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Discussion in 'Skyrim Roleplaying' started by Minstrel, Oct 11, 2015.

  1. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    -Like Suicide-
    A continuation of the roleplay The Thinkers


    Buried within the ancient walls of Windhelm - in the heart of the Jarl's palace - lies the dungeons. Rat riddled and full of soiled bedding, the dungeons are truly an unpleasant place to live. The prisoners live there in solace, knowing what they did to put themselves there. It is a place the city would rather forget, and a place from which no one ever escapes. These dungeons are home to low lives, not master thieves and skilled assassins, but petty thieves, Skooma addicts, and spur of the moment murderers. You name it...they've got it... They've all been there at some point or another. The city has a bad enough reputation as it is, so once you're in these dungeons, you're in them for life.
    You are one of these low lives, locked away for whatever unlawful act you have committed. You're not here for a holiday. You know you're not getting out...or so you think...


    As of now this roleplay is not recruiting

    -Cast-

    Minstrel as Astrata Kest
    Dunklunk as Serezha Volchenkov

     
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  2. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Purple. Everywhere one looked, there was nothing but purple. A shimmering sea of purple, or so it seemed. Upon closer inspection, it was a massive field of nothing but Deathbells. Serezha was quite intimate with the flower, as it was a main ingredient in one of his favorite hallucinatory concoctions. But why was he here in a field filled with them? And then he saw it. A towering Deathbell, at least 50-feet tall, just "stared" at him from a distance. The Breton slowly made his way to the giant flower, until he reached what he considered a safe enough distance from it. He looked at the Deathbell, who continued its stare.

    And then it spoke. "You come here often, do you not?" the flower asked.

    "Uh, yes," Serezha feebly answered. "But how do you know that? I've never seen you before."

    "That does not matter," replied the Deathbell. "I have seen you here and I will continue to see you here. You and I both know this. Take care, Volchenkov. Until the next time we meet."

    With that, the huge flower seemed to methodically drift away, until it became a part of the normal-sized Deathbells. How did it know my name, Serezha wondered. (end dream sequence)


    The wagon jolted to a stop. Volchenkov! VOLCHENKOV! It was one of Windhelm's finest guards shouting at him. Wake the hell up, you good-for-nothing cretin! We're at your home away from home. The Breton managed to shuffle out of the wagon, his hands bound. The pair of guards just laughed at him, until the same guard spoke again. If you're gonna get high, Volchenkov, you might wanna consider doing it with no stolen goods lying near you. Oh, and don't pass out either. Yeah, passing out can't be a good thing, the guard concluded. They both laughed at him again, though this time it was a heartier laugh. What an idiot.

    Serezha was now being escorted to his cell. He knew this place well, as he seemed to be a frequent resident. Where shall we put him? the first guard inquired. Who cares?! replied the second guard. Besides, it's not like he's even capable of noticing the difference between a dank, smelly cell and the Jarl's master bedroom. Again, both men laughed at the Breton's expense.

    Finally reaching his cell, the guards unlocked his shackles and pushed him in. The clang of his cell door slamming shut always unnerved him. Well, on the few occasions he could actually recall hearing that distinct sound. Now that his eyes were somewhat accustomed to the near darkness, Serezha couldn't help but notice a few figures sprinkled about in nearby cells. Men or women? Friend or foe? He winced at that last thought. Friend? he whispered, mocking himself. When was the last time you actually had one? He slumped to the floor with his back up against the bars of his cell. Cradling his head in his hands, he closed his eyes and listened intently to the whispers of his cellmates, the near-constant drip of water, and the crackling of the torches. Soon after, he softly began to weep.
     
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  3. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    "Get off of me!" Astrata screamed as she was dragged across the damp stone floor of the prison block, squirming in the arms of two brutish guards. "I'll do anything! Please, don't lock me away down here!"

    Her cries were ignored. These guards were hardened to the frenzied reactions of petty criminals as they were presented their fate. Muscular arms kept the girl's movements at bay. It didn't matter what awkward position she twisted her body into; a hand remained tightly wrapped around both of her wrists, and a firm kick to her side brought an end to any protests. It didn't matter - Where would she go if she managed to break free of her captures? To the front door? She'd have to make her way through half of the palace and barracks first.

    It wasn't long before her short journey to the prison cells was over, and she found herself thrown face-down to the ground. Rough, knotted blonde hair was spread across the stone and, for a moment, Astrata simply lay there with tears in her eyes. How has it come to this... She asked herself, knowing full well what the answer was. The guards stood and watched for a while, one of them even letting out a small sI'm a racist asshole who doesn't understand boundaries, respect, or basic human decency and I need help. They disgusted her, the way they could treat their own kind with such negligence. Wasn't it enough that they were racist towards anyone who wasn't of Nordic blood?

    Eventually the guards left, leaving Astrata and her sorrows to rot. For a while she cried, not bothering to lift head from the floor, but before long she realised it would get her nowhere. Gathering what little strength she had left, the young Nord lifted herself from the floor and shuffled over to the back wall of her cell. It was cold, perhaps colder than the floor itself, but it was the only thing she could retreat to. Bringing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms tightly around them she surveyed the room with bloodshot eyes.

    It was a fairly large but empty room that Astrata figured she would only get the chance to explore a small portion of. Directly opposite her - past rusted iron bars of her cell - sat stacks of empty crates and barrels, each one of them rotting due to the damp, but housing a great number of vile rodents. The girl shook at the thought of them walking about her at night while she slept... not that she ever would. Sleep had never been something that came naturally to her. That was when the screams were the loudest.

