The Bounty Chronicles: Ch. 12


The rocking and jarring of the cart bolted me awake from a momentary daze. The creaking of the wood bounced off the nearby rocks and mountain faces making me feel like I was in a type of chasm.

Oh Whiterun Hold, why do you have many obscure mountains in your tundra? Ugh…

Sorine and I had been traveling by horse pulled carriage for the past day. We stopped in the wilderness for the night in the outskirts of Whiterun. The driver, Kibell, was not too pleased at the idea of going off the main road and camping out. We were truly better off to camp then turn back for Rorikstead. Sleeping outside with the wild animals of the tundra builds character, after all.

The first few hours after the surprise Nimhe job was spent at the local blacksmiths. Ghorza was a fantastic smith but yet her assistant, an Imperial lad, Tacitus, could not smith for shit. By the Hist, he even failed to forge proper nails!

Thankfully he did not waste a single ounce of strength on the segmented leg plates for my armor. With the combination of steel, corundum, and quicksilver the price was right up my alley. I also asked for the cut in the lining to be stitched back. For an additional twenty gold, plus the two-thousand five-hundred and twenty-five left me with five-hundred fifty-five.

All in all, that whole process took around three days. It could have been done far sooner if Ghorza was not disturbed and took time to help her useless assistant. The book she got for him, something called Last Scabbard of Akrash or whatever, didn’t help the man. No talent indeed.

Ahh the pathetic, worthless and time consuming civil war raising the prices of everything in this province. Resources were becoming scarcer under the stipulation that they were needed for the war effort. Prices on everything was on the rise putting people in difficult situations. Everything from the simplest orange to the largest house.

All of this, over a piece of paper.

Seems pointless and shitty when it is put inter perspective.

But at the same time that made bounties of peoples’ heads higher too. True, due to the rising exchange rate it didn’t really mean more money but coin was coin.

It was midafternoon as we passed the pathway to Hilgrund’s Tomb giving me not a lot of sunlight left to finish writing but enough to have the Breton sneak a peek at the contents.

“Did… did you draw Nimhe?” She sounded perplexed.

I replied, “This one did, yes.”

“Ok, but why? And how? Besides there is no way you will see anything like her again you know.” Her hand scooped a bit of hair from her eyes.

“However true that may be,” I sighed, “it never hurts to still learn about the creatures weaknesses and abilities. Preparation after all.”

People believed bounty hunting to be a, some-what, simple occupation to do for a living. Track down the target and bring them back dead or alive, depending upon whether which price is higher and the word of the Jarl. Normally the victims were alive. Bloodied, bruised and a broken rib or two but alive all the same. The threat of death was every contract and there was no shortage of idiots who would kill for money.

“Fair enough Xian. But how are you able to even draw her after only seeing her for so little a time?”

“That is just memory, Sorine.” I tapped my temple for emphasis taking care not to drop the sharpened piece of charcoal. “After all, Nimhe was just a larger Frostbite Spider with black chitin covering everything except her underbelly, maw and eyes.”

“Point very much well taken. But I can’t help but feel there was something more to her than that,” she said giving her insight.

I shrugged, “Maybe there was and maybe there was not. I pulled all the important details I could find at any rate.”

“Just from fighting her?” Sorine crossed her arms. “I don’t believe that at all.”

“You have your opinions and I have my facts,” I smirked. Looking at our surroundings, the water gave a pleasant, low swishing sound reminding me of having baths at a young age. The large cliffs, rocks, and wild animals sang the songs of their people. Frogs, toads, wolves, and birds all gave their best for an actually nice evening. Already some stars were able to be seen if you would look up to the sky. “Sahtee…”

“Hmm?” Sorine asked with a perplexed before a cheeky little smile appeared on her lips. “If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you are having a nice time.”

“I am not all bad as people like to say I am,” I replied turning my gaze back to the journal filled with creatures and turned the page. “And if you are wondering what I just said, it was ‘stars’.” My clawed finger pointed up to drive the point home.

Out of my peripheral vison I saw her gaze towards the slowly darkening sky. Peppered through the black-blue clouds were the white specks of stars.

“Hah. They are pretty, aren’t they?” She looked down to eye my journal. Sorine let out a gasp. “What the hell is that?” The Breton pointed to the monster that covered the paper.

