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* Authors Note:

This is my very first fanfiction, and is based on my current Oblivion character Jael. At the moment, the story of the game is followed fairly closely (so beware, there may be spoilers), though I imagine it may take off into something more truely 'fanfic' like in the future. Additionally, I am in the progress of writing a more in depth back story which I may post later. I also have various screenshots that may be included later on.

Please post any critisims, comments and thoughts in my thread on the official forums, or email me at: esme@esmerelde.co.uk, thanks.

 

Index:

OB Backstory - Part I

OB Backstory - Part II

OB Chapter 1: An unlikely escape

OB Chapter 2: An unremarkable reappearance

OB Chapter 3: A question of money

 

Back story - Part I

"Jael!" Shrieked a shrill voice, "Have you seen my silver bracelet?!"

Looking up from the fletchings she was making, her eyes widened in innocence as she answered, "Why no, Lara. I've been sat here all afternoon. Where did you put it last?"

Jael's sister stamped her foot in irritation; it was hard to believe there were ten summers between them sometimes. "I know you took it! It's always you!" Lara ranted. "That was a gift from Arannir, you know how much it means to me!" Tirade over, she waited for Jael to move or say something, anything! But she sat calmly and continued with her fletching. With a cry of frustration her sister spun around and ran back the way she had come. It was only when she was sure she was alone that Jael allowed herself a small smile.

She had always loved shiny things as a child. Anything that glittered and sparkled in the faintest shaft of sunlight she desired, coveted and longer for. It didn't matter who it belonged to; friends, family or strangers – she would find the opportunity to take it. At first her family hadn't taken much notice, treating it as a temporary childish fancy. Only it wasn't.

Finishing the fletching for the day Jael began to clear up her work area, which didn't take long as she couldn't stand mess and was permanently keeping everything spick and span. Once everything was returned to its rightful place Jael yawned and stretched, her arms reaching up above her head, fingertips almost brushing the beams supporting the thatched roof. Relaxing again, hands on slender hips she bent to glance out of the window. It was a typical spring day, a fairly chill breeze – though its effect was tempered by the trees – and wan shafts of sunlight creating dappled shadows on the woodland floor. Grinning with delight she plucked her canvas bag and grass stained tunic from her peg, and exited the workshop. Nimbly climbing down the rope ladder she then set off on a long circuitous walk. Not only did she need to collect fresh ingredients, it would also keep her out of the way of Lara.

When her parents had found it impossible to dissuade her from stealing, they had tried to find something else to occupy her deft fingers and agile mind. Alchemy. To their credit, this had worked to an extent. Jael had become passionate about plants and devising new potions by carefully blending various ingredients. This also gave her a purpose in the village. Nearly all the villagers, including the children, knew how to hunt and make their own arrows, but not many had the patience for alchemy and Jael made a steady income from her simple remedies. This left a lot of time for her experimental work, which was her second biggest passion, after acquiring everything that sparkled, naturally.

As she walked, checking on the budding plants and pulling up mature roots and grasses, she began to concoct her alibi against the grilling her parents would surely give her. Confident that she could talk her way out of being responsible Jael wasn't worried. After all, what was the worst that could happen?

* * * * *

Jael stirred in her bedroll as a spring rain began to fall, splashing onto her exposed cheek. The gentle pattering was magnified on the leaves of the surrounding trees. As she awoke, she wiped the warm rain from her face with a rueful sigh. She hadn't slept well, and now she couldn't even have a fire to cook her breakfast.


She dressed quickly, shivering slightly despite the warmth of the rain. Packing her belongs away efficiently, she suppressed a bark of laughter at the thought of her sister in this position. What? No shelter to protect her glossy hair? No maid to hold her delicate silks out of the mud? Jael snorted in derision. Accustomed to long hunts away from the village and used to getting her hands dirty, meant that she was inured to sleeping rough and being able to take care of herself. Within 10 minutes, only an experienced tracker would be able to tell that this had been a campsite.

