Chapter 1: Voice of the Dragon
Dusk came quietly to the lakeside estate, the sun was about to set over the long horizon and a light breeze carried over the open lake to the north. Sofie Hunter sat on a lounge chair with her feet raised on a stump footstool, sitting she read atop the balcony above the west wing of the estate. She always felt a serene sense of calm and peace washing over her as she stared out over calm waters of the lake, most days she simply found pleasure in sitting out on the balcony to read or paint or write as she so wished. As the days grew warmer and summer approached she would go down to the lake to swim or practice her swordplay, however she still had to learn how to use her sword in the water-
"You spend too much time alone, you know that" a silky smooth voice spoke as a weight suddenly fell upon her shoulders, arms wrapping loosely around her neck, the warm caress of another's breath across her ear. "What you up to?" she recognised the voice.
"I'm trying to read" Sofie replied off handidly, burying her nose in the book in hopes of simply being allowed to return to her reading. Her sister however would not be so easily deterred and so she reached out to clutch the seam of Sofies book and plucked it from her hands, the bright glow of the slowly setting sun washing into Sofies eyes.
"What's this?" Runa turned the book over in her hands. "The Lusty Argorian Maid. Whatever happened to 'A Brief History of the Empire Vol 2, I thought you were still reading that?"
"Re-reading, actually" Sofie replied.
Runa opened the book, idly flicking through the pages she chose a verse at random and began to read aloud. "My goodness, that's quite a loaf!"
"Hey, give that back!" Sofie cried as she quickly scrambled to her feet and lunged blindly after her sister in an attempt to regain her lost item. Runa simply stepped forward to place a few paces between them.
"But how ever shall it fit in my oven?" Runa turned the page. "This loaf isn't ready for baking my sweet. It has yet to rise"
"I said give it!" Sofie darted after her sister once again; Runa simply sidestepped the uncoordinated attack. As a magic user Runa was a master at the art of deception and faint to keep her enemies at arm's length, avoiding any attempted strike from ever making contact.
"If only we could hurry that along" Runas sweet feminine voice turned masculine. "Oh, my foolish little Argorian maid, you must use your-"
Sofie tackled into the side of her sister, forcing her onto her back foot Runa found herself pinned against the balcony railing. In a final desperate effort to keep her sisters book from her grasp she held it at arm's length over the cusp of the balcony. Sofie clawed and fought her sister for her prize yet even as she struggled out of the corner of her eye she saw the flash of a light in the trees on a ridge to the west. Another glint of light appeared, any other would have dismissed it as a mere coincidence but she could see-
She saw her. She saw the dragon burning, ensnared by the fire. She saw her mother, trapped by flame, consumed in the growing inferno.
"My ladies" a voice shattered her delicate trance. "It is dangerous to be outside the estate at night"
The two young women parted to face the source of the voice. Lydia had served their mother faithfully as her housecarl for all of their lives, and had been their attendant since they had been children. Her hands still bore the scars of the fires kiss. She proudly wore the finely polished steel plate armour their mother had gifted her for her years of service to their family. Sofie had never seen her without it for any significant length of time.
"Please Lydia, you don't need to keep calling us that" Runa pleaded with Lydia, her momentary distraction allowing Sofie the opportunity to snatch her book from her sisters hand and clasp it tightly behind her back before Lydia could dare to ask of its significance. "Just call us by name"
"I apologise Lady Runa" Lydia replied. "But as your mothers Housecarl it is my duty to address you as such"
Runa stepped ahead of her sister. "But you don't need to be so formal all the time..." Runas voice began to trail off into the surroundings, Sofies gaze drifted to return to the ridge-
The fires rose, the flames dancing and lapping at her skin, her oak brown hair ablaze.
"I see something out there" Sofie whispered faintly beneath her breath. "I see the light"
The voices stopped, the offhanded comment drew the attention of Lydia and Runa. "My lady?" Lydia asked, as she stepped towards the edge of balcony her gaze following Sofies to watch the glow of the light on the darkened ridge. "Stay here" Lydia's hand drifted to the hilt of her sword secured at her belt. "I shall go and investigate. Please go inside"
"Lydia?" Runa asked.
"Please" Lydia turned to face her, her voice firm and unwavering in the way a mother would instruct their child. "Take your sister inside, it is not safe outside the estate after dark" with her warning given Lydia stepped down the steps from the balcony and set out towards the ridge in search of answers. Runa and Sofie accepted the request in silence, taking her sisters hand Runa led her back into the warm embrace of the homestead.