    With a stiff neck Astrata turned to her left and saw more cells identical to hers. Some of them were home to yet more rodents while others were completely empty. Hopefully I won't be in here for long. Maybe a few days for stealing some bread. With that thought in mind Astrata leant her head against the wall behind her, closed her eyes, and attempted to find some comfort in the sound of trickling water from a nearby crevice.

    ***
    Astrata wasn't sure how much time had passed when she emerged from her dream-like state. She opened her eyes slowly to the sound of voices, but saw nothing other than the mess of blonde hair that had fallen across her face. The taunts of guards echoed throughout the jail, and the clatter of one-too-many feet could be heard. A cell gate was opened then swiftly thrown shut, and the guards voices tapered off. Another prisoner? So soon? Astrata waited for the frantic shouts of the unfortunate soul, but there came nothing. She thought perhaps she were mistaken, and then she heard it.

    "Friend? When was the last time you actually had one?"

    The words struck a chord with Astrata. She remembered the countless nights she had cried herself to sleep, wishing that she could have a friend, that she could talk to anyone besides her drunken father, and her mother who had become a ruined woman because of him. It pained her to hear another person talk in such a way.

    "Need a friend?" She asked, blowing loose strands of her away from her face. "I think we'll both be in need of some company."
     
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  4. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    A whisper. “Vol. . .chen. . .kov.” Then another. “Vol. . .chen. . .kov.” And yet another, this time with more urgency. “Volllll. . .chennnnn. . .kovvvvv.” The Breton stirred in his sleep. He was almost positive he recognized the voice, but from where? From when? And then he remembered. It was the Deathbell’s voice.

    Now what? he thought. What does it want with me? Although Serezha did not feel threatened by the enormous flower, he also did not exactly feel all warm and cozy with it either.

    “You know who it is,” continued the Deathbell. “Now look at me.” Serezha slowly raised his head. Why he was being so cautious, he did not know, for he knew what he was about to see. And as sure as the sun rises in the east, there it was, looming in all its purple splendor. It appeared exactly as he remembered, its size rivalling a giant, minus the massive club and a clear need for a bath. The Breton also noticed it was not amid a field of smaller Deathbells, like their first meeting. It stood alone, surrounded by darkness.

    “Pay attention,” the Deathbell commanded. “You seem to have a. . .” its voice trailed off. “I do not know what to call her just yet,” the flower continued eventually. “I shall leave that part of the equation for you to figure out. Until we meet again, Volchenkov.” As its voice trailed off, Serezha noticed how the darkness seemed to envelope it, until it was totally gone from sight.

    And then he heard it. (end dream sequence)


    Need a friend? a woman’s voice inquired. This simple question threw Serezha for a loop. Need a friend? he mentally repeated. He did not know what to make of this current turn of events. He vividly recalled his last encounter with a woman, who proceeded to call him every nasty name under the sun, and names he never heard of before. Sadly, the reasons why she verbally abused him escapes his memory, and probably for good reason.

    Serezha turned toward the woman, eyeing her prior to speaking. I truly thank you for your kindness, but really, you would not want me as a friend. With that, he shuffled off to the far side of his cell.
     
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  5. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata furrowed her brow and tilted her head to one size, regarding the Breton quizzically. He did not seem entirely present - as if he were living partly in the same world as she was, and partly in another far off world. She wondered how he had come to be in such a place as the jail of Windhelm, but deemed it inappropriate to ask... At least so soon. She pushed off from the wall, moving cautiously on her hands and knees towards the iron bars that separated them. Her body ached from the rough treatment she had suffered, but she ignored the pain now.

    "Why... Why not?" Astrata asked hesitantly; her voice weak and barely audible. She cursed herself for lacking the confidence that the harsh land of Skyrim demanded of her. Immediately after speaking she regretted having been so forward. "Sorry, I didn't mean to... It's just, well, I thought we would rather talk to each other than... The rats..."

    ***​

    "Ulfric will hear nothing of this," Galmar Stone-Fist ordered in a hushed but unmistakeably forceful tone. "You hear me?"

    The Nord man - clad in full armour, as always - walked slowly around the large wooden table that claimed most of the War Room. One hand tugged lightly at his beard as he pondered, and the other brushed the surface of the table while he eyed the detailed map that was spread across it. After a brief moment of circling the table he came to a stop and firmly pressed a finger onto a specific part of the large parchment.

    "Here you say?" Stone-Fist questioned.

    "Yes, Sir." The guard who stood opposite confirmed. He was young, almost alarmingly so. "We've lost a total of thirteen men there."

    "And why hasn't your Commander informed me of this himself?"

    The guard did not speak for a moment. Scratching the back of his neck and looking only to the floor he said, "Sir, my Commander is one of those men."

    "I see," said Stone-Fist, letting out a sigh of regret. "That is... Unfortunate. Nevertheless this problem must be handled - and handled swiftly and with the upmost confidentiality, may I add. You say there is a coven in the mountains, a coven of vampires?"

    "Yes, Sir."

    "I will not see any more of our men wasted on investigating the issue. However, I understand that left alone it will not fix itself. If threats have been made on the Jarls life, as you say they have, then I will not take the matter lightly. We need men and women who are disposable - who will fight to eradicate the vermin of that coven as if their lives depend on it." Stone-Fist unfolded a piece of parchment that had previously been tucket under his belt. On it were the names of several prisoners who had recently been arrested and jailed. He studied the writing for a second, his eyes soon landing on the two most recent admissions. "As it so happens, I may know of some people who fit that description."
     
