Ash lazily drifted from the sky above, the air was hot and dry, still with no breeze. The land around was an ashen gray, stones rising here and there, patches of dry grass and scraggly plants growing anywhere the slightest bit of moisture would gather enough to sustain it. All this was a common sight to the dark elf woman lounging not far from her family's farm. It was a simple affair, raising guar and ash yams. The season was late so growth was in full swing, still, she'd earned a bit of rest after running off a few feral kaguti.
It was only because she was out here that she heard a crunch of rocks on the road under unsteady boots, only because her break offered her a bit of leisure was she in this place at this time to see a battered old man stumbling along along the road, skin dirty, fresh cuts on his arms, clothes torn, hair disheveled. He was a nord from the look of him, still strong despite being elderly, but it seemed he'd met more than he could handle easily today.
Without hesitation the young dark elf was on her feet and hurrying over, long maroon hair dancing to her movements. "Hail, Sera, are you alright?"
He grunted, looking at her with a dazed expression.
"I'll take that as a no, you look like you need a bit of rest, something to treat your wounds…"
"Yes… by Kyne, you are a kind soul. In a land as harsh as this, I was beginning to wonder." He admitted, seeming to come to his senses with someone to talk to.
She gently took his arm and started guiding him to the house. "Harsh lands and harsh people, but not all of my people lack heart, Sera, we just guard it well."
He fell silent at that, seeming to understand but too weary to keep talking. She guided him inside the small, modest home, a firepit smoldering in the middle of the room. With strength surprising for an elf her size she half carried the stumbling and exhausted nord over to a pile of pillows he could collapse onto. With him settled she hurried over to a nearby table, opening a drawer and taking out supply to tend to his wounds. He did not argue, though the herbs smelled strange compared to what he was used to for the purpose, his pain seemed to ease as she worked.
"Are you hungry, Sera?" She asked after she'd finished.
"I… am." He admitted, almost seeming hesitant to ask for anything more. Still, the dunmer nodded, a kind smile on her face as she stood and went to fix them something to eat, again he wasn't familiar with the ingredients but it smelled hearty and he was of no mind to argue anything handed to him. The flavor was different, sure but not bad by any means, though he wolfed it down so fast he almost didn't taste it at all, eating like a starved animal.
If it bothered the dunmer lady, she did not show it, though she certainly took a more acceptable amount of time to finish her own food. She held a kind, patient attitude, just in the way she sat and how she regarded the world around her.
"Feel better?" She asked as she set down her bowl.
"Much, many thanks to you." He smiled.
She chuckled. "It is no trouble, though I am quite curious as to what left you in such a state."
"Bandits, there were more than I realized at first, outnumbered ten to one. I may be a nord, but I am feeling the limitations of my age. I managed to crack a few sculls before they stole my horse and kicked me down the side of the mountain. I am not quite sure how far I rolled. I woke up half covered in ash and walked until I found a road and then started following the road."
"That would do it. I am glad you made it here, hopefully nothing too valuable was stolen from you."
"Just the horse and some gold, I didn't have anything else worth taking… I lost my trusty axe in the tumble, but it can be replaced, it was nothing worthy of singing songs about."
"All can be replaced." She said with a nod. "For now, it will be best for you to just rest."
"Thank you again, I will not forget this hospitality."
She bowed her head and fell silent, attention turning to the glowing embers of the firepit. For a time, things were peaceful. The two new friends enjoying a comfortable silence as ash was lazily drifting through the air around the little farmhouse outside. Guar grazed lazily and a pair of nix hounds wrestled behind the barn. There was a peace to this place that seemed secluded from the rest of morrowind.
Morning came and the old nord realized he must have dozed off at some point, he wasn't uncomfortable though, the cushions were nice without being too fancy and his new friend was clearly no thief or murderer as he still had his life and few belongings left. The dark elf was nowhere in sight however, so he dragged himself up to take a look around the room, then peek into the other rooms, curious where she'd gone. She was in the next room, asleep in her bed, a pony guar curled up at her feet. He left her be, going outside to see if he could help with any morning chores, surely it wasn't that different from farm chores in skyrim. His mind made up he headed to the barn to see what he could figure and it didn't take much to get his bearings and start working. He fed the guar, cleaned the barn, tended the field as best he could figure and generally made himself useful. When the dunmer exited the farmhouse she was delightfully surprised to find most of the day's hard work already done.
