It was the evening before the murder of the maidservant.
And before the main gate of the Blue Palace, Che waited silently, looking rather menial beside the grandeur of the great halls behind her. Over her shoulder a leathern satchel was slung, filled to the brim with every possession she could now call her own.
Good bye, she thought to herself as she considered its facade, and then the Nords who inhabited the boxes of space both within and around.
As cold as the land that reared them.
It had been eight long years since Chenin had left Orsinium; and ever since that day, reality had slowly crept in, chipping away at her. It challenged every preconceived notion, every hopeful idea that Young Che had once held onto about the outside world.
Everywhere she went, it was all much the same.
Everywhere she went, they were all much the same.
The realisation pained her.
And now, Young Che was gone forever. The flickering fires of childish reverie truly were no match for the unrelenting rainstorms of reality. In her native culture, she had considered life too contained and overbearing; yet never took the time to perceive why her kind had embraced such isolation so wantonly. But now she knew.
In reality, she was a fool for believing that life was better on the outside. In reality, there was little room for her in the world of humans. She was Orsimer, in reality, and thus a slave to the Sworn Oath and the Bloody Curse. Nothing would ever change that, and believing otherwise had proven to be nothing but a great stumbling stone.
Yet, doubly painful was the realisation that going back to her own kind seemed like a non-option at this point, whether she desired to return or no.
So where does one such as she go?
Her inner self found comfort in this thought, just as the she caught the distant sight of her Khajiit friend, carrying a lighter load than the one he had left with an hour prior. She waved, before turning to take one last, long look at the Blue Palace. Sure, it boasted unique ornamentation with its domes and towers that stood proud; yet to Chenin, it was a hollow shell.
Then suddenly, the Orc shifted demeanour, as if by reflex. She reprimanded herself for allowing sombreness to overtake her psyche, and a switch flipped within her mind, which metamorphosed melancholy into antagonism. Such a powerful tool it was, Che knew; when sadness weaponised itself by mutating into rancor. It was a most unnatural phenomenon, much like... the Orsimer.
So. Good bye.
Che then turned her back on the Blue Palace, and all of its hollowness.
And may the daedra take you.
There Will Be No Forgetting
Not long after this, the friends began heading towards Solitude's marketplace, seeking to make preparations for their long journey south. Jo'sha could not hide his relief, his tawny eyes revealing the elation he felt to finally be putting these Nords behind him. Of course, the loss of his coin had been a major blow; but in the end, he just felt thankful that the two of them had successfully weathered the trials of this place.
First, there had been the coup. They had been uncomfortably close to the mayhem brought on by those events, yet had still managed to find an inn to hole up in.
Then came the ire of the Nord noble. That human's irrationality towards Khajiit had spurred their subsequent incarceration by the Templar, and more indirectly, the subjugation inflicted by that cold Jarl.
Then had come the worst of all: Windhelm.
Recalling the morning of the moot, Jo'sha's ears bent back in quiet consternation. On his way back to Candlehearth Hall to reunite with Che, the Khajiit had happened upon a scene that could not be erased from his mind's eye: two lynched Khajiit traders in an alleyway, with signs hanging from their necks.
Clean our streets!
NO CRIME. NO SKOOMA.
Jo'sha's fur pricked up involuntarily at the memory. How easily that could have been his fate, he mused, as he considered the threats made by the Nord on the balcony.
But this will all be forgotten soon. That Nord has been paid.
In fact, only hours prior, the two had been summoned to the throne room for that exact reason. "The time for repayment has come," Falk Firebeard stated at their approach. "By the authority of Elisif the Fair, you have have been summoned here today for..." Falk stammered as he strummed through an unorganised assortment of scrolls. "...ah! Here it is. A loyal noble to the Jarl has written a formal accusation, claiming the Khajiit in question was caught during a botched attempt at robbery. The attempted robbery resulted in the destruction of the property, for which the lord demands punishment. In lieu of punishment, Elisif the Fair has required a fee to appease her loyal vassal. As of today, consider this debt paid, due to your service for our Jarl." Falk had then pronounced the matter closed, and the duo were excused from the throne room.
