Jail

 
Previously: Dramatis Personae

Indrathel speaks...

When I was a child living off the streets and docks of Cyrodiil, my mum would always say she'd give up the drinking and whoring, and move us to Skyrim. In Skyrim, she'd say, a nobody can become anybody.

She died just before I turned eight.

It was a relief, really; the old woman's looks were long faded, so I'd been supporting us by picking pockets and begging in markets. I was only able to get so much, but the bitch never hesitated to eat the lion's share, or waste all our coin on wine.

It was a warm night in the Imperial City when she died. The dark streets were wet from fresh rain, and the guards on patrol were lighting torches. I returned to the alley where she was waiting with a piece of bread and three septims. I found her collapsed against a wall, her narrow green eyes and thin-lipped mouth open. Her stringy yellow hair clung to her wet olive skin, and I knew without checking she was gone.

Absently, I started nibbling on my dinner; the bread had been baked that morning and was a little dry, now moistened by the damp air. I realized in that moment the bread was now for me alone, and suddenly it was the best thing I'd ever tasted. Each bite grew sweeter as I also realized I could now spend my three septims on whatever I wanted. Never again would I watch my mother waste my precious coins on cheap wine.

I left her body in the alley where she dropped and never looked back.

For the next several years, I successfully begged until I was too old for the innocent child act. After that, I honed my thieving skills. I got really good at that, so much I eventually saved up enough to join a caravan crossing the northern mountains, into the Skyrim city of Riften.

The people of Cyrodiil are spoiled by mild weather, while the people of Skyrim have no such luxury. I felt a blast of cold as soon as our caravan entered the mountains. It deepened as we emerged on the northern side; we arrived sometime during the late afternoon. I'd never seen such a haunted looking place before; it was fascinating. Riften was a sunless haven of thieves. Despite my tall stature, I figured I'd fit right in. And I did...'til I picked the pocket of some whiny little lord.

The little shit went crying to his mum, who also happened to be the fucking Jarl--can you believe that? The bitch promptly threw me in jail, all for a lousy five septims. Honestly, I thought these nobility types were supposed to be rich?

And that brings us up to now. Jail's not so bad, I suppose. I don't have a cellmate; this large, dank hole and its smelly little bed are all for me. I get bread and water twice a day, and the guards pretty much leave me alone. At least...they do for now.

***

She had only turned her back for a minute, so she knew the guards hadn't had time to come into her room and set down a statue of Mara. And honestly, why would they? Sure, Riften was home to the Temple of Mara, but it was known for its weddings, not for redeeming prisoners.

Then again, Indrathel thought, as she cautiously approached, Mara is known for her compassion.

The statue was shorter than her, medium-sized, and seemed to carry its own light. Indrathel was no stranger to the concept of magic, however, she hadn't had much experience with it. And just because the statue bore the likeness of Mara didn't mean it actually came from Mara. It could just as easily be a trick.

As she slowly drew closer to it, it spoke.



"Approach, my child, and choose where your new life shall begin."

The statue's voice was highly feminine and layered, ethereally echoic. It was also loud, and yet it didn't attract the attention of the guards.

"New life?" Indrathel asked. "What's that mean? I get a do-over?"

"We can only move forward in this life," the statue replied.

"A new future then?" Indrathel blinked.

"Choose where your new life shall begin."

"I can choose anything?"

"Anything within the realm of mortal possibility," the statue warned. "Do you desire a life of luxury? Do you seek opportunity on a distant shore?"

"I want to stay in Skyrim," Indrathel said. There was a certain freeing aspect of being in a new country, like her old life hadn't happened. She added after a pause, "But I'm tired of thieving." She glanced about herself. "Can't be doing with prison cells." Folding her arms across her chest, she asked, "Can you make me rich?"

"I can grant you a means to gain wealth," the statue eerily replied. "Do you wish to be a noble? A general, perhaps? Merchant? An agent of the Thalmor?"

At the word "Thalmor", Indrathel's long, slender ears pricked up. She wasn't too sure about those other options, but her mother had often spoken of the Thalmor, and she had seen for herself how the they navigated Cyrodiil. They always traveled in covered carriages and only stepped foot in the nicest houses. They even were said to have the Emperor's ear. Now...she wasn't sure how much money the average member made, but she knew their name alone commanded fear.

And sometimes, that was worth more than all the coin in Tamriel.

"But I'm a half-breed," Indrathel suddenly remembered. It was something her mother had mentioned almost daily. "How can I be a member of the Thalmor if my father was a Redguard?"

"Power can manipulate perception," the statue told her. It almost sounding coy, cajoling. "And the Thalmor are very powerful."

Indrathel suddenly realized that it wasn't money she was seeking. Not after a childhood of begging and sleeping in alleys. Coin wasn't that hard to come by for a thief. Respect, on the other hand? Nearly impossible.

"I want to be a member of the Thalmor," she blurted. "And a high-ranking one, not some underling who gets pissed on." She could practically hear the statue smirking when it spoke next.

"May your duties bring you enlightenment."

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