SotF: Blood & Silver

  • I

    She woke to the sound of a crackling fire, the smell of cloves, cinnamon and clean linen; a comforting combination if she knew where she was or how she got there.


    She winced as she opened her eyes, the world was spinning and her eyes could not make sense of what she saw. Breathing was also difficult, it felt as if someone or something was sitting on her chest.


    Falrielle moved her head, grimacing in pain, and moaned.


    ‘Lie still and remain calm,’ said a voice, a woman’s voice.


    ‘Breath and focus, friend. Worry not, you are safe,’ she continued. ‘When we found you, you were at death’s door and the gods be praised that you pulled back. Thirsty? I have a drink for you, worry not; it is just tea, Canis to be exact. Calms the nerves and dulls the pain, I brewed it not too long ago so it should be lukewarm at the moment. I am sure you have many questions but first, drink.’


    Falrielle could hear the woman getting up from her chair and she walked to a corner of the room, her boots on the wooden floor the whole way through before she returned. Then she heard a thump on the nightstand next to her and the sound of water pouring.


    The woman sat on the edge of the bed and lifted Falrielle’s head up before placing the cup on Falrielle’s cracked lips. She slowly tipped the cup and Falrielle felt a warm trickle down her lips but she didn’t care, she had her focus on that quenching sensation, a feeling she once took for granted and before she knew it, the cup was empty.


    The women laid Falrielle down and then gently dabbed away the spills on her face. As much as it made her head spin, Falrielle opened her eyes to take a peek at her caretaker and the only features she could make out was that her caretaker was a human wearing a robe of some sort with a hood that hid her face.


    As much as it pained her to breathe let alone speak, Falrielle mustered what little strength she had to whisper her name.






    ‘My name… Falrielle,’ she repeated herself.


    The woman smiled.


    ‘Falrielle?’ the woman replied, her voice soft yet chipper. ‘A good name, one that I will remember. Well met, Falrielle. I am Carcette, proud Vigilant of Stendarr.’


    A Vigilant of Stendarr… Falrielle has heard of their order. A bunch of self-righteous fanatics who would preach the mercy of Stendarr on one hand whilst crushing any forms of Daedric presence in the other. Hypocritical like most of their sort but Falrielle was no ingrate, she knew that she owed this stranger her life.


    ‘Good to see you up and awake. You have been bedridden for two days now and yesterday was the worst of it,’ said Carcette. ‘Your body burned hot yet you shivered like you were cold,’ she continued, soaking a cloth in a bucket of water, wringing out the excess and placing it on Falrielle’s forehead. It felt cool.




    ‘Yes, two days. When we found you, you were lying on the ground struggling to even breathe and you were also coughing up so much blood that they thought that you were a lost cause. Stendarr be praised that we arrived when we did but anyway, you must of have given them one heck of a fight! I counted six bodies around you, four of them with their skulls bashed in.’


    Falrielle smirked.


    ‘Not really one for fighting myself, violence is not something I take pleasure in. Oh, yes. You have no idea just how difficult it was trying to patch you together. Other than the cuts and bruises, you had a fractured rib and a collapsed lung. I had to stick in needle in your chest so if it hurts… well now you know. Also try not to breathe or cough too hard. Am I talking too much?’


    Falrielle shook her head.


    ‘That cut on your face… Might I interest you on the tale on how you acquired it?’


    Falrielle nodded. She was in pain and in no condition to move so she thought she might as well enjoy the company.


    ‘I am sure you have heard of the stories of heathen rituals of the Witchmen of High Rock, rituals both awesome and terrible,’ she whispered pensively, ‘one such dark ritual is the Pact of the Torn Prince, named after the epic of the same name. According to Forsworn folklore, the Torn Prince was one of the nine promised heroes who would deliver the Reach to the true Reachmen. The bastard son of the Jarl, the Torn Prince was to be murdered to hide the Jarl secret but before the Jarl’s men could slit his throat, the young Prince was saved by a tribe of Reachmen who refused to let an innocent child die. Taking him as their own, the Torn Prince grew up as one of them, becoming both skilled with the blade and clever with his spells. On his 20th name day, the wise woman of the tribe saw his future: the Torn Prince was chosen by the Old Gods to free the land of his ancestors. So began his war with the oppressors of the Reach.


    Blade in one hand and magic in the other, woe befell to his enemies and no bladesman, bowman or mage could match him in direct combat and for every champion that fell before him, the Prince grew stronger. As the lore goes, for every champion he slew, the Torn Prince would feast upon their still warm hearts as commanded by the Old Gods. And for each heart he feasted upon, the Old Gods would grant him their blessing. Victory and liberation was on the horizon as no man was able to defeat the Torn Prince in the field of battle… but even champions of the gods need sleep.


    One night after an evening of revelry, a small cadre of Reachmen, some say to be his own shield-siblings, slit his throat as he slept. No one knows who they truly were or why they did it: by dawn they were drawn and quartered by the loyalists and their faces flayed and nailed onto the trunk of an elder tree. In honour of their prince, the Forsworn made a pact with the gods: for each foe they slew, they shall feast upon their hearts as their prince did. For every insult to the Reach, the perpetrators will have their faces flayed and nailed to the trunk of an elder tree. That was their oath that was the Pact of the Torn Prince.’


    Falrielle chuckled at that last bit. Flay her face and devour her heart, flattering in a brutal and macabre sort of way.


    ‘Strange, is it not? I may not personally agree with their views but even the Forsworn know how to tell a good story,’ said Carcette. ‘And to think that my brothers and sisters insist that I keep them to myself. It is criminal, I say! Criminal!’ she continued, before stopping herself for a moment.


    ‘I am running my mouth again, am I?’


    The girl really liked to talk but Falrielle kept her opinion to herself and quietly nodded her head. Besides, it’s not like she was in condition for debate anyway.




    ‘We?’ We are in a room in the Silent Stone Inn of the Reach owned and run by Bolin, son of Balen, son of Bolun. The bandages? His work. Good man and a good friend of the Vigil. You should try the dried meat when you get the chance, much easier on the teeth than you would expect. Worry not of payment, it has already been settled and worry not of compensation, yours surviving is payment enough.’


    Damn, Falrielle thought. The world didn’t work like that, you stupid girl, her thoughts raced. Falrielle was in her debt and the Vigilant just raised the price, whether she knew it or not. But still she said nothing, she owed her that much.


    Falrielle could hear the sounds of speech and laughter on the other side of the door and that’s when it hit her: Why was this woman here? Where is…




    ‘Are we? As I said, we are in the-‘


    ‘No… Faerin… where…is…he? Where…is…my…brother?’


    The Vigilant paused for a moment. She stammered her words, trying to find the right words to say but she didn’t need to say anything. Her hesitation told Falrielle all she needed to know. Her finally shutting up told her more than words ever could.


    ‘My companions and I, we the Vigil of Stendarr was tasked by the people of the Reach to hunt down a Forsworn warband who have been responsible for a series of raids. These villages have sought aid from the Jarl but to no avail so that is where we came in. We have been chasing them for weeks but by the time we tracked them down…’


    Deathly silence. Naught but the crackling of the flame and the muffled revelry.


    The Vigilant sighed.


    ‘I am sorry.’


    Falrielle cursed under her breath. Damn it, Faerin. Damn it, you fucking idiot, she cursed. It was a long time coming, the fate of those who lived by the sword but now that it happened, she didn’t know what to feel. She felt sad, she felt angry, and she felt… lost. Well, what now?


    Falrielle opened her eyes once again, the pain only being a minor annoyance now and she saw got a better look at her caretaker. Still under a hood, Carcette has strands of blonde hair on her face and brown eyes. As she looked at the Vigilant, the Vigilant looked back and she could see the sadness in her eyes.


    But why? Why was she sad? It wasn’t her brother nor her friends that was killed? No, that’s not sadness. It was pity and Falrielle hated it. How dare she pity her! How dare she! HOW DARE!


    ‘The gods-‘


    ‘Fuck… your gods!’ snarled Falrielle, her rage conquering her pain. ‘Why are you sorry? You don’t even know me! Do you pity me?’


