“Dragonborn. Of all things I could possibly be in my life, how did I end up with such a laborious title as Dragonborn?”
Cinna quietly sighs as she rides along the path leading her further into the northern reaches of Whiterun Hold, slowly passing Whitewatch Tower on her night-black horse Cassius. The bitter chill of the night painfully pinches at her fair-skinned face, not being used to the cold climate of Skyrim after growing up in the warm and humid conditions back in Cyrodiil. It's been nearly eight years since she left her homeland, but she never imagines returning to it, not even if her life depends on it. She is much safer here; she is free.
As the sun slowly rises over the distant mountains, the Imperial woman can see the grassy lands before her bathed in the golden rays of the rising sun, which soon begins to warm the exposed skin of her arms, face, and legs. She tugs the bit of faded gray fabric that is her makeshift mask up over her nose then rallies Cassius to pick up his pace with a flick of the reins. She has been hearing rumors of a boy up in Windhelm acting strange, trying to call upon a faction known as the Dark Brotherhood. She knows quite a bit about the organization, her elder brother being part of the infamous assassins back in Cyrodiil, joining them shortly after he and Cinna went their separate ways when leaving home eight years ago and neither looked back, only promising to see each other again in their successful futures. Knowing that no one usually calls upon the Brotherhood just for the sake of it, she has to investigate and make sure this child isn’t simply playing a joke on everyone in Windhelm. Children can be so imaginative sometimes when they want attention.
As she picks up her pace, Cinna notices something ahead on the road and orders Cassius to stop. The horse jerks roughly, nearly sending Cinna flying off and causing her leather armor to chafe her legs painfully. From what she can see in the distance, she spots what looks of be a small man with a horse and cart on the side of the road. The man is wearing the odd attire of a jester and he looks rather distressed as he paces along the side of the road fervently. With a sigh and a nudge, she encourages Cassius to slowly approach, stopping on the side of the road a few feet away from the scene. She climbs off and approaches the small man, who she soon discovers is an Imperial like her but a bit older as creases decorate the corners of his mouth and his forehead. She listens as the oblivious man raves to himself.
“Agh, bother and befuddled!” The man groans aloud as he tugs at his cap in frustration, his shoulder-length auburn hair as frazzled as his nerves. “Stuck here! Stuck! My mother, my poor mother unmoving, at rest, but too still!”
“Um, having problems, sir?” Cinna inquires, finally capturing the man’s attention. She then discovers that he's at least a head shorter than her as he storms up to her. “How strange,” she thought to herself “even for an Imperial man, he should least measure up to my eyes.”
“Poor Cicero is stuck, can’t you see?” The man gripes, pacing around Cinna in a puzzling manner as tense fingers grip his chin. He stares at the ground, never halting his pacing as he continues to speak. “I was transporting my dear sweet mother.” He stops for a moment to breathe when he notices Cinna puzzled expression. “Well, not her, her corpse. She’s quite dead, you see.” He clarifies with a chuckle. Cinna cocks her brow and glances at the carriage, noting the large wooden box in the back as Cicero continues. “I’m taking mother to a new home, a new crypt. But...Aggh!” He screams, kicking at the wagon wheel lying on the ground next to the cart and startling the Imperial woman. “Wagon wheel! Damnedest wagon wheel! It broke, don’t you see?”
Cinna kneels down where the wheel had broken off the wooden axel, noting the exceptional wear on the wood. The cart has certainly traveled for many miles, with such heavy cargo as well. “It certainly seems like you’ve traveled a lot judging by the condition of this axel. No wonder it broke on you.” Cinna sighs, climbing to her feet and glancing towards the fidgeting jester. “I’m no expert on repairs myself aside from armor and some weaponry, but if there's any way I can assist you, I‘d be happy to do so. I’m in no rush really.”
