Summary: Elisa didn't think she was a hero and if one looked at her, many would agree. She didn't swing a sword and she hadn't saved the lands from evil but if the Nine have their way, she might very well save two souls tainted from a past of prejudice and fear.
A/N: After doing the quest 'Origins of the Gray Prince' I always felt as if Lovidicus got the short end of the stick. Based on a storyline in which the PC has only done the main quest and nothing else. Well okay let's say the PC went to Solstheim and got lost there for a bit shall we?
Warnings: Blood, gore, and sex. And angsting, though not in the way you're probably expecting it to be in.
Disclaimer: Oblivion is the a part of the Elder Scrolls games which is property of Bethesda Softworks. This fanfiction is done only for enjoyment value and not for monetary gain of any sort. All original characters are the spawn of my imaginitive brain but are still within the Elder Scrolls universe.
"Stand still you damnable Breton!" the Kahjit bandit snarled once more even as he swung the axe downwards like a war hammer.
Screaming, Elisa Lelles ducked and scrambled between the bandit's legs as she barely missed the axe blade. Her robe wasn't so lucky however for as the blade sank into the ground where she had been, it sliced into the hem. It ripped as she pulled it free with one hand while the other flung her knapsack back over her shoulder. In a flurry of dirt she was up and running like a half-crazed rabbit. The Kahjit gave an enraged howl before ripping the axe free from the dirt and roots and giving chase once again.
"Come back here!"
Just how stupid do you think I am? Elisa inwardly groused even as she climbed over a boulder. When the Kahjit had first ambushed her on the road that morning the sun had just barely reached over the trees and now the shadows were long and the light was turning golden with the onset of twilight. It didn't help matters that the bandit had actually been smart; chasing her right off the road and deeper into the wilder country side of the Anvil region. Out in the woods if he actually got lucky enough and hit her, her corpse would be easily hidden away in a cave for months, even years to come.
Elisa knew she wasn't faring well at all, physically and mentally. Her once serviceable travel robes were coated with dust, grass stains, and even the odd smear of blood where she had fallen onto some especially sharp thorn bushes earlier in the day (she took pleasure in the fact that the bandit had also fallen into the thorn bush, the fur on his face matted with dried blood from the numerous scratches). The hem was in tatters and she had taken to hiking it around her knees with one hand to keep it from catching on twigs and rocks. The only one to enjoy the sight of her legs was more interested with her loot then anything else. Making matters worse was the fact that she was stumbling more and more often, her legs feeling as if they were being weighted down and her lungs felt like she had done a flare spell on them.
By the Nine he just won't give up! Elisa wailed inwardly even as she tripped over a root, almost falling flat on her face before scrambling back to her feet. There was a sudden gust of wind that had absolutely nothing to do with nature and everything to do with the motion of a battle axe having just barely missed her head. This time however she knew the miss had been closer and it sent a shiver down her spine to think how many more tries it would take before he finally hit her. There would be no healing spell if she got hit even once by that thing and the Kahjit knew it from the way he chuckled even as he swore again.
"I'm going to hack you into bite size chunks Breton!"
Leaping—or rather if she were to be honest with her lack of athletic skills—flinging herself over a fallen log Elisa nearly screamed in relief when she heard a faint rustling to her left. Please let this work! She prayed before heading straight for the noise, the bandit right behind her even as she strained her ears, desperate for some sign. When she heard the tell-tale squeals of a territorial boar, she nearly wept in joy and made a beeline for the sound. The Kahjit thankfully seemed too enamored with the idea of drenching the ground with her blood to take much note of her abrupt change in direction from going into the woods to going up a rocky hill covered in brambles.
The ground trembled and in a crash of underbrush the boar appeared, mouth agape to show its wickedly curled tusks. Unfettered bestial rage glowed in its two little eyes as its hooves sent up dirt and grass in its charge. Two things lay in her favor, the bandit's determination to see her in pieces and the boar's animal stupidity in thinking she was pinned. Using a trick Norbert himself had taught her, she quickly did a right-turn feint, hugging the ground almost before she whipped her body sharply to the left just as the boar charged by. Unable to stop itself on the steep incline, the animal's rage went to the next moving object in its sight.
