Chapter 1: The Troll was wary of the little creature
The Troll lived in a cave, which it hated: it was damp and shady and the scent was foul.
The Troll was content with its solitude however, disgusted by the ugliness it only could see in the world.
But one day, there was a sabre cat cub at the mouth of his cave.
And though the Troll tried, the cub wouldn't leave him.
Troel, son of Snaric, was behind his back called the Troll.
Though it suited him enough, his face messed up in the Civil War by Imperial soldier's mace, and his freakish strength accompanied with hunching form, the Nord did not appreciate the nickname. And he made it clear to those who were stupid enough to throw the insult at his face.
Usually it was the scum in Riften, thieves, drug dealers or violent drunkards who Troel had to deal with as a city guard. With these people he didn't need to bite his teeth and held back, as Riften was what it was.
A corrupted shithole of Skyrim, dressed pretty by the surrounding, eternal autumn like scenery and in sunlight glistening body of water.
The Nord felt it as a great mockery to Mara, Goddess of Love, that her temple lies almost at the center of this city.
Not to mention the orphanage. That bloody orphanage...
But why wouldn't the mean looking Nord leave then, if he hated the place so much? Tired of seeing the suffering of hard working people pressured by the Thieves Guild and Jarl Maven Black-Briar?
...Because Riften was still the only place, that Troel felt some familiarity and reassurance with.
After the Civil War, he really couldn't think any other place where to go.
He had been just a Stormcloak soldier, nothing noticeable as he had wanted it that way. Keeping his head down, doing the killing when needed and just surviving. Sure there had been sense of pride and protecting his country's freedom, at first.
But as the War had raged on and on for more than three years, the glamour quickly faded.
Especially when Troel started to see the flaws of his comrades, of his leader and of their ideology.
Skyrim belongs to the Nords.
How he had come to despise that sentence.
In Riften at least most of the people were equally shitty and underprivileged, despite of their race or starting point. In that sense, Riften was more fair than the rest of the Skyrim.
Plus the climate was pleasant most of the year, thanks to the warming volcano's at Morrowind and then the north mountains blocking the sea's coldness.
Today it was heavily raining. And despite needing to make some patrolling, Troel stood under a roof near the market place.
Dressed in his guard gear, the Nord looked at the almost empty place, ignited street lanterns gently swaying on the occasionally passing wind.
Another city guard appeared to stand next to him.
"Not making your routes?" asked a Nord woman behind her helmet.
"It ain't my problem, if someone's stupid enough to go into the back alleys."
The place was Riften, after all.
"...I'll tell Jornfull."
Troel glared through his helmet's visor. She didn't budge. She could stand against him in a fight, and he knew it too.
"Bitch", the Nord man grumble while pushing himself away from the wall.
Taking his lantern off the ground he stalked to the back alley's, behind apartment buildings and the temple.
If he was gonna get jumped on today, he wouldn't give warning, just hack them in self-defense. Just couple of less shitbags stinking the place then.
It seemed however no-one was gonna try their luck tonight, as he walked with the lantern, other hand on the hilt of his sword.
Someone else was less lucky that night though.
Suddenly couple of small figures ran past him ahead, making the Nord startle and snarl: "Hey!"
Raising his lantern he figured it had been two kids, running away.
Frowning Troel glanced at the direction which they had come from. He remembered it to be a dead end, between two houses. A popular place to trick gullible victims into.
...He mulled about it, before deciding to do his damn job. He started heading into the narrow alleyway, senses high on alert if this was after all a trap to him.
At the end of the alley, hand grabbing tightly onto his sword, Troel looked around.
Nothing seemed weird. The alley was stinking, piles of abandoned garbage here and there. Nothing amiss...
Reflexly he pulled out his sword when seeing a suspicious movement on a corner. A bloody skeever here?!
No. The thing whimpered, flinched away and started crying in a voice of a child.
Hearing the voice Troel put away his sword, staring.
Then getting over the shock, knowing that Riften in children can be just as dangerous as adults, he demanded.
"What are you doing here?"
The child quietened down but did not stop sobbing.
Thinking about the kids who had run away earlier, and now this kid here, Troel stepped closer.
In the light he saw the scared child was in fact a Khajiit cub. Dirty and beaten up looking. But their clothes were... Good quality. Not noble, but not a beggar neither.
"U... Urada. Urada. Afa", the child whimpered while covering their head with their arms, their spotted tail curled against trembling body. The tail's head looked to be twisted in a painful angle.
Looking over his shoulder through the rain, the Nord not seeing anyone, he looked back down at the child. Swallowing he spoke in Ta'agra.
"It fine. Safe", he tried, digging through the memories for forgotten learnings of the language.
The child opened a bit, looking with wide green eyes.
Troel nodded, crouching in front of the cub.
And the child immediately started to cry, speaking in a way he did not understand.
"Rest", he said while raising hand in the gesture. The Khajiit did not stop, continuing to cry noisily.
Irritated and alerted by someone possibly coming, meaning trouble to him, the Nord blowed.
The child stopped, staring at him. Huffing, lowering his hand Troel gestured behind him.
The Khajiit shook their head.
So, growling, Troel approached and grabbed the shrieking cub by one arm, hollering them up to stand. The child whimpered, weakly pulling their hand back and not putting weight to their left foot.
Ignoring their struggling Troel pointed with the lantern briefly.
Stopping from pulling the Khajiit cub nodded, shivering from being wet in the cool evening.
Grimacing in annoyance, the Nord then with one hand snatched the child into his arm, snarling as they started panicking: "Rest."
And the Khajiit child went completely silent, trembling fingers with claws digging into his dark blue cloth wrapped around his armored body.
Turning around then, raising his lantern, the guard of Riften started walking away from the dead end and from the back alleys. He raised up the back stairs that lead into the temple of Mara.
At the backdoor, hands full, he glanced down at the child. Still with wide green eyes they were staring from the door to him.
Guess they didn't have any clue where he was taking them, Troel imagined.
"Rest", he tried to calm the cub.
And then he kicked the door hard, tightening his hold on the jumping child.
"This is the guard! Open the door!" he yelled, very aware how the child in his arm was terrified and properly wanted to escape from his grip.
Sighing, he looked down at the Khajiit.
"Sorry", he tried.
And to his amazement the child calmed down, staring, then nodded to him.
The door then opened to ajar, dark skinned man cautiously looking.
"Finally Maramal", Troel muttered while rudely pushing in out of the rain and darkness.
"Troel, what is the meaning of this", the Redguard demanded while the Nord put down the lantern, turning towards then. "And who is this?"
"Found it", the guard simply answered, taking the tense child by under their armpits and offered them. "Take them."
"What?" Maramal questioned, not taking the child, looking from them to the Nord.
Lowering the child, though not completely letting their weight onto their legs, Troel spoke: "The fuck do I know, I found this kid on a backalley. They are hurt and parents probably dead, so would you in the name of Mara fix them?!"
Couple of more priests came into the room, confused and looking at the terrified looking Khajiit child and the grumbling Nord.
Feeling the child starting to panic in his hands, Troel sternly said down at them: "Rest."
The cub stopped squirming.
Finally getting Maramal to heal the cub, Troel watched standing next to the bed where the Khajiit was sitting on the edge.
In now better lightning, Troel could see better.
It was likely the Khajiit was a girl, very young, maybe no older than eight summers. Her mucky, flattened fur was blackish brown, with few white and orange spots, white dots like freckles going across her face under eyes. And she did have fancy clothes, not too fancy though, looked more like a merchant's child. Khajiit caravan then? Troel hadn't heard any of that, no traveling groups that other guards would have warned about.
And they didn't let groups in, individual maybe if it was a good day.
"You speak Ta'agra", Maramal questioned him while healing with spell first the small wounds on the beaten Khajiit girl.