    ‘Fuck your pity! I don’t want your pity. I don’t need your-‘ she continued before she felt a sharp pain in her chest that sent her into a coughing fit. The Vigilant held her hand only for Falrielle to shove her away. Your pity insults me, Falrielle thought. Why did she bother saving her? Was it so she could feel better about herself?


    Then she tasted blood.


    ‘By the gods,’ said Carcette as she took a cloth, soaked with the essences of medicinal herbs and covered Falrielle’s mouth as she coughed. ‘Just breathe in deep, nice and slow. Breath and focus, breath and focus.’


    The fire surged from her lungs through the rest of her body. Her eyes watered and her teeth clenched before she suddenly felt cold, that burning sensation giving way to a dull numbness and well enough, the fits died down.


    Pity… Has she truly fallen so low?


    ‘Nothing I can say or do will bring your brother back nor will it take away your suffering. I can understand your hatred of the gods, trust me; I do know the pain that you feel. I know of the anguish that you speak but I have but one request of you. Just a whim: would you say a prayer with me?’


    Falrielle said nothing and did nothing other than giving the Vigilant a cold hard stare. She was just done talking.


    For a moment the Vigilant remained silent, she kept her head bowed down low averting her eyes from Falrielle. Then the Vigilant wordlessly stood up and made her way to the door. With a hand on the handle, the Vigilant looked back only to see that Falrielle was facing the other direction, away from her.


    ‘We left your clothes, weapons and other items we found on your persons on the table in the corner of your room. The same goes with any weapons we found on your companions that we believe you could find useful. We have also left their personal documents in the drawer next to you and if it is a consolation, no matter how small: we gave them their last rites and burned their corpse on a pyre. The Forsworn will not desecrate them and the gods will receive them.’


    No reply.


    ‘Your cargo is outside the Inn. Yes, we did take a quick peek but we did not take anything. With that, I wish you farewell, Falrielle. And I sincerely wish that your future endeavours will bring you good fortune,’ said Carcette as she closed the door.


    Falrielle kept quite only to muster what energy to rein in her pride to say, ‘Thank you’.


    But she was sure the Vigilant didn’t hear it.



    Falrielle laid on her bed and stared at the ceiling, the same ceiling she had been staring at for the past few days as she waited for her wounds to heal. At this point she was convinced she could paint an accurate picture of the ceiling…. that is, if she knew how to paint. Painting abilities aside, the real problem was clear: she had too much time on her hands and she spent that time thinking.


    Damn, sellswords weren’t supposed to think; sellswords were supposed to kill or rather kill for the right price.


    ‘Every day is a good day to die,’ words that she lived by for the mercenary lives and dies by the blade but death is such an abstract concept. One can think and ruminate on it to the days of the World Eater but looking it in the eye however was an entirely different thing.


    It has been eight days since Faerin died and Falrielle herself wasn’t too far off but alas, the gods saw things differently. Eight days yet she can remember the moment when that blow connected like it was yesterday. She even remembered his last words: her name.


    Fucking idiot, she thought. His cry distracted her long enough for that Forsworn to land a blow on her. Fucking idiot, she repeated. If she hadn’t been distracted by it, she could have have at least avenged him, perhaps even saved him. But even if she did, this would be the closest call the two ever had in their life and Falrielle wondered, would they if they have both lived would they of have reconsidered? Why would they?


    Then she heard the first crowing of the rooster: dawn approaches.


    The sellsword got up from the bed, opened the drawer, took the stack of documents that was tied into a bunch with horse hair and walked towards the table at the corner of her room. It was dark as the fire pit was on the other corner but Falrielle didn’t care, it was not as if she could read anyway.


    Letters, journals, scrolls Falrielle untied the stack and scattered them all over the table. As she rummaged through the pile in search of her mark, she couldn’t help but think of the names and faces of their previous owners.


    A journal bound in red leather, fancy leather like the ones those highborn use in their boots. This belonged to Jungvar. Jungvar, what was there to say? The boss man of their little troupe, always the man with the nose for work and drink. Also had a great bushy beard, always insisted that it drew in the lasses but it always looked like it was a squirrel that never stopped attacking.


    A stack of papers barely held together with laces: these must be Carlotta’s. Always writing and working on her poetry, the woman aspires to save enough gold to join the Bards College one day. Falrielle always enjoyed her company, even if that badly done tattoo of her ex-husband never failed to kill the mood.


    A tattered brown journal belonging to Khargol who had an impressive scar on the bridge of his nose and had a tongue for his dirty jokes. The Orc said he once served in the Legion until he deserted for ‘personal reasons’. They even had a betting pool for the one who would guess why. No one did nor will they ever.


    Yet another book belonging to Hod or so she thinks. The man surrounded himself with books. Reading, writing, sleeping with them; a strange obsession, she thought. Especially true for a man of the sword but she did appreciate his efforts in teaching her the art of reading. At the very least, she could identify the character ‘S’.


    A book small enough to fit in the palm of her hand. She waved it around, wondering who was its previous owner. Was it Jungvar’s? No, the only one he had was the red book. Was it Carlotta’s? No, she had her manuscript. Was it Khargol’s? No, it seemed too well-kept to be his. Was it Hod’s? No, it seemed too poorly kept to be his. Then she gently placed it down when she realised who was its former owner: it was Faerin’s.


    Falrielle slumped and sighed. Memories are bittersweet as they say.


    The sellsword continued her search, pressing paper after paper to her nose as her eyes were in Faerin’s words ‘were like an old woman’s’. Bastard.


    She sifted through the papers not once, not twice but three times yet she could not find her mark. Did someone stole it? She wondered. Was it the Vigilants but why would they? It was of no value to them.


    Falrielle slammed her fists on the table and cursed. She spat and cursed again.


    Was she defeated? No. Will she admit defeat? Never and that was the problem or so she’s been told. Her hard head, Carlotta once said kept getting her and her brother in trouble. Perhaps she had a point. The two were supposed to retire three jobs ago but even if they did, where would they go? It was not as if they could do anything else for a living.


    Assassin? Interesting prospect for as long as there are at least two people left on Nirn, someone is going to want someone dead but Falrielle prefers the more up-front and morally clean work.


    Guard duty? No, just no. Other than boredom, they were Bosmers in Skyrim! Made worse in that Falrielle had trouble growing up where even Faerin was taller than her, no matter by how many inches was still taller.


    Maybe a philosopher. She chuckled at that thought. May not be so odd with how much she’s been thinking.


    The rooster crowed a second time.


    And then thought hit her. Falrielle scrambled for Jungvar’s journal and unbuckled the locks and a letter slipped out from between the pages. She held the letter close to her nose and she knew she found it. The letter bore a wax seal of a single drop crossed with two picks: the sigil of the Silver-Blood Family of the Reach.


    Well she found the contract, so now what. If she remembered it right, Jungvar had told them that they were to deliver some crates to Markarth by the 17th of the Evening Star and that anything else they’ve picked up on their travel was extra. The 17th was four, five days ago?


    That meant she probably won’t get paid and that she’d probably have to find a new company to work for as Shippers & Handlers don’t take too kindly to unreliable couriers. But the same question applies: what next?


    Fuck it. Her brother is dead, what did she have to lose and how did Carlotta put it?


    ‘Sellswords live good lives, not long lives’


    The hauberk jingled and jangled as Falrielle slipped it on. Useless thing, she thought. It was both too big and too small at the same time. Too big in that it drooped lower than it should, too small in that it was tighter in some places that she liked. She looked around to check for any signs of damage but other than a few chips, the mail was mostly intact. It was however unusually oiled, clear signs that someone did a bit of maintenance whilst she was out of commission. She then wrapped a belt around her waist, distributing the weight of the mail making it feel lighter than it really was.


    She then wore a ragged leather over her mail, a tattered woollen cloak over her body, a dented nasal helmet on her head, a pair of torn leather gloves and a pair worn boots on her feet. Falrielle stretched her body, the body pains made it difficult to move and she might as well get used to it while in gear. Falrielle picked the letter that bore the seal of the Silver-Bloods and shoved it in her jerkin.