A tawny-furred Kahjit with an iron axe.
Elisa didn't bother waiting to see who won the battle but rather high tailed it to higher ground, slipping around rocks to better hide herself. Behind her the two combatants snarled, snorted, cursed, and squealed in their perspective rages. Just as long as they don't decide to go after me together I'll be good. She thought. It was an oddly frightening idea but one that been known to happen if the bandit was a Bosmer with the gift to command forest animals. A friend of hers had had the misfortune to have that happen and it was only by the good graces of an Imperial Patrol that the lion had not ripped the Nord into shreds. Keeping her eyes on the hill she couldn't help but grin at the sight of a large ruined fort at the top, its bricks taking on a strange golden hue in the last rays of the sun. As if to add to pretty scene a few pine trees gently swayed in the breeze, their branches and trunks curled about from years of being at the wind's mercy.
Keeping her body as close to the ground as possible, Elisa crawled over boulders, ignoring the scratches on her hands and knees as she climbed. It wasn't until she was a few feet from the top that she crammed herself into a tiny hole formed from two boulders leaning against each other and listened. By now the sounds of the boar and the Kahjit were gone and all that was left was the occasional bird song riding on the wind. It was the stupid traveler who assumed that ruins meant absolute safety and just because Elisa preferred her books over tomb hopping didn't mean she was stupid.
'Ruins are never abandoned.' Norbert's voice rang in her head ominously, keeping her from moving so much as a finger out of her nook. As if to emphasize her brother's warnings about the ancient buildings dotting the Heartlands, a high pitched hiss sounded just over her head. Freezing, she kept herself still even as a tall gangly shadow passed over the rocks and grass just beyond her hiding spot. Unseen bones creaked even as the skeleton hissed again, the shadow slipping across the ground. It wasn't until she heard the clanking of the skeleton walking away that she finally breathed again.
I can't afford to get caught. Especially when I don't even know if that axe-loving Kahjit finished his conversation with Mr. Boar. Elisa mused as she stuck her head out enough to look down the hill uneasily. At this point with her luck she wouldn't have been surprised if either one of the two burst out of the brush, ready to rip her apart.
Looking up at the sky she grimaced at how dark it was already becoming and those once fluffy clouds that had dotted the landscape weren't looking so innocent and white anymore but rather angry and filled with lightning and sheets of rain. Worse still, even though the hill was higher up then most of the surrounding area, she couldn't make out anything such as a farm or even the road itself. Back down or into the fort? She bit her lip, debating the choices even as she kept an ear for the distinctive creaking footsteps of the skeletons. Where there was one skeleton there were usually more. Back down meant risking it with the chances that either the bandit or the boar was still alive. Or anything else that might have been attracted to the battle.
Going into the fort brought its own problems; the unknown for one thing. She had no idea what was even inside the fort. True it meant shelter from the elements and nightly predators, but that same shelter could all too easily become a tomb for her as well. She knew she was far too weak for anything beyond a hungry wolf even if she rested for an hour or so. Animals could be beaten back with a flare and a good show of pretending to be big and mean. Zombies on the other hand…
No brain means you can't scare them. Elisa wrinkled her nose at the image of a corpse walking about with maggots and other disgusting things drooping or falling apart. She had been lucky enough so far as to have never even seen a zombie but her brother had seen them in his adventuring days back when he had left to gain enough merchandise to initially begin his career as a merchant. Norbert had passed along most his experience to his younger sister when he had become firmly entrenched into the city of Anvil, passing the torch so to speak to Elisa. Of course, she didn't 'adventure' like he did but rather acted as a traveling merchant from Anvil all the way down to the capital, selling whatever her brother could pack into her sack at the time. And if the herbal selection was low then it was she who went out searching for replacements. She had taken over that part of the store because the last time Norbert had tried his hand at expanding the magical aspects of the store he had destroyed the back part of the store in what the local mages called 'a terrific boom-spell'.