"A little", the Nord shrugged, remembering he still had the helmet on. It now started to irritate, feeling damp inside. He went to take it off, but with hands raising towards the sides of his helmet, the cub looked at him.
...So he then pretended to stretch his heavy arms, cutting Maramal's more asking sentence in half.
"None of you priests don't speak then?"
"I'm afraid so. Not many Khajiit, who can't speak the common, come to us."
"Well no wonder", Troel muttered quietly, watching as the girl's black and white tufted ears twitched.
"So I guess you need to work as our translator here, so we can understand what has happened to this poor-"
"No", Troel spoke, arms crossed over his chest. He squinted his eyes at the surprised priest. "I did my duty, brought her here and that's it. I ain't gonna stay. I need to finish my patrol."
Which by now probably was taken by another guard, Troel's shift over. Nonetheless, he wasn't going to get anymore deep into this situation than was-
"You found this child", Maramal started, standing from crouching and scolding the guard. "And when most of Riften probably would have passed, you too most likely, but you didn't. You brought her here-"
Troel was already hearing it coming.
"-to Mara's temple. I think Mara led-"
"Oh stop, right there", Troel huffed with raised hand. Snarling: "If Mara was fucking loving and all that shit, she wouldn't have let this kid get lost in this city all alone and beaten."
Maramal was silent, oozing spite towards the mocking words.
Good. Maybe the priest would get the hint.
And Troel could leave and continue without more of disturbance.
As he was walking towards the door however, the starting ruckus behind made him pause and turn around.
"Afa! Afa khioh!" the girl cried out, trying to walk after him as Malamar tried gently to hold the Khajiit back by her shoulders.
"Wait, it is okay child."
The girl repeated, Troel understanding couple of words and then figuring out the rest by how she was behaving.
She was asking him not to leave her.
The Nord lifted his hand in stopping motion, saying: "Rest."
The Khajiit halted, staring at him with sad, round and wide eyes. Begging him not to go.
Chapter 2: But no matter what it wouldn't leave
"Pain?" Troel asked, as Maramal was trying to figure out, was the Khajiit child leg how broken by feeling with his hands.
The girl shook her head, and Maramal went lower towards the ankle.
Troel tried to thing, how to get himself out of this. What he should do.
After they would know what happened to the girl, and if the parents or some relatives or family friends were alive and around, she would be delivered to them. If not... Surely there was someone. The girl clearly was a merchant's daughter and so it meant she most likely was part of a caravan. Or knew some other Khajiit who would take the responsibility of her.
There was this certain Khajiit caravan, that comes now and then to outside of the city gates, selling their trinkets. Maybe this child was from that one? What in the Eight's' names where they leaving their kids alone to cities?!
The girl winced, when Maramal pressed onto a spot above the ankle.
The child spoke in Ta'agra, but Troel didn't understand, offering to her: "Pain?"
She nodded, trying to move her leg away as the Redguard located the exact place of the pain.
The priest let go and pondered: "Didn't feel like a broken bone... Maybe a sprain or something similarly minor. One health potion or a week of rest."
"What about the tail's head", Troel pointed out. But this time the girl didn't even let Maramal to touch her, grabbing onto her tail and holding it against her chest, ears down.
"No!" she hissed and the priest stopped, hands held in surrounding gesture.
"Okay, it is fine child."
"No it ain't", the Nord walked to the bed, looking down at the staring child.
She nodded. He crouched, stretched his hand towards, open palm up.
"Shut up", he barked, looking back at the girl: "You. See. Pain."
After a moment the child reluctantly passed the head of her tail, tensed as Troel took it gently into his big hands, looking at it first. The head was tangling in a sharp angle. Most likely a bone was broken, the muscles and the skin only thing keeping the tail together. It was a shitty situation, all in all, to the kid.
"It's clearly broken", the Nord grunted, glancing at the nervous child. "Need to straighten it out and splint it."
"It will be painful", Maramal predicted in concern tone.
"No shit. You have anything to reduce the pain?" Troel asked while observing the cub, who was staring between them in clear stress, not knowing what they were speaking of.
"Mm, yes. Some sleeping medicine, I'll get it", the Redguard went to a cabinet, searching for a bottle.
Still holding the hurt tail, Troel watched the girl who brought her gaze back to him.
"This is gonna hurt", he warned, though knowing she didn't understand.
"Hurt?" she questioned, brows raising and Troel was a bit surprised. He nodded, pointing to her tail.
She start shaking her head.
"Do- No", she tried quickly to get away, but Troel was faster, ready to grab and push her down to the bed. Maramal came with the medicine, and with some other things to splint the tail with.
"Troel, you shouldn't-"
"It's gonna hurt either way", the former soldier argued. He hold the fighting child down with one hand, pressing her legs against the bed's side with his right thigh and hold the wriggling tail in another hand, underneath the broken part.
As the Khajiit started to scream with tears running, Troel moved his hand to her mouth, pressing elbow against her torso.
Meanwhile the priest cleaned fast the tail where it was broken, then started to put into right form and wrap it with a wooden spoon and rags.
The screaming child bit down into Troel's hand. Sharp little teeth like needles.
He growled hard inside his helmet, holding himself from hurting the cub. She was just afraid. She was hurt. But gods dammit it hurt!
"Are you done already?"
In the War Maramal would have needed to be quicker. Damn milkdrinker who never traveled during the War, cuddled preaching homepriest...
Being released the Khajiit child immediately withdraw away from them, pressing against the wall in a fatal position, gathering her wrapped tail into her arms.
Turning his attention to his bleeding hand, Troel grimaced at the numb, pulsing pain. And was surprised as Maramal healed the bite wound with a spell.
The Redguard didn't see the surprised but then squinting look behind the helmet.
"...Hrm", the Nord muttered, lightly shaking the feeling of magic from his healed hand.
He wanted to go already, but looking at the closed child the guard knew he still had to ask questions.
The Redguard however offered, that they would let the child rest a bit before asking questions.
"No, we are dealing this now", Troel rumbled, wiping the blood from his hand and snapping fingers towards the flinching child.
The girl started staring with teary eyes, curled into a ball like in the alley. The Nord looked for the word. How did you say it...
"Parents. What are?"
The girl frowned and Troel was starting to loose his nerves, trying to think any words from his childhood. Then she spoke.
"What she said?" Maramal asked but the guard only shook his head.
"Parents... Sa- Sallidad", the Khajiit repeated, starting to break into another crying.
The two men couldn't be completely sure, but it was clear something had happened to the parents. Most likely dead.
"Well I guess they ain't around much anymore. I'll ask tomorrow from other guards has there been bodies or something", Troel turned towards Maramal.
"I'll leave the kid to you then, so-"
"And no buts, or about Mara", he whipped, looking at the tall Redguard through his helmet with oppressive stare. "I brought her here, I tried to translate, that's it. I investigate tomorrow a bit more. Now, I go."
This time the Khajiit cub did not try to come after him or anything, quietly sobbing on the bed as the Riften guard walked towards the door.
Troel hated it, how for a moment he hesitated while gripping onto the handle, listening the Khajiit that Maramal was trying to offer the sleeping potion with comforting words.
Idiot, like she would understand anything. She's just a stranger in this land, most likely alone now.
...It ain't Troel's problem. He did what was recruited from a guard and that's it. What happens to the Khajiit is no concern of his anymore.
So Troel opened the door and left the backrooms, passing the altar of Mara. Glancing at the Goddess he quickly looked away.
...If Mara was behind this, then the Goddess of love was a real twisted bitch. Like he didn't already know that.
None of the praying visitors payed attention to the hunching guard who walked between them towards the front doors.
Instead, they did pay attention to the half-limping, running Khajiit child that came from the backrooms and immediately attached herself to the frozen guard. Hugging his waist tightly.
"Urada. Afa khioh", the girl yet again pleaded while looking up to him.
