SotF: Something to Prove

  • XIII

    The cave reminded Falrielle of the mine: the ever encroaching darkness and the staleness of the air buckled her nerves for every step she took. There was a key difference however was that in this cave Falrielle could hear and smell water, an underground river from the snow that melted on the mountain above. The path was paved with planks of wood – rudimentary but enough to mark her way and shortly by a small alcove, she found the wagon with a bump. She could still smell the fur and the wet dog.


                Then in the distance, Falrielle could see dancing lights and heard voices under the rushing water. Lookouts, she guessed and she also guessed that they would not be too friendly with her being there. After all, why would one make a base in a dark cave if not to hide something? She approached and the air felt wet and no longer stale. She realised that she was in a chamber of a sorts and large one at that.


                She looked at the lights for a path to slip by without being seen. She considered taking the direct approach: with her small body, she hoped that she could stay low and crawl her way past the guards. She had done it before: men tend to look forward on the horizon while ignoring the dirty between their toes. She then turned her attention to the water. The rushing stream was loud enough to cover her but then she remembered, she could barely swim in a calm lake, let alone a river in the dark.


                Her train of thought ended when her ears twitched. A wisp of light; a guard with a torch approached. She sighed and rolled off the bridge, holding onto the ledge at the last instant. Falrielle bit her tongue to silence herself as her fingers strained from the weight of her body. With a heave, she shimmied her way to the other end of the chamber, finger by miserable finger.


                Her fingers ached at the same time as her eyes did from the light of the next room. Falrielle clung on the wall flexing her fingers when she heard a whisper in the air that almost sounded like a scream. She continued to hold on, shaking her legs and looking around for her next move until she heard the whisper again. Now she was certain it was a scream but from what? Above her were beams of lights, shining from what seemed to be a balcony. She took a deep breath, exhaled, and climbed.


    Almost to the top, the scream was louder and clearer – it belonged to a boy. Falrielle peeked her head on the balcony and saw no one but a path down and a doorway to the left. She kept her head low and she crept up with knife in hand.


                Her ears told her that the screams came from deeper in the cave and her nose told her to follow the doorway to the left. Then she heard the sound of something wet cutting… and of terrified sobs.


                The tunnels were dark but the walls were narrow enough that she would get lost. She detected no guards and hastened. In a distance she saw light coming out from a room… and a scream. She peered into the room and that’s when it hit her: she knew that scream, that voice. It was that from that boy in the forest. She also knew that other voice. It was from an elf.


                Falrielle readied her knife, hungry for a kill but then she felt a piercing pain in the back of her head.



    Flashes of light and muffled voices. Falrielle came to her senses with her temples throbbing and her breathing muffled. She opened her eyes but saw nothing. She coughed to clear her throat but that only made it worse for her lungs. She twitched and struggled, and realised that she was tied up. She heard indistinct voices, some irritated and some authoritative before the bag was pulled from her head. She flinched, the light burned her eyes.


               When her eyes adjusted, she realised that she was seated at a table with two pewter goblets, a demijohn, and a bowl of bread and salt. Seated on the other end of the table was an elf, bare skinned on the top sans a brown apron that jingled with knifes and stakes of silver.


                ‘Salutations, salutations, and salutations, sister elf,’ said Brant, leaning back with a smile on his face. ‘Would you care for a cup of wine?’ he continued, filling the two goblets not waiting from an answer. Brant picked up a goblet, lifted it in the air, and gave Falrielle an ancient Nord toast. ‘Vur!’


                Falrielle looked at Brant and glanced over her shoulder, shuffling her bound hands. ‘Ha ha... fuck you.’


                Brant emptied his goblet and slammed it on the table. ‘Oh right, silly me,’ he said, filling his goblet again. ‘Allow me.’


                Brant rose, picked up a goblet, walked over to Falrielle, placing the goblet over her lips, and tilted. The wine had the sweetness of grapes yet felt dry in her mouth. An odd feeling, she thought. She also noticed the hint of cherries, vanilla, and oak in the aftertaste. Falrielle guessed that this was the fancy sort of wine that the southerners enjoy.


    She turned and spat the wine at Brant’s face.


                Brant blinked but seemed unsurprised and unimpressed. Pulling a blood dried cloth from his apron and wiped his face. He sat on his end on the table again.


