Of Fate and Injured Knees
a collab between @Sofaking Fancy and @Dervish
4th of Last Seed, 4E205
Gustav’s Warehouse, sometime before noon…
Solitude was a city that to the discerning eye seemed quite out of place compared to the other cities of Skyrim thanks to its striking presence atop a towering natural arc and architecture that looked like it was ripped out of a fairly standard Imperial design rulebook. Large and immaculate stone houses, numerous luxury stores, and what had been a fairly typical Imperial Legion garrison that had defended the city rounded out what would be most people’s first impressions of the place and its wide cobblestone streets, and despite the Stormcloak victory, much of the populace still resembled the cosmopolitan populations and fashions of the South, the supplies having been brought in the large harbour far down the cliffs that had once been the Skyrim headquarters of the East Empire Company. Things had certainly changed, but not as drastically as one would expect from a people who had boldly declared that Skyrim belongs to the Nords. It was impossible to know what would have changed in the long-term, but it gave the impression that some things would have been timeless.
Nestled somewhere in the sprawl of the city streets and away from most of the residential buildings was a warehouse that Gustav owned that he had volunteered for the company’s use. Supplies were stored, acquired, and transferred in and out of the building in a fashion only the bean-counters understood, and many of the company elected to stay in the warehouse while they were laid over in the Northeastern Skyrim capital. While Do’Karth kept to the Kyne’s Tear
, partially to try and work through his unease of sailing and partially to avoid unwanted scrutiny of the emboldened Nord populace that thought Khajiit didn’t belong in their cities, he only came in to do his assigned task, which was simply medical procedures that didn’t require the intensity of restoration magic.
Set assigned for this purpose was a small room that had probably once been something of an office without windows and a wooden door that had a couple of cots that worked as makeshift medical beds, as well as an examination table and a variety of equipment, including scalpels, bandages, and a small alchemy set for mixing simple potions and poultices. Do’Karth had seen three patients today, setting one’s sprained ankle, treating a minor burn, and giving another stitches for a head gash. He wasn’t sure what was going to be walking in the door next, but he called, “Next, please.”
Civilization and Dael got along like bread and butter. Wilderness and Dael also got along like bread and butter. There was not a place where the orc ever felt estranged. Well, except maybe around a large gathering of his own kind. He lacked the grit and knowledge to fold into them. The one place he should have been welcome was the one place where he was an outsider.
Solitude was no Markarth, and it showed. The buildings were less a welcoming enigma and more a bulwark of civilization. The people here held themselves a bit taller and let the swish
of their robe dance along their ankles. It was also quite cold here, which Dael did not mind. He was a large orc, prone to wearing heavy armor and a lot of layers. He actually breathed a bit easier here than he ever had on his pilgrimage. There was a cosmopolitan of people, and while some averted his gaze—others pointed him towards the warehouse in which he was heading to.
A woman cried, flush to a building but still obviously in the streets. Dael, the sort that couldn’t avoid such things, approached her. She glanced up, scraping her eyes down his form before returning her gaze to her moistened palm.
“What is wrong?” Dael asked.
“Why do you care, orc?” the woman got out between sobs.
“I’m a follower of Dibella, and a priest of the Nine. I just ask out of commitment and courtesy.” He looked down at her. She lowered her hands and met his gaze. Her eyes were beet red, fingers covered in tears and mud, and her dress was in tatters.
“You’re very well spoken for an orc,” she said. “But—I—recently lost my mother. She was the one person in Tamriel that made me feel important. Now, I’m just some servant that cleans. There’s nothing more to my life.”
“Is there, though?” Dael asked. “I never knew my mother, but I had a mother in many different forms. So, I cannot attempt to understand the loss you are feeling. Yet, I understand the importance of a matron in your life. She guided me. She walked me through so many hardships. And when I had to be let go, she did just that. I am sorry that she is no longer with us, but she’s transcended anything we could believe. Her soul has floated away, happy and loved by you. Wouldn’t it make her sad to see you as such?” He gripped his necklace for Dibella. “But don’t think she’s left you, entirely. Have you watched the sunset?”
