He had often heard that right before you die your life will flash before your eyes.
To be fair, that statement wasn’t entirely false. However, it didn’t exactly happen in the way everyone had described. There was no burst of memories overflowing every single one of his senses, filling him with either a sense of satisfaction or regret. And, again to be fair, the memories and regret were there, but really it was more akin to looking back. Looking back and wondering just how he had gotten himself in this whole mess. Wondering how he, a Wood Elf, had been mistaken for a Stormcloak. Wondering how he even ended up here in Skyrim.
And when they asked who he was, he found himself wondering the same thing.
But, figuring no one would even remember whatever answer he did give; he straightened himself up and announced, in a voice that made him seem more far important than he actually was, “I am Zeno, of Bruma.”
The Lorleius family was never really that influential. They did own a small tobacco farm on the outskirts of Bruma, leaving them better off than some. But, it was quite difficult to make a steady profit when the owner, Ingdor Loreius, smoked half of the product they grew.
The family was large, having many children in an attempt to get some cheap workers. Although in the end a good amount of the older children had to watch after their younger children instead, leaving them with just more mouths to feed in the end.
But it was a cold night, early into First Seed and only a short while after the Great War had ended, when he had joined their already overflowing household. The mother of the family, an always tired-looking Imperial woman with straw-colored hair, received word that an old friend of hers would be coming to visit; a friend she had lost contact with sometime after her engagement. However, this was not the happy reunion she had anticipated. The Bosmer woman came in the dead of night cradling a small elven babe, looking no more than two or three, begging her to watch the child until she returned.
But she never did.
Her husband was not particularly happy with them being left with the little bosmeri brat, and thus did his best segregate the child from the rest of the household. Usually leaving him in the pantry most days, that is, until the boy was old enough to reach the door handles. Only then was he allowed to wander about, but only as long as he stayed out of the way.
Despite the constant complaining from her husband she kept her word to her friend and watched as the elven boy became a young man.
The end of the day was met with a dull plodding of hooves on the dirt road. The brown mare steadily made her way to the front gate. Her rider, a finely dressed old nord that carried an air of importance, glanced around, surveying the lot.
“Olav Silverchaser!” The owner of the sad little farm cried as he nearly leapt off the front porch to greet the visitor. “It’s such a pleasure to have you here sir! I-I’m so sorry, I didn’t expect you to be coming over today, otherwise I would’ve better prepared-” he paused, suddenly whipping his head around to shout: “Egil! Come over here boy, and tend to Mr. Silverchasers’s horse!” his eldest jolted up from the chair he was currently lounging in and came rushing down the dry old path with a brush in one hand and a bucket of feed in the other.
“Sir, why don’t we take this conversation inside?” Ingdor said, leading his guest to the front door of the house, opening it only to be met with a kitchen filled with stacks of day old bowls of stew that still needed to be cleaned. The guest very noticeably wrinkled his nose in disgust. “Edda!” Ingdor barked at his wife who was currently preparing a slab of meat far too small to possibly feed their entire family “I thought I told you to clean this mess up!”
“I haven’t had any time to!” she retorted wiping her hands on her already stained apron in an attempt to look at least somewhat presentable. “Good evening, Mr. Silverchaser, can I get you anything? Some brandy perhaps?”
“No, I’m afraid I have many other places I have to be today,” he said, looking off for a moment as if pondering to sit before quickly deciding against it. “I’ve simply come to inform the two of you that Torhilde’s Debutante is canceled.”
It was apparent from Ingdor’s express that he was having trouble processing the news. This party was his one chance at getting this family to be more than a bunch of tobacco farmers. Egil was around Torhilde’s age, and if he could possibly get them to marry it would earn them a much higher standing in Bruma. It was crazy, a Nord noblewoman marrying an Imperial farmboy, but it was his only hope. It couldn’t be canceled.
“C-canceled?” he finally choked out “Sir, a debutante is a crucial night in a esteemed young woman’s life! You- you can’t just cancel it.”
“But that is precisely why I am canceling it. A nasty case of the shakes has recently passed through the estate, leaving us horribly understaffed. I simply could not maintain a proper party for her, so I’ve decided it’d be better to go without.”
“S-sir, it’s just-” he began but was interrupted by the squeaking sound of the backdoor. From the small hallway behind Edda emerged a black-eyed, brunet elf carrying two beaten rucksacks, one tossed over his shoulder and the other hanging loosely at his side.
“... Am I interrupting something?” he said, noticing the company.
“No, no! It’s fine.” Edda hastily took the bag from his hands and poured the contents out onto the counter before Ingdor could so much as open his mouth. “Thank you, dear.”
“Yes now,” Her husband huffed. “would you kindly leave-”
“Are these Landacres apples?” the guest asked making his way over to the counter to examine the produce.
“They fertilize their orchards with ash imported all the way from Morrowind, making their apples much more crisp and sweeter than their competitors. I was unaware you could afford such things...”
“Oh! O-of course!” Ingdor responded desperately trying his best to hide his ignorance of the fruit’s origins. “Apples from anywhere else are… are rubbish!” the nord simply nodded, placing the apple back in its place as he turned to the Imperial couple.