"You saw her again didn't you" Sofie remained silent to hers sisters question. "You know what happened to mother was never your fault" Runa hoped to reassure her fledgling sister as she always did. "There was nothing anybody could do"
She watched as the fire took her, fed upon her body. People stood all around her, watching, each unable or unwilling to intervene as the flames grew grander and hotter.
"Get some rest" Runas voice returned her to reality. "You'll feel better in the morning"
Runa departed with a kiss on her sister's cheek and left her to ponder her thoughts by herself. Sofie leant against the banister overlooking the Great Hall, letting her mind wander in silence. Across the great divide she could see the armoury, each display and wall decorated with weapons and armour sets her mother had wielded during the course of the war in Skyrim. There was no doubt the pride of her collection was the Dragon Bone Armour, Sword and Shield set which her mother had forged herself had from the scales and bones of dragons. How the young girl hoped to someday wield such weapons in battle against-
She heard the creak of the floorboards behind her. Expecting Lydia or her sister she was shocked into unspoken silence when she turned and was faced with the shadow of a man in a flowing black robe as he appeared as if from nowhere without a flutter of the air around him. His piercing eyes stared back at her, freezing her in place. The man seemed to move with a graceful and arcane certainty that the world simply moved only for his purposes. The glint of oily black metal flashed within the fabric of his cloak, Sofie could do nothing but stand in silence as the man advanced on her with ill intent in his deep blue eyes.
A blast of cold suddenly filled the air; a shower of snow white fragments engulfed the robed man in a cocoon of ice, the frozen statue preserving him in the final throes of life. The delicate statue of the man shattered, a thousand tiny pieces of icy crystal falling to the floor at her feet. Sofie remained transfixed by the lingering mound of dust, reaching into the mound she felt the biting cold of the ice against her skin her fingers touched the surface of something solid. Pulling it free with a flutter of displaced crystals she found the hilt of an oily back dagger in her hand, the blade imprinted with deadric symbols and engravings which-
"Are you alright?" her adoptive mother's voice called out to her. Beleyna emerged in front of her, her hands still aglow with a bright blue energy. "Are you hurt?" her mother quickly began to fuss over her as any mother would for her cub. Sofie attempted to stumble out a muffled reply, only to be silenced by her mother's insistent tone. "Listen carefully" Beleyna clasped her daughter's shoulders with crushing force. "Find your sister and hide. Do you understand" Beleyna broke the bond between them, running to the cusp of the stairway down into the Great Hall, the sound of another's presence within the house drawing her towards the entry hall. Sofie suddenly bolted into movement, adrenaline and instinct taking control with the objective of finding Runa and getting both of them to safety. "And don't look back" Beleyna called after her.
Sofie ran into the bedroom at the northern end of the house, finding the room empty she continued deeper into the estate. As she turned the corner into the northern wing of the estate Runa emerged from the Alchemy tower, an alchemy journal held between her hands. "Sofie, what's wrong?" She saw the frantic gaze in her sister's eyes and knew that the situation was dire.
"We need to hide" Sofie replied through rasping breath.
"What?" was her sister's only response before Sofie quickly ushered her away into the corridor leading back towards the east wing of the estate. They emerged into the Great Hall; the room was empty, the walls scorched by signs of battle, the thin call of battle carrying on the breeze. They thought they were safe, they thought their path was clear. The door before them creaked open, the hem of flowing black robes stepping out into the Great Hall, piercing blue eyes staring back at them from beneath a billowed hood.
That's impossible. I saw him die.
"Get down!" Sofie heard the voice, she felt the heat of the flames as they passed mere centimetres from her face, whooshing past the fireball attempted to strike at the target. The figure in the flowing black robe simply sidestepped the surprise attack in a single fluid motion.
Utilising their brief moment of freedom to break away from their confrontation Runa grabbed her sister by the arm and pulled her back towards the rear of the great hall. She didn't dare look back over her shoulder, expecting to see the attacker in close pursuit. Quickly throwing open the trapdoor in the floor they quickly dropped into the dark abyss of the cellar below.
Runa lingered on the ladder for a brief moment, securing the latch on the door before dropping down to join her sister in the cellar. Nobody had been down here in months; the crates were laid thick with dust, large interconnected streams of cobwebs spread across the ceiling and the embers of a once fierce forge now cold and damp.
"We can't just wait here you know" Runa said.
