— CHAPTER FIVE —
~ Delicate Things ~
Warning: Explicit Sexual Content
I made my way up the steps to Jorrvaskr as Bishop was renting a room & dropping off our gear at the Bannered Mare when I was met by Aela coming around the side of the Hall. She flagged me down & I went over to see what it was she wanted.
“Oh good! You’re still alive. We were beginning to get worried; you gave us more trouble than Farkas did at his turning. You’ve been gone quite some time,” the Huntress was looking at me with a knowing smirk & glimmer in her blue eyes.
I resisted the urge to tug the collar of my fur vest closed; I knew that some of the bite marks I had from Bishop were probably very visible. Not that I cared, really, but it was still mildly embarrassing for me at being caught as it were. “Well, I’m here now. Was there something you wanted?”
She shrugged. “Possibly. What do you know about the Silver Hand?”
I frowned, puzzled. “Absolutely nothing. Never heard of them. Why?”
She tipped her head in invitation for me to follow her. I did, too curious as to what she had to say to decline. We went round back of the Hall, sitting under the patio that looked out over the training yard. The Huntress poured herself a cup of mead, offering me one too. I accepted, rolling the goblet between my palms.
“The Silverhand,” she began, taking a drink & licking the foam from her lips, “are a bit like the Vigilants of Stendarr. Only instead of going after the undead, vampires, werecreatures & daedra worshipper’s, the Silver Hand primarily hunts down & exterminates all werebeasts. It doesn’t matter if the beast can control themselves or not. They view us, the Companion’s, as the worst sort of animal. We’ve been in a silent war with them for years. I believe you ran into them at Dustman’s?” She arched her brows at me.
I nodded with a slight frown. “Aye, Farkas & I did. I’d wondered why they were there. There was a… an incident. I didn’t see what had happened, only heard shouting. I’d heard the rumours, of course. How the Companion’s were werewolves. I had no idea those rumours were true until I saw you in the Underforge & you made me moon-born, Aela.” I sat back in my chair, placing my full cup onto the table in front of me as my frown deepened.
She sat back as well, watching me closely, her blue eyes unblinking. “Do you regret becoming a werewolf, Sister?”
I noted a slight edge to her question & shot a glance her way. “No. I do not. I think it was supposed to happen. However… I would like to know if there is a way to cure myself or others of it if they no longer wish to be moon-born. Some may view it as a blessing, Huntress, others a curse.”
“You sound like the old man,” she snorted. Then relented with a sigh, rubbing a hand over her face. “I… I shouldn’t say such things. I love Kodlak & I respect him. You must walk your own path, Sister, whether it’s drenched in moonlight or not. Speak to Kodlak about your wolf-blood. But we have bigger problems with the Silver Hand. They’re becoming bolder, more organized. Their numbers are swelling steadily &, I believe, one day soon they might actually get up the courage to attack Jorrvaskr itself. Not all here are moon-born, Kalla. It wouldn’t matter to the Silver Hand. They will slaughter every single Companion & whelp, mount our heads on spikes, regardless if they have the wolf blood or not. & I can’t let that happen.”
I sat in silence for some time, thinking over what Aela had said. Those without the wolf blood would be slaughtered right alongside those who did possess it if the Silver Hand had their way, simply because they were a Companion or sought to be one. What the Huntress was suggesting was a preemptive strike. Or possible retaliation. I wasn’t sure, to be honest. But I had sworn brotherhood to these men & women. I would do what I could, in my small way, to see that each of my Shield-Sibling’s survived.
“Where do we strike first?”
Aela sat back in her seat & smiled at me with a hint of her elongated canines showing, her blue eyes subtly glowing.
A couple of hours later, the arrangements were made. Skjor & Aela knew of a location where the Silver Hand were holed up. We were to meet there in four days time by moonlight. That gave me plenty of opportunity to speak to Kodlak.
I knocked on the doubledoors that led to his quarters; they were always open in welcome but still, I observed common courtesy. He was seated at that table again, a stack of books in front of him with a plate of uneaten food at his elbow. He looked up at my knock, saw it was me & waved me in with a welcoming smile that crinkled up the wrinkled flesh at the corners of his eyes.
“Kalla… what can I do for you, lass? I haven’t seen you in a few days. Congratulations on finishing your trial & becoming a full Companion. You may actually be our youngest member to date.” He motioned for me to take a seat.
I sat in the chair across from him, mentally cringing at his assumption. If he only knew. Oldest member, more like. But I just smiled instead. “Thank you, Harbinger. I was wondering if I could speak with you?”
He flipped his book closed & sat back, folding his hands across his middle. “Of course. Something on your mind then?”
I fidgeted a bit guiltily. “Well… I found out that some of the Companion’s are werewolves…” I began.
He sighed heavily with what sounded like aggravation mingled with resignation & closed his eyes a moment before he met my gaze steadily. “Aye. Been allowed to learn some of our secrets have you? & who told you?”
I thought about prevaricating but like Aela I respected Kodlak so I gave him the truth. “Skjor. He did more than tell me, Kodlak. He & Aela made me one.”
Kodlak’s gaze fastened on me like a limpet to a rock. “Did you want to become a werewolf or did they force you?”
“No. Oh no no. They didn’t force me,” I hastened to explain, “I accepted it, gladly. I…” I broke off, biting my tongue as I snapped my mouth shut. I had been about to tell him about my Lady Meridia, that I believed it part of Her will I should become one but I caught myself just in time.
When I didn’t continue, Kodlak spoke, his eyes narrowed slightly. “I see. Did he tell you it was a gift & that I have been trying to find a way to cure the Companion’s of it?”
I blinked, taken by surprise at that. “No. Well, he did say it was a gift & that the feasting wasn’t nearly enough of a celebration. So he had me meet him & Aela at the Underforge. That’s when I learned that the rumours about the Companion’s are true. Is it all of you? Are you all werewolves?” I sat forward slightly, looking at him just as steadily as he had at me. I wanted to know if it really was all of my Shield-Siblings or if there were a few who didn’t carry the beast blood, as Aela had said.
“Not all of us. Just the Circle. Farkas, Vilkas, Aela, Skjor & myself.” He ran his fingers through his thick beard, like he was still agitated. “Now you…. Tell me, girl, do you want to cure yourself?”
I looked down at my hands, turned them over in my lap, stared at my palms; my beast blood made me stronger, faster. My senses were keener, I could see just as well at night as I could during the day. I could shift into my full lycan form, that of a normal sized wolf or one as large as Karnwyr. I knew I could call on my wolf-blood, my dark-sister, when I was in need. Other than that, I did not know what I was capable of & she, she was silent for now. I looked back up at Kodlak & said quietly “Not right now. But maybe one day….” I met his eyes again as I let out a long, slow breath. “Aela said… earlier today… that you may be looking for a cure for yourself. Have you found anything?”
Kodlak pushed an old book, tattered, worn & musty smelling, in my direction, flipped it open & pointed to a couple of paragraphs half-way down the page. I obligingly leaned forward to read. A moment later, I was looking back up at him. “Do you think it will work?” I couldn’t quite keep the excitement from my voice. For those who no longer wished to be moon-born, if what was in these pages was true, if this worked, it would be a miracle…
He was watching me carefully again to see what my reaction would be & didn’t seem at all displeased with it. “Only one way to find out, lass. But I’m old. Too old to go fighting hagravens.”
“So… it really IS a curse then. A Glenmoril witch tricked Terrfyg into accepting the bargain, believing it wouldn’t be a permanent affliction. But the witches never told him they were acolytes of Hircine. & the Lord of the Hunt doesn’t give up his hounds easily….” I stood & leaned over the book, pointing to a couple of lines. Kodlak leaned forward too, to get a better look. “But… if what’s written here is correct, the curse can be removed. Not easily, but it can be. Worth a try, at any rate.”
He nodded approval, his one good eye gleaming. “As I said, I’m too old to go fighting hagravens. I would be indebted to you, lass, if you fought one for me & returned with her head. I grow old, Kalla. I dream of Sovngarde & all my brothers & sisters-in-arms that are there. If I pass while still possessing the beasts blood, I will go to Hircine’s realm instead & be bound to His service. I want to be clean when the time comes to hand over leadership of the Companion’s… to you.”
I looked up at him, startled, eyes wide. I hadn’t been expecting THAT at all. He couldn’t be serious. I blinked stupidly for a moment. Then, “No. Oh no, not me. I don’t want to lead, Kodlak,” I told him honestly.
He smiled fondly at me with that same crinkling of the weathered flesh about his eyes. “Which is exactly why you should.”
I plunked back down in my seat, looking at him like he was insane. Maybe he was. “But… no. I can’t possibly….” I stammered.
He raised a hand, commanding my silence. I gave it, snapping my mouth shut. “I’ve watched you, girl, these months past. You’ve patience, intelligence & a quiet strength that is what is needed in a leader. You are fearless & would take on the world for your Brothers & Sisters. You don’t seem rash at risking their lives even if you are a bit hot-blooded at risking your own. But that can be tempered with age & experience. You will lead when I am gone, Kalla.”
I remained silent, staring at him. Then I drew a deep breath & began to speak myself, choosing my words carefully so I didn’t offend him & he didn’t misunderstand what I was trying to say. “I can’t, Kodlak. It is not that I am not honoured…. I am, deeply…. but I cannot….” I twisted my fingers together, leaning forward & placing my elbows on my knees. I dragged my hands through my hair, yanking it out from its knot at the base of my skull so the curls tumbled over my shoulders & down my back. I swiped them out of my face in irritation. “At some point… I may have to leave, go to High Hrothgar. I don’t want to. I think the Greybeards are wrong. I don’t think I’m who they’re looking for.”
Kodlak sat back in his chair again, folding his hands across his middle as he regarded me. “Dragonborn. You truly do not believe you are, don’t you?”
“Me?” I gave a short, sharp bark of half-dismayed laughter. “Gods no! Not even close. I’m not some hero out of legend. I can’t possibly be…” I looked at him with weary almost resignation. I wish I could have been surprised that he knew what I was speaking of, that he didn’t know about that at all. But I wasn’t surprised & he did know. Word was starting to spread, even tho I had made no mention of being called Dragonborn to anyone.
He shook his shaggy white head at me. “& why not you? Talos himself rose to godhood & he was born a mortal man. Just like you were born mortal. Listen lass…” he sat forward, took both my hands between his two much larger ones, his old eyes meeting mine levelly. “Fighting your fate does nothing but hurt you in the end & those around you who care about you. It takes more courage to accept what you are than to run from your destiny.” He gave my hands a light squeeze in affectionate encouragement before he released them & sat back again with a small smile. “Now. You were telling me why you can’t be Harbinger after me. Do you have any suggestions then on who should take my place when the time comes?”
My mind was going in several different directions at once. I wanted time to think in peace about what Kodlak had just told me. But that time was not now. I gave myself a shake when I realized he was changing subjects on me. “Vilkas & Aela jointly. I know Vilkas isn’t much of a people person but he won’t force anyone to become a werewolf if they don’t wish it. Aela is a strong woman, loyal, would do anything for her Shield-Siblings but is a bit too fond of being moon-born. I think they would temper each other nicely,” I suggested. It was the best I could come up with on such short notice.
Kodlak appeared to seriously consider it. He waved a hand tho, saying, “I will take your words under counsel. & you take mine as well. We’ll speak again soon, Kalla. You’ve wasted enough of your time on an old man. Go chase that ranger of yours around the training yard for a bit.”
It was a dismissal, & a bald one. I resisted the urge to tug the collar of my fur vest closed as I immediately turned red from my bosom to my hairline which made Kodlak laugh. I rose & left, my cheeks flaming.
Bishop caught me as I was leaving Jorrvaskr. Right in front of the others, he grabbed me, pulled me into his arms & kissed me soundly, lifting me clear off my feet. I was vaguely aware of shouts of encouragement & even some rather suggestive advice being thrown in our direction from my Shield-Siblings but I couldn’t bring myself to care just then. His mouth was soft, warm, demanding, his arms strong, his body hard & unyielding against mine. I melted into him with a soft sigh of pleasure, closing my eyes as I wrapped my arms about his neck & kissed him back. There were times when his high-handedness with my person irritated me & others where I rather enjoyed it. Now was one of the times I enjoyed it. It showed quite plainly to my Brothers & Sisters, if their ribaldry was any indication.
“Get a room, you two!” Farkas shouted at us, laughing as he walked past.
Aela threw a bucket of ice-cold water over us, which I caught the brunt of. I came up for air, sputtering as laughter rang in my ears. I couldn’t help but laugh too. Bishop, as usual, looked irritated as he glared at the lot of the them. I kept a good hold on his shoulders tho even as he let me slide down his chest until my feet made contact with the ground again.
“Come on, ranger. Let’s go for a ride.” I thought another outing was called for, even if we had just gotten back. I wasn’t fond of Cities & their walls, as he well knew.
His ruddy head swung round towards me, his citrine-flecked amber eyes taking on a rather lascivious gleam as he flashed a wicked grin at me that showed his pointed canines. I rolled my eyes at him.
“Not that kind of ride,” I said dryly.
He cocked a brow at me, still with that same wicked grin & rumbled down at me, “As my lady commands.”
A short time later, Bishop & I were racing over the tundra on our horses. I was bent low over Gypsum’s neck, laughing & shouting as we galloped through the long grass, leaping rocks & other obstacles. I heard Bishop on Sleipnir thundering along behind me laughing as well as he shouted encouragement to his horse.
We flew over the ground, lept a narrow stream & kept going. This was exactly what I had needed. To get outside those enclosing walls, out into the wilds, to race across the open tundra. I urged Gypsum faster, glancing over my shoulder to see Bishop on his horse racing along behind me. He was actually smiling, his cheeks flushed with colour, the wind plastering his hair back from his face, looking like he was enjoying himself. I turned, bent low again over my mounts neck & urged him faster. We came to a small rise, I felt Gypsum’s hindquarters bunch & within moments, we were sailing through the air. I let out a loud whoop, laughing as we landed a moment later. He dug his hooves in & we took off again at a sprint, across the sparse terrain heading up-hill.
When I heard it I pulled back hard on Gypsum’s reins, making the horse rear & prance in protest, snorting. A dragon’s call & not far off. My stomach knotted, dropping to my toes. I felt sweat break out all over my body, making my face & neck feel cold & clammy. The shadow of the beast flew over us & I saw it, soaring through the clear blue sky almost directly above us.
This would have to happen. I had wanted an outing with the ranger, to go riding, to see if I could capture a moment of freedom, maybe another one like we had shared a few days ago. Have a normal day like a normal person. But no. That apparently was asking for too much.
I glanced behind me, caught & held Bishop’s eyes. Thankfully, we’d had the forethought to don our armour before leaving Whiterun. He nodded to me, slipped from Sleipnir’s back & slapped the horses rump, sending it away. I did the same to Gypsum, watching as they galloped off into the distance. He’d seen & heard the dragon as well. He looked about as happy as I felt. That is to say, not at all. Resigned, I drew my bow & nocked an arrow. The ranger did the same. I said a quick prayer to my Lady that this would end in our favour.
I waited for the dragon to make another close pass above us, tracking its progress. “FUS!” I Shouted, trying to draw its attention, bring it within range of our arrows. The dragon roared, wheeled about & started to come back towards us. I raised my bow, took aim & let my arrow fly. Bishop did the same, firing at the beasts wings.
The dragon swooped low & attacked, blasting us with its icy breath. I dove behind a rock to avoid it, saw Bishop had done the same out of the corner of my eye. The beast arced up into the sky, performed a tight turn & came back around. It landed with a crash that shook the ground maybe fifty feet from us. I slung my bow across my back, drew my greatsword & burst from behind my rock with another Shout at it. The dragon reared, growling, as I struck it.
The ranger & I fought the winged fiend doggedly. But we didn’t seem to be doing this one as much damage as we had others before. “Bloody fucking die already!” I snarled viciously as I slashed at the dragons snout as it was still on the ground. The metal of my sword grated across the hard bone, easily deflected. I retreated, breathing heavily, wiping a hand over my sweaty face. Bishop was staying back, firing at the wings in an attempt to keep the beast where it was. To no avail. It shot into the air as if propelled from a sling-shot with a flapping of its powerful wings & circled high above us with that long mournful call.
I risked a glance at Bishop, worried at our situation. He smiled across at me in encouragement. We could do this. We had no other choice. He was bleeding from a gash across his brow that disappeared into his hairline. Half his face was stained red with blood. That beasts tail had caught him, sent him rolling across the ground but he had gotten back on his feet without a problem so I knew he wasn’t badly injured. I knew I was bleeding too; I could feel it drying in sticky patches on my skin under my armour.
The beast dove at us again, I turned my head towards it, standing with my legs braced apart, holding my greatsword in one hand. My eyesight went golden & translucent, the word “Yol! “ burst from my throat in a ball of flame. The dragon roared as the fire hit it squarely, flapped its wings & rose back into the sky. I ran towards Bishop as I reslung my sword & drew my bow again.
“Learned something new I see, ladyship,” he said, grinning.
I managed a sickly smile back, faintly disconcerted that a word of power I had no recollection of learning had come from my mouth. But in that one moment, when I had spoken it in the dragons tongue, the knowledge had unfolded within me. & I’d known it, just as I knew that the sky was blue, that the seasons changed, that the rain would fall. I wasn’t going to question it. I would take my advantages at fighting these winged nightmares as they came.
The dragon swooped down again, hovering in the air before the ranger & myself. We raised our bows at the same time & fired as the dragon let loose with a blast of frost breath. We dove in opposite directions again to avoid being hit. I skidded across the rock-strewn ground, rolled to my feet & saw its tail not that far from me. The thought that entered my mind was absolute insanity. But why the hells not? I quickly slung my bow across my shoulders, my split-second decision made & ran towards the dragons tail.
