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Exodus: Part I - IV


Started by Grimhild Urdenheimr
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I.
Grimhild ran. He didn’t know what else to do. He pulled her close, the Dunmer girl he loved.

Though nearly a woman grown, she felt weightless in his arms. Grimhild had been there all those years, her ever-present shadow, from a tiny charcoal-skinned infant to a willful and mischievous young lady. It was an odd sort of intimacy. He was in the room while she bathed. He stood watch as her servants dressed her and brushed her ebony hair while she frowned at their dutiful silence. He kept her secrets. He taught her to fight with knives and swords because she never stopped asking. He taught her to hunt game in the forest around the estate. He was there the time that she tried to run away, and it was he who brought her home, doing his best to rid her of mind of those crazy ideas--joining the Buoyant Armigers, indeed!--but flowery words were never among his talents, and he could not shake the conviction that she agreed to return only to appease him.

Perhaps Grimhild was merely a hired sword, but Ekara was the only family he knew. And now her life-blood ran warmly against his chest. He held her tightly and ran, never having felt so helpless in all his life.

A gaunt old Dunmer in hooded robes rounded the corner, his hands glowing an eeire, icy blue. Turning away, Grimhild grimaced as tiny shards of ice pierced his bare skin like a thousand frozen razors. A Nord doesn’t fear the cold, he thought, he embraces it. He takes it into himself and accepts the pain, and it holds no power over him. With a furious cry, he charged. He leveled his shoulder into the mage, and sent him sprawling headlong across the courtyard.

The river!

The river ran high with snowmelt this time of year. He stumbled down the hillside in the dark as the palatial estate burned in the distance behind him. Grimhild could not tell how badly Ekara was hurt, but she was still breathing--shallow gasps of pain, a soft moan. He prayed to the Eight, and ran faster downhill toward the waterfall. He could hear them close behind, heavy footfalls in the night.

She was strong, this one, a warrior like him. She never wanted to be the privileged daughter of a wealthy Dunmer merchant. She wished to pave her own path, make her own fortune, walk the length and breadth of Tamriel. All Grimhild wanted in that moment was for her to live, and if she was to brave the world, with all of Mundus spread out before her, he hoped only that he might be nearby so that he could see her safely through it.

At length, he reached the falls, and without the luxury of a second thought, he leaped outward into the darkness. Wind and vapor swirled around them for what seemed like ages as they fell. She clung to him tightly as she always had, and he to her.

“Hold your breath,” he said in her ear as the icy black water rushed upward to meet them.


II.
But for the slender white scar above her left breast where the assassin’s blade must have missed her heart by only the thinest whisper, it was not the wound that had changed her; it was a different wound, unseen; one that had begun to fester and rot; one that had not missed the mark. Grimhild understood her pain as only a fellow orphan could, and especially he, who had known her all her life.

Ekara was different now--no longer mischievous, but solemn; dark rather than frivolous; brooding instead of the carefree young lady he knew. And her imagination, which had once been affixed so keenly to the distant horizon was now turned inside, forsaking all else, intent only on revenge.

They spent hours in each other’s company, days without word; for Grimhild was typically silent, and his ward had grown increasingly so.

“It was the Telvanni,” she said one day as they sat quietly by the riverbank.
“How do you know?” asked Grimhild.
“The assassins were mages, were they not?”
“That is thin proof.”
“My father led an embargo against House Telvanni. He and several others refused to do business with them.”
“Why?”
“Because they’re bastards,” she spat. “Does it really matter now?”
Grimhild shook his head. “No, I think not. So, what do we do?”
Ekara stared straight ahead, unblinking eyes like glowing red embers. “We burn their home to the ground like they did to mine, Grim.” She placed her small hand gently on his. “We kill them all.”


III.
There was a breeze that night and the coals were quickly dying. Grimhild watched the stars, countless pinpoint portals to Aetherius drifting in the featureless Oblivion sea. He dozed, wondering in which pursuit one found greater wisdom. The air came from the northwest, from his childhood home, and it carried a certain sharpness. Grimhild found it pleasing.

He sat straight up. Rustling noises, and then silence. The rhythmic sound of Ekara’s breathing was gone. More sounds, this time from behind. As quietly as he was able, Grimhild reached down and unsheathed his deer-antler boot knife.

“I’m cold,” said Ekara, and Grimhild flinched in the darkness. She poked him on the shoulder with two bony fingers. “I’m crawling in with you.”
“Are you alright?” was all Grimhild managed to say.
“I told you, I’m cold,” she said, “make room."

He slid over on his bedroll and she curled up beside him, pulling her furs up over her shoulders and most of his furs besides. Grimhild was laying half in the dirt now, but for a long time, he didn’t speak. Her breathing drifted back into its quiet rhythm. He shifted, uncomfortable, but trying not to wake her.

