[Finally began playing Dishonored, and was determined to get through the first level without killing a soul. And yet despite my best efforts, it seemed I killed someone, somehow, which I don’t even remember doing.]
[Unless you count the unconscious body that I may have dropped into the water…..]
Sier growled in annoyance even as he pulled the horse down to a walk. He almost retorted, but anything he could think of to say either sounded juvenile or was a flat-out lie, so he muttered darkly in Altmeris and tried to ignore her.
The moons were high above them now; the road twisted and turned, following craggy mountainside and a river that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be calm or frothing with rapids; foggy mist was just starting to churn up by the water, but the road stayed blessedly clear. By all appearances, there should have been smooth riding for the next several miles.
He knew better than to let his guard down, but exhaustion—ever-present since coming to Markarth—threatened the longer they rode without incident. Nerves only carried him so far; before long adrenaline wore off, replaced by leaden fatigue and the dreaded realization that he’d need to make camp.
The Altmer turned his horse to do so when an arrow whispered though the air where its head had been.
He didn’t—possibly couldn’t—react right away, but his mount made up for its rider’s impairment. Jittery from Sier’s mood already, the sudden movement spooked it into a full-on gallop, hooves kicking up sparks as it fought for momentum.
Rider and unfortunate passenger were left to hold on. Sier cursed as he gripped with his legs, once he realized what was going on leaning slightly forward to encourage his mount to go faster. It meant drawing himself closer to Gaelle, which he would have avoided if at all possible, but they were out of options. Forsworn already poured out of the scenery behind them, drawing bows back for another shot at the careless travelers.
Gaelle heard the arrow before she saw it; whizzing past the two riders just as Sieralon turned the horse about. The arrow landed with a thunk in the ground to one side of the road, and Gaelle had but a moment to glance at it before the horse shot forward at full speed, nearly unhorsing the both of them.
It certainly wasn’t a Nord arrow, that much was obvious.
She braced herself against Sier’s chest, fighting to hold on with her legs while the already-worn mount galloped blindly ahead. She feared the animal would trip, and send the both of them to the ground.
But had she been able to see behind them, able to see the dozens of fur-and-bone clad Bretons appearing out of the brush and bramble, tripping would have been the least of her worries. All she could hear were the sounds of distant yelling, the whizzing of arrows as they flew past, and the thundering drum of hoof-beats as they tried to get away from danger.
And then all at once, the horse let out a cry of pain, and they were falling. Even as well as Gaelle had been able to hold on, she was thrown sideways from the saddle, with barely enough time to brace herself before the rough road met her side with terrible force, and she skidded and rolled over the damp grass into the ditch at the road’s side. Her arm and the side of her face burned; they’d likely been cut and scraped from the fall, but she didn’t feel as if she’d been injured badly.
Not that she could do much to check. Her arms were still bound to her midsection, and the Reach was dark, even with the moon on the rise.
"Sieralon…….!" she gasped hoarsely, eyes straining in the dark. She couldn’t tell where he had fallen, but she couldn’t get up to find out. She could barely get herself onto her knees before she heard the sound of footsteps approaching. And they weren’t approaching slowly, either.
"He’s the sole reason you have a bounty in the first place!” Sier hissed, rage more intense than he’d ever felt before surging. “If we didn’t bloody care we never would have approached you, Gaelle! You’d never have gone to the Embassy, we never would have crossed paths, and I’d—!”
He’d never have left the Thalmor. He’d have stayed, apprenticing under Morlindil, until he achieved the impossible or something killed him. His friends, his loved ones, none of it would have been sacrificed over something so misguided, so unintentionally damaging to so many lives. He’d have lived.
It was impossible to know what might have laid on that particular path. But Sier couldn’t help but wonder if it would have been better than this.
”Yes, we damn well care about Magnus! He’s an innocent child, in gods-forsaken Skyrim, no less! It’s not a matter of if these damn Nords hurt him—it’s when! We’re trying to bloody help him! Why can’t you bloody see it you stupid Imperial!?”
He didn’t realize he’d been shouting until he paused, felt the harsh rasp along his throat as he sucked in a shaking breath. He almost couldn’t unclench his fists long enough to stretch his fingers, calm the shaking in his limbs as he pulled his horse down to a trot—the animal’s labored breathing wasn’t a good sign if they needed to sprint—and looked around.
