The Deserter: Ch 1
This is where things get good, in my opinion. A little bit of action, and a lot of story. Its a bit long, but its a good read, I promise. Please have at it if you have the time. And as always, please comment afterwards. Feedback is everything!
The Deserter – Chapter 2
Dazog sniffed the air carefully. He was right, the smell of wet moss hung faintly in the air, which meant he was heading in the right direction. He wasn’t looking forward to confronting a mage, particularly an Argonian one. He was hoping this “dangerous stranger” was just some novice alchemist practicing his tradecraft in solitude in the hills. Dazog remembered hearing somewhere that magic-users like their privacy in order to study. He assured himself it was just some harmless student.
The orc realized he was following a dirt trail worn through the grass that covered the steep hills. It wasn’t long he followed this trail before he spotted a small opening in an outcropping of rock.
There’s the cave, let’s hope this guy’s actually home…
As he came up on it, he noticed a pool of blood at the entrance. The blood was streaked towards the deep dark within, like someone was dragged inside. Dazog drew his sword, holding it at his side at the ready.
Great. Well I guess I can assume he’s not a peaceful alchemist.
Dazog stepped inside. The darkness of the cave overwhelmed him at first. The change of light from outside, even though it was sunset, was surprising. He stumbled around on the rocky floor for a moment, likely ruining his chance of surprising whoever was inside, before he found the wall and braced himself with his left hand. He followed the wall down a few meters, noticing the path declined at a quick angle.
Gradually, the sound of soft sobbing reached his ears. Curious, the orc pressed on until he turned a corner and found an open room, dimly lit by torches on the walls. The trail of blood at the entrance led into this room, apparently originating from the corpse of a Redguard woman who had been laid over the corpse of a Redguard man. Both were wearing blue cloaks – stained a deep red with their own blood—and simple brown tunics.
A table was set up near the bodies, which had apparently at first been occupied by plates, bowls, and small items of food, but those items had been swept to the ground and the table now hosted an assortment of spellbooks, vials, bottles, and soul gems.
In the center of the torch-lit room was a stone slab with a simple bedroll laid over it, and on it laid a very young Redguard girl, bound around the torso and arms with rope, with more rope tying her down to the rock. This girl was the source of the sobbing, her cheeks stained with tears and eyes red. She too wore a blue cloak – child-sized – which covered her red tunic and black pants. Her hair was woven into a multitude of braids, all of which were pulled back into a ponytail.
Standing near the restrained child stood a figure garbed in black robes which were bound around his waist with a belt. He was obviously Argonian. He glared at Dazog with beady red eyes, his reptilian tongue licked his lips as his lizard-like tail whipped excitedly. His hands crackled with electric energy. Dazog pulled his Orcish shield from his belt in anticipation.
The Argonian spoke. “Keh keh keh keh. What do we have here? I think you may be lost. Nothing here concernsss you. This child belongs to Sssithis, and sshe will be ssent to him sshortly. Of coursse, not that I can let you leave knowing what’s happening here.”
“I have no damn clue what’s happening here. I’m here for you!” growled Dazog, stepping towards the mage with his sword raised. Before he could swing, however, his sword was ripped from his hand with a jolt of lightning. The Argonian cackled. “Not much good you can do without your sssword, can you?” The reptile was clearly toying with him.
Dazog paused hesitantly. The Argonian eyed him with amusement. Suddenly Dazog charged forward, shield raised.
“I don’t need a sword to squash a puny pest like you!” Dazog roared. A shock spell rocketed against his shield, bouncing off into the wall. Dazog’s charge went unfazed. Within a moment he was upon the mage, and with a heavy upward swing, the orc smashed his metal shield into the Argonian’s face, sending him soaring across the room. Dazog was upon him in an instant, crouching over the lizardman’s chest. He raised his shield high and came down hard with the edge on the Argonian’s face, beating him over and over. In a moment his face was reduced to a pulp. Dazog stood up. The Argonian was still.
Dazog looked over at the girl. Her head was turned away, not daring to look. Small whimpers escaped from her tiny mouth.
Dazog lumbered over to the girl and cut the ropes. As he did so, the little Redguard girl looked up at him, a look of terror in her eyes. “Don’t worry,” Dazog said roughly. “I’m gonna get you out of here.”