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  6. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Serezha was unable to contain himself as he snorted and laughed at her "talking to rats" comment. Well, she does have a point, he thought. What would it be like to bring her into my world and have her converse with an enormous Deathbell? he mused. He smiled inwardly as he himself didn't know what to think of his encounters with the Deathbell. He looked her way, though with the darkness seemingly surrounding him, he was not sure if he was making eye contact with her. So he dragged himself to his feet and made his way back to where she was.

    Upon confirming it was actually her he was looking at, the Breton spoke,
    Hello. You're right, he began. I would definitely prefer to speak with you instead of our furry cell mates.

    Or a particular larger-than-large purple flower, he thought.

    He took a deep breath, and wondered if he would regret this later. Or sooner. He then said,
    They call me Dmitry. And you are?
     
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  7. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata wasn't sure to whether she was being laughed at, or laughed with, but concluded it was the latter and laughed quietly along with the Breton. She had rarely seen anyone laugh, let alone laughed herself. It felt alien to her. When she was younger she would giggle innocently at the stories her mother would recite while her father was away drinking, but as the years went on her spirit became fragile - as did her mother's, unfortunately. The stories became less frequent, and as did Astrata's laughter.

    A self-conscious smile spread across Astrata's face as the man agreed that talking to each other would be better than talking to the rats. Did this mean they were friends, she wondered? How long did two people have to talk before they were considered friends? I wish there were a rule book, she mused.

    "Dmitry," the Breton introduced himself as, before asking for her own name.

    "Astrata," she replied, soon coming to realise that she didn't know where to take the conversation next. If they were not separated by iron bars she might not have approached him in the first place. However, behind the bars she felt a slight confidence in herself. With this in mind she decided to jump in at the deep end - feeling that she was safe for now. "Why are you down here?" She asked. "Sorry, I... Hope that wasn't too personal. You don't have to tell me it's just... Well, you're not a... Murderer, are you?"
     
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    #7 Minstrel, Nov 7, 2015
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015
  8. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Although her question as to why he was down here raised an eyebrow of surprise, Serezha quickly shrugged it off as no big deal. After all, he thought, what else are prisoners supposed to talk about? The weather? Which inn served the stiffest drink? Recipes for slaughterfish stew? He grunted at these ridiculous thoughts, though immediately admitted he'd give anything to speak of these random ideas if it meant freedom. Not bloody likely, he shook his head, suddenly saddened by this realization, not bloody likely.

    He cleared his throat, then proceeded to answer her first question, Well, Astrata, let's just say I'm here because I can't keep my hands to myself. As soon as he spoke these words and only now "noticing" the gender to whom he was speaking to, the Breton realized his potential folly and tried to quickly remedy it. Um, that would be other people's goods and property I can't keep my hands off of. Not, uh, their bodies or, um, body parts, or um, well. . . . his voice trailed off. By The Nines, you are such an idiot! Just SHUT UP already! he chastised himself. He took a deep breath to regain his composure, such as it was.

    Serezha glanced at the woman and noticed three things about her. First and foremost was the fact she was still there, not moving an inch. Secondly, she didn't seem bothered or alarmed in the least at his bumbling comments. And finally, SHE WAS STILL THERE!
    Okay then, he surmised, the fact she hasn't run screaming to the opposite side of her cell can only mean she doesn't see me as a pure psycho, right? Right?! He patiently waited for an answer he knew was not forthcoming. Okay then, he finally concluded, guess this means I have to talk to her some more. He sighed. Don't f*** this up again, Volchenkov!

    Not to worry, Astrata, I do not find your question personal in any way, he began. He met her eyes, made a sweeping motion of their surroundings with his left arm and then said, Look at where we are. There is nothing personal here. The guards see to that. He was thinking of slumping into a corner of his cage away from her, until he recalled her other question.

    Murderer? Serezha looked at her and responded quickly, No, sorry. I do not kill. He paused, peeked her way, then stated, The only murdering I've done is to a bunch of brain cells, if you catch my meaning. He winked at her, but in this s****y light, he was not certain she saw his wink.

    Serezha decided to quickly change the subject, for better or for worse.
    So what brings you to these fine accommodations, Astrata?
     
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  9. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata sat in silent amusement as Serezha tripped over his words. She realised that, like herself, he was awkward in conversation too. This brought her some comfort - at least she wasn't the only socially inept prisoner. Prisoner... That word hit home. This morning she had been nothing more than a harmless beggar, and now? Now she was a homeless beggar who had found her way into the jail of Windhelm.

    Lost in thought she had missed her opportunity to respond the Breton sat opposite her. He took it upon himself to fill the gap, assuring her that she had not asked him to divulge information too personal.

    "There is nothing personal here. The guards see to that." Serezha said, letting the words hang in the stagnant air of the jail. Astrata began to understand just how serious her predicament was. This jail-sentence wasn't a light slap on the wrist, it was to be the beginning of a never-ending torture. The words of an old beggar woman who she had befriended on the street rang in her ear.