The girl shook her head.
“If you’re thinking of a loved one, sometimes it winks at you.” He nodded. “I’ve known many that have died, and I can see them in the miracle of nature. Watch the sunrise, sunset, the falling of snow, the curl of tides, or anything that is given to you. Maybe it is an odd turn of silk. You will find your mother’s face there. She knows your struggle. She knows you miss her. But she doesn’t want you to be sad. My child, her existence is honored by you finding her in your work. And in your joy.”
The woman looked over the orc for a moment before scurrying into a house. Dael didn’t know if what he said had resonated or not. Yet, he stood there with a map. “Ah, Sanguine’s shit, I was supposed to ask her for directions.”
Inevitably, he made himself towards the warehouse and into a line. The orc slid through it easily enough until he was greeted by a khajiit that was quite deflated from their occupation. The orc paused. “I’m in the wrong place,” he said. “I was invited into the mercenary’s group, and I thought this was the communal meeting ground. No, this is medical attention.” The orc stood awkwardly in the man’s presence. He looked the other over. There was a fatigue there, whether from repetition or sadness, it was hard to tell. The orc sighed.
“I am joining the boat heading away from Solitude.” He cleared his throat. “Maybe to make this not so idiotic, you can just check me for the regular problems.” The orc cleared his throat. “I am Dael gro’Gone. It is a pleasure to meet you! I have been around many khajiit, you put my storytelling to shame. You’re amazing speakers and personage.”
Do’Karth listened to the Orsimer with a polite smile, thankful from the reprieve of medical fixes he’d been assigned to. More surprisingly, however, was how polite and complimentary this one was towards the Khajiit; it was rare to meet someone without built-in prejudice. He offered a bow of the head. “This one has the pleasure of being Do’Karth, and he is at your service. He can see how one might have mistaken this for the recruitment line, the warehouse isn’t exactly labeled for this sort of thing. This one is not sure if he is a fine speaker or a storyteller, but he thanks you all the same.” he gestured to a stool for Dael to take a seat. “You’ve at least found the company, we are setting sail soon. Just stick with the crowd and you should be able to find your way. Is there anything Do’Karth can assist you with?” he asked politely, dipping his hands into a sanitary basin that had a strong scent of alcohol.
“Do’Karth,” Dael said. “Such a strong khajiit name. It’s my pleasure to meet you.” The orc gave a smile, going to clasp the other’s hand in his own, but then remembering that people didn’t really like that. The pilgrims enjoyed being touched and they loved touching. People outside of it were unsure of contact in any form.
“Yes, sorry, I kept asking about a warehouse, and I was directed towards this one. That’s my fault. I’m not quite knowing of Solitude. I’ve been traveling quite a bit, and I am not the best with tight-knit directions. Point me towards a mountain, I’m fine. Tell me to take three lefts at various shrines and merchant shops, well you have a lost orc.”
He smirked, sitting down and glancing over the khajiit as he sterilized his hands. Right. They were going to make this visit not
in vain. “Very well, I have a bad hitch in my left knee. My running is already at a loss.” He patted his soft belly which hung forward and rested on his thighs. “But this is quite the new problem.”
“Or is this not a thing that you look after? Honestly, I have never been a mercenary before. I’m just a pilgrim. My faith is my only map. It’s not the greatest of maps—really. I will admit. But it sounds better when you commit your failures to faith.”
“Fret not, Do’Karth is no to Solitude and he has not been in Skyrim for long. Just long enough to feel like the war was waiting for his arrival before starting. It has taken some of the joy out of new discoveries, no?” the Khajiit replied, sitting down opposite of the Orc, eyeing the much large man with friendly curiosity. “Oh, this one looks after all manner of minor wounds and injuries, he is one of the few who knows non-magical healing, a necessity Do’Karth learned on the road. He has some experience with alchemy, mostly for minor healing potions and pain relief, things with disinfecting properties. Would you like Do’Karth to take a look at the injury? He is sure he could help.”
