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The Ballad of Thieves

Chapter Text

 

Within the Forgotten Vale, a secluded, almost dead part of Skyrim that houses the last of those who worshiped Auri-El, there existed a small settlement. It housed a maximum of less than one hundred occupants; all of which were the remnants of the race Falmer.

Two of the snow elves had been named Edhelis and Civenna. They were a young couple (for elves, of course; they had been well past the hundred year mark) who were welcoming their first child. A boy; the youngest snow elf in existence, and one of the last ones to ever grace the surface of Nirn.

The entire village was more than excited, for it had been so long since they had been able to rejoice at the birth of a new child. Snow elves were a very intelligent and technologically advanced for their time, along with the dwarves. Falmer helped create some of the only working machines in all of Tamriel history. When both races were mysteriously wiped from existence, what was left of their creations and belongings and even themselves became very rare and sought after by most for their high value, enough coin to live a full comfortable life off of. This caused the remaining stragglers to fall into hiding, and eventually go completely extinct. They had little companionship besides their own kin, and a limited number at that, along with the abandonment of the Mer name, falling to being referred to as snow elves, not to be confused with their forgotten brothers.

From the beginning, the village knew he was special. Not only was he proof that the snow elves had survived, but he had a peaceful aura surrounding him. Some of the older elves believed he was blessed by Auri-El himself. But the Village Elder, a wise old man who remained unnamed to his people, knew differently; the young, innocent babe was far from blessed, for he was the one that Auri-El had cursed with the burden of sacrifice. From the moment he laid eyes upon the child, he was fearful for its future of hardship. The soothsayer found himself angered at his god, for the first time in his long, seemingly endless life.

One day, the Falmer revolted. The cursed, blind creatures had completely decimated the small village, and everyone was killed - everyone except the young elf and his two guardians, appointed by the soothsayer when he knew that it was necessary in order to save the boy. He stayed behind to distract the Falmer, and his parting words to the two young men were "Get the child away from this place. Do not stop anywhere. Trust no one. Take him to the Throat of the World, that is the only place I know he will be safe from harm. Be prepared to give your lives, for this journey is far from easy."

Along the path to the entrance of the Forgotten Vale, one elf became eerily quiet. "What troubles you?" The other asked, curious as to his friend's silence. "We have time to mourn our loved ones, worry not for that. But for now, we were given a difficult task, and I for one refuse to rest until we get the babe to safety. This is far from the first time we have had to move quickly after loss."

The first elf's eyes slid over to the resting elfling. "What say we forget our orders?"

"What on Nirn are you implying?" The other burst, then immediately looked guilty when the child asleep at his hip mumbled and shifted. "We have orders. We cannot shove them aside when they inconvenience us."

"I mean," The other continued, moving closer to the elf as he lowered his voice. "What say we disguise ourselves and get rid of him at the nearest city? We'll be sure to obtain more than enough coin for us to flee to somewhere, anywhere, so long as its away from his wretched place."

His companion was shocked and disgusted at his friend's behavior. "What is wrong with you? He is not but a child, and the last of the race of snow elves as well. We know better than anyone what these people will do to a race unlike their own. We're living proof of their hostilities! I refuse to sign the sigil of death for a child!"

After being scolded in a whispered tone, the scorned one snorted quietly and relaxed, leaning back and landing on the cold ground with a thump. "I only joke, brother." He promised with a wave of his hand.

If only it were true. During the cursed night that followed the cursed day, the elf attempted to take the pale child away, and when the boy screamed, the elf cut part of his neck open. The scream woke the other elf, who grabbed the elfling and ran as far away as he could.

After walking straight through the night, the elf stopped to inspect the child's neck wound. In the time it took for them to run, it had given way to infection. If left untreated, he was susceptible to extreme illness and possible death. He tore off part of his ragged shirt and tied it gently around the torn skin on the child's neck.

They did not stop again. The elf walked for days without rest, gaining blisters and cramps and almost fainting with fatigue. When the child tired, he carried him on his back. After what felt like the longest days of his already great lifespan, they made it to the Throat of the World.