I lept forward, landed on it & held on as the beast took off again, arcing up into the sky. I saw the ground receding below me as I began to climb upwards, over the thick hide, using the scales like handholds. I made it to between the leathery wings, drew the dagger at my belt & tried stabbing it. Its hide was tough but my blade sank through between the scales. The dragon bellowed. I yanked my dagger out, stabbed it again. The beast executed a barrel-roll mid-flight. I grabbed a hold of the scales to keep from falling & ending up as nothing more than a bloodstain on the ground far below, dropping my dagger in the process. The beast tucked its wings in & shot back towards the earth, landing with a small explosion of dirt & debris as I was flung off its back. I skidded across the terrain, rolling over & over until I fetched up against a boulder with a hard thud & a sickening cracking of my ribs.
‘Note to self,’ I thought sarcastically, ‘don’t do that again.’ But I’d managed to injure it. I only hoped that it was enough to keep it on the ground long enough for Bishop & I to kill it.
He was there in an instant, tugging me to my feet. “Anyone ever tell you you got more balls than brains, Princess?” He gave me a quick once-over, just to be sure I wasn’t horribly hurt.
I wasn’t, thankfully. Just a few broken ribs, lacerations & bruises. I felt new wetness trickling down my cheek from a gash across it. Nothing serious.
“That’s the pot calling the kettle black, ranger.” I arched a brow at him, looked around him to see the dragon was slowly turning around towards us. I drew my sword from the harness on my back, could barely lift it from the pain in my ribs but what was a little physical discomfort? I gritted my teeth & hefted it anyway. “Behind you,” I said right as the beast opened its mouth again to attack us with its icy breath. I grabbed Bishop by the front of his cuirass & jerked him down with me. Unfortunately, he landed on top of me. The breath left me in a choked squeak as pain burst through my sternum.
“What? Here & now? Your timing sucks, ladyship,” but he was grinning as he said it.
I dug my elbow into his side & pushed. “I can’t…. breathe! Get off!”
“If you keep wriggling like that, I just might,” he teased me blithely.
I was so shocked I actually gaped. Was he serious? Apparently so, given the evidence pressed against my belly. The ranger laughed, leaned down & kissed me quickly as he ground his hips subtly against me before he rose to his feet. I was beet red as he tugged me up beside him. I could fully appreciate his sense of humour. At least he wasn’t angry that I had the same sense of humour as him or that I had drug him to the ground with me. Likely because he’d landed on top of me rather than on the ground.
“I’ve never encountered this kind of dragon before. It’s… different. Looks different. & it’s a hells of a lot stronger than the others,” I said. This dragon had a huge crown of horns on its head, much like a frill, a narrower snout & its eyes had pupils that were slitted from left to right. The end of the tail, rather than being diamond-shaped, was fluted on either side. Its scales were a rusty sort of green in colouring, a vivid almost white on its throat & belly. It was also much larger than the ones we had fought before.
Bishop grinned down at me. “Scared?”
I grinned back. “Terrified.” I took a deep breath, stopped as my ribs twinged, laughed, & said “Round two….” before I ran forward. Pain or not, Bishop’s teasing & kiss had given me a new burst of strength. I planned on using it to my advantage. “Oi, dragon!” I shot past the beasts snout, slashing the blade of my sword across it. “Here, I’m here! Come on you over-grown lizard! Face me!” I was dancing around, darting under the wings, slashing at the leathery flesh before racing back out as it was turning, trying to catch me. Its blood was pattering faster onto the ground. I could hear the ranger laughing merrily nearby, shouting imprecations at the beast as well while he fired arrows into it.
I must have tripped, misjudged my footing. Something. I was darting past the dragons head again when I fell flat on my face & my sword went flying from my hand. Next thing I knew, before I could even regain my feet, I was in its jaws. I screamed in agony as its fangs pierced through my armour, sank deep into my flesh. My arms were caught with the rest of my body, unable to reach my daggers at my calves. The beast twisted its head & flung me through the air. I went flying, hit the ground hard enough the breath was knocked clean out of me. I saw stars flare & dance before my eyes as I literally heard my bones snap & break.
I whimpered from the pain. It felt like all my ribs were broken now, like things inside of me had burst & come loose from their moorings. I couldn’t even feel my legs at all. There was a taste of salt & copper in my mouth. My ears were ringing, needles of fire piercing my flesh in dozens of different spots at once. I looked back towards the beast, saw Bishop was up on top of its head with his dagger drawn, clinging grimly on to the frill of horns.
“No,” I wheezed, envisioning this beast ripping him to shreds before my eyes as he lost his footing & slipped. I got a hand under me, tried to push myself up but fell flat as my arm buckled beneath me. The world started to spin dizzily, whirling about in front of my face in bright streaks & blurs so I could no longer see the scene playing out before me. I tried again to raise myself, felt my hand slip in sticky wetness. I growled low in desperation, attempted to rise yet again but I couldn’t even move my arm this time. ‘Up, get up, dammit!’ I swore at myself. But I couldn’t. I was just too badly injured & my body no longer obeyed me. I tried calling my wolf but she wouldn’t or couldn’t answer me.
“Kalla!” Arms lifted me, turned me gently over. It hurt, it hurt a lot. I groaned from the pain of the ranger moving me. “Fucking…. gods.” Bishop’s voice sounded breathless, choked almost.
He was a fuzzy blotch at first but then my vision cleared. I could see his face was drained of all color as I looked up into those beautiful citrine-flecked amber eyes. They were dark with fear & some other emotion I couldn’t put a name to. It was then that I knew I was likely dying from my wounds. I could feel my blood seeping out, staining the ground & his armour. Hear it pattering to the ground.
“Bishop….” I murmured in a whisper. I tried to speak again but it was too much effort to even breathe now. My teeth began to chatter from the agony sweeping over me in red waves. I felt my heart flutter in my chest, stop, resume beating again much lighter & slower. I closed my eyes for a moment, wanting nothing more than for the pain to stop, to lessen enough that I could tell him that I loved him, so he knew before I didn’t have another chance.
“Don’t you fucking die on me! You hear me? You die & I swear I’ll bring you back just so I can kill you myself.” He growled low & ferocious at me as he fumbled at his belt for a healing draught. He yanked the cork with his teeth.
I coughed, felt warmth pour from my lips & nose. Groaned as the coughing made my ribs crackle with fire & hurt even worse. I felt my heart skip a few more beats, stop, then resume beating again, slower than it had before. I blinked as my vision started to go dark. My eyelids began to drop…. I was tired. It was cold. & I hurt, pain was everywhere, all my bones felt like heated metal under my skin. Pain had invaded every part of me. There was no escape from it.
He pressed the mouth of the bottle to my lips. “Drink it.” He tipped it, not giving me a choice. It was drink it or drown.
I took a sip, coughed again with that same flooding of warmth from my nose & mouth, drank some more. The soul of the dragon enveloped us just then. I shrieked, my face twisting in blinding agony as it sliced through me like razor blades, compounding the torment I was already in. I was soaring through the clouds, over a mountain top that spewed fire & molten ash into the sky. Dunmer raced below me as they screamed in panicked terror. Another of my kind challenged me. My claws & fangs found their home in its flesh. I came away the victor, the bitter taste of a fellow dov’s blood in my mouth.
The memory of the dragon released me, finally. Left me limp & barely conscious in Bishop’s arms. He was cursing me as a stupid, hot-headed suicidal maniac while pouring the healing draught down my throat until I had finished about half the bottle. I felt the sickening crack & shift of my ribs as they began to move back to their natural shapes. I lay there, shivering, as the draught did its work, repairing the damage done to my internal organs & bones while the ranger held me. It seemed to take a lifetime.
“You can stop… cursing me, Bishop.” I managed in a breathless whisper, struggling to get to my knees on my own. I leaned forward, curling my arms about my middle as I pressed my forehead to the ground. “I’m not… dying anymore.” At least, I don’t think I was. But it sure felt like it as the healing draught worked its way through my body.
“Not for your lack of trying…. For fucks sake, Kalla…” he growled at me, sounding both strained & pissed. Not that I could blame him. But his big hand rubbed lightly over my back, up & down in a comforting motion.
I groaned low, feeling the things inside me that had been torn loose re-anchor & repair themselves. It felt like my skin was crawling, that something inside of me was writhing just below the surface, like I was being jabbed all over my body with millions & millions of icy cold & blazing hot pins. It is a truly disconcerting & unpleasant sensation.
I risked a glance up at his face & immediately looked away again. He had an expression like a thunderhead; golden eyes narrowed to brilliant slits, brows snapped together, lips compressed into a thin line. I ground my teeth, got my feet under me through sheer force of will & rose unsteadily upright. I swayed, would have fallen had Bishop not caught me against his chest, lifting me up into his arms. I leaned over & threw up, whimpering after as everything still hurt. I couldn’t have stopped myself from vomiting had I even tried. I broke out in a cold sweat, my teeth starting to chatter again from the pain I was still in, tears leaking from my closed eyes, leaving tracks in the blood that smeared my face. I hoped I had missed his boots but I couldn’t be too sure at this point.
“You’re a damned idiot, woman,” the ranger growled at me as he began walking.
“Yell… at me… some… other time,” I managed to gasp as I quivered. Ugh. This was worse than the fever. It felt worse, anyway. A lot worse.
After a short trek, Bishop set me down, very gently, on the ground. He whistled sharply & I heard the answering wickers of our horses. I lay on my side, curled into a ball & simply just tried to keep breathing through this ordeal. Normally, I could handle physical pain, so much so that you would never guess anything was even wrong with me, even were I bleeding. This tho, was entirely another story. No one & nothing had ever eviscerated me before, had ever injured me as badly as this dragon had. I didn’t like it one bit.
I must have dozed off. I honestly don’t remember. I recall waking tho, to a campfire, laying atop a pile of furs with another covering me. Bishop was sitting next to me with a hand resting lightly on my chest, the other wrapped about the grip of his dagger sheathed at his belt, his eyes closed. I felt a bit better; the pain was at least at a level I could tolerate without too much of a problem.
I placed my hand over his on my chest & gave it a light squeeze. His eyes immediately flew open, he snapped his head in my direction & looked down at me. The flesh about his eyes & the corners of his lips was pinched tight, his brows drawn together with a deep crease between them. He looked tired, worried, almost haggard. Like he truly had not expected me to survive even after taking the potion. Exactly as he had when I’d had the fever. I struggled into a sitting position, taking both of his hands into mine, genuinely concerned. “I’m alive. I’ll live. I promise you, Bishop….” I spoke quietly, wanting to reassure him. One corner of my mouth quirked up a tiny bit as I placed a palm against his stubbled cheek. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
The ranger let out a deep breath, like he’d been holding it, closed his eyes tightly, opened them again & looked at me once more. He leaned his cheek into my hand for the briefest moment, took a hold of my wrist, turned his head & placed a kiss to my palm before he pressed it to his chest. He was careful as he reached for me, lifted me into his lap & held me in his arms. His hand actually shook a bit as he brushed his fingers through my hair & I could feel his slight trembling as I curled against him.
I lapsed into silence then. I knew I had frightened him badly, that he had been scared but he would never admit it. I could still smell the lingering scent of it on his skin. I’d never feared death, I still didn’t. But I didn’t want to die. Not now & for more reasons than just what my Lady had said to me, the task She had given me. I still didn’t wish to be the Dragonborn, still didn’t think I was the one this prophecy spoke of. Meridia’s words to me, all those months past, lept into my mind. ‘You will one day have to decide what it is you are fighting for.’ & I knew, right then, what it was. I would fight, I would win or die trying, to protect Skyrim, to protect this ranger who, despite myself, I had grown to love.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, simply.
I felt more than heard him take a deep breath. “You really are one insane human being, Princess. I don’t think I have ever met anyone as fearless as you before.”
“Courage is easy when you have something worth fighting for.” I could have bitten my tongue as those words left my mouth.
“I said you were fearless, ladyship. I never said you were all that bright,” he said dryly.
I chuckled softly. “You sound like Marcus, my old commander. He used to tell me exactly what you did. That I had more balls than brains. Not exactly a bad quality in a warrior.”
“Do you need another healing potion? I have a few more if you do.”
I was vaguely disconcerted at his abrupt change of subject but let it go as I thought it over, decided I probably did. My insides still felt a bit like they had gone through a meat grinder, my stomach very tender & swollen to the touch. & after that fever back in Winterhold, I didn’t want to take any chances so I nodded.
I was waiting for him to start yelling at me. To start cursing me again for being an idiot, a maniac, a lunatic, for doing what I had done & pretty much almost dying. Again. I was mildly worried that he wasn’t, actually. I set those thoughts aside for now tho. I might not be dying but things still hurt too much to have been completely fixed.
Bishop kept an arm about my back, digging in one of our packs on his other side with his other hand. He came up with the bottle & I took it from him. I fumbled it, dropping it, winced as it landed on my belly. He retrieved it, yanked the cork with his teeth & held it to my lips. I took it from him & drank the rest, making a face at the strongly medicinal taste. “Where’d you get those anyway? They seem more potent than the ones we had before,” I asked him with a mild shudder.
“Woman at the alchemist shop had them, said they would heal more damage. Since traveling with you, ladyship, & seeing the nasty sort of things you seem intent on going up against, I decided to buy some of the stronger ones.” There was a distinct note of disapproval in his deep voice so I avoided looking at him. At least he wasn’t raging at me. Not yet, anyway…. But that storm was brewing for sure. I knew it. I just didn’t know when it would break.
I gritted my teeth as my stomach churned again. I wasn’t at all sure I had missed his boots when I had thrown up before, like hells I was going to puke all over his legs. I curled my arms over my middle, pressing my forehead to his shoulder & breathed heavily through my nose as the potion started taking effect. It hurt, it hurt really bad. I shuddered with a soft groan, closing my eyes as I forced myself to concentrate on something more pleasant, like his scent.
Bishop eased me down onto the furs on my side & lay down behind me, holding me close against him with an arm about my ribs, his hand between my breasts against my chest. I turned my face into his other arm that was under my head, still panting softly as I trembled.
“This…. does NOT…. fucking feel good,” I ground out between tightly clenched teeth. Slowly, very very slowly, the pain started to ease, by tiny increments. It seemed to take forever. By the time it had let up completely, I was exhausted, laying flat on my back while I tried to catch my breath, shivering as the night wind blew over my sweaty skin. I couldn’t even keep my eyes open.
“Go to sleep, Princess. I’ll keep watch.” He tugged a blanket over me, tucked it around my shoulders, placed his hand back on my chest.
“Take something yourself. Please. I know you got hurt too.” I blinked open my eyes to see that his face was now free of blood even tho I could see the deep scratch on his brow that disappeared into his coppery hair.
“I’ll do. It’s nothing serious. Go to sleep.”
I wanted to argue with him but honestly, I was too tired. If he said he wasn’t bad off, I wasn’t going to force him; not like I could, anyway. I turned onto my side then, into his big body, tucked my head under his chin with my cheek against his chest, slipped an arm over his ribs & drifted off to sleep, unable to keep my eyes open any longer.
He lay quietly on his side, watching Kalla sleep peacefully. Her breath fanned warm over his skin as she breathed softly. He was more relieved than he cared to admit that she still did just that.
When he had seen that dragon seize her in its jaws & fling her, saw her hit the ground hard enough that he swore even he had heard her bones crack from as far away as he had been, he had felt his heart stop beating. He’d attacked the beast with everything he had then, his fear & the added rage that it might have killed her giving him almost super-human strength. He’d jumped onto its head, driven his dagger into its skull repeatedly until the beast had fallen to the ground.
He hadn’t taken the time to make sure it was dead before he had gone to her & had been truly horrified at how bad her wounds were. She looked like a rag-doll rolled in blood, her pale skin gone almost white as snow beneath the grime & the blood from how much she had lost already. His hands shook as he lifted her, he’d felt nausea twist in the pit of his belly that she might already be dead. But then she had opened her black eyes weakly & looked up at him making his heart skip a few painful beats. She was still alive. Through sheer stubbornness, he didn’t doubt. If only her skin were as thick as her head, he wouldn’t worry about her as much as he did.
& his worrying about her was what was worrying him. Somehow, some way, this little slip of a woman was managing to get under his skin, making him care about her. The more time he spent around her, the more he did care about her, the more he wanted her. & not just for things they did in & out their bedroll tho he certainly wanted that too.
He actually enjoyed simply just being around her. She wasn’t his type at all, not even close. Too short, too slim, more muscular than he normally preferred his women. Yet he couldn’t keep denying it. He was growing more & more attracted to her as the days went by & he couldn’t quite explain why.
He sometimes wondered if maybe she wasn’t using him but he always dismissed that notion. It simply wasn’t in Kalla’s nature to use others. He knew her well enough by now to know that about her for a definite. She gave, without asking for anything in return. That nasty habit of altruism he’d spotted from the beginning.
He’d meant it when he said she was one of the most fearless people he’d ever met. She didn’t hesitate to risk her life for others, even if he didn’t understand that impulse himself any more than he did her selflessness. Those were traits about her that he both admired & despised, all at once.
He ran his fingers lightly through her hair, brushing it back from her sleeping face. She murmured softly, rubbing her cheek against him. “Bishop,” his name, said softly with the ghost of one of those soft, sweet smiles of hers that made his breath catch in his chest.
“What the hells are you doing to me?” He asked the sleeping woman quietly as much as the darkness around them.
As usual, he got no response from the empty night. He expected no less. There were no Divines. & if there were, they certainly never bothered to bring anything even remotely good into his life.
I blinked open my eyes only to find myself nose to nose with Karnwyr. The big wolf was laying facing me, his head on his paws, yellow eyes unblinking as he watched me.
