He stops and turns round one last time in front of the door. As if saying, ‘this is your last chance to take back what you said’. She doesn’t look him in the eye, but she just has this feeling, just knows that he’s crying, eyes red and cheeks blushed. Or about to, at least. She’d rather not look and find out which, staring intensely at the fire instead.
‘Are you really going to go through with this, Avelyn?’ he says. He doesn’t hide the defeated, disgusted tone in his voice.
She wants to get up from her seat, run towards him, force herself in front of the door, tell him that of course she wouldn’t do it, it was insane, it was madness-and also would be one of the greatest crimes ever recorded in all of Tamriel.
‘Is there nothing I can do to stop you?’
She wants him to stop her. But he can’t. There’s nothing he could do now. She knew that if she gave in to her emotions, even for a second, they’d both be dead in a heartbeat.
When did it come down to this?
‘…Then I’ll be leaving then.’ He turns back to face the door.
He had to go. He had to. Avelyn forces herself to maintain her cool, indifferent posture, pushes back the tears bubbling in her eyes, keeps her voice steady, even though on the inside she just wants to scream. Scream how she had no choice…
But to let him go.
The door slams shut, and in the blink of a moment, he’s gone.
Last Seed, 4E 200
The girl wakes up with a terrible ache in her head, as if someone was beating away at her brain with a drum. The world looks fuzzy and she raises her hands upon spotting the bright candelabra hanging atop the grey stone room. After a pause to allow her eyes to adjust, she inspects her hands.
She doesn’t recognise them.
Taking in deep breaths, she tries to calm herself down as she sits on the edge of the cold single bed, turning the-her-hands over and back again. It’s fine. It’ll come back to me, she thinks as she carefully picks up the clothes neatly placed on the ground beside her repose-upon spreading out the clothes she is rather dismayed to find more than few large holes in it. The rats had obviously been at it. She picks up a scrap of paper left on top of the rags, which simply says: ‘For Avelyn. –Your dear friend, M.’
So I guess that answers the name issue, she thinks dryly, rubbing her head. I still have no idea where I am though. Or who I am.
Putting on the clothes and a pair of worn shoes on the side, she realises that she hasn’t even had a chance to look at herself yet. She also realises there is no one else in the room, which contains six other identical beds to hers. Although there is no one around, there are signs that they have been recently occupied. Feeling a sudden wash of uneasiness pass over her, she clambers to her feet unsteadily and walks over to a nearby chest. Hoisting it open hopefully, she finds a small bag of gold pieces and an iron sword.
Tentatively picking up the sword, she holds it in her hands. She has a faint recollection of using swords, but is irritated at the fact that she can’t quite remember how to use them. It was as if something in her brain was blocking the answer, just out of reach, and with it her entire memory of who she was. She jabs it through the air, hoping to get a sense or just something that could help her remember, and nearly stabs her toe in the process. Avelyn decides it’s best to just leave the sword be for the moment, and carefully sheathes it by her side, along with the gold purse.
Now to figure out where she was.
As quietly as possible, she pushes the large double doors at the back of the room, bracing herself as the cool wind blows into the room, threatening to extinguish the lit candles on the ceiling. Outside, the moon seemed ethereal, cloaked in a fine mist which only surrounded the moon during the late summer. So that meant it could only be Last Seed. Grabbing a random cloak hanging on the wall and a lantern hanging next to it, Avelyn stepped out into the courtyard, hoping to find a horse or something that could get her away from this place.
She immediately regretted having ever done so.
As if bound by some terrible magic, the skeletons patrolling the walls of the fort were drawn to the sudden movement at the door, and immediately caught sight of Avelyn. These purple-tinged minions then alerted their masters of the intruder, who turned instantly hostile before she had a chance to explain herself. Not like there was much she could talk about.
She had little time to react as the skeletons drew up their bows, giving off an ominous creaking noise as their bones broke as they move, only kept together by the power of the necromancers controlling them. She ran as fast as she could without falling over (which wasn’t very fast given her state) towards what looked like the stables, where-
Yes! There was a horse already tacked up and ready to go. Now, if only she could remember how to ride a horse-
Avelyn’s legs went numb as the horse turned to face her. At first, nothing appeared out of the normal. It wasn’t dead, for starters.
But the eyes. They were glassy, with no pupils. And the horse had turned its head too quickly. As if-as if it knew-
As if it knew she was going to be there already.