Upon approaching the door to the large stone temple that seemed to scrape the sky above, the elf set the child down upon the steps, knelt down, and whispered into the air around him "Please, master Auri-El, hear my plea; let the child suffer no more. Lest you forget the rest of your children." And with the sentence complete, he took his last breath and fell to the frozen step, dead, his last remaining motion to curl himself around the shivering child in protection.

The child was taken in by the Greybeards and the elf was buried along the mountaintop, his grave unmarked but a headstone reading "Gods of mer guide your brave soul through the afterlife". The wise men cared for the young elf, treated his wounds, and taught him the ways of the Greybeards, despite his young age. They lovingly called him Memphius, and raised him with knowledge and happiness.

The child got along swimmingly with their leader Paarthurnax. He seemed to have a way with the dragons that had forever gone unseen by all others. Along with that shocking discovery, he also had a spectacular talent at virtually every instrument known to exist, and a memory that rivaled that of no other. He truly was one of a kind.

They remained ignorant to the fact that the elven boy had dragon blood within him. Despite this oversight, they treated him as one of their own and he was raised Dragonborn. Little did they know, this action saved Skyrim, and perhaps the whole world along with it.

Chapter Text

A handful of years later, Memphius is just over the cusp of adulthood, the remains of adolescence still clinging to his coat tails. He had matured gracefully, never quite able to lose the slightness of his frame. Despite being well versed in various types of self-defense practices and having experience in a variety of magicka, his short stature and thin frame suggested otherwise. He had no way of knowing if this was hereditary; he had little knowledge of snow elves and their existence. He remembered the elves who had brought him here, if only very slightly faded by the passage of time.

The very existence of the falmer race was stained. The only knowledge that was carried by the people of the nation of snow elves were the blind, hideous creatures that dwelt in the depths of dwemer ruins. They saw falmer as the disgusting creatures they had become, and lost all sight of the creatures they used to be. Little is known anymore about how beautiful falmer society was when it existed.

It gave Memphius a melancholy feeling; he felt that he had very little information on who he even was. He had no recollection of his people, and no place to go to learn of them. The only thing he knew is that, though he was of mer descent, he had the knowledge of Thu'um. If he used this knowledge correctly, he could be of great service to the Dragonborn, if their paths ever crossed.

Most doubted his very existence. Why should they believe in him, anyway? The legend of the man was one that had been told virtually everywhere. Songs sung in taverns, stories told to adventurous children before they rest their heads in the evening.

Memphius, however, disagreed. He knew, with his whole heart, that the dragonborn will live once again. He, like the many other children across Tamriel, had grown up with the intricate stories of the past, and the vague sayings of the prophecy portraying his return. Wulfrad was a scholar; he had many books and what seemed like endless knowledge of the wyrm creatures of old. He even spoke the language of the dragon, if only slightly. He knew with certainty that the man of legend would return, whether it be in his own lifetime or not (though he certainly wished it would be within his own lifespan, however unlikely the notion may be).

There came a day where Wulfrad's worries of Memphius became more pronounced. He knew that the young elf was isolated; he must be, for his own safety. His people, his kin, the ancient race of snow elves that had once resided in Skyrim were long dead. Stepping down from the throat of the world was an extreme risk for Memphius.

But still Wulfrad worried. He and his brothers had begun to grow restless for the first time in many, many years. Delivered along with the elven boy and his guardian was a letter written in the ancient language of the falmer - "Prepare. A darkness approaches" hastily scribbled with smeared charcoal onto a torn piece of parchment. They knew from the moment after reading the note that the child was important.

The days felt darker the older the elfling grew. The return of the World-Eater was nigh, and the land of Tamriel was oblivious to it. The apocalypse approached. The greybeards knew that it was time for Memphius to leave the nest and see the world, truly, for the first time. They told him of this plan, and that they wanted him to descend the mountain and visit Ivarstead. What they refrained from informing him was that if he did not leave now, there perhaps would be no other chance; the days around them felt numbered.

After spending some time at the inn, doing various odd jobs around the town, and conversing with the locals, he could return to them and give his first impression with honesty. It wasn't much, but it was all they could do. Going any farther outward would put him at risk, and never let it be said that the Greybeards were not cautious.

Memphius didn't think he had felt so much excitement in his entire life. It was finally his time, and he would seize the day with every bit of strength he had. Sure, he loved Wulfrad and the others like family, and he knew within his heart that what they did was in his best interest, but a small, ignored part of himself felt angry.