                ‘So,’ he began. ‘We are in a bit of a pickle, are we not? My sister Bosmer, sticking her nose where it ought not to be. What am I to make of that? Common wood elf mischief? “The Bosmer have a blah blah blah” you know how the saying goes,’ he continued, waving his hand in the air. Brant took another sip of wine.


                Falrielle remained silent.


                He raised his goblet again. ‘So what are we to do?’


                ‘What are we do to indeed,’ Falrielle finally answered calmly. ‘Do you have any suggestions?’


                Brant leaned back. ‘Quite a few: Give us all your weapons, armour, and money and swear to never speak of this place again.’ He stopped and chuckled. ‘Let you go as it were with but a slap on the wrist.’


                ‘A wise option and one I would take. But in the North, we are a saying. It goes “Anything before ‘but’ is horseshit,” So but-‘


                ‘But some of the lads believe that you’re a spy. That you’re a hired thug, an assassin, a sellsword working for the Miner’s Guild to discover – oh who knows, something.’


                ‘A spy?’ Falrielle allowed an ugly smile on her face. ‘I am no spy and I have nothing to do with the Miner’s Guild.’


                Brant leaned closer. ‘Oh, I know, sister elf. I know,’ he said. ‘But,’ he continued, placing a brass ring on the table. ‘The lads think otherwise. What they want me to do is to slit your throat, burn your body and bury the ashes somewhere deep in the forest where no one can find you. Prudent don’t you think?’


                ‘Prudent but I sense that you’re not done, are you?’


                Brant smiled. ‘Or you could join the Silver-Hand. A fellow Wood Elf by my side is always a blessing.’


                Falrielle snorted and chuckled. ‘Join you? Why in Oblivion’s name would I join you?’


                The hunter shrugged. ‘You’ll die most horribly? A nail ripped off or some broken. The works.’


                Falrielle smirked. ‘Three nails on my left hand to be precise. It stung like no body’s business. Are you trying to intimidate me? If so try harder. I’ve been a sellsword for as long as I can remember and you’d have to be creative if you want to scare me. If you want to sell something to me: sell harder.’


                Brant frowned. Falrielle was convinced that this was the first time that Wood Elf had ever frowned in his life from the look of displeasure in his eyes. He sipped his drink and leaned in, his breath smelled all so sweetly.


                ‘Because I am alone, sister elf. I am so very alone.’


                ‘And why should I care?’


                Brant leaned back again, fiddled with the brass ring and sighed. ‘Do you know who and what we are? The Silver-Hand, I mean. No don’t answer that, I want to talk and you don’t have a choice but to listen. As you know we are an Order of werewolf hunters but you may ask: why would anyone risk their lives in such a dangerous and noble endeavour. We all have our reasons but mine…’


                Brant sipped his drink. ‘I had a family once,’ he said, his voice sombre. ‘Brenda was her name. Classic Nord beauty with her sun-coloured hair and sky blue eyes. Her kin didn’t approve of course so we moved to a little cottage in the woods. A little peace and quiet for ourselves in this crazy world.’


                Falrielle merely raised an eyebrow, not quite sure what he was trying to accomplish.


                Brant spun the ring on the table. ‘Oh how I loved my Brenda, she meant the world to me. Even the greatest of skalds would be unable to compose ballads and songs that would come close to measure our love.’ He slammed the ring flat. ‘Then after one particularly long night, I came home and I saw a creature; a damned werewolf feasting on her neck and my child. I never knew I even had a child, it was only then I knew. Fought the damn thing, I did but I didn’t manage to kill it. It managed to escape.’


              The hunter quaffed the wine to the last drop. ‘But not for long. A Wood Elf can be very persistent if he wants to. Rest assured that justice was swift and very painful.’ He lifted the goblet in a toast and frowned. ‘But after her death, after my vengeance I wasn’t sure what to do with myself. She was my world, my future and all that was bequeathed to me was my home: Skyrim. Without her, Skyrim was all I have left. I was born here in the land of snow and I know here is where I will die. In a ditch, in a grave, or in the rivers, it matters not: Skyrim is all there is for me – its home and home is where I met these fine people of the Silver-Hand.’


                He poured another goblet for himself. ‘But you know how the Nords are like.’ He shook his head and took a drink. ‘I may be raised a Nord. I may eat like a Nord. I may fight like a Nord. I may even think like a Nord. I have the name of a Nord but if you’re not born a Nord, then you’ll never be one of them. But even so, where am I to go, Falrielle?’


