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The figure in the cage was a human woman, with lightly-colored hair and a short stature. It wasn't surprising, as West Weald was said to be mostly inhabited by Imperials, and the Gold Coast was frequently visited by other humans. Helspar couldn't tell which specific human race she was, though. Humans all looked the same in a way to him. He knew that Redguards have darker skins (and really good with swords), so this fellow traveler probably wasn't one of them. The Imperials were, well, the most boring and mediocre. If Heslpar ventured a guess, he would say that this woman was Breton or Nord. Neither one matter for now, as no mortal race had the ability to slink out between cage grates (as far as Helspar knew).

"Alright, I'll try to open it." Helspar told the woman. Like him, she had no weapon, tools or bags in the cage with her. Pulling out his repair kit once more, Helspar found no more slender enough pins inside.

"I'm going need a thin piece of metal; maybe a hairpin?" He asked. "I broke the only ones I had picking my cage."

Sure enough, the human woman was able to give Helspar what he needed. He got to work again. This time, he had a bit more experience than before. The lock was opened in a few minutes, though the pin still broke upon extraction. While he worked, Helspar frequently looked over his shoulder. The cavern was quiet, save for the crackling of torches and the occasional water dripping. He also spared a few glances at his fellow prisoner, but was too nervous to say anything.

"It's open." Helspar said. He moved back a few steps to give the woman some space, and just in case she attacks.

"I-" He was about to exchange the basic pleasantries people exchange with new acquaintances, when the distant sound of footsteps interrupted. A shadow appeared in the passage leading out of the cavern, and the cold sweat that had almost dried soaked Helspar's cloths again.

"Someone's coming," Helspar warned, pointing to the approaching shadow, "hide!"

Helspar immediately dashed off to a pile of rocks, not even bother to see what the woman did. He curled up behind in, hidden in the shadow cast by a nearby torch. His plan was for the unknown figure (presumably one of his abductors) to go by, and then book it out while they're looking the other way. He should have told the woman that. It's too late now; she had gone to hide in another spot.

Then the figure came in sight. It was a big Khajiit, almost a head taller than Helspar, wearing tattered leather armor and had spotted fur like that of a leopard. This Khajiit must be one of larger sub-species. Khajiits were basically unheard of in Stormhold (due to the damp climate), and were primarily slaves in Morrowind. This Khajiit was strange and intimidating to Helspar.

"Damn lazy tree elves." As the Khajiit came into the cavern, Helspar heard him mutter. "Ordering this one to do all the dirty work. Ritual? Khajiit thinks not. More like..."

The Khajiit was far enough in (and paying no attention) for Helspar to run out into the passage. But as the cat-man walked in front of a torch, Helspar saw a bow slung across his back, the very same bow that belonged him.

Escape would have to wait a little longer; Helspar's not leaving without his weapon. He could easily sneak up on the Khajiit. There's a bunch of rocks on the ground, and Helspar picked up the biggest one he could carry; it was the size of his foot.

The Khajiit was now at the cage Helspar sat in minutes ago. "Huh?" He stared at the open door. "Is this the wrong-"

Helspar rushed out as fast as he could. The rock was raised above his head, as he charged...

...Only to trip and fall flat on his face, right behind the Khajiit.

The Khajiit turned around, looking down at the prone dark elf and the rock beside him.

"Uh, hi?" Helspar's face flushed like the Red Mountain, with embarrassment. His heart was pounding so fast, that he could hardly hear the words blurting out of his own mouth. "Heh, so, this is not what it looks like! It's just a pran-"

The Khajiit growled, a dagger came out of its sheath, into his hand, and down at Helspar.

Helspar rolled away. The dagger embedded into the soil behind him. He tried to stand, but found the Khajiit's meaty hands gripped around his neck, and slamming him back down to the ground.

"Help!" Helspar croaked out. The chokehold tightened, and he felt himself suffocating.