"See, Shey? Now we can put all of this behind us," Jo'sha said while trying to put on an optimistic smile as they exited the Blue Palace. "Now, they will forget. Now, we may forget."
"Forget?" was the only word Che could summon in response to that notion, as she raised one brow.
No, Jo'sha. There will be no forgetting.
"Forgetting is easier said than done. Anyway, were you able to barter for the amount I recommended for my armour?"
Since the return to Solitude, Che had been determined to find the whereabouts of her Orsimer armour and daggers. The task proved easier than anticipated, she discovered, as there was something rather convenient of performing tasks as a maidservant. Essentially, as long as you offered the excuse of 'cleaning,' few ever regarded you with much suspicion.
With this advantage, Che had made her way into the garrison to 'clean,' only to find that her armour had been stored within the armoury. The daggers, however, were a bit trickier to locate. She never did come across them, unfortunately. They were now her last tie to home, but she had no choice but to leave them behind.
"Hmmm. Not as much as anticipated," Jo'sha as he pulled out a small pouch of septim. "But Shey, this one must tell you something."
Jo'sha switched his tone to a whisper, deciding it might be best to proceed in Ta'agra.
"Today in the market, this one ran into a Khajiit from the caravan that took us from Cyrodiil to Solitude. Due to the result of the moot, he said they are preparing to flee Skyrim, and warned Jo'sha to do the same. They will no longer risk a journey for business here, as they have grown afraid of this new High King."
Che patiently looked into the soft brown eyes of her friend as he voiced his fears.
"But do you know who this one is afraid of? Not Ulfric. But those who follow him."
Jo'sha leaned in to whisper the reasons for his concerns, detailing everything that he had witnessed in Windhelm. Che listened intently, without batting an eye.
No wonder the Nord fled with his half-Khajiit girl, she thought, before Jo'sha continued.
"The caravan has been trading from outside the city, camped in the forest just beyond the Gates of Solitude. Should we wish to join them on their journey south, they will be leaving at midnight to travel under protection of darkness."
Che knit her brows together.
"Then we must leave immediately," she said. "You go find the Khajiit, and use the coin from my armour to secure a journey. I will meet you at the Gates of Solitude when it is time to disembark. I... have some loose ends that need attending to."
The Orsimer then smiled at the Khajiit, remembering the promise she made to him back at Castle Dour. Finally she was doing something right.
"And Jo'sha... cheer up. You're going home."
He smiled at her words, before taking his leave to seek out the Khajiit.
Only once Jo'sha was totally out of sight did Che make her move, with Falk's words still reverberating within her mind:
The time for repayment has come.
Now that she had sold her armour, she could afford to skim a bit off the top a bit for... 'personal expenses.' She quickly peeked into the satchel that rested on her hip, her gaze outlining the bag of coin within.
Of course, no amount of money could ever buy what Che truly wanted.
But... it can buy potion.
First, the Orsimer asked a passerby where she could find an alchemist, and was soon directed towards Angeline's Aromatics. After securing her purchase, Che thanked the shopkeeper and safely placed the contents into her satchel.
And... it can buy weapons.
In finding the blacksmith, she needed guidance from no one. Instead, she followed the all too familiar clang, clang, clang of iron, which eventually lead her to Beirand. To her surprise, the stranger greeted her warmly, inviting her to look at his current stock. Che immediately began asking detailed questions regarding their design.
"You know weaponry well," Beirand complimented after he had answered all of her queries.
"My father is a smith," she responded absentmindedly, before choosing the weapons that had stuck out in particular. "And I'll take these two, please."
Beirand offered his customer a smile, pleased to find that an Orc found his handiwork palatable. Che gestured back in gratitude, before also placing the weapons within the satchel.
Upon exiting the shop, it had noticeably darkened, and she realised she was quickly running out of time. So the Orsimer took great care to complete her final errands, just as the sun had become fully set.
Now, to confront the Nord.