“Huh? Oh…” She was looking at the Vampire Lord. The picture looked identical to the creature I saw Harkon transform into. The large muscle stature, the bat-like wings that sprouted from his shoulders looked weaker than their real world counterparts. The crown remained adorned on his brow and the fangs were the most threatening thing on it again. “This. Just a creature I met in one of my contracts.”

It’s not like that wasn’t a lie, just not stating the whole truth. Besides, I didn’t owe this woman an explanation.

“I don’t believe you,” she stated flatly. “That thing looks like something from a nightmare. What is it, a vampire?”

I was surprised the driver, Kibell, didn’t say anything. Silently talking with himself and his horse.

“What do you know? Correct on the first guess.”

Her shocked expression spoke volumes.

“I… I’ve never seen any vampire that looked like this.” Her finger pointed to all the structures of the creature. “I doubt Isran has seen one either.”

“He hasn’t and he doesn’t know about this… Vampire Lord.” I rolled my shoulders, allowing them to ease what tension there was stored in them; they popped as well. “And before you say a damn thing, no, it was just a name I gave this form.” And here I was giving, spilling my guts out to this woman about the last contract. Well, at least I liked her more than Isran already. “And what does it matter? It truly is none of your concern.”

“Look,” she sighed, “it may not be, for now, but I’m more curious than anything. After all I was Isran’s tinkerer and one of his best thinkers. Knowledge is a powerful weapon.”

I smiled a little.

“One and the same for that part, Sorine.”

“Hold on. Is that a smile?” She looked at me quizzically, and sarcastically, peering at my face. “Hah, I think it is!”

How quickly the subjects change.

“Get your finger away from my mouth,” I complained, swatting it away like a fly. “Yes I know I rarely smile. Bounty hunting isn’t exactly a social occupation.”

“But you don’t have to be alone. Why not hire someone to accompany you on jobs?”

“And waste it on someone who only cares about coin and not a lick for me? Fuck that.” My demeanor became a bit more guarded. Opening up to people similar to me, to my occupation, and only for coin bothered me heavily.

“It was just a suggestion, Xian.”

“I know.” Doesn’t stop it from being a shitty suggestion. Looking to the now barely visible sun on the horizon. The surrounding area was now the steaming, moist lands of Eastmarch. Judging from stones, I would have us pegged to be at the center-most point of the entire natural hot lands. “Kibell, what does your sundial say for a time?”

The Nord lifted his left arm, making it bask in the little light that remained. A moment of the time was taken as he tried to align the contraption just right. “A little past eight and half hour. If we keep this rate up for time, we should arrive at Riften in about an hour.”

I nodded to the driver. “Thank you.” The journal disappeared into the compartment on my armor.

“We should be passing Shor’s Stone within half an hour.”

“Thanks for letting us know,” Sorine replied with a sweet smile. Turning to me she asked, “What is it that you have in mind when we arrive in Riften?”

A gauntleted hand combed through my feathers as I sighed.

“Rent rooms at the Bee n’ Barb. And get something to eat as well. Maybe a warm bath if Talen-Jei and Keerava are still heating the water.” Leaning to the left, I all but sprawled out on my side of the carriage and closed my eyes.

“What are you doing?” Sorine sounded more quizzical than truly wondering what the hell I was doing.

“Is it not obvious? This one is tired.”

She sounded a bit incredulous.

“From what? You haven’t done a damn thing all day except sit down and enjoy a ride!”

“And I am just exhausted.” A weak smirk worked its way onto my lips. It felt like this was a simple, yet strange, game with her. Maybe I was getting used to, somewhat, pleasant company? I sighed inwardly at the thought.

“Yeah, I’m sure you are, you smirking lizard,” she joked. “Don’t think I can’t see that smile.”

Three times now. Come on woman.

“It is not too difficult to get into this one’s good graces, Sorine,” I responded. “It is breaking those graces and expecting to get back into them that’s the difficult part.” The Breton followed in suit, laying on her back to look up at the starry night sky.

“That I can understand Xian.” She looked at me before turning to the blackening sky. “But those graces don’t stretch that far. Do they?”

I looked to the Breton, about to speak my mind, when I only return to the heavens and stars above us.

I didn’t voice a counterpoint to her remark. Why would I when she was right?


We arrived at Riften’s city gates in the hour that Kibell had given Sorine and me near Shor’s Stone. With how late it was the Nord was simply going to stay the night before heading back to Markarth. The Riften guards that were stationed at the stables helped the man with his requirements.

