Morrowind I: Leah's Imprisonment
Author's Note: Thank you to Danae for allowing me to post my old fanfics on her blog. I don't remember exactly when I wrote this, but it was a long time ago, maybe 2006 or 2007. I like to think I'm a better writer now, but hope you enjoy.
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Leah sat on the mangy cot of her prison cell battered and bruised. Dry blood caked a wound on her forehead and her lip was cut. She rested her head against the concrete wall and tried to block out the pain. She could not even heal herself as the bracer drained her of magicka.
Here she was, barely 28 years old and sent to rot in a prison cell…if the heavy labor did not kill her first. She winced as she shifted to get comfortable, her ribs shot pain through her body, and the healer was busy. Leah hoped he would reach her tonight. She could barely move. She heard the metal clang of her cell door being opened and she turned her head as the guard walked in regarding her with cold eyes.
"Are you Leah?"
"Aye," she said through dry, cracked lips.
"The healer will be here soon. Then, the Captain wants to talk to you."
Leah hurt too much to even nod an acknowledgement. The guard left her, locking her cell door. She closed her eyes and tried to retreat from reality as her surroundings only reminded her of defeat.
Sometime later, Leah had no idea how long, she opened her eyes to the metal clang of her door. She had no idea how long she slept, if she had indeed been asleep. An elder man in a well worn robe walked in carrying a satchel. No doubt the healer. He regarded Leah with some surprise, not having expected to see a woman.
"Hello," he said, kneeling down to make eye contact. "I am Healer Jonn. You are?"
"Leah," she tried to lick her dry lips, but her mouth was dry.
"Let me get you some water."
The healer left her cell for a moment and she noted the guard standing outside so she could not escape. Not that Leah would have tried. She had enough trouble and pain already.
Jonn appeared with a cup of water. He held it to her lips while she drank. She winced in pain as she swallowed, but the water felt good going down her throat.
"Thank you," she whispered.
The healer instructed her to lie down and he helped her do so. He cleaned her forehead and lip wounds, making Leah wince as he did so. Then, he carefully lifted her shirt to examine her ribs. He probed gently, noting her reactions.
"These three are cracked a bit." He gently set his fingers on her skin, indicating each rib. "A heal spell should do nicely." With that, he muttered a healing incantation and cast the heal spell on her. Leah felt her ribs mend and soon, no trace of pain remained. She sighed in relief.
"Thank you, Jonn."
"You're welcome. The Captain is waiting to see you."
Leah stood, a little unsteady on her feet at first, but soon regained her balance. The guard took her to see the Captain.
The Captain sat at a long table covered with paper work. He scowled when he saw Leah, noting the bruises and cuts.
"Sit," he indicated a chair across his desk. "Now, care to tell me what the hell happened out there?"
"I was on my way home. As I walked by the shop, thieves ran out, and into me. I fell hard, they tripped over me. One was a Khajiit and clawed my forehead," she indicated the still slightly bloody deep wound over her left eye. "They heard the guards running, dropped the loot on me and ran off. I had the wind knocked out of me and couldn't move."
The guard regarded her, skepticism written in the lines of his face. "Where do you call home?"
"I rent a room from Malleni Rolnar. I have been trying for weeks to join the Legion," she said, not without frustration, hoping to show the Captain that she was an upstanding citizen.
She heard the guard behind guffaw and frowned. "Women have no place in the Legion. Especially those who have been arrested for theft."
"I did not steal anything. I have never stolen anything in my life!"
"Every thief we arrest says that. I've heard it all."
"Captain, I have been training to be a Knight. I have never stolen anything in my life. I have never been arrested for anything in my life!"
"And why should I believe that? You have no name for yourself. You are unmarried, no occupation, nothing. We cannot even find any record of your parents."
"I was orphaned as a small child."
"Who were your parents?"
"I…I never knew their names. I was only 3 or 4 when I was found by a guard who took me to the Imperial Cult. They never found my parents or anyone who knew of me. I don't even know who they were."
The Captain scoffed. "All orphans are trash! No name, no upbringing…criminals waiting to happen. Take her away!"
