Life as Fox- Chapter 3

We passed by Helgen on our way to Falkreath. I stopped my horse to look at the still abandoned town. As I looked at its ruined walls, I convinced myself that I could still smell Alduin’s burning fire, the burning flesh of innocents, wood and stone. I sat transfixed, still hearing the screams of confusion and fear as the ancient dragon assaulted the town and its people. There was Ralof’s voice urging me to follow him to safety. With my hands still bound I ran to him. Only when Sterek touched my shoulder, did I snap out of my memories. The two rangers both seemed concerned. I pushed forward, wordlessly. It was over, it was the past, but it at times it was still very real to me.

I never did like Falkreath. The surrounding mountains and pine trees were always lovely. It was abundant with life old and new. I was offered a plot of land to build a house on before facing Alduin, but couldn’t take it from jarl Siddgeir. I wanted to get away from death. I wanted to get away from his hold, and his ever-sly touches. I had added too much to its cold embrace already. No matter how I loved the wilderness and the soothing silence, I couldn’t make myself settle there. I remained in the cities, where I could be distracted; where my dreams and memories wouldn’t bother me so much.

Just a little way before we rode into the town, we were ambushed by bandits. I was out of practice and only had a dagger with me, but I managed to wound one’s leg enough for Sterek to finish off with one swoop of his great sword. I stalled for a moment, looking over all the blood that we spilt over the cobbled path. I had imagined that I would always have to see a lot of blood when I was with Arcadia, but there was never more than a nose bleed or an accidental cut to take care of.

The rest of the way to town was very uneventful after that. Falkreath really was seasonless. The fine mist that covered the town not only added to the mental image of decay I had conjured, but to its timelessness. It hadn’t changed at all since I last saw it. The villagers were still suspicious of anyone new and we were met with hard stares as soon as we passed through the gate. We ended up in the Dead man’s drink with several pitchers of mead.

“You mentioned that we were going to Haafingar,” I said. It was too late to talk to Sterek. He was passed out on the floor, drunk. The inn’s name seemed very funny then. “But where exactly are we going?”

“I’m not supposed to say. Balgruuf will have my head.”

“I’ll just leave and go on my own. Then the two of you can go back to whatever it is you do.”

His drink stopped mid-way to his mouth, his eyes went wide. It made me suspicious. “You’ll get killed.”

“I’m not a helpless woman.”

“You’re also not who you used to be.” He grabbed Narri as she walked past, asking for more mead and food. She looked at me for a moment, recognizing who I was. I turned my head away until she left the table. “When’s the last time you held a sword?”

“I don’t remember,” I said.

“How am I in good conscience supposed to let you go by yourself knowing you might not make it?”

“What does it matter if I make it or not?”

“It matters to Skyrim. It matters to her people. You might just be a legend to some now, but there are those who remember who you are and what you did. It matters. And with this damned civil war looming, Skyrim will need you again.”

I thought over his words. “But why take me to Haafingar? Why not away from Skyrim if Baalgruf wants me away from Ulfric?” I closed my eyes. The civil war.

“He hopes you would join the Imperial legion,” Magnus began. “to put a stop to Ulfric once and for all.”

“And if I refuse?” This was too much. I never agreed to join a side in the war. Not when I was under Ulfric’s thumb and not now while I was in debt to Balgruuf.

Magnus slammed down his goblet. “Then you leave Skyrim to the wolves.”

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We were all pushed into one small room where an extra cot had been brought in for me. I preferred the horrible stiff leather to sleeping on hay. I lied on my back, staring up at the wooden ceiling unable to fall asleep. Scenes of what had happened at Helgen flashed in my mind like a restoration mage conjuring up light. Coupled with the snoring from the two rangers, I struggled to find enough peace to drift away.

