Tag Archives: Series of Unfortunate Stumblings

One hell of a bundle

“Hey.”
“Mmhm?” Garzur cracked one eye open and glanced at the tiny bosmer standing on the platform next to him with two steaming mugs in her hands.
“Brought you something before you freeze to death,” Rin passed one of the mugs to him. “What are you doing up here?”
“Sitting. Thinking. Breathing. What’s in there?” The orc smelled the drink feeling the mix of herbal and spicy aromas.
“Tea.” Rin laughed. “Don’t make this face, if I wanted to poison you, I would’ve done it long ago and with something much less conspicuous than an unfamiliar beverage, don’t you think?”
She scooted closer, sitting down next to him and dangling her legs over the edge of the platform.
“Coin for your thoughts?”
Garzur shrugged. “All the same. It feels weird, surreal. Don’t get me wrong, it was a right decision, it was my decision and I enjoy this,” he paused looking for words, “newly acquired mortality. It just feels weird.”
Silence fell again, interrupted only by occasional chirruping of crickets. Garzur thought back to the events of last several months that brought him here – not an un-living anymore, sitting on the platform in the branches of a huge graht oak overlooking Hearthwood with a tiny insufferably stubborn wood elf next to him. He thought of several months in Wrothgar, of the small clan of descendants of his original family who, to his endless surprise, accepted him as one of their own, of how Rin insisted on taking him to Valenwood to meet her family. After she told him a little about them he thought he was more or less ready, but…

“Uncle Ryn said auntie is bringing her orc friend, and the books Mama reads us say orcs are scary” – three pairs of curious golden-green eyes stared at him, waiting. “Are you scary too?”
Garzur turned to Rin, “what am I supposed to do?” question evident in his eyes. “Growl at them, maybe?” provided the shortie elf trying not to laugh. And he did. Golden-green eyes grew huge and for a second he was sure he ruined everything but then… Two tiny bosmer girls squealed in excitement and hung on him nearly tackling him on the ground. “Not scary! Not scary!” Helplessly he turned to look at Rin only to notice her crying from laughter. “Can’t trick the kids!” she singsonged.

“That was a dirty move.”
“What?”
“Letting your nieces jump me. How was I supposed to know how to react? It’s not like I had a big experience dealing with children for … ever”
Rin giggled. “You did fine!”
“Well, calling me being a living tree for climbing “fine” is a bit of a stretch, but…” he sighed. “I suppose I’ll have to deal with young ones much more often than I’m used to when I stay with the clan now.”
“At least you already know how to play hide-and-seek.” Rin winked at him.
“That was a long way from there to here,” Garzur smirked. “What I would never understand is why you were never afraid.”
“You heard the girls. Not scary.”
“Rin…”
“Well, you never exactly tried to be really scary and never looked at me like I was a snack, so, you know,” she wriggled her fingers, “I figured you aren’t a threat.”
“I tried to avoid spicy food.”
“You know, you got more cheeky? Must be mortality side-effect.”
Garzur laughed wholeheartedly. “Learning from the best.”
Rin bumped him with her shoulder laughing now too.
“I’ve never thought it would come to this, you know. I’ve pretty much got used to a thought that I’m always going to be an exile, alone, on my own. But then I got you and Alastair – and then my life back, and then in a blink of an eye I got a family…”
“Two.”
“What?”
“Two.” Little bosmer shrugged. “They all like you, you know.” She waved her hand in the direction of Woodhearth. “You said Alastair is like a brother to you, well same goes for you in my opinion. You are like a brother to me – gruffy, grumpy and uncharacteristically green, but that doesn’t change a thing. And the thing with wood elves is – get one, and you get all others for good measure. So, my friend,” she added with a broad smile, “you got yourself one hell of a bundle of relatives.”

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“Circe Maria Augusta! What is the meaning of this?!”
She stubbornly looked down refusing to meet her mother’s furious eyes.
“Your dress! Your hair! Ruined!”
“I slipped.”
It was her 14th birthday – her first “grown-up” birthday – with dozens of guests and a celebration party. At least it was supposed to be, but…

“You look pretty!”
She laughed and spun around again, showing off the delicate silks swirling around her legs. “You think so?”
“I do.” Alastair’s smile became cheeky. “Like a princess or damsel in distress from your fairy-tales.”
She turned to him. “Am not!”
“You do! All silks, and flowers – if enemies had attacked right now, you wouldn’t be able to do anything, just stare, and gasp, and feel helpless till some mighty warrior rescued you!”
“I am not! I can outrun you even in this dress, and I’m far from helpless!”
“Oh really? Then how about,” he paused considering the options, “to the pond and back – and if you win, I’ll take “damsel in distress” back?”
“Deal!”
Without second thought children darted out of the house.