The orc didn’t really like kids, especially human kids. They were loud, obnoxious, and weak. He glanced over at the two Redguard adults dead on the floor. They were obviously her parents. No, he didn’t like children, but this…. No kid deserved this.
Her bonds cut loose, the girl slowly lowered herself from the bed, her eyes never leaving Dazog. She seemed to be filled with so much doubt that Dazog wondered if she had in fact watch him brutally murder her captor.
“You need to follow me. I’ll take you to where it’s safe,” Dazog said as gently as he could. Even still, he was aware his deep, gravelly voice probably made him sound like a monster. Nevertheless, the girl nodded her head in agreement, so Dazog started off down tunnel, picking up his sword on the way and sheathing it. The girl followed behind, nearly hugging his leg as he walked. He found it rather annoying.
Using his hand again to find his way out, he soon found his way to the mouth of the cave. He could hear the sound of rain beating the ground. Outside, the sun had set and had been replaced by dark storm clouds. The onset of the rain had been sudden; when Dazog had entered the cave, there’d hardly been a cloud in the sky.
But now rain pelted and pinged off Dazog’s armor. The little girl’s hair and cloak became soaked in moments. It was a bit of a walk, but Evermore was visible ahead, just at the bottom of the hills. Dazog was about to step off towards town when he noticed five figures walking up the trail. Four of them wore black leather armor, black hoods pulled over their heads. The fifth wore the same, only his hood was down, revealing his head. Dazog could make out he was a high elf, but his skin seemed pale compared to the normal golden hue his kind had. His eyes seemed to have a reddish hue to them, enough that Dazog could make it out at this distance.
The high elf spotted the orc and the girl, and raised his finger to point at them. The four hooded figures took off up the hill in a run towards Dazog and the girl. Sensing danger, Dazog snatched the girl and threw her up onto his shoulders and took off in a run in the other direction – up the hill. He climbed the steep grade, his armored boots actually aiding him to gain traction in the slippery rain. He dug into the mud, advancing up the hill quickly. He could hear the patter of boots behind him in splashing through puddles.
At last he made it to the top, slipping as he reached the peak, sending the girl toppling off his shoulders with a shriek. Dazog got back on his feet to find a rock wall towering above him, blocking his way. He was trapped. He turned to look back on his pursuers, which were now about halfway up the hill.
Dazog drew his sword and shield. He was a more than competent fighter, competent enough to know he couldn’t take all four of them at once. He tightened his grip on his sword. It felt light as a feather as the orc’s heart raced. He knew this battle would be his last.
I guess I’ll die a warrior’s death after all. It’s…. terrifying…
An arrow soared through the air, plunging itself deep into the lead man’s shoulder. The hooded figure stumbled and fell, sliding back down the hill in the mud. Both the attackers and Dazog turned to see where the arrow had come from. At the bottom of the hill stood three new figures. Dazog was just able to make them out: the Fighter’s Guild. Jora stood in the center, her bow raised and a new arrow nocked and ready to fly. With her stood Isen and Armen, who charged up the hill after the hooded goons, weapons raised.
Dazog recognized the opportunity the distraction had made and thought quickly. He threw his shield down in the mud and muttered to the girl “Stay here.” He jumped on his shield, seating himself in the center as the momentum sent him careening down the slope. He raised his sword and with a battlecry began flying down the hill, mud spraying behind him. As he came up on his enemies he swung his sword with all his might, slashing the first in the back of the leg. However, the momentum of the blow sent him spinning, and he found himself sliding down the hill backwards. Looking over his shoulder he quickly found his next target, and struck out again. He spun once more, this time nearly colliding with one of the hooded men as Isen planted his axe in his shoulder.
Dazog slid to a stop at the bottom of the hill as lightning flashed overhead, followed by the crash of thunder. The orc stood as Jora made her way over to him, her bow still trained on the hillside. He watched as Armen planted both his swords into the body of one of the men in the mud.
“Where’s the fifth one?” Dazog demanded.
“Fifth one? There was no one else on the way up, and this is the only path that leads here.” Jora said.