I pulled on my boots and tip-toed out of the room to get some fresh air. There were a few lamps lit but Masser and Secunda sat high above my head, illuminating the night with soft shadows. It wasn’t so bad to be outside then. I pulled my cloak tighter around my shoulders before walking down toward the cemetery. I counted the grave markers until seven. Then I walked down seven more and sat down by his grave. Stenvar’s grave. He was a good man and friend. A mercenary I had only hired out of necessity because of a broken rib. And I only had the broken rib because I slipped while taking care of a bandit. He hit me with his shield and I rolled down the steps. But the two of us soon became friends, and he followed me until his death in Falkreath. It only took one drunken brawl and one hit to the side of his head for him to stagger backwards and hit his head against the small wall of the fire pit. He was dead. It wasn’t by a bandit’s blade, or even the deadly bite of a dragon like he had wanted. It took me a long time to process what had happened. I was angry with him for so long, for leaving me alone and for picking the fight in the first place. Then I blamed myself for not stopping him, for not speaking out against the amount of mead he was drinking. Not that he would have listened to me.

I placed my hand on the stone, and said a silent prayer. I walked back to the Dead man’s drink after telling him of what happened to me. I knew he couldn’t hear me. He would have scolded me for being a milk drinker. While I climbed the steps to the door, I stopped and looked at the two guards at the gate that stared at me. They looked away quickly. My stomach twisted and I knew that something wasn’t right.

Before I could open the door, there was a sharp pain on the back of my head. My vision blurred and I stumbled forward. Strong arms took hold of my arms, pulling me up and away from the wooden planks. I thought it was Magnus or Sterek there to help me, but I was being dragged away down the steps, further and further away from the door. I tried to scream, but a leather clad hand covered my mouth and the guards by the gate pretended not to notice what was happening. I was dragged some distance away to behind some houses, where I was dropped onto the grass. I lifted my head, anger was boiling like water within me.

“Ralof?”

He bent down on one knee and handed me a water skin. I threw it to the grass as I got to my feet. Surprise overtook me for a moment.  “This was the only way I could speak to you without your two bodyguards around.”

My stomach twisted, anger returning. How dare he? I looked around at every one of the Stormcloak men that stood around us. How did they find me? “You knew I was here? Did you follow us?”

“Honestly,” he said. “This is all a happy coincidence. One of my men, Olaf, said he had seen you on the road. We bribed some of the gate guards to let us in so that I could talk to you. We only have a few moments.”

“What do you want?” I didn’t mean to bark at him, but I was kicking myself. They had found me so easily.

He watched me quietly for a moment, taking me in. We hadn’t met again since our drunken night in Windhelm before I set out to kill Alduin.

“I want you to come with me, Olsa, back to Ulfric. The war was paused so that you could do what needed to be done, but it’s time to take Skyrim back. It’s time.”

“You want Ulfric to give you more recognition and promotion for finally bringing him the dragonborn.”

His head whipped back at my words, and his brow furrowed. “I don’t know what happened to you, but you have always fought for what is right. You know Skyrim belongs to us.”

“I won’t follow you blindly, Ralof. I’m on no one’s side, and I refuse to choose.”

“You followed me once,” he said, stepping closer. He wanted to take hold of my hand, but I pulled away and turned my body to face the high wall that surrounded Falkreath. “You chose to come with me when we escaped Helgen, Olsa. You followed me blindly then.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name, is it not?” Laughter bellowed from his chest. “Do I have the wrong woman?”

I looked him in the eye. “It’s not my name anymore.”

He breathed out against my ear. The hair on my arms and neck stood on end. No more goose bumps, warm caresses and old memories. “No, you are not her. You are just wearing her face.”

Before I walked away, I turned back to look at him. He met my gaze.

“You know where I’ll be,” he said.

 

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Life as Fox

Chapter 2

I walked to Riverwood whenever I got the chance.

Arcadia would give me a satchel filled with potions to sell to Lucan, the local and only trader there. I tried to hide my face from him at first- he was after all one of the first people I had encountered since coming to Skyrim. He knew who I was right away.

“What are you doing looking like a commoner?” he asked, clasping my shoulder. The bottles in the satchel rattled. “Aren’t you supposed to be living in Windhelm in luxury? Surrounded by servants and men ready to do your bidding?”

I shifted onto my right foot. “No, it didn’t work out that way.”

He looked me over again, letting his hand fall. He walked back to stand behind his counter, resting his arms on the wood. I placed the satchel on the counter and opened it, revealing several red and green and blue bottles.

“Arcadia sent me.”

He squinted. “What is the dragonborn doing selling me potions?”

I bowed my head. “I don’t see the dragonborn around here.”