    From the pile of weapons Falrielle with but a glance spotted her baby through the swords and shields and axes. It was her trusty club, crafted from an oaken branch she found by the side of the road. Faerin laughed at it but with a few iron fittings and a few more bashed skulls and Sissy was born. Ah Sissy… so many memories, most of them good. Her reminisce was interrupted when she saw a small iron shiv amongst the other tools of trade: Faerin’s lucky knife. Crude but sentimental. Falrielle slipped the knife in her boot.


    After making one last check on her equipment, Falrielle turned her attention towards her fallen companion’s personal papers and pondered on their fate. Should she leave them? They have no worth, the words of their previous owners are of no importance. Should she burn them in honour of their writers? Keep them? Why would she? It was not as if she could read.


    The rooster crowed a third time.



    The sellsword left her room, her weapon hanging off her belt and her rucksack bloated with provisions and other belongings.


    The inn was quiet, there were few patrons present enjoying their breakfast. Local miners munching their bread and sipping their morning tea to prepare them for the back breaking work ahead. Merchants who wish to beat the competition by arriving at wherever they were heading to early before anyone else did. Sellswords and by the looks of them, came in from the dead of dawn with blood still fresh on their clothes and small time bards strumming their lutes. Falrielle could also hear the loud snores from the guests behind their closed rooms, probably the same guests who had quite an enjoyable time in yesterday’s drink. The ale tasted like piss, Falrielle thought. She remembered that she detected the distinct taste of moss with every sip. Disgusting.


    ‘Ho, traveller,’ yelled the innkeeper, a balding Nord with a well-groomed moustache on his lip. Far better looking than that squirrel on Jungvar’s face but that is of little achievement or praise. ‘Leaving already? If so, I have something from you,’ he bent under the counter.


    Falrielle shrugged and walked to the counter.


    She could see the innkeeper’s shiny head, shuffling back and forth, left and right as bottles and tankards clicked and clanked as if the man misplaced something important. Right as she began to drum her fingers, the innkeeper shot up with a smile on his face and a letter in hand.


    ‘Our mutual friend, Carcette requested that I give you this when you decide to leave.’


    Falrielle opened the letter, squinted her eyes and flapped her lips, pretending to read its contents. While the symbols made no sense to her it was a habit she took up at Jungvar’s insistence: merchants and noblemen tended to be stingier with their coin towards sellswords who are blind to the written word. Something about them being dumber thus easier to con… that was of course before those perfumed milk drinkers have their teeth bashed in but that is something for another time.


    Then she jumped when the innkeeper threw something heavy on the table. It was a coin pouch.


    ‘Four hundred Septims, I counted it myself.’


    ‘And why did you drop four hundred Septims onto the counter?’


    The innkeeper laughed and said, ‘It’s yours!’


    ‘Mine? What am I being paid for?’


    The innkeeper laughed again. ‘You sellswords, always on and on about payment and debts. You know, there are more things in life than killing and drinking and whoring and waiting for your next payday. That is a gift from Carcette.'


    Falrielle’s only reply was a puzzled stare.


    ‘It was in the letter. Didn’t you read it?’


    Her face grew red and she stammered for a bit until she said ‘I didn’t read it.’ She remained silent for a few more moments only to sheepishly admit, ‘I can’t read. Never really learned how.’


    ‘Oh,’ replied in the innkeeper, no malice or judgement in his voice. Just a genuine tone of surprise. ‘If you don’t mind,’ he continued, his hand open.

    She hesitated for a moment before she swallowed her pride and handed him the letter.


    The innkeeper smiled, held the letter to his nose and said,



    I hope this letter finds you well and that you will enjoy a swift and thorough recovery. It is not in my place to say this but if you are unsure of which direction you should take in your life know this: the Vigil’s doors are always open to you even if you don’t share our values or beliefs, we are more than happy to help. I have also left Bolin a pouch bearing 400 Septims, an amount we collected off the field and some from my own pocket. May it serve you well.




    ‘And that’s the end of it,’ said the innkeeper. ‘A good lass that one, takes things too personally and a bit naïve but good heart nonetheless.’


    Falrielle averted her eyes from the innkeeper. After all that and that Vigilant still wanted to help her?


    ‘Hey,’ said the innkeeper. ‘Are you alright? You seem to be on the pale end of things there.’


    ‘I’m fine.’


    ‘If you insist then I won’t push too much on it but if you need a stiff drink then that’s why I’m here,’ said the innkeeper, wiping a tankard on his brown apron. ‘Say, lass. Not to stick my nose where it doesn’t belong but where are you heading to?’


    He was right, he shouldn’t be sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong but what’s the harm?


    ‘I’m heading west to Markarth. Courier work and I believe the Vigilants have left something of mine outside?’


    ‘Aye, it’s sitting in the storehouse and worry not: it’s still there. I’ve checked it myself before that damned bird started crowing. Truth be told, I actually don’t know where that bird came from… it’s just one day my sleep was disturbed by that screeching noise! Oh right, where are you heading to again? Markarth, right?’


    Falrielle nodded.


    ‘If that’s where you be heading to, you might be interested to know that I am expecting a merchant caravan; spices, livestock, and so on to pass through later today at midday and one of their stops is at Markarth,’ said the innkeeper. ‘With some coin or sweet words, they’ll be more than happy to take you there…. Unless you be planning to lug everything on your back ‘cross the Reach.’


    The sellsword chuckled at that one.


    ‘Midday, you say?’ she said with a warm smile on her face.


    ‘Aye, lass. Aye.’


    ‘Might as well grab a bite and a drink.’


    ‘Any friend of Carcette is a friend of mind, I say! First tankard of ale is on me.’


    She kept the smile up but her tongue twitched at that thought.



    When she hoped on the wagon: the sky was clear, the sun was shining, Falrielle’s stomach was full and the most of civilisation was a modest inn in the middle of the road. When she finally hopped off: the sun was setting, her stomach was rumbling and her ass was aching.


    Falrielle paid the caravan master a hundred Septims, fifty for the ride and fifty for the mule that carried her luggage. In addition to her personal belongings, the mule was also lugging two crates on its back. What its actual contents are however is unknown to her; curiosity has a price and a price she at the moment was unwilling to pay.


    Markarth, the City of Stone. Markarth, the City of Blood & Silver. Markarth, the Rock of the Reach among many other names and titles that Falrielle couldn’t remember. However one name in particular stuck out for her: Markarth, the City of Sellswords and from her experience it was most certainly true for the city and the Reach has a disposition to remain constantly in trouble.


    As she stood before the gates of Markarth, Falrielle couldn’t help but chuckle. She always thought that the city’s main gate to be some sort of ironic joke. Former home of the Dwarves and current home of Men, the gate was so large that two mammoths, stacked upon each other or side by side would not only be able to go through, they would be able to do so with room to spare. Someone was clearly compensating.


    Another ten coins for entry and Falrielle made her first steps into the City of Stone, her first in many years.


    Leaving the gatehouse, Falrielle was immediately greeted with the sights, smells, music and chatters of the Great Marketplace of Markarth. Markarth was unique in the sense among the major settlements of Skyrim in that it actually had a nightlife to the chagrin of scholars and academics for their ‘desecration’ of the history of the city but no one listens to them. Or at least Falrielle doesn’t unless there’s a sizable coin pouch in it.


    She walked slowly through the crowd while the mule she bought trotted behind her guided by a cord tied around the animal’s bridle all the while merchants of various stalls peddled their trinkets and wares. Falrielle snorted when she remembered that one time when her brother spent his entire earnings on some Stallion potion only for the tavern wench laughed him out of her room.


    Idiot. Always buying stupid shit instead of something actually useful.


    Falrielle kept her hood up and head down, keeping her eye on the flagstone path as the sounds of the market slowly dies the further she went into the city. Flanked by high buildings of intricately carved stone decorated with doors and windows of metal with not one wooden structure in sight, this was the true Markarth she thought: cold and unyielding. Her path curved and waved but it was hard to get lost in the city once one has learned a simple rule of its design; all roads lead to Understone Keep, the official seat of power of the Reach.