                He emptied the goblet in a chug. ‘You of all people should know what it’s like. You of all people would know how it feels to be a stranger in your own land.’


                Falrielle’s face cracked into a grimace; she knew exactly what it was like. Deep down she knew that no matter how hard she fought, how fiercely she lived or how much she drank, the Nords would never consider her one of them. That she was a daughter of snow. An elf with ‘a heart of a Nord’ perhaps but never a True Nord. It was a dirty fact that always made her feel alone.


                ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘I do know.’


                ‘Then how about it then, sister-elf?’ Brant let out a small smile. ‘I could also use a familiar face on my side.’


                For a moment, for a heartbeat and a breath she almost considered it. Her guts warned her that Brant may have just told her of what she wanted to hear but it was what she wanted to hear: a promise of freedom from loneliness, from isolation. A promise of a freedom from being a stranger in her own home. For a moment, she considered it but then she noticed the apron that Brant wore. The bloodied apron lined with knives, scissors and silver stakes – the tools of a butcher. It reminded her of the boy.


                ‘And what of the boy?’


                ‘The boy? What of him?’


                ‘How does he fit in your “noble” mission to rid Skyrim of the werewolves? How does he fit in your quest to seek a glorious death and to be welcomed at the gates of Sovngarde? How is he related to your lost love? You run a racket, I see. Create a demand where there is none. Clever, I’ll admit but where is the honour in that?’


                Brant turned his head away. ‘As noble as our goals are, the honour and nobility are no stoppers to harsh realities: we need money. We need medicine, food, weapons, ammunition and unless there is some great benefactor – this savagery is the best we could do unless you count banditry but we will not sink so low. Not while I’m in charge.’


                ‘You didn’t answer my question. What of the boy? Why the boy? Isn’t he just that? A boy?’


                ‘Don’t let that childish sobs fool you. sister-elf. A dangerous one that one is, we lost a few good men capturing him.’


                ‘Then why keep him,’ she said, an eyebrow raised. ‘Why not kill him quick and be done with it? Why not give him the mercy of a quick death?’


                ‘Bah. Don’t worry about the boy; about that abomination,’ he said, his voice light and cheery again. ‘He’s a werewolf. He’s more monster than human now. Pity him not, sister-elf for it wasted.’


                ‘An abomination, you say?’ she said through gritted teeth and a wild fury behind her pale blue eyes. ‘Why would you say that he’s an abomination? Did he choose to be a werewolf?’


                ‘No,’ Brant admitted. ‘But does it matter? He’s a monster now and he and his kind are a stain on Tamriel.’


                ‘An abomination. A stain on Tamriel,’ Falrielle quietly parroted. Falmer the name rang in her head. Abomination too. She told herself that she would forget the names. She was pale, true but she had never done them any harm yet she had earned their hatred. Their hatred for being different but that was her. She had years of practice and the words do not hurt her anymore but this was more than words. This time it was a just a child, a terrified boy. She could not accept it and a flame engulfed her.


               ‘Brother-Fellow-Whatever-the-fuck Wood Elf. Here is my answer,’ Falrielle leaned in closer. ‘Fuck you.’


               ‘Now, now,’ said the hunter. ‘Be reasonable.’


               ‘I am being reasonable and in case you didn’t hear me the first time, I shall repeat myself.’ Falrielle took a deep breath and shouted as loud as she could to ensure that there was no more misunderstanding, ‘Fuck you!’


                Brant remained silent. Fiddling with the ring before rising.


                ‘If that is your answer, then I will respect it as an elf-to-elf should,’ said Brant, jovial as ever. Falrielle could her the pop of a cork from a vial. ‘Worry not milady, worry not. This time we would not be so crude.’


                Brant covered a wet cloth over her mouth and nose. It smelt sweet. She kicked, thrashed, screamed, and struggled, fighting with the ferocity and desperation of a cornered animal. But like the flowers of spring and the winds of winter, slowly but surely, the fight left her. Her kicks grew weaker, her thrashes less wild, her screams softened and then…






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1 Comment   |   Sotek likes this.
  • ilanisilver
    ilanisilver   ·  March 3, 2018
    Nice twist with the Silver Hand here. I always thought they were dicks, and you made them even dickier. Good job!