Disclaimer: I only own a copy of Skyrim.
I shifted uncomfortably under Rustleif's glare.
"You just love piling onto your debt, don't you Luna?" he sneered.
"I don't mean to, it's just-"
"I don't need more excuses," the Nord interrupted me as he worked his forge with expert hands. He wiped his hands on his blacksmithing apron and reached into a pocket. "Take the nails. Consider that an extra ten gold on top of the two-hundred you owe me."
I winced at the numbers he reminded me of, but I accepted the nails and made the short walk home. I was tempted to dig into my precious savings to pay off some to keep the grouchy blacksmith from complaining. I understood that Seren had a baby on the way, but he still had plenty of gold. Sera and I were starving half the time.
Speaking of Sera, did she need more health potions? She insisted that she felt better, and I believed her, but she still looked so sickly. But thankfully, she was much better than five months ago, when the frost troll attacked her. The attack left her permanently unable to use her legs and very sick. It took all the healing magic I knew, and another debt that I just recently managed to pay off from Frida, to have Sera at her current health.
I brushed back the thin cloth that was the door to our excuse for a home. Sera was leaning against the wall, braiding little bits of her dark red hair with Grohiik on her lap. Grohiik was her stuffed wolf that Mama made her from the pelt Papa brought home. She still kept it, even though we were reaching our nineteenth year. We had one older sister, Ria, who lived in Whiterun. She left shortly before the fire, and we heard nothing from her. No letter, no courier, despite the fact that I sent nearly fifty since the fire and Sera's accident.
Upon hearing my footsteps, she looked up at me with a bright smile and light green eyes sparkling. I smiled back. We were identical twins, but hardly anymore. Sera was much paler and thinner than I, while I had strong muscles that impressed even some of the soldiers that occasionally passed through Dawnstar from all the work I ended up doing to make ends meet.
"I got new nails," I told her, holding out the object for her to see. "I can put the board back up and prevent snow from coming in."
"That's good," she replied, her voice choked some. She knew that this meant that we just owed Rustleif more.
I opened our chest. It held everything we owned in the world, which was mainly clothing and a few tools I bought to repair our constantly damaged home. I grabbed the hammer and walked to the outside of our house. Putting some nails in my pocket and grabbing the board that had been ripped from the others as a result of last night's horrid winds, I began to nail it back into place.
It was an excuse for a home, a very poor one. The wood was badly damaged, half burnt from the fire that claimed the lives of our parents nearly two years ago. I had not bothered fixing or replacing it. The second our debts were paid, I was going to save money to buy a horse and the supplies to make a small carriage. I would ride the horse anywhere, with my sister and our small chest of belongings in the carriage. Anywhere. Anywhere was better than Dawnstar.
About a month after the fire, war came to Skyrim. This was like a blessing. With men at war, more jobs became open to me. Not well-paying, but enough to pay a little of my debts and still feed Sera. I still blush when I think about a silly hope I once held, a hope that an honorable warrior on a loyal horse pulling a carriage that contained treasures to take me as his wife, my sister riding in the carriage as he took us away from Dawnstar. I soon forgot about it, knowing that the likelihood of that was bigger than a dragon swooping down and eating me.
I hammered the last nail in place. It looked awkward, but I honestly didn't care that much. The house was shitty anyway, what was one more ugly thing?
Looking out at the ocean, I felt my heart sore and a grin spread across my lips. The Sea Squall was almost at the docks. Captain Wayfinder was back. I went back inside and casually tossed the hammer inside.
"Captain Wayfinder is back," I told Sera. She looked at me with conflicting emotions, and I knew why. We were good friends with him, but on the other hand, to put it bluntly, the Captain was one of my regular customers. The other two were Leigelf and one of the Dawnstar guards. I didn't know his name, but I always knew it was the same by the heavy accent he had. Also, since Beitlid found out, I hadn't seen Leigelf lately. On occasion, the passing travelers, sailors or guards came, but those three were the ones I could always count on. "I'm going to go see if he needs any help."