    "Don't think they won't throw you in jail for looking at them the wrong way. They want you off the streets, and they'll do whatever they can to see it done. Head down, hands in sight, and don't speak a word. How do you think I've lasted out here for so long?"
    The old woman was right. What's more, Astrata had committed a crime - albeit a very minor one. What if they never let me go? What if I'm left here to rot? These dark thoughts grew in her mind until they almost consumed her. Until, in an instant, she was drawn back into reality.

    "Murderer? No, sorry. I do not kill. The only murdering I've done is to a bunch of brain cells, if you catch my meaning." He said. She was not certain, but she thought she saw the man wink. It took her a moment to catch on. Having been shut inside for most of her life she was naive to the existence of most drugs. Her mother had told her about Skooma though, for it was the drug her father would often consume alongside his mead.

    "I stole some bread..." Astrata said in nothing more than a whisper. She was ashamed. "I hadn't eaten for days. It was going stale, and the merchant was going to give it to the horses anyway. I took it while he had his back turned, but he caught me and tried to pry it from my hands. I... I don't remember the rest. I remember seeing red, and something struck me over the head. I woke up to the guards dragging me down here..."
     
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  10. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Serezha listened to Astrata’s humble and quiet confession. Hearing it did not make him feel any better about his current predicament. In fact, it made him feel worse. She stole that stale bread to feed a basic hunger, like almost anyone else in the same circumstances would be forced to do, he thought. And you? He asked himself. Inner reflection was not one of his strong points. He was only doing it now because his head was clearer than he could last remember. Up until now, he seemed to be in a perpetual high.

    What he saw within himself was none too pleasing. You steal to feed that habit of yours, he scolded himself. A fix or a meal? He grunted, knowing full well which choice he would opt for. Surprisingly, he actually found himself feeling bad for her. She is not a true thief, he thought. I see nothing wrong with stealing to survive. Of course, the law would most definitely disagree, he concluded.

    The Breton was not sure how to respond to her. Well, they sure as hell have us paying for our sins, he began. However minor they may be, such as taking a mere piece of bread. He snorted derisively at the so-called authorities, then continued, I am sorry you were caught, Astrata, as I believe no one should ever be so hungry that it would force them into thievery.

    In an attempt to raise her spirits, he then said, With that in mind, I do not think you will be down here for long. I mean, it was a piece of bread, and a stale one at that! By Talos, it’s not like you helped yourself to a horse or something similar. He stood silent, attempting to calm himself down while waiting for her reply.
     
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  11. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    "They.... They sure do," Astrata muttered, nodding in agreement. "Paying for our sins indeed..."

    As Serezha continued to speak, Astrata moved closer to the iron bars and rested her head against them. She looked past the gate to her cell, and peered into the darkness that consumed the entire room. Near the entrance two torches burned, but were nearer to embers than actual flames. Still, they produced enough light to illuminate the jail in a dim, pulsating light.

    Across from her she could she several people. The majority of them were silent - hunched in a corner of their cell and uninterested in their surroundings. A few shuffled restlessly, and some were visibly distressed. Astrata studied them all and came to two grim realisations. Firstly, the majority of them were old. On its own this was of no concern. However, it appeared that those who were older seemed almost accustomed to their bleak existence, and those who were younger had not quite adjusted. No one is ever let out of here, she concluded. They're left down here to be driven to insanity.

    "We're never going to be let out of here." Astrata said, hardly moving her lips, tears forming in her eyes. Instead of addressing Serezha she simply stared ahead. "Look around.... no one gets out. I... May as well have stolen a horse for all the difference it makes." A cynical smile spread across her lips, and only then did she lift her head from the bars to look the Breton in the eyes. She opened her mouth to speak but was immediately prevented from doing so.

    "Who do we have here?" Galmar Stone-Fist called out, his voice echoing harshly off of the walls. He stepped into the jail, flanked by the guards on either side. He looked about the room, sorting through the numerous prisoners who had accumulated. "We'll have to start doubling-up soon!" He jested before his eyes eventually landed on Serezha and Astrata. "Ah, here were are. Let's see... Serezha, the skooma addict, if I'm not mistaken?" Stone-Fist came to the gate of Serezha's cell, turned his nose up at the man and then moved across to Astrata's cell. "And Astrata, the bread thief and murderer. By the nines, you should have seen the poor man's face when we finally put the flames out."

    As if prodded by a hot poking-iron, Astrata jumped forward and pressed her face to the gate.

    "I didn't murder anyone! I... What are you talking about?"

    Stone-Fist titled his head back and laughed. "That bump on your head must have confused you, girl. You set fire to the baker and his stall! Poor soul burned alive before we could put him out."

    "No... That can't be..." Astrata fell back from the gate, pushing herself away from the Stone-Fist, attempting to flee from his lies. It must be a lie, she told herself. I'm not a mage, I wouldn't know how to cast a spell if my life depended on it. She continued to shuffle backwards until there was nowhere left to go. She came to the corner of her cell and brought her knees to her chest, just like she had done when she was first thrown into the cell. The tears that had been welling up in her eyes began to pour down her face, and she began to sob uncontrollably.

    "Well, seeing as the girl is in no state to talk, I will talk to you instead," Stone-Fist said without a hint of sympathy as he turned to face Serezha. "If you are in any state to talk yourself, that is."

     
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  12. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Aye, I can talk, Serezha finally replied. It took him awhile to answer Stone-Fist as the guard’s latest revelation about Astrata shocked and dismayed the Breton. He certainly did not know what to think of her now. Although he would not put it past Stone-Fist to lie about the baker’s demise, he saw no real reason why he would. Astrata’s reaction and continued sobbing only confirmed her guilt in his eyes.

