Here's a short chapter from one of the stories I have yet to publish on here. The character, Zenoya, has a profile in The Roleplay Group if you want a little more background about her! I also use Zenoya in our Roleplaying Discord, but this version of her is slightly different. As always, let me know what you think!
Talos Guide you!
Warning: Slightly Triggering, Adult Content. Read with Discretion.
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“Auri-El's Hand, Z! You drink as much as these Nords!” Avi couldn't withhold her laughter as she watched me chug another bottle of ale. Next to her, Hirendor stared at me in equal parts shock and horror. He mistakenly bet that I couldn't out-drink him. I might have been his younger, but I lived in this land and drank of its poisons far longer than he had. He was used to sipping soft Elven brandies at parties and dinners. I was used to chugging lagers and meads because there was nothing else to do.
I removed the bottle from my lips, looking him dead in the eyes as I set it down beside me. “I'll take my pay now,” I purred at him, “if you don't want to try and catch up that is.”
He tutted, smirking as he dug in his coin pouch. “You're absolutely mad. How are you still alive? You just drank enough to make a troll tipsy.”
“You get used to it after awhile,” I laughed lightly, taking the coins from him happily. I attempted to count them, but my eyes wouldn't stay focused enough to get an accurate number. I just had to trust him to not cheat me.
Avi shook her head. “No, I don't think we will. I can't stand this harsh tasting stuff. Don't the Nords have anything sweeter?”
I hummed in thought, staring into the flames of the fire in front of us. “Well, mead is a little better. Best drink I ever had was at the old meadery in Whiterun. Honningbrew Meadery, I think it was called.” I felt my words slurring by that point, but hoped it wasn't enough for the others to tease me about. “It's closed now. Black-Briar Meadery bought it out or something.”
“Oh, right. Mead.” Her disappointment was amusing. I didn't know what else she expected from a land as cold and harsh as Skyrim. We didn't have the warm weather luxuries of spices and sugars, and it wasn't like the new High King was going to open trade with Aldmeri controlled providences. When she saw my smirk she added, “Honestly, I don't know how you make it here. There's nothing to do; nothing good to eat or drink... I have half a mind to slip away and catch the next boat home.”
“Aviriel!” Hirendor scolded in a whisper. His eyes scanned around to make sure her talk of desertion went unheard. She rolled her eyes as he continued, “You'll get in big trouble if you don't learn to control your tongue.”
“As if anyone else is out here tonight,” I found myself muttering in her defense. “We're the only idiots that want to stay out in this cold.” Kynareth wanted to emphasize my point by sending a strong wind through the camp, chilling us to the bone. The settlement we were stationed in laid on the border of Skyrim and Cyrodiil, hidden among the Jerall Mountains. While cold year round, the peaks were exceptionally frigid in First Seed. The elves with good senses had long taken refuge in the various buildings around us, likely fast asleep in their beds. Besides the lookouts who were forced to wait around until morning, we three were the only ones braving the elements.
Hirendor relaxed slightly at my words, but still kept his voice low. “I suppose. Still, keep your thoughts to yourself. We all miss home, but where would we be if we all just left? We're fighting for footing here as it is.”
“I know that,” Avi murmured in response. “I wouldn't really leave. There's too much on the line.” There was a long silence that followed, and I was left to wonder what it was like. Skyrim was the only land I was familiar with, but I wouldn't call it home. Home is where you felt safe and had someone who waited for you to return. In that regard, I didn't have a “home”.
“What's it like?” The question left my lips before I even processed what I was asking. I took a moment to gather my thoughts before clarifying, “What's Summerset Isle like? You talk about it like it's the greatest place in the world.”
The two stared at me in disbelief. “That's because it is!” Hirendor gasped, the faintest hint of a smile on his face. “This is your attempt at a joke, right? Surely you've been there before.” I shook my head and he looked over at Avi. “By the Eight, she's being serious!”
The woman smiled widely. “The Summerset Isles are paradise. It's warm and green- everything that this wretched land isn't. There's beautiful forests and lush grassland. Our cities are just as beautiful as the Isles themselves.”
“Alinor is the most beautiful in my opinion,” Hirendor cut in, grinning proudly. “It's where I grew up. Despite all my travels, I have yet to find a city, let alone province, that can even compare. When Mundus shines down at just the right angle, the city looks like it's made of glass.”
“Alinor's okay, I guess,” Avi stated, making her partner scoff. “Firsthold is truly the most beautiful city, Z. Unlike Alinor, my city didn't want to be a sore-thumb. The architecture compliments the island. We are atop the cliffs, overlooking the vast sea. Our gardens have absolutely no rivals. I think even 'Alinor-born' Hirendor can agree there are few things as romantic as a boat ride down the Diceto River.”
The older elf scoffed again. “Romantic? Cliche is the better word.” The two laughed again as Avi punched him in the arm. “Fine, fine. Let us agree to disagree then.”
