Whoa. I'm doing a crossover. How'd that happen?
First off: I will still be continuing my other story, Portal Cubed, and this is just something on the side, so don't expect an update every week, alright?
Disclaimer: Elder Scrolls belongs to Bethesda, Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins.
When I wake up, the room is empty and cold. I open my eyes wide, trying to see Sven, but can only see the bare wooden wall across the room. He must have had nightmares and crawled in with our mother. He would. Today is the day of the Reaping.
Reluctantly, I force myself out of my bed and pull on some rough breeches, along with a worn tunic and a fur vest. I rub my face and yawn. I slide my feet into my hunting boots and quietly slip outside.
The sun is just promising to break over the horizon. Riverwood is usually crawling with workers headed out to Embershard Mine for the morning shift at this hour, but today it is deathly quiet. The cobblestone streets are empty, and shutters on the small wooden houses are all tightly closed. No work today, or school, for that matter, and the Reaping isn't until two. Might as well sleep in, if you can.
My house is well on the outskirts of Riverwood, and it takes me all of two minutes to make my way to the high fence surrounding out town. I shimmy through a wider-than-average gap in the fence that's concealed by a thick cluster of bushes.
As soon as I'm in the trees, I retrieve a bow, along with a quiver of arrows, from a hollowed-out log. The fence may keep wolves and bears and other predators from Riverwood, but they roam freely within the woods.
Even though leaving Riverwood's borders without permission is technically illegal, and hunting carries a severe penalty, I know firsthand most in Riverwood would risk it if they had the weapons. But anything longer than a knife is illegal in Riverwood, save the swords and axes carried by the Peacekeepers. My bow is a rarity, crafted by my father along with a few others that I keep stored in the woods, carefully wrapped in animal hides. He could have made good Septims selling them, but if the officials caught wind of it, he would have faced public execution for inciting rebellion. Most guards turn a blind eye to the few of us that hunt because they're as hungry as everybody else. But the idea of someone arming the general populace of Riverwood would have never been allowed.
In the fall, a few brave souls will venture out to collect apples and Juniper berries and whatnot, but always within sight of the Fence. Always close enough to run back to the safety of Riverwood. "Skyrim. Where you can starve to death in safety," I mutter, casting a glance over my shoulder could overhear.
When I was younger, I would scare my mother to Oblivion and back, the things I would say. Crazy things, things about Skyrim, about the whole of Tamriel, about the Dov that ruled us, far away in a place once called Imperial City. Eventually, I learned to control myself, to be calm and stoic. Because what if someone overheard? What if Sven started repeating my words?
In the woods awaits the only one with who I can be myself. Adah. I can feel my pace quickening as I climb the hills to our special place, a rocky outcrop overlooking White River. On the outcropping are three pillars that we've come to call the Guardian Stones. All three show a carving of a man in three different professions. One is dressed in robes and portrays a mage or a priest. Another is clad in armor, wielding a sword, and is quite obviously a warrior. The third is crouching, wielding daggers. Adah thinks it's a scout of some sort, while I'm more inclined to believe it is an Assassin or a thief.
Adah is gazing out at the river when I approach. "Happy Dovah Games," I say, sitting down beside her.
"May the odds be ever in your favor," she replies, turning to face me and grinning. "Look what I shot." She holds up half a loaf of bread with an arrow stuck indie, and we laugh. It's real bakery bread, not the flat stuff we make from our grain rations. I take it in my hands and inhale the warm fragrance.
"Mm. It's still warm. What's it cost you?" she must have been down at the baker's at the crack of dawn to barter for it.
"Just a squirrel I think the old man was in a good mood today. He even wished me good luck."
I don't even bother to roll my eyes. "We all feel closer today, don't we?"
She nods. I watch as she pulls out a knife and slices the bread. She plucks a few Juniper berries from a nearby bush and spreads their juice over it. She then grabs a few mint leaves and hands me half. We settle back against the Stones and watch the sun rise.
It's a beautiful day, the sky a clear blue with a cool breeze coming down from the mountains. It would be a perfect day, if not for the threat of the Reaping hanging over us like a dressed deer.