“Hey buddy,” I murmured softly to him, reaching out a hand to scritch him between his upright ears. His tail thumped the ground as he let out a soft happy whine & his tongue flicked over my chin. “I’ve missed you. Been having fun harassing the poor little bunnies out here?”
“Speaking of bunnies….” Bishop’s deep voice broke in, “I’ve made roasted rabbit. You hungry, ladyship?”
I sat up cautiously, expecting pain still. But there was nothing, not even the twinge of an ache. That potion had been powerful stuff. Still, I wasn’t quite up to eating yet. “Thank you but I think I’m going to pass on the offer, ranger.” It was then I realized I was naked & covered only with the fur blanket. I shot an accusatory glare at him. “Again? Did I shift skins or something during the night & not remember it?”
Bishop laughed, tearing off a leg from one of the rabbits he’d roasted over the fire & handing it to Karnwyr, who had gone over to him after seeing I was fine. The big wolf chomped happily with a cracking of bones that made me cringe in memory of the sound of my own bones snapping. “Is that what you call it when you turn into a werewolf? Shifting skins?” He was looking at me curiously as he crouched by the fire.
I dug a hand into my hair but stopped when I couldn’t get my fingers all the way through it. I shot him another glare. “You got a better name for it?”
He sat down on the ground, pulled his dagger & cut off a chunk of meat, tearing into it with his strong, white teeth. I growled softly at him. He simply smiled at me. I flounced back onto the fur pile & stared at him.
“Please tell me I have clothes in one of our packs still,” I finally said after he didn’t answer me & kept on eating.
“You do.” He nodded towards our packs that were piled against a rock at the base of one of the scraggly trees that dotted the tundra, where our horses were hobbled.
I rose stiffly to my feet, keeping the blanket wrapped about my body as I did so & went in search of something to wear.
“Damn. It’s not like I haven’t seen you naked plenty of times, ladyship. Why start being modest now? We’re miles from anywhere.” Teasing, he was teasing me again. Well, at least he wasn’t yelling at me. That was something to be thankful for.
I could feel his eyes locked on me, like he was willing me to drop the blanket. ‘Keep dreaming’ I thought to myself, still irritated that I’d woken up naked. “What’d you do with my armour anyway?” I asked over my shoulder as I drew out a pair of leather pants, socks, some small-clothes, the vest, blouse & belt he had given me & a pair of boots from one of the packs. But I didn’t put them on right away. I had caught a glimpse of my legs & they were absolutely filthy. I groaned, holding my small-clothes in one hand as I rubbed my face with the other. I wasn’t looking forward to a cold bath in the stream that ran by the camp the ranger had set up while I had been out of it.
“Your armour is just about useless. Maybe one of the blacksmith’s back in Whiterun can fix it for you or you can find some that will fit you.” The tone of his voice was unreadable, a low, deep rumble, no more.
I turned to look at him, frowning slightly. “Seriously?” I knew I had almost died but still, my armour couldn’t be that badly damaged.
Bishop watched me steadily for a few moments before rising smoothly to his feet & coming to stand in front of me. He took my shoulders lightly into his big hands as he looked down at me. “You almost died, Kalla. Your armour & my getting to you in time is the only reason you’re even still alive.” Tho his deep voice was steady enough, I heard the faint tremor in it, could smell the acrid tang of old fear over-laying his normal scents of leather, woodsmoke, pine, damp earth & musky male.
I couldn’t even speak right then. The look in his beautiful amber eyes, the expression on his handsome face kept my tongue still. I simply stared up at him, at the lines bracketing his mouth & the corners of those eyes etched a bit deeper than they normally were with the ghost of his previous upset. “I am so so sorry, Bishop. I truly did not mean to worry you as badly as I did…. It’s only that…” I said with quiet sincerity but stopped, taking my bottom lip between my teeth as I dipped my chin, letting the wings of my hair swing forward to hide my face from him. I felt horrible at worrying him. & I had almost said something I shouldn’t have.
“What is it, Princess?” His hands slipped from my shoulders to curl about my upper-arms, holding me where I was.
I shifted uneasily in his grasp, avoiding his penetrating golden stare. “I need to go bathe.”
He didn’t release me, just removed a hand to place a finger under my chin & forced my eyes to meet his. “Tell me.” His low voice held just the barest hint of a commanding growl.
I clamped my lips together stubbornly, lowering my lashes to avoid his eyes. I couldn’t tell him that I had been more worried about him being injured than I had myself. That the thought of him ending up dead, because of me, was enough to bring me to my knees, made my heart stop & my blood run cold. I honestly thought he would laugh at me, or worse, even after the intimacies we had shared. I knew the ranger could take care of himself, handle himself in a fight. But I still worried about him regardless. How couldn’t I when we went up against dragons?
Seeing he wasn’t going to get an answer, he released me with a half-disgusted sigh & stepped back. “Fine,” he growled at me between clenched teeth,“It’s not like I fucking care anyway. Stubborn ass….” Even with my heightened hearing I couldn’t make out the rest of his words as he stomped off, grumbling & cursing me. He paused long enough to claim his bow & quiver of arrows with a nasty glare at me before he continued on & left me standing right where I was.
Part of me wanted to stop him, to tell him that I loved him, that I feared for him, that if something happened to him because of me I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. The other part was warning me it would be a very very bad idea to do it. I sighed heavily & turned away, gathered my clothing & the saddlebag that contained my bathing supplies & went down to the stream to wash.
A few hours later, we were back in Whiterun & I was up at the Skyforge speaking to Eorlund about fixing my armour & perhaps improving it, if at all possible.
“Oh aye, lass, & easily. When do you need it by?” the big smith asked me.
“Tomorrow, if at all possible, if you can manage it, Eorlund. I have a task to do with Skjor & Aela here soon,” I paused a moment then asked “Can you improve my weapons too, as well as repair my armour?”
He nodded, inclining his shaggy white head towards the workbench along the back wall. “Leave everything there you want me to take care of, lass. I’ll have it done for you by tomorrow afternoon, at the latest.”
I smiled at him in gratitude & after a few minutes of haggling, handed over payment to him before I left everything where he had told me to.
I met Bishop at the top of the steps where he was waiting for me. “I don’t see why you wouldn’t let me get you new armour. It’s not like we can’t afford it now,” I said to him conversationally. Little did he know, I had slipped Eorlund a note with my things, asking him to make the ranger some new gear & had included a decent size coinpurse in with it all as further payment. The smith had a good eye & would get the fit right after having seen Bishop enough times. I crossed my fingers behind my back in the hopes he could do it as well as the arrows I had asked for.
“I don’t need your charity, ladyship,” he rumbled down at me as he folded his arms over his chest, pinning me with an unblinking stare.
I held my hands up, palms outwards. “Fine. Have it your way, Prince Charming.” Yeah. No, that wasn’t going to happen. Getting Bishop some new armour & arrows was the very least I could do after he had saved my life for the second time. Not to mention, Eorlund was the best smith I’d ever met. Anything made by him that I could get Bishop to wear would help ease my mind just a little bit. Like it or not, I would do what I could to make sure he was as protected as he allowed me to make him even if I had to be wily about it.
“You hungry? I’m hungry. Want to go to the Bannered Mare?” I asked as we headed down the stairs from the forge, more to distract him than anything else from my ulterior motives.
“Fine. Whatever,” he grumbled, clearly irritated.
I glanced at the ranger from the corners of my eyes as we walked through town. He was upset with me, & I think it was due to more than just me almost being killed by that dragon. I placed a light hand on his arm & tugged him to a stop as we got near the Gildergreen. “What is wrong with you?”
“What’s wrong with YOU?” He snapped, glowering down at me.
I frowned up at him. He was snarky on his best day. This… mood of his I wasn’t entirely familiar with. “Last time I almost died, you threatened to tan my arse. Now you’re just….” I made a gesture with my hands that encompassed his stand-offish attitude & my confusion at it. “What the fuck is your problem? Really.”
“What’s yours?” he shot right back.
I raised my hands & made a choking gesture at him, growling softly. Ugh. & he complained about ME being stubborn. He simply cocked a brow at me, as if daring me to even try it. I growled louder at him, rolled my eyes & made to brush past him. Fine. He wanted to throw a tantrum, let him. He grabbed me by my upper-arm, roughly jerking me to a stop. I whirled on him, swinging. I wasn’t in the mood to put up with his current attitude. He caught my wrist in a tight grip before the blow even landed. I could feel his fingers biting into my flesh as we stood, glaring daggers at each other.
The storm I had been waiting for since the tundra & my almost dying finally broke. With a huge thunderclap. He abruptly hauled me close none too gently & snarled down into my face, almost nose to nose, “You want to know what’s wrong with me? It’s YOU! You drive me absolutely fucking insane! You go off, into the worst sorts of situations, almost getting yourself killed, always getting injured….” His unblinking golden amber eyes were dark, deadly, burning, his deep voice low, roughened with a predatory timbre that made the fine down-hairs on my body stand up. Had I been in wolf form, my ruff would have been flared out, the fur along my spine erect, my ears laid back & my fangs bared. “You pal around with those mutt brother’s from the Companion’s while ignoring me. Then when I tell you you almost die, you apologize, was about to say something else & just stop & refuse to say more. For fucks sake, Kalla, I feel like a damned ball that you can’t decide if you want to play with or not!”
If I didn’t know better, it almost sounded like he was saying he cared & worried about me too. I did NOT want to have this conversation, not here, not now. I narrowed my dark eyes on him, attempting to twist my arm out of his grasp. To no effect. His fingers were steel, his grip like a vise. “Let me go, Bishop, or so help me gods….” I hissed the empty threat quietly.
“What? You’ll try to slap me with your other hand? Shout at me? What, ladyship? What will you do if I don’t let you go?” His tone was baiting, to say the very least, with a hidden edge I couldn’t put my finger on.
Good question. As angry as he was making me right now, I still wouldn’t hurt him. & I think he knew it. The bastard. He wasn’t releasing me, just tugged me flush up against him, almost in challenge. We were getting odd looks from the guards & people now. “What do you WANT me to say, huh?” I finally flared at him, “That I worry about you? Fine. I fucking worry about you! Are you happy now? Going to laugh in my face like the asshole you are?” I looked up at him, my expression almost resentful that he had made me admit that here & now.
He blinked, clearly surprised but still didn’t let me go. “What?”
“You heard me. I care about you, you jackass. I almost died back there with the dragon because….” I growled low in frustration, dragging my free hand through my hair, savagely ripping it back from my face. No going back now. & I let him have it, point blank. “Because I couldn’t bear the thought of it killing you & watching you die. I can’t even think about it, Bishop. All right? Happy now?!”
“I can take care of myself, ladyship. I don’t need you or anyone else trying to protect me. I’m perfectly capable of doing that on my own,” he said evenly, deep voice devoid any inflection. But he still kept a tight grip on my arm, anyway.
“Uuuggghhhh!” I tried, truly really tried, to slap him across his face with my free hand. He caught that wrist too & pinned both of them behind my back. I stomped on his toes but that had absolutely no effect since he was still wearing armour. “Let me GO, you fucking bastard!” I snarled angrily.
Instead of releasing me, he simply picked me up, threw me over his shoulder & started walking towards the front gates. I squirmed, kicking him in the stomach & pounding on his back with my fists. That had about the same effect as stepping on his toes had had. That is to say, absolutely none at all. One of Bishop’s big hands came down across my backside with a loud crack that made me yelp more in surprise than in any real discomfort. “Stop struggling. You’re only making it worse on yourself,” he growled at me.
“Go to fucking Oblivion,” I growled savagely right back & kept right on trying to get out of his grasp. If I managed to get free, I was going to beat the snot out of him or die trying. I HATED being man-handled like this. Thoroughly & utterly hated it.
His hand cracked down across my rear again, harder than it had before. I didn’t so much as squeak. I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.
I saw the amused looks on the gate-guards faces as they opened the huge iron-studded doors & let Bishop walk out with me on his shoulder. The guards knew me, knew Bishop; they’d seen us together plenty of times. This… was embarrassing. Likely they thought we were just having a lovers spat. It was at this juncture, I had given up my attempts at escaping him. I would bide my time. & when it came, the ranger was in for it.
He went directly to the stables, thumped me down on my feet & before I could even get a kick or hit in on him, he had my wrists tied in front of me & my ankles bound.
“Are you FUCKING serious?” I screamed at him. The groom just looked our way but at a glance from the ranger, decided it would be very unwise, not to mention hazardous to his health, to interfere.
Bishop threw me over the withers of Sleipnir, vaulted easily up into the saddle behind me & kicked the horse in the ribs. It sprang forward & started galloping out towards the tundra.
Two hours later found me sitting inside of a cave, still bound hand & foot but also blindfolded. As soon as Bishop had gotten far enough down the main track, he had put one over my eyes. I was soaked through as it had started raining shortly after that bastard had dragged me out of Whiterun.
Speaking of Bishop…. I could hear him moving around about me, smell his scent hanging heavy in the chill air. It was by the scent of this place that I could tell it was a cave; damp stone & earth, the slightly green scents of moss & other verdant things. The musty, almost dry smell of fungus growing somewhere, the clear, clean scent of water as well as the sound of it splashing off in the distance.
I rubbed my cheek against my shoulder again, trying to work the blindfold off but as before, Bishop simply put it back into place. I growled low in warning at him, turning my head sharply & trying to sink my teeth into any part of his flesh I could reach. He sank his fingers into my loose hair & fisted them, tugging my head back firmly.
“Try to bite me again, Princess, & I’ll gag you. Now stay put & behave yourself,” his deep voice rumbled quietly as he released his grip on me.
I snarled at him, my lips writhing back from my teeth. I could feel that they had grown sharper, my canines elongating just a bit as I called on my wolf. But I was still so new to being a lycanthrope that she wasn’t completely under my control. So all I had were the heightened senses & my teeth as well as short wolfish claws that extended from my human fingertips. I’d already tried to get to the thin leather cording binding my wrists together with my claws but I was tied so tightly, I couldn’t even reach it.
Silently fuming, I sat still where he had put me. I didn’t doubt he really would gag me. I could hear him moving about again in the cave, smell his scent drifting faintly on the air currents. After about half an hour of silence, I couldn’t take it anymore.
“Bishop….” I called quietly, the tips of my short subtly-pointed ears twitching. “What’re you doing?” As expected, I got no response. Not right away.
A few moments later, I heard him approaching me again. Had my wolf not been with me just then, I wouldn’t have heard him at all, he moved so quietly. Surprisingly quiet for such a large man. I lifted my head, sniffing the air, turned my head where I thought his scent was originating. One corner of my upper lip lifted in a soundless snarl of warning.
“My, my, aren’t we the ferocious one, ladyship,” his deep voice came to me, taunting & faintly amused.
“Take these binds off me & I’ll show you just how ferocious, you asshole,” I growled between my clenched teeth.
He laughed derisively then tsked at me. “I don’t think so. I think I like having you tied up. You certainly didn’t object the last time I had you like this….”
I felt my cheeks flush at the mention of that little encounter & would cheerfully have disemboweled the ranger just then. “You are one sadistic son of a bitch, Bishop.”
“Such compliments you give me, Princess.” He sounded bored. & not very appreciative of my sharp tongue.
“Go fuck yourself,” I snapped at him.
“How about I just fuck you instead?” He drawled right back at me.
I went absolutely, positively still, sitting stiff-straight. He couldn’t possibly be serious. He said he would wait until I invited him to my bed in that way. I swallowed heavily, lowering my head. If that was what he intended, the only way I could stop him would be if I killed him. & I couldn’t…. I just couldn’t. He might be a bastard at times, like now, but I loved him & underneath it all, I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, he was a good man. That he wouldn’t hurt me, not intentionally.
“Bishop…. please….” my voice was quiet, soft, a faint tinge of my trepidation clearly evident.
“I’m not going to rape you, Princess. You can relax.” His gruff voice had gentled somewhat when he spoke to me & I could smell no falsehood from him.
I consulted my wolf. She was laying, couchant, in the darkness, nothing but vivid, dual-coloured glowing eyes in my mind. The beast was clearly unconcerned. In fact, she was amused & almost as if… she were looking forward to something. This was a game, a test. One Alpha to another. One that all lone wolves played in the spring & fall. ‘He’s done waiting. He wants you,’ she said to me with a wolf-grin, red tongue lolling as she trotted out of the darkness, a huge white shape, sitting back on her haunches.
“No…. Don’t you see? I can’t!” I hadn’t realized I’d spoken out loud until I felt Bishop’s hands on my upper-arms in a light hold.
“You can’t what?” He removed my blind-fold & I looked up at his face with a glimmer of distressed fear in my eyes.
“You’re done waiting, aren’t you? You’re not letting me leave this cave until I’ve given myself to you, completely…. Am I right?” I couldn’t stop my eyes from misting over. I closed them & turned my face away from him. He wouldn’t understand. He either didn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t believe me if I told him.
“I said I wouldn’t take you unwilling, Princess, & I meant it. But yes, I’m done waiting. I’m going to make you want me & we’ll lie together before we leave this cave.” This was no threat, oh no; it was a promise.
I shivered, looking anywhere but at him. I felt a bubble of panic start to form under my breastbone but I fought it down. I shook my head, making my curls fly about my face. “I can’t. Bishop, please! No…. I want to, I do. I want you so badly that….” I broke off, looked up into his amber eyes pleadingly. “I’m afraid of what Meridia might do to you if I let you.” I finally gave voice to my one true fear, the one that had been the real reason holding me back from doing more than what we already had.
He squatted down in front of me, releasing his grip on my arms to let his big hands dangle between his thighs. He was shirtless, bare foot, wearing nothing but his leather pants. “Your daedric prince doesn’t frighten me, Kalla. If She even exists,” he said softly, watching me with that predatory gaze of his.