    The deeper and deeper she walked into the city and the quieter the city grew. In contrast to the cacophony of sights and sounds of the marketplace, the streets of the inner city are lifeless and lined with rows and rows of monotonous dull grey. The air grew thicker with the smog of the foundries from the other end of the city.


    Still the relative silence and loneliness of the stone gives one time. Time to think. Time to reflect. Reflect on topics like what should she do after this job. Will her last day as a sellsword end with the delivery of a package like a simple courier? Even so what then.


    Then just as the sun had finally slept and the moon awoke, Falrielle heard the sounds of a waterfall in the distance. A valuable landmark that notified her that she was close to her destination.


    She quickened her pace walking by other landmarks such as the Temple of Dibella, the Goddess of Love & Beauty. Her followers are said to be exceptionally skilled in the arts of lovemaking, a reputation that Falrielle herself would gladly attest to. The Great Tower of Markarth that housed Little Helgi, a mighty ballista of Dwarven make that protected the city from invaders and of course, Understone Keep but she walked past it’s great doors as she was not seeking the audience of Jarl, not today anyway.


    What she was seeking however was an audience with the Silver-Blood family, the unspoken rulers of the Reach whose powerbase was seated in the Treasury Home of Markarth. The Silver-Blood family ran a near monopoly on the Reach’s silver ore trade for the better part of the century and they have held onto that power with a combination of cunning, coin and an endless supply of brutality.


    And Falrielle was late on her delivery.


    She hoped that even if they had reneged on their end of the agreement thus depriving Falrielle of payment in coin, they would at least leave her be for no one ever steals from the Silver-Bloods, both actual and perceived and live to tell about it. In any case the doubts and worries will have to wait.


    ‘Hold it right there,’ barked a large Redguard man flanked by two much shorter other thugs. It was too dark for Falrielle to make out any substantial features. ‘What business do you have here, little elf?’ he continued.


    ‘I am here to make a delivery.’


    ‘A what are you be delivering, milady?’ said on the thugs. With how his head shines, definitely bald. ‘Yourself? The Temple is in the other way.’


    The other thug whistled. He moved closer to take a better look at Falrielle and from what she could make out, his face had a scar that ran across his left eyebrow through the bridge of his nose and down to his lip.


    ‘Unless you are one of the Silver-Bloods then it is none of your business,’ said Falrielle. She was sure to keep her eyes on his hands. It would be dangerous to take her eyes of them. ‘As it stands, my business is with the Silver-Bloods and the Silver-Bloods alone and I’d rather hurry on this as I am running late.’


    ‘An albino,’ giggled the scarred thug. ‘Such a pretty lil’ thing,’ he continued as he leered at the elf moving uncomfortable close to her.


    ‘Always had a thing for dem’ pointy ears.’


    He leaned forward and took a sniff.


    A crooked smile formed on Falrielle’s face. She then cocked her head back and suddenly smashed the thug’s face with the fore of her head. Luckily for her, she was wearing her helmet. Unluckily for him, his face wasn’t.


    The scarred thug dropped to the ground, clutching his face and writhing in pain. The bald thug drew his blade but the Redguard remained calm, arms crossed.


    ‘You fucking c-‘ said the bald thug before Falrielle interrupted by presenting letter that bore the seal of the Silver-Blood family.


    ‘I insist that I finish my already late delivery or will the Silver-Bloods have to wait longer because of some their employees decided to make things difficult for their courier?’


    The Redguard snickered. The audacity amused him.


    ‘Stand down, Rus’. She has a point,’ said the Redguard. ‘Alright, little elf. Come with me and leave the ass outside, we’ll settle your delivery.’



    The air of the Treasury Home felt same yet different from the streets of Markarth. Same in that it was mostly grey, no plant life, just stone and metal but different in that it had an uncomfortable chill to it, almost eerie. Falrielle didn’t know why but she kept one hand on her weapon.


    The lobby was shaped like a semi-circle that led up to three hallways with a large wooden counter blocking the middle. Its walls were decorated with expert carvings, exquisite tapestries and extravagant statues among other strange curios. The centre piece of it all was a dimly lit bronze chandelier that illuminated the room if only barely.


    Like before, there doesn’t seem to be any signs of life although Falrielle did hear a strange scratching noise, like quill on paper.


    ‘Wait here,’ said the Redguard, moving ahead on his own.


    The Redguard walked to the counter and bowed his head. So they weren’t alone, Falrielle thought. The Redguard then leaned over and whispered something and a voice replied. The two whispered back and forth but Falrielle couldn’t make out what they were saying.


    ‘Alright then,’ said the Redguard. ‘I’ll take my leave,’ he continued, bowing his head at Falrielle as he walked away.


    ‘Don’t just stand there,’ a voice ringing through the quiet lobby. A man, his voice stern and commanding. ‘Come here.’


    Falrielle complied. Now she could see him. Before her was a clerk skinny, almost gaunt and he wore clothes that either implicates him as one of noble born or is simply wealthy. His hair was dark and his face clean shaven. He also had this odd aroma of rose water and metal on him. Documents and stacks of paper were strewn across the counter.


    ‘Skip the pleasantries, I need not know your name. Alarak told me that you have business with the Silver-Bloods? Something about a delivery?’ said the clerk, fiddling with a ring he wore on his finger. Falrielle could detect a hint of disdain and disappointment in his voice.


    She nodded.


    ‘On behalf of Shippers & Handlers: I am here to deliver a few items of confidential nature to the Silver-Blood family,’ she said, reaching into her jerkin and pulling out a letter with their seal. She placed the letter on the counter and tapped it.


    The clerk leaned forward, hands clasped together over his mouth and his eyes locked on Falrielle. Then the clerk snatched the letter from under Falrielle’s hand and began reading its contents.


    ‘A genuine contract by the Silver-Bloods to Shippers & Handlers,’ said the clerk. He then slammed the letter on the counter and said, ‘but the contract also details that the delivery will arrive at the latest, on the 17th of the Evening Star. That was five days ago.’


    Falrielle cleared her throat and said, ‘We were-‘


    ‘Stay your tongue, I care not for whatever excuses or stories you have for I am a very busy man,’ snapped the clerk, slouching on his chair. ‘Also, do correct me if I am wrong but according to the laws of the Reach and to the binding agreement between the Silver-Bloods and Shippers & Handlers, the Silver-Bloods are entitled to a compensatory discount. Is that correct, elf?’


    He was an ass about it but he was correct. Shippers & Handlers took their policy of punctuality very seriously. Falrielle in return simply nodded her head.


    ‘Two thousand Septims for your work. We owe you nothing more,’ said the clerk, his head down as he began signing the mark.


    Only two thousand? Damn. If she remembered it right, Jungvar said that the payday was five thousand Septims but two thousand is still a lot of money. Even more so since that she did not need to split the earnings anymore.


    The clerked dipped his ring in wax and sealed the mark before slipping the document onto the counter.


    ‘Not a word? Not a word of complaint or protest?’ said the clerk, quill in hand and back to writing. ‘I’m impressed. The hired help would whine about now and threaten to cut my head off or carving my heart or something else along those lines,’ he continued, taking no heed of the armed sellsword that stood before him.


    Her ears twitched.


    ‘Soldiers of fortune, Dogs and whores of war, Killers with no honour, Sellsword,’ he leaned forward with a smile on his face. ‘My kind of scum really. It would be dishonest of me if I were to judge and if it weren’t for you and your kind, I wouldn’t be able to get to where I am today. Sellswords, always out for gold but you, you’re different are you?’


    She didn’t reply.


    ‘I can tell. You’re not like the usual rabble; you’re more like Alarak, the Redguard outside. Ever heard of him?’


    Alarak, no wonder why the name sounded familiar. ‘Alarak the Hammer’, that was what they called him. Wanted in Whiterun, Falkreath and Riften for the murders of innocents but alas, this was Skyrim. No one in Haafingar would give too much of a shit if one were to rape a priestess in Eastmarch. Well, no one but scum like her. Last time she checked, Alarak’s bounty had just reached the three thousandth mark.


    She nodded.


