Lives of the Saints

An Unlikely Ally

“No, no, hold steady, noooo–” The ground was shaking almost continuously, sending Shizzal staggering left and right as he tried to cross the courtyard. Other inhabitants of the compound were screaming and running around him, a great hodge-podge of terrified humanity. His shirt had come loose, the bloody cloth flapping in the wind, but no one paid it a second glance. Down in the town, there was far worse bloodshed.

Another blast, and next thing Shizzal knew, he was lying facedown on the ground. He could’ve sworn he felt the earth shift that time. The courtyard was tilted strangely, deep cracks appearing in the tiles and walls. Nimbly as only a mer could, Shizzal got to his feet and sprinted the rest of the way out of the compound.

Outside, the confusion was worse. A group of raiders had filled a wagon with loot and were shouting at anyone getting in their way. A woman carrying a bundle of foodstuffs ran out of a burning inn, and tripped over a cobblestone upturned by the first blasts’ upheavals. The raiders continued coming with their wagon, heedless, and–Shizzal looked away.

The only warning any of them had was a loud groaning, like trees caught in a high wind. Then the ground seemed to fall out from under him.

Shizzal’s heart leapt into his throat, and he flung out his hands to catch himself. He forgot he was carrying the swords, and the blades sent up lines of sparks as he slid uncontrollably across the ground suddenly turned near vertical. Shizzal looked down, kicking feebly as the edge came closer.

The sword blades gleamed, the metal burning coldly through the leather hand grips. Just before he went over the edge, they stuck fast in a crack between paving stones. Shizzal jerked to a stop, feet flipping over his head and dangling into empty space. He cried out in fear and surprise, filling his mouth with the white rock dust that suddenly billowed out of the chasm below him, like smoke from the fires of a Redguard hell.

Shizzal closed his mouth, cursing under his breath until he could curl his feet up under him and climb back over the edge. He stopped and stared as the raider’s wagon went sliding past him, disappearing down the ruined cliffside. The raiders aboard could only stare back at him, the whites of their eyes bulging out of dust-blanched faces.

Shizzal crawled up the slope carefully, not trusting his feet to the shifting rocks. At least the fire barrage had stopped in this part of town, and the ground was still. At one difficult spot, where the ground had opened up into another crack, Shizzal had to tuck the swords under one arm to climb across. The cold of the swords bit deep into his sides until he was over and up, back into an undamaged part of the city.

Dust still hung in the air, making the walk down the tilted streets seem otherworldly. The shouting from other parts of town came dimly to him, and he only saw other people as shadows flitting along the shopfronts, peering in furtively for either loot or attackers. Shizzal dodged them all, working his way steadily down to the sea.

Another face loomed out of the night, and Shizzal just missed stabbing it with his swords. Only by the red of his eyes did Shizzal recognize the other as a Dunmer, for his gray skin and mohawk was white with rock dust.

The Dunmer had no trouble recognizing him however, beckoning him hastily down the street. Silently they both moved closer to the docks, dodging both drunken raiders and screaming defenders.

They reached the beach, and the ships, Shizzal’s goal, were only a short swim away. He turned around to thank his unlikely ally.

But the other Dunmer was long gone.

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