The Deserter: Ch 2
The third installment of my series The Deserter! Now Dazog has taken Nazra and fled from Evermore in High Rock and is making his way down through the Dragontail Mountains into Hammerfell, where hopefully they can hide Nazra amongst her people. They have a long journey ahead of them, and a lot of danger still follows them. Let's see what happens, shall we?
The Deserter: Ch 3
“Damn this dust.”
Dazog rubbed his eyes wearily. He had been walking nonstop through the night. He was accustomed to wearing his armor for a long time, but the added weight of the little girl bundled in his arms was beginning to become overbearing, his arms aching from hours of supporting her.
The sun was coming up. Behind the orc stretched the Dragontail Mountains, their rocky surface lit tan and red in the rising sun. Dazog was familiar with the mountains, which was handy—he knew enough about the paths to make it across them during the course of the night. A brisk breeze was whipping down from the heights now, kicking up the red dust that covered the expanse which stretched from the mountains and eventually turned into the Alik’r Desert in front of them.
Dazog stopped. The girl in his arms was wrapped in a gray wool blanket, shielding her from the dust that was now pelting the orc in his face. It wasn’t painful, but it was extremely irritating. He put Nazra down on the ground, laying her sleeping body out gently in the reddish brown dirt. Dazog was exhausted. He had been awake for two straight days now, in which he had fought goblins, assassins, and the tiring elevation of the Dragontail Mountains. His stomach grumbled, reminding him he hadn’t eaten since—he couldn’t remember. Breakfast yesterday?
He kicked himself mentally for leaving so unprepared from the Fighter’s Guild back in Evermore. Sure, time was of the essence, but so much he couldn’t have packed some clothes, camping gear, food? He groaned out loud, miserable. Nazra stirred in her bundle. Dazog looked down at her, wiping the sweat from his brow. Her little eyes opened, and her hands reached up to wipe the sleep from them. The orc watched as she stretched and awoke. Her gaze fell on Dazog, and her eyes opened wide in alarm, then eased as she remembered who he was.
Nazra sat up and looked around. Her head turned, scanning the surroundings. She took a long moment, taking it all in. It seemed she knew the place, and her head nodded decisively in understanding. She looked at Dazog.
“Where are we?”
Dazog rolled his eyes. He ignored her and instead turned his gaze to the horizon, trying to find his route. The landscape was dotted with rocky outcroppings and boulders and sparse trees. They had just broken past the mountains, so he could see easily over the stone obstructions from his elevated position. He eventually found what he was looking for. Below them, almost farther than one could make out, sat a city constructed of stonework.
Nazra tugged on Dazog’s armor. “Where are we, mister?” she repeated. Dazog sighed in annoyance. “We’re almost to Dragonstar. There,” he said, pointing to the settlement far in front of them. The little Redguard girl looked out at it.
Her head swiveled back to the orc. For a moment it seemed like she was about to say something, then changed her mind. Her face lit up again. “What’s your name, mister?” she blurted out.
“Dazog,” he told her without even looking at her. He barely knew this girl, but already she seemed like all children. Annoying. He was wondering why he had agreed to take this whelp out across the world. He didn’t owe her anything. Yet here he was, stuck with this slobbering little brat for the foreseeable future.
“Where are we going?” Nazra asked. “Dragonstar,” Dazog said roughly. The sound of her voice was shrill and squeaky in his ears. He was getting tired of her already.
“Yeah, but where are we going after that?”
“You sure ask a lot of questions.” Dazog said, giving her a look.
“Enough. We need to get down into town. Stop your yabbering.”
Nazra went silent. Dazog struggled to his feet with a grunt. Now that he wasn’t carrying her, he felt a lot better. He stretched, his spine giving a few good cracks. He started off down the hill towards the city in the distance, and Nazra scrambled up after him, dragging her blanket behind her before she gathered it up in her small arms.