Lucan stared at me for a moment, before pulling the satchel towards him and packing the bottles out. My eyes bore into him as he counted out the septims and handed them to me. Before I walked out the door, he said, “I’m sorry to hear that the dragonborn is gone.”

“So am I.”

He never met my eyes again after that, but he never told anyone else in Riverwood that I came once a month. Sometimes he would even make me deal with his assistant instead. He hired the girl after his sister ran off to get married. He was unhappy about it, but not surprised that it had happened. I never expected her to pick Faendal over Sven.

Being back in the small town making an entrance with two rangers, made me feel nervous. I kept my head down, focusing more on the horse’s mane than anything else. They stopped in front of the Sleeping Giant Inn.

I watched as Sterek jumped down and walked in. Magnus got down, but stayed next to the horse. I looked around a bit, trying to see if anyone had noticed who I was. But no one seemed to care that we were there.

“Looking for someone?”

I turned my head back to Magnus. Maybe a bit too quickly. “Just looking around.”

“Do the people here know who you are?”

I turned my head away to the other side of town. “They don’t seem to remember me.”

“You wish they would.”

I sighed. “Of course not.” I met his eyes for a moment before turning my gaze to the closed door of the inn. “How much longer?”

“We just need some food.” He ran his hand over the black hair of the horse’s neck. “Sterek also wants to hear if there were any sightings of Stormcloaks or bandits in the area.”

My face must have been as white as snow. “Stormcloaks pass through here?”

“They are everywhere these days.”

Sterek closed the door loudly behind him, making me jump. No one said a word as we left Riverwood behind. We made camp in the forest, near the river. As they set up camp and made a fire, I walked around the trees collecting alchemy ingredients. I lied them out on the grass close to the fire. I didn’t mean to pick them. It had become a habit.

Magnus sat down next to me and handed me a folded-up piece of cloth that had a piece of bread and cheese in it.

“How did you become an alchemist?”

I picked small pieces off from the bread. “It wasn’t my first choice, but I used to like making health potions when I could. It’s something that I can do.” Besides shouting.

“Did Balgruuf know that when he sent you to Arcadia?”

“I owe Balgruuf everything,” I said.

“I think it’s the other way around.”

In the morning, I woke to a couple of Stormcloaks passing by our camp.

I sat up in my bedroll. Sterek kept my gaze. As they approached us, I got to my feet and walked toward him. I kept my back to them, pretending to keep busy.

“What’s this?”

Magnus stepped forward. “Just travelling to Whiterun,” he said. “To look for work.”

“Honest pay for honest work.”

“Something like that.”

I got to my feet and turned around to face them. I kept my gaze down, trying to hide my face.

“Better watch out for Imperials then if you’re heading that way. Whiterun might be full of them now, but soon Ulfric will have his claim of the city.”

“Of course,” Magnus said.

The one held his hand on the hilt of his sword. “We’ll take care of any Imperial dogs we encounter from here on.”

They continued up the road without bothering us further. We three exchanged looks of relief before packing up the camp quickly as possible. Falkreath was still a while away, and I wanted to reach it as soon as possible without further interruptions from the Stormcloaks. But something told me that there was a change in the air and that Ulfric was at the front of it.

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.


 

Horrors in town

Monday’s finish the story

Link

Mondays Finish the Story

Finish the story begins with:  “The Mayor and the town manager waved as their next victim approached.”

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Horrors in town

© 2015, Barbara W. Beacham

The Mayor and the town manager waved as their next victim approached.

“Wait!”

I moved out from the shadows to stop the young girl from going into the slaughterhouse. She stopped and took a step back from the mayor.

“Young lady, you need to mind your own business,” the man on the left said. The mayor grabbed the girl’s wrist, ready to pull her in. “You best be on your way.”

I pulled my gym bag closer, and took out my silver sword. The men stepped back as it gleamed. They pulled the girl inside, locking the door behind them.

Then there was the scream.

She was already sedated when I kicked the door down. The mayor held her neck at an angle, ready to bite. The town manager turned and screamed. In his true form he had a flat ribbed nose, fangs and ashen skin.

I lifted the sword.

*

“You saved my life.”

I wiped off the blood. “Just go before I burn city hall down.”

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I based the true forms of the mayor and town manager on Skyrim‘s vampires. It’s the only vampire I know.

Newvampface

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