"Where else can we go?" Sofie replied. "We were supposed to stay down here where it's safe"
"We cannot stay here" Runa said. "Mother always said there was another way out of the estate, a path only a member of our family could find"
Runa began pawing through the dust and dirt in search of the hidden path, checking every shelf and corner in search of some clue to set themselves free. Sofie followed suit, running her finger tips across the rim of the forge where she had learnt to forge weapons and armour at her mother tuition.
Sofie opened the chest at the corner of the room, in her previous life her mother had used these chests to store her weapons and armour crafted at the forge. When Sofie uncovered the chests contents she was frozen in confusion and silence. Among the chests contents were flowing black robes tinted red with fabric which carried an almost mystical aura about them. She did not recognise the insignia, a black hand, emblazed across the front of the robes. She felt an overwhelming desire rising within her to don the robes, to feel the press of the cloth against her skin.
"What are you doing?" Runa asked her sister as she donned the flowing robes over her blue dress without a word, the girl seemingly taken in a trance refusing or unwilling to respond. "We need to get back upstairs and help mother and Lydia" once more her cries fell upon deaf ears, Sofie remaining oblivious to her sister's call for action.
Sofie began to feel something stirring within her, nothing you could feel or see or hear, almost an energy moving around her, calling, drawing her close. She pressed her hand to the wall, feeling the heat seeping from her hand into the dust covered stonework. A deep rumble emanated through the claustrophobic basement, the dust thick air unsettled as a section of the wall unfurled to reveal a concealed tunnel beneath.
Runs stepped forward to stare into the dark abyss. "How did you know?"
"I don't…" Sofie returned to the world of the living, her mind once more becoming her own. She held her palm to her forehead, hoping to quell the raging headache which suddenly eclipsed her. "I can't-"
The roar of a thunderous crash startled Sofie into silence, the trapdoor in the roof of the cellar beginning to rattle and strain against furious attempts to open it.
Runa turned to face her sister, determination flaring in her eyes. "Go, go now. I'll follow you"
Sofie slipped herself into the breach, slipping her way into the tight passage, pressing herself forward through the dust covered tunnel. The flickering light of the torches in the cellar slowly dimmed into darkness. She could feel the claustrophobia rising thick in the air, the press of the walls against her chest, forcing quick and frantic breaths as her lungs strained to rise against the solid rock wall. She felt the loose fabric catch and tear on the jagged walls. She heard the booming roar as the trapdoor was disintegrated in a shower of splinters. She could not risk going back, she had to keep going.
She felt the cold breeze touch her cheek, smelt the waft of the fresh flowers which grew by the lakeside. She pulled herself out into the silver glow of the moonlit night, the surface of the lake glimmering at the edge of the estate. She felt the cold wash over her as she emerged from the cave, the chilly night air filling her lungs as she sucked in the thick air past her lips. Primal animalistic instinct took hold, all that she could think to do was run, and it didn't matter where. She had to get away, she had to be free.
Sofie ran faster and further than she had ever had to endure, but she knew that she had to keep going. She couldn't risk returning home until she knew she was safe, so she kept running. Her muscles strained, her eyes burned, her lungs tightened in her chest.
Eventually her body could no longer continue to support herself, forcing her to her knees beneath the burden of her own weight at the edge of a moonlit spring. Her mind was fraught and her body unable or unwilling to carry her any further, crawling on her hands and knees she pulled herself towards the water's edge. Reaching out she scooped a handful of water into her face, washing the burning sweat from her eyes. She closed her eyes and finally allowed her mind to wander; she could not help but think of mother.
She saw the burning pyre. The woman lay atop the flaming structure she was draped in her best finery, a flowing sky blue dress and snow silver sapphire circlet, slowly awaiting the flames gentle kiss.
All around her members of every faction had gathered to pay tribute, from peasants to Jarls, Mages and Companions. Each was here to offer their sincerest condolences to the hero of Skyrim. Sofie and Runa stood front and centre of the group. Sofie stood straight in solemn silence while her sister clutched her arm and buried her cheek in her shoulder to sob her pain away. Sofie could only stare silently into the heart of the flame as the embers climbed into the starlit sky.
Through the growing flames the young girl could make out the glimmer of the sapphire blue necklace around her mother's neck, the sky blue flower held between two strips of glass. Sofie felt her feet carry her forwards, Runa slipped from her sisters shoulder, Lydia stepped forward to catch Runa before she fell. Sofie shuffled slowly forwards, seemingly held in a trance, drawing closer to the burning pyre as if she wished to cast herself upon the mound and join her mother in the flames embraces seemingly oblivious to the imminent threat. The young girl reached out to clasp her mother's pendent in her hand.