Leah was roughly pulled to her feet and practically dragged out of the Captain's office. She protested, but her words fell on deaf ears. The guard pushed her into a cell and locked the door behind her. Leah stared at the door in anger, and yelled again in protest, but it was no use. No one cared.
Leah finally slept that night, but when the guards came to wake everyone up, she felt no more rested than when she closed her eyes. She and the rest of the prisoners were taken to a field and made to move all the rocks and cut down the trees as a new fort was to be built on the site.
In the weeks that followed, Leah learned to how fix wagons and carts and tools. She learned to improvise, and most of all, she grew strong from the back-breaking work. The prisoners were fed, but each day felt an eternity and each night Leah lay awake staring at the ceiling of her cell, wondering when her spirit would give up. She did not sleep in spite of the exhaustive labor. She dozed periodically, but sleep eluded her. She just did not care.
A light burned inside her, brighter than ever as each day passed, even as apathy threatened to control her. A guard beat her for not working hard enough. She tried to work harder, even as pain wrenched through her body. At night, she prayed to the Nine to end her misery. The world felt silent, or perhaps it was her soul, but no end to her imprisonment loomed in her heart.
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Leah lay on her prison cot dozing, aware of each voice, every noise, every footstep. The clang of metal brought her to the present and a guard filled the doorway.
"Come with me."
Leah stood up and followed the guard. He led her into a community shower room. Water dripped steadily. "You have 10 minutes. Wash thoroughly. Don't dawdle. And scrub your hair." He pointed to the soap, towel and small sack sitting on the table. Then, he turned around and closed the door behind him.
Leah wasted no time as she checked the sack to find a clean pair of pants, a shirt and a pair of shoes. She washed as instructed, gratefully scrubbing her skin until it was red and scrubbed her hair until it felt clean. She dried off quickly, rung out her hair. She put on the clothes and while not exactly a perfect fit, were at least better than the rags she had. She opened the door to the shower room.
The guard turned when she opened the door and indicated that she follow him. He led her to the Captain's office.
"Well Leah, it looks like you have friends in high places."
"Huh?" Leah did not know where this was going.
"It seems that the Emperor has authorized your release."
Leah stared at the Captain. "What?"
"You are going to Morrowind. That is where your release is authorized."
"Morrowind?" By now, her expression must have been almost comical. "But why? For what?"
"I don't know. My only instructions are to get you on the prison ship bound for Morrowind first thing in the morning."
"But I don't understand. I've never been there."
"Join the club. In any case, you will be taken by carriage to the docks and boarding the ship at 5:00 a.m. I suggest you get some sleep. You ever been on a ship before? Hope you don't get seasick."
The Captain dismissed her. As she turned to leave, the Captain looked up at her and saw her hair a mass of tangles. "Wait. Here." He handed her a comb. "You may keep it. I forgot to give this to the guard when he took the rest of the stuff to the shower room."
Leah was then shown to a barracks room. She was led to a smaller room with 2 beds, a table and a candle. "This is the womens' sleeping room. You will stay here tonight. You will be awakened at 4:00 for breakfast. Good night."
The guard softly closed the door behind her. Leah sat on the side of the bed and combed out her hair. It took a while as it had not been combed in a long while. Though combing the snarls out hurt, she felt better afterward than she had the entire time she was in prison.
"Morrowind," she thought, "the land of the dark elves." She had heard vague rumors of the land, knew that a volcano called Red Mountain sat in the center of it. She knew Ebonheart was the Imperial capital there. Beyond that, it was a mystery.
"The Emperor," she thought. "Why does he know of me? What is going on?"
She dozed through the night, though she rested better than she had since being arrested. In the early morning, a guard came to wake her up, but she was already awake, sitting on the edge of the bed. She followed him to the mess room where a sleepy cook had prepared a simple, but hearty breakfast for the guards and the two prisoners awaiting the ship. The cook was already preparing breakfast for the rest of the prisoners and Leah watched as the other cooks arrived.