Why did he have to be so different to the rest of the world?

His arrival was bittersweet, really; despite its small size and significantly lower population in comparison to the city, it was magnificent. The trees swayed in the breeze, and Memphius felt the warmth of it rustle his cloak and engulf his body. His knowledge of warmth was very slight; he didn't think it would feel so good.

His boots crunched along the dirt pathway, his legs carrying him over the stone bridge that covered the river beneath it. His eyes traveled across what he could see of the settlement, and his heart raced with anticipation. There was no turning back, no climbing back up the long steps that led to the summit. His time had finally, at long last, arrived.

Memphius's cloak fluttered in the breeze, the warmth of the early spring air winding its arms around him in an embrace. He knew what warmth was, but he hadn't had to absolute pleasure of feeling it in such an abundance. He understood now, why beings of all kinds in almost every bit of recorded history spoke of this feeling with such wonder and longing. It felt truly amazing.

His eyes traveled to the small buildings and the babbling river, the birds singing their songs in joy and harmony. His boots clicked against the dirt path beneath him, legs carrying him to the edges of town. He still had his cloak pulled over his head, for he knew that taking it off now was the furthest thing from safe he would ever be in his life, but how he wished so much to feel that warm breeze ruffle his hair and pink his cheeks.

He paused along the trail. He could see people milling about in the farmland, and the mill hard at work along the river.

"Hey!" A voice called out against the ambiance sounds surrounding him. "Welcome to Ivarstead! I don't recognize you, are you from around here?"

A young woman came running from the farm enclosure, making her way up to Memphius. She was wearing a dress stained with old mud at the lower hem, sewn by hand at the chest and bodice down the center. She had short brown hair, pulled back into a braid resting at the back of her head.

"My name is Fastred," She continued, finally slowing to a stop in front of him. She chuckled as she attempted to catch her breath, leaning down and resting her weight on her thighs. "What shall I can you?"

"Uhh," Memphius was awestruck. His face pulled back in a smile. So far so good. "Memphius. My name, is Memphius, I mean. And I guess so? I've never been here, but I've lived here nearby for a while. Hi, Fastred." He fumbled through his words.

"So that means I get to show you the way to the Inn," She smiled back at him as she slipped her arm through his, pulling him along as she walked. "In the meantime, you can tell me of your adventures. I've always longed to see the world, the farthest I've been my whole life is Whiterun! Can you believe that?"

"I haven't really been anywhere," Memphius ducked his head, trusting her immediately. She had a friendly aura around her, bright and warm, like the spring air and sunlight he loved so much. "Coming here is the first time I've ever even left home. I have much to learn."

"Really?" Her eyebrows raised significantly. "You've never left home? Here I was, thinking I was the the only person to have not seen the great cities of Skyrim."

They climbed the steps leading to a building. The hanging sign off the structure beams had the words "Vilemyr Inn" written on it. "Here we are. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask me! I live and work at Fellstar Farm down the road. If I'm unavailable, speak to Wilhelm inside, he owns the Inn. He's very kind. Have a nice day!" She called, skipping along back down the path back to her place in the field.

Memphius's fingers curled around the door handle. He took a deep breath, braced himself, and pulled.

---

"Wait," Klimmek stopped, setting his mug of ale on the table behind him. "You're Memphius? You're the ones the Greybeards always mentioned?"

It had been a handful of hours since Fastred had shown him to the Inn. He had since spoken to the Innkeeper and procured himself a room for a short period of time. He had ordered himself a slice of bread and a mug of water, and had startled when a hand slammed down on his shoulder and proclaimed "We have a milk-drinker on our hands, friends! He must not have tasted the ale here, then; only a fool would pass that down!"

A loud voice at his back bellowed, followed closely by a laugh and a different, chastising voice, more feminine in nature. "Leave him be, Bassainus. At this rate, you'll run Wilhelm's business right out the door!"

Memphius turned and was faced with a set of new faces. Two nordic men, and a woman making her way out to the main room from behind the front counter. "She's right, you know," The second man chimed in. "For all we know, he could be thinking of ways to spread word that the Inn in Ivarstead is full of drunk bastards."

