What Can I Do If The Fire Goes Out?
It was hard to distinguish what was real now, between dreaming and waking, unconsciousness and fear - everything from the days so far in Gilane was a blur. A chaotic canvas painted in various shades of danger, intensity, lust, pain, and fear. The side of her head felt sore, so sore that she could have easily thought it was split open, spilling out onto the dusty stone floor. The heels of her boots scraped against said floor as she pulled herself upright, a painful crick in her neck rang out through her body and she began to hear the light chatter in the distance of unfamiliar voices.
Blue bloodshot eyes flickered open and her instinct was to pinch the bridge of her nose - but her hands were still bound tightly behind her. Frayed rope rubbing against her delicate skin. “Sora…?” she whispered as her head lolled to the side, eyes fixating on a pool of blood that surrounded a man - Roux, who sat lifeless in his chair in the centre of it. They had left him here. They had left her here. She tugged desperately at the ropes, feeling where they were loose and equally where they were not. Why would Zaveed have done such a thing?
It was the evening breeze that was carrying through the few cracks on the window boards, that salty air that carried a slight chill that let her know that the sun had been set for some time. The pale and ghastly skin of Roux, as well as the dried blood on his shirt indicated he had been dead for hours. The paralysed and haunting expression was all that was left behind after life had been expunged from him with the cruel and vicious twist of a knife in his heart. He had once loved, felt pain, sorrow, and happiness beyond measure. He was a man who had experienced a life so rich, that much she could tell by observing him there. His intricate linen shirt suggested he had been a man of humble style. She could make out where the laughter lines had started to sink into his face. Minor scars on his arms told the stories of his adventures, and the rough skin of his hands showed that he had been a hardworking man of labour.
Raelynn choked back a sob.
Their armour that they each wore was once only to be seen in ruins - covered in dust, dented and crushed by the unforgiving passing of time. Yet, now it was polished and in front of her on on living, breathing Dwemer. The very same Dwemer whose attention her sobs had caught. There were three beating hearts beneath once forgotten plate armour, and three sets of eyes locked onto hers. She lifted her shaking head and continued to work her hands behind her, pulling away at the weak spot that Zaveed had left there.
“Sleeping beauty is awake at last…” one of them said coldly, cracking his knuckles at the table they were all sat around before looking away indifferently, unthreatened by her.
If she had died here - if she had been the one to die, it was the weight of things left unsaid that lay on her heart, crushing it in her chest.
They continued with their low chatter, and time was getting on. Nothing was going to change. She would remain here until Zaveed returned, until they grew bored, or even worse -- she would just remain here. Defeated. Maybe that was as things should be. Her eyes fell to the ground again, to the pool of blood which was dripping down the steps. Watching it reminded her of an old trinket her father had, it was a glass piece with sand inside of it, that when tipped one way of the other would create a timer. She remembered fondly how Salosoix would turn the timer around and challenge Raelynn to a task. Together they would count down the trickling sand. An exercise in his patience, and an exercise in her perseverance. She almost smiled.
The abrupt sound of a sword being placed on the table where they sat pulled her out of it. The sand was running out now.
There was something to be said for memories that invaded the mind at seemingly inopportune moments. To think of her father and their time together now was a beautiful escape to the situation at hand. If she only closed her eyes she could find the sands and find her father’s voice - his smile and eyes, the way he would carry her as a child on his shoulders through the streets of Daggerfall. She felt so tall then. She missed the innocence now and longed for it.
“May your roads lead you to warm sands…” she whispered over to Roux. He wouldn’t reply, but she could at least finish what he had tried to say. Maybe he was there now. She hoped he was.
Still she struggled against the ropes, but she was almost there. It was time to think of a plan - at least, if that’s really what she wanted to do. To escape? Would anyone come to her rescue? Did anyone know she was even here? She sighed desolately, and thought of her father once more. Their last conversation, she had snapped at him of course. Snapped at him for sending her out here…
“Papa, I have much more to do this afternoon than deliver packages for you!”
“Yes my darling, but I trust only you - you’ll be alright.”
“You can’t even lend me Zhaib? You don’t think it would be better that I have muscle with me? What is so important in this thing anyway?”
“Raelynn, Raelynn… Good things come in small packages. Remember that.”
Her eyes opened fully, and she looked across the room to another table, to the left of Roux. The package was sitting on top of it, completely untouched and completely unnoticed by Zaveed. Of course, it was so obvious now. There was something in there for her. Knowing that her father truly hadn’t sent her out here without a means to escape gave her an energy - a second wind, and with one final pull she was free of the ropes at last.
She would never make it to the table without catching their dangerous and unwanted attention, and she couldn’t take on three armoured Dwemer soldiers. She bit her lower lip, everything now felt desperate. As if by her knowing of the package, they would soon realise it too - they would see her body change, the sweat form on her brow, the desperation in her eyes - and they would realise what was going on. She had to think fast, but it was hard. Everything was foggy and clouded, her reaction time slow, concussion still hovering like a cloud above her - a cloud that with too much friction would burst and stop her in her tracks. Slow and steady was the way.
Raelynn pulled her knees together and sat in a straight, meditative pose as a blue and violet stream of Magicka swirled around her hands and up her wrist. Unlike her restorative stream, this Magicka was cold to the touch - cold and like a mist of water, a mist that was growing, until eventually with a flash and bang it opened a portal behind her and out jumped her familiar with an angry howl.