    ‘Alarak. Quite a find and if you were to hear him tell it, he would say that he does what I tell him because I pay well and pay on time,’ said the clerk. ‘But we both know that isn’t true, now is it?’ he continued, the glare from his silver-grey eyes sent a chill down her spine.


    ‘He works for me because he enjoys the killing. And so do you.’


    Falrielle did not flinch, she did not clench her fist nor did she bite down her jaw. She did feel that fire burning within her but she said nothing and did nothing for he was right and she hated it. Yes, she loved the thrill of the fight, the thrill of the kill. Was it truly wrong? She lived in the land of the Nords where the unspoken law of the land was kill or be killed but still, it was nothing to be proud of.


    And there she was, a sellsword clad in armour and armed to the teeth standing before a skinny unarmed clerk with no one else within a hundred paces of them. If she wanted to she could just bash his face onto the counter and no one could of have stopped her. But there was just something off about this man. Was it because he never seemed to blink or was there something more to it?


    The lengthening silence was the reply the clerk was looking for and his satisfied grin confirmed it. Damn.


    ‘Are we done here?’ said Falrielle, her voice without emotion.

    ‘We are for today,’ replied the clerk.



    Blasted city.


    From the moment she woke up, everything was spoiling her mood. She woke up coughing, having slept on her chest in the night thus making breathing difficult again. Her bed had a bed bug infestation, leaving irritating itches on her body. She overslept, missing most of breakfast leaving only cold scraps to sate her hunger. Worst of all, someone had stolen her coin pouch in her sleep forcing her to barter the mule in exchange for services.


    Bastard innkeeper, he could add the mule to his mystery meat stew for all she cared.


    Falrielle left the inn; barely above a stable with her rucksack on her back, Sissy on her belt and helmet on her head where she was greeted to the bright sun, the cheerful chatters of traders and adventurers alike and an unusually warm wind for this time of year. Would’ve been pleasant had she not been drinking heavily the night before and the hangover is killing her. That and that tinge of metal from the ale that haunted her tongue.


    With that itch on her back and a few extra coin in her spare pouch, Falrielle decided that a visit to a local bathhouse is long overdue.


    In the bathhouse, she was annoyed by the judging eyes on her from both the patrons and the attendants. No doubt because she was an elf, an albino or an outsider and knowing Markarth: all three. She was also annoyed that this particular bathhouse did not have chamomile but instead oak moss which irritated her skin even more, not to mention her nose cutting her warm bath short.


    She left the bathhouse grime free but her mood hasn’t improved. In fact, the scent of oak moss probably made it worse…. not like Markarth needed any help to sullen her mood. The piles of refuse and litter on the narrow streets did not amuse her. The legions of cripples and beggars did not astound her and neither did the scores of graffiti of crude drawings and words which if she were to make a guess is something about the Reachmen or Elves.


    She arrived in the Silver-Blood Inn, the city’s prime inn for those with the coin and as expected it was crowded and noisy. Merchants, both local and visiting argued over the price of their goods and something about interest. Smelter workers sat in a dark corner to drink their woes away whiles others are having a drinking contest to the chagrin of the tavern wenches who would be cleaning their mess up. Sellswords and adventurers were singing a about a warrior from Rorikstead, which one of the five Roriksteads she’s been she had always wondered but never had the chance to find out and the mark of a fancy inn: a whole band of in-house minstrels playing a relaxing tune.


    Even if she had the coin, Falrielle never did had the interest to drink with here. Always had the stares on her whenever she lingered in ‘proper places’ for too long. No, she was there for the notice board by the great hearth that warmed the room. Though she couldn’t exactly read, she could still identify the sigils of the employers if she looked very closely and from habit she knew that if the line was longer on one section of the notice, it meant that it paid more.


    The minutes felt like hours as Falrielle squinted her eyes as she tried to make out the sigils but to little success. She did recognised a few of them but the payment lines were awfully short for her to bother. This frustrated her, more so that when Faerin was around it was he that found them work on the virtue that he could read even though if he was a little daft at times.


    It wasn’t as if she chose to be illiterate. It was her damned eyes: they just couldn’t see the words properly and they didn’t have time for she had to work. Unlike these cunts, drinking and laughing without a care in the world; she and Faerin HAD to work from dawn till dusk and they HAD to unless they wished to die in the winter. In fact, their laughter irritated her as it broke her concentration.


    She needed to scream but she knew that this wasn’t the time or the place. That and work was difficult to find behind bars, so she bottled it in and kept looking.


    Then a man, a Nord by the gold of his hair shoved her aside. Her blood boiled but no, there was no money involved in attacking him and doing so would only give her more grief. She silently took the insult and tried to squeeze in, only to be replied with another shove.


    The man along with his two companions, a pockmarked man of short stature and an orc with long hair turned to face her. Of course he had friends, Falrielle thought. These thugs always travelled in packs.


    ‘Pardon me,’ said Falrielle, looking straight at the Nord’s face who towered over her. ‘But I was here first and if you don’t mind.’


    His first response was to laugh at her face. She remained silent.


    ‘You hear that boys? The little lost elf wants us to move,’ the Nord and his companions chortled as if they heard some grant joke. ‘What’s a milk drinker like you doing out here? Go home to your mother, little elf!’ he continued and his pet dogs cackled in response.


    ‘I’m here to find some work,’ she replied, never breaking eye contact with the Nord.


    ‘Work?’ the Nord chuckled. ‘If you want to find some work, go talk to the innkeeper. I’m sure he needs another tavern wench or two, couldn’t hurt to have more… especially after last night!’


    ‘Thank you for your suggestion but I insist-‘


    ‘Didn’t you hear me you pointy-eared freak? This isn’t the kind of work for milk drinkers like you. I mean look at you: all dressed in armour like a child pretending to be a soldier,’ the Nord went on, his voice getting more agitated at her defiance. ‘There’s no work for you here!’


    Don’t say that.


    ‘She can’t hear you. Em’ pointy-ears are full of shit,’ said the other man and the orc laughed.


    ‘There’s no work for you here, pointy-ear,’ hissed the Nord.


    ‘Don’t call me that,’ Falrielle replied, her voice threatening and knuckles turning white. ‘Don’t you fucking call me that!’


    The Nord laughed again.


    ‘Why? What are you going to do, cry?’ he taunted. ‘That’s right, go cry. Sell your costume and cry home to your whore mother!’


    That was it. Every fibre of her being shouted in unison: Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Don’t do it.


    ‘Don’t say that,’ her teeth gnashed and her head low.


    ‘What? So your mother was a whore? Hah! I probably f-‘




    Before he could finish his sentence, Falrielle ducked down and threw a mighty uppercut that landed on the Nord’s jaw, knocking him on the ground. The pockmarked man raised a fist to strike and Falrielle instinctively curled her body, throwing the pockmarked man off balance. She grabbed him by the collar and directed her knee to his gut before she threw him to a table only for her ears to twitch: a sword was drawn.


    Falrielle turned around and immediately ducked, the blade missing her head by a hair’s length. Her body moved on its own as she reached for a tankard and splashed its contents at the orc’s face. The orc relented and unleashed a blind flurry of slashes, delivering each blow with a mighty roar as Falrielle frantically danced between his attacks throwing anything she could lay her hands on to slow his advance.


    Soon she found her back against the counter and threw whatever she could find on the counter but the orc continued his advance. In desperation, Falrielle grabbed one of the patrons and pushed him at the orc and the orc simply shoved him aside, sending him crashing at a table. In a blink of an eye, the orc charged and delivered a deadly chop that Falrielle was only barely able to dodge and she soon found herself on the ground.


    Falrielle turned only to see the orc standing above her with his blade held up high. Seconds felt like an eternity when she couldn’t move, her limbs paralysed and her throat blocked. Was this it? She wondered. Was this how she would meet her end? At a dingy bar over a petty insult?


    The orc let out a roar as he swung his blade downwards. This was it, she thought. Her eyes locked on the warrior who would be her end.


    That is he was until he was tackled by someone from behind to the loud cheers of other patrons. Then there was a scream and soon, the sound of a chair breaking and earthenware smashing rung in the air. The minstrels switched to a cheery tune thus begin a genuine Skyrim bar brawl.