"Well, that's what you are," The woman had placed her lute by the hearth, tutting as she crossed over to Memphius. "Don't even mind them, that's what they are, drunk bastards. Well, at least that's what Bassainus is. I'm not too sure of Klimmek."

"That's right," The man now known as Klimmek had said. "No drunk bastard would volunteer to climb the steps willingly."

Klimmek, Memphius thought with realization. Climbing the steps to The Throat of the World.

"My name is Memphius," He had said suddenly, breaking the focus of the group of not-so-strangers. "I come from High Hrothgar."

 Bassainus looked between Klimmek and Memphius with confusion. "Didn't know those old coots were hiring."

"No," Klimmek grinned ever so slightly at Memphius, looking past Bassainus as if he hadn't even been there. "I've been goin' up there for years, and you are the only name I've ever heard talked of, besides Ulfric."

"Leave him be, you drunkards! How many times must I ask you?" The woman stepped in, grasping Memphius's arms and hoisting him to his feet. "He's finished his food and drink, and it is well past nightfall, and I'm more than certain that he's tired."

She led him away, despite the protests of the men behind them, towards his rented room. "My name is Lynly, Lynly Star-Sung. I'm the bard here. I apologize sincerely for their invasive behavior. Just threaten to tell Fastred; it shuts them right up. Let's speak tomorrow; I can share with you all I've learned about getting the men around here to quiet down and leave each other alone. Goodnight, Memphius."

She shut the door behind her, and he was left alone for the rest of the night.

---

The next morning, after Memphius had rested and dressed and spent a few minutes writing down his experiences of the morning in the journal he had brought with him, he left his room to be met with the mostly empty main room of the inn.

Wilhelm waved at him from his post behind the counter. "Good morning, sir! Your room will still be rented here tonight if you wish to leave and return later." He continued clean the wooden mugs lined up at the counter.

Memphius nodded his acknowledgement, and left the inn.

The day was just as beautiful as the last.

The cloudless sky overhead was as bright as ever. The grassy fields surrounding the little town were swaying in the wind, seemingly an endless sea of green that stretched over all of eternity.

Memphius hopped down the steps, taking a deep breath of fresh air. It was so crisp here, so fresh and breathable. The air at High Hrothgar had never been quite as good as this; up there, it was always too cold and thin, and he never felt that he got deep enough breaths.

He made his way down the path, the same way he arrived from in hopes to find the little farm he encountered Fastred at the previous day. When he walked up to the gate surrounding the field, he stopped. In the enclosure, there were 3 figures - Fastred, hard at work off to one side, alone, and a couple on the other end. The man and woman were speaking in hushed, yet passionate voices. They were arguing over something they did not want Fastred to hear.

“Memphius!” His attention was pulled away from the older couple back to the young woman, waving wildly from her place in the field. She placed her hoe against the fence and weaved between the patches of crops up to where he stood at the other side. “It’s good to see you again! I hope you slept well; Bassainus told me that you spoke to Klimmek at the Inn last night, and that you come from High Hrothgar!”

“Oh,” his cheeks flushed. “Yes, I do. I have spent years at the Throat of the World, studying and learning at the hands of the Greybeards.”

“That must be so amazing,” She sighed dreamily, shifting her weight to hop over the fence to stand at his side. She took his arm in hers once more. “I bet the view from there is gorgeous. I’ve asked Klimmek to draw the view from up there when he makes supply runs, since I’ve been forbidden to go, but he was never much of an artist.”

“Fastred!” The man from the field called out to her in a fit of anger. “What did I say about abandoning your work?”

“Sorry, father!” She called back behind her, slowing to a stop and releasing her hold on Memphius. “I must return to my place now, but do stick around! I want to hear all about it tonight. I’ll meet you at the Inn.”

And with that, he was alone once more.

---

It had been one of the longest weeks of his entire life .

Since Fastred left him to return to her work in the field, he had wandered the town. He met the owner of the mill, Temba Wide-Arm, and her apprentice Gwilin. She had offered him coin for assisting Gwilin in chopping firewood for the town. While they worked, they chatted about anything and everything; life in Ivarstead, Gwilin’s struggle being the only mer in a village of (slightly racist) nords, and Fastred’s love triangle between Klimmek and Bassainus.