By the time they reached the pond they both were breathing hard and the hem of Circe’s dress and Alastair’s pants were covered in spatters of mud left after the morning rain. He outran her, of course, even if almost barely.
“It’s all this stupid dress!” Annoyed, Circe kicked the nearest grass mound. “If it wasn’t so long… Oh!” The wet ground gave in, she slipped, nearly falling over, but Alastair caught her hand helping her to straighten up.
It suddenly occurred to him that like this – flushed from running and hair wild – she looked prettier than back in the house when she was showing him the dress.
“I won, and you still look like a damsel in distress, but if it makes you feel better,” he added noticing her frown, “as a damsel who thoroughly kicked her offender’s most tender body parts before succumbing to distress and letting her knight save her.”
“My, my, Lord Daragutis, aren’t you a smooth-talker?” laughed the girl, clearly mimicking her mother’s manner of speech.
Her fingers tighten around his a little – or was it just his imagination? – and he felt the blush creeping up his neck.
Circe turned to look at her dress with a sigh. “I’d better get back and clean myself before Mother sees me.”

“You’re staying in your room, young lady! Your guests would have to have a party without you attending!”
“Mother!” Tears welled up in her eyes.
“End of discussion.”

*****
Later that evening he snuck upstairs to the door of her room with a slice of her birthday cake as a peace offering.
“Everyone’s missed you down there, your parents said you were not feeling well and won’t be joining the party.”
“If it wasn’t for your stupid dare, I would’ve been there!” Circe’s voice was muffled by the door, but something told him that the girl was still crying.
“Hey! You could’ve just agreed with me and skip the running to the pond!” He sighed. “Look, I brought you the cake.”
“Just go away, Alastair! I don’t… I really don’t want to see anyone right now.”
“Fine!” He glared at the door before turning and leaving, the plate still in his hands.

Not just a dream.

Hot afternoon air was filled with cicadas singing and a faint smell of dry grass, flower blossoms, and strawberries. Children’s laughter rang across the garden and Circe blinked several times trying to get used to the white sunshine. That garden! That exact day, she realized, shaking her head in disbelief. That dream… She hadn’t had it in a while.
Stepping lightly, she walked deeper into the garden to once again watch, and listen, and… remember.
The boy and the girl were there, sitting near the fountain and arguing.
“Stop it, that looks stupid! I look stupid” the boy tagged at the side of a flower crown.
The girl giggled. “You don’t! You look cute. Sit still.” She added another flower.
“Why can’t we just get the books and talk of dragons?”
“‘Cause we did it last time and I have won the bet!” Another flower joined those in the crown. “As always!” singsonged the girl.
“Not always!” argued the boy. “I let you win, so I don’t have to see you cry!”
“Are you now?”
“Yes, I do!”
“No, you don’t!”
“Yes, I do!”

Circe could recall with a minute to minute precision every word they would say, every move they would make, as well as every time she dreamed of this scene.

The first time she had this dream many years ago, as a child, just mere weeks before her friend perished with his whole family in something that later her Nan called a “daedric incident”. The dream was back after that each time to leave her in tears on waking up from it. She remembered that one and only time when it changed, adding another detail to itself. Several years after the incident she felt the presence of another spectator in it, moments later noticing a vague cloaked in shadows figure behind the trees on the other side of the clearing. A couple of months after that she acted on her decision to run away from home to avoid an arranged marriage. Since then that Another, as Circe called the figure, became the essential part of the dream. Time after time she tried to get closer to the figure to see the intruder more clearly, failing every time, always facing an invisible wall, preventing her from getting a better view.
There it was again, dark figure – standing and looking at the children’s playful argument. Slowly, carefully she moved, trying to reach it again.

Step.
“You look like an elf from the book,” said the girl. “Nan has that book with fairy tales she read me when I was smaller.”
Step.
“You’re still small,” scoffed the boy. “You’re only 12.”
Step.
“Hey,” the girl lightly pushed him. “Almost 13 and I don’t need Nan to read me anymore!”
Another little step. That’s where she usually is met by the invisible wall.
“But you’re still reading fairy tales,” teased the boy.