While waiting for Maramal to fetch the headmistress of Honorhall Orphanage, Troel waited back in the room with the kid. Sitting next to the child on the bed, he watched as she finally drunk the potion after some compelling.
Taking the empty bottle from her, the guard placed it to a small table near.
"You are lucky you are just a kid", he muttered under his helmet.
"If you were desperate wench or drunk icebrain, I would have..." he thought for a moment, as the Khajiit child looked at him. "...Slapped you or something."
Well he didn't really need to watch his mouth. She wouldn't understand him.
But she sure was determined not to let him go, for some odd reason. If there would have not been people in the main hall, Troel maybe would have been able to get rid off the hugging child with Maramal's help.
But as there had been people in the main hall, staring, Troel had dragged the clinging kid back here.
...It was getting irritating under the helmet.
Taking hold of it Troel pulled it off, placing it on the floor and ruffled his wet, short blond hair.
Noticing and anticipating the staring his light grey eyes glared at the child.
She looked down to her lap, holding her wrapped tail there.
Dragging hand across his sweaty face Troel also looked to somewhere else, feeling more uncomfortable than before.
He knew his face was bad. That mace had almost killed him, but instead it just had struck his face a bit inward and to the right.
Like twitchy painter trying to create a portrayed but fucked it up. There was also scars and Troel's right eye was half-blind.
The chest long, knotted beard somewhat covered the damage but not enough.
Troel the Troll was hideous looking and he knew it.
So when someone was coming in, he tensed up hands on his knees turning to fists.
Dinya Balu, the headpriest, comes inside while carrying things. Troel gets up, lightly shoving the Khajiit as the child tries also to stand.
"Troel", the Dunmer smiles. "I heard from others as I returned. How are things now?"
"Maramal is getting Constance. The kid's wounds have been taken care of", the guard explained, then decided to help the pregnant woman.
"Ah, thank you Troel. Now, have you asked her name yet?"
"Well, no", the Nord sheepishly answered, placing the things onto the bed next to the curious child. "She just had a sleeping potion though, she may not be awake for long."
"Understood. Hello there."
The Khajiit put back her ears, looking from next to her sitting Dunmer to Troel. Not sure why the kid did that, but he nodded.
"Dras'kay, trevan." Dinya Baalu tried, and the Nord and the Khajiit were equally shocked.
"He- Hello... Friend. Sugar and sands", the child said and smiled for the first time, whiskers lifting up and eyes not so rounded and shocked anymore.
"You know Ta'agra?" Troel questioned.
"Only some. It has been long time since I spoke it", Dinya Baalu explained while not taking eyes away nor stopped smiling at the girl. The woman raised hand to her chest.
"Jajo fa vaba Dinya Baalu", she then gestured towards the Nord: "That one is Troel."
Not really appreciating it he did not, but with fascination the man kept observing.
"Kaver are jer?" Dunmer then pointed at the girl.
"This one is Talrasha", answered the dark Khajiit with white and orange spots.
"That sounds like a nice name. Serush", the Dunmer praised and the girl shrugged with smaller smile. Then yawned.
"Sleepy?" Dinya Baalu asked, motioning as if sleeping. The child nodded.
"Talrasha safe", the woman promised, offering an apple from the things she had brought.
"Traajir", she offered the fruit, the girl taking cautiously, examining it while saying: "Tonsh jer."
Giving another apple to the child and then getting up, the Dunmer walked to Troel. She asked what exactly had happened with the girl.
The Nord told, and the woman was horrified, glancing at the eating Khajiit cub.
"That is so horrible", she whispered. "Thank Mara you were there when the child needed."
He could have been there earlier, the Nord thought. He could have been on his duty and maybe prevent those little shits from doing what ever they did to Talrasha.
What happened has happened though.
Before neither adult could say anything else, the door opened.
And inside walked Maramal who immediately approached to greet his wife. Then came inside Constance Michel and Jornfull, the chief guard.
"So, that little thing has kept you as hostage?" the tall Nord man smirked and Constance looked from the child to Troel, who felt the need to cover his face.
Chapter 3: So the Troll gave up and let it stay
The Khajiit watched quietly, as adults started talking to each other.
Talrasha wanted to go to the big scary man, her ears twitching and claws digging into the unfinished apple as she hesitated. Her eyes were mostly focused onto the Nord, but she also tried to understand what was talked about.
But she couldn't.
The child did not understand much, just couple of unhelpful words here and there. And her name was couple of times mentioned. It was frustrating not to understand anything that was said. Or not to be understood. It was scary in this unfamiliar place with these strange people.
But she believed she could trust on the guard, who had brought her here.
He had helped her so far, though he was grumpy. But she felt much better now, even if it really had hurt when they had suddenly dressed her tail.
And guess the man didn't want her near him.
...Was it because she had bit him? She had tried to apologize for it, in the bigger room.
She was sorry...
The other man, dressed in same kind of robes as the nice Dunmer, seemed to be friendly.
Of the rest of the adults, Talrasha wasn't sure yet.
She was worried though, that despite being first nice, they could be mean to her in the end. Those children had seemed nice too, at first, helping her into the city to look for help. But then...
Talrasha held back from yawning. She had thought that the potion she was given was health potion, but...
She needed to get help. Mama and papa...
The cub sniffled, tears starting to spill.
The Dunmer came to stand in front of her.
The woman with noticeable belly offered a piece of cloth from the stuff she had brought and what had been placed next to Talrasha on the bed.
"Thank you", the girl cautiously took the offering, drying her face with the cloth and tried to tell the woman: "This one needs help. This one's parents and friends need help. Outside the wall!"
But the Dunmer frowned at her.
The rest of the adults turned their attention to the agitated child, who was gesturing while repeating two words.
"What's the cat saying?" Jornfull demanded, glancing towards the closed door that the child was pointing at.
"Her parents are outside, I guess. She repeats parents and outside", Dunmer translated, nodding to the girl who repeated the words again.
"Outside the city or outside the temple?" the chief guard questioned, then turned towards Troel.
"Did you see anyone else there?"
"No, just couple of street kids", the Nord answered, not straightly looking at the other. Nor at Constance who looked at him. He wished she wouldn't look at him.
And did Jornfull really think he would do such a bad guarding and not check the rest of the place where he found the Khajiit?
"She must mean her parents are outside the wall", Troel suggested, glancing at the child. The disfigured Nord could already know though, what Jornfull will say.
"Well we might not be able to look for them ton-"
"You are saying you won't inspect it now, Jornfull?" Constance sharply cut between, Maramal behind her and Dinya Balu also approaching.
"That can't happen, chief guard. There can be people hurt or otherwise needing help", Maramal oppressed.
Jornfull looked with severe face through everyone, lastly at Troel. Troel though was not gonna offer anything to help chief guard to support the opinion of not going out. Instead, Troel walked to the bed silently. Sitting next to Talrasha, he bend to take his helmet back from the floor.
"Listen, it is too dark out there now, and it's raining. If these Khajiit were attacked by a group of bandits-" Jornfull argued with others.
"Outside?" Troel whispered to Talrasha who nodded, and answered to him: "Outside hagi."
"I guess the wall then... Rest here", he pointed at the bed with oppressive stare. Slowly the girl nodded, letting out a small yawn then. The potion at least would take care of the girl not following him this time.
"Chief Jornfull", the hunching Nord said while putting the helmet on and standing straight up. As much as he could with the pain from stretching his back.
"I can go take a look, with your permission. Malamar, I also wish if you or some other priest who can heal would come too", he said assertively, as a soldier, looking back from the Redguard to Jornfull. Noticing Constance, as also Dinya Balu, being appreciative.
The chief guard was silent for a second, before answering: "I will go, Troel. And take Aellver and Gromolf with me, maybe ask Mjoll too. Malamar, will you come if someone needs healing?"