He returned to that post every day since. He had made quick friends with the bosmer apprentice. He had even managed to find work alongside Fastred, helping with harvesting cabbages in her family’s farm. Furthermore, he assisted Lynly at the Inn, during the day helping clean when he had free time, and in the evenings playing songs and singing with her. She had overheard him humming to himself while he polished tables, and demanded he sing Ragnar the Red with her to pass the time. She proceeded to gape in outrage when he divulged that he didn’t know the notes to that particular tune, and taught it to him swiftly. That night, he had never seen such liveliness within the Inn since his arrival.

The only issue he had run into in his stay there, was the woman called Boti. She was Fastred’s mother, and unlike her daughter she was not a very pleasant person to speak with. From the moment of his approach, she had complained of the Greybeards living at the Throat of the World, proclaiming that she and her family are hard at work all year, just to give up a portion of their crops to the old men for no pay at all. Memphius was shamed into silence at the realization that he knew exactly the crops she spoke of. I’ve been eating them all my life.

Things only got worse from there. Boti had since found out from gossip from her husband that Memphius had traveled from the place she spoke of with such contempt. She promptly decided to make his life a living hell.

In the morning of the seventh day since his arrival, Memphius had been awake for less than an hour when he realized that that day was going to be terrible . Upon rising from his rented bed, he slammed his foot against the bedframe. While helping Gwilin chop wood, he scraped his knees horribly. After helping Fastred all week, his hands were blistered and bruised from work (he gained so much respect for her, when he saw the intense calluses that lived on her hands). Boti had been glaring his way every time he turned around.

Around midday, a battalion of guards approached the small village.

With them, they brought news of an apparent bandit attack the night previous; and that the Jarl of the Hold was calling for the execution of all those involved.

Now he knew that Boti held hate for him deep within her heart, but it didn’t occur to him how deep it really was until his arms were seized and he was dragged unwillingly to the cart, his hands tied.

As he watched Fastred’s tear-filled eyes shrink slowly in the distance, he felt a sharp pain in his skull. His last thought as his vision filled with black was, I hope Wulfred and the others don’t worry.

Chapter Text

When Memphius opened his eyes, it was to another unfamiliar sight. The unsteady ground beneath the wagon he was placed on was jolted its occupants all over. There were three men other than himself; two placed on the bench across from him, and the third bound and gagged at his right side.

 

"You're finally awake," His attention was snapped back to the first man across from him. He wore a blue cloth tunic, and his hands were chained together. "You were captured at the border, right? Walked right into that Imperial ambush, same as us. And that thief over there."

 

The man at his side scoffed and chuckle, rolling his eyes as if he were used to such treatment from the blond man. "Damn you, Stormcloaks," He began, his face curling up into a snarl, all evidence of his previous mirth gone. "Skyrim was fine until you came along. Empire was nice and lazy. If they hadn't been looking for you, I could've stolen that horse and been halfway to Hammerfell."

 

His eyes drifted over to the cloaked elf in the midst of their argument. "You there. You and me, we shouldn't be here; it's these Stormcloaks the Empire wants." His eyes bored into the hood of Memphius's cloak.

 

"We're all brothers and sisters in binds now, thief."

 

As they were scolded by the man driving the cart for their conversation, Memphius tried to gather his wits. He had awoken in a strange place, surrounded by strange people. His head ached something fierce, and the blisters on his hands were far from pleased with the rope used to subdue him. It was wrapped tightly around his wrists, his palms pressed together painfully.

 

His knees weren't well off, either. The scabs that had grown over the scrapes had peeled off in his rugged movements, and fresh blood had dripped down his legs, sticky and warm. Parts of it were dried to his ripped trousers, rubbing and pulling painfully with every rock the wagon rolled over.

 

This was not part of the plan. Memphius had little to no idea what the two men were talking about; he most certainly had not been captured at the border; he hadn't ever even seen the border. The one thing he did know, however, was that they spoke of the civil war; the rebellion.

 

He wasn't clear on all the details, things like who did or said what and where it happened. He only knew that the Empire and its supporters had lost rights in a war with another more powerful organization, and that in doing so had outlawed the worship of one of the Nine Divines in the country. The more devoted followers were, understandably, outraged. They should not be told who they can and cannot worship.