A low whickering from a nearby clearing banished Jael's thoughts of her sister, and instantly lightened her mood. Snowdrop clearly had no intention of missing her breakfast. With a final glance around the campsite, Jael nodded in satisfaction, and went to see to her horse.

While the stocky mare tucked into a handful of carrots and oats, Jael stowed her gear in the saddlebags, and strapped her bedroll behind the saddle. She stroked Snowdrops velvet nose fondly before leading her out of the clearing and back to the dirt track they had left last night.

They had been on the road for ten days, every step taking her further away from her village, away from her monotonous and austere parents, her beautiful, pouting sister and everyone she knew. Jael revelled in her freedom. Even the wet morning couldn't dampen her spirits. She estimated that they were 2 or 3 days from their destination, the port city of Haven, on the south coast of Valenwood. Jael patted the saddlebags with distracted concern, relaxing as she felt the bulging contents, as she thought about setting up her own business and her new life. She'd only been able to pack a limited number of ingredients, a mixture of leaves, roots and seeds, as almost all of the room was needed for her precious alchemy equipment, without which she could do nothing. Re-stocking ingredients would be much less trouble, and expense, than new equipment. The busy port would provide plenty of passing trade that would quickly offset her initial outlay.

"Ah, dear sister," Jael spoke aloud, almost regretfully, "to think that this is all possible because of you." Her voice sounded loud in the rainforest, but she didn't notice. The patter of rain had faded as the sun rose, and only the buzz of insects and the clop of hooves on the dirt track disturbed the humid air. Drawing out a delicate silver bangle from inside her tunic, Jael breathed in delight as the intense tropical sun rays reflected and bounced off the delicate twisted silver, momentarily dazzling her. Holding it up to the light, Jael became lost in her memories.

Jael got back to her workshop as the last of the cooler evening rays disappeared below the horizon. Her workroom was dark. Muttering rapidly but enunciating every word carefully, she grunted as a weak light spell formed, slowly brightening the room. Not brilliant, but good enough. Her skill with magicka had always disappointed her parents, particularly as Lara was so talented. Jael had always been the practical one – Lara couldn't even gut a rabbit.

Working quickly, Jael emptied the contents of her labour onto her work desk, efficiently sorting them into near piles so she could store them quickly and easily tomorrow. She was tired, and keeping the light spell active required most of her concentration. Tossing the stained tunic on to a spare peg, she extinguished the spell as she left the hut. She could make her way home in the dark perfectly well. The argument with her sister had completely slipped her mind, and she wasn't prepared for the confrontation that awaited her at home.

Jael shook herself out of her reverie, not wanting to remember the unpleasantness that had occurred that night. Though she didn't get on with her family, she loved them, and never imagined that she would leave under such circumstances. However, her dismay and sense of loss had only come later. The accusations and ultimatums had sparked her anger and pride. She might have returned the bangle, eventually, but that night she had been too proud. In the early hours, when the village was shrouded in darkness, Jael had packed her belongings, fetched her beloved mount Snowdrop, and left the village, only stopping to retrieve her various stashes of stolen loot on the way.

As she rode, oblivious to the forest around her, Jael reflected on her actions. Her parents would doubtless be worried, even though they had threatened to throw her out themselves. And what if anyone in the village became sick? She had left the more every day remedies – she could easily make more – but if there was a difficult birth, or a hunting accident, they would need someone with her skills. A gnawing sense of guilt tugged at her. Jael chewed her lip. Once she got to Haven, she could send a letter to her parents. She didn't have to tell them where she was, but they would know that she was safe. She could make a name for herself in Haven, and then return to the village with her head held proud - a renowned herbalist, who would command respect.

With a new found purpose, Jael's eyes gleamed and came back into focus...and bulged as a hoard of brawny Khajiit, and a few steel eyed humans sprang from the brush and forest, surrounding her before she realised what was happening.

"Well, well, well. What have we here? An elf maiden and her pony. What a pretty catch. A pretty catch indeed."