With a cheerful thanks she got started on the rest of the day's work, talking through what she did as he seemed curious and willing to help. It was nice to have company while her brother was away, another set of hands to get things done. It was only mid day by the time the day's chores were finished and she went to fix them some food so they could relax for the afternoon.
"So do you live here alone?" He asked as she handed him a plate.
"Oh no, Sera, my borther and I run this little place together. Our father was here most of the time when we were little but now that we can effectively handle the workload he has gone back to his studies in the east, we get letters from him now and then but his only real love left in life is magic." She explained.
"Ah, then what of this brother?" He was curious now.
"Gone to deliver the first harvest, do a bit of shopping and bring back the supplies we will need."
"So you stay and hold down the fort while he's gone then, eh?" He chuckled.
"Yes, he's better with negotiation, i'm better with my bow. I worried at first but the path he usually takes is too well traveled and patrolled for any worry of bandits."
"That is good then, I look forward to meeting him."
"He's a good sort, bet he'll be up for games and drinks when he returns, I'm sure he'll be happy to see a new face around here."
"Again, I appreciate your hospitality and will not soon forget it."
"It is no trouble, honestly." She smiled warmly.
"Have you ever been far from here?"
She shook her head.
"No tales of adventure?"
"Just the exploring and imagination of a child, Sera. Though, my mother did once take me to Mournhold when I was a child, I remember the temple of the three quite vividly, though we did not go inside, the building is quite impressive to look at."
"So I have heard, I hope to see it someday." He smiled with a nod.
"And what of you, Sera, a road weary Nord like you."
"Oh I have been from one side of Skyrim to the other, though I am no warrior of high renown I do enjoy seeing what Nirn has to offer. I almost settled down in Whiterun, a nice city but a little too quiet. I finally started traveling this way about a month ago, curious what the lands of ash were like. I have to admit, they are more imposing than I had dared to imagine, the heat, the smoke, the lava! It is more difficult to travel than I expected and some of the creatures of these lands are quite devious."
She laughed, nodding. "I would hazard a guess that the lands would be far more dangerous to those who did not grow up here, just as I would be in danger of freezing to death should I ever travel north."
"Ah, not with a guide! Should you go, you should take someone who knows the area, knows what you need or at least buy them a drink and discuss what you will need to take. That would help." He offered.
"I will keep that in mind, but for now my time is needed here." She said, about to say more when a knock came at the door. A look of slight surprise crossed her face and she stood to answer.
He looked that way, curious as well since she had seemed surprised. On the other side of the door, waiting patiently, was a pact guard, the grizzled old dark elf looked like he might actually weather a few rounds in a drunken brawl quite well. He asked the young dark elf maiden her name and house, when she said his tone turned sorrowful.
"I regret to inform you, Sera, but your brother was killed in a recent covenant attack."
"W-what? You can't be serious… no…" Her voice got very small as that settled in and she took an instinctive step back.
"I am very sorry. Is there somewhere specific his body needs to be taken to?"
"His… his body…" She muttered, still in shock and reeling, it was clearly too much for her to take in as the ground reached up to meet her, at least, that's how she saw it.
The old nord was on his feet quickly, going over to check on his fainted friend, then looked to the guard. "Do you have time to wait for her to come around? I do not know if their family has a tomb or not."
"Taking care of our dead is an important matter. I can wait for her to recover." He assured the nord before stepping out of the doorway, he did not intrude in the house, rather going to find a shady spot outside to sit. The old nord closed the door and gently picked the girl up from the floor, carrying her over to her bed where he set her down, kneeling after to pet the pony guar that had been following him around the house.
Something about the ash falling from the sky felt more imposing now, more dreary. The old nord leaned on the outer wall of the farmhouse, watching the sky as if it held the answers, the guard did the same, but no great epiphany came to either of them. It was late in the day when the door creaked open and the dunmer maiden stepped out, hair tied back, eyes dark from tears and shoulders heavy with grief. She approached the guard somberly and bowed, apologizing for her lack of composure before letting him know where to take her brother's corpse.
He nodded, assured her it was alright and wished her well before leaving.
She just stood there afterwards, staring off at nothing, the earlier cheer and hopeful attitude drained away, leaving a sad shell that mirrored the unforgiving land around it.