    And what of her guilt? He asked himself. I’m sure she had her reasons for setting the man’s stall ablaze. That’s right, he reminded himself. She was hungry. You’ve done questionable deeds to feed your “hunger,” too. But kill? At this last thought he was ashamed of judging her. You are definitely in no position to judge others.

    He was snapped out of his reverie by Stone-Fist loudly clearing his throat. He was so caught up in Astrata’s plight that he simply forgot about the guard, who now looked at him with a raised eyebrow and a very skeptical expression on his face. Are you sure, Volchenkov? You seem to be in your usual state of, hmmm, intoxication, shall we say? Both guards on either side of Stone-Fist chuckled at his last comment, while the lead guard had a foolish-looking smirk plastered across his face. A look that Serezha truly wished he could permanently wipe away with the back of his hand.

    The Breton calmly glanced at Stone-Fist, while Astrata’s heavy sobs could still be heard in the background. I said I can talk, he icily replied. Are you deaf? Before he could answer, he continued, And besides, does it truly take three of you to confront a pair of helpless, unarmed, jailed prisoners? Now it was Serezha’s turn to smirk.

    Bide your tongue addict, or I’ll run you through right here, right now, Stone-Fist bellowed in reply. After a brief moment, he continued, his voice a bit softer but still with an edge, Are you not the least bit curious as to why we are here? He just stood there, glaring at the prisoner while waiting for an answer.

    Not at all, he stated. I could care less at whatever it is you have to tell me, though I’m sure you’ll tell me anyway.

    Stone-Fist merely nodded, then said, Aye, that I will, Breton. That I will. And trust me, you will care as to what I’m about to say.

    Then spit it out, Serezha snapped. I don’t have all day waiting around for your important news. At this, the man to Stone-Fist’s right snorted, finding it humorous that where else could the inmate possibly go. His snort immediately drew a sharp elbow to the ribs from his leader, eliciting a pained grunt from the guard.

    A biting tongue today, eh Volchenkov? Stone-Fist seemed genuinely amused. It’s been a long time that I can remember since you’ve been able to make sense when speaking. He mockingly shook his head. No longer high from your beloved Skooma? Need a fix? Or three? he teased. When his only response from Serezha was a scowl, the guard continued with a deep, belly laugh, then spoke, Good! For what I’m about to tell you, it’s best you have a clear head. If nothing else, so you’ll actually be able to recall what I’ve said later.

    Serezha just stood there, staring impatiently at his tormentor. What could he possibly want with me? he thought. Still weeping, he then remembered Astrata, correcting himself, with us? The pig is clearly enjoying himself with whatever secrets he’s withholding.

    Now satisfied with making him wait a while, Stone-Fist finally spoke, Ever heard of vampires, Volchenkov? Do you know what they are? Surprisingly to Serezha, his tone was neither insulting nor sarcastic, just even and matter-of-fact. For some reason, he found this troubling, then answered the man’s questions. I’ve heard of them, all the stories and such. Never met one though, so I’m somewhat skeptical about their existence. He looked at Stone-Fist, really not wanting to hear any more, but unable to do anything about it.

    Oh, they exist all right, Galmar abruptly replied. And that is where you and the crybaby come in, gesturing with his eyes toward Astrata. See, we have confirmed reports on a coven of them hiding out somewhere in the mountains. To date, they are responsible for the slaughter of 13 of our men. He paused for effect.

    Before he could continue, Serezha interrupted, I don’t see how this is our problem. I mean, we’re not trained soldiers or anything remotely close to that.

    Stone-Fist stared at him for a moment, then said, But it is, Volchenkov. It most assuredly is your problem. Or it will be if you choose it to be so. With a wave of his right hand, he dismissed the two guards. He stroked his beard, put both hands behind his back, walked in a few small circles, then stopped in front of the addict and met his steely gaze with one of his own. As I’ve already stated, they have killed 13 of our men. Mark my words, they will kill no more.

    He waited for a response from Serezha, but when none was forthcoming, he continued, So here’s the deal. You and Kest are to hunt these beasts down and eliminate every last one of them. You do that and you both are free to go on your merry way. We will of course outfit you with armor, weapons, supplies, and even a few Septims to purchase along the way what you may deem necessary. He eyed the convict suspiciously, then just barely above a whisper, said, You may even choose to blow all your coin on Skooma. In the end that won’t help you or Kest. The choice is yours, and hers, once she regains control of herself. Stay here and rot, or accept this mission with a chance to gain your freedom.

    Serezha waited for Stone-Fist to continue. When he did not, he let out a huge sigh, then asked, How do we know we can trust you?

    The Nord laughed, then replied, You don’t. Look around you, Volchenkov. Do you really want to stay here and die a slow death? This time tomorrow, I shall return for your answer. He turned and headed toward the prison’s exit. Other than Astrata’s sobs, which he noticed weren’t as uncontrollable as before, the only sound he focused on was Stone-Fist’s boots making contact with the cold, hard floor.

    Just as he thought the sound would disappear altogether, it started to get louder, as if he were making his way back to his cell. He slowly glanced toward the oncoming clatter of boots on floor, then noticed it was indeed Galmar. When he reached Serezha’s cell, he stopped and leaned in close, with a wicked smile spread across his face. One more thing, he began, just in case your Skooma-addled brain is already scheming for an escape once you two reach the woods and beyond, know this. At least two of my men, possibly more, will be tailing you the whole way. You won’t see them, but know that they are there. They are also not there to assist you in any way, merely there to make sure you carry out the mission.

