Fire. Raging fire engulfed the scoundrel den of Senchal. Once a massive trading port for pirates, smugglers, and merchants; in the last few hours half of it's neighborhoods had been reduced to kindling and ash by Khajiit soldiers, some of which were still foolishly running through the streets looting whilst others carried on with their job. The smell of rotting and burning flesh permeated the air, dead bodies of Khajiiti littering the streets. Screams could be heard at every corner. Buildings withered and cried out as they burned to the ground. The world was coming to an end.
Or so thought Neela, a young, white and black spotted cathay running for her very life. She ran as fast as her little paws could take her as buildings collapsed around her from the intense fires that engulfed her peripheral vision. She didn't know where to run anymore. She had tried to return to her house only to find that her whole entire neighborhood was blocked off by rubble and the inferno. So she turned around and ran towards the bazaar, which was still intact and free of fire as far as she knew. Even though she had not been burned the fire was beginning to a take a toll on her. As she ran she breathed in the hot ash and dust, causing her to periodically break out into fits of coughing as she ran. She was almost to the bazaar when a squad of tall cathay-rahts approached the intersection she was at and pointed at her. “There's another,” the leader called out.
Neela had already seen soldiers, once friendly, fall onto a pack of skooma addicts and slaughter them all, so she didn't need any additional incentive to run as fast as she could at the sight of soldiers. Ducking into an alley, she lept over the bodies of charred skooma addicts and beggars with two of the guards in tow. The rest had remained in the street, presumably to keep an eye out for other survivors. They were gaining on her quickly and Neela knew she wasn't going to make it, She was almost to the other side when she heard the crunch of the building to her left as it started to collapse from the fire. She stopped suddenly and dropped next to the body of a once beautiful cathay dressed scantily in beads and colorful see-through cloth. Even as corpse there was something off about her, diseased about her. Her fur appeared patchy and off colored, and her iris' were weathered and cloudy. The corpse's eyes were still open and stared into Neela's as the building toppled on top of her. It had a deafening roar louder than she could have anticipated and she cried out when the rubble smacked the ground, smashing the prostitute's body under the wreckage in front of Neela. Her vision cloudy and ears ringing, she couldn't tell if the guards had survived but even if they had they must be trapped. She sat up in the still ablaze rubble and could see a small pathway to the edge of the collapsed section of the building. She crawled forward gagging on the soot that filled her lungs. Pieces of rock and lumber still settling came down around her, one support nearly impaling the cub as it did. With a little bit of effort she managed to emerge from the rubble with only a few minor cuts and bruises. The bazaar was ahead of her, still shining under the sun of Elsweyr. It had a stone wall to it with the sounds and smells of a busy open aired market inside, albeit the tone was markedly more panicked than the average day. She wouldn't be able to get into the bazaar just yet however. When she got close to the gates she saw more soldiers were there, immediately attacking and ultimately setting fire to anyone that tried to get inside the marketplace.
Breathless now she turned around and ran smack into a pair of cathays and an alfiq. The first cathay, a tall, orange male with the trappings of an affluent merchant , put a finger to his maw. “Is this one, ok,” he asked in a low, smooth voice.
Neela shook her head yes. The Khajiit pulled her into a corner with the others and appraised the little girl. “How old is this one, and does it have a name?”
“N-Neela. I'm six.”
The Khajiit gently kneeled in front of her and brushed the dirt off of her fur and then looked toward the others. “This is Baissa and Nadul,” he said motioning to the other cathay, a grayish and younger looking khajiiti, and the tiger patterned alfiq respectively, “and this one is J'Dato.”
Neela nodded nervously, and mustered up a weak “hello”. J'Dato stood up and looked around the corner and sighed. “The guards would make short work of us, this one wonders if we can perhaps find a wall on the far side.”
“We could always swim if we need to,” Baissa suggested.
Nadul meowed and Baissa seemed to understand what it was trying to communicate, but Neela couldn't. Baissa smiled in response and patted him on the head, “This one will carry you, do not worry.”
J'Dato motioned for them to follow and he darted off around the corner heading towards the shoreline. Neela paused momentarily, not sure if she should trust the strangers, but it wasn't as if she had any idea what to do herself. It was a mile long jog at least, and she carried along breathlessly only spurred still by thought of survival. The neighborhoods in front of her had only started to be culled, which would come as a welcome break to both her lungs and fur. It would not change their pace however, because if a neighborhood wasn't on fire that meant soldiers were on their way with torches to continue the culling. They kept on running, pasts huddles of drug addicts too drug addled to realize the gravity of the situation, and families still packing hurriedly in a bid to leave alive. Other families and packs of Khajiit were already running, everyone having the same idea to make a rush for the beach. But J'Dato pulled Neela aside and chucked her out of the forming crowd into a nook in the wall before he stopped too with Baissa and Nadul next to him.
“Why did you stop this one,” Baissa said.
“This one does not have a good feeling about traveling in a large group. Must find another way.”