I was doing my best to ignore the men and woman. Laila Law-Giver may have a more “neutral” status with the civil war going on, but she’s revealed to me that she agrees more with Ulfric Stormcloak than the Empire. In my eyes she was lucky to even have her position as Jarl still; that uneasy treaty at High Hrothgar truly made my blood boil.

“Where is the Bee n’ Barb then?”

Sorine’s question brought me back to reality.

“Wha- ahh, near the town square.” My wandering mind was getting the better of me. This was worrisome. Fatigue maybe? Hunger? Had to be one of them. Or both.  

She raised an eyebrow.

“Did I startle you?”  

“Somehow, yes,” I nodded groggily.

The smell of mead, musk and moisture filled the air the closer one got to the canal. The Black-Briar Meadery made sure of two of those three things; canal finished the trio of smells. Somehow it reminded me of home, along the borders of Cyrodill and Black Marsh. All it was missing with being in that actual place.

Torches lit along several wooden poles gave light to the walkways all around the city. It also gave the poor people ways to see others who did not share their dreary lifestyle. One such would have approached us if not for the guard shooing her away like a common rat. He turned towards us to give a nod before returning to his patrol.

I felt a twinge of remorse for the Wood Elf. It wasn’t by her choice to have that life. It was forced into her hands like a rotten disease. Now I wished to find her in the morning and give her some coin.

“Xian?” Sorine asked with a cock of her head. “You alright?”

“I’m fine,” I lied beautifully. “Just thinking of some things for when we get back to Isran.” This really wasn’t like me. But then again I hated Riften with every scaly fiber in my body and this type of shit always bugged me. Add that being tired never helped anyone. “We are almost to the inn. Food and drink await, thank the Hist.”

“I know what you mean,” she agreed with a nod. Her hand went to her stomach, stating, “Something in my belly would help me sleep.”

The bright candles shined through the stained windows of the Bee n’ Barb, casting grimy, finger-like shadows to the ground. Through them I could see Talen-Jai and another employee passing around food and mead.

Thankfully there was no sign of a certain someone in the usual spot. Perhaps busy, perhaps gone. Either worked it for me.

The door creaked open as we talked into the warm establishment. Talen and Keerava each gave me a wave before giving the customers their full attention. The place was full enough to be considered alive: four of the ten tables were filled with commoners and nobles alike. Including Maven Black-Briar and Hemming.

Fucking dogs.

“Talen,” jeered a balding Nord in blue regal clothing, “another round!” His mug banged against the wooden table making it shake.

“I believe you’ve had enough Vulwulf. Maybe it’s time for you to head on home.” The green Argonian crossed his arm as he laid a tray on the bar counter.

“You stupid lizard! Give me another round, or I’ll put you head on a pi-“

“Oh shut up old man,” I interrupted while taking an empty seat. “No one wishes to hear you complain about lack of mead.”

“Excuse me, boots?!” The man drunkenly roared, slamming his hands against the table.

“Father, please,” the young man beside him pleaded. “There’s no need to further the scene.”

“Stay out of this, son!”

“Listen to your boy. It would be a good thing to consider who you are barking ‘boots’ to.” I motioned to Sorine who stood by the door looking shocked. “Sorine, it’s alright. The scene’s over. Come sit with this one.”

“Like hell it is, lizard! Who are you to me?!” His face was turning red and spit slowly crawled down his chin.

“Xian-Krie,” I replied with a turn of my head. “Dragonborn. Remember?”

And just like that the fight and rage all but escaped the old Nord’s body. Vulwulf fumbled for his chair before his son, Asgeir, helped guide it towards his hand. The rest of the patrons all watched with a small amount of interest. All but the Black-Briars.

Talen walked up behind me and clapped my armored shoulder.

“Brave but foolish, egg-brother.”

“Describes me best,” I smirked.

“And who might this be? A friend of yours?” He gestured with a claw to the Breton sitting across from me.

“Acquaintance more like. Sorine Jurard. Was hired to bring her to my employer.”

“I’d say acquaintance,” she nodded. “Talen, if I heard correctly.”

He nodded, “You heard right. Talen-Jai, at your service.” The lizard brought out a small flip book and an inked quill. “If you’ll be staying for a quick bite to eat, what is it you would like?”

“If it isn’t too much trouble I’d like a bowl of soup or stew. Whichever is easier.”

Talen jotted the choice of food on the piece of paper.