“The girl is still up there,” Dazog said suddenly, taking off back up the hill. Jora stood there, deeply confused.
The fighters finished off the bandits, and the orc brought the girl safely down the hill, though now she was drenched from the rain and covered in mud. She was visibly shivering. Jora gave the girl her coat, which hung off her and dragged in the mud. They walked back down into town.
Once they had made it to the Fighter’s Guild and warmed up next to the fire, they tried to find out who their guest was, but the girl was remaining quiet.
“What’s your name, little one?” Isen asked in a voice far gentler than Dazog could ever achieve. The girl glanced up at him and quickly looked away, not daring to look him in the eye. The poor Redguard child seemed tired, and her eyes were red and puffy, the last tears long since shed. Isen sighed.
“Give her a break, she hasn’t had an easy day," Jora said. “What exactly happened up there, Dazog?”
Dazog cleared his throat deeply. “I found the Argonian in the cave, the girl strapped to a bed. He had a bunch of spell books and potions out. I figure what he was gonna do wasn’t gonna be real good for her. There was a Redguard couple, uh…” Dazog glanced at the girl, “passed away on the ground. I bet they were her parents.”
“Oh man…” Isen said. Jora spoke up, “Armen and I were on way to the tavern for a couple of drinks when we saw a hooded man walking towards the east hills. A minute later, we passed another one heading in the same direction. We decided to follow them, but we stopped here to get Isen to go with us. By the time we got to the hills, we saw them running up the hill after you.”
The group looked at the girl, surprised. “My name is Nazra,” the little one said shyly. Isen sat next to her as Reynald, the porter, brought a bowl of hot soup over to her. Nazra took the soup but didn’t eat.
Isen tried to speak to her. “How are you feeling?” he asked. “Better….” she said, barely audible. “Eat some of that soup,” the Breton told her, “you’ll feel better if you do, I promise.” The girl nodded and ate a spoonful. As the others watched, Jora tapped Dazog on the shoulder and gestured away from the group. He followed the guild leader upstairs to her study. She shut the door behind them.
“You know who those rogues were, don’t you?” Jora asked in her trademark serious tone. Dazog shook his head. “I’m guessing they weren’t just bandits, by the way you say that.” Jora nodded, taking a seat behind her desk. Dazog claimed a chair on the other side.
“They belong to an organization called the Dark Brotherhood. They’re assassins. I’ve run into them once before. Back when I was new to the Fighter’s Guild myself, a client learned this organization was to kill him. He hired us to protect him. We were staying in his house, guarding him while he slept, when we heard a scream from his bedroom. When we got there, he had been stabbed twice in the chest, and one of these ghouls was slipping out the window. I was sent to chase him around the side of the house, and managed to hit him in the leg with an arrow as he was running off. We took him in to question him, but all we got was the name Dark Brotherhood before he bit down on a store of poison he had hidden in his mouth. These assassins are dangerous,” Jora said, her eyes watching the orc, concerned.
Dazog stared down at the floor thoughtfully for a long moment. Finally he looked up. “So what are you expecting is going to happen?” he asked.
“From what other information I’ve gathered on them since, I’ve learned they usually only send one member of their brotherhood to fulfill an assassination contract. The fact there was five of them is concerning, especially if they can use magic.”
“Six. There was the pale High Elf who got away,” Dazog noted. Jora frowned. “Whatever they’re doing, I think they want the girl,” she said, thinking. “And we can’t bet they won’t stop sending assassins until they get whatever they need from her.”
“So…. What? Hide her?” Dazog suggested. Jora shook her head. “I don’t think that will work. The client we were supposed to protect had a secret cabin out in the woods, but they still found us. Also, what little I was able to read about them said that they have a knack for tracking their targets.”
The orc scratched his head. “So we’re screwed then. Why don’t we just hand her over to the guards?”
Jora gave a short laugh. “The guards are useless, they can’t even stay awake on watch. Besides, no one at the keep believes in the Dark Brotherhood. Believe me, I’ve tried to get more information about them before and they laughed in my face. No, they would never condone assigning guards to take custody and watch over a girl for the foreseeable future. To them it would be the most useless waste of manpower possible, especially since everyone is gearing up for war. They’re going to want everyone they have.”
