Gazing towards the distant mountains, Makeo let out a sigh. "Another long day," he said to himself, scratching the back of his scaly neck. The sun was beginning to disappear behind the horizon. It would be dark soon; he had to start making his way home. He stood, picking up the sack he had filled with mushrooms that day, and began walking away from his sitting place.
This sitting place was located on the northeastern edge of a hill about an hour's walk from Makeo's home. Specifically, it was against a large oak tree on the edge of the hill. He would walk to this tree with his breakfast every morning, then sit and eat while contemplating ways to escape his mundane life. After his morning meal, he would go home and do the day's work, later spending the afternoon hours collecting mushroom caps, firewood, or whatever his uncle needed. Every evening, he returned to sit underneath the tree until sunset. It was the only place where he really felt alone and free to think and dream as he pleased.
This was the exact routine which Makeo followed just about every day since, well, since as long as he could remember. He lived with his uncle and cousin in a cabin in the county Leyawiin, right between the Nibenay Valley and Blackwood. They were hunters--at least, his cousin was a hunter. Makeo's job was to skin the animals and prepare the meat for eating or selling; he couldn't weild a bow if he wanted to, and Ali was always too tired to do it. The city of Leyawiin was a long way from their home, about a day's walk southwest. Then again, considering how distant the other parts of Cyrodiil seemed to Makeo, Leyawiin wasn't all that far.
He didn't know what happened to his parents. As far as he knew, he had lived with his uncle Ali-Seezt for his whole life. Ali-Seezt was an old Argonian, just over sixty in Human years, who had moved from the Black Marsh to county Leyawiin when he was young. He was one who despised change, which is why he resided in the same pitiful cabin his whole life. His son Raymus, the expert bowman, was younger than Makeo by a couple years, but they got along fine. Raymus' mother Baleii (who Makeo was told was his father's sister) died when Makeo was in his early teens; he could still remember the hasty burial, during which Ali was quite frustrated because the chapel in Leyawiin refused to send a priest all the way to their home.
The only thing Makeo knew about his real parents was their last name, Isade, which he kept even though he was adopted at a very young age by Ali. Over the years, Makeo became good friends with Witseidutsei, a female Argonian who ran the Five Claws Lodge in Leyawiin. Every couple weeks, when he would travel with Ali and Raymus to the city to sell pelts and meat and to buy supplies, Makeo would ask Witseidutsei if she had met anybody who might be related to him, or if she'd heard anything regarding his surname. Because of its proximity to the Black Marsh, there were many Argonian travellers who would stop in Leyawiin. However, despite listening closely to the travellers, Witseidutsei never heard anything of use to Makeo.
Makeo always got his hopes up too high every time they visited the city. He would head to his bed afterward, disappointed. This disappointment was quickly forgotten, for as soon as he returned home he would not be able to wait until the next time they went to Leyawiin.
The path which Makeo followed to and from his special place was quite worn by now; the grass had stopped growing, and there were reptilian footprints in the dirt which were left from when it rained. He always walked without his boots on in the rain; he loved to feel the cool, wet mud between his toes. Sometimes, but not too often, Makeo would stray from this path, wandering east or westward a bit. Even though it was Raymus who hunted this land and should have known it best, Makeo had learned it quite well himself. He almost never got lost during his deviations, and when he did, he could always find his way back easily.
Today, Makeo didn't bother to stray from the path. He wanted to get home quickly; tomorrow morning they were going to Leyawiin. Raymus had killed three black bears in the last week; he hoped to sell the pelts for a good amount of gold. Besides talking to Witseidutsei again, Makeo was looking forward to spending some money he had saved to buy blackberries, bread, and maybe a sweetroll or two; eating mushrooms and venison every day wasn't too fun.
Arriving at the cabin, Makeo opened the door and crept in silently. Ali was always asleep at this time, and Raymus was most likely resting already as well; both of their beds were in the main room of the house. He quietly sat his sack of Green Stain mushroom caps on the table, took out one for himself to eat for dinner, then crept to the stairs.His bed was in the basement. It was colder there, but he was never awakened by Raymus in the early morning when he would clumsily prepare to go out and hunt. It struck Makeo as ironic that someone so skilled in stealth while outdoors couldn't be quiet inside.
