SotF: The Little Things - Part One

  • Riften. The City of Beggars and Thieves.


                    It had almost been a decade since his last visit to this wretched place and it was just as he had left it: skittering rats at every corner of the eye, aroma of urine, alcohol, corpses, and garlic lingered in the nose, the poor masses huddled together in shacks of rotting wood while the rich lived in palaces of fine cut stone. A corrupt cesspool in Matthias’ opinion.


                    …One that reminded him of home.


                    True, corruption was inevitable in any settlement but corrupt cesspools like Riften had a certain charm to them that most cities would envy. Of course what that charm was, Matthias could never answer but he always insisted that was a question for the philosophers.


                    The Vigilant strolled down the busy street with his hood down, hands held behind his back, and whistled a jaunty tune of a song whose lyrics he did not remember. Today was especially busy for the city: today was market day. Farmers, hunters, and merchants proudly and zealously peddled their wares from the city gates all the way to the square. Matthias had seen mundane produce; beets, cowberries and the like to strange and exotic trinkets from all over the Empire. Even better, the Imperials of Cyrodiil have made their mark in Skyrim with one of their greatest inventions: beef jerky and frybread.


                    Matthias tore a strip in his mouth and let the salty and smoky flavour disperse in his tongue. He would of have bought himself a loaf of frybread but the Gods are not so kind and he only had so much money to spend on personal luxuries. Junia would of have loved to visit this city, Matthias thought. Such a shame that Keeper Solara only picked him for this token.


                    Wading through the sea of a crowd, Matthias could see a swarm of children scampering through. One even bumped into him and on reflex, Matthias found himself clenching on the arm of a boy, head of gold and hazel eyed and his reflexes were vindicated once again – the urchin had his hands on Matthias’ coin pouch.


                    ‘Tsk. Stealing from a faithful of Stendarr?’ Matthias said, shaking his head. ‘He, who is the God of Justice? He who judges the guilty?’


                    The boy said nothing although Matthias could feel bones rattling in his grasp. Skinny little thing, Matthias thought. No doubt sure that that he was about to get his teeth kicked in or a rib broken or a finger removed. No one cared for poor, not least the urchins – their lives were worthless to most.


                    Matthias sighed and smiled. ‘Stendarr is not only the God of Justice, boy. He is also the God of Charity. Be not afraid, no harm will come to you.’ He released the boy’s arm and reached into his coin pouch, pulling ten Septims. ‘Here, take this and run along now.’


                    He watched as the urchin took the money and disappeared into the crowd without a word. Ten Septims. Just enough for a loaf of bread, more than enough to survive the week.


                    He continued swimming through the throng before stopping at a street that was particularly cleared of any merchants. In their place was a long line of the indigents and the destitute in front of an old workshop with a sign so poorly hammered on the wall which said, ‘Free Food’. Matthias does appreciate a good bowl of barley porridge but he had already eaten. He was here for another task.


                    The door opened with a creak and one of the attendants nearly shooed him out but stopped. The attendant looked at Matthias with a suspicious eye before he barked orders at a child, a Redguard with their characteristic dark skin. The boy ran up the workshop and returned with a man, like the boy was a Redguard. He had a squarish face with a short half beard that seemed to accentuate his features even more. He was also dressed in hooded saffron robes – the garbs of the Priesthood of Mara.


                    ‘Greetings stranger,’ the priest said, his voice raspy. ‘How may I help you today?’


                    ‘Salutations, Brother Makram,’ Matthias said, extending an arm. ‘I am Matthias, Vigilant of Stendarr.’


                    ‘A Vigilant of Stendarr?’ Makram shook the Vigilant’s hand. ‘But your robes…’


                    ‘I am of the Cyrodiil Chapter of the Vigil.’ Matthias bowed his head. ‘I am here as part of an “Inter-province Exchange Programme”, a mouthful I know but to the point: I am here to learn of the hardships of my Skyrim brethren. How are we to serve the Lord of Justice if we cannot even empathise with our own? Do you agree?’