"Of course, chief guard. But I think Troel should come too. He can translate, if the Khajiit also don't speak common."
"Very well... Troel?"
"Yes sir, I'm ready."
The sky was covered by rain clouds. And so it really was dark outside the city, as the group of five walked with lanterns in the rain that hadn't luckily got any heavier.
Troel walked behind Jornfull and the two other guard, Malamar next to him.
They had drawn a simple, rough map of the city, its gates and the surrounding area. Giving it to the girl then she had shown where she had come from.
The Khajiit had come from north, near the still abandoned Fort Greenwall.
The old fortress had been cleaned from bandits at last autumn, but it shouldn't be a surprise if a new group had settled there. Jornfull was not happy, of many things probably, but it seeming that the fort was again occupied by criminals and a caravan attacked, meant more trouble than Riften's guards wanted.
So Troel was not surprised to be called in front to speak with chief as they continued walking.
"Why did you want to go to search?" the other Nord questioned quietly, helmet looking forward.
"Doing just my job", Troel offered, keeping eye on the surroundings, ignoring the skeptical huff.
"You doing your job because of duty? That would be the first."
Troel didn't answer anything.
"...Was it because Constance was there?"
The Nord almost looked at his chief, holding himself back.
"You can't tell me you are doing this for that cat."
"Would that be wrong?" Troel challenged, this time looking at the other. But neither was able to tell what the other was thinking or showing, the face covering helmets preventing.
"Stormcloak helping no-Nord because of goodness", Jornfull slowly shook his head. "...It was because of Constance, don't lie to your chief. And know that I'm courting her."
"Understood chief", the Nord said, pretending unbothered. He had given up on the woman long ago. But guess Constance could do worse than Jornfull, if she would fancy the chief... Who had not been in the War, instead staying behind the safety of Riften's walls. Because noble father paid his son to stay out of harm's way.
Searching the marked area on the map, the group quickly found the spot.
The caravan had been ransacked, things laying broken and upside down along the road. Bodies of the Khajiit in the middle of things.
"Do you recognize these?" Jornfull asked from the guard who usually was at the gate. And then commanded Troel and Maramal to check the bodies.
"Yes chief", Gromolf answered, looking at things with the light from his lantern.
"That's the caravan's leader, Ahkari, that's another merchant Zaynabi, and those two are bodyguards, Kharjo and Dro'marash."
Then Gromolf pointed to a body next to Kharjo.
"That one I don't know."
Leaving Maramal to check one of the bodies, Troel approached the woman Khajiit. Orange with white and black spots.
As the Nord crouched and reached forward, the male Khajiit, who Gromolf had pointed as Kharjo, jumped.
Taking raspy breaths and couching, Kharjo crawled over the unknown Khajiit while gripping onto a dagger.
Maramal and the others rushed to the still alive one and Troel, the priest trying to reach with his hands to cast healing spell.
"Rest", Troel tried to calm down the grey Khajiit.
"Don't- My wife", Kharjo spoke, coughing up blood, collapsing over the Khajiit woman.
"Ask who did this", Jornfull commanded, Troel throwing a glare under his helmet.
Maramal muttered, and started praying: "This wound is bad... Mara, Goddess of compassion, lend me your love and strength in need of healing this-"
"You speak common", Troel tried to communicate with Kharjo who shakily nodded. "Who attacked you?"
"Band- Bandits. My kit, Tali, she run.."
"Talrasha is safe", Troel reassured. "She came into the city. She's safe now."
"Talrasha is safe. She came into the city. She's safe now."
That's what the guard said to Kharjo. The Khajiit could not sense lie in the voice. And he does have good senses. Sometimes.
Ahkari had been against it, for Kharjo to finally bring his long distance family with him into Skyrim.
He too had been concerned, but the distance, long waitings and seeing his little kit growing so fast every time and Talavi also being sad... He didn't want to leave them anymore.
He hadn't been there when Talrasha had been born, and when finally seeing her for the first time, she had acted like he was a stranger...
Kharjo had just wanted to be part of his family, keep them close. After many years in this cold land of Nords...
They had walked through the darkness and rain in silence, Kharjo keeping eye on the surroundings while Zaynabi steered the horse, rest of the caravan sleeping in the carriage.
Walking right next to the driver's seat, Kharjo had suddenly felt something tickling his left ear. Snatching quickly the long feather he had gifted to his daughter, he smirked at Talrasha who tried to keep from laughing.
"Go back to sleep Tali", he had whispered, giving back the feather.
"This one not sleepy", she had answered back in Ta'agra. "This one guard with papa."
Zayanabi had snickered, smiling while peering ahead as the horse lazily walked forward.
"This one will anger mama if not sleep", Kharjo warned in serious tone, almost smiling at her daughter's worried look.
Instead Kharjo gave a slight pet onto her daughter's head.
"Sleep. If any monsters sneak up, this one smells them coming", and then he added in teasing tone: "Or, this one might not. Depends if Talrasha is sleeping, and not distracting."
The adults awake giggled as the kit quickly disappeared back into the carriage.
"Maramal", Troel's glum voice spoke. "He's dead."
"No", the Redguard denied, focusing to use all his magic if needed. "Mara will hear me and help this poor one."
"The cat is dead, priest", Jornfull repeated, looking at Gromolf who was looking through rest of the bodies. "Is there anyone else?"
"No", the guard answered. "Looks also the bandits took everything valuable", he continued and shoved a soaked cheese wheel away.
"Think it was bandits from Greenwall?" Aellver questioned her chief while watching their surroundings.
"Fuck if it was", the Nord cursed. "And we have a dead caravan. Jarl will surely tell us do something when hearing of this..."
Troel placed a firm hand onto still healing and praying Maramal's shoulder.
"Maramal, it's over. Save your strength, you need to walk back to your wife too."
The Redguard tried for a few more minutes, before stopping himself, a bit tired. Looking sadly at the Khajiit male, who even when dying was still trying to protect his wife.
"Mara's mercy on you. May your souls stay unseparated even in death..."
Troel did not have anything snarky to say to that, standing up and looking at the wiped out caravan.
"What do we do with the bodies, chief?" one of the guards questioned.
"Let's put them into a pile for now. Tomorrow I'll sent someone to clean the place."
Hearing that and pondering a moment, Troel kneeled beside the two dead Khajiit.
"What are you doing?" Maramal asked, crimination creeping into his voice as the Nord searched the bodies.
"Looking for some memento for the kid."
That's what Troel had wanted, when he had lost his parents. Something, anything, even a small thing to remember them by.
Chapter 4: Cub would cry and try to climb the Troll
On the next day Troel was one of the guards ordered to clean the scene from bodies and junk. It was luckily late summer and the last night's rain had kept things from starting to rot in the warm sunlight. Still, the place was muddy and wet so burning the things took more effort than usually.
Now and then some guard would complain and curse quietly: the bandits, the Khajiit, Riften, Troel...
And someone would find some small valuable or useful thing that thieves had missed, pocketing it into their own use.
Troel just ignored it all and focused to get the job done. Although it brought some uncomfortable memories from the War. Seeing comrades, enemies and civilians dead, from one reason or another. And sometimes needing to bury them or burn the corpses.
The frozen Nord looked at the yelling guard.
"Don't just stand there and bring that damn body here already!"
Pushing the anxiety away, he adhered to the order.
"This is your fucking fault that we are here slaving", the guard mumbled as Troel threw a body in. "Damn Skooma junkies. Fur lickers being stup-"
Straightening from his hunching Troel grabbed the guard by the front. Pulled closer so fast that their helmets bonked, and then calmly said: "Shut the fuck up, and work. The longer you keep whining like a milkdrinker, the longer we are here and the more I want to rip your tongue out."
Then he calmly let go of the man and turned to get another body.