Makeo laid down on his bed, taking a bite of his mushroom cap while staring up at the ceiling. He was young--about 26 in Human years--but as he fell asleep, he worried that if he didn't figure something out soon, he would be stuck in his uncle's home for the rest of his life. He couldn't just leave; if he didn't prepare the meat and pelts from the animals his cousin killed, then they wouldn't have any money. Things were expected and needed of him, and as boring as his lifestyle was, he knew he didn't have a choice.
It was just past dawn when Makeo was awakened by Raymus. "Come on, Makeo! We have to get going," he said eagerly. He was definitely more of a morning person than Makeo, but perhaps it was best. After all, it would take all day to get to Leyawiin, so they needed an early start if they wanted to sell their goods before it was too late.
"I'll be upstairs in a minute," Makeo said. He sat up and slipped his leather boots on, then changed into the cleanest collared shirt he could find. Witseidutsei had a bit of a fetish for cleanliness, so Makeo always tried to make a good impression. Upon arriving upstairs, he put a few mushrooms into a satchel with a bottle of ale and a piece of boar meat. This would be their lunch on the way to the city. He also slipped in a small drawstring bag containing the twelve gold pieces which he had saved. Slinging the satchel over his shoulder, Makeo joined Ali and Raymus outside.
Raymus held two large sacks, one with pelts and the other filled with various types of animal meat. He handed the pelts to Makeo. "Careful with those," he said. "The bear skins are going to make us some good money today."
"Really, you're going to tell me to be careful with them, when I am the one that skinned the bears?" Makeo replied sarcastically as they began walking on the path that led from the cabin to the Yellow Road.
Raymus smiled awkwardly. "Just... be careful with them, okay?" He then directed his attention to Ali. "How much do you think I can get for the bear skins, father?"
The old Argonian smiled at his son's enthusiasm and shrugged. "I don't know," he said. "I've heard of bear pelts selling for up to thirty septims a piece."
"Thirty septims?" Raymus repeated in disbelief. "I'm going to be rich!"
Makeo mentally rolled his eyes. Raymus was only a bit younger than him, but he was way more immature and, thanks to his father, he didn't have much concept of the world outside of his hunting grounds. "You mean we are going to be rich, Raymus, although I hardly consider 90 septims 'rich'."
"Well, that's more money than I--we have ever had at one time."
Raymus went on to talk with Ali about something, but Makeo didn't pay attention. He was lost in his own world, observing the nature around them as they walked and thinking his own thoughts, as he often did. It was a particularly nice day. The sun was hotter than usual for this time of day; this was enjoyable for Makeo, who liked warmth even more than most Argonians. A Breton or a Redguard would be sweating and exhausted in this temperature, but not Makeo. He basked in every second of it. It seemed like nothing could go wrong today; he would get to walk for hours through the sun's gracious warmth, then talk to his best friend (which was enjoyable even if she didn't have any information for him about his family) and treat himself to a sweetroll. As he walked, he realized something that he didn't feel very often: happiness.
The three Argonians had just finished their midday meal and were almost halfway down the Yellow Road to Leyawiin. The sun was high above their heads, shining directly on top of them through the gap between the branches of the trees that lined the road. Makeo was still basking in his happiness and had hardly spoken a word to the other two in the several hours that they had walked together so far.
"Hey Makeo, why have you been so quiet?" Raymus asked, swallowing a large gulp from the bottle of ale.
Suddenly jolted out of his own world, Makeo tried to come up with an answer that would satisfy his cousin but not upset his uncle. "I was just thinking."
"Thinking? About what?"
Before Makeo had time to reply, Ali butted in. "Bah, who 'thinks'? People who 'think' get themselves killed, or worse." He elbowed Makeo. "Want my advice? Don't think. Just go with the flow of things."
