Her mama grinned, teeth half-rotten from too much ale and skooma, fist filled with something shiny. “You gotta look after yourself” she explained in a hoarse whisper to the girl watching wide-eyed from the darkness of the room they shared. “No one else in this frozen hell will.”
She proved that by dying one night and leaving her daughter behind, stabbed for whatever shiny she had on her or for what she had stolen. The bandit chief that came for the girl taught her when you were strong you could take what you wanted. And he was strong. Skyrim’s tough and unforgiving when you’re a half-breed whore’s get.
It took a month before the girl managed to steal and hide a small dagger. It was more of a knife, but the edge was sharp enough to draw blood. Eventually they grew careless, or else she grew brave. Her escape occurred at the heat of the day, when the bandits were lazy from the heat. Even then she almost failed before she began.
The girl hadn’t really planned the escape which might have been the problem. She noticed that the bandit sent to guard her was dozing downstairs. It wasn’t a plan so much as suddenly she was halfway down the stairs, knife gripped tightly, eyes watching the man below. The creak of the wooden stairs betrayed her and suddenly she was staring, not at the ugly sleeping face of the bandit, but into his cold blue eyes. She froze, terror rising.
“Where’re you going, grey bitch?” he asked with a slow smile rising to his feet. Then he saw the dagger and the smile turned cruel. “What, you’re going to stick me with that little pin? I doubt it.”
He moved to the bottom of the stairs and taking a few steps up reached for the knife. “Give that here.”
Terror filled the girl as he approached. Nononononono, her mind wailed, body frozen. His head was level with hers now. That’s when she struck. It wasn’t planned, not really, she slashed out half blinded by terror not aiming for anything, but she drew blood. The man cursed loudly and grabbed her half dragging her down the stairs.
The noise caught the attention of another bandit just outside. She saw the second bandit enter past the shoulder of her bandit.
“What going on in here?” the new man asked. Then he saw them on stairs. “Hey now … oooph.”
She had gained a foothold on the stairs and thrusting forward with both hands, her knife hit the flesh of the first bandit holding her for a moment there was resistance and then the knife continued its forward momentum. The bandit staggered, knife slipping back with a spurt of blood. He slipped on the steps and fell into the second bandit who caught him with a grunt.
The girl took one look at the situation, the bandit she’d stabbed didn’t look healthy, the second bandit was still reeling from the sudden impact. Scrambling down the stairs she skirted the two and ran out the door and down the wooden ramp as fast as possible.
Behind her there was shouting as the bandits were roused and then came the crashing as someone took after her. Risking a quick glance behind she saw that she was being followed. Fear propelled her deeper into the forest and over rocks. If they caught her now, they would kill her.
Down the hill, past a small pond, around the tree, over the rock. Something bright green that filled the air with an angry buzzing was disturbed but she didn’t dare stop to see what it was. The one chasing her was stopped by it. She heard his angry shout of dismay and then heard the clash of a fight. She ducked around another tree and risked another look behind her. Yes, the bandit was fighting some green tree monster. Quieter now, but still as quick as she dared, the girl slipped deeper into the woods not waiting to see who won.
Her legs ached, her arms stung from branches and her heart still pounding painfully in her chest, she finally stopped and tucked herself behind the overhang of a boulder. Her breath, she couldn’t seem to get enough air with each gasp. Eventually the terror calmed enough for her to look around.
Her palm ached. Looking down she still clutched the knife, its edge coated with the red blood of the bandit. Her hands were flecked with blood as well. She dropped the knife in disgust and looked around for something to wipe her hands on.
Was he dead?
She tried to clean her hands on the grass nearby, then tried to wipe off the knife. The blood smeared and faded. She wasn’t sure it wasn’t still there. Hesitantly she hooked the knife to her belt. Who knew what dangers remained? She couldn’t leave her only weapon behind. Cold seeped in past the thin shirt she wore from the rock at her back, she couldn’t stay here forever.
Where to go?
Below her lay an open valley, rocky hills on either side, a mountain to her left rose coldly into the sky. There wasn’t a sign of habitation. Creeping slowly she kept to the edge of the glen, but still safely hidden in the trees skittering from one tree to a bush to another tree, eyes focus around her looking for something, anything to tell her which way to go.
She’d been walking for some time before she smelled smoke. Her stomach rumbled as her nose twitched. Something was cooking. Creeping slowly she peered over the rise and saw a small house below. No one seemed to be about. Outside the hut a small fire was lit with something bubbling on it and meat roasting. Mouth watering she was pulled forward until her back pressed against the wood siding. She could feel the warmth of the fire on her face. She could also now hear movement from within the hut. Creeping forward she peered around the corner. There was no door, but no one stood in the opening. She sidled towards the fire hand outstretched to snatch a piece of the roasting animal.
And then the hunter emerged from the house, bow slung over one shoulder, cleaver in one hand and the haunch of a deer in the other.
“Hey,” he said with surprise.
The girl froze, hand outstretched then, with dawning horror snatched her hand back and slowly backed away. When he took another step toward her, she turned and ran, scrambling back over the hill. She didn’t know if he pursued her or not, by the time she felt safe enough to look behind her, there was no one there.
Before her now was a large stone keep sat atop a hill. A stone road lay between her hill and the keep. The keep was massive. As she edged closer she saw lights from within. Someone was there, several someones who wouldn’t take kindly to a wandering half breed. But roads led to cities.