Neela looked down as the stream of Khajiit ran past. She looked up at J'Dato and tugged on his arm. J'Dato bent over and met her eye to eye. “What is it little one?”
“W-what's going on? Why is everyone running. Why is-”
“Shhhh,” J'Dato put a finger to her mouth, “There are sick people here and the armies want to make sure the sickness does not kill us all.”
J'Dato stood up and grabbed her by the arm and motioned for Baissa to come too. They ducked into an alleyway leading towards one of the anterior roads of the neighborhood. “Apologies little one, but we must survive first before asking so many questions.”
They ran down the street for what seemed like eternity, the tense atmosphere broken periodically by cries and shouting as patrols of guards sweeped the neighborhood. Every once and a while Neela would look over her shoulder and see the great wall of smoke that seemed to touch the stars, engulfing far more than half the city now. People ran around, packing and running, and words screeched around every now and again that the army was heading this way and yet others cried that the army would spare this neighborhood. The cobblestone streets turned sandy, and the stone buildings turned to wood. The pandemonium persisted, but the sounds of the ocean brought the hope of salvation to Neela's heart. But as they turned a long corner onto the shores everyone's heart sank. The army was already there chasing down anyone that tried to make it into the docks, and chasing anyone that tried to run the other way. Countless Khajiit were cut down and burned right in front of her eyes, and J'Dato futilely tried to shield her eyes from it. The group stood there dumbfounded at what to do next. Without a moment more hesitation J'Dato dragged Neela on as he decided to make a run for it. They stormed across the bloodied beaches as fresh corpses continued to pelt the earth around them. It was almost like a massive game of tag, Neela thought, with many soldiers spread out chasing individual Khajiit. Some were lucky, and made it into the water, and then swimming on into the docks. Most were not however, and just as they were about to make it to the water Baissa yelped. J'Dato and Neela both looked as a scimitar cut straight into her shoulder. Her anguished face was quickly put to rest as the soldier with drew the scimitar and kicked her to the ground. Nadul lept from her and found J'Dato's hand as the soldier brought his torch down onto the whimpering Baissa. She cried out, but not for long as the soldier struck a blow of mercy to her head before standing back and ensuring her would remain burning.
J'Dato pulled Neela and they continued to run out into the water. They made it, and swam for a few minutes before emerging onto the outer docks. They were nearly abandoned now, with only ten or so ships still in berth and all looking to make sail as soon as possible. J'Dato convulsed as they walked down the docks, and Neela saw that he was crying. Guards ran around, cutting down anyone that looked wet or like they didn't belong here. Some ships, suspected carriers of the Flu, had been deliberately scuttled or burned and filled the harbor with the smokey aroma of firewood. Luckily for the trio, J'Dato still looked like a respectable merchant and the guards walked past harmlessly the first time. They had been walking for ten minutes before finding a ship with its gangplank still out and they approached with a hurried pace as their luck ran out. Two city guards stood in front of the ship, eying everyone who walked passed closely. J'Dato with a subtle sleight of hand quickly placed his coin purse in Neela's hands. “Run if they stop us,” he said.
Neela nodded and they approached the guards; one of them arm outstretched. “Identify yourselves.”
“This one is J'Dato, a merchant from the bazaar and this is my daughter Neela.”
“Why are you wet?”
“This one is clumsy on docks, fell into the water while counting their coins.”
The guards looked at each other and shared a look. “What color are the bazaar flags today?”
J'Dato blinked. “Blue.”
They were always blue. The guards shared a look and drew their swords.
“What neighborhood did you come from?”
“This one- this one is not familiar with Senchal, would not know all the names of the markets he was in.”
“That is regrettable, we have been told to take no risks.”
The guards surged forward as J'Dato protested, and a figure from the ship turned around hastily shouting, “Ho! You're not murdering children now are you?”
The guards didn't turn and each took one of the still wet khajiit. J'Dato ineptly attempted to punch his captor in the face but only found himself getting thrown to the ground. The figure from the ship, a Bosmer male, ran towards them, bow drawn now and one of the guards turned around and shouted, “Stay out of this!”
The Bosmer and loosed an arrow at the guard that was holding Neela -biting into his unprotected neck. It was too late for J'Dato, because just then the other guard hacked straight into his head with a sickening crack as the skull shattered and the Khajiit fell to the deck. The Bosmer took aim at the guard and shot him through the head -falling lifelessly into the water. Neela yelped as it all happened so fast. Nadul lept off of Neela's shoulder and went to sniff J'Dato's body with a low and sad meow. The figure who had saved her appraised her and his surroundings, not seeing anymore guards nearby. “We best get you on the ship, bring your friend too.”
Neela could feel tears coming to her yes, “What about J'Dato?”
The Bosmer knelt in front of her and put a hand on her shoulder. “He isn't going to make it, and you won't either if we don't get you aboard right now.”
The Bosmer stood up and motioned for another family of Khajiit that had just witnessed the killing to come aboard as well. Neela nodded tearfully and ushered Nadul with her as the ascended aboard the ship, never to see the ruins of Senchal again.