Samara’s sleep was interrupted so much the following evening by excited children’s voices and angered tones that she decided to get up as soon as the sun was fully over the horizon. She slid her armor on over her clothes and grabbed her bag. Despite having a place to stay, even if it weren’t her own home, she didn’t feel like being around Alda as much. So much had changed since she left, and Samara wasn’t sure if the world was right enough for her to rekindle a friendship. Continue reading
Dawn came, and Jakben hadn’t returned. She thought he would ask for news, then come back, but there was no such luck. She kept herself busy by foraging for food, eating the berries that were in season and catching fish in the stream. It wasn’t the first time she was faced with living in the woods or death.
Samara didn’t have to take too much convincing to get Jakben out of the ruins. The two of them weren’t exactly close, and didn’t have much in common, as far as she could tell.Anyone would get stir-crazy sitting in the dark of a ruin.
Petrus opened the door, dressed in pressed, crisp fabrics with a modern style to them. He nodded his head a bit at Jakben, then bowed low at Samara, who raised a brow.
“Petrus, this is my father, Jakben Imbel.”
“A pleasure,” Jakben said, shaking the young man’s hand. Petra rubbed the hand Jakben shook.
“It must be colder than I thought, your hand are absolutely freezing! Come, come, inside.” He ushered them in. “I’ve had Shaahni make us some thick stew.”
“Stew?” Jakben seemed to perk up. “I haven’t had stew in quite some time.”
“We got very fortunate,” Petrus led them from the entrance of the cabin, which was actually two stories and neatly even with the treeline, through a doorway that led to a small sitting room. “Cooking is a valued skill in survival. Not many nobles know it, since we can afford to go out, eh Jakben?” Continue reading
The fires crackled in the old fort as Jakben turned the small deer he had killed on the spit. Samara sighed heavily, lying on her belly as she flipped the pages of her book too quickly to be considered reading. The scratchy sheets of the bedroll made her reach down and relieve an itch on her bare calf.
“We’ll head back soon,” Jakben said as he settled onto his own bedroll.
“Is there anything to return to?” Samara shut her book, the worn pages snapping shut. A single page shot out as the binding creaked with the force. She sighed again and crawled over to retrieve it.
“If there isn’t, there’s plenty of cities to make your home in.”
“No, there’s plenty of cities for YOU to make your home in. Anywhere I go, I am starting over completely.”
“You weren’t exactly well-known in the city.”
“Not yet,” she countered before slipping the page back into the book. She looked at the deer.
“How do you drain the blood so completely?”
Jakben’s face was expressionless. “Old trick I learned before you were born. What were you reading?”
“Tales and Legends of Springheel Jak.”
His brow shot up. “May I see?”
Samara handed him the book, and Jakben opened it, his face becoming increasingly amused as he read. Samara stood up.
“I’m going to check the buckets,” she said as she walked out of the room. Jakben settled onto his bedroll in a more comfortable position and waved her away. She walked through the halls, casting a night eye spell after rolling her eyes and walked the stony hallways. Neither of them had brought torches, though unlit sconces lined the walls of the fort. Both she and Jakben agreed that staying in darkness was preferable to bringing too much attention to themselves. It had been two days since the city fell, and some of the fires still burned. Samara knew that, if Blanche had survived and still been on her trip, she wouldn’t go searching for anyone. The fires would be enough to keep her away.
Alda would be different. She had always had a slightly heroic streak, using her sheer height to ward off insistent men from terrified women, picking up children away from the fists of larger children and carrying them to safety. Alda had even given their food away a few times, which Samara would respond to by stealing more food. Alda would be helping search for survivors, and when she wouldn’t find Samara’s body among the living, she would begin to look among the dead.
Out of everything, Samara was grateful her armor had been spared. It rested near her bedside atop a crate she used for the clothes she had brought here. Hunting gear, spare arrows, and a few emergency rations littered the fort in a lackadaisical fashion. Jakben had quickly tidied the area before collapsing from exhaustion shortly afterwards. Neither had been hungry the first night, but as the dawn crept up, both were nearly ravenous. Jakben had kept himself grumpily isolated, insisting he clear the fort of rats and possible bandits. He returned in better spirits, his soot-covered shirt now wet with blood.
“There were quite a few rats,” he had said happily. Samara had resolved to keep her distance from him as often as possible.
