Katla stared at the soul gem, turning it slowly in her hand. Red. Something felt so evil about that color. Something felt off about it. She hadn’t studied magic, but she’d seen a soul gem or two around her home and those had been bluish, not this throbbing red.
Home was gone. A smoldering wreck of a building last she’d seen it. As were her parents.
She fought back tears and tucked the red soul gem back into her pouch, which lived attached to her belt, which rested on her hips. She couldn’t let it out of her sight. She couldn’t trust anyone with it.
Katla climbed down the hill she’d been standing on, headed back to the safety of Bruma’s city walls. How many days had she been in Bruma? Six?
She wasn’t sure what had caused her to head to Bruma after leaving home. After her world had collapsed.
It was the closest city to Chorrol, for one. Chorrol had been home. Not that Katla had cared for it. She didn’t remember much of her birth home, Dragon Bridge. She’d loved Solitude, though, where they’d lived for a few years before coming to Cyrodiil from Skyrim, to Chorrol.
She had no idea why her parents had wanted to move there.
Now, they were gone and she’d never know.
She blinked back tears.
Stop it, she thought. You can’t think like that right now. You can’t dwell. Not until you’re safe. They’re going to come after you.
She stopped her descent and turned to look behind her. The ruins of Cloud Ruler Temple, the ancient Blades stronghold, threw its shadow over her. She’d considered hiding out there, briefly.
How long had it been abandoned? Sometime during the Great War, the Thalmor had laid siege to it. Almost thirty years ago, now. Supposedly, all the Blades, all those warriors, whose job was to protect the Emperor, and the Dragonborn of legend, had perished during the Great War. Part of the Thalmor’s cleansing.
The architecture was stunning. Of Akaviri design. Its roof with a curved, almost wing, shape, and unique pillars. Like nothing else in Tamriel. History said the temple had been built in the Second Era. Here it stood in the Fourth Era, severely damaged, but still striking. Still something that could be rebuilt. If any Emperor had the courage.
Reading the history of the Dragonborn, and of the Blades, had been one of Katla’s favorite subjects. The Blades seemed so honorable. All those years protecting the Septim Dynasty. All those Dragonborn. How amazing of a warrior you had to have been to be the personal bodyguard to the Emperor or Empress. That was someone to admire, to look up to.
She knew the Penitus Oculatus were the personal bodyguards to the Mede Dynasty now. The name didn’t have the same ring, or history. Still impressive, to be such a good fighter, and so honorable a person, you were allowed in an elite fighting force.
Katla turned back towards Bruma. She should get back before nightfall.
You could be in danger right now, she thought. There’s no Blades warrior here to protect you.
Were those necromancers after her yet? Did they know she had the soul gem? Why had they killed her parents over it? Surely, they’d kill her if they found her. And probably do worse to her before then. Like what they’d done to Mom.
Katla shook her head. No. She couldn’t think about that right now.
Tonight would be her last night in Bruma. She’d head to Skyrim tomorrow. Get out of Cyrodiil. Put some distance between her and those necromancers. She’d earned a few coins from Colin and Eris, the owners of the Tap & Tack in Bruma, the local inn and tavern.
They’d been so kind. She knew she was doing menial work for them, but they’d paid her well and let her stay for free. Even given her some old, spare clothes. She’d left home with nothing but the clothes on her back and her two bows. Well, Dad’s ebony bow and hers, which he’d given her that terrible day. Everything else was gone, destroyed by that fire. She certainly couldn’t risk going back to check if anything useful remained.
Or to bury what was left of her parents.
She shook her head again. Stop it, she thought. You can grieve later. When you’re safe.
Yes. That was the plan. Get to Skyrim. Head to Dragon Bridge, maybe? Her hometown. Would that be safe? She had no idea.
Gods, she had no idea about anything. She was eighteen now, just turned a couple of days ago. Eighteen and alone. She had no family left. And no one to trust.
Katla let tears fall at that thought. She couldn’t trust anyone. Safer for her, and them, if no one knew what had happened. Or that she carried this strange soul gem.
To Skyrim, alone, then. Everything else, she’d figure out along the way.
*shout out to Beyond Skyrim: Bruma for the picture: Mod download