Just that morning, all had been well, all had been fine. She'd made a new friend, her brother would be returning home soon, the animals were well, the crops were strong and the lava flows were safely staying in the trenches. Now, now all of that had shattered. She stood in silence, staring at the farm, past the farm, through the farm, through time, seeing the past, seeing the future, her mind playing tricks perhaps. She saw her family whole, she saw herself alone. Her mother, now her brother, her father too far away to care. The mountains were closing in, the farm was too secluded, her peace turned stagnant, loneliness oozing in like blood on dry dirt. The world made no sense, everything grinding to a halt. What was worth it? What was the point? Why was she here, yet where could she go? She wanted to deny what she'd been told, to track the guard down and scream at him for telling her such falsehoods, but she couldn't. She wanted to scream at the sky but her voice was caught in her throat, the loss burned in her chest like it had been set ablaze, it was hard to breathe, hard to even think.
Then, suddenly, cutting through all of the pain and frustration, the denial, suddenly a hand rested on her shoulder. She turned to look, the face that greeted her was knowing, kind. He knew, he understood her pain and in that moment the rage fell away. The maiden turned and buried her face against the chest of the old nord, sobbing as her anguish turned to a drowning sadness once again. In silence he stood there, a hand rested against her back, understanding, a stand in for her absent father, sharing her grief, though having never known the young dunmer who'd lost his life.
Finally the tears came to an end and she was able to calm down, breathing slow and deep as she got her thoughts back in order. "I… need to prepare the farm for my absence… I need to go prepare his tomb."
"We." The old nord said softly and she gave him a grateful look.
The rest of the day was done in silence, the two working to make sure things wouldn't fall apart while they were gone and finally she locked the doors, hoping the little farm way up here would not be the target of bandits and thieves while she was away. She saddled two of the guar, letting her friend take the larger of the two as it could better handle his weight. It was clear he'd never ridden one before, struggling to match his balance on the two legged creature. It would have made her laugh, had she not already been so sad. She found a bit more respect for her friend though, as he patiently worked to learn without complaint or frustration until he was riding the guar without issue. He didn't once fall off, nor did he cause the critter to hurt itself as they headed down the road, the rythmic thumping of the large lizzard's feet on the trodden old path did some good to ease her mind. Death was inevitable, the land was harsh and it's people harsher. That did not mean they were immune to the bite of a blade, that did not mean a farmer was suited to fight a soldier.
Somewhere, in her heart, she accepted her brother's fait as they headed down that weathered old path. They reached the old tomb that looked like it hadn't been tended to in a few years and she opened the door, the quar tied to a scraggly tree nearby. The tomb was dark within but with a few words a little ball of fire appeared in the maiden's hand and it lit their path, she used it to guide their way and light the sconces on the walls as they went. The halls were nerrow, the walls inlet with shelves full of urns, occasionally there was enough room for an alter with a weapon or more urns or other items that held importance to those intombed there. Oddly enough, the ambience of the tomb wasn't all that scary, it was quiet, peaceful, if not a little lonely. Finally she'd worked her way to a room that looked like things were a little newer, it was here she started preparing for her brother's burial, though he wasn't there yet she doubted the priests would dally.
Once they'd done all they could they set up camp outside of the tomb, off of the road. Everything was gray, there wasn't much grass or plants to speak of which had the guar grumpy but otherwise the evening was peaceful. The dark elf maiden stared up at the stars, the first clear night in a while, seeming lost but more at peace than she had been when they left. Her companion sat opposite the fire, just enjoying the quiet, they wouldn't see another soul until morning.
He didn't know much about dark elf burial customs so he decided it best not to argue when the priests asked him to wait at the camp during the funeral. While he wanted to show support for his friend he did not want to dishonor her brother, so he abided and stayed outside. He did not complain about the time passed alone, he did not make a fuss about being left to wait, only offered silent support when the maiden finally returned and they went their separate ways from the priests. He had no tales to tell, or songs to sing as they rode the guar back up the road towards the farm, but he was there and she wasn't alone. She didn't have anything to say, lost in thought but not seeming lost in heart. He left her to her thoughts but remained willing to speak, paying enough attention without staring.
Finally, as they neared the farm she spoke up. "I'm going to keep running the farm. You are welcome to stay as long as you like but please, Sera, do not feel you have to stay. I can handle things perfectly fine."