 

...to be continued...

 

 

Backstory - Part II

 

"Get your filthy hands off me! I've done nothing wrong!"

Twisting her body like a serpent Jael tried to disengage the grip of the City Guardsman who had appeared suddenly out of nowhere and tackled her to the ground. With her free hand, Jael tried to scratch at the burly Imperial, but with one wrist being held painfully in the small of her back, and her face being pushed into the dirt she couldn't reach much flesh. However, her nails did find the fleshy forearm of the hand encircling her neck. As she mercilessly ripped down with her nails she screamed, "I said: 'Let GO!'"

The guard cursed the resisting Bosmer as he felt the blood trickle down his arm. "And I said: Hold still !"

Still squirming, scratching and thrashing her legs Jael ignored the guard, but hearing the heavy tread of another guard she paused, twisting her head just in time to see the pommel of a dagger being thrust toward her.

"No! Wai...!"

Her final outcry was cut abruptly short as she collapsed into unconsciousness.

~

As consciousness slowly returned, Jael groaned quietly. "Urgh, where am I?" She muttered to herself. She clutched her head as a loud voice boomed out: "In a cell young lady. Or should I say, young tree rat," the voice sneered. "Looks like someone was getting too big for her boots."

Opening gummed eyelids she blinked, trying to resolve the several blurred images into one. Eventually, the swaying blur in front of her became a fine gold chain decorated with delicate, sparkling sapphires.

"Hey!" She cried weakly as she reached forward with clutching fingers. "That's mine!"

Misjudging the distance she fell heavily to her knees and gasped as the pain of landing on stone shot through her bones.

"Oho-no, I don't think so," laughed the guard as he stepped backwards out of the cell, tucking the necklace into his belt pouch.

"You made a mistake trying to pawn this pretty piece," continued the guard as he closed and locked the cell gate. "Not only did you drawn the attention of the City Guard - thanks to the wealthy courtier who commissioned this - but also the attention of the thieves guild. They don't take kindly to free-lance thieves, if you know what I mean," he finished with a wink.

Crawling forward to grip the bars of her tiny cell she looked up at the guard, puzzlement creasing her face. "I don't understand."

The guard laughed again as he retrieved his torch from the wall bracket. He began to walk away, but paused and looked back over his shoulder. "Well, put it this way. If we hadn't had a tip-off, we would never have caught you." With final wink he marched briskly down the corridor out of sight.

Jael watched the torch light recede in dumb amazement. Head throbbing, and too tired to think straight, she curled up into a ball and fell into an exhausted sleep.

~

For the second time, Jael awoke groaning. The stone floor had leached away her body heat and she was shivering. Stiff and sore, she stood and began to stretch slowly. As she became more awake and limber she became aware of the incessant chatter of the prisoner in the opposite cell. Ignoring him as best she could she sank onto the stool near the small window at the back of her cell, and put her head in her hands.

The necklace had been too tempting to leave behind. She had almost missed it as she ransacked the jewellers shop; only a stray glint as she was about to leave betrayed its location, but it caught her eye despite being carefully wrapped in black velvet. It was as beautiful as it was distinctive, and Jael couldn't resist the piece. At first, she hadn't wanted to sell it, but as the months and weeks had worn on, she had grown increasingly desperate. It wasn't that she wasn't a good enough thief, she was. She had several hidden stashes of items she had been unable to sell on. For some reason, no one was buying. It wasn't as if her goods were too hot either - she kept the more distinctive pieces for herself, and only tried to trade the more common items – but no one seemed to trust her, and anyone she did meet with looked uncomfortable and jumpy. So, when a smartly dressed Khajiit female approached her with a proposal for a meeting she had jumped at the chance – finally a chance to trade in for some decent coin, she was fed up of living like a beggar.