I stared at the ranger, speechless. This was going to happen. He knew how to make me want him, what ways to touch me to gain the response from my body he wanted. I swallowed heavily, feeling that bubble of panic expand up into my chest. “Not yet, Bishop. Please. Please, not yet.”
He rose to his feet with a growl, rumbling down at me “I should just pin you down & kiss you till you give in. But what I have planned….” he trailed off, that roguish, wolfish grin of his that showed just a hint of his canines sliding out. “Is infinitely much more…. pleasurable.”
I was in for my hardest battle yet.
There was a hot spring in this cave. He’d put out candles about the pool & torches around the walls that lent their soft light to the already diffuse beams in the cave. Bishop had me sitting in his lap in the warm water, my back to his chest. I was unbound at least; before he agreed to release me, he’d made me give him my word on my honour as a priestess of Meridia & warrior that I wouldn’t try to escape him, that I wouldn’t attack him or shift skins on him. I had, with much reluctance, agreed. I didn’t have another choice & he knew it.
So now I sat with him as he ran his hands softly up & down my sides, over my shoulders & breasts, smoothing the warm water over my body. I was still very much afraid for him. But he was set on his course. I only hoped I could intercede on his behalf with my Lady if She decided to intervene.
“Tell me what you like, Princess” the ranger rumbled down at me as his big hands cupped my breasts again, long fingers spread like streamers of water-weed, stark against my pale skin.
Not for the first time, I marveled at his strange mixture of considerate lover & down-right perfidious blackguard. “It doesn’t matter where you touch me, Bishop. I just like it when you do.” Even as I spoke the words, I could feel the blush flooding my cheeks with rosy colour, staining them darker than what the heat from the water allowed.
He lifted me easily, large hands clasping my narrow waist as he turned me about to face him so I was straddling his hips. I felt him, brushing against me; I guessed by his size he wasn’t fully aroused yet. I settled my hands lightly on his broad shoulders, flicking my gaze to his before I dropped my eyes again. I didn’t want him to see the fear that I was sure still lurked in them. I didn’t want to hear any further recriminations from him.
He curled one arm tightly about my lower back, pulling my body flush against his own, his other was locked about my shoulders, fingers buried in the wild curls at the nape of my neck. He tugged gently, urging me to tip my head back & I did, exposing the slender, pale column of my throat. His breath fanned warm over my skin a moment before I felt the feathery caress of his lips. He brushed them down my neck, across the arc of my collarbone, to the small hallow between them, down to my chest. I shivered, my skin breaking out into gooseflesh, my fingers digging a bit more deeply into the muscles of his shoulders. He urged me to rise higher, so my breasts hung like ripe fruit before his eyes.
He kept one arm about my hips, holding me firmly in place, as his other hand cupped one of them, lifting it gently so I could feel the sensuous weight of it, his calloused thumb flicking over & around my hardened nipple. I drew my breath in sharply, feeling a distinct spike of pleasure dart from my breast straight to my womb.
“Like spring cherries….” he breathed against my skin then bent his head to me. His lips fastened around the taut peak & he drew strongly on it. I felt each tug of his lips shoot straight down to between my thighs, making me tingle. My fingers spasmed on his shoulders as he coaxed a soft moan from my lips. He drew his teeth softly over my hardened nipple, then bit down just hard enough to draw a small gasp from me. “Did that hurt you?” His deep voice rumbled up at me quietly, roughened & deeper than it normally was.
“N-n-no,” my voice was high & breathy, even to my own ears. I shifted, squirming slightly in his grasp. I was already starting to burn from the inside out with a slow, creeping warmth that started in the soles of my feet & was steadily working its way upwards. I’d had some idea that he was familiar with a woman’s body, that he knew his way around one. But what he was doing to me, was so far beyond my own personal experiences that I didn’t know at all what to expect anymore. Even with everything that we had already done, I had the suspicion we had just barely scratched the surface of what it could be like between us.
Up to this point, it had always been spur of the moment, quickly started & just as quickly finished. Now…. I had absolutely no clue about what to expect or what he was planning. & that both scared & thrilled me to the very core of my being.
Bishop rose from the water with me still in his arms. He lay me back onto the grassy ground outside the spring, all quite gently, & spread my legs wide. He knelt down between my thighs, grasping my hips to lift them higher. I closed my eyes, my fingers digging into the earth as I tried to prepare myself for his next assault on my senses.
He slipped his arms under my legs so they were over his broad shoulders, curled his arms about them to keep them open & rubbed his stubbled cheeks gently against the sensitive flesh on the inner parts of my thighs. Down one thigh, ghosting over the short, tight silvery-gold curls of my mound, & then up the other. Up, over & down, again & again until my belly muscles visibly began to quiver, standing out beneath my pale skin in the candlelight. He stopped suddenly, making my breath catch in surprise.
I risked a glance down the slope of my body, saw those amber eyes of his gleaming darkly back up at me. My gaze was caught, held by the raw intensity I saw in his own as he drew a fingertip very very lightly down the split of my sex, then back up, parting my nether lips. I let my head fall back onto the grass as I felt his warm breath against me then just the tip of his tongue where his fingertip had been. He touched me, lightly; here, there, & there, & there, his tongue dancing languidly through my frills & folds.
His light, teasing caresses with that velvety soft tongue of his went on for I don’t know how long. So long that my insides were starting to feel like they were turning to water. Then I felt his lips pressed hard to me & his low, rumbling growl reverberating up into the bowl of my hips as his tongue delved deeply inside of me. I arched sharply with a soft cry, head thrown back as my thighs cradling his face trembled. No one & nothing had ever penetrated me before, not even a little bit. This was an entirely new, entirely foreign sensation to me….
& I liked it. I liked it more than I cared to admit.
He immediately stopped what he was doing, leaving me limp & panting, shaking in every limb. “Not yet, Princess. I’ve only just begun with you,” he said in that same rough, deep rumble.
As before, this was a promise, not a threat. & he made good on it.
He’d been serious. Dead serious. For the next several hours, Bishop teased, tormented & waged a sensual war on my senses, ravaging them so completely that he left me a quivering mass of blind animal need. He made me ache so badly I was no longer even capable of coherent speech or thought. He wouldn’t let me touch him at all, had threatened to tie me down if I tried. I was to let him do as he wanted with my body. I had balked at first but at one look from those molten, golden amber eyes, seeing that wolfish grin start to slide out once more that gave a hint of his canines, I’d relented. If I was going to go through with this, if this really was going to happen, I didn’t want to be tied down.
Now, several hours later, made speechless, weak, drunk with desire by the ranger, I lay prone beneath his big body as he kissed me slowly, stroking a big hand lightly over my taut, fluttering belly & stopping at the juncture to my thighs. He let heel of his hand rest against my mound as his tongue danced & twined with mine. His taste, his scent, wound about my exposed senses, only adding to my arousal.
He lifted his mouth from mine, looking down into my flushed face as he moved to lay atop me. My eyes were closed, my lips swollen from his many kisses that had devoured & demanded. He brushed the backs of his fingers gently across one of my cheeks & I turned my head away from that touch, shivering with a soft moan.
“Please….” I panted the word softly.
“Please what?” His mouth found its way to the juncture of my neck & shoulder for the I don’t know what time, his teeth sank delicately into that point, sending chills shooting through my body. I shivered harder with another low moan, my hands twitching weakly at my sides. I lacked the will to lift them.
“Stop…. please…. Please, stop… Bishop,” I whimpered. “I can’t…. I can’t breathe.”
He lifted himself higher on his elbows & I immediately caught at him, holding his weight down on top of me with a small cry of protest. “N-not like… that. I just…. I need….” I couldn’t even get the words out I was so blinded with the blazing desire he’d instilled in me these last hours.
“Tell me what you need, Kalla” his deep, quiet voice held a note of coaxing as his fingertips brushed lightly over the sides of my throat, tracing along the paths where my heartbeat fluttered like a caged birds wings.
“You,” I exhaled on a sigh, light & breathless.
I felt him rise above me, his hands spreading my legs wider. Felt the warm, silken kiss of the head of his cock against the slick opening to my body. I managed to open my eyes to slits to watch him & my breath caught in my chest at the primal beauty of him. The dim light glowed on his coppery hair making it shine like old bronze, danced over his tawny skin stretched taut over sleek, hard muscles that rippled with his every movement. & still, still I could not bring myself to look at the instrument of what would be my deflowering.
I found a small well of strength & raised my arms to him, opening them willing, curled my legs about his slim hips. “Bishop….” his name was no more than a whisper on my lips, a prayer, an answer. Take your pick. Right then, at this moment, he was my entire world.
The ranger growled deep in his chest, lowered his body back down on top of mine, supporting his weight on his elbows. I reached up with one hand, threading my fingers into the short hairs at the nape of his neck & tugged his mouth down to mine. He took my other hand, leading it down between our bodies & curling my fingers around his girth so I could position him to the entrance to my body.
He left my hand on him with a slight squeeze to indicate I should keep it right where it was. I swallowed heavily, shivering from the top of my head to the soles of my feet. Then, slowly, he pressed forward, stopped, retreated. Pressed forward again only to stop & retreat again. Why was he hesitating?
I wriggled under him with a soft wolfish whine, gripping the hair at the back of his neck tightly. If he didn’t take me soon, I felt I would dissolve right there in burst of flame.
“Are you really a virgin, Princess?” he asked me quietly against my lips.
I nodded & replied just as softly “Aye, I am. You’re the only man I’ve ever done this with, Bishop.”
He took my face between his hands then with another growl, rumbling down at me “Look at me, Princess. Look at me. I want you to see me as I take you.”
I opened my eyes, looked into his, saw his own desire burning in them like a dark light. I lifted my hips slightly higher, feeling him hard & insistent against me. “Do it. I want you, Bishop. Please. I can’t wait any longer.”
He pressed his cock forward again. I felt him slide thick between my fingers, felt the pressure of him forcing my gates open, my body stretch around the very crown of him. I held my breath in sweet expectation, waiting for the pain as he finally claimed me completely…..
Then we both stopped as we heard voices in the cave with us….
Bishop rose quickly to his feet, grabbing the fur blanket & tossing it over me. I huddled under it, trying to make myself as unnoticeable as I could. My desire died just as if someone had thrown ice-water over me. I hoped it wasn’t anything like bandits. I had no weapons on me, no armour, not at the moment. Neither did the ranger. He was naked as the day he was born. Gods, this couldn’t get any worse. I shouldn’t have even thought that. I had a feeling I would regret it in the very near future.
The voices drew closer….
“I’m telling you, Arvid, a dragon really did attack Helgen. I was there. I saw it with my own eyes.”
“Helgen happened over a year ago. Do you know how many people claim to have been there that weren’t, Ordis?”
“You both are full of shit. Neither of you were there,” a third male voice said.
“Yes we were!” Arvid & Ordis chorused in unison.
The voices suddenly went quiet. I peeped from under a corner of the blanket, saw the Imperial soldiers in full regalia standing together, dripping wet. The storm must have driven them to seek shelter in the cave.
I couldn’t see Bishop at all. I didn’t dare risk lifting the blanket any higher or moving any more than I already had. They hadn’t noticed me at all. & what a motley crew they were. Their armour was worn, their weapons in good condition. Two looked to be in their early twenties, the other more scarred one slightly older, his weapons & armour in better condition than the other two, but not by much. I held my breath & waited.
“State your name & business here, citizen,” the elder of the three soldiers barked harshly.
“None of your business what brings me here. What brings YOU here?” the ranger sounded surly & I didn’t blame him one bit. I was feeling a bit of the same frustration at us having been interrupted before the culmination. Still….
I heard the hiss of steel being drawn from a sheath & felt my blood run cold. I peeped out from under the blanket again, saw that one of the soldiers, one of the younger ones, had his gladius half way out.
“The Captain said state your business, citizen. I suggest you do so & quickly or we’ll arrest you & take you in.”
‘Please, Bishop, please, don’t make this any worse than it already is’ I prayed silently, feeling my belly knot with a sick dread. This wasn’t going to end well. I just knew it, like a premonition.
“On what charges? Minding my own damned business while you barge in on my camp & make demands of me? Yeah, that will stand up.” I stifled a groan, recalling a saying from my youth that your wildest pleas are never really heard & whatever could possibly go wrong, likely would.
I must not have been silent enough or maybe the daedra were fucking with us. The soldiers all turned towards me as one, hidden under my blanket. One of the younger ones stepped close, reached down & got a hold of a corner, jerking it off of me. He let out a bark of laughter & turned to grin at his comrades.
“Well, lookee here! What’s this then?” The other young soldier came over to me, the other two moving to hold Bishop at sword point. The soldier reached down, caught me by an arm & hauled me roughly to my feet to stand naked before all the rest. “This what you were hiding, eh? She looks like a juicy piece….” he reached out, grabbed a hold of one my breasts & gave it a hard squeeze, making me wince.
I heard Bishop growl low in his throat, saw him take a step towards me. The two holding their swords on him actually placed their blades against his chest & he halted. His golden eyes glittered, promising a very painful death for these three if — when — he could manage it. I stared hard at him, shaking my head just slightly in the negative. His eyes narrowed on me, his lips compressing into a thin line. I saw him tip his head just a fraction towards me.
I let my breath out slowly. At least he wasn’t going to do anything stupid, not while they had those swords on him or a hold of me.
I tugged experimentally on my arm but the soldier had a death-grip on it. “Let me go. Now.” I said to the soldier in the same tone I had used with new recruits in my priesthood, meeting his eyes squarely.
He blinked, hearing the gnashing of steel just below the surface in my voice. “Nord, Sir. Both of them. That one by the looks of him even dark as he is & this one….” He didn’t need to elaborate. My thick accent gave me away. “What should we do with em?”
The Captain scratched his cheek with his free hand, looked at Bishop & smiled. It wasn’t a pleasant smile in the least. He was the eldest of the three, the one more battle-scarred. “Unlike you two, I actually was at Helgen. I recognize the woman. The Captain there was supposed to give this Stormcloak whore to us for our use. That never happened….. then. But it can now.”
“Don’t you touch her, she’s mine!” Bishop snarled viciously, taking a step forward, golden eyes glittering lethally, teeth bared in a feral mask of rage. For a moment, I was actually afraid of him, so animalistic, deadly, did he look.
I saw the blades against his chest the two soldiers were holding dig in & rivulets of his blood start to drip down his ridged belly at the same time the soldier who had me threw me down onto the ground & fell on top of me, wrenching my legs open.
Memories of Jakob flashed through my mind as I felt the Imperials hands on my thighs, forcing them apart. I felt sickness & fear kick in the pit of my stomach. He meant to rape me, to take by force what Bishop had coaxed from me with playful, skilled seduction. I struggled, kicking at the soldier & got a hard back-hand across the face for my efforts that left my ears ringing & the taste of blood in my mouth, my nose bleeding & my bottom lip split.
“Hold still, whore. Fight me & I’ll slit your lovers throat before your eyes,” the soldier threatened me. He would too. I had no doubts that he would.
I lay still then, breathing heavily, unresisting. I didn’t dare look at Bishop; I didn’t want to see the look on his face. The soldier pushed my legs further apart, was fumbling beneath his military kilt, I felt his cock brush against my gates….
A glorious, single-minded fury enveloped me as I let out a howl that echoed round the cave & my wolf seized me. I flew into the shift so quickly that I was pushed completely back out of her consciousness. It was again like it had been that first time; I was just an observer. I could not control my dark-sister. She was in the ascendant.
I became a six foot tall mass of muscle, bone, sinew, fur, claws & fangs burning with primal strength. I let out a roar of sheer rage, swept the Imperial on top of me off with a swipe of one arm. My claws rent right through his light armour, laying open leather, chainmail, & flesh alike. His intestines spilled from his ruptured gut & fell down to the grass at his feet with a wet plop as he was still staring at me in petrified horror.
I lept onto the other one nearest me, bearing him down to the ground under my weight. I crouched over him, my lips writhed back from sharp teeth that glistened lethally in the low light. But I saw everything clearly through my wolf-eyes. I could see the paths of the veins in his body that carried his blood. I lowered my muzzle, sank my long fangs into his throat & proceeded to squeeze. The soldier gurgled, thrashing weakly as I slowly suffocated him to death. Then I ripped his throat out, opened his chest & devoured his heart.
My wolf threw back her head & howled in exultation. I went back to the eviscerated man, reached a massive clawed paw up into his chest cavity & cut his heart out. I lifted it, dripping, & devoured it as I had the other.
I turned, looking for my next quarry, my vision tinged bloody red. I spotted movement out of the corner of my eyes, swung my arm out on instinct. My claws made contact with flesh, I heard a grunt of pain & a thud as a body struck the ground. I turned towards the sound & lept with a roar, ready to rip my enemy, my prey, to shreds with maddened, jubilant glee….
& landed on top of Bishop. My claws had ripped his shoulder open, five long raw scratches curved down over his shoulder to his chest, oozing bright red blood. I lowered my snarling muzzle till I was almost snout to nose with him. I rose out of the darkness of my wolf’s mind; there was a fierce, quick struggle between us. She was caught in the throes of blood-lust, she could not tell friend from foe. All she wanted was the taste of blood in her mouth, to snap the bones, lap the marrow, to rend, to hunt, to destroy those who would harm me. I stared the beast in her eyes, unblinking. Her lips writhed back from her teeth, she snapped & growled her discontent at me. I didn’t back down. There was no way in Oblivion I was going to let her hurt Bishop any worse than she already had. I would kill us both first.
She subsided, fading back into the darkness in sullen silence. I lay over the ranger, a human woman, spattered in blood & gore & other unmentionable body fluids. He didn’t so much as move, didn’t even blink. Just lay under me, looking up at me with those unblinking citrine-flecked amber eyes. “Bishop….” I murmured low, his name a prayer, placed my head down onto the center of his chest & began to shake. The rage of my wolf had fled, leaving me weak & trembling, face to face with what I had done to the ranger.