    Again, he paused for effect, then stated, The path to the coven’s hideout is clear. Do not deviate from it in any way. Should you attempt to make a run for it, they are instructed to shoot to kill, or wound if they are so inclined. They are expert hunters and trackers, and very proficient with the bow. Remember, you’ll be in the woods. Many wild animals in the woods. Many hungry wild animals in the woods. A well-placed arrow to the knee, and you’re the prize for whichever beast finds you first.

    With that he turned and left. Although this time, instead of the sound his boots made, all Serezha could hear was Stone-Fist’s laughter, as it echoed throughout the prison.

    Letting out a deep breath, he made his way toward Astrata. She had removed herself to the far side of her cell, so he couldn’t get too close to her. Still, he attempted to speak to her. Astrata, you okay? Not sure how much of that exchange you heard, if any, but we need to talk. Astrata?
     
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  13. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata heard Serezha and Stone-Fist's voices, but felt entirely detached from the moment. Behind the profuse sobs of regret and dismay, the young Nord was in another world, much the same as the world she imagined Serezha often visited. She sat in an empty white expanse with her knees held against her chest, and her head between her arms as she cried against her knees. Tears rolled down her cheeks before soaking into the rough fabric of her rags, and she could feel the damp on her skin.

    Continuing to sob, Astrata raised her head and looked into the vast whiteness that encompassed her. She could neither hear nor see anything. It was a strange sensation; to be aware of the cold, dark reality of the jail in which she sat, but be equally aware of this new plane of existence in the same moment.


    I murdered someone... She thought to herself. I murdered an innocent man, and I don't even remember it. How could I have done such a thing?


    There was a long silence. In the distance she could hear Serezha and Stone-Fist talking - something about a vampire coven. She was not concerned at the moment.


    It was not your fault, Astrata... A voice came. It sounded close, but the girl could see no one. You have a gift, dear girl, the gift of magic. However, you have not been taught to use it, and that can lead to... accidents...


    Who... Who are you? What are you talking about, a gift? Astrata enquired, noting that her tears were gone and she was now standing without having stood up. I don't know the first thing about magic, my mother told me that true Nords don't mess with such a thing. How can I learn to use something I don't understand?


    All in due time, my dear, all in due time...


    ***​


    "...we need to talk. Astrata?"

    She was back, sobbing into her rags once more. The white expanse had been replaced by darkness. The interaction with the strange voice had been so brief that she began to question if it had really happened.


    "Yeah, I..." Astrata began, looking up with red eyes and tears streaming down her cheeks. She let out another sob, but wiped her eyes and attempted to calm her breathing. "I heard enough. He... He wants us to go on a suicide mission. Do we have a choice?"
     
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  14. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Serezha eyed the Nord woman a little closer as she attempted to compose herself. By all the moon sugar in the lands, he was positive she had just experienced some sort of dream-like state. With whom or what he had no idea, nor was he planning on asking her about it. Yeah, he thought, but I'd be willing to bet anything it did not involve a monstrous, talking Deathbell.

    His last thought reminded him of something he cared not to dwell on too much. Nevertheless, there it was, front and center. Why a Deathbell, of all things? he pondered. And why so big? I mean, I know it's an ingredient I accidentally stumbled upon to mix with the Skooma. . . . His thoughts trailed off for a moment and he glanced at Astrata. He was glad to see she was regaining control of her emotions. She appeared to be in a far better state of mind now than she did when he was speaking with Stone-Fist. He returned to the Deathbell. And there is something oddly familiar about it, though I can't quite put my finger on what that might be.

    The Breton's thoughts were interrupted by Astrata's voice. . . .Do we have a choice?

    Serezha grunted, then answered her, Oh, I see you picked up on that, too. Yes, yes, it sure as hell sounded just like suicide to me, also. He was absolutely ecstatic that she had heard enough of his conversation with Galmar, because he dreaded the possibility of her asking him to repeat most, if not all, of their surprising meeting. He was not even sure of what exactly he could recall. Well, there was that bit about freedom. Then some nonsense about vampires. And, um, hunters and trackers. And. . .and. . .being devoured by wolves and bears and skeevers and. . . . He snapped out of it. Clearly, he found himself being troubled more at the thought of being eaten alive, than tracking and annihilating a vampire coven.

    I like to think there is always a choice, Astrata, he calmly (for him) replied. We don't have to accept this mission. Galmar never said, do this or else. He stopped right there. Just because Galmar never said it, he suddenly panicked, doesn't mean he won't say it tomorrow, when he comes for his answer. Serezha sighed heavily. He already knew what his choice would be, with or without her.

     
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  15. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata mulled over their predicament - rather ungraciously wiping her nose, and dabbing beneath her eyes in an attempt to lessen the redness. She considered their options; wait in the godforsaken jail of Windhelm and wait to die an unceremonious death, or be eaten alive by wolves in the forest - again, quite the unceremonious death. It was almost a laughable situation. Almost. It didn't take the girl long to realise that she would rather die with a fresh Northern breeze against her skin, and the pale blue of a forever-frozen Skyrim above her than in the dark, at the hands of starvation or old age.