 

It appears they call themselves the Stormcloaks and the Imperials, respectively. His head spun and throbbed with the new information. That, and also the unsteady movements of his transportation.

 

He was pulled out of his thoughts by an angry voice coming from the blond man, the Stormcloak. "You watch your tongue! You're speaking to Ulfric Stormcloak, the true High King!"

 

"Ulfric... the Jarl of Windhelm?" The thief asked, all anger being replaced with cold fear. "You're the leader of the rebellion... but if they've captured you... oh gods, where are they taking us?"

 

His voice had raised a few pitches in fear. Memphius felt akin to the thief in rags. If the leader of an entire rebellion had been captured and subdued, and was in the process of being transported to somewhere, what would come of those he was bound beside?

 

Adding to his recently extended list of firsts, for the first time in his life Memphius felt real, unadulterated, fear.

 

"I don't know where we're going," the Stormcloak said. Resolution and sadness tainted his voice. "But Sovngarde awaits."

 

The thief started to babble in fear, his vehement denial of reality was doing nothing to provide comfort for neither himself nor the others in the cart. Especially Memphius; his entire life had led up to this. He spent every day in some sort of distant longing for the outside world, a wish he knew was unlikely to ever come to fruition. When the entire world wants your head, you tend to avoid contact with those wanting to harm you.

 

And now, he was going to die.

 

Memphius looked over to his right, at Ulfric. The man was blond, wearing a similar blue tunic to his follower, this one more decorated and ornate. Chain-mail covered his body down to his knees. His back was swathed in a heavy fur cloak, his mouth gagged with a white cloth tied all the way around his jaw. He looked nothing like the powerful being he was, like he should've been. They achieved their task of stripping him of his pride before his untimely execution.

 

The dread sunk deeper in his stomach as the wagon rolled into the open gates of a settlement. This one was similar to Ivarstead in that it was made up of small wooden houses and little patches of farmland. There were people out on their porches watching, some with disgusting, avid interest. The distant tone of a mother could be heard, explaining to her young son what was occurring, who these people were, how they had gone against the wishes of their leaders.

 

The wagon finally drifted to a stop, the back end falling open. A guard stood at the edge. He was dressed in silver armor, with red accents and weapons strapped at his sides like lifelines. He held a book and quill as he ordered the prisoners off the wagon, one by one.

 

He learned the names of his companions in death; Ralof of Riverwood, the dedicated Stormcloak follower, and Lokir of Rorikstead, the thief who was scared to die. It did not come as a surprise that as soon as his name was called, he took off running toward the gate in a final attempt to escape.

 

Memphius had never seen anyone die before. It wasn't a good feeling at all - the image of Lokir's body falling to the ground as he was shot by arrows seemingly out of the sky was one that he didn't think he'd ever go a day without thinking about again.

 

When they finally got to him, the Imperial soldiers lacked a name for him. After he recited his name, despite it not being on the list of execution orders, they passed him through anyway. It made bile rise up in Memphius's throat even more than it already was.

 

This was beginning to feel like a dream. An Imperial man was telling the silent Ulfric how he had abused his sacred power to murder his king and usurp his throne. A loud, piercing sound echoed through the Hold. A priestess began to read last rites to those losing their lives, asking a blessing from the Eight Divines upon their souls.

 

Eight Divines, Memphius couldn't think straight. I thought there were nine.

 

Someone from the gathering of rebels angrily yelled his displeasure with the hold-up as the first soldier made his way to the block. His last phrase would forever haunt the snow elf - "My ancestors are smiling at me, Imperials. Can you say the same?" - as his head was forcefully severed from his body.

 

He  could barely hear Ralof's voice speak in mourning over the sharp ringing in his ears. "As fearless in death, as he was in life."

 

As the female captain called for the one in the rags to step up to the block, the sound rang out again. Despite the questions as to what it was, she continued to call the next prisoner. The unnamed prisoner.

 

That's me. He thought as tears welled in his eyes. She's calling for me.

 

The soldier that had urged him through the line was soothing him - he was tempting to, at least. A scared, childish part of Memphius thought it was demeaning; he didn't deserve to be coddled as he was forced to his execution, he deserved his freedom, his life. Everyone here did.