At the meeting, everything had started well. The Khajiit had shown some interest in her amulets, rings and musty tomes, but didn't seem overly...impressed. It was then that Jael had brought out the necklace, cradling it in her arms as she unwrapped the velvet. That had certainly made her host sit up and take notice! She hadn't stayed much longer. They had made hasty agreements on price and a next meeting to exchange the goods, and then she had been all but thrown out of the house.

Jael's eyes snapped open as everything fell into place. The guards had ambushed her as she was walking to the designated meeting place, at a time when she would definitely have the necklace on her. A set up.

"Aaargh!"

Roaring with rage, Jael jumped to her feet, overturning the table and a ceramic water pitcher.

"Cowards! Cheats!" She screamed, not noticing the smashed pitcher, or the icy water pooling around her feet. She stormed around her small cell, smacking the walls with her palms and shaking the cell bars as if sheer force of will could break them – all the while shouting incoherently.

Eventually, exhausted, her voice hoarse, she had fallen to her knees against the cell gate, only for the wretched Dunmer opposite to continue taunting her.

"...you'll go mad, and the guards will cut your throat just to stop the ranting. That's right. You're going to die in here, Wood Elf! Die!"

"Shut up! Shut up you decrepit piece of scum," she grated, "or by the Gods I'll see you'll never speak again."

The prisoner hooted in derision, but Jael was distracted. Whispered voices and armoured footfalls were coming closer. She blinked rapidly as a torch flared into view. Standing slowly, she waited to see who approached...

 

 

Chapter 1: An unlikely escape

 

The amulet glittered coldly in her hand. The fine filigree chain was tangled loosely in her fingers, chilling them in the damp dungeon air. For the first time in her life, she did not feel drawn to a clearly valuable object. Instead of filling her with longing, it repulsed her. Glancing at the body at her feet she shivered, and stuffed the amulet deep into her pocket. Kneeling down next to the old man she reached out her hand, but paused, and drew it back slowly, her fingertips spread lightly on the flagstones to keep her balance. No stranger to theft, Jael was surprised at her action – however, if it hadn't been for this man she would probably still be rotting in her cell. Besides, it felt wrong to rob a man when she had no intention of fulfilling his last request, the least she could do was leave him in peace. Studying his face Jael realised that he did look peaceful. The worried frown that had furrowed his brow was gone, only the wrinkles of old age remained. He hadn't feared death.

Lost in her own thoughts it took Jael a few moments to realise the shouts and ringing of blades had suddenly died away. Springing back from the body toward the flickering shadows, she almost tripped over the prone corpse of the assassin she had struck down mere moments before. She regained her balance as the clomp of boots and rattle of armour announced the rapid approach of one of the Blades. Ever wary she adopted a crouching stance, but she needn't have worried. At the sight of the emperor the guard dropped his sword, and sank to his knees. His anguish was palpable, she could almost taste it on the fetid air.

"We've failed...I've failed."

Well, that explained the absence of the second guard. As the remaining guard...Baurus, she recalled, reverently folded the arms of the emperor Jael relaxed, but stilled as she saw Baurus searching the emperor. Gently at first, but then more frantically. Her hand subconsciously moved to shield the pocket that contained the ruby amulet, and Baurus, even in his distraught state didn't miss the movement.

"You!" He shouted as he leapt to his feet. "What have you done with the amulet?! Give it to me you vile thief!" Advancing on Jael he growled, "I don't know what the emperor saw in you. I knew we couldn't trust you."

Not in the least affronted, Jael smiled inwardly as she rose from her ready stance.

"No."

Before the guard could splutter his protests, she continued, "The emperor gave it to me. He wants me to deliver it, and it is no longer any of your concern."

Baurus frowned. In his opinion this haughty young Wood Elf needed to be taken down a few pegs. However, realising that it was unlikely that she could have removed the amulet by force, and that if she had been with the assassins she would have been long gone, he didn't challenge her any further. Instead, his eyes flickered towards the passage the assassin had come from, and reached into his pocket.

"Here, you'll need this to get out of this wretched place," he grunted.