The fort door, though creaking in protest, swung open easily. A light rain had started falling, according to Jakben, and Samara dumped the water from each bucket into a larger bucket, filling it nearly full. There was a stream a half mile from the fort, and the Rumare, but neither felt comfortable leaving the fort at that point. She sat on a wet stone before heading back inside, glad to breathe in fresh air.
The sun peeked out over the horizon and, for the first time in days, Samara felt a twinge of hope. The door swung shut behind her, and she put the bar in place to keep bandits out, thought the morning sun would keep most from traveling. She heard hysterical howls of laughter echoing down the hallways as she walked back. Jakben was lying on his back atop his bedroll, one arm slung across his eyes, the other grasping the book. High-pitched shrieks of laughter bounced off the walls.
“Oh…the countess of Leyawiin… I’d forgotten about her!”
“What, the story? Which one? There’s a few.”
“The one where…oh by the gods…” He sat up to catch his breath, still laughing. “The one where, you know, they nearly caught him because he was hanging off a flagpole by his undergarments!” He howled in laughter again, his mouth open wide. Samara snorted.
“It gets worse as you read on.”
“I’m sure it does! Does it talk about her stuffed wolf she kept by her bedside? She’d make awful puns with it!”
He sat up and gave her a mock-sultry look, fluttering his lashes. “’You make me HOWL with pleasure!’” He erupted into laughter again. Samara snorted, then giggled hysterically.
“I know! How much water have we gotten?” He wiped his eyes, though Samara never saw the glistening of tears.
“Nearly one large bucketful. Enough for use to drink through the day and cook with. I do need to bathe.”
“Want me to accompany you to the stream?”
“That won’t be necessary. You rest. You’re nearly as strange as I am when it comes to daylight.”
“Like father like daughter,” he said, almost too casually. Samara ignored the remark and grabbed some clothes.
“I’ll return in two hours or less, Jakben.” She emphasized the name more than she meant to. Jakben showed no signs of recognizing her tone as he continued to read.
The walk was short, not nearly long enough for Samara to stretch her legs to her satisfaction. The rain from the walk to the fort had washed most of the soot away, but Samara wanted a scrubbing. She slid her filthy clothes off, glad to be rid of them. She reminded herself that her armor needed cleaning as she set her clothes underwater, held in place by a large rock lodged in the bed of the creek, letting the currents wash away the grime. She then sat in the creek bed, washing the dirt from her skin that sponge bathings didn’t get rid of. She heard a rustle in the bushes and turned around. She saw nothing, and shrugged.
She was in the middle of washing her hair when another rustle caught her attention. This time, she turned and got in a crouching position, eyes searching for any danger. She heard a low growl before a wolf burst through the bushes. A hand, resting on a rock as large as her fist, flew up, as if of its own accord, and brained the wolf. It fell without a whimper into the stream, leaving Samara panting heavily with fear. Her heart raced with unused adrenaline, speeding up even more as another rustle came from the bushes. Another smaller wolf growled at her, then promptly whimpered and fell as an arrow appeared in its gut. A horrified expression crossed her face as the wolf yowled in pain.
A large Imperial man with scarcely any clothes on had stepped out of the bushes, a satisfied grin on his handsome face. He looked over at Samara, barely giving her body a glance as he pulled her up. She looked at him, a shocked expression on her face. He smiled at her, the smug expression still on his face.
“Are you alright?” The concern in his voice did not match the expression on his face.
“I’m fine, you-”
“Do you need aid? A healing touch?”
“No! I’m fine, I even-” She was cut off by him placing his hands on her bare shoulders. She hunched her shoulders and laughed uneasily as she shrugged out of his grasp.
“Ha, I’d rather you not touch me right now.”
“Oh, I apologize. I was unaware that you weren’t decent.”
“I highly doubt that.” Samara crossed her arms over her chest and placed most of her weight on her right leg, jutting her hip out. To his credit, the man’s eyes never left her face.
“Truly. Should I fetch you some garments? Perhaps escort you back to the city?”
“No, I’m fine. I have my own clothes.”
“Surely you don’t wish to travel these perilous roads alone!”
“I’m fine, really. And don’t call me Shirley.”
The man looked confused, his blue eyes crinkling at the edges. He opened his mouth and began to speak, halting when Samara held her hand up.
“I’m fine. I’d much rather bathe in peace, please. And can you please put that wolf out of its misery?!”
The man looked over, a startled look on his face. “The beast isn’t dead? Strange, I never miss the heart!” Samara rolled her eyes as the man walked to the wolf and cut its throat.