While Elisa wasn't a mage (yet) she knew more about what not to touch or meddle with then Norbert. If I didn't know any better I'd say he was more Nord than Breton. She smiled at the idea. No, Norbert was a Breton through and through just like she, enjoying the thrills of peace over the glories of battle and warfare. Though the claymore resting on a place of honor back home where every customer could see it was proof enough that Norbert could just as easily swing a blade with the best of them. I wish he was here now.
A brush of cool air swept into her little crevice, jerking Elisa from her thoughts and with a shiver she looked to the roof of her crevice, sighing. She had no desire to spend a night outside when it looked like a good coastal storm was coming. She'd take her chances inside and hope there'd be something intriguing to take back to Norbert as a possible sale item. True she had never exactly delved into tombs and forts (her brother had done that in his own youth) but she figured that it would be quite easy to do. Kill whatever was in there (or sneak around whatever was in there), take what looked valuable, keep hidden until morning and then bolt westward where civilization lay. Simple yet effective. Perhaps she could even find a scroll or book of some sort to add to her own personal collection.
Decision made (the idea of a new book tipping the scales immensely); Elisa tensed up as she waited until the skeleton had passed by again with its hissing and creaking. Like most undead the creatures were known for their danger, not their smarts and in a few short minutes the skeleton again left. 'Some say it's because they were once troops themselves. Whatever the reason, the bone-heaps mostly follow patterns. Patterns that can be watched and predicted.' Norbert had told her in passing. Of course he had assumed his baby sister would never go anywhere near the things but then again, Elisa had believed the same as well.
Whatever the reason for the skeleton's patrolling, she bolted from her tiny hiding place and made it safely to the interior of the ruins, gazing at the stairs and then at the heavily ornamented doors in the far corner. Waist high grass covered most of the bottom half while the edges seemed a bit rotted through. Crouched by a pillar she counted to ten before crawling to the door, hiding in the grass as the skeleton paused just beyond the walls of the fort courtyard. Did it see me? She wondered, holding her breath again. A few tense moments went by before the skeleton continued on. Counting again to thirty this time, she turned to the door and shoved, wincing when the hinges squealed from disuse. As soon as there was an opening big enough for her she slipped through into the darkness, shutting the thick door behind her as quietly as possible.
Clinging to the walls, she tiptoed as quietly as she could, doing everything except for taking off her shoes (she refused to do that after spying the cobwebs and slime encrusted floors, no matter what she had heard about it giving her advantage in being stealthy). Her whole body ached now as she no longer had to worry about an axe taking off her head. What felt like hundreds of scratches all tried to scream at her to heal them, even just lie down on the floor and sleep the pain away. She didn't dare do even a minor healing spell however; afraid if she did heal herself then it would leave her defenseless if anything nasty did live in the fort. I'll fall over in a heap, that's what I'll do. I'm sure the nasty things in here would like that a lot. Again she shuddered at the idea of what might some of those nasties be. Zombies, goblins, imps, rats, and who knew what else.
Something splashed just beyond a corner and she couldn't help but jump before leaning heavily against the wall, almost groaning at her own edginess. Maybe I was better off outside with the bandit and the boar. Sighing, she started again, licking her lips and trying to imagine that the fort could be habitable with a few touch ups. She tried to ignore the suspicious looking white lumps in the corners, grinning back at her.
An hour or so later she felt slightly better about the fort (she had yet to find anything leading to what fort this was). The entire place seemed to be occupied only by rats, wolves, and a single extremely hungry timber wolf that had taken five flares before it had gone down. True such things weren't exactly pleasant (especially hungry timber wolves) but at least they weren't as terrifying as realizing you were in a dark hole with a zombie.