"We could do it, you know," Adah says, breaking the silence.
"Take off. Live in the woods. Leave Riverwood. You and I, we could make it.
I shake my head. I'd thought about this before. "They'd find us," I reply, taking a bite of my bread.
"We wouldn't make it five miles. Besides, what about our families?"
Adah looks back at the river. "Oh. Yeah."
"So, what do you want to do today?" I ask, changing the subject. "We can hunt, or fish downriver, or gather berries."
Adah stands and strings her bow. "Let's do all of it. Get something nice for tonight."
Tonight. After the Reaping, everyone is supposed to celebrate. Most people do, out of relief that their children have been spared another year. But this year, at least one family in Riverwood will pull their shutters, lock the doors, and try to figure out how they will survive the painful weeks to come.
We have a good haul. In addition to the belt of rabbits we've gotten from traps and snares, we've downed a wolf, caught seven fish, and have gathered at least an entire bushel of Juniper berries.
On the way home, we swing by the Hob. It used to be a warehouse for storing excess coal from Embershard Mine, but has since been abandoned and gradually become a black market. Most shops are closed this close to the Reaping, but the Hob is still fairly busy. We trade three rabbits for fresh bread, and two fish for fresh fruit and salt. We sell the wolf to Ushag, a bony old Orc who sells bowls of soup from a large black kettle. We try to keep on good terms with Ushag, since she's the only one that can be consistently relied upon to buy wolf meat. "Once it's in the stew, I call it beef," she says with a wink. Not that anyone who buys or sells in the Hob much cares.
When we're finished in the market, we pack up our food and head home. We divide our spoils, leaving two rabbits, three fish, a few loaves of bread, fresh fruit and berries, salt, and some leftover money for the both of us.
"See you in an hour," I say.
Adah nods. "I'll meet you in the plaza."
I arrive home to find my brother and mother already dressed and ready. Sven is wearing the clothes I wore my first Reaping, and my mother has managed to find some old robes from her days in the Apothecarium.
A cool tub of water awaits me. I scrape of the dirt and dried sweat and even wash my ragged hair. I pull on some old dress clothes that belonged to my father and stare at the reflection in the cracked mirror hanging on the wall.
Sven walks in. "Mother says we need to go soon." He stares at me for a moment. "You look like Dad."
"I don't feel like him," I say, tousling his hair. This is his first Reaping. It will be terrible for him. "Let's get going."
The sun is high in the sky as we head to the town square. People file in silently and wait. All the citizens aged from twelve to eighteen are herded towards the front, in a roped-off area especially for subjects of the Reaping.
The square gets tighter and more claustrophobic as more people arrive. The square is large, but not large enough to hold Riverwood's population of nearly a thousand.
I find myself in a clump of kids my age, sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds whose parents work in Embershard. We exchange terse nods and focus on the temporary stage erected near the entrance to Riverwood. Presently on the stage is Ashira, the escort for the tributes of Skyrim, an eccentric Khajit straight from Imperial City. She sits on a wooden chair next to the mayor of Riverwood, a bald, haggard old man with a wrinkled face. He stands up as the clock strikes two. As is mandatory, he begins the Reaping by telling the Tamriel, of Alduin World-Eater, firstborn of Akatosh. He tells of how the Dragons took back Skyrim, and how the whole of Tamriel soon surrendered to the might of the Dovah.
He then tells of the rebellion, the uprising of the Mortals against the Dragons. How the men and mer managed to slay Odahviing, Alduin's right hand.
It wasn't enough. The might of the Dov soon crushed the rebels, and the Eater of Worlds established the Dovah Games. Every year, two young men and two young women are chosen from each Province of Tamriel. They can be taken from any city or village in the Province. These Tributes are forced to fight to the death. The last one alive wins.
The mayor introduces Ashira to the crowd, as if we don't know who she is. The Khajit stands, saying, "Happy Dovah Games! May the odds be ever in your favor!"
I look across the sea of faces and find Adah. Our eyes meet, and we nod nervously before returning our attention to the stage, where Ashira has unrolled a sheet of parchment and is reading a name. The crowd takes a collective breath as she announces the tribute.
It's not my name.
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