Dazog shifted uncomfortably. Jora stood and began pacing around the room for several minutes.
“She has to leave.”
Dazog rolled his eyes. “We already said that. But we can’t just send her off on her own. And we have no one to give her to.”
“No,” Jora said, shaking her head. “We do. I want you to go with her.”
“Me?!” Dazog said, standing up with a start. “You want to stick the little snot-factory on me? I’m no babysitter!”
“I know that!” Jora snapped before regaining her calm an instant later. “But you’re a warrior. She’s going to need protection, and you’ve been around Tamriel a time or two. Besides, I know how you feel about the war.”
The orc’s face darkened. “What do you mean how I feel?” he probed cautiously. Jora took her seat again, and Dazog followed her example.
“I saw your face when I handed out the draft orders, and I’ve seen you fight the last couple jobs we did together. You’re slowing down, Dazog. I understand. You’re getting old for an orc. I know most of your kind don’t make it to your age.”
“You’re not too young yourself, Jora,” Dazog said grumpily. Jora frowned in annoyance. “I know you’re getting old," she continued, "And I understand your concern about this war breaking out.”
Dazog grumbled to himself a moment irritably, before apparently coming to a decision, which he marked with a heavy sigh. “Yeah, yeah. I guess it’s true. I’m not the young berserker I was back in my time in the army. My chance to die an honorable death befitting an orc is probably gone.” Dazog paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. “Call me an old fool, but I don’t think I have any desire to follow that stupid tradition. My tribe banished me! I didn’t even get my coming of age rite,” he said sorely. Jora nodded, remembering the story he had told her long ago.
“And then I joined the Reman army, and everyone was so concerned about self-preservation. I guess some of it rubbed off on me….” The orc trailed off, becoming lost in his thoughts. He grunted hoarsely, brushing his words away. Jora listened quietly.
“I guess I really don’t give a damn who takes the throne in this damn war. It won’t do anything for me anyways,” he continued, realizing he was beginning to rant. “Ever since I left the mountains I’ve always been the monster in the group wherever I was. I doubt everything will change just because some chair has a new idiot sitting in it. People are people,” Dazog said, finishing. Jora smiled softly.
“Yes, you should go.” Jora said, staring gently at Dazog. “This war isn’t for you. Take Nazra and get away from here. For both hers and your sake. Keep her from danger.”
Dazog sighed, defeated. “Alright then. You got me,” he said. “Are you gonna pay me for this last contract?”
Jora grinned. “I’m going to miss you, Dazog. You can take all the money in the vault. We aren’t going to need it once we’re fighting the war. It isn’t an awful lot, but it should take care of you for a long while.”
Dazog nodded solemnly and stood up and walked over to the chest that was against the wall and opened it and began filling his pouches.
“When should I leave?” he asked as he worked, not looking back.
“Tonight would be best. Any longer and the Dark Brotherhood may have time to send more of their men. Take the girl and head south, through Hammerfell. Perhaps she can blend in with her people. It will make her a harder target.”
Dazog nodded in agreement. He closed his pouches with a swift yank, causing them to jingle softly. "Good luck, Dazog," Jora said softly. He gave her a nod and departed downstairs.
He found Nazra curled up asleep in the chair she had been sitting in, covered in a blanket. Armen, Isen, and Reynald sat at the drinking table. Dazog passed them and lifted the Redguard girl gently and leaned her against his broad shoulder like she was an infant. He turned to the others with a nod.
They returned it silently, assuming she was being escorted to a proper bed, but instead Dazog headed for the back door. He wouldn’t say goodbye to his friends, he wasn’t into that sort of thing. They knew he was a bit of a rough guy, and probably wouldn’t be too sore about it, at least he hoped. He trusted Jora would explain to them why he had left.
As he stepped outside, he noticed the rain clouds from earlier had cleared away entirely, and the black night sky bore the shining white moon. Dazog set off on the road leading south, Nazra bundled with her blanket in his arms, and his sword and shield strapped to his back. He didn’t look back. He only hoped the journey ahead would be an easy one.
But in the back of his mind he knew it wouldn’t be.
The Deserter: Ch 3