It was several hours before they neared the city, and the sun was well past midday when the dirt path they were following led them to the main gate of the city of Dragonstar. As they approached the great stone and brick walls, Nazra let out a gasp in awe. The walls stood tall, a defense from bandits, monsters, and the orcs who long ago claimed these lands as their own. The last time Dazog had seen this city was almost twenty years ago, and back then the welcome wasn’t very warm. He wasn’t expecting much better, but they had to rest and resupply here or else they wouldn’t make it through the Alik’r Desert ahead of them.
Above them were towers flanking the main gate. The main gate itself was an iron portcullis, metal bars crossed, denying access, but allowing outsiders to spectate the bustling city life happening within. Dazog thought it made the place look like a prison. In the towers over their heads, Redguards armed with bows stared down at them.
“What is your business, orc?” one of them called down to them.
“We are just travelers looking for rest!” Dazog yelled up at the guards. “We are going to be buying supplies and we will be on our way!” Dazog shifted uncomfortably. The head of one of the guards above disappeared. Nazra looked up at her protector.
“Are they going to let us in?” she asked.
Dazog chuckled. “I really hope so. These scum-suckers don’t really like orcs like me. Can’t say I blame ‘em. Our people used to not get along very well.”
“Your people and my people?”
Dazog glanced down at her. He forgot he was in her homeland. “Yeah…” he said. He began to wonder where in Hammerfell she came from when the guard reappeared above them.
“Very well, orc. You may enter. But we’ll be keeping an eye on you,” he warned.
“Thanks a lot,” Dazog grumbled irritably. The caged, iron gate in front of them groaned to life. With a slow creak the portcullis raised, granting them entrance to the busy town inside.
“So what are we looking for?” Nazra asked absently, her attention swept up in all the noise and people surrounding them. A few of them shot uneasy glances towards the heavily armored orc leading around a young Redguard child. Dazog just returned their stares with nasty ones of his own.
“We’re looking for someplace to rest and get some grub. Like an inn or something…” he trailed off, scanning the shops. It seemed they were in some sort of bazaar in the center of town. He stopped at a nearby fruit stand and quickly swapped a few septims for a couple of apples. He handed one to Nazra, who bit into it eagerly. Dazog kept them moving, downing his apple in three bites.
The streets were quite crowded, so Dazog had to push his way through, stopping at stalls and stands and even inside a few stores where he managed to find the some of the sort of things one needs for a long journey. He kept all his new possessions in a rucksack that he slung over his shoulder.
Finally, he spied what he was looking for: down the street a short distance was a building with a sign posted. On the sign was depicted a dragon with its serpentine body wrapped around a near empty mug of ale. Stylish letters ran across the top and bottom that read “The Drunken Dragon”.
Dazog made his way inside, towing Nazra along with him. The interior was dimly lit, with a dirty counter that spanned the wall serving as a bar. A set of stone stairs in the corner of the room led upstairs to what the orc assumed was sleeping quarters. He sauntered up to the bar and plopped onto a stool. Nazra climbed up onto the one next to him. Behind the bar stood an aging Redguard woman with grey hair and a warm smile. Wrinkles sagged under her eyes.
“What can I get ya?” the bartender asked. “Water for the little one. Mead for me.” Dazog grumbled. The woman produced the drinks and slid them across the counter, giving Nazra a smile.
“You don’t look like you’re from around here. Are you travelers?”
Dazog nodded. “That’s about it,” he said, tipping his mug up to his lips. The Redguard woman paused, expecting more, but seeing that was all he was going to say, went about drying mugs. The two outsiders sat drinking silently for a few moments, Nazra watching the bartender shyly from behind her glass.
“Got any rooms?” the orc asked suddenly.
“What’s that?” the bartender said, looking up.
“Do you rent rooms for the night? We’re pretty tired. I haven’t slept in ages.” Dazog told her. The lady paused for a moment, considering the orc’s request.
“Ah, yes. Um, I think we have just one room left. Let’s see…” she ducked under the counter, and Dazog could hear the jingling of keys. More than one key, suggesting there were actually plenty of rooms. She reappeared, producing a brass key, which she held out. Dazog made a grab for it, but she withdrew it quickly, wagging it in the air.