I felt him take a deep, shuddering breath, his arms rise slowly & curl about me. I shook harder, ripped myself out of his arms & backed away hurriedly, tripping over the entrails of the man I had disemboweled, slipping in the blood that soaked into the ground in crimson pools. I fell into the mess, scrambled back on my hands & knees.“Don’t, please don’t!” I pressed back against the wall of the cave, as far away from him as I could get. My head swung around wildly, looking for an escape, a way out, somewhere, anywhere to get away from the charnelhouse this part of the cave had become. Away from Bishop & what I had done to him.
I looked back at the ranger with stricken eyes, making a low, wolfish sound of panicked distress deep in my throat. My dark-sister hadn’t completely left me then. It was that sound as well as the stench in the room that hung thick in my nostrils, the way everything was sharper to my other senses that let me know she was still there, just below the surface. I could smell Bishop’s blood, the scent of his skin, hear the frantic beating of his heart & I wanted to cry. He was afraid. The scent of his fear rose like an acrid tang from his body.
I had hurt him. I, who had sworn, PROMISED, I never would do such a thing to him had hurt him, wounded him. I bent forward at the waist on my knees, curled my arms about myself & knelt rocking as I shivered & wept. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, please forgive me,” I repeated over & over between great wracking sobs. Fear, shame, anger, & distress made my stomach twist. I could still taste the soldiers’ blood, their flesh, in my mouth. I gagged.
I felt a light touch on my back & I flung myself sideways with a wild cry of “Don’t! PLEASE!” as if he were tearing my heart out. He removed his hand, stood silent, staring down at me. I could feel his eyes on me. I just…. couldn’t bring myself to look into them. I turned my head & vomited a small puddle of thin sickly green fluid, then chunks of the flesh I had devoured in my beast form as my stomach reached deeper. I whimpered, collapsed onto my side, curled into a tight little ball & lay shaking, my arms wrapped around my head as I continued to cry.
“Kalla….” Bishop’s deep rumble. Soft, soothing, gentle.
“Don’t. Please don’t touch me. Please,” I whimpered pitifully. I heard his heavy sigh, his footsteps recede. A short time later, they drew close again. The scent of his blood was less noticeable. The sobs were easing, but tears still streamed down my cheeks as I lay huddled over onto my side. I was so tired. So very very tired. I wanted nothing more than to curl up in the ranger’s arms, have him hold me, stroke my hair, feel his warmth, smell his beloved scent. But I couldn’t. I’d hurt him, thought I had almost killed him.
& that was what was ripping me apart inside. I’d almost killed the man that I loved. & I didn’t even have the courage to tell him how I felt. What that dragon out on the tundra had done to me was nothing compared to the pain inside of me now. It went beyond mere flesh, deeper than my heart. It sank it’s blackened claws deep into my soul & was slowly shredding it apart. I choked, gagged again, turned my head into the earth & buried my face into the long grass, panting, whimpering as I fell completely apart.
“I’m sorry, Bishop. I’m sorry…. Please…. Please don’t hate me….” my voice was just barely above a whisper, still that pitiful little whimper. I wasn’t even sure he was there to hear me.
I think I lost consciousness. I’m not entirely sure. But when I became aware of my surroundings again, Bishop was seated cross-legged in front of me, wearing nothing but his leather pants. He’d covered me with another blanket we had, this one of soft close-woven wool in a deep earthy brown. He was looking down at me, with what I took must almost be patience. I heaved a deep sigh, one that sounded like a wounded animal who had given up the fight. I closed my eyes, feeling the tears start again. He wasn’t bleeding, the wound to his shoulder & chest I had inflicted in my lycan form completely healed, leaving only five long claw marks that would most definitely leave him with scars. That knowledge was bitter bile.
“Kalla….” his deep rumble drifted to me, quietly.
“P-please….” I moaned softly, turning my head away from him. I still lay curled on my side, my legs drawn up to my chest, arms curled about them & my face buried in my knees. “Don’t touch me, Bishop. Please don’t touch me.”
He didn’t listen. I didn’t have the strength or the will to fight him. He stood, reached down & plucked me from the ground as if I weighed absolutely nothing. My tears fell faster & I was starting to hiccup but I wrapped my arms about his neck & turned my face into his chest as I trembled like a leaf in a high wind. I wanted to push away from him. Guilt was a sickness in the pit of my stomach, an icy ache. I’d hurt him, I had shed his blood, I would have killed him in my lycan form had not the woman won the struggle with my wolf. I choked on a sob, sank my teeth into my bottom lip to stifle it, welcoming the pain; I deserved worse for breaking my promise to him.
He carried me to the hot spring & sat me down on the grass outside the water before carefully, patiently, cleaned all traces of blood & sickness from me. When he was finished he wrapped me in the blanket again & once more gently picked me up. He walked deeper into the cave with me cowering against his chest. Away from the bodies & the miasma of death.
It was beautiful. Truly beautiful. Trees grew in here, small pines & leafy oaks & maples. Ferns, wildflowers & long grass blanketed the ground. There was another pond in the back, with a solitary falls whose origins emerged from a break in the stone rooftop. A sense of quiet peace permeated this place. Like it was caught out of time, like time itself had ceased to exist here. I felt that peace reach out to me, as if welcoming me. I badly needed it.
I still huddled against the rangers chest, still trembling, tears still slipping silently down my face. He must have moved our camp while I was… sleeping or whatever I had been. A small fire burned inside a ring of stones, we needed no tent in here. He had lain out furs into a pile near the blaze. He went directly to our bed, lay down on his side & settled me on mine facing him. I tried to turn from him, to put more distance between us but he refused to let me go, holding me with an arm about my waist & a low growl of warning.
I didn’t fight him. I let him have his way. If he could stand to have me this close after what I had done to him, after seeing what I had done to those soldiers, I would let him. He got his other arm under me, across my shoulders, & held me closer still, tucking my head under his chin. Gently, very gently, he cupped one of my cheeks in his calloused palm, tipped my face upwards. I closed my eyes. I felt his lips brush softly over my eyelids, my brow, down over my cheeks as he kissed away my tears.
“Kalla…. Don’t cry, sweetness….” his normal harsher tones were throttled down to something that resembled tenderness.
I shuddered against him, sniffling softly. I felt raw & exposed, dreadfully vulnerable. Like I would shatter completely at a touch. “Bishop…. I…” my voice was small, thickened with the tears I had been crying.
His lips brushed lightly over mine, stopping me. He left his mouth where it was. “Don’t apologize. You have nothing to apologize for.”
“I almost killed you!” I shrieked quietly, the horror of what I had done evident in my half-hysterical voice. I pressed my forehead to his chest, my hands fisting into the blanket as I kept on shaking. I couldn’t seem to stop shaking, hard as I tried to.
“To quote you, Princess…. you can’t get rid of me that easily.” He fell silent then for a while, simply holding me against himself, lightly rubbing my back, stroking his fingers through my hair. “You really think you almost killed me, huh?”
I’d calmed a bit under his touch, but I still wanted to get away from him. & I still wanted to stay right where I was. “Had I not been able to stop her… my wolf… I would have done to you what I did to those soldiers. You would be dead now…. Or I would,” I amended, just to be fair. He was a very good fighter. Still, going up against my wolf, it would be a tough call as to who would come out of that alive. Or if we would both end up dead….
All I got at first was a soft grunt from him. Then, in that same deep, low rumble of his that resembled tenderness, he asked me “What made you shift, Princess?”
I had, with some success, explained my wolf-blood to Bishop. How the wolf was me & I was her but we were still… separate, somehow. That if I were in danger she would take over. We did not control the other, not completely. I hadn’t learned how. It was a constant struggle with her. She wanted freedom, much like I did. But hers was to roam the wilds, to hunt, to feed, to join others of her kind in the hunting. I wanted the freedom of starlight, of moonlight, to run, to rejoice in the beauty of the world around me without a care beyond necessities. To see the world again in all it’s harsh, wild beauty that I had left far far too soon, that had been taken from me in my other life. A wolf doesn’t understand the concept of cruelty for cruelties sake. They don’t kill as humans do, for no reason or just pleasure. A wolf kills when they are hungry, to defend themselves, their pack, their territory. There’s no concept of jealousy, hate, greed to the wolf. She is what she is; a beast. It is we humans who are treacherous.
But as the woman, I feared, I felt guilt over killing innocents. I had responsibilities. Obligations. This agreement between my wolf & the woman I am was tenuous at best. I wouldn’t let her kill without regard. She balked at being so restrained. Food was food, prey was prey. It was only my will holding her in check. & that had snapped the moment the soldier had fallen on top of me, slapped me & brought the ghost of Jakob rushing to the forefront of my mind with his actions.
“Memories.” I answered before I too fell silent. I was calmer, much calmer, in a state of such tiredness that I would tell him anything he wanted to know. Everything didn’t seem real any longer. It was like I was floating in a dream, back in my Lady Meridia’s realm. The blood, the attack, even the hours Bishop had spent teasing me seemed a distant memory. He had but to ask & I would tell him anything he wanted to know. & he did ask.
“Your husband….” Bishop’s arms tightened about me a moment before he sat up, leaning back against a tree stump & tugged me to sit with my back to his chest between his thighs. I let my head fall back against him, closed my eyes. All my resistance to him was gone. There was no fight left in me.
“Aye. I meant it. I’d never done anything like what we do. But Jakob…. he tried….” I exhaled softly, tugging the blanket more snugly about my body. “Do you know you’re actually the first man I’ve ever kissed too?” I heard his quiet laugh from above my head.
“So back when I stepped into the water with you at the falls was your first kiss too, huh?” A faint note of amusement in his deep voice.
I nodded gently. “Aye….” I flicked a wary glance up at his face & well… he looked smug. My lips twitched. He looked so pleased with himself. I turned my gaze to the leaping flames of the campfire & continued. “Jakob had tried, of course. Not to kiss me, I don’t mean. He is… was…” I sighed, flipped one of my hands in a small gesture dismissive irritation, “wasn’t at all what he came off as. He’d try now & then, quite often, to… ahhh….” I paused, feeling my cheeks slowly flushing with colour. I took a deep breath, grabbed a hold of my fortitude & went on. I could do this. I could. “He tried to get his cock to work. Would… would… d-do… things…. Like what the soldier did back there….”
Bishop stopped me there, wrapping his arms about me tightly & pressing his lips to the crown of my head. “That makes sense then why your wolf came to your defense. She shares memories with you so she knows about how you got all those scars. Knows what he did to you.”
“Aye. That’s it, exactly. & when she’s like that, in defense mode, frenzied, blood-drunk, she can’t tell friend from foe. I think you may have star-startled her.” My voice caught & I shuddered, feeling the tears start again, my gorge to rise. I closed my eyes, swallowing hard, beginning to shiver once more as I relived hurting the ranger in my mind.
He grunted quietly. “So it was you who put a leash on her.”
I nodded, using a corner of the blanket to wipe my cheeks as I sniffled softly. “Aye, she would have killed you had I not stopped her.”
There was silence between us then, for a little while. I leaned back against Bishop, thankful he didn’t hate me, grateful he was still here, that he wasn’t as badly injured as I had thought at first. I was starting to feel warm again, an encroaching drowsiness starting to creep up on me. I could feel his heart beating slow & steady against my shoulders, feel the tickle of the hairs on his skin against my own. I let out a long slow breath….
“I saw you, you know.” I murmured dreamily, “When she had you under her. I could smell your blood & the fear on your skin. That’s…. part of the reason I was telling you not to touch me. The scent, the fact I was the one who caused it, was making me sick inside….” I turned, getting onto my knees in front of the ranger to look at him. I took his face between my hands, my thumbs gently tracing over his cheekbones. “I would never hurt you. Ever. & the fact that I did….” I couldn’t go on just then, felt my eyes fill with tears, slipping warm down my face. I closed them with another heavy sigh, sniffling softly.
I could hear him breathing, swore I could hear his heartbeat. That’s how I knew my wolf was with me again. She rose out of the darkness, gently this time, & looked at me. ‘You love him.’ she said to me. I looked back at her. ‘I do.’ I replied to her. ‘I will not attack him again. I thought he was going to hurt you.’ My wolf & I touched noses in the darkness. ‘He won’t hurt me. & thank you.’ She left me then, alone with the ranger.
Bishop was looking at me, staring in fact. “You smelled my fear? I wasn’t scared, Princess.”
I snorted softly. “You can lie to yourself ranger. My wolfs nose smelled it on you. It’s… a sour type of smell. Like old sweat. Or lemongrass that’s started to rot. That scent was heavy on your skin… & an over-powering reek on the soldiers when I shifted.”
I saw his eyes go heavy-lidded, his features expressionless. I don’t think he was pleased with my new-found ability to tell his emotional state simply from being able to smell him.
“What do I smell like now?” He gently wiped the tears from my cheeks, slid a warm hand under my hair to curl about the nape of my neck & drew my face down towards his chest.
I buried my nose into his skin, leaning against him as I inhaled deeply, replying in a quiet, almost dazed sort of way, like I wasn’t all there. “You smell good. Like woodsmoke…. Pine…. Damp earth…. The musk every male animal has…. Sunlight…. Leather…. Old fear & old anger but those are faint. Same as with the snow. You have a hint of snow about you sometimes. It’s a cold, fresh, clean scent.”
He lay back down on the furs, drew me down to lie on top of him. I subsided with a deep sigh of contentment, rubbing my cheek against the short soft yet crisp mahogany hairs that dappled his chest as he kept a hand on the center of my back.
“I think…. I really like the way you smell, Bishop,” I murmured drowsily, my eyelids growing heavier by the second.
I heard his laughter rumble under my ear. “So you’ve said before, sweetness.”
He was quiet for a while. We both were. I was just starting to drift down into sleep when he began to speak, very very quietly.
“You’re a pain the in the ass, Kalla. You drive me insane. You got a smart mouth, a daedra of a temper….” There was a harsh sigh from the ranger, almost like he was angry with himself. “But you were right. I was afraid. Not for myself, but that those men might hurt you. & it would be my fault because I brought you here.” Another silence. Then, even quieter than he had been speaking before “I don’t understand it. I don’t. How I could need you more than I want you.”
I wasn’t sure if I had actually heard him or if it was just my over-wrought mind playing tricks on me. I was caught between the welcoming oblivion of sleep & wakefulness, exhaustion dragging at my limbs, fogging my mind. Not only that but the ranger’s voice was so soft, so quiet, that I wasn’t at all certain I was hearing him correctly or simply imagining things, I was that tired. He held me against him, I was in his arms, he didn’t hate me. That was enough. I drifted down into the darkness, Bishop’s heartbeat, his scent, filling my mind & body with peace & contentment. I slept.
The events of the last few hours played themselves out over & over in his mind. He couldn’t sleep, not after what had just happened. Guilt was a sickness, deep in the pit of his belly. He’d been so intent on Kalla, that she’d finally given in to him, that she was under him, willing, even eager to be taken. Focused solely on her, how her body felt against his, the warmth of her skin, the wet heat between her thighs, the way her breath caught in her throat, he’d let his guard slip….
& that inattention to his surroundings had cost not just him but the woman who slept atop his chest.
He ran a hand lightly over her tumble of long, pale silvery-gold curls, wanting to crush her to him instead. When he’d seen that soldier pull the blanket off of her, exposing her to the rest of them, he’d wanted to rip the mans arms off & beat him with them. Only the other soldiers holding their swords to his chest had given him pause as his mind worked furiously, trying to think of a way out of this without him or her ending up dead.
But then the soldier who’d had a hold of her had grabbed one of her breasts & she’d cringed. He’d stepped forward regardless of the weapons on him, a growl rumbling in his chest as his vision went dangerously dim. He’d felt the bite of steel into his flesh, hadn’t cared. Only Kalla’s warning, pleading look had halted him in his tracks.
That woman… had the courage of a sabrecat. She’d looked at the man that had a hold of her, had gone pure warrior on him & told him to release her. He’d been so proud of her yet at the same time, he knew that her words would do no good.
He hated that he’d been right.
What happened next made his blood run cold. One of the soldiers said he recognized her from Helgen. & made his intent clear; they were going to rape her, right there before his eyes. The soldier holding her had thrown her to the ground, fallen on top of her…. He’d lost it the moment the soldier had back-handed her when she fought back against him.
He’d come completely undone when he saw her blood stream down her face from her nose. With a vicious snarl of warning that the woman was his, he’d grabbed the one soldier closest to him & had shoved him back, ripped the sword from the startled Imperials hand & beat his head in with his bare fists, fully expecting the other soldier to stab him in the back. He’d been consumed with a deep, burning rage & the need to protect her at any cost.
Then he’d heard that unearthly roar from behind him, had turned to find Kalla, no longer a woman but transformed into her full lycan form, tearing the other two soldiers to shreds. He’d seen the beast turn, looking for the other soldier, the one he had killed. He’d stood, moved off the body & before he knew it, he’d found himself bleeding & in pain from a blow that lycan-Kalla had delivered. The beast was strong, far stronger than he had anticipated; it had knocked him to the ground flat on his back, forcing the air from his lungs in a grunt of surprise. Before he could react, lycan-Kalla was crouching over him, long fangs bared from her writhed-back muzzle….
Even looking death in the face, he’d marveled at the wild beauty of the creature atop him; it’s eyes, one bright piercing blue, the other a vibrant green, the power coiled in its body, the thick almost white fur….
‘Whatever happened to you, Bishop, whoever lied to you in your past, whoever hurt you, betrayed you…. I’m not them. I have no reason to lie, hurt or betray you. None.’ Her words to him, her promise made so many long months ago, rang in his ears. He waited, looking into the beasts dual-colored eyes, unwilling to attack her even in this form, to save his own life….