I smiled as I watched the two. While I couldn't enjoy their teasing, I could enjoy their childish interactions. Despite the two being quite a few years my senior, they still acted like teenagers. Being around men races had nearly made me forget my own kin's longevity. “They both sound lovely,” I told them, giggling.
“I'm still trying to process how you've never been there.” The male rose to his feet, grabbing a log from the pile and tossing it into the shrinking fire. The wind had nearly taken our flames, but a little magic from his hands quickly gave it new life. When I neglected to answer the obvious attempt at prying, he continued, “You weren't born there, but your parents must have been, right?”
“I... I dunno.” The looks the two gave me told me the short reply wasn't satisfying enough. I added reluctantly, “I don't remember much about them.”
While Hirendor caught the hint, Avi was still clueless enough to ask, “Where did they go?”
A frown tugged my lips, but Hirendor answered before I could, “They've passed to the stars, I'd assume. Don't ask more about it. If she wanted to let you know, she'd tell you.”
Avi started to apologize, but I simply shook my head. “It's alright. You didn't know. Besides, it's been... eighteen years now? It doesn't bother me anymore.”
The woman took my response as an invitation to prod further. “So, what happened to them?”
I stared at her curious eyes then shifted my gaze to Hirendor. I sighed heavily as I saw he was equally as interested. I had become friends with these elves months ago, and while grateful for their company, I still hadn't let them into the recesses of my life. It was second nature to keep my past locked up. Reopening old wounds just compromised how far I had gotten, so when I kept a sober mind, I kept my lips sealed. I was far from a sober mind at that moment however. I blamed the bottles that littered the ground rather than my own pain-filled, nagging conscious for replying, “I suppose it's time I told someone this story. There isn't a person alive who knows all of it but me.” I cleared my throat and let the words I held back for so many years finally flow from my lips:
“I don't remember where I was born, but I don't think it really matters. My parents were merchants that traded all across Tamriel. We didn't have a home other than the wagon and 'the stars above', as Da would say. I was so young I can't even begin to recall all the places we had been, but I know I was in Morrowind for a long while. From there, we crossed into Skyrim.
“I'd never seen snow before. I thought it was the prettiest thing until we came to Windhelm. Da went to get some supplies while Ma and I played in the streets. Those Stormcloaks didn't like us doing that for some reason and took to harassing us: calling us names, threatening us with their swords, throwing rocks at us. They ran us out of the city and far north. Ma was scared, but Da reassured her not everyone here would hate us. He promised if we went and visited the College of Winterhold to see a friend of his we would be safe there.
“We didn't even make it that far. Up north, there's no law except the Stormcloaks law, and even they don't care about patrolling that frozen Oblivion. Some bandits attacked us, and killed our horse... Ma and Da put up a good fight but... we didn't really stand a chance. She said they'd leave us alone after they took everything, but they didn't. They were Nords. They didn't like us for some reason. I never knew what we did to them, but I know now it's because we simply existed.”
I planned on ending my tale there, but I heard Hirendor whisper, “How did you escape, Zenoya?” My lips stayed sealed until my eyes met his. His concerned look was accompanied by the gentle touch of his hand as he placed it on my shaking knee. I hadn't realized how anxious I had become just talking about it, my senses dulled by the excess alcohol.
I looked back into the flames, the same nagging regret urging me to continue speaking. “I didn't for a long, long time. The Nords tortured Ma and Da to death. They died no more than a few weeks after they kidnapped us. I was different though. It wasn't like I knew anything they didn't already know. I was a child, for Arkay's Sake! So, they didn't want me to die. They wanted to use me for fun.
“For years, literal years, I was whatever they wanted me to be. A punching bag, a barmaid, a smith, a prostitute... I was a tool that they got to take turns with. I tried to run and fight, by the Divines, I did, but it was never enough and each punishment was more horrific than the last. They beat me once, starved me another... The last time I ever tried to escape, they burned me. I couldn't move for days. I gave up trying to get away after that; it wasn't worth it. They never went so far to kill me, even when I begged that they would.
“They told me I was a worthless race. They said elves were murderers and thieves and all of them deserved what I was getting. As sad as it was, I started to believe them. The day-in day-out physical and mental abuse I was submitted to made me believe I deserved nothing better, because I was an inferior race.”
I found myself wiping away tears as they stung my cheeks in the cold. I immediately became annoyed that I was crying. I kept my gaze away from the two as I continued, “One day, some mages from The College of Winterhold stormed the place. The bandits made the mistake of messing with their apprentices. Those wizards tore through the hideout and left no one alive, except me. The Arch Mage, Savos Aren, realized I was in trouble and helped me back to Winterhold.
“I didn't trust any of them, which I regret now since I realize they had the best intentions for me. Still, he was kind enough to leave me in the company of Nelecar, an Altmer like us.” I couldn't help the smile that tugged at my trembling lips. “He didn't know what to do with me for a long time. He was no older than you, Hirendor, and he was given responsibility of an elf who hadn't seen her sixteenth winter. He was a good caretaker though. He took the time to get to know me, find out what I needed from him and then did his best to provide it. He restored what faith I had lost.”