"You owe me for busting you out!" Was what Helspar wanted the human woman to hear. Though what came out was a series of gurgles. The Khajiit was too strong; Helspar couldn't shake him off.
Spoon




Unknown Cave, West Weald, Cyrodiil

Evening, Sun's Dusk 15, 2E 638



Before Helspar Dalas blacked out, he was riding in the back of a horse-drawn, open top carriage. A brown-coated Colovian stallion trotted on a thin layer of slush, pulling the well-worn wooden vehicle in between two others. It was the second snow this season in West Weald. Tiny snowflakes drifted in the chilling wind. It was cold, but not quite freezing; the snow melted as soon as it hit the ground. The road between Skingrad and Kvatch was almost barren; few travelers in the region wished to brave the cold. Even wild animals went into hibernation. Bird chirps were scarce, and the only sounds that stayed with the caravan were gusts blowing through the dried-up grass.

Then they came from the brushline, spells and arrows wielded by figures in metal and leather. The attack was so sudden that the horses panicked and tumbled. The carriage Helspar rode on drove straight into a ditch. His world flipped sideways, and the ground rushed to meet Helspar's face.

When Helspar woke up, the first sense to alarm him was sound. There were metal rattling, heavy footsteps and the terrified screams of an old man. "No, gods please, no! No!!" It sounded just like the carriage driver.

The source of the screams were gone when sight came to Helspar. All he could see was a dark and smoky cavern. The place smelled rotten, dank moistures mixed with torch fumes. Helspar was locked in a metal cage that was just tall enough for him to stand, and just long enough for him to lay down. There were a dozen other cages in the cavern, illuminated by three freestanding torches. Beyond the torches was a passage that turned beyond view. As far as he could tell, all other cages were open and empty, though some had blood and torn clothing still left in them. Leading out of each cage was a trail of someone being dragged across the muddy floor.

As for Helspar himself, he was uninjured, save for a slight headache. Most of his personal belongings were gone, though. His backpack, his trusty bow, quiver and skinning knife had all been taken away. So was the fur hat he bought in Cheydinhal. And, as expected from anyone who locked travelers in cages, his gold was gone too. At least they had the decency to leave his clothing on. This meant that they didn't search the interior pocket of his coat. Helspar's repair kit was still with him!

Helspar breathed a sigh of relief. He had something to work with. Now the question became whether or not he should do something about his current predicament. It was obvious that the denizens of this cave had malicious intents; anyone with common sense would try to escape. But what if they caught him trying to escape? Maybe they would only held Helspar there for ransom, and anything rash on his part would result in his death. Then he remembered the agonizing screams minutes ago. That was not the sound of a man being set free. And after all, no one would pay for Helspar's ransom anyway. The only person that cared about him was being worked to death somewhere in Vvardenfell. Helspar couldn't give up, for Gnarl-Braid's sake.

Armed with two slender pins from the repair kit, and negligible experiences in lockpicking, Helspar went to work on the cage lock. It never occurred to him how awkward it was to work a lock from the other side. His wrist must twist at a painful angle to insert the pins into the lock. He remembered one of Gnarl-Braid's huntmates sharing his thieving exploits. Just push one pin up and flatten the tumblers with the other. It was definitely a lot easier said than done. Sweat began form on Helspar's forehead, and his hands trembled inside his gloves. Thankfully, the lock was worn and loose. A cautious prod yielded a sharp click, and several clicks later, the pins broke. However, the lock had enough play at this point to be forced open.

"Ha, phew!" Helspar chuckled. He wiped the sweat from his face and pushed the creaking cage door open. Helspar couldn't believe it; he picked a lock!

Before he could celebrate, Helspar noticed that not all cages in the cavern were as empty as he'd previously seen. There was one more cage further inside than his. The door was closed, and a figure, partially obscured in shadow, was just stirring inside. This must be someone from the caravan. He couldn't leave this person there, could he? If Helspar had another survivor with him, he would have a better chance taking on his abductors. But then again, he didn't plan on taking on his abductors. He had no weapon, and the only way out was sneaking, so having someone else was just more noise...

Argh, to Oblivion with it! The regret would endless if he left them behind. So Helspar approached the other cage. Before he reached it, he almost tripped over on...a skeleton.

"Oh gods!" Helspar cursed (and nearly jumped). He stepped gingerly around the skeleton.

"Alright, alright." Kneeling in front of the cage, Helspar whispered to himself, trying to still his pounding heart. He placed one hand on the cage door and shook it.

"Hey, hey, over here." Helspar whispered louder this time, so that the person inside the cage could hear him. "You were on the caravan, right? We have to get out of here!"
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