With consent given and the area cleared, seeing it wasn’t a rash, scrape, or cut, he headed up to the workbench and began to soak a clean bandage in alcohol and mentally recalled what he needed to ease tense muscles. As he worked, he spoke,
“This one was not a mercenary before this, either. Do’Karth was, and is, a nomad. He wandered, much like you, just without any clear purpose, just a sense of wonder.” he said graciously, kneeling before Dael to sanitize the knee. “Faith is a wondrous thing, it has been the compass that has kept Do’Karth on a sensible path through life, and usually when he asks for guidance, the gods listen. Mistakes are how we grow and learn through life, it’s just regrettable that oftentimes, mistakes can be rather costly and painful. Just do not let yourself become consumed with regret for what you did or didn’t do; you just need to find your footing and continue forward with a clear resolve. That said… Do’Karth has his share of doubts and mistakes that linger from his past. It can be difficult to reconcile what you know what must be done and actually doing it.”
“I’ve also not been in Skyrim for quite some time. Grew up here, and I left. When I returned, well let’s just say everyone’s brows are knitted a bit tighter than I remember.” He smiled at the khajiit. “Of course, let’s make all that waiting in line and testing of your patience worth it. I study a bit of medicine, myself. Just things I picked up from pilgrims and gypsies. Most of it isn’t curative, though.” Dael didn’t go into detail. There was no point in telling a complete stranger about if you get a certain mixture of flowers, distill them in some liquor, and the ingest them—you have a powerful aphrodisiac. Then again, it might be because liquor makes everyone content with appearance and open to love.
Dael was far more interested in Do’Karth’s story than what he was doing. He trusted the khajiit to know his practice. The mercenary outfit seemed smart and efficient. There was no doubt that they appointed one of their best healers to this task.
“We have quite a bit in common, Do’Karth.” He brought his hand forward. There was a moment of hesitation, where he considered resting it on the other’s shoulder. But the orc had to remind himself that he was not around a company that wouldn’t mind a bit of physical interaction. Maybe later, he mused. “I learned from a young age, that the bad things and the mistakes you make wear you down. But not in the way that would decimate you, but more so like the wind over stone. It shapes it into what it was always meant to be. Like you said, it’s easy to know what to do enhance the sculpture of your existence but enacting on it is an entirely different matter.” He nodded.
“I am glad to find another one of faith. It’s so hard to come by nowadays, especially with certain factions waging war against it. No mortal has the right to say what gods exist and which ones don’t. Worship a potato if you will. And know that when the potato gods rise up from the ground, you’re going to be the only one that lives.” Dael chuckled, finding his joke amusing. He’d actually heard tale of a man who was assured that vegetables were becoming as surly as wild animals—not wanting to be eaten. “Tell me, where did your travels lead you? And do you have a place… or a person… you call home?”
“Faith simply is a part of one’s soul; some do not listen with their hearts, and it is their choice. Do’Karth will ask S’rendarr and Mara to watch over them all the same.” The Khajiit affirmed, finishing with the alcohol wiping and heading to the mortar and pestle he had surrounded with bowls filled with a number of ingredients. A number of powders and flowers were tossed into the pestle with nimble, absent-minded fingers and were soon being mulched into a salve. “This one was once from Anequina, but it is not time for him to return. He has found someone that his soul has become intertwined with, and where she goes, Do’Karth will go. She is his rock.” The Khajiit said, smiling in recollection, imagining Sevine’s face in the afternoon light when they had confessed their feeling in Dawnstar. “But before Do’Karth came to Skyrim, he had mostly wandered Cyrodiil and Hammerfell, he likes it where it is warm, and when you go from village to village, offering your services in exchange for food and a place to lay one’s head, you hear whispers for where to go next. He cannot imagine staying in one place for long, the world is simply too big to wonder about.”