Before Sera could protest, I was already outside. I didn't need that conversation with her. It always ended up with her crying, upset that this was just one of the ways I had to do to make ends meet. She always felt awful, telling me that if she was never so stupid as to think she could kill a troll herself, that she wouldn't be nothing but dead weight to me. It always took hours for me to assure her that I love her, even though she could no longer walk. She wasn't useless. I could not sew or cook, which she did with the dresses that had holes, and made the best of the pelts and food I brought home.
I walked down to the ocean shore, watching the sailors yell out instructions as they began to rope the ship to the study wood of the docks. Captain Wayfinder was calling out an order to a sailor, who nodded towards him and ran off to do his order. Upon seeing me, he smiled and motioned for me to come over. I walked over, and he put his arm around my shoulders.
"Looking for work?" he asked. I nodded. "Well my crew is thankful to be on land, and I intend to give them the day off today to rest. Our cargo can wait till morning. But while we were gone, we were approached by the strangest man."
"How was he strange?" I asked. He knitted his brows together as he spoke to me in a hushed tone.
"Firstly, he dresses as if he was a fool, a jester from a king's court." Seeing my weird look, he continued. "And that is not all, Luna. He approached me, insisted that he wished to sail to Skyrim. Normally, I do not allow travelers on my ship, but he offered me much coin, so I could not refuse. He brought a horse with him, along with his dead mother in a crate."
"His clothing option is…odd, but what is weird about bringing a horse with him?" I asked. "Or his mother? Perhaps he wishes to bury her here. Many travel here with horses or wishing to bury their dead in Skyrim, especially Nords."
The Captain's lips pushed together in a thin line.
"The horse is…is…I do not know how to describe it other than…demonic," he half-whispered. "And the fool…the entire trip he spent in the cargo area…talking to the crate. Whispering to it. Having silent conversations with it. He took his meals there and slept there too. The man is mad, I tell you."
"Why are you telling me this?" I asked, my tone becoming hushed as well.
"He won't let any of my crew help him take the crate off. It's too much for one person to carry, even me, and I helped him load it. I need him to take it off before tomorrow, if he allows you to help him," he told me.
I nodded and pulled away from him, walking up and onto the ship. I never really knew why I did things like this for Captain, all these weird favors for free. Probably because he was my most generous customer, especially after his long voyages. I knew his ship quite well and quickly located the fool he told me about. He sat in between a large wooden crate and a small boxed stall containing a dark horse, dressed in black and red jester's clothing. I immediately saw Captain's discomfort over the horse as well. The eyes were not just blood-red, but glowing fiercely in the dim light of the cargo.
"Would you like any help moving your mother?" I asked him. He jumped some and stared at me, looking up and down observantly.
"You're not one of the horrid sailors," he commented.
"No, I'm not. My name is Luna," I said patiently, giving him a sweet smile. "The Captain said that he needs you to leave the ship before tomorrow."
"Cicero doesn't want the idiot sailors touching Mother!" he cried out. "They call her awful names, insulting sweet Mother!"
"It's alright, Cicero," I told him gently. "I'll help you carry your mother off the ship and onto a carriage."
"There's no need," Cicero responded. "Mother's new crypt and Cicero's new home isn't far."
"Well would you like to get there now, so that you can get Mother settled in right away?" I asked. His eyes grew wide and sparkled with excitement.
"Yes! Yes! Let us take Mother to her new home!" he chirped happily. "Cicero will come back for Shadowmere after the young maid and Cicero take Mother home. Do not worry; Cicero will pay you with coin. Clinky, shiny coin!"
I know my own eyes sparkled with excitement at the idea of Cicero giving me coin for moving a crate. Cicero grabbed one end, and I picked up the other. We slowly made our way out of the cargo hold and off the ship. Cicero briefly told me that we were only walking a little distance. I just hoped that my arms wouldn't fall off. His mother's crate was heavy. What kind of coffin did he get her? Based on what Captain said and what I myself have seen, he must have been really attached to her.
"When you get back, I'll be waiting in my room with your coin," Captain called after me as Cicero and I began to slowly move towards his home. Cicero gave me a questioning look, and I flushed a light red. That probably just gave away that I'm a harlot. Ah well. Better to let Cicero never have respect for me than to once have it and loose it upon discovering the truth.
