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Hunter's Creed by TheChronciler

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Hunter's Creed by TheChronciler 2017-05-26T14:15:15+00:00

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    #23894 |

    (Just the announcement this time)

    Well it’s official, I couldn’t wait any longer so here it is! I’ve finally posted the first chapter of my SR fanfiction “Hunter’s Creed.” Once the mod releases officially tomorrow, I’ll be working on making screenshots to go with a special version of this story here on the site. But for the most part, the chapter updates after this will be posted on Fanfiction.net first then here once I have the screenshots for the special version. I hope you guys enjoy it! Link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/12504550/1/Hunter-s-Creed

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    Noir: “There’s an unspoken creed we follow as Hunters. One, never kill more than you have to to survive. Two, make use of everything. Leave nothing to waste. And three, treat all living things with respect or they’ll turn against you just as easily as any beast in the wild. Neither of them care if you’re a good person or a bad one. But at least when nature kills you it’s not personal…”

     
    Chapter 1: The Color Of Darkness

     
    17th of Last Seed 4E201

    An enormous black dragon flew right over my campsite today. Yes, a creature right out of legend. It let out a deafening roar to announce its presence to the world, a roar more thunderous than sky-shattering rumble above us, then vanished into the storm clouds. I don’t know where it’s going, but wherever it is it can’t be good. I need to warn someone of the danger right away. I just hope they’ll be willing to listen to me.

    Honestly if it hadn’t flown directly overhead or felt the surge of wind from it beating its large leathery wings that nearly knocked me over and put out my fire like the weak flame of a mere candle, I never would have believed my eyes!  I wouldn’t blame them for not taking me seriously. I doubt I would either if I heard it from someone…like me. Still, where in Oblivion did it come from? I thought the dragons were long since dead. So, either their total extinction in Tamriel was highly exaggerated, or there is something else much bigger going on here in Skyrim then just the civil war…

    It wasn’t long after the dragon disappeared that I noticed the dark plumage of smoke rising from the small village of Helgen in the direction where it had just flown from. There’s no doubt in my mind that this black dragon I saw was the one responsible for the devastation I saw once I made it back up there. Everything was scorched almost beyond recognition.  Scarcely a single building was left standing and there was no sign of life anywhere.

    All I’ve found amidst the debris so far are the bodies of countless innocents, their lifeless forms still warm only because of the dragon-fire that had burned them alive. The rancid smell of their burnt flesh made me scrunch up my nose because of how overwhelming the stench was. Sometimes my acute sense of smell is more of a curse than a blessing since it’s much greater than a human’s. But despite my discomfort, I’ll continue my search through each of the ruined buildings for any survivors at first light. It’s getting dark, and the smoke is making it hard to see even with my night vision. Surely some of the villagers escaped the dragon’s onslaught, right? Until I learn otherwise, I’ll hold out hope that someone is still alive in there.

    ~

    18th of Last Seed 4E201

    While still searching the town for survivors of the attack I eventually discovered a journal belonging to some adventurer that was mistaken for a Stormcloak rebel. Apparently a very stupid one that idiotically spent his last moments recording the dragon attack in his journal before being killed by a falling beam in the building where he’d been hiding. He must have flung the journal out of harm’s way just in the nick of time instead of saving himself. I feel sorry for him, but at least he’s given me a vital clue that could lead to possible survivors!

     After following the adventurer’s last entry about where he last saw his fellow prisoners run off to, I ended up rescuing a man named Ralof from a cave nearby. I recognized him from the brief moment our eyes met when the guards at Helgen turned me away at the gates-as most do-and a cart full of prisoners was lead inside. That’s about the only interaction the two of us shared and since there was nothing else to do I was forced to camp out for the night as usual. I assumed I’d never see the man again. So, color me surprised that Ralof turned out to be one of the few who survived when he was originally brought there to be beheaded.

    ~

    19th of Last Seed 4E201

    While tending to his wounds back at my campsite Ralof told me everything that happened after I left Helgen in his own words. About the dragon attack, about Ulfric Stormcloak being one of the other captives, and about their escape amidst the chaos. It sounds like only a few others survived that he knows of, but more importantly, someone still needs to warn the Jarl of this region about the dragon attack. That’s something we both agree on but for now he needs to rest, if only for one night to recover his strength.

    ~

    20th of Last Seed 4E201

    Once Ralof seemed well enough to travel we made our way to Riverwood. I was actually there once a few days ago to purchase supplies at the traders. The only reason I managed to even do that was because I helped the shopkeeper get his golden claw back from a place called Bleakfalls Burrow. Lucan was so thrilled to have it back that he even gave me a discount along with the gold he paid me as a reward for my services.

    Too bad he wouldn’t buy this strange stone tablet off me too. Still, maybe I’m better off holding onto it for now since it might have something to do with what happened to me near that wall covered in strange inscriptions. After that, maybe I was hoping for too much because just like what happened to me in Helgen too, I was turned away from the inn that night. Such is life I suppose.