Jael's hand flicked out in one fluid movement to catch the silver object tossed by the guard. Her eyes not leaving his face, she rubbed her thumb over the smooth metallic object. A key.

"Take the sewers," he continued, "it's the only way out of here now."

At the mention of the sewers Jael grimaced. Slime, mould and rats. Fantastic. As she turned from the guard she mumbled her thanks, though she needn't have bothered. The guard, relieved of his duty, had given into his grief and sunk back to his knees beside the prone body of the emperor. Jael shook her head as she skirted them to reach the archway the assassin had emerged from. Gripping the rough stonework she hauled herself up into the narrow passage, determined and resolute to be free once again. Setting her shoulders, she walked forward into the darkness.

* * * * *

Shielding her eyes from the dazzling sunlight, Jael took a deep breath. Fresh, clean air filled her lungs. Closing her eyes Jael stood; palms outwards, head slightly raised, taking pleasure in everything about her. The light breeze caressing her skin and threading through her tousled hair, the gentle sound of waves lapping on the shore, and the sound of wildlife all about. Freedom.

With another deep breath Jael opened her eyes and smiled. She trotted forwards to the shoreline, where she knelt and bathed her hands, sluicing the slimy residue from her nimble fingers, calloused over the years from using a bow. The water was cold, but not icy, and it felt so good to be clean again! Throwing caution to the winds, she stripped off her heavy armour and plunged into the water, washing away the sweat and grime that had accumulated throughout her escape.

Once she felt sufficiently clean she climbed out and sat on the warm sands. As the bright sunlight warmed her skin she cast an appraising eye over her pitiful gear and supplies. She frowned. She was loathe to wear the armour. It smelt of mould and mildew, and slowed her down. That left her prison rags, but they were somewhat clean at least. Luckily, she had been able to pick the lock on her wrist irons – they might have provoked a few awkward questions! Though she wasn't prepared to discard them just yet.

Apart from her apparel, she had a rusty shortsword that was poorly balanced, an equally rusty bow and a handful of arrows, and a meagre selection of potions that looked like they had been brewed a decade ago. She sighed. Hopefully they would bring some coin at least. However, she was under no illusion that her paltry belonging were worth much. They'd barely cover lodgings for one night, let alone new equipment, armour and clothing.

Shading her eyes with her hand, she scanned the horizon. Ignoring the Ayleid ruin nearby – she wasn't in the right state of mind to figure out puzzles and dodge traps – her gaze settled on the turrets of a fort to the South-East. Jael grinned, anticipating easy pickings. Changing into her prison rags she buckled the sword around her waist and slung the bow over her shoulder. The armour might afford more protection, but it hindered rather than helped when it came to being stealthy. Besides, she couldn't bear the thought of it touching her clean skin at the moment. Stowing the rest of her gear, she squinted up at the sun to gauge the time. Late afternoon. She'd been daydreaming too long. With a resolute "hrumph” she set off towards the fort, the setting sun warming her back. Jael smiled. It was good to be free.

 

 

Chapter 2: An unremarkable reappearance


In the pitch black of the ancient corridor there was almost silence. Only the slight sound of fingertips brushing the stone walls, and the faint tread of boots in the dust disturbed the air. Retracing her steps, Jael was lost in thought as she mentally catalogued the loot she had found, trying to determine how much she would be able to sell it for, and whether it would be enough to purchase decent gear. Barely concentrating on her direction, she failed to notice the changing texture of the wall and was pulled up short as a fingernail snagged on the crumbling stone, almost pulling the nail completely off. Biting back a curse, she sucked the bleeding digit as she waited to see if anything had detected her. After a few moments of shallow breathing, Jael collapsed into relieved laughter. She had already cleared out the jabbering goblins – nothing was likely to surprise her now. More alert, she picked up her pace slightly. She'd go faster, but without a torch she was as blind as a new born Guar, and she didn't want to risk twisting an ankle down here.