“Ah! Twenty septims,” she told him.
“Twenty?!” Dazog said, alarmed at the price. The hostess nodded. Dazog sighed. He had plenty of money from the Fighter’s Guild vault, so he forked over the currency. He had a feeling she was scamming him because of who he was. He reassured himself by telling himself it would be a nice room, for such a lofty price.
Instead of the nice rooms that were probably up the stairs, the bartender had led them downstairs to what looked like a cellar. There was a musty old stone hallway lit by a lone hand lantern that hung from the ceiling. The hallway was quite short, and had one door on either side. They were given the one on the right.
As soon as they got inside Dazog dropped his sword and shield and unbuckled his cuirass, letting the breastplate and backplate drop to the floor with a clang. Nazra, who had been studying a book on the table, jumped at the clatter. She watched the old orc as he removed his armor, revealing a sweat-drenched brown cotton tunic underneath. In a minute or so he had stripped out of his Orichalcum armor, after which he plopped down on the single bed. He reclined back, placing his hands behind his head.
“Hey kid, I was up all last night carrying your skinny butt through the mountains. I’m going to sleep now. You can do what you want, just don’t wander around. Read that book or something. Or sleep. I don’t care,” Dazog told the young Redguard girl.
Nazra was about to protest, but she was interrupted by Dazog’s loud snoring. He was out like a light, and it was only six in the evening. The little girl sighed. She looked around the room, hoping to find something to occupy her time. Again her eyes fell on the book on the table.
It was a copy of The Beggar Prince. She sat down and began to read. It was a story of Bosmer prince who happened across a Daedric Prince and begged him to be his apprentice so he could gain power, fortune and fame. In the end the Daedric Prince made him his apprentice, but instead gave him gifts of disease, pity, and disregard. Despite these seeming curses, the Bosmer managed to find a use for his new life as an outcast. When Nazra finally finished the book, hours had passed.
She stood up and stretched. She figured it was the middle of the night by now, and Dazog was still sound asleep. She looked around the room dully. She wasn’t the least bit tired yet, and he had told her not to wander off. But there was nothing to do in this tiny room! She was fiddling with the cover of the book, overcome with boredom, when her ears picked up a strange sound. She listened closer, and she could make out the sound of someone singing.
Curious, Nazra jumped off the chair down to her feet and crept to the door. She cracked it open a bit and peeked out. Listening, she could tell whoever was singing was in the room across the hall. It was a male voice, and sung in a sweet, but eerie tone. Even though the stranger’s door was closed, she could make out his words.
“Where didst she go,
She who brings burning light to the dark?
Where hast she gone,
Who on night’s pallor sheds a glow so stark?
Where is she now,
She who does battle with the shadows?
Where is she now, where is she now…..?”
Suddenly the door opened a crack, revealing the face of a grinning Breton. His eyes had the unmistakable gleam of madness. He stared at Nazra, a look of absolute pleasure on his face.
“I think I know!”
Nazra shut the door quickly. She froze for a moment, trying to figure out what had just happened. As soon as her heartbeat started again, she breathed a quick sigh of relief as she realized everything was alright and turned around.
“Why hello there!”
Nazra jumped. The strange man was standing in the center of the room, smiling at her. He wore black leather armor with a black cotton hood. He had his hands clasped in front of him and was bouncing playfully on his heels. He seemed quite amused. He leaned towards the little Redguard girl, his smile only widening.
“Now,” he whispered sweetly, “let’s not wake your friend here. You get to come with me, and we can go play together! I have a lot of friends who want to meet you!”
Nazra tried to back away, but the closed door was right there at her back. She reached up to turn the handle. It was locked. But how? She hadn’t locked it. The strange man chuckled softly.
“Come now, we don’t want you to run off and get hurt, do we?” the man laughed. He produced a length of rope from a pouch and stepped forward. Nazra froze. She felt hot tears streaking down her cheeks. There was no way out. She tried to yell out to wake up Dazog, but no noise left her throat.
This was it. There was no escape.
The Deserter: Ch 4