“Oh, yes! Yes, the kindly stranger can certainly help!” Cicero exclaims, dancing for joy and ushering a smile from the Imperial woman that feels foreign on her lips. “Go to the farm, the Loreius farm, just over there off the road.” He explains, pointing out the farm in walking distance of the two. “Talk to Loreius, he has tools! He can help me but he won’t, he refuses. Please, convince Loreius to fix my wheel.” He begs. “Do that, and poor Cicero will reward you, with coin, gleamy shiny coin!”
“Coin, huh?” Cinna murmurs, her hand instinctively grasping at the nearly empty coin purse tied to her belt. “I am running a bit empty since I bought Cassius.” She sighs and looks back at the jester. “Alright, give me five minutes.”
“Splendid!” Cicero cheers. “Now hurry along, please!”
Cinna hikes along the road and up to the farm Cicero spoke of. As she climbs up to the farm, a curious thought wiggles into her mind like a maggot into a rotting apple:
This Cicero man very much reminds her of her elder brother back at home: An Imperial with auburn hair like his, and even had the same name, but she shakes the notion from her head. Her brother is still in Cyrodiil, enlisted in the Cheydinhal Sanctuary last she heard, and this Cicero sounds and acts nothing like her brother. Her brother is a smooth-talking Imperial, able to charm the ladies around him since he speaks like a fluent Imperial, even if he doesn't prefer all the attention. He keeps his hair shorter than the jester’s; saying long hair is a disadvantage in escaping an enemy and doesn’t want to deal with the trouble of maintaining it all the time. Their personalities are hardly a match either. In fact, they're polar opposites of one another. And her brother would never wear such a ridiculous outfit as that jester’s uniform in public. It's all just a big coincidence, it has to be.
She approaches the small farmhouse on the exceptionally small farm, finding the man busy mending one of his tools on the porch of the home. She pulls down her mask and removes her leather helmet, allowing long, crimson-streaked auburn hair to fall to her shoulders. Her father always said that an open face is more convincing than a covered one, especially if you’re a woman. Use what you have to get what you need.
“Excuse me?” She sighs, tapping the man’s arm to get his attention.
“Oh, for the love of Mara. What now?” Loreius groans, turning with a scowl. His features lighten when he notices Cinna standing on the steps of the porch behind him. “Well, hello there, young Miss.” He chuckles, leaning on the railing of his porch as his eyes roam up and down Cinna’s hourglass figure highlighted by her fitted leather armor. “How can I help you?”
“Well, you seem more willing to help a woman like me than that poor little man on the road with his broken wheel.” Cinna chuckles with a teasing tone. “Why would that be?”
“Little man? You mean that Cicero feller?” Loreius asks. Cinna nods. “Hmph, crazy fool’s already asked me about five times, seems he’s not satisfied with my answer. Even sends a woman up here to ask for him. Why can’t he just leave us alone?”
“Well, what’s the problem with helping him out?” Cinna inquires. “I’m sure he’ll pay you.”
“Pay me? You think this is about money?” Loreius sighs. “Have you seen the man? He’s completely out of his head. A jester here in Skyrim?” He scoffs. “There ain’t been a merryman in these parts for a hundred years. And he’s transporting some giant box. Says it’s a coffin and he’s going to bury his mother. Mother my eye. He could have anything in there: war contraband, weapons, skooma. I’m not getting involved in any of that.”
“He’s a stranger who needs assistance. Please, just do the right thing, sir.” Cinna begs.
“What?” Loreius gasps, “And just who in Mara’s name are you, anyway? Hmm? Come here, telling me my business, and for what, to help a...a...a fool?”