He nodded. "You're a strong woman, I have no doubt of your capabilities and I will return to the road once my injuries heal."
She nodded, satisfied with that. "You are welcome to visit any time."
"Thank you, I shall when I have the chance."
They fell into silence again, but it was a comfortable one, the two knowing they were not stepping on each others toes. The farm was as they'd left it and once everything had been carefully checked the maiden threw herself into routine, not wanting to think too hard about much of anything. The next few days passed in a mostly quiet blur for her. She was glad for the company, otherwise she might have forgotten to eat but she knew she was failing somewhat as a host now, lacking conversations, offering fewer smiles and kind words. It didn't seem to bother the old nord though, he understood perfectly well and while it saddened her that he knew this sort of pain, she also appreciated it. Seeing someone who was able to move on in spite of losing loved ones became a little source of strength that kept her moving through the worst days of it.
Eventually though, the day came his wounds were healed and he no longer had an excuse to stay, she'd made it clear she could handle the farm on her own so he wasn't going to push and in all honesty, he was ready to travel again, too restless having sat still too long. He was quietly planning his route with a map in the main room of the house, her sitting nearby peeling ash yams when a loud sound erupted outside, like a mage's explosion, the house shook with it as well, so it was no trick of the ear.
Startled the maiden was on her feet instantly, food dropped to the floor and forgotten but knife held firmly in had as she headed for the door. Opening it revealed the fields ablaze and the guar in a panic, several hooded figures with staves stood outside the house, chanting. With a snarl she charged them, just as the house was left in her wake another explosion shook the area and she was nearly sent to the ground. The smell of burning wood filled the air, a rush of hot air and splinters struck her back yet she didn't flinch, charging her attackers with abandon. She worked the knife fast, in sharp movements as they chanted again, plunging the little blade into the jugular of one before whipping it hard the other way to stab another in the eye. Directly across from her though the other brought his staff around to whap her against the head. She reeled a bit at the strike but as he charged her she got her bearings again and charged in too close for his weapon to be effective for bonking, getting right in his face as she plunged the little knife into his chest.
She was almost startled by what she saw, the dying man's eyes, so much like her own, the light fading away as he fell away from her. He hit the ground with a thud, his hood falling back enough to show his face to her.
It was her father.
That shook her, to her core.
She had just killed… her own father.
"Why?" She said in a whisper, the simple word holding so many questions, she was confused beyond doubt, heartbroken and betrayed. Why had he turned on his own kin, why had he come to the farm if only to destroy it, why had he chosen to attack her… why.
Questions hung with no answers, culminated to one word but not elaborated on as the dead man would give no clarification anyway. The man she'd stabbed in the eye writhed in pain on the ground next to her, snapping her back to reality enough to remember she wasn't alone. Trembling as her arm was she still held the bloody knife in her hand and turned and bowed, putting an end to the surviving aggressor before standing straight again. Finally, she looked back at the house. Not that there was much left. Some walls still stood, the roof was entirely gone, the inside was burning still. There was no sign of her companion, no indication of life within the char and smoke that had once been her home. A quick glance around showed nothing left, animals escaped or dead, house gone, field decimated, brother dead, father dead, friend likely dead as well.
A short huff escaped her, not enough tears left to cry, rather there was only a burn of anger, the quiet simmering of her blazing heart, somehow a cold sort of numb against the pain all at once. She made up her mind in that instant before moving to search the bodies, treating even her father's like a stranger. She took the gold they'd had on them along with a soul gem and journal. Their staves she took as well, knowing they'd be worth selling. She did not look back at the farm, she did not look back at the corpses as she headed for the road. This chapter of her life was at an end and she had no intentions of lamenting over it. She wanted answers and doubted she would find them easily.
Shameless plug time: Follow me on twitter werewolf714FFN
Hi all, if you're new, welcome! If you're a longtime follower of mine, thanks for giving a new seriese a try.
This is much more recent work of mine, still probably- no definately full of errors I'm sure. This is unedited, I just want to get something new out.
Also this seriese is going to be a bit of a challange, I'm not going to mention the main character's name.
I'm also going to try avoiding other character's names.
I will omit this with the gods and deadric princes'.
Reviews and messages welcome, I don't bite.
Hope you all enjoy!