Wrath for Sale
My Khajiit heart changed its song when I reached the hinterlands of Skyrim.
The pine forests and the tall grasses thinned, gave way to rocks and cliffs that were cold beneath my paws. Something about climbing out of this fertile bowl and trying to forget myself in a new country was more than I could take.
I broke down.
Clawed my hide until the snow at my feet was cross-hatched with streaks of crimson, and three of my nails were broken.
Then I turned around. Headed to Markarth.
These are the names of Lothor’s three sisters: Nakir. S’Vanni. Renji. I roll them over in my head as I walk.
Renji is the eldest. She is the one who saw my cowardice before being taken to the City of Blood and Silver in chains.
I do not love Renji. I barely know her. She most definitely hates me. But when I dream, it is of her. Silver-spotted fur with the light of the morning glowing through it. Yellow eyes. A handful of kind words that passed between us.
Still, this will not be a romantic story. Not like the lies crammed between the pages of books, or behind the faces of kings. I am doing this for myself. Because if I run away, what am I?
Just a hunk of meat with claws. A beast.
I will not let myself become such a thing. Even if the alternative is an unmarked place in the ground.
Late morning. Two guards stand on either side of the city gate. They are suspicious of this black-haired Khajiit that has melted his way out of the mountainside. Tail flickering like a Sabre Cat. I left my weapons in the wilds, but everyone knows that Khajiit do not need steel to be dangerous.
“What’s your name, cat?” The Left Guard asks when I get close.
“Your business in Markarth?” asks the Right Guard. I suspect they have practiced this routine.
“Wares,” I say.
Left Guard sighs. “And what wares are you peddling, exactly?”
Every vagrant and criminal who has set foot in Skyrim has heard stories of Cidhna Mine. That is where outlaws go in Markarth country. Generally, they do not come out again. If Renji and her sisters are alive, they are most definitely in Cidhna Mine. A place for murderers and thieves.
So that must become the place for me, too.
‘C’mon cat,” Right Guard says after a while. “What have you come to sell?”
“Wrath,” I hiss. Letting my claws slip free.
My cat eyes can see inside the shadowy holes of the guards’ helmets. I watch their eyes go wide and white. Smell their panic. Both of them move for the gate at the same time, and wind up bumping into each other. Losing their balance.
Apparently, they have not worked out a routine for a murderous Khajiit at the city gates.
I bolt forward and grab the Right Guard by the throat. Tear it out and throw his larynx at the Left Guard, blinding him with the blood and gore from his friend.
“MURDER! MURDER!” he yells, hands up to his face.
There is nobody around to hear him.
I drop his gurgling friend and then stab the claw of my middle finger through Left Guard’s hand, and into the eye behind it. I guess my nail is long enough to tickle his brain, because his right leg starts jolting around and he craps himself.
I will not lie. It feels good to kill them. Like escaping from long years inside of a cramped cage.
After it’s done, I pull a key from Right Guard’s belt and open the gate. I look around—still nobody in sight except a guard very far away on the wall. Just a black dot moving away from me.
So I let myself into the city.
It does not take long for the City Watch to track me down. A black-haired Khajiit stands out, I guess. I am perusing the open-air market an hour later when they come for me. About fifty men following me through the city, which I feel is a bit excessive.
But there has been a murder, after all. Can’t be too careful.
I am inspecting a sapphire necklace when they spring their trap. Blocking all of my paths to escape with armored bodies. The jeweler tenses up when he realizes what is happening, and that it is happening to me. The soldiers move him away from his booth, along with the rest of the marketgoers.
A droopy-eyed sergeant pushes his way between the four guards blocking the main avenue. He has a sword, but he doesn’t have it drawn. I wonder if confidence or arrogance is responsible for that.
“You fucking cats,” he says quietly, “vex me to no end.”
I shrug. Carefully set down the necklace. “Has there been trouble today?”
Silence. The Sergeant grinds his teeth together for a few moments.
“Two murders. Both of them Jarl’s men. And I’m of the mind you’re responsible.”
“Huh.” I grunt. “Any evidence?”
I casually extend the claw on little finger and inspect it. I washed the blood from my hide in one of the canals that runs along the street in this strange city, but the potential of my claw is unmistakable.
The sergeant draws a long, curved knife that was sheathed at the small of his back.
“Enough to skin you where you stand, cat.”
His droopy eyes are completely devoid of emotion, and I get the sense this is a very dangerous man standing in front of me. Not many men can draw steel that casually.
I know that I can’t.
If it came to a fight, I’d say my insides had a decent chance of winding up all over the cobblestone street. One of them would probably turn my hide into a rug or something. But this is not my plan.
“This is most unfortunate,” I say, sheathing my claw. “Perhaps you would feel more comfortable if I stayed in Cidhna Mine while you conducted your investigation?”
“My investigation is pretty well conducted,” the sergeant says.
I nod. “It would be shame if one Khajiit was punished for this crime, yet your Jarl’s men continued to turn up dead. Some might begin to question the judgment of the sergeant doling out such hasty discipline.”
A few of the guards glanced around at each other.
“Is that a threat?” the sergeant asked.
“Call it a suggestion.” I press my wrists together and offer them to the sergeant. “What’s the saying—nobody escapes Cidhna Mine?”
“There are five other Khajiit’s in this city,” the sergeant said, sheathing his knife and producing a set of manacles. “After I’ve talked to them, I am coming to kill you.”
He fastens the metal around my wrists. It feels cold, even through my fur.
Then he takes me to Cidhna Mine.