& in the space between heartbeats, Kalla was there, the human woman, laying prone against him, the lycan, her wolf, shoved back into the darkness. “Bishop…” she’d murmured his name so softly, so sweetly, before she placed her head down onto his chest & began to shake. She’d shook so hard he’d felt fear for her twist his guts. He’d reached up to hold her & she’d burst from his arms so quickly with a cry of “Don’t, please don’t!” that it had left him laying there, wondering what the fuck had just happened. The pain & fear he heard in her voice wrenched his heart.
More so was the panic on her strained, delicate features as she looked around the cave, scrambling back from him on her hands & knees after she had slipped & fallen in a pool of blood & entrails. Like she was trying to find a way out, that wolfish sound of panic & animal distress she’d made, the look in her black eyes, like she hated herself. Then she’d curled over onto herself on her knees, wrapped her arms about her head & began to weep like her heart was being broken.
Sure, the wound to his shoulder & chest hurt but it wasn’t anything he couldn’t deal with. He’d had worse. He’d risen, gone to her as she lay curled on her side, still sobbing. He’d tried touching her but she had jerked away from him with another cry of “Don’t! PLEASE!”, like his touch only wounded her deeper.
He’d drawn back, confused as to what was making her act like this but not wanting to cause her further upset. He’d gone then to their packs, found a healing draught & had taken a bit, washed the blood from his chest in the hot spring. He’d returned to Kalla after, finding her still laying curled into a tight little ball on her side with her eyes closed, tears streaming down her face. He’d found one of the other blankets in their packs, covered her with it, sat down across her….
He’d heard her breathing slow, grow deep & even as she drifted into an uneasy doze. & still, he continued to watch her. His hands had shook, wanting to run them over her body if only to make sure she was really all right, to lift her into his arms so he could hold her. But with how she had reacted to him just touching her back, he didn’t dare lay a finger on her right now. Instead he’d gotten up to move their camp further back into the cave. When he’d done that he came back to check on her. She was still resting, curled on her side like an injured caterpillar, her curls wrapped about her like a cocoon. He’d sat down across from her again to wait for her to wake on her own.
She came to an hour or so later, turned her head & looked at him with those strange black eyes of hers. He couldn’t even begin to understand or describe the expression in them; bleak, empty, like she’d given up or lost something infinitely precious to her. She’d heaved a deep sigh that had tugged at his heart, turned her face away from him, her tears starting to fall once more as she began trembling again.
‘To hells with it,’ he’d thought, had spoken her name. She only shivered harder. He’d risen then, lifted her up into his arms & took her to the spring to bathe the blood, dirt & filth from her. She hadn’t even protested, hadn’t said one word to try & stop him, hadn’t tried to fight him in any way. She’d simply sat there, like a pale statue made of ice & marble, as he washed her clean. He’d wrapped her in the blanket again, lifted her up into his arms once more & took her deeper into the cave, away from the grisly scene of death.
She’d struggled a bit, trying to get away from him when he’d lain down with her but he wouldn’t let her move away. He needed her nearness, the warmth of her body & the solid weight of her against him. He didn’t want to admit it, even to himself, but her presence just now gave him comfort. Made him feel more relieved than he cared to think about. & he wanted to return that to her. He just wasn’t sure how to go about it.
She kept apologizing to him, over & over. Why she felt the need, he could only guess at. Maybe she felt just as guilty as he did, was regretting letting him travel with her at all. But that wasn’t the case. Not at all.
After some coaxing, the truth came out. She cared about him, felt horrible for wounding him, thought she had truly almost killed him.
The notion would have made him laugh if he didn’t want to wring her neck…. or cry himself. She was tearing herself up inside because she had said she would never harm him & she had. Even inadvertently, in the heat of battle, she’d hurt him & it was that that was making her fall to pieces.
So he’d held her, given her the bulwark of his body, kissed her face softly, dried her tears & did his best to reassure her that he was fine, that she hadn’t done him any serious physical damage. How she could feel that way about him, he couldn’t begin to comprehend.
So he’d gotten her talking again, hoping that would help her somehow. Asked her what had made her shift.
What she’d told him had made his blood boil. Jakob. That asshole husband of hers. If he wasn’t dead already, Bishop would have gladly hunted the man down & given him such a slow, painful death that he wouldn’t be able to escape the agony of it even in whatever realm of Oblivion he ended up in.
He’d been surprised when she’d said she could smell fear on him & his own pride kept him from admitting that she was right. He HAD been afraid. He’d been scared out of his bloody mind that she’d be killed or that the soldiers really would manage to violate her. & then terrified when she had… snapped & fallen apart at the seams in front of him & he didn’t know how to help her.
He hated feeling so helpless. So he’d done the only thing he could think of.
He’d tugged her face down to his chest, asked her what he smelled like, recalling from one of their encounters that she said she had liked his scent on her. It had been a thin thread he grasped at, to try to calm her. But it had worked. She’d buried her nose against his skin, had leaned into him & seemed to surrender her whole being into his hands.
He’d lain down, pulled Kalla down on top of him & urged her to get some rest. She’d fallen asleep almost instantly, completely worn out. So now he lay here, thinking while he watched her, her breath fanning soft & warm over his bare chest as he idly stroked her back.
He shook his head, speaking quietly to her sleeping ears “You’re a pain in the ass, Kalla. You drive me insane. You got a smart mouth, a daedra of a temper….” he’d sighed harshly, dragging a hand roughly over his face & shoving his fingers into his hair “But you were right. I was afraid. Not for myself, but that those men might hurt you. & it would be my fault because I brought you here.” He’d fallen silent after that, looking down at her, so pale, small, delicate seeming.
Then, even quieter than before, “I don’t understand it. I don’t. How I could need you more than I want you.”
& that was just it. What had started out as wanting her, had become a driving need to be with her, to protect her regardless of the cost to himself. & that…. scared him more than anything in his life ever had before.
Bishop woke with a start, surprised he had fallen asleep. Kalla still lay bonelessly limp against him, snuggled down on his chest. She looked so fragile, soft, innocent, with her darker lashes brushing her cheeks, her pale skin, that riotous tumble of silvery-gold curls that fell down over her face. She murmured softly in her sleep, turning her face into his chest & stretching against him briefly before she settled back down to sleep.
As carefully as he could, he moved her off of him. She didn’t wake, just made a soft sound, more wolf than woman, & continued to sleep. He made sure she was covered & warm then set about packing up their camp.
An hour later, he had Sleipnir saddled, their packs & saddle-bags full of their gear on the big black horse. Kalla, when he went to get her, was curled onto her side, rolled into the blanket & still fast asleep. He’d lifted her up easily & carried her outside to where the horse waited. She didn’t rouse any until the cool air of early morning in the tundra washed over them both. She’d snorted, mumbled sleepily, wrapped her arms about his shoulders & pressed her face into his neck.
She was so small, so light, it was easy to swing up into the saddle, even with her in his arms. He’d positioned her so both her legs were across Sleipnir’s back & she was sitting side-saddle in front of him. He wrapped one arm about her to hold her steady & held the reins in his other hand. He clicked his tongue to his horse & they started back towards Whiterun at an easy walk in deference to the sleeping woman in his arms.
As they plodded along, Bishop thought back on the first time he had seen this pale-haired waif he held close. It was in Riverwood. The tavern wench leaning on the railing had tripped her — he still thought on purpose — & Kalla had fallen headlong right into his arms. The sensation of her lithe little form colliding full length with his body had made him snap & snarl at her. Then she had glanced up & he’d caught his first look at those intriguing black eyes of hers. Only they weren’t just black; they were flecked through with a rainbow of colors, the pupil resembling the white heart of a flame. He’d never seen eyes so dark on someone so pale or eyes like that before at all.
Disconcerted, he’d said something rude. She had looked like she wanted to smack the shit out of him. He’d grinned; she’d huffed at him then walked inside. When she came back out, he just couldn’t resist antagonizing her again, if only to see her cheeks flush with colour. She was so easily baited but instead of ignoring him or being offended, she’d tossed his sarcasm right back at him.
The girl had spirit & wasn’t easily intimidated. He liked that.
Bishop had lingered in Riverwood. If he was honest with himself, he had stuck around that small, boring village in the hopes he’d see her again. He hadn’t been disappointed. She’d shown back up again after a week or so of disappearing. & after a brief back & forth, with a friendly archery contest inbetween, he’d found himself issuing her his own challenge; to come along with him to get his wolf back. Not that he needed her help. But in the hopes she would be an easy conquest. It was the only thing he could think of, why she had been on his mind so often. Scratch that itch & he’d be able to move on.
Yeah. That hadn’t happened. She was proving to be a harder conquest than he had anticipated. She’d run from him at the beginning. He’d felt like he was taming a wild horse, or maybe a hawk. One wrong move & she was bolting from him, out of range of his touch. But he was nothing if not patient, nothing if not tenacious. When he saw something he wanted, he invariably got it. He was, afterall, a hunter at heart. & Kalla was his chosen prey.
Even he had to admit they fought well together. They did decently enough, doing odd jobs in the small villages that dotted Eastmarch, the Rift, the Pale, down around Whiterun. He would have been happy just living off the bounty of the forests but Kalla didn’t seem to be able to say no to anyone who asked for her help. The callous disregard for her safety of the people she helped had started to wear thin on him. She kept taking greater & greater risks, almost like she was daring something to take her down.
She fought like a Nord berserker ten times her size. He’d seen the exultant gleam in her black eyes, the way her cheeks flushed with colour, how she laughed & joked in the thick of it. How she stared death in the face without flinching. The woman was not right in the head. He was convinced of that. Maybe she’d been hit in that hard head of hers one too many times or perhaps it was just sheer lunacy on her part. He didn’t know, hadn’t much cared to find out.
All he’d wanted was to have her under him, over him, then in front of him on her knees as he sated his lust on her body.
But as the days turned to weeks, the more she talked to him & got him talking, he’d felt like he was making a friend. The first he could recall having in a very long, long time. He’d decided then that she wasn’t that bad to have around. She was quick with a retort, smart, sassy, easy-going & she put up with his barbs. She didn’t try to change him, she accepted him for who & what he was. Hells, she was even a good cook!
Even if she still avoided him touching her more than she thought strictly necessary. Which was a lot less than he wanted.
He began to notice she’d leave camp in the middle of the night. At first, he’d been mildly curious but had easily dismissed it. When it became a repeat occurrence over a few more weeks, he’d found his curiosity growing stronger.
What was she up to?
He’d waited at their camp, had pretended to be sleeping, hoping that she would again go out. He hadn’t long to wait. She’d been fidgeting about, checking & rechecking her weapons, casting glances his way over the campfire. When Masser had been rising in the sky & Secunda just a haze on the horizon, she’d looked long at him in his bedroll as he lay still, keeping his breathing slow & even. She’d risen, stopped to whisper something to Karnwyr & had slipped into the trees.
Waiting until the count of sixty after Kalla had left, he’d risen & followed her. She was carrying nothing but that huge Nordic greatsword she favoured on her back as she took off into the forest at a dead run. He knew there was a spring near their camp with a small falls; if anything, when she came back, she would go there. So he had waited, hidden in the shadows behind some bushes.
Within a couple of hours, he had seen Kalla come to that spring. She was red-faced, sweating, but there was a calmness to her that he hadn’t witnessed before. She seemed peaceful. She hadn’t noticed him at all, even when she looked right towards him. He hadn’t wanted her to see him. He was too curious what she was up to.
She’d removed her sword from its sheath, left it on the banks of the spring, stripped her armour from her body. He’d watched her every move as she undressed, revealing more & more of her form to his eager eyes. & what a body she had. Lithe, slender, with lush curves in all the right places.
Narrow waist flaring out into gently rounded hips, long legs for someone her size, firm breasts, neither too large nor too small, that jutted upwards just slightly at the peaks. He hadn’t known she had such a figure under all that armour she wore. His groin had jerked when she’d stepped into the water, letting it pour down over her from the falls.
She’d begun to sing quietly as she bathed, completely unaware of his presence still. She’d looked beautiful, the water shimmering on her skin, her long pale hair slicked back from her face, her features serene, the light of the moons rippling over her body. A maiden made of starlight.
With every move she made, he’d felt the urge to be closer to her growing steadily stronger. To touch her, run his hands over her, the way the water was cascading down over her limbs. He’d stepped out into a shaft of moonlight, not hiding his presence from her any longer.
She’d heard him, as he’d known she would. She had lept for her sword, had it raised, ready to defend herself. Then he’d seen her recognize him & she’d lowered her blade. She stood, naked, watching him without so much as blinking. The hunter in him couldn’t resist; he’d asked her what she was doing out here, alone. Her surprise had been evident, she’d been flustered but then had gotten a hold of herself & given him the obvious answer; bathing after going for a run.
He’d sensed that there was a change in her. Exactly what that change was, he couldn’t quite put his finger on. She seemed… freer. More at peace with herself, like she had made a very difficult decision. She hadn’t run from him, even when he drew closer. Not like she had before. The shy, skittish woman of weeks past was gone, banished by the silvered, black-eyed temptress that now stood before him.
He couldn’t have resisted her then even had he wanted to. He’d stepped into the water with her with a low growl, drawn towards her like a moth to the flame. & all the while, she had watched him with those large, black eyes of hers. He’d gotten so close to her that he could smell the chillness of the night in her wet hair, the water overlaying her own natural scent of clean skin & woman.
He expected her to bolt, as she always had before, the moment his hand had touched her shoulder, slid his fingers around the cool nape of her neck under her drenched curls. But she hadn’t run. She had faced him, stood with her head tipped far back to meet his eyes. She was so much smaller than he was & that in & of itself was now something that he found he liked.
He’d issued his challenge to her & Kalla had met him on equal footing, rising to it with an almost wild exultation. The hunter in him had thrilled at that, sensing she wasn’t going to be easy prey. In fact, she had declared herself the hunter now, had stated, in no uncertain terms, she was no longer afraid of the big bad wolf in such a tone of voice that his groin had hardened & jerked again in response to it.
He’d buried both his hands into her hair then, lowered his head & pressed his mouth to her ear, said she was either brave or foolish. She’d asked him what he thought, if she were brave or foolish. That had yet to be seen. & he couldn’t wait to find out.
He’d moved closer, slipped his arms about her & pulled her hard against him. She’d dropped her sword right there into the water. His resolve had broken & he’d claimed her lips, kissing her blind. She’d reciprocated, with ecstatic abandon.
That first fiery kiss had been the beginning of the end for him. He knew that now. He was going to claim this woman, tame her, conquer her. She’d be his & his alone. His prize. No one & nothing was going to stand in his way.
Kalla was stubborn, hot-blooded, passionate, confident yet not cocky, & knew how to handle herself in a fight. She flung herself head-long into the games they played in their bedroll with the same fearlessness & enthusiasm she showed in battle. Slowly, so slowly he hadn’t even been aware of it, she’d begun digging herself deeper into his life, into a heart he had thought he’d barricaded so well no one & nothing could ever reach it.
But the more time he spent around her, the more things they did together, in & out of their bedroll, he found himself thinking of her more & more, worrying about her when she left him behind. Hells, even when they went up against draugr or dragons or one of the other dozens of things that pale-haired pain in his ass insisted on fighting, he found himself taking more & more risks so she wouldn’t have to.
For a man who had spent pretty much the whole of his adult life & then some fighting to survive on his own, worrying about his own hide & no one else’s…. this was quite out of character for him. He’d stupidly put his trust into someone before, someone who by all rights should have had his back no matter what. Hells, if you couldn’t trust your own family to stand by you, who could you trust?
No one, that was who. No one but yourself.
Here is yet another example of his own insanity.
They were up near Winterhold, walking along the coast with him leading their horses. It was a cold, crisp day, the sky was bright blue without a cloud in sight. He was just enjoying the peace & tranquility of being out in nature, out from inside oppressing walls.
“Bishop…” Kalla’s soft voice had called to him. He’d looked over his shoulder at her, caught sight of her pale cheeks flushed a brighter red than the wind-chill accounted for & had swung around to face her. She looked like hells. Her dark eyes were glassy, sweat gleamed on her forehead.
He’d wanted to strangle her then & there. She was sick & hadn’t bothered to tell him. Had possibly hidden that fact from him, not wanting him to think her weak.
& all that did was piss him off. He’d growled, she’d shown him that sharp tongue of hers. He’d given her no choice in the matter, had thrown her up onto her horse, gotten into the saddle behind her & set off for Winterhold. If he didn’t get her to an alchemist or a healer soon, who knew what would happen to her. He wasn’t willing to take the chance.
All he could recall was the urge to beat Kalla senseless for being so stubborn. Then the worry when she fell asleep & he couldn’t wake her. She’d been burning with fever, hallucinating. The heat had risen from her skin like an oven. He watched her lips go dry & start to crack, peel & bleed. She’d stopped sweating altogether & he knew that for a serious danger sign.
He’d gone to the College, had bribed his way in to find a healer, anyone skilled in that type of magic. Luckily for him — & for Kalla — that had been a woman named Colette. He hadn’t had to threaten her, only told her the Dragonborn needed her. & that had been enough of an incentive to get her to come to the Inn to check on Kalla. She’d taken one look at the wounds from the dragon attack three days prior in the Pale & had given him a list of ingredients he would need to get for a potion she could concoct that would help to heal them properly & cure Kalla of her fever.
He’d gone to the alchemist in town, gotten most of what he needed. Then had gone back to the College to see if he could find the rest. He was still missing one ingredient when he ran across a band of Khajiit that were on the road that led to Windhelm from Winterhold. They’d had the last ingredient he had needed. He’d probably paid more than twice what it was worth then had ridden hells for leather back towards Winterhold.