Makeo went back to being quiet after that. He tried to get back into his happy state of mind, but he couldn't. He loved his uncle, but he didn't like him; he was too close-minded. Even though he didn't agree with Ali, his statement was discouraging. But that wasn't the only thing that was preventing him from feeling carefree again. Something was wrong. Makeo could feel it--it made his scales crawl. His tail started twitching a bit. He could have sworn he smelled something too, but what was it? It didn't smell good or bad, but it sure did stimulate his nostrils. Suddenly, something snapped in his mind. They were being watched. Watched by someone who was following them. Followed by someone who meant them harm.
Stopping suddenly, Makeo put out his arm, signalling for Raymus and Ali to stop as well.
Raymus looked at Makeo, confused. "What is it?"
"We need to turn back, I think we are b-"
Before he could finish, four Khajiit men appeared out of the trees. They were fast. So fast that Makeo could hardly tell that they were Khajiit until they had surrounded the Argonians. They all wore lightweight leather armor and had short swords which were drawn and ready; one of them, who appeared to be their leader, had a gold amulet around his neck.
"Hello, swamp scum. I would like you to drop any weapons you have and hand over all of your food and valuables," the leader figure said, stepping towards Ali. One of the others yanked the bag of pelts out of Makeo's hands, and another tried to take Raymus' sack.
"Thieves," Ali muttered. "You will get nothing from me!"
"Wrong answer," the leader raised his fist and came closer to Ali, ready to knock him out.
Makeo had to do something. Without thinking, he threw himself at one of the highwaymen, knocking him down and causing his furry head to strike a rock on the ground. Makeo lept to his feet just in time to duck under the swing of a second Khajiit's sword. As he ducked, he picked up the blade of the one he had tackled. Before the Khajiit could follow through with his cut, Makeo stood and plunged the short sword into his stomach. He pulled the sword out as the robber collapsed on the ground.
The leader of the group had forgotten Ali and directed his attention to Makeo. He walked quickly to Makeo in a swordfighting stance. Makeo didn't hesitate. He began advancing and slicing at the robber, parrying and countercutting the Khajiit's attacks. Makeo's body was moving much faster than his mind; he was acting entirely instinctually, but how? He'd never touched a blade, let alone trained with one. Yet here he was, competing with an experienced swordsman--and winning. The Khajiit was getting tired fast. After deflecting a swing at his left side, Makeo reached out and grabbed the highwayman's recoiling arm with his free hand. Despite the Khajiit's attempts to get free, Makeo held it tightly--so tightly that his sharp claws began to sink through the leather armor and into his flesh. The feline thief let out a howl of pain as his hand opened and dropped the sword. Taking advantage of this, Makeo thrusted his own blade upward into the Khajiit's ribcage.
Makeo could feel the life leave the leader's body as it fell. For a second, he stood there, trying to let his mind catch up. The whole fight happened so fast; it was about fifteen seconds from when he tackled the first robber to when he killed the leader. It took him a while to figure out what happened. Ali and Raymus stood silently, just as speechless as Makeo was. He tried to drop the sword, but it remained in his hand. Raising his arm, he saw how tight of a grip he had on the weapon's hilt. Slowly concentrating on loosening his fingers, the blade fell to the ground. He looked up, seeing the fourth highwayman standing nearby with a look of shock. His eyes met Makeo's, and he fled without a second thought.
"By the Nine Divines, Makeo!" Ali stumbled to Makeo and hugged him around the neck.
Makeo didn't return the hug; he was still dazed and staring at the bodies on the ground. "Did... Did I just do that?"
"What do you mean?" Ali said, holding Makeo by the shoulders at arm's length. "You just killed those robbers and saved my--our lives," he nodded his head toward Raymus.
Raymus smiled. "That makes you a hero, Makeo."
Makeo thought about a lot of things, but never about being a hero. Now, he wondered why he never did. What was the definition of a hero? Someone who doesn't hesitate? Someone who displays courage? Someone who saves another life? Whatever the meaning of the word was, he knew Raymus was right--he had just become one. He could feel it. It felt good.