    "You're right, we have a choice," she began. "But I don't think there can ever really be a choice between this pitiful existence, or a chance at freedom - no matter how small." For once, Astrata's words were clear and strong. It was as if, for the first time in her life, she was completely sure of her words. However, around her she noticed prisoners turning their heads and regarding her with looks of disdain and contempt. They'd obviously heard her remark about their existence being pitiful. Or perhaps they were envious of the freedom both her and Serezha had been offered.

    "Dmitry..." Astrata said, pausing as if the name were incorrect. She was sure Stone-Fist had addressed him as something different, but decided not to dwell on it. "....If we, um... If we don't accept this offer I don't think we'll ever see the light of day again. But I don't know the first thing about fighting..." She trailed off. "What if I put you in danger?"
     
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  16. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Uh, yeah, about that Dmitry fellow, Serezha started to explain. Not my real name. Sorry. He looked at his boots, not wanting to meet Astrata's stare. It's a knee-jerk reaction, not giving my real name. I tend to trust no one, he finally looked up at her, as no one tends to trust me.

    He shuffled a little to his right, coughed, then said, And for good reason no one trusts me. His voice trailed off, as he had nothing more to contribute. After a brief pause, he stated, My name is Serezha. Serezha Volchenkov. He bowed. Pleased to meet you, Astrata Kest. I thought it best to be honest with you, especially as our lives will depend on each other.

    Either his initial lie or his attempt at honesty must have caught the Nord woman off guard, as she remained silent, just looking at him. He took the open opportunity to continue,
    I do agree with you as far as never seeing the light of day again if we refuse this offer. He ran his right hand through his hair, then said, I know nothing about fighting either. I would hate to put your life in danger as well. That said, know anything about vampires? Specifically, how exactly to kill them?

    Serezha shrugged, and just looked at her, eager to hear what she had to say.
     
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    #16 dunklunk, Nov 29, 2015
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  17. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata was taken aback, and entirely unsure what do as Serezha revealed his real name. She wasn't so much shocked; more curious as to why the Breton could not allow himself to trust a stranger with something so simple as his name. After considering it for a moment, however, she decided that it was not quite as absurd as she had first though. She was not a naturally trusting character herself, after all. The girl was quickly learning that a person's name could carry a lot of weight in Skyrim - perhaps that was the reason he didn't wish to share it so openly. Astrata went to reply, but before she could do so Serezha had begun to talk once more.

    There was a strange sense of reassurance to be found in knowing that they were both in the same boat. Neither of them had any real experience in combat, and she didn't know about Serezha, but Astrata was well aware that the only two places she had ever known were her prison-of-a-home and the city of Windhelm.

    "Vampires? I... Only know what I have read in books. They're dangerous, and feed on the blood of their unsuspecting victims." She looked to the ground. "My mother told me that they use magic to raise the dead. Said that her uncle died at the hands of one many moons ago. I-"

    "For the love of Talos!" Came a hiss from across the jail. "Would you shut up! Get some sleep before the guards come down here and beat us all."

    Astrata jumped at the voice, but regained her composure and leant towards Serezha.

    "We best get to sleep." She whispered. "I'll... See you in the morning I guess?"
     
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  18. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    Their cell-mate’s scolding of Astrata surprised the Breton also, as he slightly jumped at another voice abruptly joining their conversation. That was rude, he thought. He very nearly laughed out loud at his last thought, considering the absurdity of it all. This prison is rude, to say the least, he reflected. It’s only fitting, I guess.

    Shortly following the interruption, Serezha heard Astrata’s slight whisper, We best get to sleep. I’ll. . .see you in the morning, I guess?

    Sleep? He asked her. Although a good idea, I’m not so sure I’ll be able to fall asleep, especially not after what Stone-Fist just dropped on us. He decided to hold his tongue about vampires, as he realized he did not have anything constructive to add. Aye, Astrata, he started, I’ll see you in the morning. It’s not like I’m going anywhere. He paused. Yet. He smiled at that last word, then said, Have a good sleep. Something tells me we’ll surely need it.

    He nodded at her, then commenced to make himself as comfortable as possible, given the circumstances. Precious sleep took a while to come to the troubled Breton, but it eventually embraced him.

    “Why did you lie to the woman?”

    “Oh no,” Serezha thought, “not that voice again.” He chose to ignore the Deathbell for the moment, hoping the blossom was a dream within a dream. No such luck, he was quick to learn.

    “Well?”

    “Look,” the Breton began, “if you already know I lied to her, you must also know I eventually told her the truth.” He scowled at the flower, though being in a dream state, he wasn’t sure he was able to pull it off effectively.

    “I realize that, but why did you lie to her in the first place?” the Deathbell inquired.

    “Why don’t you already know this? You seem to know everything else,” Serezha snapped.

    “Because Volchenkov, I would like to hear your reasoning directly,” was its retort.

    Serezha sighed, then ran his hands through his hair. Or at least he thought he did, but he wasn’t sure. “Very well,” he stated. “I lied to her because I don’t trust people. And I definitely don’t trust people who are in the same prison as me. Makes sense really, as I’m not exactly the most trustworthy person either.” He paused, then said, “Satisfied?”

    “For now, Volchenkov, for now,” replied the Deathbell, already fading from vision. (end dream sequence)


    The Breton stirred in his sleep, wondering how far away dawn was.
     