Avi smiled sadly, as I leaned my head against her shoulder. “He sounds like a great mer. Why didn't you stay with him?”
I shook my head in response. “He left me. There was no goodbyes or indication that he was going away. When Savos Aren was murdered, he left only a note behind. The barkeeper read it to me. He said he was proud of me and that he loved me as his own blood. He said he had to leave and couldn't tell me where because it wasn't safe. I think he was in trouble. Maybe he still is. That's why I set out to find him.
“I never did though. Instead, I took what he taught me and put it to use. I became a Mercenary. I kill bandits and get paid to do it,” I shut my eyes as I tiredly leaned into Avi. The elf supported me, giggling softly as I hiccuped. “It gets lonely, but I'll take solitude over another day in that hideout. There's no one else I can rely on by myself.”
“What about us?” Hirendor asked, a compassionate smile on his normally stoic face.
“You?” I asked, opening my eyes. I hadn't really considered myself exceptionally close to anyone in awhile, but as I shared my deepest secrets I felt nothing but warmth and acceptance. The elves gave me something that I had yet to find anywhere else in the frozen wasteland.
“Of course!” Avi replied without any hesitation. “You're one of us now, aren't you?”
The confirmation sent butterflies to my stomach. I looked between the two, smiling like the drunk idiot I was. “Yeah. I'm one of you.” After years of being alone and not having anyone to depend on, simply being “one of us” was the greatest joy I had ever felt.
“Then, you go where we go.” Hirendor chuckled, “Now you don't have to be lonely anymore.” The male shook his head in amusement. “You might be as big of an idiot as the Nords here, but you're our kin. There's no reason to consider yourself anything less.” I sat up, attempting to punch him in the arm, but missing due to my double vision. The two laughed at me, but I couldn't help but join in. I would more than likely regret letting my guard down in the morning, but I would enjoy the feeling while it lasted.
After a moment or two of comfortable silence between us, I asked, “Do you think I could go back with you? To the Summerset Isles? I think I've spent enough time here.”
“I don't see why not,” Avi cheerfully stated. “We wouldn't leave you behind. Besides, I would love to take you to the gardens of Firsthold. They're truly the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.”
“After I'm done showing her around Alinor, I think she'll disagree with you,” Hirendor taunted, making the three of us laugh again.
The moment was cut short as we heard a distinct velvet voice speak up from behind us. “Glad to see you're all having fun,” the woman purred, her arms crossing over her chest. “Drinking up our reserves and freezing yourselves to death is a different kind of fun than I'm used to, but to each their own.”
At the sound, we all three stood up, the two elves on either side of me saluting. I attempted to salute as well, but nearly fell over from the head-rush. I resorted to giggling, making Avi choke back her own laughter. Hirendor looked as though he was about to explode, afraid of what our superior might do in response to our unprofessional act. He quickly stated, “Forgive them, Chancellor Ciraen. They're... unwell.”
“Unwell, indeed,” she grumbled, looking us over. “I expected better from the two of you, but I can excuse the barbaric nature of the Skyrim-born.” As I finally stood up straight and correctly saluted, she sighed, “Since you three would rather be awake than asleep, I have a task for you, considering you can sober up and not disappoint me.”
“Of course, Chancellor!” Avi responded, her eyes shifting to me and then back to her.
Ciraen nodded. “Elenwen and I have decided our next move will be to target the High King personally. He has an ambassador to the Empire to whom he is exceptionally close. You'll kill her and plant evidence on her. It's easy enough, but considering I'm sending you three...”
“We won't fail you!” Hirendor responded, confidence saturating his voice.
“We will see, won't we?” Ciraen gave me a look of disgust before turning her back to us. Once she disappeared inside her cabin, the elves on either side of me immediately headed for the gate. The Chancellor demanded no hesitation. While I wasn't fond of her, I wasn't willing to disregard my friends' best interests.
I followed behind them, picking up a bottle as I went. Avi gasped, trying not to smile as she watched me down the bottle. “Haven't you had enough, Z?” Hirendor looked back at me, simply rolling his eyes and shaking his head.
I dropped the bottle as I finished it. “We're about to murder someone. I don't think I can ever drink enough.”
Wow really intense ending. The best part about this story is that you manage to deliver a lot of exposition about your character's story without making it seem out of place or random. The well-described emotional context you give is quite helpful in that regard. I like how the story ends on a bit of a cliff hanger as well, it certainly makes me more invested in the character. I wonder what happened to Zenoya's friends by the time of the start of Fimvul's roleplay ....
When I finish In Love and War, Daughter of Dominiom will be the next "long" story I work on. If you like this little snippet, I think you'll enjoy the whole story.
Yes, yes, yes! Will read this in the coming minutes.
Let me know what you think, Ramses!!
Finished it... man that was a rollercoaster; I dunno what to feel. Fantastic job as always!