Stifling a scream, she scrambled to turn the other way as the horse shook its mane and started biting on its leash which kept it rooted in the stable. She heard an arrow whizz past her and thanked the gods-Shorne? Shor? (God, I can’t even remember that! What’s wrong with me?) for her sorry luck as she ran through the battlements and past the gate, necromancers shouting in her wake. At one point she nearly ran headfirst into a skeleton, and she was sure she would have fainted from just the sight of one alone.
Seeing vague shapes that resembled stones in a road, she blindly turned left and blasted down the path as fast as she could. Her fear of death and becoming a necromancer’s plaything overrides her rising panic as she realises that she still recognises nothing in her surroundings. Soon. It’ll come back to me, soon…
In the distance, she heard a sudden crack!, the sound of timber breaking, and the galloping of hooves. From afar, they sounded like the chimes of death, and Avelyn ran even faster, so terrified she didn’t dare look back at the possessed horse. Was it alive? Was it dead? It didn’t matter. She needed to leave.
Avelyn didn’t know how far she went-it seemed like leagues, but the moon hardly moved from its position, with no sight of dawn nearing. No matter how fast she ran, it seemed like the horses’ hooves were never far behind.
The stony path turned onto a straight than ran for leagues and leagues. She would never be able to escape in such open view. Panicking, she clambered over to the side of the road, behind a small raise in the land covered with dense brushes and grass. Avelyn clasped her hands to her mouth as the possessed horse galloped near, before coming to a halt. She closed her eyes, praying desperately to whatever gods were out there for her safety as the horse sniffed the air, slowly trotting round towards her hiding spot. Oh God oh God oh God-
There was silence, for a second.
Then, an uproarious whinny as the horse caught sight of her. Avelyn bent her elbows inwards to cover her face, screaming at the top of her lungs and wishing it would be enough to scare the horse away as it raced towards her, about to trample her and-
The world seemed to stop all at once. The humming of torchbugs, and the faint whispering of the wind, even the possessed horse’s breath all stopped. Avelyn still didn’t dare to open her eyes. Seconds passed.
Then, she heard the sound of hooves-no longer rushed and forceful, breaking the earth beneath them with each impact, but gentler with no sense of purpose, slowly trotting away the way it came. The torchbugs started again as well, but even they sounded somehow more peaceful then their insistent buzzing beforehand.
After a few more seconds she finally summoned up the courage to open her eyes. For sure, the horse that had moments before nearly ran her over was now walking away as if nothing had ever happened. She almost thought to run and check, but decided that was a stupid idea. The thing that surprised her most was the mysterious green aura that hung over it as it walked. Looking round for the torchbugs, she found the same mysterious aura hanging around them, although significantly smaller on them. What just happened? Whatever it was, she didn’t want to hang around the horse any longer. Avelyn wearily rose to her feet, suddenly feeling the full brunt of her exhaustion from running all night. When was the last time she ate or drank? The panic of getting away had made forget the gnawing hunger that seeped into her bones, and her mouth was dry. Maybe it had something to do with the scream from earlier…
She plodded on despondently down the straight, turning left where the terrain started to become steeper, snow starting to fall in soft plumes. Although she recognised it, she had a sense that, even with her lost memory, she had never seen snow before. She definitely hadn’t imagined it to be this cold, wrapping her thin cloak around her and wishing she had looked for proper clothes before escaping the warmth of the fort.
After about an hour of walking, with the road only becoming more inhospitable with the snow falling thicker and thicker, Avelyn saw little point in walking any further, with still no sign of any human life. She sat down on a felled log, partially protected from the onslaught of snow by the standing trees in the forest, and discovered a small puddle formed from snowmelt lying in front of her.
Gently, she took off her cloak’s hood, uncovering her dishevelled hair. Not quite knowing what to expect, she slowly knelt down beside the puddle and looked down.
The face of a stranger stared back at her. She was young, she got that much-probably not even twenty yet, practically a child. There were no lines on her face, although it was dirty with mud, as well as having bags under her eyes, probably from her lack of sleep. Snow lay in a thin layer atop her platinum blonde hair, which was probably naturally wavy, though it was so dishevelled right now that she couldn’t quite be certain in the dim light.
But her eyes.
Her eyes were purple, a deep, bright violet. When she stared deep into them, they seemed to go on forever, fathomlessly. Something was hidden in those eyes, some hidden power she couldn’t see or reach. She felt like she should recognise them, and yet she had no recollection of ever seeing anything like it. She couldn’t even recognise who she was after seeing her own reflection.
