Water droplets dripped off the overgrown, frostbitten ferns below the towering, leafless trees. Cobwebs glistened as the pale sun reflected off the ice clinging to them. No wind blew; no creature moved. Including myself.
Sitting in the dewy grass, I watched my breath fly off into the cool, morning air. It had been the worst winter to date, the winds coming directly from the furthest northern mountains of Skyrim carrying the bitterly, freezing conditions of that region. The Nord population came shivering and frostbitten into Cyrodiil, thronging the streets and filling the inns. Every night, their drunken laughter and ramblings woke up every citizen in the town until the guards stepped in. Bravil was the worst by far, but I hadn't hung around long enough to experience the full force of a community of drunken Nords.
I felt privileged being able to travel freely between the towns of Cyrodiil knowing that I had a warm bed and fire in all of them. Although, I never stayed in Bravil or Imperial City overly long. Bravil was basically the Thieves' Guild's den. There were far too many thieves for the guards to keep track of so they'd given up trying altogether. And then there was the skooma den. With a skooma dealer always in town, it was hard to stamp it out... but the guards probably didn't want to seeing as Bravil's ne'er-do-well Count Regulus Terentius and his skooma sucking son Gellius were just as bad. My only real business in Bravil was making the sure the Fighter's Guild and Mage's Guild were still in appropriate condition and visiting the Church of Mara.
The Imperial City... it was something else entirely. All manners of people wanted to be in the City. Ok, so maybe you could get the best deals in the Market District, maybe mages could gain access to the Arcane University and maybe you could bet or take part in Arena matches... hell, all those choices there wouldn't be much reason to leave the City. That's what made it such a danger-prone area.
So many people flocked to the City that it was hard to distinguish the average, every day citizens from the scheming ex-citizens that made life hell for everyone else. The City was the opportune time and place for thievery, murder... and blood drinking. Thieves would usually bide their time down on the Waterfront (Not trying to take away from the underprivileged who lived down there) until word was passed around of an empty home or rich noble arriving. Within hours a house will have been swept clean of all value, a man or woman's pockets emptied; all under the noses of the Imperial Watch.
Murders were even more stealthily planned, simply unexpected. Sometimes they were even designed to look like an accident or displayed flamboyantly as a warning to others. Most were carefully disposed of carefully, though; usually under a bridge north-east of the City in Lake Rumare but not everyone knows that.
Vampires aren't as discreet with discarding the bodies if necessary but they weren't completely stupid. If they had enough blood in their bodies, they could easily blend in with unsuspecting humans. The easiest to find are usually the elven vampires: their skin grows a lot paler than most and they age a lot faster. Oh, and the teeth. They're quite hard to hide.
I guess having the Nords drinking to all hours just filled up the prison cells faster and put the Watch under greater stress than usual. They might be drunk but they always know when they're being assaulted.
In all honesty, I felt a little pity for the thieves, murderers and even vampires huddling into their cell corners during that harsh Frost Fall. All they had was some scrappy clothing on their backs for comfort so I could imagine how many bodies lying frozen on the icy floors. Well, not imagine; I'd been there.
I'm no criminal. It's my job to inspect the bodies in the prison. As the Fighter's Guild Master and Arch-Mage of the Mage's Guild, I was required to post-mortem the bodies and kill whoever is close to death's doors. It's a bloody job, but someone's gotta do it.
I shifted on my ankles trying to keep my legs alive and took a steadying breath. I couldn't last much longer on my food stock and neither could the rest of Cyrodiil. As the Champion of Cyrodiil, it was my duty to look after my province's needs. I'd spoken to the Champions of the other provinces and had gained some support from them with promises of food supplies but it still wasn't enough.
The sun was well above my head when I heard the first branches cracking. I hunched closer to the now damp grass and watched as a wild boar hesitantly stepped into the clearing. Sliding an arrow gently on to the bow string, I aimed directly at the boar's heart.
It never cried when the arrow hit.