“What the fuck!?” called out one of the Dwemer as he shot to his feet with a start, clapping his eyes on the ethereal form of the wolf that was skulking towards him. There was something about this one that was extremely aggressive - as if it were feeding on the pain of it’s master sat in her chair. The hackles on it’s back raised and it seemed to puff out it’s shoulders to appear more intimidating, taking the powerful strides of an alpha wolf. It finalised on a spot in front of Raelynn as a low and threatening growl rumbling from the depths of it. She had their attention now. As the wolf lept from the platform, so did she, her clumsy sprint to the table was almost foiled by one of the Dwemer until her familiar grasped his wrist in it’s powerful jaws, locking down until it crunched under the weight like a piece of pottery. The Dwemer screamed out, and the two other guards fell to his aid, giving Raelynn enough time to tear open the package.
It was a Destruction Scroll. It was now or never, even just holding it in her hand empowered her, and she stood upright, her posture powerful and perfect as she stood above them on her platform. Roux’s body still in the chair behind her. Unlucky for the Dwemer, they were standing around their table which was sitting in a pool of still water. As the familiar danced around her enemies, she unrolled the scroll carefully but with haste - reading the text on the parchment - feeling the Magicka within enter her body with a forceful whoosh.
She had one shot, she wasn’t going to waste it.
As the thunder formed between her two hands, she realised that she had the attention of the Dwemer now, her familiar was nothing to them - they looked aghast, and she fired down at their feet - the puddle of water absorbing the spell. Nothing happened.
Nothing happened for a fraction of a second, but it was enough time for one of them to start to laugh. Raelynn knew better. She looked down at his feet in the water and smirked, and then there was an explosion of Chain Lightning that crackled between the three of them, forming a triangle of pain that was melting them - heating up their alloy armour and only getting worse. Their screams did not last long, and one by one their bodies dropped, trails of smoke drawn from each corpse.
As they dropped, so did she. She fell to her knees as her entire body shuddered, her mouth agape. She had really just done that. She had never killed a soul, and now - in the time it took her to read a spell scroll, she had taken three lives. It didn’t sit right with her. Greedy and terrible as she was, she had made an oath to help people, not hurt them. A horrible sensation hit her stomach and she lunged forwards, vomiting in panic on the ground. She cried out in pain and grief. The threat was gone and yet she was still bound here somehow. Bound to Roux. She turned to look at him, sat up there above her - as if he was looking down on her. “I’m so sorry…” she said to him, as she crawled on all fours to the deceased Breton, placing a hand on his knee, her own knees wading in the blood on the floor. It was cold now, he had been gone for so long. There was nothing she could do for him at this point.
Perhaps she could return to him some dignity…
She found the strength to get to her feet to position herself behind Roux’s chair to undo his ropes and hummed softly as she did so - trying to comfort him. His arms were stiff, and it took all of her strength to move him from the chair and even then, he still tumbled down and she struggled to manage the weight. Now that he was on the ground, she hooked an arm under each of his and dragged his body away from the blood, the chair, and towards the back of the platform. The young Breton laid him down on his back with his arms at his sides. While she was visibly shaken, positioning the body as she would to start death rites, the familiar padded softly to her and pressed it’s nose against her shoulder almost comfortingly - letting out a soft whine.
Her once vibrant eyes were so dull now. Void of their sparkle and beauty - and all that remained were two empty, hollow chasms surrounded by bloodshot veins, drenched in pooling tears. Raelynn came down to her knees and began to straighten out Roux’s clothing. She folded down his collar again and adjusted the chain around his neck to lie as it should - against his chest in the centre. With a gentle wave of her hand, she let restorative magic flow from her fingertips against the hole in his chest. Purely cosmetic now. Maybe someone would come and take his body and something would be done with it. He would make his way back to his family, to someone who loved him. They deserved to see his body right. He deserved to travel beyond in one piece.
To see him there, at peace now - part of her was envious. He lay there lifeless and she ran her hand over his cheek, continuing to hum softly, her lips trembling. If only she had water, she could clean him too - whatever she was doing wasn’t enough and in frustration she balled her hand into a fist and slammed it into the floor beside her. If there was pain she didn’t feel it - but she felt her knuckles get hot and start to swell, she merely gave a baleful laugh.
“Do you like songs?” she asked as she held his hand in hers. “Do you think they did?” her chilling stare fell over at the Dwemer corpses now, their flesh still smoking even now - the smell was especially repugnant. “I wonder what they liked…” she sighed dreamily, sliding off her knees - a concussive daze descending once more. The Breton pushed her legs out, stretching beside Roux, and she let herself drop backwards to lie next to him, her hand around his.
The two of them lay in the building, on their platform with the two chairs in front of them. It didn’t take long for Raelynn to realise what she was doing - how completely grim it was - how wretched her behaviour had become now. She bolted upright and crawled to the steps, away from the body - away from the temptation that ran rampant through her mind. The thoughts of warm sands and childhood innocence. All that was left was darkness, silence, and the cold chill of death in the air. She shuffled to the steps, placed her feet on the ground and took a long look around the warehouse before folding her arms over her knees and burying her head within them. A series of mournful and harsh sobs were muffled by her arms, but made a haunting sound that echoed through the room nonetheless.
The familiar, still summoned, and as if obeying the last sliver of hope that lingered within Raelynn made it’s way to the door silently and took to sitting outside, crying up at the moon.