    Thanks to Ralof’s company though I’ve received a much warmer welcome this time around, surprisingly. Turns out Ralof is the mill owner’s brother and she is well respected around Riverwood. At least by the local residence. Bishop however, the ranger I just met today, I’m not sure if he respects ANYONE.

    ~

    Just then there was a knock at her door and Noir abruptly closed her journal and tucked it away under her pillow in a single fluent movement. It wasn’t as though she was ashamed of anything she’d written in it. But, it also wasn’t anyone’s business either. Least of all Bishop’s…

    And that’s exactly who was on the other side of the door. Noir could smell him. There was a distinct scent of dust on his boots from the many roads he’d traveled, the familiar musk of cured leather, and the faint but refreshing fragrance of pine trees that clung to him. Not to mention the more recent addition of the scent of mead on his breath when he sauntered into the room.

    Noir was used to smelling a similar aroma on bandits and hunters who traveled frequently through the wilderness, minus the pine trees. Although Bishop at least claimed to be a Ranger, which she assumed was a slight mixture of both. As in Bishop wasn’t always necessarily ‘law abiding.’ Then again, neither was she but at least Noir only stole as a last resort. And even then, it was normally only food.

    “Feeling lonely Ladyship?” he asked with a coy smile.

    Noir blushed slightly but then replied, “Uh no. Besides, isn’t it a bit late to be drinking? I thought you wanted to get an early start tomorrow.”

    Scoffing at her words Bishop closed the door behind him and sat in the nearest chair, nursing what was left of the mead in his mug as he peered up at her from the rim of it. But she wasn’t fooled, Noir knew he was staring at her for the umpteenth time. It was like Bishop was sizing her up, trying to convince himself that Noir really was who she claimed to be and she was serious about helping him track down his wolf, Karnwyr. 

    His crisp amber eyes were surveying Noir again in a similar manner to the way they had when they first met.  It happened right after she returned to Riverwood again to give Gerdur and Ralof the news that the Jarl was sending troops to protect Riverwood from another dragon attack. Because as it turned out, that black dragon was just one of many that were returning, and that stone tablet she found not only had to do with the dragons, but Noir did too because she was also something out of Nordic legend. The Dragonborn. A mortal born with the soul of a dragon with the power to use Shouts, just like Ulfric Stormcloak but without training.

    Needless to say, it was no wonder Noir had a lot on her mind after the events of the past few days. Besides, Noir was also looking so forward to taking advantage of sleeping at the inn again that she blatantly ignored the two drunks on the opposite side of the road across from the inn. Noticing this, Bishop decided to point that out to her from his lofty perch near the front doors and they struck up a conversation. That’s how things took yet another unexpected turn and Noir landed her very first traveling companion.

    To be honest she wasn’t sure how things would work out with him in the end but if nothing else, Noir understood better than most what it was like living without a friend in the world, trusting no one. So, if traveling together would help him be reunited with his other furry companion, then that’s what mattered to Noir. Even more than any chance of a reward or a favor in return someday. That’s more than a lot of people could say when offering to help someone these days.

    Completely draining the mug at long last, Bishop grinned and sighing in contentment. “Now that hit the spot!”

    “If you’re not going to answer me then go back to your room,” Noir replied in a half-joking half-serious tone.

    “Patience is a virtue. One that you clearly haven’t mastered yet. That, or learned the simple fact that it’s never too late to drink,” he laughed, rolling his shoulders and lacing his fingers together behind the back of his head. Then Bishop raised an eyebrow at Noir and continued. “So, remind me again why you of all people decided to drop whatever it was you were doing to help me. I mean you’re the Dragonborn, right? I’ve been mulling it over since you offered to help me rescue Karnwyr from those pit fighters, but for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure out why. That is, unless you only offered to help in exchange for my ‘services.’ In which case, all you had to do is ask instead of going through all this trouble.”

    Noir rolled her eyes at his subtle wordplay but then cracked a small smile and cleverly hid it by faking a sneeze. “Oh sorry, excuse me. I’m allergic to stupidity.”

    “Very funny.” Bishop frowned, unamused.

    Taking his question seriously now Noir sighed and cast her eyes down at her hands, searching for the right words. “I won’t lie, there is another reason I decided to help you but let’s be honest Bishop, there’s no point in telling you what it is if you end up deciding not to stick around after we save your wolf now is there? I need to be sure that I can depend on you first. I’ve heard good things about you from the villagers here in Riverwood so I’m not too worried. At the same time though, despite the implications you just made, you’re right about one thing. I’m not about to invest a lot of time and effort into traveling with someone who may end up leaving at the first sign of trouble. And by that, I mean the trouble I’m bound to get into from now on, not trouble from traveling with you. I am serious about helping you find your wolf but, there’s still a lot I need to figure out on my own about this whole Dragonborn business with the Greybeards too. Does that make any-”