Colette was sitting on the bed where Kalla lay, a hand on the waif’s brow as she worked her healing spell in the other. He’d given the mage the ingredients she had asked for & she immediately set to work preparing the potion.
Kalla hadn’t woken, even when he’d shaken her sharply. He’d had to resort to threats, to forcing the foul-smelling concoction into her, making her drink it. He was just worried she wouldn’t keep it down.
But she had. & by the next morning, she was waking. He’d spent a sleepless night sitting by the fire in their room. He couldn’t bring himself to sleep. He didn’t want to wake up & find her dead next to him. He believed if he could just stay awake long enough, she’d make it.
& that stubborn, hot-headed, pain in his ass had. She had scared him out of his mind with worry for her. & what does she do? Turn that sharp tongue of hers on him. Again. He’d been so pissed at her he couldn’t see straight. She had no idea of the seven types of hells she had put him through, didn’t appear to care.
He’d given in to his baser nature, had grabbed her by the shoulders & shaken her so hard he was sure he’d made her teeth rattle in that hard head of hers. She had sunk her nails into his arms drawing blood & he’d snarled, shoving her back onto the bed & falling on her, kissing her in an attempt to alleviate some of the torment she’d put him through for all those long hours.
He’d touched her everywhere he could reach, had felt her hands on him, grabbing at him. He’d bitten her shoulder hard enough he tasted blood & she had bucked beneath him, raking her nails over his shoulders, grabbing a hold of his hair & yanking his mouth to hers to kiss him blind.
He’d wanted her then as badly as he’d ever wanted any other woman before in his entire life. He’d spread her legs roughly, not caring if he left bruises on her pale skin, slid down between them…. She’d tasted like lemongrass, sweet & tangy on his tongue. She had writhed against the sheets as he’d devoured her. He drank from her body, feeling a pure male satisfaction at her cries of pleasure that rang in his ears.
When he had her quivering, he’d risen above her, & what she had told him immediately dashed his desire to smithereens. Kalla was a virgin. & here he was, pawing at her like she was just another tavern wench or common whore. Rented room or not, he wasn’t going to fuck her here for her first time. Especially not after she’d been so sick. He might be a bastard but he wasn’t an asshole.
Not for the first time since meeting Kalla, she had surprised the hells out of him. She’d gone to her knees on the floor, taken him between her small hands, had stroked him until he’d growled & his body had spasmed in release.
He hadn’t asked her to do that, she hadn’t even offered. She had just done it, without a thought for her own pleasure. Just his.
Something indefinable had burst in his chest when he’d seen her looking at his seed on her fingers & she had licked them. She’d caught him watching her & had blushed, smiling that shy, sweet smile up at him & another brick had fallen from the wall that guarded his heart. He’d grabbed her, hauled her into his arms & had simply held her tightly.
No one had ever done anything like that for him & not asked or expected something in return. In that moment, Kalla was the most important thing to him in his world.
Then had come that fateful day when they had been riding down one of the main roads & he’d found himself asking Kalla about herself. Another thing that was typically out of character for him. In her usual fashion, she hadn’t made getting the information out of her easy. But eventually he had.
& what she had told him…. he hadn’t wanted to believe. He’d actually felt anger on her behalf, that her husband had been the one to give her those scars that marred her body, front & back. He’d actually felt like a bit of heel, thinking of her as a prize, a trophy to be won, a notch on his belt. He was no better than that husband of hers, to think of her that way.
She’d slipped then, mentioning her village that had been attacked & destroyed, near the temple of Meridia. Anger had flashed through him like wildfire. He thought she’d been lying to him the entire time, trying to gain his pity so he would feel bad for her & protect her.
He could tell from the expression on her face she had wanted to take those words back as soon as they were out of her mouth. He’d grabbed the headstall of her horse, forcing her to a stop. & next he knew….
She was no longer on the back of her mount but standing behind him in the middle of the road, looking up at him.
He’d never met a sorcerer, mage or witch who could do what she had just done. He still couldn’t quite believe what she was telling him. She was an Ancient Nord, a Ningheim, brought back by her daedric goddess for some task or another.
She was no coward, he’d give her that. He’d dismounted his own horse, coming to stand in front of her. & before he knew what she was planning, she’d had his own dagger in her hand, pressed the tip of the blade to her chest over her heart, telling him if he didn’t believe her, he could kill her & she wouldn’t stop him.
He’d tested her resolve. She hadn’t even flinched as he took his dagger back from her, grabbed the back of her neck, hauled her close & pressed the edge of the sharp blade to her throat. He’d even drawn her blood & she had continued to stay as she was, her hands at her sides, unresisting. She didn’t fight back. Just as had said she wouldn’t.
The last time he had trusted someone, his own flesh & blood, they had betrayed him. He couldn’t shake those memories, no matter how hard he tried.
Yet here he was, with his dagger held to her throat, ready to open her arteries up & she just stood there, would let him kill her if he decided to, decided that she was lying to him. But not once in the weeks they had been traveling together had she lied to him. Falsehood wasn’t part of Kalla’s nature.
“Whatever happened to you, Bishop, whoever lied to you in your past, whoever hurt you, betrayed you…. I’m not them. I have no reason to lie, hurt or betray you. None,” she had said to him & he had seen the sincerity in her dark eyes.
Wordlessly, he had closed his eyes & given her his trust. It had been one of the hardest things in his life he had ever done. He’d given her one warning….
If she was lying to him, he’d put a permanent end to her. She’d told him she expected no less of him, that all liars deserved to die.
Bishop looked down at Kalla as they rode slowly back towards Whiterun. She was still asleep, her head tucked under his chin as she leaned heavily against his chest. Tendrils of her pale silvery-gold hair blew across her face, giving her a certain air of innocence. He continued to think back on everything they had gone through together. He couldn’t stop thinking, any more than he could stop breathing.
He let his mind drift again….
They’d continued on towards Whiterun, he’d put distance between them as he tried to come to terms with what she had told him she was & his own growing feelings towards her. An Ancient Nord from a time long past, a virgin Priestess for the daedric goddess Meridia. How could that be any harder to believe than the fact she was the Dragonborn, a living legend?
Yet it was. Still, he gave her the benefit of the doubt, had made the conscious decision to trust her, to put his faith in her. She knew the consequences, had accepted them without hesitation. Had made a promise to him & Kalla didn’t go back on her promises.
The tension between them had grown to a breaking point. & that point was finally reached at the Inn in the City. First had been the encounter with the bar-flea. He hadn’t been in the mood to deal with some horny idiot female pawing all over him, trying to jump on his cock. & Kalla…. wasn’t in the mood to put up with anyone’s shit. One wrong word & the little spit-fire was going to go for someone’s throat.
Neeshka had said the wrong word. Kalla had gone for the womans’ throat; literally. Even larger than her, stronger, holding that pain in the ass hellion back had been a hassle for him. She’d hissed & spit at him like a sabrecat, had sunk her nails into his arm & drawn blood, kicked him in the shins as he lifted her off her feet to keep the bar-flea out of her range. She’d even bitten his hand he’d clapped over her mouth to keep that tongue of hers from making matters worse, drawing blood on him yet again.
He’d been sorely tempted to do as he’d threatened & take her over his knee & tan her backside. Only recalling that she’d told him her husband had beat her had prevented him from doing just that.
They’d argued, had come to blows. They’d both said things neither of them meant. Neeshka hadn’t left well enough alone. He’d told the bar-flea flat out to fuck off, several times, had finally told her that she was no competition for the woman in the baths.
That admission had startled him as much as it had pissed off the persistent bitch-in-heat of a woman that had to be dumber than a box of rocks. But at least she had gotten the clue & fucked off. Only after he told her he’d slit her throat if she didn’t.
He hadn’t known Kalla could hear him speaking to Neeshka. He’d heard her call to him, not in the harsh way she had spoken to him before, but softly, gently. She’d extended her hand to him, invited him into the bath with her. He’d wanted to refuse her but honestly, he was tired of the distance. He’d climbed in with her. & later, had asked her to his bed. She had refused sex with him. But they had done other just as pleasurable things.
Kalla suddenly sat straight up in front of him, making him stop the horse.
“Let me down….” She didn’t sound right; her voice hoarse, almost choked.
Bishop slid from the saddle & lifted her down. She rushed for the bushes at the side of the road, disappeared behind one. He heard the sound of her retching as soon as she was out of sight. He dropped the reins immediately & went after her.
He found her kneeling in the wet grass, bent over, her cheeks flushed, sweating. There were dark hallows beneath her eyes, the flesh pinched & tight around her wide, full lips. She looked thoroughly miserable.
“Kalla…” he took a step forward & she whipped her head around to look at him, her hands held up before her, palms outwards.
“Don’t….” her black eyes flashed red, letting him know that her wolf was present. He halted, watching her. Seeing he wasn’t going to come any closer, she rose unsteadily to her feet, staggering back to lean against a tree. She tugged the brown blanket more closely about her body, tipped her head back & swallowed thickly as she breathed heavily through her nose, almost panting.
Bishop continued to watch her, truly concerned. She needed a warm bed, dry clothes & some place she could rest quietly in peace. He was really worried about how she looked right now. She looked about as bad as she had back in Winterhold.
A few minutes later, she pushed herself away from the tree & walked towards him. She stopped, a foot away, gazing up at him. The expression on her face was one he’d never seen before; she looked ready to break down in tears again or rip his head off.
“I’m sorry,” was all she said before she walked right up to him & lay her head against his chest, wrapped her arms about his waist & held onto him for dear life.
He picked her up, cradling her against him as he went back to Sleipnir. As before, he swung up into the saddle & positioned Kalla in front of him sitting side-saddle. It was still a mile or so back to Whiterun.
He kicked his horse in the ribs to get it moving as she leaned weakly against him. He kept on thinking as they rode….
Bishop wasn’t a happy camper. Kalla, that pale-haired spit-fire irritation to his hind quarters, had gotten it into her head to join the Companion’s. Why on Nirn she wanted to join that rag-tag lot of mongrel dogs was anyone’s best guess. How anyone so small could be such a huge irritant, he couldn’t figure out but she definitely managed to push his buttons.
You try dissuading a Nord woman from doing something she sets her mind to. It’s not as easy as it sounds. & Kalla…. was about as stubborn as they came. He’d have more luck moving a ten ton boulder up an icy mountainside in a torrential downpour.
There were times, often, where he questioned her sanity, her survival instincts & her sense of self-preservation. Or lack thereof.
It had been barely over a week since she had been so ill she could have died & here she was, out in the training yard behind Jorrvaskr with one of the mutt’s who was going to test her mettle to see if she was worthy to join their crew. He’d warned her that the man was a trained warrior, a killer; he knew the type, could spot them a mile away. She had merely smiled at him, patted his cheek & gone right ahead anyway.
He could have almost laughed at the way she was toying with the Companion, leading him about the yard, making him chase her. The woman was quick, fast as a striking snake, darting in & out of the larger Nords guard as she wielded that Nordic greatsword that was bigger than she was, both one-handed & with both hands, like it weighed as much as a feather.
The first time he’d seen her draw that huge sword back at the bandit cave where Karnwyr was being held, he’d half expected her to drop it but then she had swung it around her body & had jumped head-first right in the fight. He’d actually been just the slightest bit impressed.
The Companion she was going up against had underestimated her from the start. The ranger actually did laugh when she’d ducked under the warrior’s arm, got behind him & cracked her opponent across the backside then taunted him, making him lose his temper. That had been a very clever move on her part; make your adversary angry & they lost their edge.
When the man caught her with his shield & sent her rolling across the stone flags, Bishop had seen red but this was her fight. She had to do it her way & if she got that thick skull of hers knocked in, well… he only hoped it rattled some sense into her.
But she hadn’t… gotten her skull knocked in, that is. She’d lured the man close, swept his legs out from under him when he was near enough, was on her feet before he could recover & had her sword leveled at his throat. The ranger’d heard the whole gaggle of warriors that had gathered to watch the spectacle go utterly silent; like a pack ready to defend one of their own. He’d been prepared to fight them all if he had to to get her out of there alive. Then the Companion Kalla had beaten had laughed & the tension had lifted immediately.
She’d done it, she’d bested the mutt & cleanly too. No under-handed tricks, no cheating, no backstabbing. Her eyes had met his, he had nodded approval to her & she’d gifted him with one of those rare, radiant smiles of hers that made his heart pound & want to drag her off alone someplace.
Over the next few weeks, she had brought him with on some of her tasks for the Companion’s, retrieving this or that piece of junk someone absolutely couldn’t live without. Killing animals that were wreaking havoc in someone’s house or a Jarls Hold. Other times, she had to leave him behind because it was just a job she had to do on her own to further prove herself to this bunch of mead-swilling, over-inflated gang of cutthroats.
When she was gone, Bishop found himself following after her anyway, keeping himself hidden from her while still able to keep an eye on that pale-haired lunatic who seemed to have a death wish.
Then had come Skyborn Altar. She’d been sent there by one of the mutt brothers, Farkas or Vilkas, he didn’t care enough to keep them straight. Apparently the Jarl’s of both the Pale & Morthal weren’t keen on having a dragon so close to their Holds.
So what does that waifish maniac with more balls than brains do? She agrees to go & take care of the dragon problem. He noticed none of the other Companion’s offered to go with their Shield-Sister to back her up. Nope, they were going to stay right where they were, in front of their warm fire, drinking mead, getting drunk, & feasting.
None except Farkas. Or Vilkas. Whichever one it had been. The guy was nothing but brawn with no brains, as far as Bishop was concerned. He got in the way more than he helped. & why? Because he wanted to kill a dragon for himself, nevermind that Kalla accepted the job more to protect people rather than the fat purse it would give them. Tho the coin was a big bonus, so far as he was concerned.
She’d had a hard time fighting the dragon, he could tell that from the get-go. Her face had been ashen, her hair slicked back from her temples with sweat, a fine sheen over her brow, neck & chest & it had had nothing to do with the battle. But she had fought doggedly, drawing the attention of the winged fiend with Shouts, darting & dancing about it, making it chase her. Even when that dumb brute of a Nord had been knocked down by a tail swing, she’d flashed herself between him & the beast to keep the Companion from being killed, swinging that huge sword of hers with a wild battle-cry that had rung from the mountaintops.
Bishop had slung his bow & drawn his dagger, coming up beside her to help her when what he really wanted to do was let the man end up as dragon bait. But Kalla was determined to defend her Shield-Brother & Bishop was determined not to let her get killed because of some fools idiocy.
They’d taken the dragon down, her leaping onto its head to drive her weapon down through the back of its neck, him to thrust his dagger between its eyes. It had fallen at his feet & she had slid from its back, walking unsteadily towards him. She’d held her sword in one hand, pressed her head into his chest & wrapped her other arm about his waist, breathing heavily.
She looked like she was going puke. He could feel her shaking as he’d wrapped his arms about her & just held her as those rainbow lights spun about them. She had let out a long, slow breath when the lights had stopped then she had released him & walked over to the wall, her features strained & tight. She’d placed her hand to the stone & had immediately dropped to her knees. Bishop had gone to her, wondering what the fuck that was all about, had seen her nose was bleeding again. It hadn’t been before; he assumed it had something to do with the wall.
She’d staggered to her feet then, went to the edge of the wall &, you guessed it, threw up. She’d turned, leaned against the stone & slid down to sit on the ground, placing her sword across her drawn-up knees. He’d crouched down by her, running a hand over her curls, brushing them back from her face. She hadn’t even twitched, just grabbed his hand & held on like he was a life-line.
Farkas or Vilkas, whoever the hells he was, hadn’t bothered to come over to see if she was all right or not, was just walking around the bones of the dragon…. like he was looking for one to chew on. Bishop had snorted, reached down, caught Kalla up in his arms & carried her to their horses. She hadn’t even protested, just lay against him with her eyes closed, looking ill.
He’d thought about putting her up on her horse but one look at her face had convinced him she’d probably fall off. So he’d swung up onto Sleipnir’s back with her in his arms, positioned her in front of him & taken Gypsum’s lead rein. She hadn’t so much as twitched, hadn’t mouthed off or said something harsh to him. Just leaned against him, looking like she was about ready to puke again.
Oh & it gets better. A few more errands where he gets left behind because it’s only something she as a whelp can do. That old fart, not the Harbinger, the other one that was always sniffing around the skinny redhead, leaves a message for Kalla, saying he wants to see her about something or other. Likely to send her after someones rocking horse in a cave full of vampires or something. But no, it was her testing, to become a full Companion.
& she had to go alone…. with one of the mutt brothers. Two days, two days she left him alone at the Inn while she went & risked her damned fool hide for some fragment of a weapon that meant absolutely nothing to anyone but this bunch of mercenaries. When she & the mutt had returned, he’d noticed they were really friendly & Bishop had felt a surge of possessiveness sweep over him. Like Oblivion he was going to let someone else get their hands on Kalla. She was his. End of story. Anyone who wanted to argue could argue with his fist… or end up with his dagger in their throat.
She’d looked about the same when she returned from Dustman’s as when they came back from Skyborn Altar. But she’d attended the feast thrown for her in her honour at finally becoming a full member of the Companion’s. He’d stayed about the perimeter of the gathering, drinking their mead; it was Black-Briar Reserve, something you could normally only get in Riften. The mutt, Farkas, had been sitting next to her, raising toast after toast to his new Sister. Kalla looked like the only place she wanted to be was away from here. Not that he could blame her.
She’d caught his eye, nodded towards the doors; she had an escape plan. He’d nodded back, moved around towards where she’d indicated even as she was rising from her seat & finishing a cup of ale. That old bald Companion had stopped Kalla at the door. Bishop hadn’t heard what all was said, only that he’d asked Kalla to come to the Underforge later that night & to come alone. Yeah, that was going to happen. He might not be allowed to go in with her but there was nothing saying he couldn’t stick around outside it.
