The Elder Scrolls: Housecarl - Prologue

Water sloshed beneath her boots as the woman walked through the dark. The sky had been torn open, dumping a torrent of water on the land below. The raindrops fell in sheets, and the howl of the gale-force winds filled her ears. The weather certainly hadn't been her friend of late. Than again, nobody ever really heard about beautiful weather in Skyrim. She pulled her cloak more tightly around her, shuddering against the cold. Her pace quickened as she forced herself to walk into the wind.

She could just make out the far-off flickering glow of a fire. Relieved at finally approaching her destination, she wanted to sprint to the cave and it's warmth. The crackling fire looked so welcoming, particularly considering the weather outside the cozy looking cavern. But she was patient. She was cautious. Impulsiveness could land you in trouble. Carelessness could get you killed. Experience had taught her that much, at least. 

As she approached the cave, she drew up her hood and pressed her back tightly against the rocky surface just outside of the cave's entrance. Drawing her bow and quickly knocking a golden arrow, elvish in craftsmanship, she put slight pressure on the weapon's string as she slipped unseen into the opening in the mountain. It was like a wound; jagged, as if cut into the very stone by a blunt knife. As she went deeper into the cavern, the flickering orange light of the fire brightened, warming her and causing the aching cold to relent somewhat. Despite the warm light, she still managed to melt back into the shadows. She always did.

Several men were sitting around the fire, attempting to ward away the cold and wet that awaited them out from under the protection of the cave. There were three. Good. It was as expected. Surprises could be dangerous. 

None of them noticed her as she slid easily through the shadows, conforming to them as easily as liquid in a container. They didn't notice her until she stepped out in front of them. Two of the men were armed to the teeth and reacted with rather impressive speed, raising their weapons and shielding their bodies, ready to attack.

"Stop!" commanded the third man. His voice was low, sharp, and gruff: the tone of a seasoned leader.  "Lower your weapons!" he barked at the warriors. Somewhat reluctantly, the two men sheathed their short-swords and relaxed their grip on their shields. "And you," he said through gritted teeth, turning to her, "don't sneak up on a man like that! You could've gotten yourself killed and lost me a very valuable asset!"

 She smiled sarcastically at him. "My apologies . . . my lord," she said, delivering a mock bow. The man growled at her. 

"Do you have the information, or not?" he asked, impatience dripping from his voice. 

"Not in the mood for pleasantries?" she asked condescendingly. That was always the best way to deal with men such as these; to quickly establish who had control of the situation. Watching their frustration grow was always a fun side effect of the method as well. "The target is in Falkreath, but he'll be leaving tomorrow at dawn by carriage." She looked at the man, his mouth drawn into a frown, apparently deep in thought. A silence stretched between them in the cave, long enough to make the two warriors shift uncomfortably. 

"That'll be all," the leader said suddenly, as if just remembering she was there. "Your payment, as promised." He tossed a sack of gold septims at her. They were trivial things. Nothing compared to what she truly gained out of the transaction. 

Having completed the deal, the leader turned to the men behind him. "Organize a bandit raid on the city of Falkreath. Best not to arouse any suspicion just yet with a direct attack. We wouldn't want anyone to link this back to the Stormcloaks, now would we?"

The woman smiled. No, Ulfric Stormcloak certainly wouldn't like the deal traced back to his little rebellion. More importantly, neither would the Thalmor.

Click here for the next chapter.

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