Nothing jumped out at them. No signs of imminent ambush. The mer twitched restlessly, dissatisfied with such a slow pace in such dangerous territory… with such aggravating company…
Gaelle had to fight to bite back; bitter retorts lay in wait at the tip of her tongue. Magnus isn’t the only elf in Skyrim, she could have said, knowing full well there were many mer who made their livings in this province, Nords or no Nords. But she could see there would be no dissuading Sieralon on this point. Not after what had happened to him. Even Aldari hadn’t wanted to describe what that handful of Stormcloaks had put him through.
"You really believe that, don’t you….." she said, half-muttering as she lowered her eyes to the road. The horse slowed; it’s breathing was labored, and sweat was beginning to coat its flanks. She felt her heart twist at the thought of Calamity waiting for her back at the stables in Markarth. The truth of it was that he’d been her first friend and companion since coming to Skyrim, even before meeting Valund. And he was a good horse, strong and loyal. If only they’d taken him instead of this old nag….
With barely a thought, she found herself saying, “She’s going to exhaust herself if you keep pulling the reins that hard. You’re making her anxious.” Not to mention the mer’s entire body seemed made of trembling stone; a nervous rider made for a nervous mount.
She wasn’t sure why suddenly remarking on Sier’s horsemanship seemed like a good idea. It likely wasn’t. But it seemed better than fruitlessly going in circles about the Thalmor.
(Inspired by this post)
A traditional Heartland brew made from yeast-fermented rice malt. In Imperial culture, the drink is usually credited to the paddy laborers of the Nibenay Basin, who discovered the drink by accident after an early spring drought forced farmers to explore new uses for their ruined crop. In flavour and body, Imperial beers tend to be light and sweet, a beverage more similar to wine than to the dark ales of Colovia. Despite its humble origins, it is today regarded as a symbol of Imperial refinement and delicate sensibility.
Though known outside her borders simply as “Cyrodiilic brandy”, to native Imperials this famed spirit is divided into three distinct classes of liquor. What is commonly imbibed by the provincials is in fact a pomace brandy local to Skingrad – an inferior beverage suitable only as an export product. The Imperials themselves tend to prefer Cheydinhal applejack, made by distilling fermented cider from the region’s lush orchards, or blackberry brandy from the West Weald.
A derivative of Nibenese rice beer, Colovian ale is made from malted barley, which gives it a fruity and full-bodied flavor, counterbalanced by boiling it with dried mandrake root. This latter ingredient lends a bitter, earthy taste to the brew, along with mild hallucinogenic properties. Though seemingly out of character for the stark, austere Colovians, mandrake beer has long been associated with the region’s traditional worship of Reman and Shezarr, and used by the pious nobility as a means of communion with the divine.
The signature beverage of the West Weald and Gold Coast, Colovian wine is made by fermenting the grapes of the region’s abundant vineyards. It is prized by the Cyrodiils for its dark red hues, commonly associated with the dragon’s blood of the Emperor, as well as its rich flavour and aroma. The latter tend to only improve with proper aging, and vintages linked to auspicious events in Imperial history – especially the births and coronations of their emperors, or key military or diplomatic victories – are especially coveted.
The mer’s face pulled into a grim frown with his teeth clenched. He hadn’t wanted to acknowledge Gaelle’s presence. Didn’t want to think, lest the atmosphere and horrible contact with a human send him over the edge. Again.
For a time it worked. He had more important things to watch for anyway; forsworn wouldn’t think twice about attacking them out here. He glanced around often, looking through the landscape illuminated by the twin moons for signs of trouble.
Her tone sent sparks, unheeded, dancing along his fingers, a faint tremble that might have been a flinch coursing through him. He growled in irritation and tightened his grip on the reigns.
"Where. Is. Magnus?"
When Sieralon finally spoke, Gaelle could only let out a hoarse and bitter laugh. She swore she felt the elf grow even more tense at her sudden outburst; if he had been any more tightly wound, Gaelle reckoned he would probably crack like an old piece of pottery.
Nothing like the mer he used to be, she thought. It was as if he’d aged a hundred years in less than two.
"Don’t make me laugh," she replied, the cynicism obvious in her voice as she watched the road ahead. "You think the Thalmor give one whit about the wherabouts of a five year old child….? Not even an Altmeri child at that. It’s me who’s got a bounty on her head. And here I am, in custody. Why would you even care about Magnus now?”
[GUYS ITS SNOWING]
[It’s safe to say she’s had a few. The decision to break away from the group of thieves she’d been a part of for years, when it became clear they had become something worse was one of them. And the decision to not simply break away and leave the fate of Tamriel in the hands of others who, in her eyes, were far better suited to the task was another.]
[In recent memory, however, it would have to be the decision to give up her own pursuits, which admittedly were driven by little more than anger, to become a mother when it looked to her like there was no one else the little child could count on.]