Life as Fox

2014-01-25_00005

Chapter 1

Arcadia’s body would be placed in the crypt soon. She had died several days before from an explainable illness. She suspected poisoning. She couldn’t keep food or drink down, and slowly wasted away until she drew her last breath early that Turdas morning. Even she, an experienced and talented healer couldn’t do anything about it. I had to sit next to her bed and wipe her brow and watch her die. Her family was in her house before her body was cold. I was given a few minutes to gather my things- and some of the money and research she had told me to hide- and was thrown out. I had lived in that house and apothecary shop for almost three years. It was all I knew for the longest time. It was far enough away from Ulfric. Only Arcadia knew who I was. Not that it ever mattered who I was. Being dragonborn never brought me much joy. I was thankful that jarl Balgruuf had kept my identity safe because of my age. Alduin was gone, my job was done, and I was forgotten about. Nearly forgotten about. Ulfric was still searching for me.

I stood there in the street between the people coming from and going to market. As some time passed and the market became more lively, Ysolda stopped to ask what had happened.

“Arcadia is dead,” I said. She squeezed my hand and hurried back to the stalls. I was left in the street. Somewhere inside of me I had hoped she would offer me a roof for the night. He never told me where to go after he was gone. I finally found the strength to move my feet. I ended up at the inn, the Bannered Mare. I paid Hulda for a room and placed my knapsack on the wooden floor, beside the bed upstairs. I sat down, trying to ignore the hay that came through the poorly made mattress. I don’t know how long I sat there, thinking back to the feathered beds in Ulfric’s court. Even if we never got along, I always did appreciate a soft bed.

I locked my door when I went down to get a plate of food. I sat with my back to the fire and the rest of the patrons while I ate my dinner of grilled salmon and leeks. It was always Arcadia’s favourite. I ordered a mug of ale to wash it all down. Soon I was on my fourth ale, enjoying the buzzing in my stomach and in my fingertips.

“Fox?”

I turned around to two rangers. I could tell by the stag head pins on their green and black uniforms. Arcadia had many rangers who came to the shop for health potions and salves. They did seem to enjoy hurting themselves often.

“I’m not the alchemist’s assistant anymore.”

“But you were Arcadia’s assistant?” The man pulled his hood back revealing his scruffy, unshaven face. His brown beard seemed as if it just came down from his brown hair- as if the two were one. He had dark brown eyes that stared down hard at me. But his mouth was pulled up into a smile. I felt unsettled and uncertain how to feel around him. I didn’t recognize him.

“Do I know you?”

“I don’t think so.” He leaned against the wooden pillar that connected to the intricate design that held up the roof of the inn. “I’m Sterek.” He gestured to the ranger next to him, that had been very quiet. “This is Magnus.”

I stared at them wordlessly for a moment. “Why are you here?”

“Arcadia and jarl Balgruuf had us come,” Magnus said. He had a deep voice that sounded quite menacingly coming from under his hood. I still couldn’t see his face.

“Why?”

“Here,” Sterek said. Looking up at his face made me want to scratch my chin. I let my fingers quickly run over my chin as I took the letter from him. The leather of his glove was warm and soft. I recognized the paper and the red seal. I ripped open the jarl’s seal and started reading. Arcaida knew she would die and that her family would throw me out. She reached out to the jarl, who honour-bound Magnus and Sterek to keep me safe until I could reach a safe house near Solitude. It wasn’t safe to be alone. It was the last thing he could do for me. At least they weren’t mercenaries.

I gave the letter back to Sterek. The tingling in my fingers left at an instant and the warm feeling in my belly was replaced with nausea.

“Are you alright?”

I tried to get to my feet, but almost lost my footing. Magnus caught my arm and helped me up. I managed to just outside the doors of the Fielder’s Plow before all the contents of my stomach erupted from my mouth. They stood there with me until I stopped heaving. The day and letter had been too much. I hadn’t felt much of anything since Arcadia’s last breath and as I stood there outside in the grass it felt as if I was being drowned in emotion and heartache. It was like when I realized I had been left to die. Ulfric hadn’t even noticed my absence. I felt as if I would never breathe again and that was why I threw myself in to the river.

“Fox,” Magnus said. “Let’s go back inside.”

He supported me again as we walked back inside, and up to the room I had rented. I was given a small amount of ale to sip on as I sat on the horrible bed.

“I’ll get a room next door,” Magnus said. He left without making a sound on the wooden floor. Sterek took the mug away from me.

“Get some rest. We leave in the morning. We’ll be close by if you need anything.”

He closed the door behind him and I was completely alone again. My entire life would change for the third time, and like always I had no control. And like always I had no idea where I would go or what would happen to me.