The other guards did not right away rushed to break the fight as Troel easily brought the guard onto the ground and started striking. They more of lazily reacted, then pondered if getting mixed up into it. Then decided to break it as they neither didn't like to be out there, near the bandit camp and other possible dangers outside the city's walls.
They did get the job done but Troel was reported and so was chastised. Being held in one of the upper cells for a day, then when getting out he would clean the barracks and maintain all guards' equipment.
Most likely Jornfull would have wanted to keep him longer in a cell, but guess they couldn't keep a guard longer than that. Or suspend Troel from his duty.
While laying on the hard bed in regular clothes, cotton tunic, brown pants and poor leathery boots, someone came before the cell.
"So, pummeled poor Hofeir?"
Glancing at a female guard, who had long braided blond hair and typical nordic eyes, Troel shrugged on the bed.
"That snowback was whining like a milkdrinker. Good if my slaps made him man up a bit."
"Well that can be true. Anyways, Constance Michel visited, asking for you."
Surprised Troel raised up to sit: "What she wanted?"
"Something about that kid that's now in her care. Asking after you or something."
Scoffing the Nord man laid back down: "Weird kid."
"Yeah, if I was a child and would meet you, I would stay far away", the woman stated, then quickly added as Troel glared: "And not because of your... War scar."
"Thanks, Risdis Ice-Bitch."
"You welcome, Kolid", Risdis said while walking away. She knew it would poke sharply enough back at him.
Silently laying on the bed, the Nord man pondered why the Khajiit child asked after him. Maybe because she had been asleep when he and Jornfull had returned. And it was decided the child would be placed into Constance's care at the orphanage.
He didn't have a good opportunity to give the memento to Talrasha...
Troel also recalled the brief conversation he had with the headmistress, before he fled.
"Ko- Troel, can we talk a bit?"
"It was kind of you to help the girl, and go look for her parents."
"I'm a guard, it was my duty."
"Still... Will you visit the orphanage, now that she'll be there?"
"No, I don't have the time and she'll be alright."
"Really? Troel, the orphanage is not like you might remember it."
"Well... After that horrible hagraven bitch got killed, the place must be like divine now."
"Never understood why you put up with that witch, or still defend her... I need to go now. Goodbye."
Constance has always been overly kindhearted, understanding one, even when they were kids and Grelod the Kind tormented them every awaken minute. Troel used to dream of getting rid off that hag, just to save them all, and once he almost did when she hit another kid because they cut themselves accidentally while peeling a potato.
Troel had gripped hard on his own peeling knife, glaring as she yelled at the crying, bleeding kid.
It was only because Constance took hold of his hand and shook her head, that he didn't go for it. And regretted afterwards, but didn't get the courage back to try again.
He was lucky it had been summer and to find small jobs as Grelod kicked him out of the orphanage at age fifteen. Then after a year the War started and Stormcloaks allowed him to join them.
Then he heard, returning after six years, that she had been assassinated. Most likely by the Dark Brotherhood, some Aventus kid making the contract.
Troel was so relieved, maybe as much as when the War had ended, that he tried to track the kid all the way to the Windhelm. To thank the child.
But the Aretino house was empty.
The only thing remaining as evidence of someone being there and the contract been made being the remains of the ritual.
Human skeleton in a center of burned up candles. Blood. Rotting human organs. And ripped Nightshade petals.
The boy was nowhere to be found. Nothing. Just disappeared completely.
And Troel had wondered, that if he had acted that one time, damn the consequences, then Aretino would had not needed to do the ritual and then what ever happened to him afterwards.
Troel has never even got near the orphanage since kicked out of there, or when he returned to Riften.
The place, even though Grelod was gone and Constance taking care of things now, still seemed like evil, cursed place to the Nord man. Bringing back to the surface his nightmares and fears.
On the fourth day, Troel had finished his punishment and was on his regular patrolling through the city. Keeping the beggars from disturbing people, making sure no Thieves Guild's member was stealing too obviously. He was just exiting the market area through a bridge heading south, when suddenly called.
Tensing up and feeling his temper flaring he turned towards the voice.
Seeing Talrasha standing on the stonewall that separated orphanage's courtyard from rest of the city.
She had been washed, dapple fur fluffy and bright, and she had a long red dress with dark leggings. Shoes she didn't have, oddly.
The Khajiit child stared, or more of scowled, at him while standing there.
"In the name of the Jarl, get down from there right now!" Troel shouted while approaching, pointing at the ground angrily.
The girl's ears reared back, looking down and then back to him.
He cursed, bolting to catch the tiny kit.
He caught her midair, grabbing under her armpits and huffing hold her up.
"Gods dammit brat! You could hurt yourself, even more with that leg of-"
"Troll", the Khajiit meowed and Troel immediately lowered her down, still supporting some of her weight with his hands.
"No", he growled, shaking his head. "No troll. Troel. Be Troel", he tried to firmly corrected the girl in bad Ta'agra.
Her eyes were reddish and puffy, she holding back tears as she whimpered: "Trell."
"Better, but still not right. Troel."
"Tro", she repeated.
The Nord man then repeated: "Troel."
"Troel", the girl said, determined. This time the man nodded.
As he let her completely to stand on her own legs, she immediately shifting most weight onto her better one, she pointed at herself.
"Yes you are. Talrasha. Odd brat who for some reason doesn't want to leave me alone. Now, go back. Shoo."
The child kept standing in front of him, staring up to his helmet covered face and shook.
"Oh for love of- Go!" he tried to drive off the child towards the doors of the orphanage. Noticing how close he was of it, the Nord started to feel nervous.
Sighing the Nord looked at his chief and another guard approaching. As also most of people around staring.
"Yes, chief", he greeted, though noticing the Khajiit slipping behind him, feeling her hand clinging onto the side of his leather armor while she peeked.
"Causing a ruckus, guard? And with the same kid too."
"Sorry chief. If you would kindly return her to the orphanage for me? I don't think she will let go otherwise."
The chief laughed, as also the other guard with him.
"Can't believe you can't handle a simpler child. It's just a cat", Jornfull sneered while approaching, reaching his hand while going around Troel.
The cat hissed strongly, bared her teeth with lowered ears and stood almost against Troel.
"Careful chief, it may scratch and spread some disease", the other guard snickered, Jornfull huffing and relaxing back. Then went fast, grabbing the child's arm and yanking her to him.
The Khajiit cried, tears spilling and struggling away from Jornfull.
"Troel!" the girl pleaded while looking at him and the Nord sighed.
"Shut up, girl, Rasha, stop that and come. Now."
Attention turned to shouting Constance Michel. She stared in anger and disbelief with some orphans looking from the open doorway, before she marched to the guards.
"Constance-" Jornfull started, letting go of the child who limped to grab onto Troel who in turn tried to step away with raised hands. The child was a bit faster though, or so it seemed.
"Jornfull", the Imperial woman snarled, standing next to Troel and the crying Khajiit cub, before crouching down.
"Talrasha", she softly spoke to the girl who kept crying against Troel, as he stood there in great uneasiness with hands still raised away from the girl.
"Talrasha, hey", Constance reached and lightly touched the flinching Khajiit who glanced with teary eyes. Staring and softly sniffling the girl mumbled something in Ta'agra.
"I'm sorry sweety, I don't understand. Troel, please?"
Wanting to push the Khajiit away and run, the Nord slowly dropped his hands while looking down at the cub. Being very aware of Jornfull's no doubt angry gaze. As also all the people in the area staring.
Because of this damn pestering Khajiit child.
Maybe Mara had pissed off from what Troel spoke at that night about the Goddess.
"Yup", he croaked, swallowed and tapped the girl's head while saying her name. She looked with deeply sad expression, probably not seeing much through those fat tears.
How much could this one cry?
"Rest", he tried, ignoring his hand lingering and now resting between Khajiit's long ears with tufts.
