SotF: The Blood Court

  • IV

    Falrielle opened her eyes… and saw nothing. She pricked up her ears and kept silent yet she heard nothing. She raised her head and immediately regretted it; a hard bump and the world spun as if Talos himself descended from the heavens to smack her in the ear.


                The elf was on her back groaning and shifting her weight as if she was sleeping on a bed of rocks. Falrielle reached over picked up a rock and sniffed. No, not a bed of rocks as she originally thought but turnip. She threw the root over her shoulder and winced – the turnip hit something wooden and the echo spun her head again. She stayed still, raising her hand up and felt the ceiling. She gritted her teeth and knocked, wincing at the echo of wood.


                ‘Mara, not again…’ she whispered as she positioned her legs above her and pushed but the ceiling would not budge. Her mind danced at the thought that someone had buried her alive, it wouldn’t be the first time it happened but logic calmed her: why would she be buried alive in a coffin full of turnips? Though if someone is trying to kill her, she agreed that they had chosen a particularly embarrassing way to die.


                Falrielle threw herself to one flank of the box, counted to ten and slammed her body on the other flank. Her head rung but she threw herself at the flank again and again until for a moment the world seemed weightless before gravity, the harsh mistress of reality greeted her with loud and painful crash.


                She flipped herself over, spat out the dirt from her lips, and took a deep breath. The air was cool, damp and stunk of vegetables. She refused to move, wheezing and uttering prayers and curses to the gods. Falrielle opened her eyes and slowly shuffled around on the floor, pulling the occasional turnip from her back and getting a feel for where she was. Like in the box, the room was completely dark.


                Falrielle heard muffled mutterings in the distance. She turned her head with great difficulty and saw shimmers of light above her. She patted her waist and couldn’t find her knife.


                ‘Mara, fuck me…’


                With every fibre of resolve in her body, she stood up. Her legs wobbled like two twigs supporting the weight of an old boar. She leaned on the stack of boxes from where she fell and felt her stomach rumbling. She closed her eyes, breathed and moved. Each step was a battle to maintain her balance as one would wade through a coursing river and the stairs were worse.


                She opened the door and a rush of warm air and a bright light hit her. When she opened her eyes, she found herself in a kitchen, a particularly large and fancy one filled with fresh produce lit by a roaring hearth. Falrielle could smell traces of roasted swan and suckling pig. She was in a noble’s home she guessed.


                Strength returned to her when she spotted a basket of eggs. She ran and devoured egg after egg like a fox in a chicken coop. Her body shuddered after the fifth egg and the world began to clear. She burped, hand over her mouth to keep the eggs in. It was always a battle of the nerves but if there was a better cure for a hangover than raw eggs, she never heard it.


                ‘Now where am I?’ she said to herself, pilfering an apple.


                The hallway reminded her of Silver-Blood’s manor back in Markarth: spacious and lavishly decorated. Yes, it was of grey brick and oak as it was common for Nord structures but any more than that such as white marble or mahogany would be too much for Nord sensibilities. Yet they were adorned with exquisite tapestries depicting great battles of myths and legend and the windows were of splendid stained glass. On the ground Falrielle could feel the soft fabric of colourful rugs that covered on the floor. She wiggled her toes, wondering where the boot went.


                The continued walking, looking for any clue as to whose house was she in before she felt something rumbling in her stomach. She packed and emptied the closest flower vase and heaved violently. She frowned, looking into the bits of apples and egg floating in the vase. She sighed and looked for a room, any room she could take a short nap to clear her head.


                She peeked her head into an unassuming storage room for knickknacks and other things the nobilities enjoyed hoarding. She smiled at her small victory – just a few hours of uninterrupted shut eye should clear her head and she figured that no one has any reason to check a store room. The room was filled with crates from floor to ceiling. Perfect, she thought; more spots for naps.


                She looked at the crates and again, assumed it was filled with nothing of interest but as the saying went ‘the Wood Elves have a nose for trouble.’ She brushed her fingers on the cover and felt a marking - the emblem of Shippers & Movers. She opened the crate and found it full of weapons: swords, axes, and spears. She stumbled back and inspected the other crates, all bearing the same contents. A strange collection, she thought for the weapons weren’t anything special, they were conventional arms of steel. Even so, why anyone would keep weapons in such a place, she thought considering that an armoury would be more appropriate.


                Her ears twitched.


                Falrielle walked towards a wall as unassuming as the rest of the room. She didn’t know why but she felt compelled to push a brick and a passage opened revealing a hidden alcove.


    The alcove was small but it was well lit from the ceiling above. The walls were even better decorated than the ones in the hallway with glimmers of silver and gold thread adorning the tapestries. At the centre of it all was a table filled with curios.


                The most prominent of it all was a strange bronze figurine of a woman with many arms with a lightly blooded ornamental knife resting on its base. She hefted the figurine and weighed it in her hand, musing that in the old days that Silver-Blood would pay good money for such a trinket… but she was no longer allowed to do that while in the Vigil; Carcette had made it very clear. She sighed and placed the strange figurine back on its pedestal before she looked up, gasped, and dropped the vase with a hollow thud.


                ‘Oh, Mara…’


                She smacked herself, finally sobering she comprehended what she was looking at: a shrine to the Daedric Princes. That madman was regrettably, partially correct in his ravings, Falrielle thought.


