Tessa groaned. Her head throbbed at the back, and her body was sore from lying on a stone floor all night. She didn't question the fact that she was indeed on a bare stone floor, as she hadn't rented a room at the city's inn that night and had slept at the back of the kitched instead. She simply lay there a few more moments before the sound of footsteps had her sitting up and opening her eyes.
I'm not in a kitchen, was her only thought as her eyes slowly adjusted to the dim light. I'm in a cell. What the hell? She looked around her small cell, and it was definitely a cell. Iron shackles hung from the rock ceiling, and an iron door blocked what was apparently the only exit. A small shabby wooden table and a single chair were tucked away in a corner, and high above her was a small window with three bars preventing even the smallest thought of escape. She absently scratched the back of her head, and cursed when she pressed against the lump at the back of her neck.
Tessa slowly stood up, and braced against the wall when her legs went weak. She cursed again when she realised she was in ratty clothing. Her wrists her chained together with rusty iron clasps, which chafed her skin when she tested the chains strength. She went to her cell door and peeked through the small opening. She could only see one other cell, directly opposite hers, it was occupied. But from the sounds of this prison, it must not have very many occupants.
"Oh, look, an Imperial in the Imperial Prison." The other prisoner had noticed her, a male Dunmer, still distinct despite the scratchy tone of his voice. "I guess they don't play favorites, huh? Your own kinsmen think you're a piece of human trash. How sad. I bet the guards give you "special" treatment before the end. Oh, that's right. You're going to die in here, Imperial! You're going to die! Imperial criminal scum like you give the Empire a bad name, you see. You're an embarrassment. Best if you just... disappeared." Tessa didn't bother replying. The poor miserable lunatic must have been locked up a long time to have reached such a level of insanity.
The sounds of footsteps grew louder, and Tessa heard a door open, and then close almost instantly. She stayed close to the door, but ducked her head away from the hole. They were walking quietly, but she could easily tell that there were at least three or four of them. They were speaking in hushed tones, and it took a while before they were close enough for Tessa to make out their words.
An older man was speaking as they neared her cell, "My sons... they're dead, aren't they?"
Dead? The poor man, Tessa thought to herself.
A female voice answered him, her tone a little impatient. "We don't know that, Sire. The messenger only said they were attacked."
"No, they're dead. I know it" The pain in his voice was palpable, but the woman seemed to ignore it.
"My job right now is to get you to safety."
The man didn't reply again, until they stopped outside her cell. She didn't need to strain her hearing now, seeing as they were so close.
"I know this place.." He seemed surprised, "The prison?"
"Yes, your Majesty." The woman replied again. "Beneath the Imperial Compound. We're headed for a secret passage known only to the Blades. No one can follow us through here."
Majesty? The Blades? Holy crap, Tessa thought, Is the old man the Emperor? She walked to the back of her cell, and leant silently against the wall, directly below the window, so she would be shrouded in shadow. Her cell door creaked open, and four shadowy figures stood there. Three were clearly decked out in heavy armor, and the last wore long robes. One of the figures moved forward, The woman, and went directly towards where Tessa stood. She had good eyes. Guards eyes.
"What's this?" She demanded angrily, "This cell is supposed to be off-limits!"
One of the armored men replied, stuttering over his words, "An unusual mix-up of the watch, I-I-"
"Nevermind," she abruptly cut him off, "Let's get this door open, there's no way to open it from the other side."
She dismissed Tessa, and moved towards the one long empty wall of the cell, and the male guard moved to the other side. She was so distracted by what the two were doing she almost didn't hear the older man begin talking again.
"You... I've seen you... Let me see your face..." He moved infront of Tessa, and seemed to absorb every detail about her before continueing. "You are the one from my dreams... Then the stars were right, and this is the day. Gods give me strength." His gaze wandered off to the side.
Tessa, remembering about his sons, quietly asked, "What's going on?"
His eyes snapped back to hers, and became clear again. "Assassins attacked my sons, and I'm next. My Blades are leading me out of the city along a secret escape route. By chance, the entrance to that escape route leads through your cell."
"Why am I in jail?" Her voice was a little more abrupt than what she had meant it to be.
"Perhaps the Gods have placed you here so that we may meet. As for what you have done... it does not matter. That is not what you will be remembered for."
"Who are you?" Tessa asked, even though she was fairly certain she knew already.
"I am your Emperor, Uriel Septim. By the grace of the Gods, I serve Tamriel as her ruler. You are a citizen of Tamriel, and you, too, shall serve her in your own way."
"What should I do?"
"You will find your own path. Take care... there will be blood and death before the end."
At that moment the stones that the woman and the man had been pressing against sunk into the wall, and a few moments later a large portion of the wall retracted and revealed a hidden passageway.
"Please Sire, we've got to keep moving. Glenroy and I will lead the way, and Baurus will follow behind." At that she, and the first man, Glenroy walked through the opening, and the Emperor followed behind them. The last guard, Baurus came over and winked at me and said, "Looks like this is your lucky day... Just stay out of our way." Then he too went throught the hidden doorway.
Tessa stood there for a bit, staring blankly at the space in the wall before his words sunk in. She was being let out of prison, by the Emperor no less, and regardless of whatever reason she may have been in there for. What the hell, she thought, May as well follow them, Gods know its a better option than staying here. She took one last look at the cell she had woken up in, remembered the other prisoner, and with a smirk on her face thought, Take that Dunmer. Then without regret, went through the passage to follow the Emporer and his Blades.