"My lady" Lydia yelled, charging forward across the divide she snatched the girls hands out of the fires grasp without a seconds hesitation before she could be consumed. The heat of the fire forced Lydia to her knees in wincing pain, tears welling in her eyes at the overwhelming torment, only her strength of will and the pride she felt at the selfless way in which she had risen to the girls defence allowed her to remain conscious.
Sofie looked down and saw the blood red burns clawing up Lydia's forearms to mark the kiss of the flames. Slowly glancing down at her hands she uncurled her fingers to reveal an unscathed pendent held in a hand of silky smooth skin. How could she-
'You wear our colours and yet you are not one of us'
This voice was more than a distant memory; it was reality, real enough to awake her from her trance. Sofie opened her eyes and turned to face the voice. The sight which greeted her was that of a figure in flowing red and black robe lingering leisurely on a high tree branch behind her, their face concealed behind a black cowl.
"Who are you?" is all that Sofie could dare herself to ask.
"I really should be the one asking you that same question" although she could only make out a vague outline through the darkness the woman's well-spoken voice betrayed her gender. "If you wear our robes when you are not one of us then you must have killed someone for them. Tell me, who was it?"
"I didn't kill anyone!" Sofie was quick to retort the accusation.
"Oh no, you misunderstand. I approve" a low chuckle carried through the silence. "Those who are not strong enough to defend themselves deserve death. So tell me, who was it?"
"I'm telling you I didn't kill anyone" Sofie continued to protest her innocence.
"Oh" the voice seemed surprised by her determined assertions of virtue. "Not a murderer then, merely a thief"
"And I didn't steal them" Sofie snapped defensively. "I am Sofie Hunter, daughter of the legendary Dragonborn and protector-"
"Oh, so you're the Little Dove" the voice laughed.
"Don't call me that!" Sofie reached for the dagger at her belt, ready to wield it like a beast bearing its bladed teeth in anticipation of attack, only to find that once she looked back up her prey had mysteriously vanished.
"But you are Little Dove"
Sofie turned to face the voice behind her to find the woman sitting cross-legged on a high rock ledge. "Your mother was the big, fierce Dragonborn and you are her miniature spawn, therefore you are the Little Dove. You know your mother told me allot about you and your sister, back when we used to work together"
"My mother was an Imperial soldier, a Companion, a Scholar of Winterhold, an honourable warrior. She would never work with someone like you-"
"Not all mutually exclusive paths mind you" Sofie was silenced by the interruption, a sly smile creasing the creatures' lips. "Ah the sweet innocence of youth, how touching, how blind" the woman leant forward, bracing her chin on her hands. "You never knew your mother did you"
"She was away a lot of the time, but she always came home" the fire returned to Sofies voice. "I knew who she was"
"Really?" the woman threw up her hands in apparent admittance of defeat. "Well I guess it's true then, sometimes it takes a child to tell the Jarl that he is wearing no clothes"
Sofie was silent. The woman leapt off of the high rock to stand before her. "Do you believe me now? Your mother was an assassin, one of the best of us" Sofie could see the woman's face, a Dark Elf with snow white hair. "She killed miners and merchants, lords and beggars. If The Mother commanded it the deed was done" Sofie was stunned into silent defiance. "Sigh. Maybe you would believe me if I showed you"
Sofie remained defiant. "I'm not going anywhere with you"
The woman remained exasperated. "Look, this whole 'My mother was a perfect angel of righteousness' act is real cute and all, but we haven't got a lot of time. Now you can either accept that your mother was both an assassin and an honourable warrior and come with me. Or you can deny it, and I leave you here for the men in black robes to find you, assuming wolves and bears don't get you first" the woman held out her hand for acceptance of the offer.
Sofie finally had to concede. "Ok" Sofie held out her hand, only for the mysterious woman to suddenly pull her fingers between her lips and whistle sharply into the air.
Sofie readied her weapon in anticipation of attack, the woman remained relaxed. "What are you doing?"