“Stop moving so much,” she said.
Grimhild grunted. He curled up behind her and tried to remain still.
Ekara sighed, and pressed herself backwards into him. “Put your arm around me.”

He did so. She felt tiny under the weight of his arm. She took his hand in both of hers and pried his fingers open, bringing it to her face. Gently, she kissed the center of his open palm.

"Your hands are cold,” she said.
“I am a Nord,” said Grimhild. “Your skin is like brazier stones.”
She said, “I never thanked you, Grim.”
“You needn’t, m’lady.”
She turned in his embrace to face him. “You saved me.”
Grimhild shook his head and swallowed. “No, I failed you,” he said. “I should have been there. I should have stopped them.”
“They came in the night,” she said, and placed a hand on his whiskered cheek. “All men must sleep.”
“Aye,” he said. “I slept not twenty paces from your bed in the very next chamber. I slept as they nearly killed you, as they murdered your family and the members of your household and burned your estate. I swore to protect you, and the one time in your life when you needed me, I slept.”
“There were many other times when I needed you, Grim. You were always there for me. That night was no different.” She kissed him again, this time on his mouth. “Accept my thanks.”

Grimhild lost his words. He was immediately conscious of her warm body against his; her dark silhouette against the dim glow of the coals; the way she smelled, like cinnamon tea and the lavender sprigs she braided into her hair; the feeling of her soft lips on his, and the ache that feeling aroused in him.

“I cannot, my lady.”

Ekara turned away and was quiet for a long while. “Fine,” she said, “if you will not accept my thanks, then accept my forgiveness, though I do not offer it freely. There is something more I need from you.”
“I go where you go,” he said to the back of her head.
“Good,” she said, “because I cannot do this alone. We cannot do it alone. We will require sell-swords, and much more besides, and those things are expensive. Fortunately, I happen to know where we can find a great deal of money.”
“Where?”
She took a deep breath and rocked herself backward, pulling his hand farther around her and placing it under her face like a pillow.

“Home, Grim. We’re going home.”


IV.

Ekara no longer made any pretense about sleeping alone. She unrolled her bedroll next to his every night as they made camp along the riverbank they were following upstream toward the ruined estate. It had scarcely been a month since the night of their frantic exodus, but to Grimhild, it felt like a lifetime ago. Everything had changed, most especially his dark and beautiful Dunmer ward.

They camped a short ways downstream from the Painted Falls, the site of that desperate leap into dark waters that had saved their lives. He stitched her wound closed that night with what base healing magic he knew, and hired on with a caravan headed for Skyrim.

But he never imagined that he and Ekara would return home to Morrowind and the ruined estate; not in a thousand eras, and certainly not so soon. Yet, there they were with the very next turning of the moons within earshot of the falls.

Ekara was quieter than usual that night. Restless. She tucked herself away in his arms, saying nothing, and the two of them stared at the wilting fire as the night wore on, listening to the distant water.

A noise in the darkness. He felt Ekara tense suddenly. His heart was in his ears. Another twig snapped; slow footfalls in the underbrush. He felt her stir slightly, unsheathing his deer antler dirk. He pressed his lips against her cheek, mouthing, “Be still.”

She nodded slowly, and slid the blade’s hilt into his hand.

They crept closer in the darkness. It was all Grimhild could do to play at sleeping until one of the intruders stood over them. He could sense their menace like a bladed pendulum dangling overhead.

With a cry, he lurched out from under his sleeping furs, driving the knife through the intruder’s foot. The man squealed, swinging something downward at Grimhild. He caught it with both hands, a spear or staff maybe, and wrenched it away, swinging it wildly about in the darkness.

“Stay down!” he yelled at Ekara, but she disobeyed. He thought he saw her dart away from the glowing remnants of the fire into the pitch black tree line.

Someone grabbed him from behind. He spun, tossing his assailant to the ground with one arm, and beat him with the blunt end of the spear until whomever it was stopped fighting back. He tasted blood his mouth, but whether his or another’s blood, he couldn’t say. Grimhild turned back at the man he had stabbed, who was crawling away into the darkness, and thrust the spear through his back. The man screamed again, trailing off into a grotesque gurgling sound, and then wheezing, and then silence.

And it was over.

“Ekara,” he yelled, dropping the spear.
“I’m here,” she said from only paces away. Her breath came in short raspy spouts.
“Are you hurt? Where did you go?” he said, almost frantic. “I told you to stay.”
“I'm fine, Grim. Did you not hear the one in the bushes? He tried to flee,” said Ekara. “He didn’t get far.”
Grimhild took a deep breath, grabbed Ekara by both shoulders, and kissed her on the forehead.