“I wonder what caught the eye of the Beastmaster,” she muttered as she gathered her wet clothes from the stream. She laid her clothes out to dry after wringing them as much as she could. The man still lingered, a doubtful look on his face.
“May I have your name, fair maiden?”
“Samara, and I’m the furthest you can get from being a maiden without being paid for it.”
She delighted in the man’s blush as the expression dawned on him. She laid on the bank, her wet skin glistening in the sun. She closed her eyes briefly, then opened one, looking at him.
“I’d rather not leave a woman such as yourself helpless.”
‘Why are you speaking like that? You sound like the snooty nobles in the Imperial City.”
“Aye, I am such.”
“Why are you out here, half naked, wandering the woods?”
“The fires of Mehrunes Dagon burned my home, and I sought refuge in my cabin in the woods.”
She sat up. “Cabin? With…fresh food?”
“Mind if we stop bye sometime?”
“My father and I. We’ve been in an old fort ever since our homes were destroyed.” Samara suddenly realized Jakben had never actually SAID his home was destroyed. “He’s the earl of Imbel, and does not do well without the luxuries of his home.”
The man nodded slowly. “Aye. The day is young, and you are both welcome in my home. My name is Petrus Vanin.”
“Samara Sage…Imbel. Expect us at nightfall. My father spends his days resting and his nights-”
“Roaming the gardens behind the houses? Yes, he’s well-known for that. My father speculated the man was a hermit. Forgive me for saying so.”
“I don’t mind. He’s definitely strange.” She bobbed her head once and smiled slightly. “I appreciate letting us stop by. Where is this place located?”
“Follow the stream away from the water. It will be on the left. You will see a large white pillar marking the path leading up to it.”
She nodded again and thanked him before closing her eyes and lying back down. She watching through her lashes as the man walked away, a prideful look on his face.
‘Gods, I hope Jakben doesn’t get any ideas about him.’
Thunder rolled in the distance, the sound resonating in Samara’s chest. She sighed and woke up, her red hair curled in a few places from sweat. Blanche had been gone for nearly two weeks, a time frame Samara could do without. Sliding from bed, she laid on the dirt floor for a moment before suddenly sitting up.
A loud explosion shook her house, and Samara threw her door open in time to see the sky was as red as blood, boiling angrily with molten lava. Flecks of star bursts winked in and out from behind the tumultuous waves of reddened clouds.
It was horrifyingly beautiful.
The beauty was soon forgotten as she realized the sounds of screams were piercing the air. The air was hot and thick with sulfur and blood. Members of the Waterfront, people she had known her whole life, were running from armored monstrosities and creatures from nightmares. Horned, humanoid creatures with blackened teeth and faces wielding hateful-looking swords cut down people she had cared for over the years. Blood splattered on the ground, and sizzled on the molten armor of the horrific creatures.
She closed her door.
Inside the darkness of her house, lit slightly by deceptively rosy light, she slid her armor on, the soft leather shimmering with enchantment. Out of everything she did, this armor was the one selfish thing she did for herself. It hid her identifiable curves, giving her slimmer, smaller look. She tied her hair back and slid her mask on, her vision sharper and clearer. She sighed as she slid her greaves on, feeling the rejuvenating effects of the spell strengthening her limbs, opening the valve of her magicka more, letting it flow easier. Her boots strengthened her legs and made her limbs more flexible, and her steps quieter.
She threw open the door, her steely resolve dissolving when the figure of a man stood in her doorway. She took in a breath to scream, and nearly instantly a hand covered her mouth.
“Quiet,” he hissed. “Don’t draw attention to yourself!”
She struggled, pushing away. She seethed in anger when she saw his face.
“What are you doing here, Imbel?” She spat.
“No time,” his elven armor gleamed in the roiling red light. “Can you fight?”
She looked at the dagger with disgust, but took it anyways. “Not with this, not very well. I only use my hands and a bow.”
“Just like your mother,” he muttered before checking behind him. The monsters were still occupied with other victims. “That won’t do well with them. They’re from Oblivion itself, and their armor will burn you, and the arrows will bounce off. Follow me, and keep out of sight.”
She obeyed, grabbing her bow. “But-”
There was a roar as a large, dark-furred beast began tearing its way through the dremora. Jakben grabbed her arm and pulled her along. Samara swore she heard him say “Westley,” but before she could really absorb the situation, they were running past the chaos and into the shadows.