Avelyn had a sudden sense of emptiness. She had no idea who she was, could remember nothing but what had just happened after she had woken up and remembered basic things like some God’s names and the White-Gold Concordat that had been signed a few years before she was born, but couldn’t remember how she felt about them, and what religion she aligned herself with, if anyone at all. Rumours of a civil war flicked through her mind, but she just couldn’t remember anything about it. Why is this happening to me? Am I ever going to remember? Why do I have no clue of who I am? She continued to kneel there, staring at the reflection of a person she didn’t know. She felt tears roll down her cheeks, streaks of heat in the chilling cold.
Why did it have to be me?
Who is Avelyn? Certainly not the person staring down at the reflection currently. That Avelyn had hopes, dreams and relationships with people this Avelyn wouldn’t blink twice at. Memories of the past and plans for the future. She wasn’t dazed and confused, barely even recognising themselves. At that point in time, she had never felt more lost and alone. She would never return to her former self, and thus, she would never regain her former memories. She’d just be this shell of a person, hiding under the persona of Avelyn. If Avelyn was even her real name-it’s not like she would have actually remembered it if not for the note next to the clothes.
Which reminded her…Your dear friend, M. Brushing back her tears angrily, she tried to focus, picturing someone dear to her with the letter ‘M’ in their name. Was it a relative? A sister, brother? A friend she didn’t remember? Her parents maybe? For some reason she didn’t even have the faintest recollection of her parents. Maybe she was an orphan. Yet no matter how hard she tried, nothing came to mind. Exhausted and starved, sleep quickly overtook her senses, and she collapsed by the side of the puddle, with still no sense of her who she could be.
Not much later, a light, at first dim, then brighter, flickers into view, startling Avelyn awake. ‘Avel-!’
‘Who are you?’ She realised how much she’d missed humanity in the one night she could remember. Dawn was rising over the treetops, a pale orange sky beckoning on the horizon.
The person rushes into view, carrying a torch. He’s wearing all black, making him hard to spot in the pale light, with mid-length reddy-brown hair reaching his neck. His face is a picture of infinite worry and suddenly, Avelyn has the sense that she has met this person before. ‘Ave-Are you alright?’ he cries, running down beside her and raising her up to a sitting position. He grabs her hand, not unkindly. ‘You’re freezing,’ he says.
‘How do you know my name?’
‘I-No, I was saying are you alright? Damn, if you’re hearing things then this must be-‘
‘No, I didn’t hear you wrong. I just thought you were saying Avelyn.’ His face looks surprised for a second, as if hearing her talk for the first time.
‘That’s my name.’ she says flatly.
The man seems to recover at that, shaking his head, before giving a wry grin. ‘Just Avelyn? No surname or anything?’ He’s still smiling, but the emptiness she felt before runs up and down her spine again, giving her shivers.
‘I-I don’t know it.’ He stares at her as if she had spoken another language. Embarrassed, she stutters out, ‘I-I can’t remember. I just woke up in this castle somewhere down the road, and there were necromancers outside, and-and possessed horses and skeletons and I just ra-'
‘Woah woah woah, I’m going to stop you right there, lass. A fort with necromancers just down the road? How did you end up in Fort Snowhawk, of all places?’ There’s an underlying, knowing tone in his voice.
‘Fort Snowhawk? Haven’t you heard of it? Famous for being a decrepit ruin of a fort. Some Empress or fancy lady used to reside down a few centuries ago, but little remains save a few necromancers as you mentioned. What were you doing there? Nobody just ends up in Fort Snowhawk of their own will.’
Fort Snowhawk. She had no memory of anything with that name…but somehow it felt important. Thankfully a sudden rumble from her stomach reminded her of her hunger and made sure she didn’t have to come up with a reply just yet.
‘But what am I doing, meeting a lass out in the forest and all I do is pile her with questions? Let’s get you to Morthal, lil’ ‘Lady Snowhawk’,’ picking her up and carrying her in his arms before she has time to react or even realise what’s going on. Her limbs feel numb. The man places one of his hands gently on her forehead, before inhaling suddenly. ‘You’re coming down with a fever, lass. Any longer out here and you might have…’ His words die off. She waves the issue away with a flick of her hand. She doesn’t really care anymore, at this point.
‘It doesn’t matter…What’s your name, ranger?’
Another smile. It seems more forced this time. ‘I’m more of a thief by nature, lass-not ironically speaking. And my name?’ There’s a pause. He looks at her intensely for a few moments, as if waiting for something, but when there’s no response, he simply says,
‘The name’s Brynjolf. Pleasure making your acquaintance, Lady Snowhawk.’
Snowhawk. It has a nice ring to it, she thought, giving in to the temptation of sleep. On the horizon, the first stray rays of light strike through the trees, as the start of a new day begins.