"Troel", the girl whimpered, then fastly sobbed something, saying at least parents and then something before burying her face back against his armor.
"I don't understand either Constance, sorry. Could you take her away, please?"
The Imperial, standing up with hand on her hips, dared to give kind of a smile.
"I guess you need to bring her inside by yourself, sorry."
And as Journfull stepped, starting something, the headmistress glared.
"And I'll speak with you, chief of the guard, later. But now I need to take care of the children who are my responsibility. Have a nice day."
"...Same to you", the man said before commanding his subordinate to help with calming the curious and gossiping crowd around.
"So, Troel", Constance turned her attention back to Troel and Talrasha. "Care to come inside now, helping with the girl?"
The Nord wondered would it scare off the Khajiit cub, for good, if he burned the memento in front of her with mean laugh.
Chapter 5: Cub would nuzzle and meow to the Troll
It was first fun to see Troel so amusingly uncomfortable as he took excessive time to approach the door and then get inside of the orphanage, with the cute Khajiit child clinging onto him. But as he still kept tense, hunching near the closed door and the helmet not showing his expression, Constance's humor faded fast. She started to feel sorry for the man, giving him a minute and so ushered rest of the children back out to the courtyard.
She had been so worried when they had ran to tell that Talrasha had climbed over the fence.
The Imperial was worried of the girl, who had just lost her parents and a whole caravan of people.
It was never easy to orphaned children, each individually reacting in a different way to their loss. Some would turn short-tempered, violent, withdrawn, fidgety or even overly peppy. All different means to cope with the heavy emotions when suddenly left alone in unfamiliar surroundings and losing home and family.
That's why Constance really hoped that Troel would help the Khajiit girl. Talrasha clearly leaned to him for support, trusting him.
Even now she silently hugged him as he stood there.
...Sometimes even one adult's attendance could make a world of difference in the process of healing. And as Troel had gone through similar accident, he could understand Talrasha better than Constance.
The Imperial had first lost her father, a soldier, as he had been patrolling the border between Skyrim and Cyrodiil. Some armed people had tried to cross the border illegally.
After that, mother had become sick, trying to work to support her and her daughter. It took a year as Constance's mother slowly died, wasted away as they didn't have the money for continual need for expensive medicine. After mother died, Constance had moved to live with her grandmother in Shor's Stone. Helping in cooking and bringing food to the miners.
Then grandmother had died, defending the establishment from bandits as child Constance had been moved to safety.
Then, Constance had been sent to Riften, Honorhall Orphanage.
...She knows that Grelod the Kind had been mean. Sometimes straight cruel even. The Imperial did not deny that, or blamed Troel for how he felt.
But after everything, Constance could never become to hate the old woman who had resembled grandmother. Strict, gone through harsh life and trying to make out of the little she had. In the end, Constance viewed Grelod just being afraid of the world and how it would treat the children placed into her care, as the orphanage's fundings were low and the Riften was not the safest city.
It was mournful how the old woman's bitterness deepened, how her treatment of others went even worse as years passed. And then she was just coldly murdered.
And the children were beyond happy, rightfully so but it was still shocking.
And no-one else than Constance came to the memorial service.
And it felt bad to hear, and to think, that it had been good for everyone.
"Troel", Constance called the man whose attention snapped to her, as she calmly gestured towards the long dining table.
"Would you and Talrasha sit down? I can make some tea?"
"No", he straight on refused, looking down at the Khajiit. "Just help this brat off from me."
The woman soundlessly sighed. Wondering would it soften Troel if she told, how the girl had been utterly confused and afraid when waking in the orphanage. And has been crying almost none-stop in Constance's arms after Dinya Balu had explained of the caravan's fate.
Or that Talrasha had asked frequently after him, speaking sorrowfully in a language that Constance couldn't understand.
"I think she will let go if you sit with her for a moment", the Imperial hinted, turning to make the tea in spite of all. She at least wanted some.
It took a moment until she got the filled kettle above the fireplace and heard the Nord man moving behind.
"Talrasha, sit. No, sit."
"You don't use Ta'agra?" Constance questioned while turning around, looking at the sitting two, Khajiit's one hand still gripping onto the Nord's dark blue cloth.
"I'm rusty, and didn't learn that much of it", Troel shrugged, glancing down at the child's hand and tried to undo it. Firmly but gently.
Then letting it be as Talrasha whined.
The hidden tender side of the usually grumpy man was touching. And wasn't surprising, as the Imperial and the Nord had both grown up under the same roof.
Constance remembered when he had arrived, the young, trembling boy holding back tears and glaring at everyone. But despite of his loss and the great sorrow, he never was straight on mean to other children. A bit rough, but regretful after knowing if gotten too far.
He had acted as a big brother to others, a guardian against Grelod's punishments and anger. Helping and taking others' blame on him.
It was sad to know the life has not been kind to Troel, especially in the War, though Constance didn't know much of it.
He never had visited the orphanage after returning, until now, and had seemed to avoid her. She had accidentally learned of his return from Risdis, another orphan who stayed in Riften and became a guard.
It had been hard to believe that the hunching, morose and sometimes slacking guard was Kolid. Or Troel, as he had changed his name it seemed.
That night when Talrasha lost her caravan family, was the first, proper time that Constance actually got to talk to Troel.
And saw him without his helmet.
It had been a bit of shock, but in the end it didn't bother the Imperial. After all he was still... Kolid, the boy who wanted to protect and help despite of his fears and the odds against him.
"Where did you originally learn it then?" she asked while sitting also down to the table, opposite of the Nord and the Khajiit. Noticing the girl's curious look, and then gave her an apple while winking an eye.
Talrasha seemed to like apples the best, smiling a bit while taking it and starting to munch on it. Still keeping near to Troel though.
"...Khajiit family worked to my parents", Troel revealed. "They had a son, same age as my little brother. So I watched after him too."
"Oh", Constance was surprised, already knowing of the little brother but not about the Khajiit family.
And hearing the numbness in the man's voice decided to quickly change the subject.
The place with all the memories was oppressing from every side on the Nord whose heart was beating like a war drum and his gaze faltering now and then.
Damn if it wasn't true but even after being killed it felt like the hag's spirit was still lingering on the corners of the house.
He could almost hear the sound of the belt being prepared for whipping and the dungeon door creaking open while the unforgettable stench poured out.
How in the Gods' name could Constance still live in this place? How could these children stay here without a fear?
"Do you know if a courier has been already sent?"
"Sorry?" Troel focused on the woman.
"Jornfull explained to me, that the Jarl most likely would sent a message to Ri'saad, the caravan group's leader, about what had happened. And the Khajiit would probably be interested of Talrasha."
"Huh", the Nord huffed, looking at the eating Khajiit cub who looked with still reddish, green eyes. "I didn't know about that."
It would be good for the girl getting back to her own people. Maybe even to relatives.
To Troel, it always seemed Khajiit have a bit of loose perception of family. More like the whole village or group takes equally care of their children despite of the status of blood relations.
All in all, this... This could be good news to Talrasha.
"Maybe you should ask from Jornfull, when you meet him later", he suggested while looking back to Constance. She frowned.
"Yes, him", she noted. Then leaned a bit forward. "What happened outside there? Why was he grabbing Talrasha like that?"
The kettle whistled, taking the Imperial's attention. As she worked, Troel tried to think about what to say.
Seeing the girl staring at him, he tried to slowly push Khajiit's face to stare at something else by pushing her cheek. She however seemed to find it funny, letting out a short laugh and then leaned fully against him. Raising the apple towards his helmet covered face.
"No", he said and made her put it away from him. The girl frowned but continued eating, ad he followed her stare to smiling Constance.
"Jornfull just tried to help", Troel explained. "But the kid was having a fit."
