It was musty; the air was stuffy like Seraphine was breathing dirt. She coughed and sat up on her bed of hay. Distantly, she could hear the clanking of metal on the earthen walls. Suddenly, a pickaxe was dropped onto the dirt beside her.
Someone spoke gruffly, "Get to work." A banged-up, wooden platter was dropped, like the pickaxe, onto the ground and its contents, stale bread and a bruised apple, spilled out of it. Seraphine reached for the bread and once again found it too stale to eat. The apple was in slightly better condition, so she cut away the rotten parts with her shiv and commenced to eat it. Though it was a meager meal, she was happy to have something substantial in her stomach. Getting to her feet, she concealed her shiv in her worn belt and put on the rags she used as foot wraps. There was a bucket of murky water beside her "bed" that she used sparingly. She took a careful sip of it and left the alcove that would be her cell, if there were any cells in the mine.
The Cidna Mine was Markarth's prison and it was possibly the worst prison you could ever be thrown in. The guards came in once a week to ration small amounts of food to the prisoners and take out any dead bodies. Sometimes it was a game to them. They would pick one prisoner and torture him to the point of death where the victim wished he were dead, but was instead left bloody and beaten by the laughing guards. This happened every time the so-called guards came to visit the mine. The prisoners were only let free, if at all, when they had dug enough of the silver ore. If one didn't fill their quota, a variety of tortures could be put on them, such as food deprivation or even execution, slow and painfully. It was no small-wonder Seraphine's world came crashing down when she was sentenced for life in Hell's mine.
Yet, Seraphine wouldn't break. She remained peaceful in the prison. She mined constantly and kept her distance from the other prisoners. She acted thankful to the guards when they supplied her with food, but all the while she was plotting her escape.
Seraphine picked up her tool from the floor and walked through the rocky tunnels until she came into a great opening where a campfire was kindled and a few prisoners were laying about it, trying to keep warm in the damp caves. A couple of men spotted her and sneered wide, toothy grins at her.
"Hey, baby. If you do me a little favor, I can share some rations with you." one of them offered with a smirk.
"No thanks. I'm not interested in any of your favors."
"Aw, c'mon. Don't be such a tease." The other said. They both got up and started moving in on her. Seraphine immediately pulled out her shivs, one in each hand, and held them ready. The two immediately stopped moving at her and glared. "Dumb bitch" he spat at her.
Seraphine rolled her eyes and put away the shivs. "Yeah. Sure." From the corner of her eye, she saw yet another man approaching her from the side. She whipped around to face him and yelled, "Can a girl not get any peace around here? Back off, you pervert!"
The man jumped and took a step back. "No," he said "I wasn't gonna do…that…or anything. I- er…just wanted to talk."
She studied him for a minute before answering. He was a fairly lanky man, with awkward posture, though his arms seemed strong. He had a thin face and unruly, brown hair that may have used to be cut short, but was now grown out along with his scruffy facial hair. She threw one more glaring look at the two other men who slinked away, then turned to the man. "Your name?"
He hesitated, but spoke in a shaky voice, "I'm Marcurio. I'm from Riften."
"Riften? That's a pretty long way from here. Why were you in Markarth? What did you do to be sent to this place?"
He shook his head. "I know, it is a long way, but I don't wanna talk here. If the prisoners heard my…er…proposal, they might rat us out. I'll explain later. Can you meet me in the west tunnels?"
Seraphine looked confused. "The west tunnels?" she asked, "But aren't those unstable?"
Marcurio nodded, "Yes, but since they're dangerous, no one bothers back there, which is where I take sanctum in. My little "home" isn't too far in to the tunnels, can you make it?"
She thought then agreed, "Yeah. I'll meet you back there later, after I've mined some ore. The guards will be checking progress today, so make sure you dig some, too." Seraphine turned towards the northern tunnels from the campfire and walked off with her pickaxe swinging by her hip. There was no way to tell the time in the cave, so she dug until she thought she had found a sufficient amount of silver ore. She was turning to leave when she noticed a guard leaned against the wall, seemingly watching her. She stood there for a moment then walked cautiously past him. "Excuse me, I was just leaving. To turn in the ore to the…guards. At the…jail doors." she tried to say, but her voice faded the more she spoke. His gaze was still set on her and she was only a few steps from him now. The other miners had all stopped their work to also survey the situation. The guard hoisted himself from the wall and slowly took a step towards Seraphine. She retaliated by taking a step back, but this only caused him to take another step forward. This repeated itself until Seraphine's back pressed against the wall. She was sweating now. The guard continued to remain quiet and approached her still yet. She searched for words, any sort of sentence that would suffice to scare him off, but she was speechless; words lost. She wasn't used to this gaze. She was used to the lusty watching the men gave her, but this man wasn't interested in her like that, which terrified her even more. She was still fighting to speak when the guard suddenly wheeled around to face the prisoners who still stood watching.
"Get the hell out! Find another tunnel, clear out!" he barked. The prisoners all jumped and ran out, as to not anger the man. Seraphine whimpered slightly and pressed herself against the wall to put as much distance between them as she could. They were alone now and the man turned to look at her yet again.