Little Red

This is something I wrote all the way back in 2014 about a side quest and character in the video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  I was curious about the little girl’s back story, so I let my imagination run wild. It also won me First Place in a local creative writing contest my town held in 2019, so I suppose I can now call it an Award Winning Piece!

The autumn sun shown warmly on my cheeks as I wandered through the fields of my father’s farm.  Wind whistled through the tall trees of my family’s beloved city of Falkreath.  I always helped on the farm; planting, weeding, watering, harvesting, anything Papa required of me.  It kept me busy, from getting in trouble.  Mama is always saying I wander off and get into trouble.  Sometimes, I think Mama worries too much.

       But today, today I had managed to slip free.  It hadn’t been hard, I made a show of doing my work close to the ground, so Papa would easily look over me whilst I was still around, thus not noticing when I no longer was.  I gradually crept further and further away, careful not to send the leek and potato plants swaying with my presence.

          When I got to the fence, I slipped under and made a dash for the tree line.  I loved wandering in the woods.  My cousin had told me the tale of Hircine; that he takes the form of a magnificent white stag and is often seen in the forest surrounding our town.  All the other kids were always bragging how they’d seen him when they were off playing.  I knew they were all lying.  So naturally, I wanted to be the firstto see him.

          My legs began to itch; I needed to run.  It was one of the many things Mama didn’t understand about me: I needed to move.  She was always telling me “Ladies don’t run about like elk, Lavinia.” I always proclaimed “It’s a good thing I don’t plan to be a lady when I grow up!” That always set Mama’s skirts on fire.  Figuratively, of course; I have no magical bone in my body. 

          Branches scraped at my skin and tunic as I raced through the trees.  Hurdling fallen trees with the grace of any well bred horse; I grinned, thiswas how we were meant to live.  Running wild through the woods, not cooped up in silly cities.  I laughed a loud, possibly maniacal, laugh as I imagined Mama’s reaction to what I was doing.  She was always worrying I’d get lost, like she forgets about the Nordic blood coursing through my veins.  I could find my way back from anywhere.  But she would forget that, being an Imperial and all.

          I continued my running through the woods, faintly aware of another presence.  I couldn’t place whether it was man, beast, or essence.  Everywhere I went, it was close behind.  Yet if I stopped dead in my tracks and whirled about, there was never anything there.  It was of no concern to me; I was young and would live forever, after all.

          My rapid race through the forest continued until I noticed the sunlight slanting horizontally through the tree trunks.  My heart sank; Mama would be furious, and my little escapade will have been discovered.  With my shoulders hunched against the chill breeze, not even I will admit when I’m ashamed, I headed back to town.

          As I neared the tree line and our wooden fence lining our fields was just nearly within reach, I heard branches snapping behind me.  I stopped and listened.  The snapping stopped, mirroring me.  Then after a moment it began to move forward once more.  My breath caught in my throat, could it be the mighty Hircine himself coming to pay me a visit?

          Slowly I turned and peered into the darkness, squinting my dark brown eyes.  I could see nothing, the forest had grown absurdly dark in the mere minutes it had taken me to get home.  Then suddenly, through the brush, I could barely make something out.  It was moving.  Its eyes were glowing.  Glowing red and seemed to be smoldering.  It had to be Hircine, it just hadto be him.  I held my breath and reached out with my palm facing up, like one greets another’s dog.  A snarling began to emit from the beast; notHircine, majestic white stags did notsnarl, especially not at little girls.

          A high, lilting voice wafted on the wind: “Lavinia!  Where have you gotten off to now?”  It was Mama.

          And just like that, the beast was gone.  It hadn’t retreated, it had simply stopped being before me.  I continued to stand with my hand held out like a lollygagging fool.

          “Lavinia!” Mama shouted again.

          “Bean sprout, you’d best answer before your mother loses her composure,” Papa said not too far away from me.

          I dropped my arm and whirled about, expecting him to be standing right behind me.  But Papa was standing a good ways into the fields, he knew I was about.  I emerged from the trees and crawled under the fence and moved towards my father.

          “What have I told you about provoking your mother?” Papa asked softly when I was beside him.  He slid his arm around my shoulders and we walked together towards the house.

          “Oh Divines be blessed,” Mama praised, “I had been thinking something terrible had happened.”

          That night at dinner I got an earful from Mama about respecting others’ wishes, not to mention how a lady shouldconduct herself.  Papa tried to interject a few times to tell her to scale back her lecture, which worked for only a few seconds.  I kept my mouth shut and daydreamed, remembering to nod occasionally, like I was actually listening.  I suppose that only goes to show how often I get into trouble with Mama.  And having been through all those arguments, I knew to keep my encounter with that thingout in the forest, to myself.

          When I lay in bed, it was all I could think about.  What was it?  Where had it come from?  I began to wonder if it had been a figment of my imagination.  Mama was always saying it was over-active.  My biggest question always loomed in the corner due to my unwillingness to acknowledge it: what would have happened out there had my mother’s voice not reached us?  Would it have taken to me?  Would it have left anyway?  Would it have attacked me?  Killed me even?