Reading about it is quite enough for me. I hope I never see a zombie, disgusting things. She determined as she skinned the slightly toasted rat corpse with a small dagger. While she had no weapons, flare spells were more than enough for animals of even the most voracious nature. Unfortunately aside from a pair of moldy boots and thirty-six septims, she hadn't found much else safe for skins and rat meat. But then she wasn't going to really complain; it looked as if the rats and wolves had been the only threats and that meant a place to rest up in a relatively safe place for the night. She still didn't trust the place to start making noise but she was confident enough now that if she found a dry spot she could sleep lightly through the storm outside until morning. The best part about the place was the fact that the further in she went, the drier and less slime-encrusted the place seemed to be, further cheering her up to a possible resting place.
When the rat was skinned and the meat stashed, Elisa stood and continued on, wondering how much she could get for the wolf pelts she gained as well. More than likely Norbert would claim they were worthless and to a point they were; hungry wolves made for poor pelts at best and if anything, it seemed as if the poor beasts had wandered into the fort and had gotten locked in. Did the skeleton walk out? Elisa thought even as she mused over the idea of keeping at least the timber wolf pelt for her own small room. The wolves had been the first ones she had ever killed and if for no other reason then pride she wanted to have some memento to prove to Norbert and his friends that little Elisa could dungeon-delve if pressed. She smirked at the image of Norbert's face when she'd come home baring the fresh pelts before coming to a rather rotten looking oak door, the last part of the fort it seemed. From beneath it a warm, dry draft tickled her enticingly. Unfortunately it was locked and there was no way the lock looked as though it could be 'tickled' open.
"Might as well try." She whispered aloud, slipping her noticeably heavier knapsack off to the ground with a light thump and grapping a lock pick from her belt pouch before bending over the lock. If she did manage to open this up it would be another notch in her belt to tell Norbert about. However she was pretty certain Norbert wouldn't be too impressed with the idea of his sister picking locks.
"Well, well, well. Look what I found. A Breton pretending to be a thief. Cute."
That is not a good thing. That is really not a good thing. And he had to show up when I'm ready to fall over in a dead sleep! Gulping, Elisa whirled about to see two furious Kahjit eyes glaring at her from the dark hallway she had come from. Leaning against the half-rotted door she felt the wood beneath give a bit. The lock pick slipped through her numb finger, its ping sounding far too loud as it met the stone floor. Would a flare burn it enough for it to break? She thought, eyes darting everywhere for an escape.
"No hello? That's not nice at all. And you gave me a present and everything; I forgot to thank you for that. Tonight while I'm looting your corpse I'll have some pork chops." Stepping out of the light she winced at the noticeably far more haggard appearance of the Kahjit. His leather jerkin was ripped completely and a thick line of blood flowed down his right arm which hung limply at his side. His tail as well seemed a bit crooked and she couldn't but wonder if the boar had stepped on it in the battle.
The damnable axe however was in his left hand and from the way he held it she knew he could still use that limb. Pity.
"What makes you think I did that? Do I look like a Bosmer or a mage to you?" Elisa said, hands feeling the wood as if perhaps there was a secret passageway somewhere in it. "Really, if anything you could call it fate."
"Fate?" the Kahjit's ears snapped back flat against his skull, lips pulled back in a snarl.
"Yes, fate." Do I have enough for one more flare? To his face perhaps? "The Nine send ways to help their worshippers."
"I spit on the Nine."
"That's not a nice thing to say." Think, think, think you dolt! You can't stall him forever! She pressed even further against the door, the iron bindings creaking while the moisture from the wood soaked through her robe. "Look, if you want it, you can have everything…everything I own. Deal? I even have some fresh pelts and they look like they'll get at least ten gold each!"
The Kahjit's jaw muscles tensed before a downright horrible smirk twisted on his lips and she finally saw that one of his teeth had been knocked out. "Nice try Breton whore. But it's a little too late for that. I want you to scream."
