by AJ Marks
Zoe moved along seeing flickering torches lining many walls giving a bit of light in a dark place. Now that she ran down here she understood why few came down here. The depths of death and despair in the Imperial City. Full of thieves, murders, and druggies all down here to hide from the authorities.
A person didn’t come down here for the tourism, but were here for some other reason and most were not legal. She moved along keeping an eye out for any trouble, not that she had anything on her to stop trouble. You didn’t exist down here and you didn’t rat anyone out. The only rule for the area, or so the rumor went.
She felt certain the Thalmor wouldn’t come down here, at least not for a while giving her time to plan her next move if she had one. She slumped to the ground looking around in the dim flicker of light provided by gas lamps on the side of the wall.
Movement caught her attention as a male, dressed in rags, began making his way closer to her. She watched cautiously as he slowly made his way over, and she wished she had something.
“Hey,” he said, closing the distance a bit quicker and couching down close to her. “Got some Skooma, real good too.”
His eyes widened as he said it, giving her a small smile showing some missing teeth.
“No,” Zoe replied back watching as he continued to hold out his hand for a few moments before giving up.
“All right, but you won’t find any better,” he said, moving away and heading down the corridor and disappearing into the shadows.
Zoe leaned her head back on the cool stone wall wondering if she even had any options available to her. The one option was also the very one she didn’t want to take, become Valis’ slave. No way would she ever do that. But that left her with almost nothing else.
She might be able to try another city, but where could she go? She stuffed her hand into her pocket feeling parchment and took it out. The note she had received.
Go north to Skyrim? Who was OMB and what would he do to make it worth her time? She really had no other option.
Was she crazy for even considering this? Then there was the entire seer thing and this World Eater, whoever, or whatever that was.
Glancing up at the ceiling she understood she had few options left to her now. If she stayed then she had little choice left other than staying here in the Underground. She could go to Valis but that was what he wanted, her. She really had no options other than running away.
Once more the phrase go north to Skyrim crossed her mind.
She had no money to get onto a carriage, and even worse really had nothing to make the journey. Yet, it seemed as if she had no other choice. Standing she began walking softly to not alert anyone while looking around. She needed some supplies and perhaps she could find something down here, someone willing to give her some supplies.
What she really needed, was a knife, perhaps some other things, but that was the first thing.
Zoe trudged on following an endless path north towards Skyrim. Several times she wondered what she was doing. Part of her thought about how easy it might have been to accept being a slave for a while and looking for a chance to escape. Then again, if she had done that she would be a runaway slave forever no matter what else happened. This way, the worse would be the threat of assault on a Thalmor and she doubted they would look for her in Skyrim.
If everything went well Valis might assume she had perished in the Underground, one of it countless victims. She hadn’t encountered any Thalmor on her travel which was a good thing. There had also been few travelers going either direction.
Thankfully she had managed to procure a knife before leaving, actually she found one, or stole depending on who one talked to. She lifted it from a sleeping man she stumbled across. Of course he never woke up and figured he had probably drunk himself to sleep, or some other drug. With any hope he probably would think he lost it.
No one had seen her do it, or at least none which spoke up and she doubted they would have cared, or would find her. It would require him to leave the underground and the capital city. During the trek she considered several times what this Bathing Beauties Luxury Suite was? What could they possibly want from her? Or was it some sort of advertisement to visit. If so, it seemed very odd to her.
Noise ahead of her caught her attention and she noticed a wagon headed the opposite direction. Moving slightly off the road to allow it to pass she waited making eye contact with the man and assessing any danger he might pose to her.
“Hail traveler,” the man in the wagon said, greeting her in an almost cheerful way.
“Good day to you,” Zoe replied, stopping for a second as he slowed down. He seemed to want to talk, but she remained on guard for anything.
“Heading to Skyrim?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she answered, not giving anything else away.
“Good luck up there, bad times ahead I fear,” he replied back to her.
“Can’t be much worse than where I came from,” Zoe replied, knowing if times were trouble, she could disappear easier and perhaps gain some coin from it.
“Seen anything up ahead?” he asked.
“Its been calm, though if you’re heading for the Imperial city, its not what it used to be. The Thalmor run just about everything,” Zoe replied.
“Aye, then it seems we head from on frying pan to the other,” he replied. “Well, may your travels give you better luck up north than mine did. What about the roads?”
“Dry at the moment,” Zoe replied back.
