The young Breton stared into the fireplace from her seat nearby. Numerous strangers had been telling their own stories, how each of them ended up in that particular inn with these circumstances. Initially, everyone had been speaking at random, but soon they settled into a roughly circular pattern around the room. Each narrative was accented by the quiet strumming of the bard's lute, the tunes familiar and haunting.
The circle of stories had made its way around to her, and the others were looking at her expectantly. She had arrived alone, drenched from the pouring rain outside. Immediately, she had gone to the fire and sat down to dry. Afterward, as other strangers gathered in the common room, she set to work cooking a stew for herself before finding a seat to the side.
She was of average height for a woman of her race, perhaps even a little tall. Fiery hair flowed past her shoulders, and a ruby and pearl circlet rested against her forehead. Eyes that seemed to shift between blue and green moved away from the fire to gaze at a ring on her left hand, the name "Vath Zervies" inscribed on it.
"I suppose 'tis my turn," she finally said, not meeting the eyes of the strangers. "I, too, have a tale of adventure and intrigue. Love lost and love found, betrayal and revenge. My story is neither happy nor sad, not one of grandeur or splendor. But you wish to know, so I will tell you.
"I come from High Rock, the area known as Rivenspire. My father is...was...an aspiring merchant. My mother died many years ago, and I was his only child. My name is Marola Eponine. I lived as a princess, given every luxury money could buy, a manor that rivaled the castles of our kings. To me, life was perfect.
"That all changed just a few months ago. You all have mentioned the Dark Anchors and how they have affected your lives. When they were just beginning to fall in Tamriel, my father was confronted by the Worm Cult. They threatened to take everything away from him and throw him writhing into Coldharbour. They never even gave him a choice. He begged and pleaded until he at last came upon a bargain that intrigued the cultists. He would supply the King of Worms with any money and supplies he desired, and give him a firm foothold in High Rock. As proof of his loyalty, he offered in exchange the life of his only child, his daughter.
"He summoned me one evening, and informed me that we were going to have a very important feast that night. I was to look my best for his guests. It was not unusual, as he often entertained his clients in our home, and since I reached womanhood, he often requested that I attend. For my very life, I cannot recall what was served at that dreadful meal. I remember our guests' eyes very keenly watching me at all times. My wine was particularly sweet, a taste I had never known before, and its affect left me in a blissful ignorance."
Marola paused in her tale, as a disgusted expression crossed her face. The memory of the sort of state the skooma had left her in put her momentarily in a foul mood.
"I remember little else about that night, but that somehow my father and his guests lead me to an altar. It was some place far away from the city. The cultists began crying out as I was suspended above them, calling for Molag Bal to join Nirn with Coldharbour. They offered a sacrifice to him. As stupid as that foul drink had left me, I soon understood that the sacrifice was I. Before I knew anything more, a dreadful crash resounded in my ears, and I was pulled upward through a hole that had appeared in the sky. Then I knew no more.
"I awoke in a cell, shivering from the icy air. I heard shouts like a riot outside, and someone opened the door, calling out that we were escaping. The effects of the skooma had long worn off by then, and though I was disoriented, I trusted what I was told. I followed the others to the armory. Little was left, but I did find a sturdy sword and shield. I fought through countless undead, and found within me a strength and cunning I never knew I had. I practiced magic that I had never known before. With the help of others, I eventually found a way back to Nirn, through an open anchor.
"However, when I returned, I knew not what to do with myself. I could never return to my prior life. My father had willingly given me up to Molag Bal in exchange for his own skin. Slowly, I got my bearings. I started a small business in Daggerfall, buying and trading, crafting and cooking. My life was almost comfortable, but far from satisfactory. Then I met an Altmer Templar, a great mage and fantastic warrior. He convinced me to leave Daggerfall, and to seek vengeance upon my father. The road was long and dangerous, but he stayed with me and helped me train myself. We sparred and honed our skills. We helped a number of people throughout High Rock and slew great monsters.
"Eventually, the time came. Though Vath wished to come with me, I knew I had to face my father alone. I left him and rode for Rivenspire, to that familiar old manor. By this point, it was in a decrepit state. All his money was being sent to Mannimarco, but for what was absolutely necessary for his survival. I found him in the basement, slaving away at his balance books and writing letters to his clients with demands for more goods or payment. Such a pitiful sight."
Marola sneered at the memory, one hand a tight fist as her hardened eyes stared into the flames.
"I never even gave him the chance to wriggle his way out of it. The first thing I did was cut out his lying tongue. All those years of supposed adoration to me was now a gilded farce. He valued no one's life but his own.
"I feel not the need to go into details. Suffice to say, his death was slow and painful. I did not kill him...no, I only maimed him beyond the point of recognition and threw him at the feet of the Worm Cultists who arrived later that day to extract payment from him. They were satisfied with his condition. I am certain that if he is still alive, he is chained up and writhing in a cell somewhere in Oblivion."
She paused for several moments to collect herself, removing the burning hatred to a more manageable corner of her mind and returning to her calm demeanor. Again, her eyes returned to her ring.
"I have wandered since then, seeking to reunited with dearest Vath. For now, I will rest here, and resume my search for him on the morrow." She took a sip of wine and glanced at the next person in the circle.