*

I had a horrible night’s sleep. I thought I wouldn’t be able to rest because of the stress and emotion of the day, but sleep came quickly. Unfortunately, the hay of the mattress kept sticking up into my side. No matter how I positioned myself, I was stabbed and kept waking up. Eventually I was forced to sleep on top of the blanket and brace the cold, brisk air. I curled up into a ball, and finally I could sleep and stay asleep.

Just as the first of sunlight came bleeding out in the sky, there was a knock at the door and Magnus stood in my room. I watched the sky from the window for another moment, admiring the orange and yellows that were coming through the clouds. I sat up slightly, feeling very aware of the lack of coverage I had. At least I had slept in my dress, knowing I would be cold during the night.

“You sleep in your clothes?” He asked. I was surprised by his forwardness.

I cleared my throat. It felt so dry and raw. “I couldn’t take much of what was mine before I was thrown out. All clothing I have is what I was already wearing.”

“We’ll stop to get your things before we leave.” I stared at him, dumbstruck. He pulled back his hood, revealing himself. His cheekbones sat unusually high for a man and his eyes seemed mournful. He was what sculptors would describe as ideal. I couldn’t help but agree. “Sterek ordered breakfast. You should hurry up.” I washed my face off before I went downstairs to eat. Magnus pushed a wooden plate of bread, cheese and one lavender dumpling toward me. I ate the dumpling first.

“Aren’t these expensive?” I asked.

“You seem to be enjoying it.”

I bit into the hot, flaky pastry and savoured the sweet, floral lavender flavour that enveloped my tongue. The tartness of the snowberries was the last flavour to linger. I was absolutely in love. Magnus watched me for a moment, before picking up his mug and turning his head away. I pulled my knapsack onto my back when it was time to go. The taste of lavender was long gone and the taste of old cheese and hard bread was all that was left. I didn’t complain.

Magnus stopped by Arcadia’s cauldron. The sign had already been taken down. Arcadia would have hated it. The town was already awake and starting to get busy. I waited outside, standing against the old weathered wood of the wall. I was trying to get away from the cold wind, but it always seemed to find the weak spots in my clothing and shoes. Soon I was shivering.

Magnus placed my pair of boots down next to me. “Here,” he said. Over his shoulder was another knapsack filled with what I presumed was more of my clothes. I eagerly pulled the woollen socks on, followed by the weathered brown leather boots. A gift from Arcadia.

“Better?”

“Yes, thank you,” I said. “How did you get them to give you my things?”

“Don’t fret to much about it.” He pulled the other strap over his left shoulder and gestured for me to follow. I made sure to take in as much of Whiterun before we left through the large wooden gates.

The cold was everywhere in Skyrim in my opinion, and Whiterun was always windy. The cold came from the mountains with their snow-capped peaks surrounding the town. The sound of the water that ran through the city like veins always calmed me at night. I would miss the clear taste of it. I had kept to myself so much, there were no friends to say goodbye to. I recognized the faces of Arcadia’s clients, but that was what they remained. I silently stayed behind Magnus until we reached the gate.
I stopped and looked up at the massive gate. I had stood there, looking up at the same spot before I killed my first dragon. I stood there when it was time to go out and face Alduin. I placed my hand on the right side, but quickly pulled my hand away when one of the guards stepped closer.

It didn’t cross Magnus’ mind to let me say goodbye. I wish I was given more time to say farewell to my friends and the faces I had come to know. No one knew that I was leaving. I turned to look at the stone walls as they kept getting smaller behind us. When we reached the stables, Sterek came out with three horses, all dark brown with black manes.
“Do you know how to ride?”

“Yes,” I said. I turned my head back again. I was thankful that they didn’t ask any questions. I suppose, most people knew how to ride a horse. It wasn’t as special as where I had come from.

“No use in looking back,” Magnus said, coming to stand behind me. “There’s nothing to go back to. You’re prolonging your heartache.”

“Let the poor girl have a moment to say goodbye,” Sterek said. “Her entire life just changed.” I looked back one last time, but I knew it would be better to leave it in the past. To leave it to rest with Arcadia. I had to be strong again. I couldn’t hide forever.

“He’s right,” I said. “There’s no point.”

I took the reins from Sterek’s hand and got on the back of the horse. It had been a while since I was on a horse, but it wasn’t something I would easily forget. I turned her toward the road and waited for the two rangers to show me which way to go. Sterek and Magnus soon pulled up in front of me. I silently followed behind them, down the road to my new unknown life. I didn’t look back at Whiterun, at my old life. It had died with Arcadia and who I used to be. It was time to be someone new again.


(2000+ words)

I’ve been thinking about what to do with my NaNo ‘novel’ for a few months now. I’ve decided to turn it into fanfiction/ mixed with some original ideas. I’m going to post it here as well as on some fanfiction sites. I just want to see what will happen.


 

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