“Well anway; Ingdor, Edda, my apologies for having to leave just as soon as I came but as I said, I have many more places to be today, good day to you both.” he said giving a quick bow before exiting.
“S-sir! Wait!” Ingdor yelled, pushing past his wife to follow the nobleman, causing some of the produce to roll off the counter and hit the floor.
“And just like that he’s gone and bruised them already,” Edda muttered, struggling to lower herself to pick them up as, despite being in her mid-forties, she was with child once again. “Ah well, I suppose I could just cut off the brown parts anyway…” she said, placing them back in their spots.
“Oh, before I forget, here’s your change.” the Bosmer dug into one his pockets, pulled out a fat little coin purse and handed it to her, she immediately began counting the contents. “Welp, I think I’m gonna head-”
“Zeno.” She said in a tone that instantly told him he was in trouble “This is the exact amount that I gave you to start with.”
“Ah, yes so it is,” he nodded, nervously wringing his hands. “Would you, uh, would you believe me if I told you that they were on sale?”
“No, I would not.”
“You really need to stop this.” she stated bluntly, dropping the bag onto the counter. “You’re going to get yourself caught one of these days.”
“You’ve been saying that for years now.”
“I have, because it’s true.”
“Well, until that day comes I guess we all will be eating really good apples.” he said proceeding to head for the back door, but not before snatching up one of the apples from the counter, and taking a sizable bite.
Hopping down the back stairs he made his way to the coop, where a small group of chickens were huddled around the entrance, mindlessly pecking at bits of seed still left on the ground. Gently nudging a few out of the way he squeezed through the door and up the ladder positioned in the middle of the coop that led to the small loft above.
Plopping down onto the crudely made-bed, he rummaged through the bag to sort through what he had all ‘obtained’ today. The first thing he pulled out being a ceramic plate, decorated with illustrations of thistle branches, and almost a whole set of silverware.
He pondered whether or not he could convince one of the older children to sell them on their next trip to the Imperial city, since anything involving table manners was basically lost to Nords in Bruma. However, the more he thought about it he realized the original owner was probably looking for a replacement, and if he could just erase the already faded flowers he may be able to provide said ‘replacement’.
Setting the dish aside he dug out a long maroon-colored bottle filled with liquid, most likely wine. However, not being able to read the label made it difficult to decipher exactly what it was without opening it. He bite into the cork with his sharper teeth and tugged back until it finally popped off. It definitely smelled like wine, having a faint fruity aroma and, after taking a quick swig, he confirmed that is was indeed wine, albeit not a very good kind. It tasted as though it had been watered down multiple times, and the little flavor that it had was unpleasantly bitter.
He considered giving it to Ingdor, trying to pass it off as some fancy expensive wine that he could flaunt. Though Ingdor would probably suspect something the moment he offered it to them, so he decided it was best to keep it.
Taking one last swig of the wine, just to confirm that it did indeed taste about as good drinking the slush of the side of the road, he pulled a pelt of some kind from the bottom of the bag. It was of poor quality to put it bluntly, he couldn’t even tell what animal it was from. The fur was rough and matted, and the with the way it was cut he wouldn’t be surprised if the animal it was taken from was still alive and actively trying to fight off the hunter. He was probably doing the owner a favor by taking it of their hands, but now he had no idea what to do with it.
Suddenly an idea struck, and he threw it over his shoulders, striking a dramatic pose for the hens down below.
“What d’ya think ladies?” he called down to them. Few of the chickens even acknowledged him, and those that did simple cocked their head at him in confused manner then returned to their chickenly schedules. “You girls have no sense of fashion!” he scoffed, shoving the fur back into the bag and throwing it against the wall, almost tripping off the loft when it made a sudden loud clanging sound upon contact.
The hens frantically began flapping around in response to the sound. In an attempt to calm them he lept down, dug into one of the bags of corn feed, and gently sprinkled it in front of them. Making small clicking noise with his tongue to beckon them over. A couple of them took the offering, but many had already bolted out the door.
Making sure to leave a small pile of corn for the others when they came back, he returned to the loft to investigate what caused the noise. At the bottom of the bag was a jointed piece of metal he only vaguely remembered grabbing from a stand selling relics. It was a golden color, but apparently stronger than gold as he saw no dents on it. Turning it over in his hands he noticed a oily residue left on his hands.
Before he could investigate the metal further he noticed the lights inside the house begin to flicker off for the night and figured that he should also turn in before Ingdor came and yelled at him for keeping the chickens up or something of a similar nature. He wiped his hand on his pants and gathered up all the things he had taken out of the bag, placing them in a scratch-riddled dresser, before he flopped back down onto the bed; letting the effects of the wine sink in.
While he doesn’t exactly remember falling asleep, he definitely remembers waking up. As it began with someone firmly grabbing him by the ankle and yanking him off the loft, his head hitting the dirt floor of the coop before he could even comprehend what was happening. But through the haze of chicken feathers and dust he could see Ingdor standing over him, inches away from his face. And ,with a wild grin, the man simply stated:
“You are going to be serving at the Silverchaser’s party.”