Once he coaxed the fire back to life, they lay the three bodies side-by-side on the ground. They were dressed in fine Dunmer robes adorned on both shoulders with a golden House Telvanni insignia.

Ekara clinched her hands into fists. “I knew it,” she said. The three dead mer were tall and gray-skinned.
“More Telvanni assassins,” said Ekara. “I told you Grim. They will never leave me alone. We have to—“
“Hold,” said Grimhild, cutting her off. “These are no Telvanni.”
“How can you be sure?”
“Because these three are not Dunmer.”

It was obvious in the stark morning light. Three dead Altmer lay near the coals, their hands and faces painted gray like mummers. They searched the bodies and found nothing telling. Grimhild stared down at them, his heart in his stomach, cursing himself for a fool. If only he had left one alive...

The High Elf whom Ekara killed was a woman; a detail that went unnoticed at first because her head was mostly gone. Fractured bone, shiny and white, split her jaundiced-hued skin around the oozing cavity that once been her face. Her left ear was missing. Grimhild wanted to ask Ekara what happened until he noticed a fist-sized riverstone near the edge of the firecircle where Ekara had let it fall. The smooth, heavy rock was covered in drying blood and bits of brain, as were Ekara's thin fingers and hands.

Though all of this, he thought, his only fear was losing her; letting her down once again; failing her again, and he wondered briefly if he had. But when his eyes drifted back to her pretty face, her long ebony hair, straight and shiny in the morning sun, and her almond-shaped red eyes that seemed to peer right into him, he saw only that young Dunmer girl he had always known and loved. He smiled, sadly, watching her lips move as she spoke, but it took a moment before the words made any sense.

“But why?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” Grimhild shook his head. “It would seem that someone has gone through a great deal of effort to frame House Telvanni for what happened to you and your family.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I, m'lady. But I promise you, we will find out.”
This post was last modified: February 24th 2013, 08:05 PM by Grimhild Urdenheimr


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Post #30838
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I'm glad to have checked this thread to spot the additional parts you made! I had read the first part earlier, but didn't quite catch the second.

I like how the entire story begins in a mysterious way that the reader steadily begins to understand as the situation unfolds. It adds that sense of suspense and wonder to the writing.

I also like the guardian-relationship Grimhild has with the dunmer child. He's almost like a father figure to her and tries to protect her whether it be from rash decisions or assassins. I'm anxious to see what if he follow's through with the child's intentions.

Although one slight sentence that struck me odd was, "We burn their home to the ground like they did for mine, Grim." I had thought "to mine" was the correct way of saying it... either that or it's a way of phrasing that I am unfamiliar with. Tongue_out_left


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(January 30th 2013, 10:51 PM)Horizon Seeker Wrote: ...

Although one slight sentence that struck me odd was, "We burn their home to the ground like they did for mine, Grim." I had thought "to mine" was the correct way of saying it... either that or it's a way of phrasing that I am unfamiliar with. Tongue_out_left

You're right, Seeker, I was shooting for an older phrase: "did for" something, as in "killed" or "destroyed." It's awkward, though. I'll change it back.

And the Dumner girl is supposed to be an adolescent by the time of the attack, a young lady. Is that clear, would you say, or should I make more a point of it in Part 1? She is going to be my wife's character (as of yet, unnamed).

Thanks a lot for the feedback!! More to come.


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(January 30th 2013, 11:09 PM)Grimhild Urdenheimr Wrote: You're right, Seeker, I was shooting for an older phrase: "did for" something, as in "killed" or "destroyed." It's awkward, though. I'll change it back.

And the Dumner girl is supposed to be an adolescent by the time of the attack, a young lady. Is that clear, would you say, or should I make more a point of it in Part 1? She is going to be my wife's character (as of yet, unnamed).

Thanks a lot for the feedback!! More to come.

Oh, I had thought she was younger by the phrase "the small Dunmer girl" in the first sentence of the story. Although you did mention "young lady" in the next sentence; sometimes that term isn't used to describe the adolescent stage.

It may have just been me, but perhaps you could indeed convey that point a bit more clearly.
This post was last modified: January 30th 2013, 11:25 PM by Horizon Seeker


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(January 30th 2013, 11:20 PM)Horizon Seeker Wrote: Oh, I had thought she was younger by the phrase "the small Dunmer girl" in the first sentence of the story. Although you did mention "young lady" in the next sentence; sometimes that term isn't used to describe the adolescent stage.

I'm not sure if it was just me, but perhaps you could convey that point a bit more clearly.

Yep, I agree.

She is supposed to be small, especially since Grim is so BIG, but not a small child. Teenager maybe. It's helpful to get a reader's take since these scenes are already so clear in the writer's mind, so thanks again.

I'll massage the beginning a bit.