                She panicked, scrambling out of the alcove and picked up the knife and ran. In her experience, Daedric worshippers were as dangerous as any other worshippers – which was potentially life threatening but they could be reasonable. But if she was caught as a Vigilant of Stendarr, the Holy Order that hunted Daedra and their worshippers…


                As she ran, she noted that there were no guards. She wondered why and the gods gave her the answer when she opened a door… and was greeted by a party of silent nobles staring at her.


                She scanned the room and saw the banners that decorated the great hall: two-crossed daggers on a violet field, the colours of the Jarldom of Riften. She froze like a spooked deer, looked at her hand, still holding the ornamental knife and swore.





    Her cell was far more comfortable than the ones she once slept in while in Dawnstar all those years ago. The dungeon she was in now was warm in a snug, water tasted like water, and she didn’t have to shank anyone though she did noted that she seemed to be the only ‘tenant’ around. She crammed her head into the bars, the glow of distant candles being the only source of light. While she couldn’t see them, she could hear some guards having a chat.


                She frowned, walking to her bed and sat down. She shifted her weight and pulled a turnip from her tunic. ‘How did I get in there?’ she muttered, bouncing the turnip in her hand.


                She touched her side and winced, the guards were quite zealous in apprehending her but it was to be expected; only a fanatical assassin would so brazenly approach the Jarl with weapon drawn. She laid on her back, tossing the turnip in the air and catching it as it fell. She thought about Carcette and what she should say to her when they would meet again. She threw the turnip up. She wondered if the Jarl had anything to do with the shrine she found. She missed and the turnip hit her in the face.


                ‘Fuck me,’ she said, rubbing and sniffing her nose. She stood up and walked to the bars again and again as the hours before, nothing. After the shouting guards no one had spoken to her and thinking of it, she realised that they hadn’t fed her yet if they chose to feed her. She burped, trying to keep the contents in: her breathe ranked of eggs and alcohol.


                She sighed and dropped to the ground prone and begun her exercises. Her head throbbed at the beat of every movement. She gritted her teeth and bounced on her hands, clapping at the highest and she kept going, feeling the sweat on her. As Mentor had told her, if she didn’t have anything to do, she was wasting time. She turned around, laying on her back. She raised her legs up and down feeling a burning sensation on her stomach. She wondered if it was her exercise or she was just hungry when she heard footsteps in the distance. Two men soon came into view both dressed immaculately in their fur caps and colourful tunics and trousers. Falrielle could even smell their Imperial leather boots.


                ‘Leave us,’ shouted the bearded noble, his voice deep. Falrielle could hear footsteps moving away as she rose from the ground and looked at his orange-lit face. ‘Now,’ he continued, ‘Who sent you assassin?’


                ‘She’s no assassin,’ said the other noble, an older man the panic reeked from his voice. ‘She’s a Vigilant.’


                ‘Silence you fool,’ said the bearded noble. He turned to Falrielle again. ‘Who sent you?’


                ‘Nobody did,’said Falrielle, thickening her accent as much as she coherently could.


                ‘They don’t need anyone to send them,’ said the older noble. ‘They do it because they want to.’


                ‘Look, I don’t know what is-‘ said Falrielle.


                ‘Silence!’ said the bearded noble. ‘We know what you saw, we know where you found that knife and that means you know too much. Normally we’d have you summarily beheaded but…’


                Anything before ‘but’ is horseshit, Falrielle thought.


                ‘I am a merciful man,’ said the bearded noble, his brows furrowing. ‘So this is what you will do. Admit to the Jarl that you are a spy from some other Jarl and that your allegiance is to coin and coin alone. Normally spies are to be hung until death but I have the Jarl’s ear and I will advise clemency. You will be banished from the Rift and be five hundred Septims richer.’


                Falrielle raised an eyebrow for if she were to find a spy, she would just had them killed immediately… unless she couldn’t afford to have them killed because it would attract too much attention. She looked at the bearded noble and said ‘So the Jarl doesn’t know?’


                ‘Bah, the Jarl is a fool, her head stuck in the old ways and look where it got us: submission to an empire that spits at our ways bowing to the cursed elves of the Isles… and the Nine betrayed us, abandoned us to our fates. But there are those who would listen, there are other gods who could see us just.’


                Falrielle’s faced betrayed no thought or emotion. She stared at the nobles before she bent over and retched.


                Some of the vomit splattered on the noble’s boots. The older noble squealed and the bearded noble cursed. ‘Bloody Vigilants!’ he said. ‘Do you so wish death?’


                Considering her headache, Falrielle did wish death but she always wished for death after a night of revelry. Her mind wandered on the events of the previous night: just what did she do? She wiped her mouth and said, ‘When is the trial?’


                ‘Soon,’ said the bearded noble. ‘Do we have a deal?’


                ‘Do I have a choice?’ said Falrielle.


                ‘No.’ The bearded noble smiled.


                ‘Then why ask?’


                The bearded noble nor his companion did not answer. They left without saying another word.


                Falrielle picked up the turnip, laid down on her bed and tossed the root in the air, catching it as it fell. She thought about Carcette and shuddered; if she had caused the Vigil to be banished from the Rift, her ears would go red from the tongue lashing Carcette would give.



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