Snippet #2008568

located in Skyrim, a part of Skyrim: The Mentor & The Sellswords, one of the many universes on RPG.

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Character Portrait: Dominicus Drayk
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The Sellswords had conferred, and it seemed that only one logical choice lay before them: investigate further in Markarth. They had little to go on, other than the note left for them, and even that was suspicious. Although it seemed unlikely that another would have written it, there had been some debate about the handwriting. Those who had seen the Mentor's before, and those who had even learned to read and write from the Mentor's own hand, questioned the origin. But, lacking any other leads, it was the only path that seemed available.

Of course, there were other potential difficulties to contend with, apart from their search. The Argonian, Lok-Indra, had pointed out an important fact: Skyrim was an unwelcoming place for many of the Sellswords. Some were criminals, their crimes varying in severity. The former fire mage, Drayk, was forbidden from entering the Rift for his crimes there, as part of the deal the Mentor had made in securing his release. It was well known that the Sellswords had troubled pasts, but under the Mentor's guidance, they were most often allowed to conduct their business. Their efforts at redemption had given them some room to work with many of the guard forces of the cities of Skyrim, but without the Mentor at their head, would they be so lenient in allowing criminals into their city?

And how would they fare if things turned against them? If the guards denied them access to the cities? If, as S'Baad suggested, this was all some kind of elaborate trap, designed by someone whom the Sellswords had unknowingly made enemies with? Or if the answers they found simply weren't the ones they expected? Already, with the Mentor's absence, and the tension in the air, some felt the strain, the pull of their vices. As they departed the meeting, most trying to get some amount of fitful sleep before tomorrow's journey, one thing would feel quite clear:

Time was not on their side.




Chapter I
The Shadow Over Markarth




The party set out at first light, as they intended. Each member took a horse from the Mentor's own stables. It was decided that one of the group should remain at the Manor, in the event that the Mentor should return there. Cassadin volunteered, and the other nine rode south, leaving their home behind. The Sellswords were swift travelers, and had been fortunate in receiving clear weather. From Solitude, they traveled down the road through Imperial territory, to the town Dragon Bridge, before crossing the Karth River and following the road south, finally turning west before reaching Rorikstead. From there they entered the region known as the Reach, the westernmost hold in Skyrim, bordering both Hammerfell and High Rock, a beautiful and treacherous land of mountains, cliffs, rushing rivers and breathtaking waterfalls.

The domain of Jarl Igmund had seen a good deal of strife lately, mainly caused by the Breton Forsworn uprising, and their subsequent defeat at the hands of Ulfric Stormcloak. But that was twenty years ago. The Forsworn fled into the mountains, and though they are still regarded as a plague to the city, they have not threatened to retake it since. They would normally be a serious consideration for travelers wishing to enter the Reach, but a talented and well-armed group such as the Sellswords would tend to draw more caution from them.

As such, the Sellswords were able to pass through the mining town of Karthwasten, and penetrate deep into the Reach without drawing the ire of any of the Forsworn tribes in the area. As the sun began to set before them, dipping behind the highlands that surrounded them, the Sellswords had nearly arrived in Markarth...




Dom Drayk
The Reach - Outskirts of Markarth



"Tell me another one?" the young boy asked, sitting in front of Drayk in the saddle. He arched his neck backwards, the top of his head pressed up against Drayk's chest, innocent little eyes peering up at him, seeing him upside down. Drayk raised his eyebrows at the kid, sighing. "Another one, huh? Alright, let me think..."

They had found the boy foraging through some bushes alongside the road, trying to fill a small basket with berries. Drayk had positioned himself at the head of the group, as he liked to do. As the only one with a shield, Drayk thought that was how it should be. He could be the first to receive threats, and those behind him could deal with them. He had warned the Nord boy, who had introduced himself as Orrin, that it was very dangerous to be this far from the city on his own, what with the Forsworn moving through the hills as they were. Soon later, he found himself with the child in his saddle, telling stories in order to pass the time as they closed in on Markarth.