    Seeing his head starting to bob slightly when she looked up because of his late-night drinking and Bishop was nodding off, Noir shook her head and stood up, walking over to him. But when Noir was about to suggest for him to go back to his room again Bishop shook himself, stretched his arms and legs, and stood up without a word. Then Bishop walked out and closed the door behind him again after saying in passing that he’d see her in the morning as more of an afternote…

    Noir blinked slowly, unsure of what this action signified. Did Bishop get the answer he was looking for and left because of that? Or had something Noir said upset him? Either way at least Noir had the room to herself again and could resume reading the last few entries of her journal in peace to review everything that’d happened so far since the destruction of Helgen and discovering her new status as the Dragonborn. Although the room felt noticeably lonelier in the ranger’s absence…or maybe that was his ulterior motive all along? The sly fox.

    Well whatever his intentions were for making this late-night visit, it was a surprisingly nice feeling to have someone to talk to for once that didn’t seem to mind that she was a Khajiit like most people. Even if he WAS still a bit infuriating at times. That, and Bishop didn’t mince words just because she was the Dragonborn either. Granted Noir was still getting used to the idea herself…

    She appreciated his brutal honesty in a way truth be told, because unlike other people who were like that, Bishop wasn’t mean about it. At least, not the distasteful I’m-looking-down-on-you kind. Part of that was because up until now the only constant companion that Noir kept close to her were her journals, much like how Bishop had his wolf. But in a way, that only made their current relationship starting from now on even more sad. The fact that neither of them felt like they could get close to others, let alone trust each other that quickly.

    While there might only be a handful of people that Noir trusted here in Skyrim, as opposed to Bishop only trusting his wolf, there were even fewer who knew of her unhappy past. At least he had someone there to listen to him, even if it was only a wolf. As for Noir, the only one who was there for her to confide in while traveling alone the wilderness, were the empty pages of a journal. Just like back ‘then.’

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    There we go, took a few tries but I managed to fix the chapter heading. 🙂

    Profile photo of NoirNoir
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    (Note: I decided to go ahead and add some screenshots after all but only a few. Also, probably going to start uploading some of the loose screenshots onto my Deviantart because they’re still pretty good.)

    Chapter 2: A Road Well-Traveled

    “Morning sunshine,” Noir smiled as Bishop came to join her for breakfast, his hair even more ruffled than usual. “Sleep well?”

    He grunted in reply and simply sat down beside her, ordering his meal.

    Glancing at the Ranger at the corner of her eye, Noir blurted out, “Hey Bishop, about last night-”

    “Don’t worry about it. Believe it or not I was impressed by your foresight to keep that information to yourself until we find out whether working together is gonna work out. Frankly I feel the same way about you. Trust no one but yourself darling, that’s the key to survival in this damned world,” Bishop replied with an underlying bitterness in his voice that either stemmed from his hangover-induced headache or personal disdain for the world.

    “Calm down Ranger boy, you need to learn to lighten up,” Noir said in reply, reaching over and patting his head gently a few times before he could pull away from her. “I just think it’s better to be safe than sorry that’s all. Assume nothing, expect anything as I always say. I believe you can live a longer happier life by hoping for the best but always being prepared for the worse. I understand what you’re saying Bishop, still, it’s no fun to be so edgy all the time. As you said, life is too short so enjoy the moment!”

    Noir assumed Bishop’s silence was a result of him eating this time so she decided to dig into her meal too, ordering some extra food supplies for the road while she was at it. Including the last freshly baked sweet roll which Noir happily stuffed in her mouth as she was packing everything up in her bag. This childish behavior of course earned her a few odd looks but Noir was used to that so she paid them no mind. Bishop even stifled a snicker behind her when he saw it too, obviously forgetting that her hearing was far superior to his…

    Like most Khajiit Noir had a nearly insatiable sweet tooth. So, as a result Noir was always eating sweets like this whenever she got the chance to, even if it wasn’t exactly a practical food choice. She had a few favorites treats of course. One of them was snowberries since they are plentiful and grow in nearly every environment here in Skyrim.

    Eating just those had saved her life a few times when other eatable plants and hunting game was scarce. Sometimes Noir had to stop herself from picking berries from every bush she passed out of habit of doing so to survive. She would certainly have to avoid this habit around Bishop in case he decided to tease her about it.

    ~

    Once they were well out of town, Noir turned on heel and asked Bishop, “Alright, from here where did the bandit’s trail lead off to?”

    “Their trail goes south-east of here then somewhere through the mountain pass near the border,” Bishop replied briskly, his eyes on the road and ears to their surroundings. “I got caught in a blizzard while tracking them just past Helgen and was forced to make my way back to Riverwood resupply and rethink my strategy, which as you can imagine was hard to do with Drunk and Drunker making such a racket. How you managed to ignore them with those ears of yours I’ll never know.”

