The Elder Scrolls: Foxfall, Fruitfall By Tempe O'Kun, scholar at the College of Winterhold
~ ~ ~
Swims-With-Wolves crossed her arms, as she had seen the mer and men do when cross or double-crossed. "Tell me, Lilmothiit: what should I call you?"
The fox spread his paws. "Sizaan, since that is what I am."
The healer studied him with scholar's eyes. Sizaan: the dragonish word for lost; but lost to whom? And by chance or on purpose? Mysteries to be sussed out from this fox with mussed fur, she decided. "You will want to wash your fur? I know mammals do not like mud in their pelts."
"Your familiarity with mammals is quite impressive."
"Yes." She began to fill a basin with the clean water she kept for washing wounds.
Sizaan grinned, leaning nearby. "So I am not your first subject of study?"
"Mammals do not fall from the sky." Her eyes flashed over the filling basin. "Often."
He accepted the basin and worked to return his pelt to its coppery norm.
Her tail in a perked curve of interest, she watched the ivory and auburns emerge from the muck. Unused to the eyes of others, the Lilmothiit shed his vest, belt, and loincloth so as to better wash his pelt. When the weight of her gaze encumbered him, though, he returned it, studying the pale pinks and green-yellows of her nude scales.
Upon each realizing the other realized this exchange, they curled their respective tails around themselves in a respectable way. Glances returned to eye level, though even there they lingered longer than needed, gold lost in ruby, sunset lost in sunrise.
Breaths later, the spell of the moment released them. Sizaan tugged back on his simple garments. His ears dripped and dipped in an inoffensive way. "I am surprised to see an Argonian healer not plastered with leaves and totems."
Swims-With-Wolves glanced down at her nude body. "After my studies in the Dry Lands, I've found little need for totems. And headdresses only get in the way of swimming." Her hand brushed her unadorned horns, perhaps a bit self-conscious.
"I presume by your survival you wore clothes while in the North?"
His gold eyes flicked to her nest, raised up from the floor. One black paw fingered the woolen covers. "And your penchant for blankets instead of leaves?"
She laughed. "I am still steaming the cold from my bones."
“I don’t mind the heat of the Marsh, but fooling the fleshflies into not biting my nose and paw-pads is troublesome.”
“How is it you fell into that caravan? I assume you were spying from the trees?”
“From the sky.”
“I didn’t know you had wings.” Her voice deadpanned, though her colors livened.
“Then your knowledge of Lilmothiit anatomy is lacking.” His eyes narrowed to golden, smiling slits. “...Perhaps you need a tutor?”
“A-a generous offer. Though I don’t think you need go quite so far to pay me back.”
“Perhaps.” He fluffed his copper tail, as if to dismiss a joke. “As for the fall, I’d fooled myself into being a bird.”
“And then you tried to fly?”
“I flew quite well. At least, until my whiskers itched and I remembered I was a Lilmothiit...”
They spoke until the gurgle of their stomachs informed them they had not eaten. Night had fallen. Swims-With-Wolves crunched her way through a pail of wriggling trodh fish. Like many mammals, Sizaan had a peculiar aversion toward eating anything fresh and alive. Despite her best efforts, only two things could she find to nourish but not poison him: a generous quantity of bland seeds and her last bottle of elven wine, unearthed from the cool mud at the base of her tree. The fox took to the former with grace, the latter with vigorous enthusiasm.
This led to the vulpine's tales getting steadily wilder, though Swim-With-Wolves judged them still worth hearing, if only for scientific purposes.
As the moons rose, though, she yawned, dragging herself to her nest-bed. "The hour is late, Sizaan. I must sleep."
"Adieu then, milady!" The fox snatched his satchel, sloshing the near-empty bottle in the other paw. "For I sleep only under the stars!" With a swish of his thick tail, he dashed outside.
She watched through the translucent door-membrane as the lithe Lilmothiit leapt between branches, dangling in precarious ways as he lashed his hammock into place. He clamored into it and swayed to sleep, his tail dangling low. The Argonian, meanwhile, lay restless her mind awhirl. She had thought her mission in life complete, her sap-destiny fulfilled.
But now outgrowth of her destiny, a challenge. She knew everything about mammals, except this one. This would not stand.
A sudden gust slapped rain against her hut. Through the door, she saw the fox scrambling to clutch onto his swaying hammock.
Not long after, the Lilmothiit squeezed through the door-membranes and came dripping back in. "Bad enough I have to keep enchanting your neighbors not to touch my tail, but now I'm soaked through the fur! I'm sleeping in here."
A chuckle hissed from her lips.
Finding nowhere else, he curled up under her nest.
Living in the Marsh, Swims-With-Wolves had smelled far worse than wet fur, though she clucked her tongue at something else. "I thought you only slept under the stars."
Sharp teeth clattering, he managed a retort. "Having looked unto your eyes, milady, I know that I am."
Amusement swayed down her long tail. She dropped him a blanket. "Dry off. It gets cold after a rain."
The Lilmothiit shivered in agreement, wringing the rain from his fur as best he could. Moments later, he curled up again in the only place he found room: under her nest-bed.
Swims-With-Wolves tried to sleep, but the shivering in his breath unraveled her dreams. She considered lighting a fire, but knew the wood would be damp from the rain. What tiny amount of Alteration magic she possessed would take hours to dry it.
Argonians are, at their core, a practical people. After a few moments of deliberation, she simply dragged the shivering mammal from under her bed, wrapped him in her blankets and limbs.
The fox froze, then thawed as his shivers faded.
~ ~ ~
I'll be posting another chapter every 48 hours or so until this story arc is complete.