“Where are we going?” The volume of Samara’s voice didn’t matter over the screaming and odd, pulsating, humming noise.
“The Temple! We’ll be safe there.”
“We should stay out of the city, make a break for an old fort I’ve got cleaned out.”
“You mean Fort Homestead?”
“How’d you know?!”
A dremora saw them in its peripherals and turned towards them. It pulled out a sword that seemed to be made from hot coals and blackened steel and walked towards them.
“Jakben-” Panic was in Samara’s voice as she reached behind her to grab an arrow as Jakben’s elven shield blocked a blow meant for her head.
“I forgot my arrows!”
“Just stay back!” He grunted as the dremora pushed him back with sheer strength, sending him a few steps backwards. A strangled laugh, almost gurgling, came from the monster’s throat as it advanced on Jakben.
“Why don’t you stab it?” Samara offered.
“What a wonderful idea! I should have thought of that!” Jakben spared an eye roll before the dremora attacked again, mercilessly beating on Jakben’s shield. He cried out through gritted teeth as a crack was heard. The dremora gurgled in laughter once again.
“Foolish mortal! I have wounded you.” The voice grated in Samara’s ears like steel in a dying man’s throat. “Prepare to-”
There was a small, unprotected area at the base of the neck that Samara had noticed. Once the dremora turned its back, she plunged the dagger into its throat. She hissed in pain as the armor burned her skin, causing her wrist to blister up nearly immediately. It fell to its knees, then fell over. Jakben looked relieved.
“Thank the gods! I thought I was done for!” He groaned as Samara helped him up, looking around cautiously.
“Do you feel that?”
He nodded. “The air changed. We need to get to the Temple.”
The air rumbled with an energy that Samara had never felt before. She rushed on with Jakben, the energy pushing and pulling at what seemed to be their very souls. She felt her very essence jump as a bright, fiery explosion littered the sky with embers, two gargantuan figures, one shaped as a bedazzling dragon, and the other as fear incarnate, swung and bit, clawed, and lunged, crushing the districts beneath them.
Everything stopped as the two battled, and Samara suddenly had an instinctual feeling that they should be nowhere near the city. She grabbed Jakben’s hand, ignoring the startled look on his face as she pulled him away from the city. Bodies littered the districts as they sprinted between alleys, dodging swinging axes of Mythic Dawn agents and dremora alike. Suddenly Jakben slowed.
“Where’s your lover?” The raging battle was near-deafening, but Samara heard him, just barely.
“Not in the city!” They reached the gate, which was ajar after the guardsmen abandoned their posts. Once they were out, the air seemed thinner, more calm as a final burst of light blinded everyone in the city momentarily. Both Jakben and Samara covered their eyes as the entirety of Nirn filled with deafening silence.
The weeks passed by in a blur after they got back from Hrotunda Vale. Blanche spent whatever time she had free with Samara, who spent her free time in bed with Blanche. The time between afternoon and dusk was bliss for the two women, who spent their time exploring new things and enjoying their discoveries. One such pleasing discovery for Blanche was that Samara was actually talented at Illusion and Destruction magic. Blanche was determined to expand Samara’s skill, and gave her lessons whenever the two of them came up for air. Continue reading
The dull thud of her body as it fell next to mine, her feline eyes staring into my own as blood leaked from her mouth. Her ebony armor shone with the light of the moons, flickering in and out of sight as my conscious thought ebbed away. I felt a hand slip under my shirt and grope my small, mostly undeveloped breast and squeeze urgently.
“We’re going to have a wonderful time, little elf,” a low voice hissed. My efforts to crawl away were halted by strong hands gripping my wrists tightly, pinning them above my head. I closed my eyes and grit my teeth as my trousers were slid over my rear, my belly scraping against the dirt of the desolate Skyrim road. I felt another hand on my rear, gentler, then my legs being spread apart.
I cried out in pain…
I jerked awake, momentarily disoriented in the darkness. I kicked the covers off my body, sliding out of bed and onto my knees on the floor. I felt for the solidness of my sword and let out a relieved sigh when I felt its warmth. I pulled it out from under the bed and partially unsheathed it, taking comfort in the soft glow. Dawnbreaker quietly hummed with energy, a sound I had gotten used to in the years I had it. I slid the sword back under the bed and checked behind the curtains of the inn, peeking out the window.