"The Captain is paying the maid to help Cicero move?" he asked aloud. I felt a bit relieved. Maybe I could lie and actually have somebody who respected and was kind to me. He didn't need to know my reputation yet.
"Yes," I lied softly.
But Cicero said nothing else until we reached his 'home'. And by home, I mean we reached a large black door that I had never seen, despite all my years in Dawnstar. I never saw this house carved into the small mountain-like hill.
"Cicero can handle it from here," he told me, reaching into his pocket. He slipped a coin purse into my hand, grinning like a fool. "Now shoo. Cicero has much to do, and no time for chatter!"
"What about Shadowmere?" I asked.
"Cicero will get him when he gets Mother inside and out of the cold."
I wanted to remind him that his mother was dead, but feared he would take his coin back, so I just walked back to the ship. Glancing into the bag, I felt my breath getting caught in my throat. The coin…it was enough to completely pay off Rustleif and still feed Sera and I for nearly a week. I turned to look for Cicero to thank him, but he had disappeared into his home, along with the crate.
I found myself back at the ship, walking onto the deck. Just because Cicero gave me enough to pay off my debt and feed my sister doesn't mean I'm still not saving for that horse.
Captain was waiting for me outside the door to his private room. He grinned upon seeing me, putting his arms around my waist and pulling me close to him.
"Charging your usual fee?" he asked softly, kissing me neck.
"Yeah," I replied, grabbing onto his sleeves. "And as normal, I want the coin upfront."
"You're adorable when you pretend you're in charge of this," he chuckled.
I froze, but Captain paid no attention. My eyes drifted off to the side to see a surprised Cicero leading Shadowmere. He was back so soon? How long had he been there? No doubt long enough to hear that entire conversation.
"Be gone fool," Captain scowled, noticing him too as he opened the door to his room, ushering me inside.
Cicero had stood there until Shadowmere nickered and shoved his nose in the jester's shoulder, making him finally move to leave the ship.
I saw Cicero the next morning after I presented the coin to Rustleif. The blacksmith looked like he didn't believe his eyes, but he didn't question me. Instead, he accepted my coin and said that I was no longer in debt to him.
The jester walked passed me and avoided my gaze when I finished up with Rustleif. I jogged up next to him.
"I'm sorry," I told him. I don't know why, but I felt like I owed him an apology. He just laughed merrily.
"No need for apologies," he told me with a smile. I felt a bit relieved. "What you do isn't Cicero's business."
"And what you do isn't my business," I replied with a smile. He returned it. "So are you staying here, or are you just passing through?"
"Cicero is staying," the jester explained. "For now, at least."
I nodded, breaking away from him to go home as he continued on his way.
Over the month, I saw Cicero walk to the inn and to Frida's potions store. Other than that, I never saw him anywhere else, just to those two locations to buy food, potions, and hire a courier to send and receive letters. He was always in a hurry too, and he seemed to have an endless supply of coin, despite never working anywhere. Sera had suggested that maybe his mother left him a large inheritance. This seemed plausible.
I had asked him who he was sending a letter to, and every single time he replied "Astrid." I had never heard of her, but then again I didn't know many outside of Dawnstar. He seemed to exchange letters with this Astrid very much, but I could never get any clear idea from him if Astrid was his wife, his lover, a sister, a friend or even a daughter. To be honest, I was a tad jealous. Even though he now knew my true reputation and main occupation, he was still respectful to me. One by one, when the people of Dawnstar found out what I was doing, they all immediately lost respect for me.
He still treated me like a friend. Nobody, besides Sera, still treated me nicely. Frida was the warmest to me, but even she was very disappointed and was not afraid to show that she hated me some.
What did I care now? Cicero pulled me out of my debt to nearly everybody in Dawnstar as well. Every few days, he paid me to take Shadowmere out to exercise. Despite his demonic appearance, Shadowmere was probably the most gentle and loyal horse I've ever seen or ridden. Very fast and energetic too. No wonder Cicero needed the horse exercised. He certainly wasn't riding him anywhere from what I saw.