          I stayed away from the woods for nearly a week.  Because Mama was watching me closely.  But then she had to make a trip to Solitude, trading fabrics and such with the illustrious High Elven seamstresses there.  She demanded I come, but I feigned being ill and, for once, Papa was able to over-rule her.  I’m sure he knew what was going on when I miraculously recovered mere hours after Mama had departed.  He just chuckled and whispered, “Use your time well, bean sprout, and be mindful of your surroundings.”  He ruffled my hair and kissed my forehead before heading out into his fields.

          I reveled in my freedom in those days that Mama was gone, spending every sun-kissed hour out amongst the trees.  At first I wasn’t looking for it.  But after a few outings I discovered I paused every so often to listen, glancing behind myself, studying every shadow longer than normal.  I wasn’t sure why I was looking for the thing, it had rightly terrified me that day.

          On the third day, I saw it.  The glowing eyes appeared in a rocky out cropping.  They were redder than I remembered.  I could barely make out the dark outline of it against the shadows.  It was of a monstrous size.  Which seemed only fitting, given it had to be a monster.

          Again I held out my hand, palm up.  Nothing happened for a moment.  Then that snarling started again.  My knees began to shake.  Its muzzle began to emerge from the darkness.  I shrieked in unholy terror and fled from the woods. 

          I had to get out of the darkness.  The sunlight would keep my safe from whatever was behind me.  I burst from the trees into a meadow with a small crystal clear pond in the center.  I waded into the shallow water, all the way out to the center to where a small grouping of boulders perched.  I climbed atop them and curled up on them, warming myself on the sunny rock like a lizard.  My eyes stayed wide open, terrified of seeing that thing again.

          Finally, I sat up, thinking it about time I head home.  I felt much better.  I waded back through the pond to shore and rung out the hem of my tunic.  When I straightened up, my heart sank in my chest.

          There at the edge of the trees, were the glowing eyes.  Never in my life had I yearned for my parents so much. 

          “Don’t you come any closer!”  I shouted, hoping I sounded braver than I felt.  The beast roared and reared up on its hind legs.  Then it started walking towards me, fangs barred.  I shrunk back toward the water. 

          The beast had the face of a hideous wolf and the deformed body of a man with wolf parts.  I cringed; I had heard tales of werewolves in the schoolroom, they had done nothing to prepare me for the sight of this monster.  It started moving closer, stalking me.  I screamed again and began to run deeper into the water. 

          The werewolf lunged after me, catching up with me in a mere moment, its claws digging into the flesh of my leg.  I howled in pain as the beast howled in triumph.  Its claws hooked deeper into my leg, until they couldn’t move any more.  And then there was a horrific snapping sound and my leg gave out.  I shrieked again and fell into the water, my head going under.  The waters of my sanctuary were rapidly turning crimson.  I thrashed about, swirling bubbles all around me.  Forgetting my place, I tried to scream again and water swarmed into my lungs.  I choked and tried to cough, letting in more water.  I flung my arms wildly in the water, I could taste my own blood on the water.  My lungs were on fire.

          Finally I was dragged out of the water and flung onto the rocks.  My back cracked against my sunning boulder just above my hips.  A tingling sensation started and spread down to my toes.  I could see the deep gashes in my leg.  I could see all the way down to my bone that was snapped to pieces.  Yet I could no longer feel it.  I moved to kick my still-intact leg.  Nothing happened.  Panic began to rise in my chest.

          Then I realized that snarling sound was right over my shoulder again.  Slowly I turned my head.  I was greeted by the sight of the werewolf’s blood stained teeth.  He howled again.  I sensed an agony, almost humane, in his vocals.  Hesitantly I reached out my hand, perhaps I could sooth the thing.  It snapped at my hand and when it moved away, there was nothing but a bloody stump.  I screamed as I stared at the jagged ends of bone and the ripped ribbons of my skin.  Blood spurted out onto my face, getting into my eyes and burning. 

I began to throw small rocks at the werewolf, hoping to scare him away from me.  It was a stupid idea for two reasons.  One being, I would only anger the monster more.  And two being, even ifI scared it away, no one would ever find me out here.  Either way, I was going to die.

          “Please,” I pleaded, “take me home.”

          A clawed hand/paw/thing reached out and smacked me back into the water.  It kept hitting me with its claws, flinging me toward shore and shredding my flesh all at once. 

          “Stop it!” I screamed once we reached shore, “Leave me be, you monster!!!!”

          The beast howled in pure rage then and snatched me in its jaws by neck.  It shook me and shook me.  I suddenly knew how my little ragdoll had felt all these years.  When he finally dropped me, I could feel my blood pouring out of my neck.  I was sobbing.  My arms and legs, or what was left of them, no longer moved.

          There was more howling, strange this time.  Then a man was leaning over me, his face distraught with horror and anguish.

          “Please,” I sputtered, “take me home… please.”

          Without hesitation the man scooped me up.  I braced myself mentally for the pain, but none came.  My head was swimming with lightheadedness. The man was running with an unhuman speed towards Falkreath. 

          “Help! Help!” he was screaming all the way.

          Finally we arrived at my father’s fields and the man laid me down.  “Help!  Someone help her,” he continued shouting.  I heard my father’s voice, it was so faint.  The man leaned over me once more and gave me an apologetic look and then was gone.

          The sky was beginning to fade above me, I was coughing and spluttering blood all over myself.  So this is it…

          “Bean sprout!!” came my father’s sudden, anguished voice.  I felt him holding my head as I released my final breath.

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