“Well,” Cinna sighs as she places a delicate hand on Loreius’s arm “you were willing to help me and I practically scream soldier with my armor and weapons. I’m here to enter the war myself but I’ve not chosen a side yet. I was heading to Windhelm myself to investigate the Stormcloak side of it all when I stumbled upon Cicero. I’ve grown up with the Imperial values drilled into my skull too much and don’t really wish for them to follow me up here if they don’t fit me. He’s only trying to transport his mother’s corpse to a new grave.” She lightly taps her fingers on the man’s arm, flashing a gentle coy smile. “I mean, think about it. He is an Imperial; he might be taking his mother’s corpse back to his homeland to bury her, to keep her body from being desecrated during the conflicts of a war to come. He is heading southward, right? So it’s reasonable that it could be his mother’s corpse.” She glances up at him, her soft light green eyes shimmering innocently. “C’mon, you know you should help him.”
“Look, I...I...” Loreius stammers but the look on Cinna’s face and the eloquent tone of her voice is too much to resist. “Yes, you’re right, you’re right." He sighs. “Feller might be nutters, might not, but the fact is he needs help and I turned him away. What kind of man am I, hmm? Look, um...Thanks, and I’m sorry for my unneighborly reaction. If you talk to Cicero, you be sure to tell him I’ll be down to help soon.”
“It’s alright,” Cinna says, stepping away, pulling her hair up and twisting it before sliding on her helmet, concealing her auburn waves once more. “And thank you for showing me that not all the people of Skyrim are as cruel to their southern neighbors as I thought.” She turns and makes her way back to the broken down cart, pulling her mask up as she approaches Cicero, who is sadly muttering to himself.
“Poor mother...her new home seems so very far,”
“Cicero,” Cinna calls out as she approaches the jester.
“Ah, there you are, kind stranger!” Cicero chirps. “Did you talk to him?”
“Yes, I have,” Cinna chuckles “and he’s agreed to fix your wagon wheel."
“You...you did? He has?” Cicero gasps. “Oh stranger! You have made Cicero so happy!” He exclaims, grabbing Cinna by her hands and spinning her around as he happily dances around the road, laughing gleefully as Cinna soon joins in the contagious chorus of joy. “So jubilant and ecstatic! But more, even more, my mother thanks you!” Cicero stops and embraces the now dazed Imperial girl, then pulls away, pulling out a rather large coin purse. “Here, here. For your troubles: shiny, clinky gold! A few coins for a kind deed!”
Cinna takes the purse, surprised to find the weight far outmatched what she thought she would originally earn. “My, this is so much for just a simple task, I couldn’t take this much.”
“Worry not, dear stranger,” Cicero chirps. “You’ve received the gold you’ve earned, just take it and go. And thank you, thank you again!”
“It’s no trouble,” Cinna chuckles, tying the coin purse to her hip next to the nearly empty one and calls to her horse, who comes galloping up to her and allows her to climb on.
“But where are you heading to, kind stranger?” Cicero asks.
“Up north to Windhelm,” Cinna explains, “I’ve been hearing rumors buzzing about that I wish to investigate before anything else.”
“Are you a spy of some sort?” Cicero playfully inquires.
“No, just a curious Imperial woman with a sense of grand adventure” Cinna states, “but I best be going. I need to reach an inn before nightfall. Cassius and I have very far to travel.” She chuckles as she pets the horse’s neck.
“Hold on.” Cicero scurries to his cart, pulling out what looks to be a worn cloak from the back, looking to be made of stitched together with red, black, and brown cloth and shoulder guards made of black leather. “It gets very chilly up in the northern parts of Skyrim, take this, as a gift from Cicero to his kind helper.”
Cinna is rather shocked by this offer, by happily accepts the gift, throwing it on to find it's a perfect fit for her, but keeps the hood down. “Thank you, Cicero.” Cinna sighs, extending a hand to the smaller Imperial. “I hope our paths may cross again someday.”
Cicero chuckles and eagerly takes the hand. “As does Cicero, good luck to you until then.”
“And the same to you.” Cinna sighs as both shake hands. She urges Cassius to take off, glancing back to find Loreius walking from his farm to where Cicero is eagerly waiting. She unexpectedly finds a smile upon her lips as she turns back to the path ahead of her, unsure herself of the gears she has just set into motion with such a simple act of charity to a strange man.