I was walking home from exercising Shadowmere. Passed the reins and exhausted horse to the jester, I accepted my gold and went on my way. I passed a few buildings when I hear shouting.
I turned to see Beitlid. She was walking, well more stumbling, towards me, a bottle of mead in her hand that she waved around. She walked uncomfortably close, leaning into my face so that we bumped noses, forcing me to step back. Her eyes were red, and her breath stunk of mead. The woman was clearly drunk.
"You are the reason Leigelf and I are getting a divorce," she hiccupped, her voice conflicting as to whether it wanted to scream or sob this information. My eyes grew in surprise. I knew that I caused much conflict, but Leigelf had assured me that Beitlid and him made peace. "He doesn't love me anymore, says that I never pay enough attention to him, that I'm always too focused on work."
I reached a hand out to comfortingly pat her shoulder, but she swatted my hand away.
"Don't touch me, harlot," she drunkenly sobbed. "You stole my Leigelf. Said he and you were going to get married soon after the divorce is final."
This made me squirm uncomfortably. He had the coin that I needed. I provided the feminine attention his wife wasn't giving to him. He paid me, and I gave him what he wanted. Nothing but business. Simple as that.
She suddenly snapped out and grabbed the front of my shirt, pulling me close. My nose scrunched up at the heavy smell of mead she was breathing on me.
"But you know what?" she choked.
"What?" I replied, humoring her.
"You cannot have him," she hissed, her drunken sobs slowly turning into drunken fury. Um, I never wanted him? "Leigelf cannot marry that which is dead."
I felt a sharp pain in my side. Beitlid had stabbed my side, the older woman missing my stomach in her intoxicated state. This gave me enough time to grab her wrist, trying to pry her iron dagger from her long fingers. A struggle for power occurred, with me finally ending up with the upperhand. I grabbed the iron dagger from her fingers, making her shriek.
Not bothered by losing her dagger, she punched me in the jaw, making me fall over. Beitlid sat on me, pinning my arms to the ground with her knees and her long fingers grabbing around my throat. She grasped it tightly in her grip, making me choke. The dagger was in my hand, if I could only move my hand…
Her grip became tighter, and the world was becoming fuzzy as I wiggled and squirmed. My hand was free! It wasn't the one clutching a dagger, but I still managed to hit the side of her face, making her fall off. Throat now free, I breathed deeply before I turned to look at her. She was on her hands and knees. I kicked her so that she fumbled onto her back before I grabbed her throat, slamming her into the ground.
I looked at her wide, drunken eyes that were filling with fear, and they should be. I had the upper hand. I was sober, had her dagger and was stronger. My hand didn't choke her, but she still gasped for breath, beginning to sob again.
Beitlid's tears would do her no good. I hated the woman, even before my parents died and this whole mess concerning my life started. She was always a rude, shrill woman. Hateful to everybody she saw, especially her husband. Leigelf was a good man, aside from being stuck in an affectionless marriage with this bitch. It was only a matter of time before he left her. I just sped up the process.
I was suddenly blinded by fury and fueled with new energy as I buried the dagger up to the hilt in her chest. The life slowly left her eyes as crimson began to stain the snow around her. But I was not done. I stabbed her again. And again. And again. And again, again, again, again, again and again.
When I finally stopped, her entire chest, stomach and throat had stab and deep slash wounds. What slightly scared me was how I…didn't care. I had just murdered a semi-innocent woman in cold blood, but I didn't care one bit. Felt no remorse, no guilt, stole all her coin and for good measure, I kicked her in the face. I'm sure I broke her nose and cheekbone, but the dead body didn't protest at this abuse. More blood just dripped onto the snow.
My clothing stained in blood, I walked home without a care. No guards saw the bloodstains, and soon, I found myself home. I snuggled next to my sister in our combined bedroll, clean and in a fresh night dress. I didn't even care if they found out. After all, it's not like people could possibly think even less of me.
The next morning, I felt more chipper and happy than I had in years. I woke up earlier than normal and dressed, tying my hair back as I walked outside to take in the beautiful view of the oceans softly crashing against the shore.
I spied Cicero leading Shadowmere from the stables. Shadowmere was pulling…an empty cart? Why? Was he leaving?