    Falrielle picked herself up using the counter for support as the Silver-Blood Inn descended into chaos. Curses were spat, swords were drawn, more furniture destroyed and tankards and bottles flew through the air while all the poor innkeeper could do was to curl into a ball beneath the counter and say his prayers.


    In her daze, the elf picked up a tankard that was sat undisturbed on the counter and sipped only to spit soon after. Beer. Seems like even the fanciest inns can’t even sell beer that didn’t taste like donkey piss. Well, donkey piss but fancy donkey piss nonetheless. She chugged and slammed the tankard on the counter.


    ‘Innkeeper!’ she shouted and the quivering man shot her a worried look. ‘Quit pissing your pants and bring me ale!’


    She took off her rucksack and her helmet. Might as well get comfortable.


    The innkeeper approached her with tankard in hand only for Falrielle to snatch thing and chug. Bloody morning, Bloody inn she thought but at least the ale is decent here. The first ale that was actually drinkable in a long time. Again she slammed the empty tankard on the counter, asking for another. She’d bloody need another and maybe more after that to get through the rest of the day.


    As she was downing her fourth tankard, someone grabbed her head and slammed her face on the counter, bloodying her nose. Her attacker pulled her head back and that’s when she saw his face: it was that Nord and she should of have hit him harder. The worse he had was a bloodied lip.


    ‘Bitch elf!’ he cursed and she replied by spitting at his eyes.


    He recoiled and she saw an opening. She cocked her arm back and threw her fist at him, a decision she immediately regretted. Her attack connected to his jaw and she heard an audible crack but it wasn’t his jaw that cracked. A sharp pain shot through her arm and the best she could do was grit her teeth and ready another attack. The Nord was stunned long enough to let go of her….


    And Falrielle fell onto the ground, landing on her back prompting her to utter every curse and swear she could think of.


    The Nord shook his head and grabbed the elf by the collar and lifted her up as if she weighed nothing. Before Falrielle could retaliate, the Nord threw her across a room like a ragdoll and her landing was less than graceful.


    Falrielle groaned. Her head was ringing and when she came too all she saw were bottles, chairs and broken glass strewn about and breathing always carried a scent of blood for some reason. Her sense came when someone tugged her leg and of course, it was that Nord again and he wasn’t done.


    Her trained reflexes finally giving way and Falrielle responded with a hard kick to the gut, knocking the Nord back. But alas, it wasn’t enough as he shrugged off her attack and continued his advance. She flipped herself on her back and kept her feet up for while her small stature is a huge disadvantage when standing, on the ground it meant that her attacker had to awkwardly bend lower to score a decent hit thus nullifying her range deficiency.


    She kept her arms up and eyes locked on her target. Whenever he got too close, she kicked him away. Whenever he tried to start an attack, her shorter legs allowed her attacks first thus ending his move before it began. Whenever he tried to circle her, she quickly turned her body to match his, her eyes never losing sight of him.


    Falrielle smiled and whistled, taunting her opponent.


    It worked.


    The Nord charged and threw his body over her where he began a series of haymakers and jabs. Falrielle kept her guard up and took blow after blow as she carefully positioned both of her feet on the Nord’s abdomen. As the Nord raised his fist for a hard blow, Falrielle cocked her legs in throwing him off balance and pushed her legs as hard as she could, flinging the Nord back.


    Can’t win a fight on her back, Falrielle thought and she picked herself off the ground. The elf then placed a finger against her nose and blew hard, clearing out most of the blood at the price of a bad sting.


    Damn. Will have to look for a mirror if I survive this, she uttered to herself, arms raised and ready for an attack.


    Which is now.


    As her is opponent in a state daze, trying to pick himself up and finding her amidst the chaos, Falrielle bum rushed the Nord and began with a knee to the face, knocking him down once more.


    As the saying goes, ‘The best time to attack a man is when his guard is down’.


    With her opponent on the ground, Falrielle mounted his face, grabbed him by the beard and an ugly grin grew on her face.


    Like a blacksmith at his forge, Falrielle hammered the Nord’s face like a smith would with his metal with the cold stone floor being her anvil. With each blow she delivered, the man’s face was becoming less and less recognisable by the moment. With each blow she delivered, her grin grew wider and wider and she wasn’t keen on stopping. In fact, she didn’t know if she could.


    So caught up in her bloodlust that Falrielle did not notice that her own knuckles were bruised and bleeding nor did she notice that the bloody pulp of a man she had been attacking had stopped moving some time ago nor the fact that a squad of guards clumsily rushed in the inn through the front door. To her, the only thing in the world was her fist and his face.



    Cousin Emund always said that nothing interesting ever happens to a guard, a sentiment Valdemar regularly echoed. The Reach may be a hotbed for action and danger but the great walls of Markarth however keep the city safe and quiet and the worst he had to deal with are petty thieves and drunken brawls. Today however was different. A drunken brawl, true nothing special in itself but today some fool with a death wish actually started a fight in the Silver-Blood Inn. Who would have such an audacity or stupidity to do so?


    If nothing else, Captain Haldor seemed excited and the man is rarely excited. Within moments of receiving the report, the captain mustered a force of 30 men and they left the barracks with great haste to contain the situation.


    Valdemar kicked open the door of the inn and he was greeted by the utter chaos of that is the inn. Was this truly the elegant inn that so many talked about? He questioned himself. From beggar to merchant to warrior, it would seem that the madness of battle had taken them and all those who would’ve avoided the fight would have already left the field.


    ‘Drunks,’ the Captain spat. With but a gesture of his hand the guards fanned out and with mechanical precision, the guards quickly subdued those who did not immediately surrender with great prejudice and those that did were merely hauled outside.


    Yngwie took down a drunk with but a hard bash of the shield whilst Thorkel and Sten had to flank an orc warrior who was waving his blade about to take him down. All great and amusing stories to drink into the night! Unlike the ones Valdemar dealt with.


    As soon as he shouted his warnings, the patrons immediately complied and exited the inn to be processed. He was itching for a fight; he was not a soldier thus he would not see the true field of battle so how would he prove his worth to mighty Tsun and wise Shor that he was fit to enter the gates of Sovngarde?


    He got his wish when he caught a glimpse of a brawl in the corner of his eye: a blonde woman who had the look of a mercenary sat upon a man and she was giving the man the beating of his life. Valdemar tightened his grip on his club and shield and slowly walked to the two.


    ‘By the order of the Jarl, stop right there!’ said Valdemar but the woman ignored him. He took a deep breath and dug in his boots, this time yelling ‘Halt!’


    The woman stopped and remained silent and motionless. For what felt like hours, the woman finally turned to face him and Valdemar instinctively recoiled in fear when he saw her: she was an elf by the look of her ears yet she didn’t look like any elf he had ever seen. Her skin was pale, an albino. Her pale blue eyes gazed upon him and something about it sent shivers up his spine.


    He tightened his grip even more when he began to notice more details. The lower half of her face was covered in blood, whether hers or someone else’s he could not say. The mail she wore was stained red and her fists were wet. Valdemar almost lost his breakfast when his mind finally comprehended that the man actually had a face instead of a wet puddle. But the worse of it was her ear-to-ear grin.


    When the woman finally stood up, she kept her head low and her body limp. She lurched forward and Valdemar took a step back.


    ‘Halt! I said halt!’ he continued, standing his ground as he quivering in his boots. ‘Hands where I can see them!’


    For a moment the woman remained silent. Then she giggled and placed both hands on her hand.


    Valdemar raised his club and shield and approached the woman with caution. He circled behind her where he sheathed his weapon and pulled her hands together, binding them with a straw rope.


    Tonight is going to be a thirsty night.



    It has been some time since Falrielle had seen the sky or even experienced the feeling of fresh air on her face. The exact length, she did not know. It could of have been hours, days or even weeks for all she knew and in her pitch black cell the only thing that helped her estimate the passage of time was the occasional patrols and the droplets of water from the leaks in the ceiling. The guards told her that she would be released from the cell after they have finished ‘processing’. An interesting euphemism for looting.