The goblins that had taken up residence in the ruins hadn't put up much of a challenge. She had felled most of them with her bow from the shadows, not giving them chance to raise the alarm, though their disorganised nature meant they weren't much of a threat to begin with. Being goblins, their equipment and weapons were poor, certainly no better than those she had already acquired. However, the loot she had recovered, while small, was at least slightly valuable. Various pendants, rings, the occasional flawed gemstone, odd coins, as well as potions dusty with age. She might not be able to buy a decent bow, but she could at least buy some respectable clothes and get by in the Imperial City for one night.

Eventually the stone became damper and began to crumble slightly under her fingers; the effects of wind and rain battering through the damaged double doors of the entrance. It was only a few more steps until the rough stone gave way to weather beaten timbers. Jael paused to check her loot and take some slow breaths to help calm her mind. Palms spread over one of the heavy doors she heaved it open, just wide enough for a stealthy glance outside. If there was anything in the vicinity they would surely have heard the great door rumble open, yet all she heard was the wind rustling the branches of the shrubs in the courtyard. Satisfied, she pushed the door open another foot and slid out, instinctively sidestepping toward the shadows. Glancing up at the stars to be sure of her bearings, she set off back towards the Imperial City.

* * * * *

By the time Jael reached the Imperial City it was the early hours of the morning. The adrenaline from escaping the sewers which had kept her going through the fort had ebbed away, leaving her tired and grumpy. The streets of the city were busier than she expected, citizens on their way home from various inns and bars. Jael grimaced in irritation as the guards on almost every street corner felt the need to thrust their torches in her face. For someone used to the shadowed canopy of tropical forests, the exposed, bare walls made her feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. On top of that, the last thing she needed was a member of the Thieves Guild to recognise her.

At the brink of losing her temper, Jael rounded another corner and heaved a sigh of relief when she saw a sign swinging in the light breeze. 'The Tiber Septim Hotel.' She mused. Well, at least it looks more respectable than some of the other inns I've passed – and at least I can get out of this torchlight. As she stepped inside she blinked in surprise. The hotel was exceptionally well turned out, with the tables laden with fresh produce, and the scent of roasting meat was already beginning to make her mouth water. As she was about to step forward towards the counter she suddenly felt extremely self conscious. She was still dressed in her prison rags, which were very much out of place. The other patrons were wearing fine gowns and richly embroidered tunics, not to mention fine jewellery that made Jael's eyes light up. However, she didn't want to draw attention to herself, and someone who looked like a ragged beggar but could afford to stay here would surely be remarked upon. Though thinking about the pitiful collection of battered coins and flawed gems she had acquired in the fort, Jael wasn't too sure she would have been able to afford a bed after all. Besides, there is nothing stopping me from 'dropping in' some other night, she thought with a grin. She hadn't been noticed, so she slipped quietly back out onto the street.

Moving away from the door she paused to let her eyes readjust. Running through the individual districts in her head, Jael decided to to try the market district. Merchants and civilians would be coming and going all the time, and would be much more unlikely to take notice of one unremarkable stranger. Additionally, it was bound to be cheaper, and she had business there in the morning anyway. Redistributing the weight of her loot into a more comfortable position, she set off again. Who'd have thought finding a bed would be so much work?

~

Letting the door swing shut behind her, Jael sank gratefully onto the bed, only to grimace as it creaked alarmingly under her slight frame. Oh well, you get what you pay for. At least there are no rats...she thought, suddenly looking around the room with a sharper eye.

The Merchants Inn was the first tavern Jael had spotted in the Merchant District. The sign swinging outside was considerably more battered than the one outside The Tiber Septim Hotel, the paint faded and flaking from the rotting wood. Once inside, Jael wasted no time in bartering with the publican for a room. The balding Imperial had been polite but paid her scant attention, nor had the other patrons, who by this time of night were well into their cups. Parting grudgingly with twenty gold coins – the publican was much more interested in scooping them off the counter than who she was and where she had come from – Jael retired to her room.