The pool of spring water began to bubble and gurgle, the surface of the water forming into an oily black haze. The surface of the water broke in an explosion of displaced water droplets, a dark creature of the night emerging from the pool to trot slowly to a halt between the two of them, its piercing red eyes staring back at her. "Meet Shadowmere, another gift left by your mother's legacy" the woman stepped forward to caress the creature's silky black mane. "This fine creature has been a loyal mount serving our order for as long as the Brotherhood has existed. The last of us he bowed to was your mother"
The woman pulled herself up into the saddle, reaching down she held her hand out for the young girl to take. "Come Little Dove, the truth you seek awaits"
The ride through the forest was conducted in silence with not a single word passing between them as they passed the ever growing number of identical trees. Descending deeper into the forest they were met by a hidden door which dared to ask 'What is the music of life?' to which her mystery woman replied 'Silence, my brother'.
"Welcome to my humble abode" the woman stepped down into the heart of the vast, open cave system. The high walls of the cavernous space were burned with scorch marks or covered by collapsed debris, the tattered remains of banners fluttering high on the walls, too burnt or moth eaten to know whose insignia they once proudly carried. A waterfall on the far wall emptied out into a sapphire blue pool of water, the gentle roar of the water echoing through the space. "The place has seen better days, and I will admit it wasn't much to begin with, but it's always been home. I get food from merchant dead drops every few months, eating for one can really stretch your supply"
Sofie saw the furniture lining the far wall, fancy and well built if slightly stained and scarred. "May I ask you something?" she asked into the void without turning to face the woman directly.
"It depends on the question" the woman replied.
"May I start with your name?" Sofie asked.
"You may ask" she said. "But it doesn't mean I'll answer"
"Surely I should be allowed to know the name of my rescuer"
The woman sighed. "My name is Gabriella. Call me 'Gabbie' and you will be gushing blood from a hole in your throat for the five seconds it will take you to collapse to the floor and bleed to death" the sudden shift of tone forced Sofie onto the back foot. Gabriella decided to explain before she summoned the courage to ask. "Your mother came up with the incessant nickname her first night here" Gabriella collapsed unceremoniously into a wide armed chair. "I never could get used to it"
"Then I guess that begs the question, why are you helping me?"
"That's not a great amount of gratitude is it?" Gabriella plucked a goblet of wine from the table beside her chair, pulling her cowl down from around her lips. "If you were dying of thirst in the desert and a stranger offered you water you would probably ask where it came from" Gabriella sipped at her tangy drink.
Sofie remained silent. Gabriella exhaled flatly beneath her breath. "The last time we saw each other your mother asked me to do something for her. She said that if you or your sister were ever in trouble then I was to find you and make sure you got somewhere safe. You hear that Hunter!" Gabriella called out into the cavernous empty space. "Looks as though we're even, I'm heading into the void with a clean conscience"
"How did you know I was in danger?"
"You do not survive in my line of work without knowing everything of note that is happening within your circle, shadowy figures appearing at the former home of the hero of Skyrim, something's gotta give"
"Why would you do that for us?"
"I made a mistake" Gabriella snapped, rising to her feet in a single bound before falling back into her seat, cupping her face in the palms of her hands. "I made a mistake" she whispered beneath her breath. "I allowed myself to focus on the big picture, forgetting the big picture was made up of smaller pictures. It's hard to see the big picture from behind a mound of corpses"
Gabriella fell silent once more, Sofie proved unable or unwilling to respond. "Two years ago, we were betrayed by one of our own" she could not bring herself to bring life to the blonde traitor's name. "They opened the door and allowed our enemy to attack us in our home. It was a massacre; I was mortally wounded and presumed dead by all the others, left in darkness to die my slow and painful death. There's poetic justice for you. So I lay there, awaiting deaths harsh embrace" Gabriella took another soft sip of her drink. "Time passed, I don't even know how long. Eventually your mother returned to the Sanctuary, she never told me why she came back. Perhaps to gather some of her equipment, poke through the charred remains of a once proud fraternity, I never asked. She pulled me out of the rubble, kept me alive, she saved me"
"How did you survive?" Sofie asked.
"Whilst I had no shortage of injuries it soon proved nothing a liberal application of healing potions could not cure" Gabriella reached up to run the tips of her fingers through her snow white hair. "Stuff does wonders for the glossiness of your hair too"
"But why have you stayed here, if you survived maybe there were others-"
"I know there were others" Gabriella interrupted. "From what I heard those who weren't killed moved north, started their own little Sanctuary near Dawnstar"
"Why did you not go with them, seek out the others. They were your family?"