She ate her breakfast, noting it was the best food she'd eaten in weeks. It even had flavor to it. After the last drop of coffee drunk and mouthful swallowed, the guards led her and the other prisoner to a carriage. The other prisoner, Leah noted, was a dark elf. She did not know the man's name, but he had an ugly scar running from his forehead, through his eye, and down to his cheek. It looked like a fearsome animal had clawed him, gouging his eye out. Leah shuddered at how painful that must have been. Leah turned her attention away from the dark elf, not wishing to give him the impression she stared. She looked out the window instead, it too dark still to see much, but she noted lanterns outside the windows of buildings and the cobblestone road the horses clippety-clopped over. She did not want to go to Morrowind, but she wasn't offered a choice. The Emperor decreed that was where she was going, and no one argued.
To her surprise, the ship only carried a small crew and the two prisoners. They set sail almost immediately after the prisoners were boarded. Down in the hold the prisoners sat at a table. A guard, a surly man with little patience and even less enthusiasm for his task regarded them with dark eyes.
"Rule 1, if you're going to be seasick, there's the bucket," he pointed to a corner. "Wipe up your own swill. Rule 2, Stay out of my way and don't back-talk. Rule 3, Give me any trouble and I will throw you overboard to feed the slaughter fish and won't look back. I did not ask for this bloody assignment and I don't care if you make it." With that, he turned on his heel and went back upon deck.
The dark elf and Leah glanced at each other, but said nothing. As they started moving, Leah felt the gentle rocking of the ship and the motion made her sleepy. Yawning heavily, she moved to the nearest hammock and lay down, asleep instantly.
Mountains and valleys and volcanoes, flying bird-like creatures with sharp teeth, rats, some strange humanoid creatures with very tough armor haunted her dreams. She was soaring above them all. They did not see her, but sensed she was there. The rain poured down in torrents as she soared over circled tents, stone and wood houses, small wood huts and so much water. Then, she soared over the volcano, red ash in her eyes, her lungs, even her clothes and skin. She tore at it; it weakened her in the dream. She was ill, she flew over it, through this magical fortress of some kind. She was flying…
“Wake up! We're here! Wake up!”
Leah fell in her dream, she could no longer fly. She saw the water beneath her and she dropped toward it. Just as she crashed in the dream, she grabbed the arm shaking her and woke with a start.
“You were dreaming," a male voice said with concern. “Why are you shaking? Are you okay?” Leah gasped as she became fully awake and was aware of her surroundings again. She was on the ship. She looked up at the dark elf with the scarred face. “What is your name?” he asked.
“Well, not even last night's storm could wake you. I heard them say,” he said conspiratorially, “that when we reach Morrowind…I'm sure they'll let us go.” He paused a moment and listened. “Quiet, here comes the guard.”
Leah turned to see a guard approach. He looked directly at her. “This is where you get off. Follow me.”
Leah hesitated a second and then followed as the dark elf said, “Better do what they say.”
She followed the guard upstairs and through the mess area and then to the hatch. “Get yourself up on deck and let's keep this as civil as possible.” As she reached up to lift the hatch, she noticed the magical bracer had been removed.
Leah opened the hatch and found herself in the bright sunny daylight of what appeared to be a small village. The sun hurt her eyes as she had not really expected to see it. She saw a Redguard waiting on deck looking at her. She walked over to him.
“This is where they want you. Head down to the dock and they'll show you to Census office.”
Getting through the Census office took less time than expected except for a few minutes she took to eat the meal left for her. She was grateful for it as she was hungry. As she left the Census office and stepped into the world as a free woman, she couldn't help but smile. This was the second chance she had prayed for and the Nine saw fit to grant.
Okay, she was not completely free as the Emperor had need of her, but still, he knew of her somehow - the Septims' peculiar gift of the Sight was not unheard of, so perhaps she should not be surprised. Captain Gravius had no idea why she was here, but perhaps this Mr. Cosades could tell her. Maybe the information was in that package.
"A new life," she thought. "I'm going to make the most of it."
That morning, Leah left her old life behind, a life filled with poverty, broken dreams and loneliness.
I'm an avid Morrowind fan and Morrowind modder.
I also write fanfic. My Morrowind fanfics will be posted here on Danae's Blog and at AO3.
If you're interested, I also write NCIS Fanfiction.