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Sloan's Story part 19 - Is Anyone Home?

jfraser

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She had walked right by it without knowing. She hadn't needed to go to Falkreath at all. Or even get shot at by the Bridge Gang, as the guard at the gate had called them. Her parents' house was tucked in the hills about halfway between Helgen and Falkreath. In her defense, she told herself as they stepped out of the trees into a large clearing that seemed to cradle a ramshackle hut, there had been no way for her to know there was a house anywhere in the area, so hidden in the hills and trees was it. Yet here it was, at long last - the home of her parents, the place she had dreamed of, a real house filled with love and life and only one room and huge holes in the roof and...

 

"Wait. That's...that's their house?"

 

"Yes." Dargon continued to walk, then stopped and looked back when he noticed that Sloan had stopped.

 

"It's...it's decrepit! It looks like it was abandoned years ago!"

 

"Hm? Oh. Yes, it does look that way, doesn't it? That's just for show. The real house is underground."

 

"It...really?"

 

"Yep. Rather ingenious, it is. Let's..." Then he stopped, looking over the house again.

 

She blinked at him. "What?"

 

"Something's wrong. Hurry!" His sword and dagger seemed to jump to his hands as he ran forward. Sloan followed after a moment's surprised hesitation.

 

The shack looked even worse the closer they got. Holes pocked the sides and the roof sagged. The front door hung open, revealing a crumbling interior. The entire thing looked as if it was going to collapse at any moment. Dargon rounded the far corner of the house and skidded to a stop with loud curse. Sloan joined him two heartbeats later, looking around him as she gasped for breath.

 

The sight that greeted her took that breath away.

 

Two shapes, burned and blackened but clearly human sized and shaped, huddled together on the ground beside the house. Her stomach sank as the realization of what she was seeing kicked in, and a moment later she was on her knees while unbidden tears streamed down her face.

 

"Impossible." Dargon's face was pale and slack. He stared at the figures as if he could will them back to life. "They were peerless fighters in their time. This...how could this be?"

 

"Are they...are you sure it's..."

 

"I'm sorry, but it must be. If they had done this, they wouldn't have left evidence for someone to find. Let's...let's check inside. Maybe..."

 

Sloan swallowed and stumbled to her feet while clinging to the final straw of hope left to her, then followed Dargon into the shack. It looked even worse on the inside, but Dargon ignored the dilapidated room - he shoved some moldy hay to the side with his foot, revealing a trap door, then bent and, with a peculiar twist of his hand, opened it. Dim light from below revealed a ladder leading down. Dargon looked at it for a moment, then grunted and dropped through the opening, eschewing the ladder completely. Sloan hesitated, then sat on the edge of the trap door and gingerly climbed down the ladder.

 

The room beneath was four times larger than the hut and doors led off to further rooms around the perimeter. There was wooden furniture but no fire in the fireplace, no papers or clothes or...anything, really. It seemed to be abandoned. Sloan stared as Dargon began moving.

 

"I see. Yes, that makes more sense. And here...ah."

 

"Dargon?" Sloan stood rooted in place as she watched him.

 

He glanced back. "Hm? Oh. Look." He came back to her, then set one hand on her shoulder and looked her in the eyes. "It is possible that your parents are still alive. Don't get your hopes up too much! But it is possible that those...burned figures, " Sloan couldn't hold back a wince at his words, "are...I don't know. Someone else. Here's what I do know - we need to get out of here right now. Whether they found your parents or vice versa, it's clear that they're back on the trail. I don't know what led them here, but that doesn't matter. What matters is, we need to go. Now."

 

"Go? Go where?"

 

"I'm not telling you where I am going. No, it's for your own good. And mine - if we don't know where the others are, we can't very well divulge their locations under torture, now can we? No, look," as Sloan tried to interrupt, "you need to go to Rorikstead. Find Anakath. Blonde Breton, can probably kill you with a look. You'll know her when you see her. Tell her everything. She will know what to do next. No," as Sloan began to speak again. "We're done here. Back up the ladder and out, then straight to Rorikstead. They could still be here, they could be watching, they could be coming even as we speak. No time. Start climbing."

 

There seemed little point in arguing when he wouldn't let her speak at all, so she shrugged and made her way back up the ladder. Once they were back in the hut, he closed the trap door again and brushed some hay over it with one foot, then peeked out the door.

 

"No telling if they're here or not."

 

"Who's..."

 

"Doesn't matter. We have to take the chance. I'm going to the right. You go to the left. Run and don't stop running until you're back in Falkreath. Got it?"

 

"I..."

 

"Good."

 

And then he was gone, pelting his way across the clearing and then disappearing into the trees beyond. Sloan took a deep breath, then another as a sob tried to escape her throat, then stepped out of the shack and ran as fast as she could in the opposite direction. Though her lungs burned and her heart ached and an acrid taste filled her throat, she didn't slow down until she had reached the trees.

 

 

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