Character Sketch: Drifa Skir, Ranger

  • I'm not really sure where I'm going with this at the moment, but my vague plan is to put up a series of story sketches of the many characters that live in my brain.  Long-term, I'd like to have them interact, and maybe find some plot and conflict.  But for now, just a character set-piece, and eventually some profiles.  Apologies for the photo-free wall of text; as soon as I can produce some decent screen shots, I'll add them.


    Drifa swore stubbornly, gritting her teeth and summoning up every blue curse word from every soldier and sailor she’d ever met as she tightened the wraps around her frostbitten hands.  The fire she’d built wasn’t nearly large enough to warm the windy, hollow space of the broken-down tower she’d taken over, and she had neither the strength nor the energy to get up to seek more firewood.  This Dragonborn business was ridiculous, she thought.  Damned dragons.  Damned Greybeards.  And while we’re at it, damn the bandits, and the bears, ~and~ the Imperials, and my own lack of planning in not bringing more tonics and salves.  And maybe a large well-armed friend or two.

    Her fingers weren’t seriously damaged, even though she couldn’t feel the fingertips.  But the deep bone ache in the joints of her hands and wrists would effectively make her useless for a long while yet, and it made it near impossible to properly bind her more serious wounds – the long jagged slash on her thigh, the burns on her shoulder, arms and face, the two punctures in her right arm.  She’d used up all of the flasks and bottles of warming and healing drinks she’d brought with her simply to stay alive in the first few hours.  Building a small fire from the dried splinters of some barrels she found under the steps, Drifa had promptly passed out on the freezing stone floor of the tower before she could even take out her bed roll, completely drained and depleted of all energy.  When she’d regained consciousness, the first thing she had done after clumsily wrapping her still-oozing wounds with scavenged sackcloth and the remains of her town dress was to carefully ration out her food supply and the remaining plant and animal ingredients in her satchel.  Conservatively, she had five days’ worth of foods and medicines to soothe her burns and slashes, and she hoped that would be enough to heal her and stave off fever until she recovered sufficiently to hunt, and to resume her journey toward Riften.


    To while away the time and take her mind off of the million burning throbbing points of pain, Drifa sang softly to herself, the old sagas of the Companions, the tales of the Askelde Men, the epic of Fjori and Holgeir.  Snow melt heated over the fire in her beat-up old water-skin made for a warming and delicious dragon tongue tea – if only she had thought to make extra, with some elves’ ear thrown in, before she’d encountered dragons number one and two.  The frost mirriam-purple mountain tea was bitter and not nearly so pleasant without any honey to sweeten it, but the fierce winds gusting through the tower made it more palatable, and the familiar burnt grassy aroma was soothing.  She dozed, ate some cold roasted rabbit, checked her wounds, tested how many Songs of the Return she could remember before the dizziness took her, and dozed again.


    On the third day, she stretched her limbs experimentally and tested her weight on her injured right leg, hobbling around the circumference of her tiny campsite on the first floor.  The large, tender scab on her thigh stretched as her makeshift bandage pulled at it, sending racing fire up her leg and side.  Stubbornly, she slowly placed increasing weight on it, leaning against the cold stairs, shouting out verses from the songs of Wulfharth until she grew hoarse and the throbbing in her thigh subsided.  Foiled in her plan to examine the upper reaches of the tower for additional supplies, Drifa returned to her bedroll in the foulest of moods, and prayed fervently to Kyne that she would be well enough to travel soon.  A few days of an empty stomach she could tolerate, but if she couldn’t get out and hunt or scavenge to nourish her battered body, she’d be too weak to get out of this Divines-forsaken place.  There was no one who knew where she was, and very few who would have cared enough to come looking.  It was normal for Drifa to disappear into the wilds for weeks at a time; it wouldn’t even occur to her friends that anything was amiss for another month or two.


    By the morning of the fifth day, the large angry scab on her thigh had hardened enough to move without pulling, and she climbed slowly to the top of the stairs.  The tower had clearly been ransacked ages ago.  Nothing of value was left, and the roof timbers had long since crumbled, leaving the upper floor open to the fierce blue sky.  Stowing her gear and scattering the traces of her presence with a battered leather boot, she hobbled over to the south tower to investigate, leaning heavily on the haft of her spear as a crutch.  Fortunately, some kind soul had left her several bottles clearly marked as healing serums, as well as a satchel with packets of vampire dust and slaughterfish scales.  His crumbling skeleton still clutched a rusted and unrecognizable weapon.  That poor slob had apparently run out of blood before he ran out of rabbit. Drifa sent up a silent prayer of thanks for her own renewed strength, and set about gingerly grinding together a fortifying tonic with ingredients from her pack, forcing her healing but still screaming fingers to work.


    The weather was clear and bright when she retraced her steps northward before resuming her journey to Riften.  By the end of the afternoon, her knapsack was filled to bursting with dragon bones, dragon scale, and half a dozen very expensive weapons she’d found in the dragon’s cache.  It had been slow, grueling work butchering a dragon, but the proceeds from selling those items would keep her in food and ale for months.  Too bad none of that very rare and valuable loot could have fed her or healed her, but the last round of tonics scavenged from the south tower had somewhat rectified the situation.  The glowing Dragon language glyphs on the monument at the top of the hill hadn’t helped a damned thing either, nor the dragon soul that had temporarily dizzied her, filling her nostrils with the smell of sulfur and brimstone.  Some “blessing”, this Dragonborn blood.