"They left me in a fire to die" Gabriella enjoyed another taste of her drink. "You tend to lose faith in people after something like that. So I stayed here, I decided to begin my own little brotherhood"
"Just who were you?" Sofie finally dared to ask the ultimate question of the moment.
"Once, I was part of the Dark Brotherhood, perhaps you've heard of our work?"
"I have heard of you" Sofie replied. "And I also know that my mother would never associate with murderers"
"Is that what you remember, or is it what you were told? And I promise you we were more than mere murderers. The truth I suspect is your mother was not the perfect image you seem to have of her, in reality her time was spent amongst thieves and killers. Hell, in her wilder days she even killed the Imperial Emperor Titus Mede II. Now that was a good one"
Sofie could still remember the day the news of the Emperors death arrived. On the morning of her birthday she had awoken to find her mother preparing breakfast at the fire, it turned out she had ridden home to Whiterun in the darkness of night to be with her family on her daughter's day. She had watched the uncontained joy in her daughter's eyes as she presented her with an Ebony Dagger she had forged herself with the raw ore mined from within an Orc stronghold, the very weapon she had trained with since that day. It was that afternoon an Imperial rider came thundering into the city to deliver the tragic news that the Emperor himself had been cut down by an assassin of the Dark Brotherhood.
It was something she had not taken notice of at the time but staring up into her mother's deep brown eyes as the startling revelation was given while some wept and others cheered her mother had remained silently calm throughout. She had carried a sort of uncharacteristic distance Sofie had never seen before, like she had already known the truth of the Emperors death, like she had been there to witness it herself.
"So that's who my mother really was then?" Sofie said. "The murderer who kills an emperor and washes her hands clean before returning to her family" Sofie was sullen. "It can't be what happened" Sofie muttered.
"It's not a lie if it's true. Even so you should not judge your mother too harshly" Gabriella took another long swig of her drink. "She was even slated for execution by the Imperials at one point, right beside Ulfric Stormcloak himself. She never said what they caught her for, but there were rumours circulating in the Imperial City that it had something to do with taking a butter churn, a dog, a hawk's egg and a set of bag pipe's into a brothel"
Sofie was dumbfounded. "You can't be serious"
"That's simply the rumours I've heard. You know how these things become exaggerated but they always begin with eventhe smallest grain of truth"
"I can't stand this any longer" Sofie threw her hands up in admittance of defeat. "I'm leaving"
"To go where may I ask?" Gabriella asked with a cocked eyebrow.
"Anywhere but here" Sofie began to gather her few remaining possessions in her pack and headed towards the cave entrance.
"When I found you were weak and crying" Sofie stopped a few steps short of the exit from the cave. "If you leave now then by sunrise you won't even be back to where you began because you'll be dead"
Sofie returned to Gabriella's side, sitting back down on the edge of her seat. "My mother had friends in the Companions, at the College in Winterhold. Why would she not call upon them for help? When we lived in Whiterun Aela was always there for-"
"You mean the dog woman?" Gabriella sniggered beneath her breath. "She won't be any use, unless you want to know which arses in Skyrim are the most pungent. And Winterhold, the mages there are more interested in reading tomes and playing in the snow than anything which could be of any use against the men in black cloaks. If you truly wish to know the reality behind those who seek to harm you this would require the people who truly understand the dark places in this world. Outside of the Dark Brotherhood there is only one group in Skyrim who would be able to help you against this threat; you will find them in Riften"
"The City of Thieves" Sofie whispered beneath her breath. Her mother had often talked about the city as a den of villainy and debauchery, the city where her sister had lived in an orphanage until she was adopted.
"Precisely, this is where you are going next"
"You expect me to travel there on my own?"
Gabriella shook her head in disbelief, pinching the base of her nose between her fingers. "Divines, are you sure you are related to your mother?"
"While I may not be my mother's blood, I am as much her daughter-"
"Adopted" Gabriella said flatly. "That explains allot"
"But why can't you come with me?"
"I'm supposed to be dead, remember? I took a big risk finding you in the first place. If I step outside again both of us would be dead before we passed the first cluster of trees. Once you reach Riften search out the one they call Vex, she used to work with your mother in her previous life"
Gabriella pulled herself to her feet. "Come on, I'll show you where you can lay your head. You should be out of here before dawn or the wrong people may start taking notice of your presence"
"You can keep the robes but if I were you I would change them for something a little less conspicuous. Wearing our colours presents a bold statement to those you meet, and there are those who would seek to test that statement with steel"