With the salve ready and with a clean rag, Do’Karth returned to kneeling before the Orc and rubbing in the vaguely sage-scented concoction against the bent knee. It would tingle and numb, but it would make the pain ebb away as it worked its way into the tissue. “And what of Dael? What brought him all the way to Solitude?” Do’Karth asked.
“Ah Stendarr and Mara,” Dael said, nodding. “I’m a follower of Dibella, myself. But I love all the divines. I even have their symbols on my person. One can’t just be a singular part of the whole part
.” He eyed his knee as the other went to make a poultice. Honestly, it was probably fine. But he’d waited in the line and now he was having quite the conversation with the khajiit. It would be rude just to dismiss the other’s effort and stories. Not to mention, he loved stories.
As the khajiit mentioned that he had someone to tether him and become his home, Dael clutched his amulet of Dibella. “That is beautiful,” he said. “We all need someone to anchor our boats in the storm. I am glad that you have found someone like that. I believe people are more a home than an actual building, which makes why I am doing this… quite silly.”
The orc nodded. “I traveled all over Cyrodiil, as well. I understand. The changing of stars is a beautiful thing. Seeing the sunrise from different locations in a pure exhale of joy. Yet, it’s also very isolated.” He sighed. Honestly, he wished home and travel was more inclusive. Yet, they weren’t. He loved the tower of mountains, and he also loved the soft song of the sea. A house couldn’t give him both. Yet, it could give him an anchor. By Dibella, he needed one.
Dael felt his knee go numb, and a soft scent waft against his nose. He looked down as the khajiit rubbed ointment on his hurt knee. “Thank you, I feel renewed already.” He smiled, but it faded at the other’s question. “Just the welcome arms of septims. I wish to build a house. I want to settle down—with a spouse.” He didn’t label gender because he didn’t think it was important. He’d been with an Imperial woman that teased him perfectly, and a Redguard male who had so much to offer beyond how his lips move over words. “The world is so chaotic, that this was the best avenue for funds. I want to raise livestock, however complicated that is. And get fat and happy far away from all the war.” He snorted, patting his belly. “Well, more fat but very happy. What about yourself?”
Do’Karth chuckled, although there was a tinge of melancholy to his voice. “If you wished to be away from war, you’ve come to the wrong place. The North is not a safe place for anyone, but Do’Karth does suppose there is some money to be had in this line of work. It was never his motivation, truth be told. It just seemed to be the safest way to travel in these lands where Khajiit are all looked at to be thieves and skooma dealers. Some temporary employment, even if it means being forced to fight another’s war for them, seemed to be the most prudent choice Do’Karth could have made. He wanted to see dragons, instead, he found Snow Demons and far, far too much death.” he said sadly, finishing up his task and taking a seat with a sigh.
“Pardon this one’s manners, he did not mean to put a dark cloud over his words. There has just been a lot of trials the past few weeks he is unsure of how to manage in his heart. You mentioned wishing to build a home? What a lofty and wondrous goal. This one supposes it helps secure one’s future, but he worries that he would not like where he set his roots, if at all. If there is a perfect land, he has not found it. Do’Karth had thought the deserts and badlands of Anequina were home, but he has found purpose and love in this cold, harsh land. What is he to make of that? Physical comfort but spiritually devoid, or physical suffering but spiritual contentment? Surely there’s equilibrium somewhere, but where?” he asked rhetorically, blinking slowly. “Do’Karth sincerely hopes your road here leads you to the future you seek. Everyone deserves fulfillment.”
“I would hate to leave my beloved Skyrim again, but I might. I saw many places in Cyrodiil worth the breeze and the cool water.” Dael nodded as the other spoke, his amber eyes lowering and glancing at the other’s hands as they worked. There was a sadness to the khajiit that spoke of old bones in a body far younger. The orc figured there’d always be that ghostly rattle to Do’Karth’s voice even when he was trying to be lighter. It was sad. Dael’s life had been marked with so much joy. He always felt like he’d taken it away from other people. “I do understand those stereotypes,” he said, leaning back. “I didn’t grow up in a stronghold. I don’t have the grit and the aggression of those that share my blood. Though, people think me far less studied than I am. Which can be at my advantage.” He sighed. “We are far more complicated than people see us. Though, Nords truly love their Talos. I feel that isn’t even a stereotype.”