    She skinned and declawed the carcasses of two bears that fell to her arrows; fortunately she had seen them from the top of the mount and taken refuge behind the Dragon wall before they saw her.  She didn’t really need the few gold septims the pelts would give her, and it probably would have been better to move on to safety sooner, but she set to the work anyway out of long habit.  Never leave behind anything that can be used if you can carry it; waste not and want not had been the credo of her parents, and it had long served her well.  Besides, the pelts would make an appropriate offering to Kyne for keeping her nearly-stolen breath in her body.  Take that, bastards, she thought wryly, you savage me and I steal your claws.  I’m making a rug out of you.


    Moving on, she carefully skirted the Imperial encampment she’d blundered into days before, bleeding, burnt and half-frozen.  She had no longer been able to draw the string on her bow at that point – her fingers were numb and the deep burns on her right shoulder had cracked and wept with every pullback, leaving her in agony.  She had taken several arrows before she could close within range of the beardless Imperial scout who had skewered her, and she’d had to approach much closer than she would have liked, struggling to wield her spear with only her left arm and finish each soldier off, one after the other, slogging and gasping.  She couldn’t even fall back on the Voice; she had exhausted herself killing that monstrous bastard of a dragon only a few hours earlier.  It was the slimmest of chances that Drifa was still alive, and a Gods-granted miracle that she’d killed most of them and escaped the last wounded, ranting legate before he killed her.


    Stretching her limbs and breathing deeply in the cold air, her leg still deeply painful but feeling more hale and hearty than she had in a week, Drifa looped eastward.  Passing the outskirts of the dwarven ruin, she checked the scattered bodies of the bandits she’d had to kill along with seemingly every other creature on Kyne’s blessed earth on that Oblivion-blasted nightmare of a day.  Nothing worth salvaging; mostly old battered hide armor and pitted iron swords.  The freezing cold and snow had preserved the looks of surprise and anger on the faces of the bandits just as they had been when they’d encountered her arrows, and the sprays of blood scattered by her spear had frozen in gory patterns.  The snow and cold also muted their stink; didn’t these cretins ever wash?  With a whole mountainside of snow, they had no excuse.


    Largashbur was only a few hours east on foot, but it took her the better part of a day to reach it.  Her injured leg throbbing and stiffening in the cold, she decided to stop there for the night.  Hunting and setting up camp was clearly beyond her abilities.  Contrary to much Nord racial abuse, the Orcs smelled a great deal better than the brigands had, as did the savory venison that was grilling over the cookpit.  Atub, the wise woman, greeted her as she limped up the slope.  “This one has clearly done well for herself today.  You look like skeever remains dragged from a sabrecat pit.”  She examined Drifa’s wounds, listening expressionlessly as the blonde woman recounted the trials and tribulations of the past week.  “Seems to me that you should avoid meeting Imperials and dragons at the same time.  Poor planning on your part.”  Drifa grinned at Atub’s laconic comments; she hadn’t expected any pity from an Orc, of course, but she knew Atub’s dry sense of humor, and recognized the older woman’s rough affection for her despite her Nord heritage.  Atub spread the burn ointment briskly and generously, coating the shoulder not particularly gently, but perhaps a little less roughly than she might have otherwise.


    The stars were out and Masser and Secunda loomed over the lake by the time she arrived at Riften the next evening.  The wind stirred the birches in the moonlight, and the snow cover had mostly melted, leaving only patches here and there on the leaf-strewn earth.  Drifa had briefly considered making a home here; it was a beautiful area, teeming with game and rich with medicinal plants.  That warrior Mjoll seemed like she could be a friend, and Balimund certainly would have loved to have her stay – he hinted about it every time she came to town.  But she wanted to punch that Black-Briar woman in the face every time their paths crossed.  Drifa knew better than to tangle with that witch, but sooner or later that arrogant ass Harrald was going to meet with her fist or her boot; it was inevitable, like the rising of the sun or the changing of the leaves.  Despite Riften’s many charms, the daily aggravation just didn’t seem worth it, and Drifa preferred to stay on Jarl Laila’s good side for a while longer.  Truthfully, Riften was too much a town, too crowded and lively, for her to be comfortable for long.


  • Laurie Bear
    Laurie Bear   ·  July 30, 2014
    I love this character...  I love the way you wrote about Riften and the townsfolk.  Yeah, I think this is one of my all time favorties!
  • Jono
    Jono   ·  February 22, 2014
    Drifa, this is an amazing Character sketch. I have read the whole of this without getting bored, which is what some people on this site can't do, they tend to make the reader bored, but in this piece of work it keeps the reader intrigued to read on. You c...  more
  • Soneca the Exiled
    Soneca the Exiled   ·  January 21, 2014
    This is nice Drifa, my only advice is that you separate the dialogues a bit better, consider giving each one of them a paragraph, makes it easier to know when people are talking
  • Madmonk35
    Madmonk35   ·  January 21, 2014
    Love it, this is the main reason I joined this site. I'm doing a Dawn Guard play though with hopes of telling an awesome tale. Keep working at it.
  • Drifa Skir
    Drifa Skir   ·  January 8, 2014
    Thanks for the good word, all!
  • Okan-Zeeus
    Okan-Zeeus   ·  January 8, 2014
    Ah, I see I'm not the only one who's forum name is based off a created character. 
    There's a lot of good stuff, here. Your writing is solid with strong language use. I may even have to remember some of your lines for future reference... XD
    The...  more
  • Drifa Skir
    Drifa Skir   ·  January 8, 2014
    My improvement goal is to find some action and plot, but I think it might be a while. :)
  • Grubbi
    Grubbi   ·  January 8, 2014
    Very good! nice job.