    Noir shrugged and snickered. “Well when you find out you’re a cat with the soul of a dragon it raises a lot of questions. A human I could understand, even an Argonian, but me? The god’s must really have a sense of humor to-”

    “Ugh! Who cares what race you are?” Bishop grumbled, “If you have enough skill as a hunter to track down these bandits when even I couldn’t that’s good enough for me. I could care less whether you really have the power to kick a dragon’s scaly ass or not right now. Which reminds me, do we have to see those damned Greybeards? If you ask me going up there is a waste of time.”

    “It’s on the way and besides, we already planned to resupply in Ivarstead once we make it through the pass,” Noir replied, checking the map one more time her tail twitching at the tip as a sign of her slight annoyance with his attitude. “Helgen is gone now and it won’t be long before bandits start pillaging whatever’s left in there that wasn’t burned to a crisp so camping there seems like a bad idea. Which means we must go further down the road if we don’t want to camp out for the night. If you don’t want to go up the mountain with me that badly then once we make it to Ivarstead you can either wait for me in town or we can decide on a good place to rendezvous afterwards and you can try tracking the bandits further on your own. But I have to see this thing through with the Greybeards,” rolling up the map and putting it away, she sighed and looked at him meaningfully. “They’re the only ones that can help me understand why I can suddenly use this ancient Nordic power out of the blue. I can use magic but to be granted such an extraordinary gift like this must mean something. I’ve defeated one dragon, but more are coming. We need to know why. If it was just about me I wouldn’t drag you along. But this concerns everyone. The dragon threat is very real so if there’s anything I can do to help stop them then I want to!”

    “Well I still say you’re an idiot,” Bishop grinned. “I told you, good girls like you will always get into trouble thinking like that.”

    “Bishop!” Noir snapped, folding her ears back.

    Noting the harsh edge to her voice, his smile vanished. “What? Did I strike a nerve?”

    “Shh! I hear something, be quiet for a minute,” she replied in a dangerously low voice, both her ears perking up and alternating directions to pinpoint the source of the disturbance.

    Bishop was about to complain he couldn’t hear anything when a twig snapped and his body tensed, recognizing the potential threat now. Readying himself for a fight Bishop reached for his bow, ducking behind the nearest bush along with Noir then drew an arrow from his quiver.  After notching the arrow, he stole a glance over at Noir, whose stature was also coiled like a steel trap ready to snap.

    The Ranger couldn’t help but marvel at how quickly Noir reacted and how her entire demeanor changed in an instant. At first Bishop did in fact take her for a clueless but pretty goody-two-shoes when he saw her roaming around Riverwood playing nice with the villagers but seeing her like this, Noir finally looked the part of a skilled hunter. Not to mention kinda sexy. He was almost completely transfixed by the way Noir expertly inched her way forward. Slinking around the bush once he seemed ready to watch her back, Noir’s lithe body was crouched down as low as she could possibly go, her long leather boots gliding surprisingly softly and silently along the ground.

    Her each and every movement reminiscent to the light footing of a saber cat on the prowl. And to be honest Bishop had never seen a Khajiit in action like this before-especially not this close up-since those who turned to banditry were hardly known for making much use of their stealth. They preferred to overwhelm travelers with sheer force, or numbers if they became part of a gang, without showing much skill or finesse in a fight. Maybe those who became thieves or assassins did but since he disliked staying in the city much in general Bishop had met more bandits then common pickpockets or things like that.

    It was interesting to notice the small things, like how Noir held her slender tail erect and that helped her keep balance with ease, even while bending so low to the ground to avoid being seen in the tall grass. Bishop could tell right away now that Noir was making good use of her natural bestial instincts as their foe finally came into view. She was giving off the same vibe as a skilled predator, poised to kill if necessary. Although it wasn’t until their quarry finally appeared that they knew what they were up against.

    It was a common brown bear from the looks of it, clumsily turning its head this way and that wondering where they’d gone off to after spotting a possible threat or perhaps a meal following the road. The bear could still smell them even though they were just barely upwind of it. If the wind changed now, then it would know just how close they were…

    What is that girl planning? Bishop wondered, barely able to make out Noir’s dark fur and heavily-patched leather armor amidst the grass and other undergrowth.

    ~

    Noir meanwhile simply watched the bear for a while, studying its movements and body language. Even for a brown bear it seemed thin, so either it hadn’t eaten in a while or was still just a young cub. If it was the latter then the mother couldn’t be far behind so they’d have to deal with that too. Still, Noir wanted to avoid a fight with it if they could. After a while, the bear started to get irritable and growled at no one in particular, perhaps hoping to scare them out of hiding so it could kill and eat one or both of them.

    You’re better off moving on to your next potential meal, trust me we’re more than a match for you, Noir thought, fairly sure she knew its intentions now for coming over to this area.

    Just then, Noir felt a rush of wind behind her as a gust of cold air carried her scent in the bear’s direction! Its nose flared at once and the bear reared, trying to make itself look bigger, then blindly began charging towards the small shape it saw now hidden in the grass.