  19. Minstrel

    Minstrel Queen of Evil

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    Astrata opted to sleep upright, with her head resting against one wall of her cell. She felt less vulnerable that way - not to mention the uneven floor would leave her back in agony come morning, and that was the last thing she needed. It was strange to think that tomorrow could well be the last day she walked the lands of Tamriel, as a mortal at least. Having never lifted a weapon in her life she wondered how she would face the dangers of the wild. What if they were attacked by a wolf or a bear?

    Closing her eyes the girl attempted to push these thoughts aside. They would have to cross that bridge when they got to it, and she needed to remember that is was they as opposed to she. Instead, Astrata thought about the past. Not the death of an innocent man at her hands - although that most certainly did cross her mind - but of happier times in her life. Admittedly there weren't many, but the few happy memories she did have were of her mother. She remembered the times they had been allowed outside, how they had picked flowers together, laid in the grass and sang. She missed it.

    Soon she was taken away to a land where time had no place, and happiness reigned. She ran through vast fields with her mother as they laughed and sang for what could have been an eternity. But even in land with no sense of time, things must come to an end...

    ***​

    "Rise and shine, prisoners!" A deep voice bellowed, waking Astrata suddenly. "Sorry to wake you so abruptly, but I have business to attend in Riften."

    Astrata opened her eyes and was blinded at first by the light of torches that lit the jail. It took a moment for her blurred vision to become clear, and she soon found herself looking at Stone-Fist, who stood outside of her and Serezha's cells.

    "I'm going to need your answer now. I want be sure that the coven is being taken care of while I am away."
     
  20. dunklunk

    dunklunk You seem a decent fellow. I hate to die.

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    That voice. That voice caught the Breton’s attention, which snapped him out of his sleep-state and back to reality, such as it were. That voice sounded like he’d heard it before, or perhaps it was the prison’s natural echo. Whatever it was, that voice woke him up, and his stomach immediately tied itself into knots, knowing his decision would have to be made real soon.

    Rise and shine, prisoners! that voice bellowed. Sorry to wake you so abruptly, but I have business to attend in Riften. No, so much for the echo, thought Serezha. Stone-Fist has returned, as he said he would.

    I’m going to need your answer now, Galmar continued. I want to be sure that the coven is being taken care of while I am away.

    The Breton raised himself from the floor, swallowing hard while knowing he was soon to face his tormentor. Oddly enough, that same tormentor was granting him and Astrata a chance at freedom, with a catch of course. Nothing in this world is free, he thought.

    Aye, Stone-Fist, Serezha began, we’ll do your bidding. Unlike the last time they met, only a single guard accompanied the Nord. Galmar merely nodded, then kept nodding, a troublesome grin spreading across his face. Good, he simply replied, good, Volchenkov. Following a wave of his hand, the guard stepped forward to unlock the cell door.

    Now then, Galmar began, not even hesitating, once you and Kest regain your bearings and feel you are ready, meet me at the blacksmith’s quarters. I trust you know where it is. And Volchenkov? Don’t keep me waiting. He rubbed his chin and started to chuckle as it seemed only he could, then continued, Remember those expert hunters and trackers I mentioned previously? They are already somewhere in the city, watching your every move. So please, do make sure you two show up. That chuckle returned, and Serezha had to endure it until Stone-Fist and the guard were completely out of the prison.

    * * * * * *​

    A short while later, Astrata and Serezha emerged from the dungeon, rubbing their eyes at the brilliance of bright sunshine. Can’t recall the last time I saw the sun, the Breton thought, clearly enjoying the sun’s warmth. Still squinting, the pair meandered their way to the blacksmith’s quarters. Neither needed directions as they both knew the lay of the city. Throughout their brief journey through the streets of Windhelm, he noticed Astrata remained silent. Serezha glanced at every single person they passed, wondering if they were anywhere near a hunter of Galmar’s. Finally, their destination came into view, and sure enough, Stone-Fist and his guard were already there.

    The recently released prisoners stopped and stood in front of the pair of Nords. All Stone-Fist did was hold out his left hand, palm opened. The guard next to him quietly placed a handful of Septims into that hand, which prompted more sI'm a racist asshole who doesn't understand boundaries, respect, or basic human decency and I need helping from Galmar. Nodding toward the guard, he then said, Lars here bet that you two wouldn’t show up. It warms my heart to know he was wrong. The Breton took note of how Stone-Fist seemed to relish laying on the sarcasm.

    With no response of any kind forthcoming from Astrata or Serezha, Galmar continued. Inside you’ll find your armor and weapons. You are free to choose as many weapons as you can carry, or think you can use effectively. Within reason, of course. The Nord winked at the pair, then went on. As a bonus of sorts, all of your gear, whether it’s armor or weapons is forged from silver. He purposely paused, allowing that last bit of information about silver to sink in. That’s right, Volchenkov, all of it is silver. Question is, do you put quality gear like that to use, or do you turn around and sell it? Could turn quite a profit after all.

    The Breton was beginning to really hate this man, believing that he purposely threw that temptation about silver into the mix. He couldn’t recall clearly when he last indulged in skooma, and that was the whole point. Best not dwell on that right now, he told himself.

    Yes, yes, Stone-Fist went on, obviously enjoying the situation and the conundrum now facing Serezha. I’m not quite sure whether Kest would be eager to pawn all that silver, but you Volchenkov? I just wish I could be there to witness your struggles. With that, Galmar and his guard started to walk away, never looking back. The Breton watched the pair’s exit, not noticing the lone, robed figure standing by the forge, merely staring at Astrata and Serezha.
     
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