"She does seem to adore you", the Imperial amused, placing the hot kettle onto the table and then turned to take couple of wooden cups.
"Yes, although I don't know why", the Nord sighed, showing annoyance. "I swear, some Daedra is having a blast out there."
"Is it that bad to have a small friend who sees safety and trustworthiness in you?" Constance challenged, pouring hot water into two cups.
Under his helmet, Troel looked down at the child who was observing the Imperial woman's doings closely. Then looked up to him in questioning matter.
"...You and Jornfull are an item, I hear?" he raised his head.
"Wha- Who says that", the Imperial questioned, flushed and holding the kettle nervously.
"Some people. Have seeing you two together", Troel lied leaning to his arms against the table. "I think he would be a good choice, keeping you safe."
"Safe from what?" Constance squinted, confused.
"From harassing, you are Imperial after all", he pointed out the facts. "Now that the Skyrim is back in Nords' hands, the non-Nords-"
"I've been raised in Skyrim", Constance cut in, placing the kettle away. "Despite of my roots and ancestors, I am part of this country. Just as any Nord. I have grown with and even raised some of them, so you can't just start saying those things to me!"
"I didn't mean to insult", Troel calmly said back, sensing the Khajiit next to him nervous from the Imperial's rising voice, as also hearing the door, leading to the courtyard, opening.
"I'm saying this for your own protection: Jornfull has been keeping other Nords from harassing you, from thinking you as Imperial spy. He defends you. And so it would be good, for everyone, that you two would get married."
Raising his left hand to lightly pet Talrasha's tense back in calming manner, he added: "In the end he's not a bad man, he clearly cares about you."
Heavy silence settled in the room. And Troel half-guarded if Constance would throw the kettle filled with hot water at him. She wouldn't though, ever, he knew that.
But she was upset, though the Nord felt he had only spoken the truth. Skyrim was now more openly hostile to non-Nords.
Especially towards Imperials and elves.
It was a miracle to him, that Constance was still allowed to stay in Riften, taking care of the orphans with government's funding.
He was sure that if she would turn Jornfull's courting down, there would be trouble. To her and the children.
"I'm better go back to work", he started raising, Talrasha putting away the half-eaten apple and trying to stand up with him. He pushed her back to the long chair with a command: "Sit."
"You don't have to go, Troel", the Imperial spoke but he was already turning towards the door.
"I don't like this place, you know that. Goodbye."
"Troel", the Khajiit child said while standing up, going to run after him. He swiftly turned and raised hand in stopping manner.
"Don't yell at her", Constance angrily said, though minding her volume.
The Khajiit girl stood between them, glancing back and forth in pure confusion.
"She's annoying. Keep her here until other Khajiit come to collect her", Troel snarled, looked down at the child and pointed down. "Rest."
And then the Nord man left, walking briskly away from the orphanage.
Worried Talrasha moved her gaze from the closed door to staring Constance. Other children came in next, surrounding the woman and probably asking what had happened.
The Khajiit cub also wanted to know.
She had carefully listened, but single words and names here and there didn't make any sense to her.
It had almost been like when papa and mama fight... Switching to common tongue that Talrasha wouldn't understand. When they did not want her to understand...
Feeling another burst of tears threatening to come, the Khajiit swallowed hard, clenching her hands. She silently moved to the main room where she and other children slept.
Has the fight been because of her? Of what she did outside? She hadn't wanted to go with that other guard, he was a stranger, she wants to spent time with Troel!
And Troel... He seemed to have something, peeking from his back satchel. Familiar thing.
The Khajiit turned to look at an older boy, who had shoulder length brown hair in low ponytail. He was called Hroar, she guessed. Which was funny, some of her people yelling and making that kind of sound. Rrrooaarr!
The boy, oldest of the children, talked to the girl and pointed first at Constance, who was talking to children, then he pointed at the door leading to the city.
Talrasha wondered he maybe asked what had happened, but she could only shrug her shoulders.
Which mother hated, always saying you need to have a clear answer...
The tears came, despite of Talrasha fighting against them.
Covering her eyes she tried to stop. Feeling Hroar to pet her head in comforting manner.
She missed them... A lot.
She wanted to talk with someone. About them. And what had happened.
She wanted Troel to speak with her.
Chapter 6: And sometimes the Troll was annoyed
After the day's job Troel was changing in the barracks, first taking off his helmet and placing it into a wooden chest in front of his bed. He slept in one of the corner beds, on the right side, furthest from the staircase. Other guards, who had also finished their shifts for the day, were already leaving to have dinner at the Bee and Barb Inn.
Though it sounded like one guard still was busy with their trunk, now it being just the two of them. Troel didn't care to look who it was, as he folded his blue cloth.
But he should had looked.
Suddenly he was kicked inside of his left leg.
He fell onto his knees with a grunt and immediately someone took him into a restraining hold from behind. Hands slipped from under his armpits, in front of his shoulders and wrapped behind his neck. The Nord immediately struggled, squirmed and tried to get free.
But the person was too strong, putting more strength behind their hold, causing Troel to wince from pain.
"Don't kill him."
"Y- Yes chief."
Hearing who the one behind was, and who was standing at the stairs, Troel felt mostly annoyed. He should have seen this coming.
The pressure on his neck decreased just a bit.
"Hi chief. And Hofeir. What's the meaning of this", the Nord questioned, trying to think how to get out of this. Surely these bastards weren't gonna kill him. Right? Though in Riften it wouldn't be too far-fetched.
"You set me up", Jornfull accused, his steps approaching. "You knew that brat would make a scene and Constance would come out, get angry with me."
Troel sighed, closing and opening his hands. It was Hofeir who was holding him, the snowback. Shouldn't be too hard to get free from his grip, though what Jornfull would do then? He sounded pretty pissed off.
"I didn't plan anything, chief", Troel defended, voice as even as if he was talking to his military superior. Not showing what he really felt or thought.
He actually thought that Jornfull was a real idiot.
Seeming to think Troel was also after the orphanage's headmistress when it wasn't so. Either the chief guard was just desperately in love, or just a bit obsessed. Not sure which one was worse.
Troel held himself from reacting to the increasing pressure, the pain. But he tried to break free from it, quickly giving up to safe energy though.
The pressure decreased again.
"Don't feed me that meek soldier attitude, Troel."
Jornfull came to one side, crouching and looking at the other Nord with a warning glare.
"Ever since you came to Riften, you have acted like you were better than any of us. Even if some of us also fought in the war."
Not Jornfull though, Troel thought with a bland look on his face. And he wasn't thinking that he was better than others, he just liked to be alone, avoid these bribed backstabbers.
"And yet you are always lazing around, giving shit to others and standing on your damn pedestal. Then just decide to go after Constance? She doesn't need a Stormcloak butcher making her life harder. So stay... Away."
"Or what", Troel blurted out. "You let this snowback kill me?"
Indication to Hofeir made the younger guard kick Troel's side with a knee.
Jornfull glanced up at the other, thoughtful, and the trapped Nord felt a bit worried of the situation.
"...Maybe. But no, I just let him pay you back for his beating."
"Hah! Thank ch-"
"Shut up Hofeir. Don't kill him, and give me back those gauntlets after. And don't stain them."
"Hey chief", Troel called before Jornfull stood up.
"I may have something that would get you back to Constance's good side."
The other man was suspicious, but Troel knew he would take the bait.
"In my satchel, a notebook."
...Jornfull turned and took the item, opening it and looking it through.
"Belonged to the Khajiit's father. Should be a good memento to her."
Jornfull gave another doubtful look, closing the leathery notebook and huffed.
"Guess you ain't as bad as your face... Though how do I know this ain't just another trap?"
Troel hesitated to answer. The first thing to pop in his head was, that he just wanted Talrasha to have it.
"...If this upsets Constance, I am gonna get your body thrown into the canal", the chief guard warned before getting up, putting the book into his own satchel.