    “Damn it. Hey ugly! Over here!” Bishop bellowed, releasing the tension on his bowstring and launching an arrow towards the bear to grab its full attention.

    The arrow hit it squarely in the face, the cheekbone to be more precise, and roared in pain and anger. Swiping at the projectile and then snapping the thin wooden shaft in two.

    Taking advantage of the opening before the bear could charge at Bishop next once he revealed himself Noir rushed forward, daggers drawn. While Bishop continued sending a volley of arrows their way-taking care not to shoot Noir by accident-she closed the distance between them and tore a wound open across the bear’s upper torso, dashing back before its large paw could make a swipe at her.

    Their combo had the desired effect of confusing the bear so it wasn’t sure who to focus its attention on. And that proved fatal. When its wounds started getting the better of it the bear began to slow, moving backwards as if to retreat when Bishop sent a well-aimed arrow directly into the beast’s temple. Noir barely got out of the way in time before the bear collapsed face forward, its lifeless and unfed jaws agape, soaking the ground with blood from its various wounds.

    ~

    “Well that was fun,” Bishop mused, recovering as many arrows as he could from the bear’s corpse once they made sure it was dead.

    “Did we really have to kill it?” Noir said, surprising Bishop a little.

    Wiping the blood off his hands on a patch of clean grass, he looked at her quizzically and scoffed, “So a bear comes charging at you, intent to kill, and you have second thoughts about it? You really are a strange one Ladyship.”

    In response Noir simply rolled her eyes and scanned the area nearby for any signs of other wildlife before joining him as they looked over their kill. She was right about it being young but this was hardly a cub. At most it was two years old and didn’t have many scars if any on its hide. Noir could only guess it’s need for food outweighed the danger of being outnumbered which is why it wouldn’t back down, not even toward the bitter end.

    “I was hoping we could avoid killing it that’s all,” Noir sighed, touching the top of the bears head reverently. “Unlike people, animals don’t try to kill you out of spite, for greed, or for sport. We’re all the same in their eyes. Sure, that might be as food half the time, but, those feelings are raw and pure. Untainted. It’s the same with love, right?”

    “Love?” Bishop asked suspiciously, wondering what Noir was getting at.

    Smiling warmly up at him, Noir explained, “I’m talking about your wolf. If your feelings about Karnwyr are as strong as his are about you then I can see why he’s the only one you trust. I envy that.” Letting out a resigned sigh Noir stood up again, pointing out a clearing nearby. “Sorry for getting all preachy there for a sec. Come on, help me move the body over there and we’ll go ahead and set up camp for the night. Skinning and gutting this bear might take a while but we should make good use of the meat. If we’re going to skip over Ivarstead, we’ll need the extra food for the journey.”

    Narrowing his gaze at her, Bishop raised an eyebrow, “Whoa whoa whoa hold your horses princess! Who said anything about skipping Ivarstead? Don’t you still have a date with destiny up with the Greybeards?”

    Noir shrugged indifferently and laced her fingers behind her head before replying, “True, but I’m allowed to have more than one promise, right? It’s not like they said I had to be there at a certain time. In fact, they barely spoke a word to me. Literally! The only reason I knew they were summoning me was because the Greybeards Shouted ‘Dragonborn’ at me from the top of their mountain according to the Jarl in Whiterun. I still plan to go but, rescuing your wolf seems more important. I’m sure they can kill time meditating or something.”

    Smiling, Noir set off towards the clearing to get a fire going before it got too dark. Leaving Bishop to assume the task of dragging the bear over there. Didn’t Bishop make it clear before that he wasn’t her slave to be ordered around? While pondering the best way to do it anyway, Noir surprised Bishop by coming back over taking a paw in each arm, looking up at him with those stunning yellow-gold eyes of hers as if silently telling him to give her a hand.

    “How’d you light the fire so fast?” Bishop asked, genuinely curious.

    “Magic,” Noir replied, her expression neutral so that he couldn’t tell if she was serious, or only joking.

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    Chapter 3: Lessons Learned

    22rd of Last Seed 4E201

    Never a dull moment traveling in Skyrim is there? While Bishop and I were making our way through the mountain pass the day after killing that bear I spotted a horse without a rider up ahead so the two of us went to investigate. I succeeded in calming the poor animal and it wasn’t long before we finally found the rider, dead. Looks like she took a nasty spill when the horse reared and broke her skull open on a boulder from the fall.

    Well for a little while at least the horse was better off with us. Especially since its rider turned out to be a bandit, not a hunter or a traveler. We found stolen goods in her pack to confirm this. I didn’t take anything from it except the essentials though, like food and some spare leather and other common things then stashed the rest in the horse’s saddle bag. Good thing too because I could tell this horse was very skittish and prone to rear back at the first hint of danger.  Quite frankly I didn’t want to lose any of our own gear if the horse got spooked and ran off…

    No sooner had the thought crossed my mind again when a wolf pack attacked us after leaving the pass behind. And wouldn’t you know it, just as I feared the horse flew into a wild panic while I was still on its back and kept running around in random directions while trying to buck me off. Bishop doesn’t like horses-so he says but I think that was just an excuse-so he was following me on foot when the wolves closed in on us.