"There was this one night, back in Cyrodiil. What town was it again... oh yeah, Leyawiin. It was raining, total downpour. Always seemed to rain when I was down there. Hated it. Anyway, me and my buddy Liam were passing through town, trying to find somewhere to stay for the night, and get out of the rain. So we manage to get to this--"

"Where were you going?" the boy interrupted. "Uh," Drayk racked his mind for an answer. It was actually a little hard to remember. "Let's see, this was... six years ago, I think, so... well, nowhere really. It doesn't really matter for the story, anyway. As I was saying, Liam and I had found this lodge, so we shambled in soaking wet. The place was packed with people passing through town, and there were no rooms. Innkeeper assured us the others were full to bursting, too. But we see a bunch of guys playing cards around the tables, drinking and having a good time, so Liam says, hey, we've got a roof over our heads and some guys to play cards with. Why don't we try our luck?"

Drayk made sure to do a cautious glance of the surroundings, checking for any sign of trouble. The others weren't very far behind. Chances were some of them could hear his story, too.

"First thing Liam does is challenge the biggest, meanest, scariest looking Orc in the room to a game. He was crazy like that, never had the sense to start small. So the big guy takes him up on his offer, and they set up a table. I ask around a bit, and apparently this guy hasn't been beaten in a year. He's just that good. Thing is, Liam's a cheater. Never seen anyone who could cheat so often, and so well. I never would have known if he hadn't told me, he's that good. I'm watching him play, and I can't see when or where he cheats, but he wins the first game. After the Orc gets over his shock, he's furious. You ever seen a pissed off Orc? Yeah, you don't want to. Only this guy wants to beat Liam fairly, rather than rip his arms off. So he keeps playing, and he keeps losing. Ten times Liam beats him, and no one sees him cheat. The big Orc's ready to quit, but Liam taunts him, trying to get him to go for more. You shoulda' seen that. Little Breton half his size, taunting this Orc who's about ready to reach for his battleaxe."

"Did he play again?" Orrin asked. Drayk nodded. "That he did. Liam had started handing me the gold, because his pockets just couldn't take any more. They play again, only this time, the Orc grabs Liam's hand while it's under the table, and pulls his arm out for everyone to see. He rolls up Liam's sleeve, and everyone sees that he's got this contraption on, looks Dwemer made or something. I know what it is. We found it poking around in a ruin. As far as I know, it's just a bracelet, and I'd seen Liam cheat before he got his hands on that. He said he was planning on selling it once we found a... well, a more friendly merchant. The ones in Leyawiin were mean. Anyway, the Orc's convinced this thing is letting Liam cheat. There's a big crowd by now, and everyone believes him. Crazy Orc goes for his axe. Liam worms away right as he splits the table clean in two. I'm an accomplice, apparently, so a guy next to me grabs me. I punch him, and he tumbles back into this big Nord, like you're going to be pretty soon. He's piss drunk, and swings at the nearest face. Soon we got an all-out brawl on our hands."

"How'd you get away?" he asked. Drayk shrugged. He knew exactly how he'd gotten away, but of course he'd modify the story for the boy... and for himself. "We were pretty slippery back then, Liam and I. We got out in the confusion, with about a tenth of the gold he had actually won. You shoulda' seen it all flying out of his pockets as we ran, like the guy was dripping money. As you can imagine, we didn't think we'd be welcome in town after that, and just moved on."

"Did you ever find out how he cheated?" the boy asked. Drayk shook his head, smiling sadly. "Nope. He never told me, saying 'a master never reveals his secrets' or something like that. We parted company once we got as far north as Cheydinhal. He met up with his family there, and I kept traveling."

With that, Drayk wrapped up the story. The walls of Markarth, built into the side of the rock as they were, were in sight off in the distance. The boy slid from the saddle, saying how his home was just outside the city walls, and that he'd make his way back from here. He thanked Drayk for the ride, and the stories, and then was gone. The ever so familiar feeling of guilt welled up inside Drayk as he watched him go. That story wouldn't have sounded nearly so harmless if he'd told it as it really happened.

There were no harmless stories in Drayk's past. It had taken him far too long to see that.