    Her breathing was difficult again, this time however it felt as if something was stuck up her nose rather than a knife wound to the chest. She would try to clear it if it weren’t for the fact that her hands were bound behind her back and to a wall. That and she had a terrible itch on her face that just wouldn’t go away no matter how long she endured.


    Blasted city.


    Stuck in a dank cramped cell with nothing to do but wiggle her toes every now and then; it is truly a great day to alive in the City of Sellswords.


    Were they going to execute her? Unlikely. Public executions in Skyrim are typically reserved for traitors. Anyone else would be summarily executed anyway and she was still alive or at least Falrielle thought she was. If she was really was dead, then afterlife was sorely disappointing… that and she would have to pay Faerin a hundred Septims which was always terrible.


    Was this what prison feels like, she wondered. She had close encounters with the city guard in her youth but she’d always just slip away at the last moment. Luck her brother called it. Her being damn clever as she would say it.


    She hoped that she would get to eat soon, her stomach rumbled. She hoped that she would get a proper drink soon, her lips were cracked and bending over to sip water from the puddle was getting old. She hoped that she would get a change in trousers; she was sure the one she was wearing was no longer cream coloured. She hoped for many things but the gods tend to look the other way.


    Story of her life, she supposed.


    She leaned her head back and gave a quiet chuckle. Should of have retired a long time ago or at the very least, stuck to a less exciting job but she would have none of that. It was as that ass in the treasury: she loved the thrill of the fight and most of all, she loved killing. She and Faerin were almost the bodyguards of some wealthy merchant but she protested. The idea of waking up early in the morning to do the same thing again and again terrified her.


    Funny, now that is her fate. She had heard the stories but she never actually looked it up if it were true. Cidhna Mine, they called it. Malacath’s Arsehole, would be more appropriate. From what the guards told her, she was to do ‘community service’ and mine out silver until her sentence was done. That was assuming if it were to ever end or if she were to be killed in her sleep before.


    Then she heard a loud clank and a she could see a faint light in the distance. The light source of the light was getting closer and closer as were the sound of boots that heralded the arrival of the guards. The prisoners were getting restless. Hopefully is was feeding time, her mouth watered at that thought.


    ‘Look alive, scum!’ shouted one of the guards, waving his truncheon in the air as if it was meant to mean something. ‘Time to earn your keep,’ he continued, banging his club on the bars.


    Falrielle was sorely tempted to say something but decided not to.


    She recoiled as her was cell door opened with a loud clang, the acoustics of her accommodations certainly didn’t help. The guard stared at her for a moment, no doubt looking down on her as they usually do before he placed a bag over her head.



    Deprived of her sight, Falrielle found her senses sharpened. As the guards hurried her and the other prisoners, the elf took note on the number of paces she took and the number of sharp turns she made. She also felt the ground beneath her bare feet change, from rough and jagged of a freshly dug tunnel to smooth and cold of a paved path. Deprived of sight, her sense of hearing and smell sharpened. She could tell that the air of where she was going to be different, less foul and she could hear that the tunnels were getting wider and wider.


    When she heard the sound of a crackling brazier, the guards stopped and shoved her aside. From the rattling of their shackles in front of and behind her, she assumed that she was being lined up in single file.


    ‘No talking,’ barked a guard. No one really was other than him, must of love the sound of his own voice, Falrielle thought.


    ‘Stand up straight,’ the guard barked again which was followed by a deep thud and a groan. She then heard a guard muttering something, his voice muffled by the bag on her head.


    When the guards removed the bag, Falrielle averted her eyes from the light and caught her breath. She was standing in a largely empty dimly lilted chamber. Her sides were flanked with guards but their uniforms looked peculiar; for one thing, they did not wear a sash that would of have marked them as a member of Skyrim’s city guards nor did they wear any green on their persons. They did however wear a mishmash of iron and steel of various configurations. These were not guards, these were sellswords.


    ‘Eyes front, prisoners and keep your mouth shut,’ barked the warden, an orc man clad in steel. ‘You are being punished for your crimes against the people of Skyrim. The Jarl of Markarth is merciful and thus sentences you to Cidhna Mine where you will repay your debt to society. There will be no resting in this prison. Here, you work and you mine until your start shitting silver ores and you’ll be done when we say you’ll be done.’


    Falrielle heard a snort behind her and she took a quick peek. It was that long haired orc from the inn and he certainly recognised her, returning her stare with a snarl.


    ‘You there!’ shouted the warden, waving his club menacingly as he approached the elf. ‘Are you deaf? I said eyes front!’


    Falrielle snapped her attention to the warden and glared at him.


    The warden smirked and struck her in the gut, dropping her to a knee and coughing her lungs out.


    ‘Get up,’ the warden shouted, punctuated with a swift kick to the elf. ‘Or do you need me to carry you?’ he continued, his tone of mocking worry.


    Falrielle stood up, her lungs aflame yet she still stood up. She kept her head down whilst she coughed only to look back at the warden with eyes of defiance when she recovered. A crooked grin formed on his face as the warden tightened his grip on his weapon.


    Smug bastard


    Falrielle cocked her head back and smashed the warden’s face with the fore of her head, sending the warden to stumble a few steps back. She smiled as blood flowed over her eyes, a small victory but a victory nonetheless.


    Of course the warden wasn’t amused and the other guards dragged her out of the line and gave her a savage beating. Falrielle could only curl defensively into a ball as they relented their attack a defenceless foe. Cowards, she thought. They were only so lucky to fight an unarmed and bound opponent.


    Club or foot, Falrielle felt the force of each blow while the best she could do was to spit vicious curses and insults at her attackers and she didn’t really know why she did what she did. The smart thing, she noted was to keep quiet and take the beating and submit. But her pride wouldn’t let her because if she did, it wouldn’t be her. She like those who lived in the land of Skyrim were fighters; she had been fighting the moment she took her first breath and she would damn well be fighting to the moment she took her last.


    Then they stopped.


    Battered and bruised, her body were singing their praises for this moment of respite but she knew better. The pain was worse when the victim has a taste of hope. She tasted the blood in her mouth and she spat. The stream from her head blocked her vision, so she wiped. Her arms and legs ached but she forced them to move. She got back up, off the ground and onto her wounded feet and stood tall, eyes once again locked onto the warden.


    ‘My, my,’ said the warden, a crooked smile on his face. ‘We have a-‘


    ‘Yeah, go plough yourself!’ Falrielle spat.


    The smile on the warden face was gone, leaving only a cold and stoic expression but one with a killing intent.


    ‘Well then, spare the whip,’ the warden broke the silence. ‘Restrain her and Valdir, bring me my tools.’


    With her hands behind her back, Falrielle could do little but fruitlessly struggle when two large thugs grabbed her from the sides. They even struck her in the gut for good measure.


    ‘You have quite a mouth,’ said the warden, his fingers drumming on the hilt on his belt. ‘It is clear that your ma and pa didn’t teach you very much on manners when you were little. I will do them a favour, I will teach you to be proper no matter how long it takes,’ his runner returned with a leather belt. ‘No matter what it takes.’


    In the dark and with her eyes, Falrielle couldn’t see exactly what the warden was fiddling with belt, only that it was lined with tools. The warden slipped one of the tools out, what it was she couldn’t tell… until he snapped them hard. Pliers.


    He snapped them again as he walked menacingly towards her. She instinctively struggled but again, it was all for naught as even if she did where would she go? She kept her eyes on the warden, memorising what detail she could of his face for the day she would sink her thumbs into his eyes as retribution. For that, whatever price she had to pay was worth it.


    Her tongue shuddered at the taste of rusted steel and at the sound of an unsheathing blade. Focusing became difficult as her body froze and her eyes darted back and forth. She wanted to say something, anything but no matter how much her mind commanded it, she just couldn’t.


    Then she tasted blood.


    ‘Gorge!’ shouted a familiar voice. ‘Why hasn’t this litter been processed yet? What in Oblivion are you doing?’


    ‘Pox on you, Alarak! I have everything under control; I’m just resolving a disciplinary dispute.’