 

He barely registered the sharp stinging in his knees as he was forced to the ground. He didn't really feel the painful throb in his head as his temple hit the stone block.

 

He didn't even manage to understand that, from behind his view of the large sentry station, the distant form of a dragon was making its way over. It was coming here.

 

He did, however, manage to comprehend all of this when the headsman staggered to the side as the winged creature landed on the stone safe-house. 

 

It was as if the whole world shuddered as the mighty beast let out the loudest sound Memphius had ever heard. It forced him to sit up and attempt to grasp at his head, his vision blurring in pain and shock and disbelief. So much had happened in such a short time, Memphius had trouble absorbing it all.

 

In less than twenty-four hours, Memphius had managed to get arrested, meet the leader of the rebellion, see the death of two (arguably, in one case) innocent men, almost lose his head, and get attacked by a dragon - a member of the race whom, until about 30 seconds ago, had been thought of as completely extinct to the general population since the late Merethic Era, which took place before the First Era over two thousand years ago. Aside from Paarthurnax, Memphius wasn't aware that the ancient creatures were alive.

 

When his vision finally cleared enough for him to stand up and shake off as much confusion as he could, he took in his present surroundings. There was fire everywhere - the sky was overcast, unlike the endless clear blue that shone earlier in the day. Chaos had ensued; men and women and children were screaming, running for safety from the falling pieces of buildings. Imperials guards attempted to engage the dragon with no luck.

His attention was pulled away when the condescending guard called for him. He quickly followed behind the Nordic man, into what was left of a stone building. They climbed upward, maneuvering their way through the remains of the city through the hellscape as quickly as they could.

 

When they finally reached steady land once more, a blue tunic caught his eye among the flames.

Ralof. He thought vehemently, with a relief that was so strong it brought tears to his eyes and surprised him. Ralof made it out alive.

 

"Come with me!" He screamed out over the ear-splitting noise that engulfed them. "We need to get out of Helgen! Come on, I know another way!"

And with that, Memphius parted ways with the Imperial soldier that had saved his life thus far.

---

Once they made it into Helgen Keep, they could finally stop and take a breath. The moment of peace lasted all but seconds, for this was the first moment since he awoke that Memphius had enough silence to stop and think.

 

His clothes were completely destroyed. His trousers were worse off than they had been before; the scabs on his knees had ripped open, blood running down his shins and soaking what was left of the tattered cloth in blood. Ralof has cut the rope binding his hands once he had free time, and they weren't happy, either. Some of the blisters had popped and were stinging in the hot, dingy air.

 

He threw the remains of his cloak onto the floor. He didn't bother taking anything from the dead Imperial guards that had attacked Ralof and him upon their entry; he felt awful about having to be involved in their death, and it felt horridly disrespectful to be taking from their bodies. He didn't know how to use a sword, anyway.

 

"So you're an elf, huh?" Ralof broke the silence. "I would say something I'd probably regret, but after what we've seen today, I think I can refrain from doing so." He smiled shakily.

 

Memphius let himself exhale a breath, a weak grin following it. "Thank you, I suppose. We have had quite an eventful day, hmm?"

 

Ralof laughed. "You know this is the first time I've seen your face since we've met? There I was, thinking I was ending my life next to two ugly nords and the High King. How wrong I was on that count." He dipped his head, laughing softly as he leaned over to tie his boots.

 

Memphius could feel the tips of his ears begin to redden. "Are you implying that I am not a nord, or not ugly?"

 

"Both, I suppose," He finally looked up, smirking. "As much fun as I'm having, we really have to get out of here. I don't exactly think anyone is winning against the beast, and if we're caught here once things have calmed, we're dead for sure. If there's anyone left to even arrest us. Grab a weapon and follow me."

 

Memphius froze in his tracks. "I'm not proficient in the art of combat," he stuttered, shaking his head fiercely despite all of his body's protests. "I can't use a sword."

 

"You have got to be kidding me," Ralof grumbled. He walked swiftly back into the room, ripping a dagger off of one of the dead guards. He grabbed the bow on the other's back, snatching the last of the arrows along with it. "Then use these. We have to go now."

 

And with that, Ralof and Memphius trekked as silently as possible into the depths of Helgen Hold, through the hidden underground tunnel that lead back outside.

