Prologue – In the shadows
"I'm telling you, Silas, the girl is starting to trouble me. I'm not sure if I should continue."
"Weren't you just saying how impressed you were with her? How quickly she was catching on?"
"That was a year ago, Silas. And yes, I was. But something has changed...something has changed..." the woman's voice trailed off in quiet contemplation.
Taking note of the sudden silence, Silas looked up from his plate. "Azurine, look, the child has been through more in her short existence than many others have in a life time. She'll be fine. If you're concerned with her direction, then change it. Show her the way. Are you not the teacher, after all?"
With a sharp look to her husband, Azurine's face quickly softened. "Of course. You're right, of course." She paused, moving her mouth as if uncertain what to say, then spoke softly to herself, "she's just so...eager..."
Just then, a small figure, hanging in the shadows, stirred ever so slightly, and then moved deeper into the shadows until only black remained.
Chapter 1 - Journey's End
Part 1: Processing
The boat creaked and moaned as it glided through the frigid harbor waters. It was a long journey, but they had made it, and the hustle and bustle of the docks was a welcome site. They had all heard of the great city of Windhelm, but to see it up close, well, nothing could prepare any of them for the towering cold grey stonework that now loomed high above them.
The boat's crew whipped into action as they drew nearer to the dock, gathering lines while supplies below where unsecured and made ready to unload. All the while, a small group of Dunmer refugees did their best to stay out the way.
"It's exciting, isn't it, Velroth?" asked a noticeably pregnant woman. "Windhelm. We'll be able to raise our child in Windhelm with the troubles of Morrowind far behind us." Velroth said nothing.
"At least there's only four of 'em," stated a dock worker. "Four too many, if you ask me," replied another. A quiet rumbling of agreement broke out around them as they began to tie up the mooring lines.
The two Dunmer men heaved their positions upon their backs while their wives gathered up the smaller items. “Here, let me get that for you,” said the one woman to the pregnant one. “Thank you Azurine, but I’m fine, really I am.” “Tsk,” said Azurine, “I insist.” The pregnant woman smiled warmly and allowed Azurine to gather the small bag up for her.
"Processing. Last door to the left," said a man gruffly as they stepped onto the dock. The Dunmer men led the way, doing their best to ignore the obvious stares of disdain.
The two couples entered the processing room. It was a small room, lit by candle and lantern alike. On the wall behind them, next to the door, was a window, if you could call it that. Covered with oily soot and frost, only a meager amount of light pushed its way through. In the streaks of light that did make it, hung countless particles, slowly churning, as if afraid of being discovered. A small fire crackled in the corner, giving enough warmth to the space, but even still, the room felt cold. The walls were barren, except for the same oily residue that covered the window. A simple wooden counter stretched the length of the room, opposite of the door; behind which sat a middle-aged Nord.
Looking up from his papers, the man sighed, and then mumbled something under his breath. His voice thick with the accent of the Nordic people, he said, "Well, c'mon. I don't have all day. Morrowind, I assume," he stated, not waiting for a reply. "Doesn't matter. All the same to me," he continued, cutting off Velroth before he could say anything.
"Yes," said Velroth, when the man had finished interrupting him. The Nord paused and looked at him for a moment. "Four of you I see...soon to be five,” he paused, “nice way to save on fare," he continued with a slight scoff. "Names," he said, pointing at Silas and Azurine with the back of his quill.
"Hlethlon, Silas. And my wife Azurine."
"Hell-leth-lon, as well,” stammered the Nord slowly, “I assume?"
"Yes." replied Azurine.
“You know, if I wanted your names backwards, I would have said so. Trades?"
"Blacksmith,” replied Silas
"Of course you are,” said the man, sarcasm dripping from every word. “’Cuz, we ain’t got enough of those. And you two,” now motioning towards Velroth and his wife.
"Volytun. Velroth and Nehrine Volytun. I'm a fisherman. Nehri..."
"Nevermind her." Interrupted the immigrant officer, once again. "Doesn't look like she'll doing anything soon. 'Cept increasing the population, that is. You'll be placed in the Grey Quarters until further notice. All of you."
Handing Silas a piece of parchment, the Nord continued, "Up the stairs at the end of the docks. Show this to the guards at the door. They'll tell you where you need to go once in the city. That’ll be 10 Septims apiece,” continued the man. “‘Cept for her, she’s 15,” pointing at Nehrine with a ghoulish smile. “Born or no, children are 5 apiece.
“Welcome to Windhelm."