    ‘A “disciplinary dispute”? Hah! Someone actually giving you trouble? Why with that bloody nose of yours I’d assume it was some big Nord or maybe a mighty warrior from the stronghold,’ the other prisoners chuckled. ‘Who’s the trouble maker now-’ the Redguard stopped himself and smiled. ‘Ah, the little elf. I heard that you’ve been busy the past few days.’


    ‘And I’m busy dealing with it, now if you would be so kind-‘


    ‘Release her, Gorge. She’s my prisoner now.’


    The warden released her tongue. ‘Your prisoner? That’s cute, Alarak but when have I ever taken orders from you, brown skin? I have been charged to by both the Jarl and the family to oversee this bloc and in my tenure, this bloc has seen the highest productivity of them all. And what do you do? Rough up a few shop keepers or kill some no name every now and then? If it weren’t for our mutual contract, I’d drink from your skull.’


    ‘That’s very good and all but,’ the Redguard whipped out a letter from his jerkin. ‘The boss says otherwise.’


    Grunting, the warden snatched the papers from the Redguard’s hands and opened it. As he read the letter, his face soured and his hands trembled with rage. The warden crumpled the letter and threw it into the fire.


    ‘You heard him,’ said the warden his tone defeated and sheathing his dagger. ‘She’s his problem now,’ he continued, eyes on the elf.


    The warden raised his hand and smacked Falrielle across the face. She stood her ground.


    ‘You hit like a bitch!’


    The warden ignored her quip and turned his attention to the other prisoners.


    ‘What are you looking at? Into the mine you go!’



    Falrielle sat down on a chair with a bag over her head. Her hands were still bound and her feet were bleeding but at least she was off the ground. From the hushed mutters, she could tell she wasn’t alone.


    Someone then pulled the bag and she was greeted by the sound of a crackling fire and the smell of metal and…. rose. The sellsword opened her eyes and found herself to be in the company of the clerk from the Treasury Home enjoying his meal along with the Redguard and his posse.


    ‘Seems like what they say about the Wood Elves to be true; always curious, always in trouble,’ said the clerk, sipping fine wine from a golden goblet. ‘Barely a week in this city and you’ve started a brawl, have yourself arrested and no less than an hour ago, have picked a fight with one of the wardens of the mine.’


    Falrielle remained silent.


    ‘You have quite a history, dear sellsword,’ said the clerk, cutting the pie. ‘Or should I say, Falrielle? Spent your childhood in a gang and getting into fights and racketeering work, your long employment with Shippers & Handlers and not to mention the side jobs you did as an independent contractor. Not the most tasteful nor the most glorious of lives but as a man of business, I can respect that.’


    The sellsword snorted.


    The clerk glared at her with his silver-grey eyes and smiled. ‘You seem to be needing some help,’ he gestured. ‘Alarak.’


    The Redguard placed his hands over Falrielle’s nose and snapped it back in place. Much better, she thought even though it hurt like the 16 plains of Oblivion. The sellsword blew her nose in celebration for the small mercies of the world.


    ‘Leave us,’ he ordered his thugs.


    Falrielle's mouth watered and her stomach rumbled again when the clerk continued to enjoy his meal: Lamprey pie. Baked in a syrup and mixed with wine and spices, the pie is a delicacy for the rich and powerful and so rare that she can count the number of people she has met who can claim to have feasted in this dish with one hand. Quite an extravagance. Her mind wandered on to deciding what her best meal was. Perhaps it was Elsweyr Fondue from a Khajiit merchant, she definitely remembered the sweetness of moon sugar and the slices of apples with the fondue. Or maybe it was kidney pie, a simple peasant dish but with decent kidneys and good gravy…


    ‘I’ll wager that it was Grog, the one that did that to you,’ the clerk continued, washing down his meal with a drink. ‘A fine warrior and overseer from the strongholds and not to mention a fantastic motivator. It was after all because of him that the silver in the Fall Mine had never flowed more steadily ever since. This means that I am willing to overlook some accidents every now and then. For true, what does flow through the city but blood and silver, no?’


    Falrielle nonchalantly nodded. ‘Nothing but blood and silver.’


    ‘You’re smarter than you look, sellsword but not as smart as you ought to be,’ the sound of metal on earthenware. ‘They call it the “Silver-Blood Inn”. I doubt I need to explain to you why it was named so and what you did was very…. Expensive to the family, both in the short and the long term. Furniture and tableware to be replaced, months of drink supply to be reordered, guards to be rewarded for their services, filth to be…. cleaned.’


    ‘Then I might as well start digging, for I have neither the gold nor any other riches to offer as blood price,’ said Falrielle.


    ‘Ah, then you do understand but what eludes you is just how much you’d have to dig to repay your debt. With what you owe, you’d have to dig till your hair turned,’ said the clerk, only to pause. ‘White. Perhaps sooner if dig with the strength of ten men but here is where our problem lies: you. You are no man. You are a woman, even worse, a she-elf and have you ever seen or heard any women working in Cidhna Mine?’


    ‘I’m not like other women.’


    ‘After what you did to that man in the inn?’ he leaned back. ‘No, definitely not. Impressive? Yes, he was barely recognisable after they pulled you off him but how long can you keep doing this? How long can you keep fighting? Few weeks perhaps, maybe even months if you’re at your peak but how can you? Even the fiercest of the wolves needs to sleep and do you not need sleep?’


    He sipped his wine, smacking his lips.


    ‘As I was saying; Impressive but still a woman. No, not just a woman but an elven woman locked up in a mine surrounded with enemies and Cidhna Mine is filled with bad men who did and do bad things.’


    Falrielle shrugged.


    ‘As I said, I have no gold nor riches and the only way I can repay my debt is to mine,’ she retorted, her tone snide. ‘Alas, if only the gods were kind to give me a way out. A way that lets me use my hard earned skills, preferably my skill at beating others...’


    The clerk smiled.


    ‘But how am I were to come to an agreement if my hands were to remain bound like some slave in Morrowind?’ she continued.


    The clerk nodded. ‘Alarak!’ he shouted and the Redguard opened the door. ‘Unshackle her.’


    The Redguard complied and removed her shackles. The elf rubbed her wrists in relief.


    ‘Food would be nice, my stomach has been growling non-stop like the dragons from the time of the Ancients,’ she added. The clerk wordlessly nodded and the Redguard left the room. If it was this easy, she would have also asked for a clean pair of trousers and a bath but she’d rather not push her luck.


    The room went silent as they waited for the Redguard’s return. Falrielle sat patiently, not a word or a cough while the clerk continued to enjoy his meal. She could hear the echoing sound of picks on rocks in the distance and the sound of men talking outside the room.


    The silence was broken when the Redguard returned with a platter of sausages, bread and potatoes, a pewter jug and a wooden tankard.


    Falrielle remained still, her face without emotion as the Redguard placed the platter in front of her and it remained without emotion even after the Redguard poured her tankard full of ale. Her stomach grumbled and her mouth watered but she did nothing. Not yet. Like a proper lady, she thought.


    ‘You may eat,’ said the clerk.


    Falrielle dropped all pretences of her being a proper and dainty lady and stuffed her mouth with whatever she laid her hands on. She didn’t stop to enjoy the salt and spices of the sausage nor the taste of wheat bread she gobbled nor did she cared too much of the sweetness of the wine she drank. Were it in any other circumstances, she would of have appreciated the rarity of the food she ate and the wine she drank but after a few days of drinking puddle water and feasting on mouldy bread, priorities tended to change. She also paid no heed to the clerk, leaning back and enjoying the show.


    ‘So do we have an accord?’ the clerk wiping his mouth.


    Falrielle coughed, something was stuck in her throat and she chugged the jug, never paying heed to the spill.


    She spat.


    ‘Where are my things?’


    The clerk clapped his hands and the Redguard opened the door. ‘Alarak, bring in your new colleague’s belongings.’


    The Redguard nodded and closed the door.


    ‘When do I start?’



    Previous Chapter: Just a Formality II                                                                                                                         Next Chapter: Just a Formality III


1 Comment   |   Sotek likes this.
  • Sotek
    Sotek   ·  January 21, 2017
    Awwwooo Delta, it's been too long but well worth the wait. 
    Nothing like a tavern brawl to get back into the swing of things. A great scene there....