Dusk. The nightmares always woke me up by dusk. It never mattered what they were, whether they had happened or not, but they never failed to wake me up by dusk. Outside my door, the revelries of a party suddenly swelled as laughter leaked under my door, as well as light. I smiled slightly. It was always nice to hear someone having a good time, even in a place called “The Winking Skeever.”
The jarl had commissioned me to clear out a small nest of vampires near Solitude. Between the woes of her husband dying and the tenacity of the Stormcloaks trying to take the holds in her land, Jarl Elisef had passed all “minor” responsibilities to Falk Firebeard, a man I was well accustomed to dealing with.
I stood up and stretched, then dressed. I brushed my auburn hair to my satisfaction and held it back with a thin length of rope. I then opened the curtain a bit, letting the failing light stream in, then sat on my bed. I crossed my legs, tucking each foot under my knee, and straightened my back, staring forward. I placed my hands on my knees and began breathing a bit slower, listening to my breaths.
I sat like this until the light was nearly gone. I slid on my armor, a dark leather fit for night-stalking, then slid a cowl on, then decided against it. The strange Altmer that only came out at night made the locals uneasy enough, but add in dark armor and a cowl? I would be lynched for being a vampire, or necromancer. Or perhaps just because it was Tirdas.
I arranged my ingredients, my eyes accustomed nicely to the darkness. I slipped what I needed into the slots on a harness across my chest. Two healing potions, a stamina potion, two magic potions, and a cure disease potion. I slid a brown cloak on to offset the black leather armor, to startle the patrons less. Dawnbreaker was strapped to my hip last, and the cowl tucked into my pouch on my right hip.
The conversations lulled as I walked out. I expected it, yet still nodded at anyone willing to make eye contact with me. I smiled at a small child, who only blinked back up. He smiled back before I turned my head and shut the door behind me.
The air was brisk, as nearly always in Solitude. Spring was coming, though, and the air was a bit warmer than usual. Growing up near the border between Cyrodiil and Skyrim, the warmer months were always appreciated by me. Though light on my feet, my heels clacked against the cobblestoned pavement on my way to the gates. The guard opened it up, and I was out. I slid the hood and cowl on, adjusting it so I could breathe with better ease. There was no need to check my map, as the same cave had been cleared out by me a year before. I walked the familiar road, passing a Khajiit caravan. They averted their eyes, afraid I was a thief wanting their goods. . I kept my pace up, disappearing down the hill.
When I got close, I slid into the brush across from the entrance. The spot was already ripe with the carcasses of animals and humans alike, and any would-be hero would be easily baited in. “The folly of the inexperienced is their inexperience.”
My old mentor’s words rang true in my head as my elven ears pricked at the sound of footfalls. A Nordic woman with bright blonde hair stood at the entrance, her hand on the hilt of her steel sword. I could tell she was contemplating entering. She looked at the bloodied bones and the bloody handprints on the ground, black with age. A pained howl suddenly burst from the cave, and she jumped and drew her sword.
I moved to stand up, but the warning on my lips was stayed by her form dropping quickly with a dull metallic thud, her armor hitting the rocks. She scooted forward, the steel scraping loudly, forcing me to cringe as my long ears tingled at the sound. I stood up and silently followed the adventurer down the tunnel, until it became too dark to see.
I held my breath and waited. I heard rustling, then the sound of a torch being lit, then the suddenly blinding light as the torch caught fire. I could hear the heavy breathing of the adventurer as she ventured forward. I let out a silent breath as I followed her though the dark cavern. The sounds of activity were heard as the vampires began to awaken fully. The sound of steel leaving its sheath rang out as she pulled her sword out and stepped into the lit part of the cavern. I readied my bow as she began to speak in a loud, authoritative voice.
“Foul creatures!” Her voice wavered slightly, but remained somewhat strong. “Tonight you will meet your death!”
Hissing laughter filled the cavern as they slowly advanced on the woman. She swung as one, and it easily dodged her and shocked her with a spell. Her sword clanged loudly as it hit the ground. Strangled groans from her clenched jaw made me shiver, as I knew that pain. I loosed an arrow from the bow I conjured, and it planted in the unprotected chest of one of the vampires. It fell back from the force of the impact, and the other vampires looked into the darkened tunnel.
“Elf!” One hissed. “Kill the elf!”
The lunged at me, and I pulled out Dawnbreaker, the light from its blade blinding them. It pulsed hungrily, a low hum emitting from the ringing sound as I held it out without a word.