 

---

 

Memphius would never even set eyes on a bear for the rest of his extensive life if he could prevent doing so.

 

"That was..." Ralof looked at a loss for words. "Something. Usually I'm not too scared of bears, but my ma always said I should pick my battles. S'pose she was right, ah?"

 

"If such a thing were possible, I would pick none." Memphius replied.

 

He looked a mess. His clothes were still ripped and bloody, his arms now covered with scraped from the harsh treatment of the caves. The rest of his blistered hands had popped. There was an immeasurable amount of dirt in his hair, and it had shrunk due to the amount of knots it had. It now went from mid-back to the back of his shoulders. He felt disgusting, fragile, and on the verge of tears.

 

I miss Wulfrad.

 

"Unless you have more pressing issues to attend to," Ralof broke the silence, observing the somber look on his new found friend's face. "I believe it would be wise to head to Riverwood. A small settlement, not far from here. My hometown, actually - my sister and her husband run the mill there. She'll have food and shelter for you."

 

They traveled in silence, neither of them feeling a pressing need to speak. The world around them hummed in peace, in some sick, ironic way; a subtle reminder that while chaos ensued elsewhere in the world, life would continue for every other thing. If in fact they had lost their lives today, nothing would have truly changed.

 

Walking into Riverwood was another new experience. As opposed to Ivarstead, Riverwood was nestled in a small clearing in a forest, wheels precariously placed into the adjacent river, spinning around for power. It was calm here. They must have been far enough away to escape the dragon.

 

Ralof's sister Gerdur was a different kind of saint. She and her husband, Hod, were a bit rough around the edges, but they obviously cared for Ralof, asproved by their joy at seeing him returned unharmed. Memphius felt cold looking at the sight of Gerdur embracing her brother upon greeting; she most likely would never know how close to death he was on that fateful day.

 

Ralof explained what had happened; they had been arrested, and before the deadly ax could be placed upon Memphius's neck, the dragon appeared and began attacking. They looked afraid, understandably so. Dragons were ancient beings of legend, worshiped by men during the beginnings of documented history. It was then that Gerdur turned her attention to Memphius, and even more shock prevailed on her face.

 

"Oh Talos!" She gasped, taking him by the shoulder and beginning to lead him up toward a small wooden house, presumably her own. "You're bleeding more than a buck before dinner! Come inside, I'll warm up a cup of mead while I wrap your wounds."

 

---

 

She did just that. They sat in a comfortable silence, her humming a soft tune, and Memphius finally somewhat relaxing in a chair at the table.

 

 "Should be ready." She mumbled, sitting across from Memphius and taking his right leg, pulling his utterly decimated boot off and pulling his pristine white foot into the lap of her dress. "This might hurt a bit."

 

It did. The warm water she had prepared in a wooden bowl slowly turned pink as she wiped a cream colored cloth over his knees and shins, rinsing it into the bowl. Memphius hissed every so often, but tried his best to stop from moving.

 

"I'm surprised you two even survived," She began, holding back her sniffles behind a weak, forced laugh. "Men barely ever manage to escape Imperial arrest, let alone dragons. I mean, you're torn up halfway to Oblivion - I can't imagine what could of happened. I don't want to imagine what could have happened."

 

"Ralof saved me," He replied. This was the first time he had truly spoken since he had met her. "He was the only one showing any kindness to me when I awoke in imprisonment. He led me through Helgen. Without him, I surely would have perished; you needn't worry over him. He will do great things on his own, and if his life is lost, it will be fighting for what he truly believes in."

 

"Wise words, for such a young soul." She wiped her eyes, tying off the wrap around his leg.

 

When she finished cleaning his legs, she moved to his hands; dipping them into the water, then patting them dry and wrapping them tightly. There wasn't much she could do for the cuts on his arms, short of giving him a small health potion. "They don't heal immediately, contrary to popular belief," She explained. "When you wake in the morning, everything should be well on its way to healing nicely."

 

Her and her husband were kind enough to let them stay for the night. Gerdur had prepared a hearty dinner for the group of four. She set up a washtub for Memphius and Ralof, and after seeing them both washed and fed, led them to sleeping places. Before nightfall, Memphius was fast asleep, falling into one of the deepest slumbers he'd ever been in.