“And the usual, Xian?”

“Indeed,” I answered with a nod. As my marsh-friend strode off to fish out what leftovers were available, and heat up extra soup, something in the corner of my eye garnered my attention. The Nord woman saw me turn and smiled seductively and began to slowly walk over. “Oh, gods dammit.” I face palmed.

“What? What’s wrong?” Sorine asked.

“It is her. The woman walking towards us.” I rubbed my eyes in exasperation.

She followed my claw. “What is she to you?”

“A whore I have known.”

“…Oh.” Sorine blushed. “I ah… I don’t know what to say.”

“Well hello again, my scaly friend,” came the voice of the tavern wench. She wrapped her arms around my neck and climbed unceremoniously into my lap. “Did you miss me?”

“Not at all, Celest. You know well that I’m done with your kind.” I gave her a dismissive wave.

“And last I checked, ‘my kind’ was a favorite of yours.” Her hand fell from its spot to caress my armored chest. It sunk lower and hovered just above my crutch, making my body involuntarily shutter. I was turning into a near toy with this woman. Again. I looked Sorine which did not go unnoticed. “Oh, is she going to join us? Groups always appealed to me.”

If she could have swallowed her tongue, the Breton would have. The ferocious blushing did not help the situation.

“I… I would never- I have higher standards than Xian here.”

“Ahh, she’s blushing.” Celest brushed a strand of hair from her eye. “Aren’t you just cute?”

“Alright, that is enough,” Keerava called out. “Celest, leave them be!”

She complained, “But I’m not harming them.” The Nord playfully patted my head and feathers.  

“Said the disease to the body.” I muttered.

“Hey, that’s mean.” Celest pouted, still trying to straddle on my lap. Though I hated to admit it the woman’s pouting was cute. “After all the things I did for you, too. Fun as they were though…”

“Alright, fine. I apologize for asking you to do those things for the both of us.” Sorine continued to stay silent, making mental notes and checks by the look she gave off. “Now, please leave us before I become perturbed. You remember what I was like when perturbed, don’t you?” I mentioned with a slight hiss, tail swaying at the tip.

“Y-yes,” she replied, visibly becoming nervous and a little shaky. “Sorry, Xian.”

“Thank you.” The anger vanished like a puff of smoke from an Imperial’s pipe. My tail went back to a gentle sway, the hiss ceased and a smile became known. “That’s all I wished for, an apology and to be left alone but you kept pushing. You push, I shove.” Talen came and placed my normal two ales on the table.

“I have a feeling you need these sooner rather than later, old friend. On the house this time. Svana will bring both your meals when they are prepared.” He gave a friendly smile before retreating into the kitchen.

The alcohol helped whet my throat as I resumed speaking. “This one is done with tavern wenches, Celest. You and the rest of Skyrim’s whores. Besides,” I took another drink, “you owe my friend an apology.”

Sorine looked to me and gave a grin that almost made her face glow.

“Sorry miss. I didn’t mean to make you… uncomfortable.” Celest apologized with a bow of her head.

She visibly became less rigid and said, “Thank you Celest. If you don’t mind, please leave us alone now. Important matters need to be discussed.”

“Got it.”

And just like that the Nord woman disappeared from the inn and into the streets.

“Good job,” I complimented. “Held yourself well in front of her pretty well.”

Sorine shuttered.

“I never want to go through that shit again! Ugghh…”

“You’ll want this then.” I offered one of the bottles of ale towards her.

The woman almost greedily swiped it from my hand and downed a good chunk of it.

“Ahhh,” she sighed in relief, a smile playing across her lips. “Thanks Xian. Needed that.” Sorine took another gulp of the weak alcohol.

“Intoxicating isn’t it?” I mused.

“On both fronts,” she giggled. “Was never much of a drinker really so forgive me if I do or say something out of character of me.”

“Then I’d say about another sip and you will reach your limit,” I chortled. “You are alright though, correct? Sorry you had to be here to see that.”

“It’s alright… Xane,” Sorine smirked. “How did that name come about anyway?”

I shrugged.

“You ask like this one would know the answer. I’m afraid I don’t. My guess is that some bandit idiots needed a name for the lizard taking their chiefs, alive mind you but with broken bones, back to the Jarl.”

“Right, you gave me plenty of clues that you’re a bounty hunter.”

“I am that above being Dragonborn. So I keep telling myself.”

