid   ·  February 7, 2015
    Okan your writing is inspirational. In fact, I've actually recommenced a blog of mine as a result, which I hope to be posting soon.

    So glad I've finally got around to reading this. I read the first seven or so chapters, then never carried on,...  more
  • adds-many-comments
    adds-many-comments   ·  July 25, 2014
    Those are the things I've always wanted to say to him, but your only options are passive or cowardly. Good to him put in his place for once.
  • Kei Torshei
    Kei Torshei   ·  June 20, 2014
    I guess you could say*
  • Kei Torshei
    Kei Torshei   ·  June 20, 2014
    It was more like after surviving the character was traumatized I guess you could I'm no good with roleplaying but great story though