My good mood fell slightly as I began to walk down to meet up with him.
"Morning!" he called out cheerfully, waving to me. I weakly smiled.
"Morning," I replied respectfully, my eyes on the carriage. "Are you leaving?"
"Astrid has invited Cicero, Mother and Shadowmere to live with her," he replied, patting the horse's nose. Shadowmere snorted and pushed his nose into the jester's hand, wanting more attention.
"You need help loading the carriage?" I asked. He shook his head.
"Cicero can handle it," he told me. I nodded, staring longingly at the carriage. With my debts paid off, I was so much closer to finally owning my own horse. Right now, I had the coin to build the small carriage I would need. "Need something?"
"Just…jealous," I admitted softly, scratching Shadowmere's nose as I stared at his glowing eyes. "You get to leave. I've been trying to get out of this place for nearly three years."
Cicero looked thoughtfully at me.
"Where does Luna wish to go?" he asked me. I shrugged my shoulders.
"Sera talks about going to live with our sister in Whiterun," I told him. "I don't know where I want to go, but anywhere is better than Dawnstar at this point."
"Cicero is going to Falkreath," he said slowly. "He will travel through Whiterun. Cicero can take Sera there and, if Luna wishes, she can come with Cicero to Falkreath. He's sure Astrid will accept Luna to live with the family. She's so nice, so polite in her letters!"
I stood still in disbelief. Was I still dreaming? Cicero was seriously offering a harlot and her disabled twin a ride out of Dawnstar? Shadowmere nickered and moved his nose into my hand, snapping me out of my thoughts. I grinned and scratching the horse's mane, promising Cicero I would be back soon to get Sera and our few things.
I ran up to my home. Sera was still sleeping peacefully. I picked up and threw Grohiik at her. The stuffed wolf hit her cheek, making her green eyes flash open.
"What is it?" she cried out, pulling the sleeping furs over her head, a pale hand reaching out and pulling the wolf under the blanket with her.
"We're leaving Dawnstar," I announced. This caused her to sit up, the sleeping furs dropping into her lap.
"You got a horse?" she gasped.
"Better," I grinned. "The man I told you about, Cicero-"
"You mean the jester?"
"Yes! Him! He's taking me to Falkreath, and he said that he could drop you off in Whiterun on the way!" I chirped.
"You're going to Falkreath, and I'm going to Whiterun?" she repeated. I nodded, grinning wide. She didn't return it. "But…we'll be separated."
My grin fell, remembering this. We were twins. And like most twins, we rarely separated. I believe the farthest I've been from her was from our home to the docks. This would be the first time I wasn't with her.
"You'll have Ria," I reminded her gently, dropping to my knees next to her. "And we have to grow apart sometime."
Sera looked up at me sadly, but nodded and leaned into me. I wrapped my arms around her in a tight hug.
"There is a professional healer in Whiterun," she said, trying to sound cheerful. "Maybe they can do something about…this…"
She gestured to her useless legs. I smiled and kissed her cheek.
"I will come and visit you," I told her, smiling bigger. "And if the healer can do something about your legs, I'm quite sure I'll see you in the Companions, won't I?"
"I'll be the next Harbinger," she joked. I laughed, packing up our stuff as Sera neatly folded and handed it to me. We both agreed to just bring some clothing, our family heirloom and Grohiik. Everything else we owned wasn't important enough. It fit in my cloth bag, so I swung it over my back and picked up Sera bridal style.
"Say goodbye to the pathetic shack," I told her. She jokingly waved goodbye to our old home. A new one awaited us in Whiterun and Falkreath.
Cicero was ready. He giggled at the sight of us. I noticed a spot he cleared for Sera to sit, which I gently put her on. She thanked Cicero multiple times for doing this to us. She rested on our bag, holding her wolf close in her arms. I jumped up to sit on the driver's seat with Cicero, and soon we finally left Dawnstar.
Funny. I had always hoped an honorable warrior on a loyal horse pulling a carriage holding his treasures from his adventurers to finally take my sister and I away from Dawnstar. I guess a mad jester with a demonic steed hauling a cart that had his dead mother resting in it was close enough.