The Khajiit smiled. “Most stereotypes, this one feels, are rooted in some manner of truth. There is always some grain of culture that stands out to outside eyes, and the imagines they conjure are always based on not comprehending why some people are who they are. Many Khajiit become thieves or are perceived to be thieves because in our society, personal property isn’t quite the same concept as it is for other people. If something is unattended, it is unwanted or needed. It’s almost expected that someone make use of it. An unlocked door means that one’s company is welcome, and if one needs a roof over their heads, then they are expected to stay. For Orcs, it seems your people have had to fight for your right to exist since the dawn of time; Orcs do not have a province of their own, and each time Orsinium has risen, it has fallen all the same. With nowhere to call home, and the distrust of others who see themselves as more fair and beautiful, how could one expect Orcs not to rely on their strength and isolation to flourish on their own terms? The Nords came from the Northern seas and found treachery at the hands of elves. The god who rose from their ranks is very much a symbol of what they are as a people and what they have endured, so one could understand why many in Skyrim chose to rise up for Talos when foreign elves try to tell them not to worship their man-god. One only needs to listen at a drunken fire or tavern to hear the true soul of the Nords. There is so much misunderstanding in this world, yet so much beauty if one keeps an open ear and mind.”
“That’s beautiful, Do’Karth,” he said. As the other sat, Dael straightened up. He inspected his knee, lifted his leg, and flexed his foot. The orc nodded. “Do you believe those things to be mutually exclusive, Do’Karth?” He leaned forward, finally placing his hand on the khajiit’s shoulder. “I think contentment of the soul should come first. Even if you don’t care for all the snow and dragons, there’s always a warm hearth and a one to love that can be your Anequina.” He smiled. “Even in the plains of Cyrodiil, I was at Markarth. Even among pilgrims, I was with my mother, Yashta. I think contentment of the soul means that you can be here, physically, but everywhere spiritually.” He gave the other’s shoulder a slight squeeze. “But that’s me assuming I know your journey. I do not, but I would love to hear about it sometime.”
He nodded as the other spoke of fulfillment. “My friend, we all do. You included. Maybe you most of all.” He slid from his seat. “I do hope we end up working alongside each other. I would like to learn more about medicine, and I would like to know more about you.”
Do’Karth wasn’t sure what to make of the sudden contact, it was alarmingly personal for a stranger to do, but Do’Karth felt that that was simply how Dael showed affection and solidarity. He made no effort to discourage the Orc’s gesture. “No, they do not have to be, but contentment of the body and soul requires specific circumstances for each person. Do’Karth believes that one will know their balance when they find it, but it is a journey that not everyone will complete. This one believes that the only way to find this completion is to find the balance in your body and soul; to be here, and now, and not yearning for lands far away or things that had been lost. Do’Karth may never return to Anequina, but as his people say, ‘may your roads lead you to warm sands’. He will find his, some day. But for now, he is certain we will have plenty of opportunities to work together in arms, and he looks forwards to our next encounter.” the Khajiit bowed his head respectfully. “This one always appreciates words of wisdom when he hears them.”
“Ah, but you are a fount of wisdom yourself, Do’Karth.” He nodded his head at the other’s bow. Bowing was not really a gesture he’d learned, and so he didn’t want to mock it. Yet, he also wanted to honor it. He slid off the chair he was seated at and landed with his knee feeling quite workable. “Hopefully our next meeting… and the one after that is filled with even more revelry. You are an amazing soul, my friend. I will make it my mission to see it flourish.” Dael patted the other on the back with strong swipes of his hand. “Thank you, again.” He made his way out the exit, with a moment of hesitation before he chuckled to himself and found the exit.