Too tired to run, and too hurt to fight, Elisa merely fell to her knees as the Kahjit lunged with his axe held high over his head, swinging it down. Instead of her skull however, the axe cracked straight through the rotting wood, slicing into rotted iron holdings of one of the hinges. With a groan the door shuddered and awkwardly from the weight of the blow, chips flying everywhere. "Why won't you die you stupid Breton?" the bandit screamed even as he tried to pull out the axe. With each tug the door groaned, more chips flying about until the door slumped at a crooked angle, hanging on by only one top hinge.
Because I want to live! Elisa tried getting to her feet with the Kahjit preoccupied but it seemed the bandit no longer cared about slicing her into tiny bits with an axe. Instead he reached down and grabbed her shoulder, dragging her across the ground as he dug his claws in painfully. Screaming, Elisa kicked out but hit nothing even as the bandit threw her against a wall. Her scream was cut off from the impact, her head bouncing off the stone painfully enough to induce stars. Before she could even get her bearings he grabbed her shoulder and again threw her, this time into the door. Splinters dug into her back and arms, the door hinges squealing even as she went through. Why didn't I hit the axe…? She thought disjointedly even as she slid on the floor with the remains of the door around her.
She blinked rapidly, trying to get rid of the sudden darkness clouding her sight, strange when she had just seen bright lights and stars. It hurt to breath, and as she tried to drag herself away from the footsteps she couldn't help but whimper at the pain. Everything hurt, nothing felt right and what was worse was the fact that Kahjit seemed to have calmed down enough as he was walking slowly towards her, his footsteps heavy and full of purpose. That frightened her even more than his previous attempts.
"…kill you…whore…bare hands."
Maybe I'm already dying. I can't see and now I can't hear well. She mused. Norbert would never know what had happened to her. Perhaps her bones would become a walking skeleton as well, doomed to patrol a dead fort. The footsteps stopped and she tried dragging herself away faster. I don't want to die. I don't want to be forgotten. I don't want to die, please! A hand cruelly grabbed her neck, pulling her backwards, claw tips digging just enough into the skin to draw blood while she felt herself being lifted until she felt fetid breath across her face. A snarl in her ear whispered about all the nasty ways he was going to rip her limbs off, slowly. She tried not to listen, her hands trying to pry his hand off but he only squeezed until she choked.
I don't want to die!
I'm not a warrior, I'm not a knight! Mara help me!
"Damn…gut you…out heart…"
Footsteps. Is someone…? I'm losing it. Maybe I'm dead already…
Elisa felt the hand at her throat vanish abruptly, letting her drop back to the ground, where she curled up tightly, coughing. Over the sounds of her thudding heart and choking she heard the Kahjit swear, his voice no longer angry but shrill with terror. Abruptly however he was cut off in mid word with a gurgled scream. Elisa however didn't look up, she didn't even have the strength to move her neck, let alone lift herself up.
What happened…? She swallowed thickly, tears trailing down her cheeks from the pain the coughing had brought in her ribs. It was clear at least a few of them were cracked, if not broken. The cold stone seeped into her side, accentuating every single wound and bruise. Gasping, she tried not to even move though something inside her was screaming that she had to run even if it hurt to breath. Abruptly there was a sound of something heavy being flung to one side, very much like a bag of potatoes might sound. Someone behind her gave a loud sigh as if the very world had been lifted from their shoulders. Her fingers twitched, moving across the floor in a bid to drag herself away from whoever (whatever) was behind her now. She didn't want to see what had happened to the bandit; something inside her already knew.
"What's this now…another fool?" The male voice held a cultured, aristocratic lilt that sent shivers down her spine though it sounded almost as though the speaker had almost forgotten to speak. Each word was carefully sounded out, chosen and executed as if the owner were afraid to say something wrong. Her breathing turned shallow and quick before her tunnel vision expanded into black and even as she felt a ghosting touch along her neck she was already slipping into unconsciousness.