    Let it be said that I DID offer to let him ride behind me though and Bishop refused. His loss I thought. Still, this one certainly proved his point about not trusting them even if it was a lie, but to be fair this was a bandit’s horse and not one that from what I could tell was properly trained as a war horse. For all we knew it once belonged to some poor farmer and was only used to carrying a plow on its back, not a crudely armored bandit that was constantly forcing it to gallop headfirst into danger.

    I barely managed to get the horse back under control the first time and rode it over to help Bishop fight off the wolves. However, the stupid horse tried to gallop off with me several more times. The third time this happened I gave up on trying to calm it and jumped off, letting the horse bolt at last and disappear into the unknown…

    We made quick work of the wolves after that but, Gods I’m tired! There were so many of them and it got dark before we knew it so we planned to find a cave to sleep in when we came across something better. We’re taking shelter in an abandoned alchemist’s shack, well, we assume it’s abandoned since there are no signs of recent activity, the shelves are dusty, and most of the food has gone bad. Might be able to salvage some alchemy ingredients though, better remind myself to check in the morning.

    At any rate, I have a feeling the bandits we’re looking for that have Bishop’s wolf haven’t been to this area in a while because the scent is cold and otherwise those wolves we fought surely would have been caught and added to the fighting pit. I always feel guilty killing animals anyway when it’s not to use their meat for food but somehow, I felt even worse killing these wolves in front of Bishop. Especially since we’re trying to rescue his.

    What was going through his head when one of his arrows landed a killing blow and the wolf made a horrible last cry of pain? Was he thinking about what Karnwyr might be enduring right now? I’m sure he’s very worried about him, even if Bishop won’t say it outright. While Bishop kept a steel-clad resolve during the entire fight with the wolf pack and outwardly seems unaffected by it, call it a hunch, but I think he feels just as uneasy as I do about killing those wolves. Because both of us unconsciously kept picturing his own four-legged companion each time we saw the light left their eyes.

    ~

    “Hey Ladyship, what are you always writing in there?” Bishop asked Noir curiously since this time, there was no separate room to send him back to. At least he was being somewhat of a gentleman letting Noir take the bed while Bishop on the other hand unrolled a bedroll on the floor beside her.

    “Always?” Noir replied, giving him an odd look as she lowered her quill.

    Smirking and resting his arm on the edge of the bed, Bishop explained coyly. “Yes always. You thought you were being oh-so-clever back in Riverwood hiding your diary under your pillow but I saw it through the corner of my eye when I was finishing my drink. Don’t tell me if you don’t want to though. I won’t force it out of you. I figure if I give you that much privacy you’ll feel less inclined to ask about things I don’t feel like answering either.”

    Closing her journal and dropping it back into her pack with her other writing tools then leaning back, Noir curled up on her side and stared at him for a minute, biting her lip. Was it ok to tell him? Bishop seemed nice enough and did a good job watching her back in a fight. So, sure, why not? It wasn’t that big of a secret, then again, it was probably too soon to tell Bishop the full story about why she wrote in her journal so often-journal, not diary-so Noir settled on the simpler answer.

    “I’m writing about what anyone writes about, my experiences, my thoughts, my story because…I’ve never had anyone to listen to them in person. Call it what you will, but let’s just say it’s a habit from being very lonely for a long time,” Rolling onto her back and staring at the ceiling of the shack, Noir continued, “Even other Khajiit’s think I’m strange so as you can imagine it’s been hard to make friends with the ones I’ve met here in Skyrim, let alone humans like you that distrust our kind anyway. I have made a few over the years but it’s not like I see them often or can tell them about-”

    Noir suddenly fell silent when she realized she was about to tell him too much. It was just hard not to for some reason with Bishop when this was something Noir always longed for, a friend to share her adventures with as they happened. To be with someone that she could trust in turn with her burdens and other troubles that weighed heavily on her heart, even now.

    Not that they were THAT close yet, but Bishop seemed to have warmed up to her ever-so-slightly after their first battle together with the brown bear. At least he was taking Noir’s skills seriously now after seeing them first hand. Maybe that’s why she almost let her guard down.

    The only problem was that half the time Noir wasn’t sure when Bishop was joking about something or when he was being serious about feeling a certain way towards something. For example, when Noir asked Bishop if he was ok with her going off to help people on occasion Bishop told her that he thought she was stupid for being so blindly willing to drop everything just to help a stranger get their useless little trinkets back.  Wasn’t that exactly what she was doing for him right now?! Helping Bishop get something important back? Granted this wasn’t a mere trinket they were looking for but rather a flesh-and-blood wolf but still, what a hypocrite!