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(January 30th 2013, 11:28 PM)Grimhild Urdenheimr Wrote: Yep, I agree.

It's helpful to get a reader's take since these scenes are already so clear in the writer's mind, so thanks again.

I'll massage the beginning a bit.

I'm glad to have helped in some way, although it is a well written story!

I tend to have a different but similiar issue where a story is clear in my mind but once I write it down it's all muddled looking and tough to read. This is followed by scrapping it then rewriting it many times. Yargh.


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(January 30th 2013, 11:41 PM)Horizon Seeker Wrote:
(January 30th 2013, 11:28 PM)Grimhild Urdenheimr Wrote: Yep, I agree.

It's helpful to get a reader's take since these scenes are already so clear in the writer's mind, so thanks again.

I'll massage the beginning a bit.

I'm glad to have helped in some way, although it is a well written story!

I tend to have a different but similiar issue where a story is clear in my mind but once I write it down it's all muddled looking and tough to read. This is followed by scrapping it then rewriting it many times. Yargh.

Yes indeed! I find that I spend much more time re-writing than creating new work. There are many articles about exactly that problem. :)

Well, I'm pleased with the current iteration of the first two parts, and moving on to the third. Keep your stories coming as well, if you please!


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Ekara is certainly thinking this plan through meticuously. I'm curious to see what they find while trying to retrieve the money.

On a side note, while browsing uesp.net I discovered another Elder Scrolls book about saving a young woman that's also called "The Exodus."

That story however is entirely different and a lot more... chilling.


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This is great. You've a real strength in giving the right amount of back story. There are a couple of typos in Ch III, but I didn't see any other mistakes. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

And unrelated, you and your wife are going to play TESO together? That is real love.
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(February 22nd 2013, 06:17 PM)Nidali Wrote: This is great. You've a real strength in giving the right amount of back story. There are a couple of typos in Ch III, but I didn't see any other mistakes. I'm looking forward to finding out what happens next.

And unrelated, you and your wife are going to play TESO together? That is real love.

Thanks! Yes, we are going to play together. Not to brag or anything, but I have a pretty awesome wife. ;)

I'll review ch III for typos and post ch IV later today. Cheers.


EDIT: oh, if you want to check out Grim's first piece of back story, it's here: http://www.tesof.com/topic-first-planting
This post was last modified: February 23rd 2013, 12:50 AM by Grimhild Urdenheimr


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Part IV posted.


It's getting a bit lengthy. I'm going to start a new thread for future installments.


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Altmer! That's a knife in the gut.

Well written, but I do have some nitpickerty things.

Why weren't they mages? I guess all the mages could have had more important things to do than wait around the estate, it just struck me as odd that they weren't.

Also, its up to you, but I think you're losing an opportunity by not explaining how Ekara killed her Altmer. Even if it's just after the fact in the examining the bodies bit. That would go aways to taking her from Grim's ward to a young woman who can protect herself and carry out her revenge. It could also make her pretty dark and dangerous depending on what she actually did to kill him. I mean, did she tackle him down as he ran and slit his throat? Or did she get a bit lost in revenge and make and Altmer pincushion? I guess its not essential to the story, but I would like to know. Unless you're trying to keep her innocent looking, then that's a bad idea and you can ignore all that.

Not to do with the actual story, but was Ekara's father a member of one of the great houses? I assume because it doesn't say that he was not. But he seems to have been very successful and influential so it would make more sense to me if his was.
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(February 23rd 2013, 04:35 PM)Nidali Wrote: snip

Very good points indeed.

I actually thought the same thing about the bodies when I read this after posting. It was a missed opportinity like you pointed out. I think it's interesting that we share that opinion. I will probably go back and do some revision there.

Ekara's father is, in fact, a prominant member house Hlaalu, which will be significant when it comes up later on... it seems to me like you already know where this is going. :)

Mages and soldiers burned down the estate, but these three were just common Dominion soldiers. Were they skilled assassins or mages, it's hard to believe that Grimhild and Ekara would have survived. As it was, they were fortunate that their busy minds kept them awake.

EDIT: Revisions complete, please let me know what you think.
Ekara was unarmed; she beat the Altmer to death with a rock. That seemed more personal to me than an arrow or sword.
This post was last modified: February 24th 2013, 02:25 AM by Grimhild Urdenheimr


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Poor Dominion soldiers... I guess we can't all be mages. You have a point though, it's much more believable that way.

I had the feeling he was Hlaalu, something about the way you described it just screamed it at me.

I like the revisions. The more I think about it the more ... chilling I find it. Ekara is not someone I would want to be on the wrong side of. You balanced it well with Grimhild's thoughts though. His care for her almost makes me forget she's standing there with blood and brain all over her hands. Almost. I get the impression she'd really be lost without Grim.
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