To Circe’s surprise, she could take another couple of steps towards the figure. And then some more. She could see it clearer now – definitely male, stubborn chin and pressed together lips. The upper part of the face, as well as the edges of the silhouette, were still blurred, but whoever it was he seemed to be mesmerized by the scene in front of him.
Circe stole a glance at the children near the fountain. 12 year old her tucked the last flower in the boy’s hair and was now examining the flower crown on his head with deep satisfaction on her face. “You really look like an elf, but we will need to think of another name for you. “Alastair” doesn’t sound very elven.”

Circe blinked, suddenly noticing that the smell of strawberries overpowered everything else. She carefully reached forward trying to touch the man’s arm, and as if sensing her movement he turned to face her. “Who are you?” she whispered, blinking furiously and trying to make out his face, still being unable to see it clearly. The smell of strawberries and cicadas trills got overwhelming and the dream suddenly crumbled in pieces, shattering like glass around her.
She woke up in her small apartment at the Belkarth Inn. “Time to get the job done!” She will check that abandoned house in the outskirts of Elinhir to see if its previous owner left anything of value behind and then head back to Abah’s Landing, she decided. She’s been away long enough.

Scandalous Sweetrolls

Art book, “Allure of the Sweetroll”
Rare art book, “Ong’s Passion: Allure of the Sweetroll”,
depicting healthy unclad Imperials holding artfully placed sweetrolls.
(from the item description)

“Make yourself at home, it won’t take long.” Saying that Circe disappeared through the doorway leaving him in her small, but cozy apartment in the Belkarth inn.
“Might’ve as well waited in the common room” he muttered more to himself, feeling slightly awkward surrounded with her belongings and a faint smell of jasmine – so distinctively “hers” that it made him dreamy and dizzy at the same time. Alastair sighed and looked around. A stack of books on a small shelf got his attention, and he moved closer – history, poetry, something about cooking. Cooking? Alastair shook his head, Circe definitely knew how to cook, but reading a cooking book – that was new! “Allure of the Sweetroll” – even the name sounded tempting. Snatching the book from the shelf he flipped through the pages.
The room suddenly seemed much smaller and way hotter, and he felt treacherous bright red color creeping up his neck to his cheeks. Alastair shut the book with a loud snap. That was not a cooking book! Oh, there were sweetrolls in it, sure, plenty of them actually. Held by and placed on various body parts of young Imperials.
Suddenly he remembered lingering looks Circe gave him several days ago when he was eating one of the sweetrolls she brought. No. Oh, no! Or? The blush that started to disappear was back. Could it be that she made those on purpose?
He dared another peek in the book, opening it in the middle and flipping some more pages. Oh. Oh! His breath caught, and he paused looking at the two portraits of a young woman. The first showed her holding a sweetroll in both palms as if offering it to him, and on the second she was biting in the plump pastry’s side, still looking straight at the viewer, her smiling lips lightly smeared with the white icing. She didn’t look like Circe, except for, maybe, the color of her eyes – but it didn’t help. All Alastair could see was Circe smiling like that and biting the sweetroll.
“Here’s the letters I wanted to… Oh!”
Alastair spun around facing her. Circe’s looked at his burning face, then at the book in his hands and at his face again tilting her head to the side in surprise and amusement.
“I thought you were more into huge Redguard guys!” he blurted out trying to hide his embarrassment.
“I… What? No! I… What are you talking about?” Circe’s turned the most lovely shade of pink. She took a step closer, looking at the book’s cover. “That’s not what you think it is! It’s an artbook!”
“Yes. Right. Art…” His voice trailed off.
“But it is! It even says so in the foreword.”
“I… I think I’d better go now.” Trying not to meet her eyes with his Alastair scooted over to the door.

***********

The first thing he saw getting back home was Garzur… lazily chewing a sweetroll. Alastair choked on a greeting and froze at the doorstep, looking at his friend. Orsimer vampire rose his eyebrows and after a brief pause broke the pastry in two, offering half to him. Blood rushed back to the young man’s cheeks.
“By the Divines! I think I had enough of those today!” With that he stormed upstairs, leaving puzzled orc to wonder how an innocent offering of a sweetroll might’ve caused such reaction.