As the chief guard was stepping up the stairs, Troel turned his attention to the one holding him.
"How in the Oblivion did you get stronger?"
"Shut up", the younger man growled and kicked couple of times with his knee. But Hofeir was impulsive, too green to handle the heat what came to violence.
He made a mistake by letting Troel go to start punching the lowered Nord.
He landed a one hit before Troel, far more experienced, charged and yet again knocked Hofeir onto his back. This time Troel was not furious because of mean nickname. He just wanted to show the other that despite of whatever that had made Hofeir stronger, didn't mean shit when dealing with ex-soldier who has been hit by almost anything a mer, a beast or a man could throw at him.
Troel didn't even hit hard, so he believed, before stopping as the other guard was crying under him, trying to shield his beaten face.
"Stupid mutt", Troel grumbled and spat at the floor. "You need to see when to keep your mouth shut and stay away from trouble."
Jornfull was sneaky to use the snowback's bitterness towards Troel, the chief not getting his own hands dirty.
Was that kind of trait good or bad in a man who was courting Constance, Troel wasn't sure. Or that should he care.
...Of course he cared. Even if didn't want to admit it and not get mixed up into needless scheming and violence.
The whole fucking War had been just that.
Needless killing and mendacity between the Imperial Legion, the Thalmor and the Stormcloaks.
"What did he do this time?"
Troel looked up from the crying man to the staircase, seeing Risdis standing there with mild interest on her face.
"Didn't know Jornfull was a sneaky sort", Risdis said while taking a swig from a mead bottle, as she and Troel sat on one of the docks. The place was almost deserted at this time of day, as guards mostly patrolled just the buildings.
"But I guess, as he's a noble he knows how to hide that kind of thing. Like his da."
"Hrm", Troel just mumbled, holding his bottle with both hands, looking at it with a frown. Then glanced at the pair of fur gauntlets on Risdis' lap.
The woman immediately took a better hold of them, saying impassively while looking at the darkening lake: "These are mine."
"You should have left them", the Nord man argued. He almost had stopped her from taking them from Hofeir, before they hastily left the barracks.
"You should have stopped me", the woman shot back, looking at the things. "Should get a nice price of these from a fence. They are enchanted."
"Would explain Hofeir's sudden strength", Troel wondered, ignoring Risdis' connection to a fence.
"Most likely... So, are you gonna do something to Jornfull?"
"No", he answered, taking some mead and ignoring Risdis' huff.
"You should. I bet, that if he's da wouldn't have been a noble, Jornfull would be just a guard and you would be the chief. You cant still be."
"What makes you say that?" he asked in confusion.
The woman shrugged.
"You fought in the War, you don't loose your shit as easily as others, you have strength and you are somewhat honorable, acting when actually there's danger. Best what we have in this shithole."
Then she added as he stared dumbfounded: "Plus it would be too much pain in the ass for me to keep this lot of scums in line. Although, as how corrupted this place is, I guess it could be worse."
"...I wouldn't be a chief", Troel argued.
"And that's one of the good points: you don't want to be chief because of power", Risdis kept on. "You were like our own guardian when Grelod the Hag raged on us. I know you almost stabbed her once, we all saw except she and that kid- What was his name?"
"Boriik", Troel whispered, taking another gulp of mead. Boriik was a Redguard. "And his mother died while giving birth, and father abandoned when loosing family's stable in a gamble."
"See? I barely remember even half of the kids from that time", Risdis pointed him with her bottle. "I only remember you, hag pleaser Constance and Elegafil the mute. God I felt sorry for that Bosmer. Still do. She's a wench nowadays."
"She is?" Troel's eyes widened. "Where?"
"Here. You have defiantly seen her, a redhead with one and a half ear, sells red and blue mountain flowers."
"Shit..." the Nord man whispered, staring at the lake. Feeling bad, remembering Elegafil as a child. One of the smallest one, really gentle, she would hold his sleeve and shake next to him when Grelod shouted at them all.
"Damnit..." he cursed again.
"Yeah, that's life", the Nord woman said, her voice back into its dull-self.
The two of them sat in a moment of silence, until she spoke again: "I guess I'm a bit drunk, sorry for blabbering."
"You still haven't finished your first one."
"Well I'm not full Nord. Ma was actually an Imperial", she said in overacted whisper, rolling her eyes then. "So... How bad the War was?"
"Bad", he answered shortly, drinking rest of his drink, put the empty bottle away and took a new one, opening it.
"I see... I too almost joined the Stormcloaks."
"Yeah? Why didn't you?"
Risdis was quiet.
And Troel didn't need the answer, saying: "It was a shitty war."
"Wanna talk about it?"
"Okay... It's finally nice to talk with you though. You're always like a bear having a spear in its ass."
There was a clear surprised expression on Risdis' face, she staring at the man who avoided her gaze.
She then huffed, punched his shoulder so that Troel in surprise swayed.
"Just don't be like that all the time. Otherwise I'll bring the cat child to you while you work."
"Please don't", Troel grumbled. "Has the Jarl already sent the message to Ri'saad?"
"So I heard. Even if we don't let Khajiit caravan in, Ri'saad is still important contact to some here."
Then after a moment, Risdis said: "I don't think the girl should go with them."
The Nord man frowned, looking at drinking Risdis: "What do you mean?"
"I talked with some of the cats in that caravan couple of times. That male cat one... Khas- Kar-"
"Yeah, that, the bodyguard. Told me he had lost everything to gambling and drinking before ending into jail. Ri'saad bought him."
"He didn't express it as that, but I think it was pretty obvious. And he wasn't the only one, seemed like all those cats owned to Ri'saad something. Guess they wouldn't otherwise be in Skyrim, always complained to each other of the cold and how they missed home."
This information, what Risdis implied, made Troel suspicious towards the leader Khajiit. And concerned towards the child's safety.
"...Where else the girl would go then?" he however wondered, drinking.
"To orphanage", Risdis said while raised a brow to the shocked man who almost chocked in his drink: "It isn't as bad as when the Hag was in charge. Constance is actually pretty good with kids. Only one brat has runaway from there since she took over, otherwise she has managed to find new families or something as good to the rest."
"...I don't doubt her", Troel said silently. "It's just-"
"Because of the Hag, yeah", the woman snarled, shivering. "Still see nightmares of that... Every time I hear a belt buckle I wanna slash with my sword..."
The Nord man shouldn't have, but he was still surprised by Risdis' confession. As how much she also felt in a same way as he about the orphanage.
"...Yeah, that's life", he finally stated.
She chuckled, the two not looking at each other but both having a small smile on their lips.
"...So who was this runaway child?"
"An Orc boy."
As other children were sleeping, Talrasha couldn't. There was the guard in the dining hall, with Constance behind closed doors. The sounds the Khajiit child could hear were not loud, but she could kinda feel there was tension coming from the room.
So the girl slipped off from her bed to the floor, quietly crawling to the side of the doors.
She pricked up her twitching ears.
The woman sounded mad now, but not shouting like with Troel. The guard answered back, and his tone was frustrated.
Seeing someone moving, green glowing eyes snapped to one of the children raising from his bed.
Hroar put finger to his lips, and Talrasha nodded.
The boy tiptoed quietly to sit next to the Khajiit cub, putting his ear against one of the doors' surface.
Talrasha stared at him, waiting. Finally the boy focused his gaze to her, and smiled with a slight shrug.
She smiled back, taking his gesture as a positive signal that everything was fine despite of the tones in the other room.
Still, the two children kept sitting there, listening and now and then looking at each other.
Hroar, knowing that Talrasha didn't understand much of common tongue, didn't want to alarm her.
But he heard the male guard indicating to Talrasha couple of times, calling her a brat and a cat. And Constance speaking something about threats, and forcing someone into something.