“At least something is going right on this adventure,” he said with a shrug. “Well, good luck to you traveler.”
Zoe watched as he flicked the reigns and the wagon headed back down the trail before continuing her journey. She wondered what he meant by his words and what type of trouble was he running from and she headed to. She knew almost nothing of the politics of Skyrim other than a few stories travelers told at the tavern.
So many questions left unanswered in her mind even as she continued her trudge towards Skyrim and what she hoped would become a new beginning to her life. What type of beginning she had no idea.
Her stomach rumbled causing her to recall the last time she had eaten. She still had some fish left from her last stop. The creek was still off the path a bit, but not that far. She found a spot off the path to rest and do some more fishing and gather supplies to continue her trip.
The good thing was she had no time-table so if she needed to stop she could. Her knowledge in fishing and hunting came in handy for the trip. She found a nice clearing close to the stream and took some time to set up a small camp, worked on the fire. It quickly started, fortunately allowing her some time to relax a bit and catch her breath before starting her fishing.
Taking out some smoked fish she ate it quickly wondering again what she was doing. She figured she could stay here for a couple of days while she replenished her supplies once more. Deciding to do that she went about setting things up to smoke some more fish and looked at the stream to do some fishing.
Zoe felt a bit glad, over the past couple of days she had managed to refill her supplies of food at the creek. She managed to smoke some of the meat so it would travel better and fill her water skins. It was amazing what she had managed to do since leaving the Imperial City. She didn’t know she had such survivor abilities.
Her biggest concern was bandits. She really didn’t have anything worth anything, but that wouldn’t stop a group of bandits from trying something. So far she hadn’t encountered anyone but she was approaching the border.
True people going the other way mentioned nothing about bandits, but she wasn’t about to lower her guard. The few things she had were what she needed to get to Skyrim, and once there then what. Her train of thought trailed off at that part. She really had no idea what she’d do upon arrival or even where to go once there.
Perhaps she could do some hunting and gather up some coin. She had some skill with that. She had no idea what type of creatures might be in the wilds but being colder they probably paid more for hides to keep warm.
Hearing noises she looked up to see a larger group of men coming down the road. She wasn’t sure she liked this one bit, as they all wore armor and appeared to be more military in style compared to others.
Even worse, they all appeared to be headed in her direction.
Panic set in as she realized she stumbled upon some sort of battle without even knowing which side was which.
“Don’t let a single one escape,” she heard someone yell.
She noticed they had seen her and now a few were headed her way. She wasn’t equipped to fight in this battle. She wore no armor, and the only weapon was a small knife used more to hunt than fight.
Seeing her only course of action was to run, she turned to run into the forest.
Hearing sounds behind her she turned to look and saw two running after her. She might be able to escape as they wore armor and she did not. Turning back around in time to see the tree right in front of her before slamming headfirst into it.
The last thing she could remember was the trouble she was in as she blacked out.
Darkness surrounded her. She couldn’t make out anything around her causing her to panic. Was she dead? The last thing she recalled was trying to escape from what was going on. Now, she was here in some strange place.
A loud noise ripped through the air around her like someone took a huge blanket and flapped it in the wind, only amplified. The ground shook slightly as if something heavy landed and the noise stopped.
Part of her reminded herself she should be terrified. Obviously there was some sort of strange creature near her which she couldn’t see. But she managed to duck a massive wall of flame headed in her direction followed by a wave of heat but she was unable to see from what it came.
“Last Dovahkin!” a deep voice said.
With that everything seemed to grow lighter. She was rocking and heard the sounds of horses walking along. Opening her eyes a bit more she noticed she was in a wagon along with three others.
Blinking the fog of what happened she recognized the men around her. They were from the clearing that she had run into. She had run away and encountered a few more and then, she couldn’t recall after that.
Her head hurt and a slight headache at the moment. She noticed a few other wagons also filled with people before noticing that one of the men in her wagon was gagged.
Why had they done that?
“Hey, I see you’re awake,” the one across from her said. He was dressed differently than the others. She really needed to figure out what was going on even as the other two non-gagged men started to converse.
She listened wondering what that crazy dream was. Again, she could only recall bits and pieces, and they had called her a name, but what was it again. She noticed they entered a town making her wonder if she finally made it to Skyrim.
“Damn Thalmor,” she heard one of the guys in the wagon exclaim.
She looked over to see several elves in Thalmor armor with some imperial. Did Valis’ power extend all the way up here? She guessed she’d find out real soon.
End part 4