She might trust this sorry lot of strays but that didn’t mean he had to. & he didn’t. Mercenaries were mercenaries, sell-swords were sell-swords. Call them what you want, you paid their price, they killed who & what you wanted, no questions asked. The Companion’s only put a pretty name on what they did with bullshit words like honour & brotherhood.
He’d gone out the doors after her, had seen her standing in the moonlight out in the training yard, her arms wrapped about herself. He could sense her restlessness; she wanted out of these City walls as much as he did. He slipped up behind her, wrapped his arms about her little body & drew her back to lean against him. She’d subsided against him with a quiet exhalation, letting him support her slight weight. Other than that, she hadn’t spoken, just stood there with him, looking longingly up at the night sky.
He’d wanted to ask her to leave with him then, get out from behind these walls. But he knew she wouldn’t, not right now. Case of implacable force meets immovable object anyone?
Kalla might be stubborn but at least she wasn’t completely unreasonable. About most things. Except crawling into bed with him to do things other than sleep or the games they played. Then she just flatly refused him. Dammit.
He pulled his mind away from those thoughts, asked her instead if something was wrong, if Farkas had done or said anything to her to upset her. She’d said that mutt hadn’t. No, it was another one of those strange walls, just like at Skyborn.
He didn’t see what the big deal was. She was the Dragonborn, they had something to do with that whole prophecy, right? Not that he knew for certain. But he had noticed that people were now starting to hail her as the Dragonborn in some places & that it made her unhappy & distinctly uncomfortable. She’d rubbed her hands over her face, told him to forget she had said anything about it altogether.
He’d wanted to ask her why she fought so hard against being the Dragonborn but he had an idea why; like him, she valued her freedom. She didn’t want to be forced into something. & she didn’t think of herself as a hero let alone a living legend. Before he could say anything tho, that redheaded woman in the old Nordic armour with the woad on her face & that old scarred man, Skjor he thought he was called, had appeared.
Skjor had given him a warning look that had made Bishop grin in response, showing a hint of his canines, but he’d let Kalla go. It was either let her go or have her tell him she was leaving. Again.
But she promised to come back as soon as she could & she always had before. Why should now be any different?
He’d wanted to follow after her, every instinct he had wanted him to. He’d paced close to the entrance to the Underforge, back to the training yard. Back & forth, back & forth for almost an hour.
He’d growled his frustration, silently cursing her for her stubbornness for the millionth time. He was just about to see if he could force his way into the Underforge when he’d heard stone grating & an animal whine. He’d dismissed it at first, thinking maybe it was one of the dogs the Companion’s kept or maybe Karnwyr. But his wolf was out on the tundra & he could see the dogs huddled together in a furry pile under the patio.
He’d turned then & had stopped dead in his tracks. A werewolf. Small, as werewolves went, probably a bit smaller than he himself was. & almost white, ghostly pale in the light of the moons. The creature had looked at him, it’s eyes, one a glowing bright blue, the other a glowing vivid green, had met his. It had taken a step towards him, then another & another. He’d drawn his bow, nocked an arrow & raised it, aimed at the beast.
It had stopped, it’s triangular ears dropping down to the sides, lowering its great head with another soft whine. He’d seen a scar on the beasts face that curved down its cheek towards its muzzle, in the same place Kalla had a scar from her husband. It had lifted a huge paw towards him, the leathery pads upwards. He knew that gesture, had seen Kalla make it towards him on more than one occasion. He’d lowered his weapon & stared. The rumours even he had heard were true then. The Companion’s were werewolves….
& they had made Kalla one too.
Voices, behind him. Bishop had turned, ready to fight to keep them from attacking lycan-Kalla but they had faded & when he turned back, all he had seen was a blur of moonlight fur vaulting over the low wall….
He’d tracked her for two days as she ran through the forests & the mountains, sometimes as a small white wolf, sometimes as a larger wolf that she later referred to as her dire form & sometimes in her full lycan form. She was fast, powerful, wild. She’d taken out a den of bandits she’d either stumbled upon or had hunted down. She’d ripped through them like a hot knife through butter, devoured their hearts as their bodies lay cooling.
She’d come back down out of the mountains, heading towards the border of the Rift with him still tracking her. They were in a small glade a few miles from Dark Water Crossing when she’d suddenly turned human. Her eyes were black again, she was butt-arse naked, curly hair a wild tangle down her back. She’d stood a moment, looking about her like she wasn’t really seeing anything then had slowly crumpled to the ground in a heap.
He’d gone to her immediately, rolled her over onto her back & lifted her up. She was out cold but otherwise seemed unharmed; he could see her pulse beating away in the hallow of her throat. Shaking his head at how much trouble this pale-haired pain in the ass was to him, he’d picked her up, whistling for Sleipnir. When the horse had appeared, he’d taken a blanket from the saddle, wrapped her in it then swung onto his mounts back with Kalla seated before him & headed deeper into the woods & further away from the road.
He’d piled furs first, laid Kalla down on them, covered her with another blanket & built a campfire. She didn’t so much as twitch as he finished setting up camp & sat down to wait for her to wake up. When she had, she’d sat straight up, looking alarmed. He waited. She looked right at him then, across the campfire. He couldn’t help but give her shit; call it a moral imperative.
Then she’d touched her neck, realized her precious amulet wasn’t there & had come as close to actually panicking as he’d ever seen her come. What was so special about that damned necklace of hers, he didn’t know. But he’d grabbed it along with her armour & weapons before leaving Whiterun to track her in her beast form. Lucky for her.
Seeing the anxiety evident on her pale face, he’d gotten up from his seat across the fire & gone to her, taking her shoulders in his hands in an attempt to calm her. He pulled the necklace from a pouch at his belt & put it back around her neck. The smile he’d received from that simple gesture had made his stomach flip & his heart pound. Sweet, soft, almost innocent. He got his hands off of her before he took advantage of her. It would have been too easy then.
Then she’d leaned into him, got a hold of his shirt & tugged him closer as she buried her face into his chest, nuzzling him like Karnwyr did from time to time. He’d wanted to laugh but her actions were honestly too cute. He’d picked her up since she didn’t seem like she was going to let go of him any time soon, sat down & settled her on his lap. As an experiment, he’d rubbed her behind the ears, was rewarded when her eyes went to slits & she let out a wolfish sounding grunt of pleasure; her leg even twitched. He’d laughed then, truly amused at her response & she had turned red as a ripe tomato, peeking at him through her curls like the flirt she was. Not that she knew she was. But he had to admit, it had been really rather adorable.
He’d gotten her talking after she asked for something to drink, asked her if she knew what had happened to her. She’d told him what she remembered, which wasn’t much. He’d told her she was a werewolf, that he’d been tracking her for two days. She didn’t seem surprised at that revelation, only that she’d been in her beast form for that long. Then she’d asked him if he meant to kill her.
She honestly thought he would; he’d felt her body tense up, like she was ready to make a run for it. He wouldn’t kill her, he couldn’t. & had told her so, in his own roundabout way. She’d asked if she’d hurt anyone while in her beast form & he had hesitated at saying anything about the bandits but then had opted for the truth. As he’d figured, she’d wasn’t all that disturbed at having killed bandits but seemed a bit taken aback that she had eaten their hearts.
She’d gone quiet then, her eyes going heavy lidded as she seemed to look inside of herself or wasn’t really there with him for a few minutes. Then that soft, sweet smile had curved her full lips again, the one that she rarely showed to anyone, even him. He’d felt his stomach flip when he saw it, told her she should smile like that more often.
She’d blinked at the sound of his voice & he’d seen her open her eyes again to glance up at him. She appeared to be thinking about saying something else but hadn’t. He’d brushed her hair back from her face, let his fingers trail down over her cheek, her neck, stopping at the hallow of her throat where her pulse beat sure & strong. She’d smiled at him again, but this smile…. was different. After raising a brow at her, knowing there was something on that mind of hers, she’d shocked the hells out of him.
She was actually initiating something…. something of a more physical nature too. Like he was going to turn that down? HA! Hells no!
She’d asked him to blindfold her &, curious what she had planned, he had. He didn’t regret his decision one bit. Not. One. Tiny. Bit. Kalla had launched herself at him with a soft growl, kissed him hard until he was sure not only her mouth would be bruised but likely his as well. She’d stripped him of his clothing as he stood, watching her with amusement & growing desire. She had run her hands over his body, from head to toe, front & back, her mouth sometimes replacing them, making small sounds of pleasure, almost like a cats purring.
He let her have her way, for once. Let her go at her own pace, explore his body as she wanted. It had been a wonderful surprise, a great idea. Normally she was very shy about touching him or even looking at him naked. Blindfolded, her inhibitions went out the window. She’d wriggled over him, laying across his body as she touched his skin, made him stand again as she knelt in front of him. He only expected her to stroke his hardness until he lost himself but instead, what she’d done next had blown his mind.
She began to lick his arousal, starting at the base & going all the way to the tip. She hadn’t been sure she was doing it right, even told him so. He’d guided her, given her instruction & just like with any battle, she had jumped headlong right into it without any fear or trepidation. The girl was a natural, a quick learner & eager to please. Before long, she had set an easy rhythm that had his toes curling. Literally.
He’d warned he when he was about to cum, had pulled her mouth away from him when she didn’t stop. She’d growled at him in protest & actually smacked one of his thighs, saying she wanted to taste him. He blinked in surprise but didn’t argue; if she wanted to, he wasn’t going to stop her.
He’d let her go back to what she had been doing, had buried his big hands into those riotous curls of hers as she brought him to the edge & took him over. She made that purring sound again, gripping his thighs hard with her small hands as she took his cock deep into the wet heat of her mouth when he spilled his seed. Once he’d finished & his body stopped shaking, she’d wrapped her arms about his hips & clung while he tried to catch his breath.
He still couldn’t believe what she had just done. & she didn’t ask for anything in return, just seemed very pleased with herself & content she had given him release. He’d wanted to reciprocate but she had shaken her head in the negative with another of those rare sweet smiles of hers, taking his hand & giving a tug. He’d lain down & pulled her down next to him, removed the blindfold from her, covered them both with a blanket. He hadn’t slept in… he wasn’t sure at the moment. He still couldn’t recall how long with any certainty.
He fell asleep with Kalla laying close against his side, humming softly as she ran one small hand gently up & down his chest.
Bishop pulled the horse to a stop about half a mile from Whiterun, looking down at Kalla huddled against him. She’d fallen asleep again, her head resting against his shoulder. She didn’t look at all good. Still hallow-eyed, tear tracks staining her cheeks, her face paler than normal, lines of strain around her wide, full lips, the corners tucked down in a frown.
He dropped the reins about Sleipnir’s neck, used his knees to guide the horse over to the side of the road as he tugged the blanket more snugly about the woman in his arms. Everyone had a breaking point; he knew that. What he didn’t know was HERS.
He knew that her hurting him, even accidentally, was a serious impediment for her. It’s what had made her lose it, back in the cave. But had the attack by the soldiers done her any real damage? Bishop knew that mental scars lingered longer & caused more pain than physical ones. Hells, he was a walking testament to that.
‘Love doesn’t exist, boy.’ His father’s harsh words rang in his head. ‘Women think it does. But it doesn’t. They only want to trap a man, tie him down, make him take care of her. That’s why they tell you they love you. Fuck em & leave em. It’s all they’re good for.’
He’d followed that philosophy all his life. Until this waifish, smart-mouthed, spit-fire, pale-haired pain in his ass had walked into it almost a year ago. He wasn’t sure why he cared about her but he did. He knew he wanted to keep her. Make her his. He found he didn’t like the idea of another man bedding her, of another mans hands on her, kissing her. Didn’t like the thought of anyone else fighting alongside her.
There on the roadside, he came to the realization that Kalla was more than just a conquest now. What she was exactly, other than the bane of his existence, he hadn’t figured out yet. But no one & nothing was going to take this woman from him. Ever.
Making up his mind to it, he picked up the horses reins, nudged him back towards the road & started heading towards Whiterun again.
He rented a room at the Inn, garnering a few strange looks as he carried Kalla inside along with their packs & saddlebags. He dropped the bags at the door to their room before laying her gently down on the bed. She was still out cold, only murmured sleepily as he set her down. He left the room long enough to shut the outer door to the bathing area & lock it so noone would disturb them. He went back to their sleeping space, leaning against the door-jamb to watch her.
She looked so small, even on that narrow cot of a bed, curled onto her side. Vulnerable, tender. Yet he knew better. She had a bite that was worse than her bark. But tender… she could be. Loving. Sweet, even. Loyal. He rubbed his hands over his face, started stripping off his armour. He’d wash quickly in the stone tub, hopefully be done before she woke up.
He was scrubbing his hair when he heard Kalla scream. It had him out of the water & into the room with her so fast he hadn’t bothered grabbing a towel to cover himself with. She was sitting up on the bed, huddled into a corner of it with her legs drawn up to her chest, her arms wrapped about them & her head pressed to her knees. She was shaking & whimpering, breathing heavily in ragged gasps.
“Kalla…” he called her name, moving to sit on the edge of the bed with her. He hesitated, reached a hand out to her but stopped before he touched her.
She looked up then, her black eyes wide, tears falling down her face again. Before he could blink, she was in his lap, her arms wrapped tightly about his neck, her legs locked around his waist, face pressed to his shoulder, murmuring “You’re alive, you’re alive” over & over.
He tugged gently at her arms, saying with a chuckle “I won’t be if you squeeze much tighter, Princess.” She loosened her hold enough for him to sit her back from him. He brushed her hair back from her cheeks, took her face between his hands. She placed her own hands against his before she slid them down until she gripped his wrists, looking up at him with those teary, huge, strange black eyes of hers.
Then she looked around & started in surprise when she realized where they were. Her gaze had flickered back to him, her confusion evident.
“You were passed out, sweetness. I thought this was as good a place as any to take you.”
She didn’t say anything, just sat forward with a long exhalation, letting her head fall to his chest. He wrapped his arms around her, held her quietly. She sat up a few minutes later, nose twitching. She made a face at him. “You smell like flowers.”
He shrugged. “I used one of the bars by the tub.”
She slid from the bed, went digging into their packs until she came up with the cloth bag containing the bathing supplies he usually used when they were on the road. She handed it to him, retrieved her own bag. She tipped her head towards the open door in invitation. “Come on, ranger. I’ll scrub your back for you.” Her smile trembled a bit at the edges but at least she was making the effort.
Bishop smiled back at her, rose from the bed. Kalla’s eyes widened when she realized he was naked. She averted her gaze quickly before it dropped lower than his waist, face turning bright red, letting her hair swing forward to hide her embarrassment.
He chuckled, stepped close to her, placed a finger under her chin to lift her head so he could kiss her softly. “As my lady commands.”
He wasn’t in a good mood as he followed Kalla up the steps from the Plains Distrct. She should still be in bed resting. But what was that pale-haired lunatic doing? Insisting on checking in with the Companion’s, telling him that Skjor & Aela had a task for her to do tonight & she was going with them. She’d promised.
He wanted to wring her little neck for her obstinacy. Oh & the icing on the sweetroll? He couldn’t go with her. This was another of those “Companion’s Only” quests, adventures, missions. Whatever the fuck you wanted to call it.
Right near the Gildergreen she finally noticed his silence, stopped & turned around to face him. “Stop being so sullen, ranger. I’ll be back in a day or two. Not that long at all.”
Two hours away from her was too long, in his opinion, especially when she was going out to harangue the countryside with that band of mangy cutthroat dogs. But like he was going to tell her that. “Yeah, whatever you say, ladyship.”
She swiped at her hair, having left it unbound. The curls blew in the breeze, across her face. “Why are you so upset, Bishop? It’s not like I haven’t done things like this before….”
He hadn’t wanted to do it this way but she was giving him little choice about it. He clenched his teeth so hard the muscles in his jaw ached. Before he could change his mind he pulled his wolf’s head ring off his finger, held it out to her in his palm. “Take it. I want you to have it. Women like little trinkets like this. Just…. do me a favour…. If any jealous women come along, asking for it, Shout them to pieces for me, all right?” He could have kicked himself; smooth, real smooth, ranger. That sounded lame, even to his ears.
She stood staring at the ring, not even blinking, her face completely blank.
Bishop felt the knife twist in his gut. She didn’t want it. He clenched his fist around his ring, turned on his heel & started heading back towards the stairs that led to the market.
Next he knew, Kalla was in front of him, her hands planted into his chest to keep him from going any further. He looked down at her, keeping his expression carefully neutral so she didn’t see that her rejection of his gift had actually hurt him.
They stood staring at each other for a few long moments, not speaking. Then she was smiling up at him, one of her rare, sweet smiles, holding her hand out to him. Now it was his turn to blink in surprise.
He dropped it into her waiting palm before he lost his nerve completely. It would be much too big for her but they could figure that out later. She closed her fingers tightly about his ring, her cheeks slowly flushing rosy pink.
“What does this mean, Bishop?” Her light voice was soft, almost breathless.
He stepped in close to her, slid the fingers of both hands into her hair, tipped her face back so he could look her directly in the eyes & she wouldn’t have any doubts with the words he spoke next in a low rumble. “It means you’re mine, Kalla. Mine, & mine alone.”
She actually shivered, closing her eyes & swallowing hard as the blush on her cheeks deepened. Then she opened them, looked up at him again & swayed on her feet. His arms went around her, he lifted her clear off her feet & kissed her. Her lips parted beneath his & she was kissing him in return, her arms wrapping about his neck.
She pulled back, locked gazes with him, placed a hand to his cheek. “I’m yours, Bishop. Yours & yours alone,” she told him softly, sincerely, her black eyes gone misty.
He growled low, kissed her again, slowly, possessively, before he set her back on her feet. They stood staring at each other, letting the world & everyone in it pass them by.
“I love you.”