    “Anyway, if you’re a good boy maybe I’ll let you read it someday,” Noir laughed, “If I catch you reading it otherwise I might just have to kick your ass.”

    “Noted,” Bishop laughed in response to his own bad joke. “I know better than to read a girl’s diary anyway.”

    Glancing over at him through the corner of her eye, Noir corrected, “It’s a journal you goof, not a diary.”

    Bishop raised an eyebrow at her, “What’s the difference?”

    Noir opened her mouth then closed it, blinking, “Huh, I actually don’t really know. I guess a diary is something you don’t typically share with anyone because to most people it’s strictly personal since you write more about your feelings in it than anything else in one, not just the events of the day. What about you? Have you ever kept a journal?”

    “Nope. I’d much rather leave my mark on the world through my actions, not mere words left behind in some book,” Bishop replied bluntly. “Surely you’ve realized that from now on you will be remembered by your enemies and comrades alike simply because you’re a living legend. As the Dragonborn, you’re going to have to fight much harder to be remembered as anything more than that. Just you wait and see. Before long you won’t remember the sound of your own name because everyone will only ever call you that.”

    An involuntary shutter ran up Noir’s spine as those words set in. It’s true, there was no way that she could avoid attention from people now. Especially old enemies. Before all this Noir had to fight to be noticed or be trusted enough to help with a request from one of the many notice boards scattered across the holds. It wasn’t unlikely that people might start coming to HER begging for help since who better to solve their problems then the Dragonborn herself? Not that Noir minded helping others, in fact, she looked forward to being given that kind of trust for once but at the same time, would she ever find someone who accepted Noir as who-not what-she was…?

    Noir froze when she noticed the absence of Bishop’s arm on the bed that was replaced by both hands on either side of her, a pair of smoldering amber eyes meeting her own. She didn’t notice it when she closed her eyes, lost in thought because of Bishops words, let alone his unnervingly quiet movements that allowed him to get this close without her noticing. This was new. Not to mention bold on Bishop’s part. Noir didn’t take him for that kind of man otherwise she would have told him to go to Oblivion and left last night.

    “Move over,” Bishop ordered, his voice calm and even-toned.

    “What? Why?!” Noir exclaimed, blushing bright red and forcing herself to whisper.

    A wolfish grin spread across Bishop’s face before the man replied, “Don’t worry I’m not going to do anything funny to you. I’m not that kind of man. I thought I saw you shivering again so I decided to be a gentleman and keep you warm tonight. Besides, sleeping on the floor is far but pleasant.”

    “Try sleeping in a tree,” Noir snapped, breaking eye contact with him and resisting the urge to use her newly found power to Shout him off to teach this arrogant ranger a lesson.

    “Hey,” Bishop called, leaning back and watching as Noir finally turned to face him again and let out a breath of relief she didn’t realize she’d been holding. “Let me tell you something now, Noir, because I stand by what I said when we first met. This naive way of thinking you have? It’s going to get a pretty girl like you into trouble. Or worse, killed. Trust me I’m not the only wolf out there in the world who wouldn’t leap at a chance to devour this lovely body of yours. They’ll take everything from you and not even leave you with your life once they have what they want. I know you’re thinking the same thing about me, which is smart, but at least this time you’ve lucked out and I’m a good guy that won’t take advantage of you the moment you let your guard slip, like just now. Most aren’t. Now get some sleep. We didn’t get much meat off that bear so we’ll need to go hunting tomorrow. With any luck we’ll be able to pick up Karnwyr’s trail again while we’re at it.”

    Once Bishop settled back into his bedroll on the floor, Noir huffed, “Well gee, thanks for trying to scare me straight Bishop! I’d say YOU’RE lucky I didn’t Shout you through the roof after that stupid stunt,” slumping her shoulders though she relented, “Still, maybe you have a point. I need to be more careful about who I trust from now on…” Especially since once news about me being the Dragonborn spreads around to all the corners of Skyrim, I might be confronted by the shadows of my past again and I don’t want Bishop to get involved. At least not until I’m sure I can trust him with everything. I know he was only trying to make a point but, Bishop was so close to me. So close that I could feel his breath on my neck and the heat radiating off his body. The only time I’m ever that close to a man is when we’re locked in combat. I’m not used to anyone seeing me even as a woman, Khajiit or not. By the Gods I was NOT expected that! My heart is still racing. I better be more careful around Bishop too, since he admitted that I’m…tempting.

    Declaring that she was going to bed and rolling over again to stare pointedly at the wall, Bishop chuckled and wished her sweet dreams which only made Noir blush deeper. She was going to get him back for embarrassing her like this. Yet is some small corner of her heart, Noir was flattered that Bishop not only saw her as a desirable woman, but he also called her by name for the first time. Even if people did start only calling her ‘Dragonborn’ from now on, as long as Bishop called her by name or even one of those silly pet names like ‘Ladyship’ and ‘princess,’ then maybe she could live with it. After all, it was already better than being called a ‘cat’ all the time.