Stashing her belongings under the bed and placing a dagger within easy reach, Jael finally gave into her bodies aches and pains and lay back and relaxed. So far so good. I've somewhere clean and warm to spend the night, and I have a good chance of selling most of this clutter tomorrow, she mused. Immediate concerns aside, Jael's thoughts turned to the Thieves Guild. She couldn't risk stealing anything from the city until she knew more about them. The betrayal still stung, especially as she hadn't known she was doing anything wrong, but by the Gods she wasn't going to give up on thieving so easily. Perhaps they would let her join, despite her previous error. She'd show them she was the best damn thief they had ever seen. However, until then, she would need a different source of income. From the number of stores she had passed on her way through the district, it was possible she could hire out her skills as an alchemist or fletcher while she tried to figure out how to contact the Thieves Guild.

Yawning, Jael decided she had deprived her body of sleep for quite long enough. Pulling the meagre sheet over herself, she tried to ignore the lumps in the bed as she fell into a dreamless sleep.

 

Chapter 3: A question of money

 

It was the unrelenting sunlight shining through the window, bathing her face in a golden glow that woke Jael the next morning. Quickly coming to – her sleep last night had clearly been more restful than she had expected – Jael sat up, rubbing the vestiges of sleep from her eyes. From the bustle and chatter coming from outside, and the angle of the sunlight streaming through the window, Jael guessed it was already approaching mid-morning. Rising quickly she threw on her prison rags, now extremely worn and held together by fraying cotton, gathered her gear and left her room. She had some haggling to do.

~

"What do you mean this stuff is only worth 50 Septims? The armour is worth more than that, surely..."

Without meaning to, Jael's voice had a tinge of doubt in it as she finished speaking. .Great, she berated herself, so much for getting the upper hand. The shop keeper had raised his palms, trying to placate her, though he didn't seem scared of her. Probably gets a lot of irate customers, she thought ruefully. She frowned, and focused on the stream of words he was babbling at her.

"...just not good enough quality, and who is going to want battered goblin armour in this city?!" He pushed the offending armour aside disdainfully, trying not to make eye contact with his strange customer. His normally cheerful welcome had faltered when he had seen the state of her, and he had almost asked her to leave, but she had forestalled him by throwing the loot onto the counter and raising a questioning eyebrow. He was now glad he hadn't tried to evict her, she had a...forceful personality.

Sorting through the remainder of the gear, Thoronir continued, "The potions on the other hand are at least useful, though I doubt many customers would want to trust such a...erm, vintage recipe..." He chuckled nervously as he rubbed vigorously at the bulbous bottle, trying to clear away the dust and grime of whatever cave this Bosmer had dug it out of. "...and a jeweller should be able to do something with these stones. Though being uncut I can't offer much for them. Most of the value is in these plain rings and pendants. 50 Septims is the best I can offer you." He sounded almost regretful.

Sighing, Jael agreed on the price. However, by the time she had outfitted herself in some decent clothes, leather boots, and a plain but sturdy dagger, she hadn't enough for proper armour, or even a reliable bow. However, she was glad to see the shoddy weapons she had acquired in the sewers go, she could cope with the basic, for now. But she needed more money. She had some skill with the dagger, but she had to admit she was better at skinning a deer carcass with it, than plunging it into an unsuspecting goblin. Without her bow she felt vulnerable, like part of her was missing. She had kept hold of the arrows she had scrounged. She didn't know when she would get chance to make her own again.

*****

Stepping into the Bloodworks, Jael's nostrils flared as the scent of sweat and blood overwhelmed her senses. The air was hot and muggy, making Jael feel uncomfortable as her skin itched and began to sweat, contributing to the acrid stink. Grimacing, she walked down the shallow set of stairs into the bowel of the Arena, the noise of the crowds above becoming quieter as the noise of weapons training, and the shouts of an instructor increased. Rounding the corner she found herself in a large, stone room. She took everything in quickly, from the two gladiators training, the cheap weaponry in racks around the walls, the old bloodstains, and more oddly, a caged boar.