                    Makram nodded. ‘So what brings a Vigilant to our little corner of the world? If we are having Daedra trouble, we would let you know.’


                    ‘Me?’ Matthias scratched his beard. ‘I am just on a patrol in the Rift, helping where I can. And since I am here, is there anything I can help you with?’


                    As if the Gods themselves had listened to them, a commotion broke out and a voice screamed. Makram cursed under his breath and ushered the boy away.


                    ‘What is it?’ Matthias said. ‘What is going on?’


                    Makram however didn’t answer but instead wore a sullen expression on his face.


                    Standing outside was a gang of thugs armed with cudgels, axes, and knives. Their clothes were worn and ragged, their bearings brutish. Matthias stood by the door and counted seven of them in total.


    The crowd was silent.


                    ‘Brother Makram!’ The lead thug, a young Nord man with blonde hair tied in a ponytail and a tattoo on his arm approached and arms wide open as if expecting an embrace. ‘It’s been a long time since we paid you any visit and we are truly sorry about that. Life has kept us busy.’


                    ‘Nothing to be sorry about, Hoggvir,’ Makram said through gritted teeth.


                    ‘I’m her to check up on things, see how you’re doing.’ Hoggvir took a bowl from the counter, ate a spoonful and spat. ‘What are you feeding these people?’ He chuckled. ‘Cat vomit? This stuff is disgusting. And who’s that milk-drinker in the pyjamas?’


                    Matthias’ hand twitched as it brushed the handle of his mace, hidden under his sash.


                    ‘He’s just a guest,’ Makram said. ‘Pay him no heed.’


                    The thug shrugged, tossed the bowl aside and walked up to the priest. ‘Well, let’s get down to business then,’ Hoggvir said, his voice cold. ‘Where’s my money?’


                    ‘I don’t have it, Hoggvir.’


                    Hoggvir leaned in closer. ‘And what is that supposed to mean?’


                    ‘It means I don’t have it.’ Makram shook his head. ‘We’re running a soup kitchen not a business! We don’t make-‘


                    Hoggvir like a coiled viper shot a fist at the priest’s gut sending him crumpling to the ground. ‘Don’t fuck with me, you damned priest!’ He added another kick for good measure.


                    ‘Papa!’ said the Redguard boy, running out from the shop and throwing himself on Makram.


                    Hoggvir raised an arm, backhand ready and smirked.


                    Matthias dashed forward, catching the thug’s hand as it fell. The silent crowd murmured and Hoggvir’s crew readied their weapons.


                    ‘Let’s not get impulsive,’ said Matthias, smiling and tightening his grip. ‘Don’t want any of us to do something we’d regret, do we?’


                    ‘Well then!’ Hoggvir said. ‘Looks like we have ourselves a hero, don’t we? Come hero, who’s going to make us regret? You?’


                    The two men stared at each other like a pair of snarling dogs and neither were willing to back down. Hoggvir’s eyes told Matthias that he truly was curious to see his threat through and Matthias was more than willing to follow through it.


                    ‘Matthias. No,’ groaned Makram. ‘Let it go.’


                    The Vigilant looked at Makram and sighed, loosening his grip.


                    Hoggvir glanced at the priest, then back at the Vigilant and laughed. ‘Clever, Makram. Good to see your wits about you.’ He turned to the boy who was glaring at him. ‘Cute kid. Can’t believe anyone would’ve want to fuck you though. Still, it’d be a shame…’


                    ‘I get it, Hoggvir!’ Makram waved his hand. ‘Leave my son out of this. You’ll get your payment tomorrow.’


                    ‘Before breakfast I hope.’ Hoggvir looked at the boy and grinned. ‘Me and the lads plan to have a hearty meal!’


                    Matthias watched the gang walk away, the crowd parting for them. He raised his hand – were shaking.



    Next: Part Two


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