Svana came around with two plates, a pleasant stride in her step. The beef and chicken smelled tantalizing and sweet. The stew Sorine was given had what looked to be pieces of meat and vegetables floating on top of the opaque broth.

“Here you both are,” the young Nord woman smiled brightly. “Enjoy now.”

We thanked her as she headed back for her break behind Keerava’s counter, bringing up a conversation with the Argonian woman almost immediately.

The meal went by swimmingly as our food slowly disappeared into our mouths. The meat on my end was to my liking and according to Sorine her stew was pretty good.

“What did you mean by that?” Sorine asked, taking another spoonful of the broth.

“By what?” I replied while placing the ale bottle down.

“’I am a bounty hunter above being Dragonborn.’”

“Oh. I… would rather not speak on that subject Sorine.” I started to become down, my mood sinking and spoiling the meal. “I’m not saying I won’t tell you. This one will speak of it to you eventually. I do not trust you enough.” I raised a hand to interrupt her from laying whatever counterpoint she had in mind. “I know you saved my life with Nimhe, and I am extremely grateful for that. But... my personal opinions on my gift are my own.”

This subject matter was touchy to me. People knowing my views on my Dragonblood did not set right with me. For whatever reason, I still did not know why. Maybe I was more worried about the people of Skyrim judging me than I thought.

I viewed by blood as that: blood. It does not make me who I was, I did that. The Nords of Skyrim seem to think because I am Dragonborn I should do everything to protect the land. I believe otherwise.

“I didn’t realize Xian. Didn’t mean to bring up a sour subject.” Sorine apologized while looking down to your bowl.

“It is fine,” I sighed. “You did not know. No one does and I plan to keep it so.”

An awkward silence befell us while the other patrons continued to speak and slowly disperse from the inn. Empty bottles were hear clinking together as Talen and Svana gathered up the used products to be done with however they saw fit.

“It’s getting late,” Sorine finally said. “Maybe we should pay and rent a room or two.”

“Agreed. Two rooms so we won’t disturb each other.”

“If you say so Xian,” she replied.

We both went towards Keerava’s bar counter and paid for our share of the bill. Surprisingly cheaper than what I originally thought. Inflation was starting to take hold of the cities, towns and villages across the province, jacking up prices just to make ends meet.

And it was all due to the idiotic excuse for a war.

“And two rooms for the night.” I added.

“Sorry Xian,” the Argonian woman stated looking to the key holder hanging on the nearby wall, “there’s only one left.”


“It is fine Xian,” Sorine mentioned. “We can share it. Bet there’s enough room for us both. Just have to fight over who gets the bed.”

I shook my head.

“No, you take it. I’ll sleep outside the city gates.”

“Hang on,” she shot back. “You can’t just decide for the both of-“

“How much is the room, Keerava?” I interrupted her again.

“Sixty gold.”

“Done.” The gold clattered and spun as it was placed on the counter. “Give her the key, if you please.” Brought me down to four-hundred forty coin. 

“Hey,” the woman placed a hand on my shoulder. “Xian, what’s the matter?”

“Nothing,” I replied, looking back at her. “Just giving you the room and the privacy therein.”

“Nevertheless, we can still share the damn room!”

“Just take the fucking room Sorine! Don’t fight me on this trivial thing.” As I neared the door I turned and added, “I’m more used to sleeping on the ground than in a hay bed.” Although that sounds simply amazing! Sorine was left there looking towards me with question-filled eyes.

Outside the gates of Riften, several hundred yards away, it took me several long minutes to set up a small, smokeless fire. It was just enough to keep warm out in the Rift. The near constant autumn conditions in the Hold made it a lovely place to camp. The many springs, creeks and lakes made fish abundant and plentiful for simple meals. I loved it.

My gear laid beside me and the tree, daggers, bow and arrows out in the open. The passing days’ events played over and over in my mind, reminding me of Nimhe, Sorine, Harkon and Serana. I began to wonder what ever happened to her after her father banished me from his castle, proclaiming me prey like all mortals are.

If I ever had to fight a man of that kind of power, of that caliber... if I ever had to fight Harkon I know exactly how would win. And the answer terrified me. 

The moon, Masser, shined beautifully in the night sky, bathing Nirn in its radiance. Before being lolled to sleep I started to sing to myself once again.

“Tii’ ahseah qui’ a’ah…”

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  • Incredibly well written, Ben.

    • I agree. Excellent job.
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