The gladiator nearest to her, a Dunmer, stopped shooting his bow long enough to nod at her, and gesture towards the annexe at the back of the room with a wry grin. Jael returned the nod, and made her way there, giving the large Orc who hadn't noticed her a wide birth. The way he was swinging that sword left no doubt in her mind that he could easily cleave her head from her shoulders without effort.

Entering the alcove, the commanding voice she had heard from the entrance resolved itself into a middle aged woman sat on a stool, whilst another gladiator – this one a young woman – tried valiantly to follow the rapid instructions. It would have been comical, but the seated woman exuded an air of command, a confidence and self assurance that only a fool could not sense. The two women paid her no attention whatsoever, and so Jael turned to the third person within the alcove. He was seated in the opposite corner, and appeared to be engrossed in several lists that were scattered over the table in front of him. Battle fixtures?

Drawing a shallow breath in the muggy air, Jael walked toward the table. Before she could open her mouth, the Redguard bellowed "Whaddya want?!" Without looking up from his papers. Setting her shoulders for what she imaged could be a difficult conversation, she answered. "To fight. I am here to..."

"Fight?! You?!" The burly Redguard had finally turned to face her when she started talking, but her prepared speech was interrupted by his thunderous laughter. "It would be no fight, little elf," he continued, still shaking with laughter. "They would crush you like an insect!"

He had turned back to his papers before he finished speaking, dismissing her, and so did not see the spark of anger and defiance that glinted in her eye. Jael, her spine stiff in outrage marched around the table to face him. The way he had appraised her, like a bug, incensed her. She gripped the rough edges of the table as she leaned over it. "I said, I am here to fight, " she hissed with as much menace as she could muster. Staring the Redguard in the eye, her knuckles turning white, she waited. With an exaggerated sigh, he raised his hands in mock surrender and chuckled.

"Ok, alright! Maybe you can fight, you've certainly got the temper for it. But it's your funeral if you're wrong."

Jael forced herself to relax as he began rummaging through the piles of paper on his desk. However, his expression turned serious.

"Right, first things first. I'm Owyn, the Blademaster. You want a fight, you come to me. Secondly, the rules. The only armour you wear is the Arena Raiment. You take it off or don't wear it, we'll kick your sorry carcass back onto the street." Looking up briefly, giving her yet another once over he grunted, "I expect you'll be wanting a light raiment...not that it'll probably do you much good. " he finished with a barely audible mutter. Jael mutely nodded.

"Assuming you actually mange to kill your opponent..."

"Kill?!" Jael blurted, astonishment and dismay in her eyes. Owyn frowned, and Jale instinctively took a step back.

"Yes. Kill. All fights are to the death. You got a problem with that you can take you sorry ass out of my Bloodwords right now."

Jael's thoughts swirled.

Kill, for money? ... It's not right! ... But I need the money ... It's wrong! … I can kill … Can it be that different to killing bandits and goblins?... But I shouldn't … I CAN.

Quashing her reservations, she set her jaw and nodded. "To the death."

Owyn shook his head slightly and went back to his rummaging. "Now, as I was saying, if you manage to kill your opponent there is to be no looting of their equipment – weapons or armour. Understood?"

Again, Jael nodded. She hadn't even thought of that possibility, though she sighed inwardly at the lost opportunity.

"Ah, here we are."

Jael's attention snapped back to the Blademaster as he tried to smooth out a crumpled piece of paper. He suddenly rose to his feet and made his way to a battered cupboard in the corner, where he extracted what Jael assumed was her new battle raiment. He tossed it at her feet, before continuing, "Right, put this on and we'll she how long you last. You're a Pitdog in the Arena now, scum."

This page has been created, updated and maintained by Jenny Hodgetts. All text (and images where stated) are copyrighted to me unless otherwise stated.
Copyright © Jenny Hodgetts 2006-2009