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    (Note: I noticed some errors and typos so if you see them please point them out, I’ll try to fix them later in both versions but since this is a longer chapter I might need some help locating the ones I saw. P.S. I try to stay as accurate to the story as possible or vice versa when taking screenshots but since I can’t exactly redo some of these we’ll just have to pretend the bow Noir uses is Bishop’s.)

    Chapter 4: The Man Who Cried Wolf!

    The next morning once they salvaged as much as they could from the abandoned shack, as luck would have it, an elk appeared at the top of the hill behind them. As soon as they saw it their instincts as hunters kicked in and the two of them crouched so it wouldn’t spot them coming up from the bottom of the hill. Noir moved much faster than Bishop even while sneaking towards the darn animal. The only upside to this was watching her hips sway at the slightest movement, the tip of her tail mirroring this fluent motion.

    Bishop didn’t say anything about it this time-at least not aloud-because one, they were stalking their prey, and two Noir seemed very likely to make true on her threat to send him flying over the horizon if he made a false move this morning. It wasn’t that Noir didn’t appreciate Bishop’s concern, but she felt so cornered last night and that didn’t sit well with Noir at all. This was clearly new and unwarranted territory to her. Bishop honestly hadn’t expected that to be the case. Yet it made a strange amount of sense now. How even those two drunks back in Riverwood weren’t taken seriously by Noir about how alluring they thought she was, to be honest it baffled Bishop a little. How could anyone NOT want a piece of that tail? Not that he’d ever felt particularly attracted to either of the beast races until now, until Noir. Was it really so wrong to let her know that…?

    And besides which, Bishop wasn’t so heartless that he’d turn a blind eye to the danger Noir was constantly putting herself in without even knowing it when it came to the fiercest beast of all, men. Clearly her parents never taught Noir any better. Near as Bishop could tell-not to mention her confession last night-Noir was used to taking care of herself both in the wild and amidst other people. Only with the latter her interactions with people were even less than Bishops, and that was saying something! Noir craved the acceptance of others yet was rejected often simply for being what she was. Like she wasn’t even a person in their eyes. But now that Noir was a hero of legend, this damned Dragonborn, Bishop knew he’d never forgive himself if he left her completely unprepared for the reality of what everyone saw her as now. Someone to use, someone to take advantage of, someone to win or claim as a prize, and most importantly, a threat.

    “Bishop? Can I borrow your bow?” Noir asked, having drawn back a bit to ask him this.

    Furrowing his brows, Bishop sighed heavily and gave it to her reluctantly. “Fine. But just this once! What happened to yours anyway? I could have sworn it was-”

    “It was shaken loose from my pack and broke when the horse tried to buck me off the second time,” Noir replied in a hushed tone, readying the weapon with deft hands with one of her own arrows. “Next time we’re in town I’ll make a new one. Now shut that hole in your face and follow my lead.”

    Smiling impishly at him as a sign that she was past all that now Noir got into position behind a tree, coming as close as she dared to, then let the arrow fly. The first arrow hit its rear hind leg, blown off course by a gust of wind but that still ended up wounding it badly enough so that when the elk made to flee it didn’t get far before a second arrow struck its chest, piercing its lung and heart. Compared to the bear they felled the day before this elk had plenty of meat on him. Then again, grass doesn’t exactly run away from you unlike a predator’s food source, namely other animals…

    As soon as Noir returned Bishop’s bow he visibly relaxed. He felt naked without his bow but at the same time he wanted to make up for going a bit too far yesterday. She clearly wasn’t that kind of woman, the kind to be turned on by the mere closeness of a man’s body and give into those carnal urges with the first one to offer it. Noir was clearly flustered and angry at him when he dropped those hints yet even then she didn’t completely dismiss Bishop’s advice because of it.

    At least Noir wasn’t stubborn enough to turn down free advice.

    Then again, maybe what really troubled her about what he said-more than the problems themselves that he mentioned coming her way from now on-had more to do with Noir’s past then her current situation. He wasn’t stupid. Bishop knew she was hiding something from him but didn’t seem to be keeping that from him out of shame, more like…out of concern for involving him in something dangerous. But what could be more dangerous than fighting dragons…?

    ~

    “Huh, interesting…” Noir mused after picking up Karnwyr’s scent a little further into the forest past the bridge over the river. “He certainly has a distinct scent from the other wolves that’s for sure, do you snuggle a lot?”

    “Snuggle? Pfft! What are you talking about woman? I do NOT snuggle with anyone, not even the tavern wenches unless I’m drunk enough. Why? What’s he smell like to you cat-breath?” Bishop scowled, completely forgetting about his plan to not piss Noir off again when he wasn’t having any luck distinguishing Karnwyr’s tracks from a common wolf’s.

    Noir hissed at him, her golden eyes flashing dangerously. “That was uncalled for Bishop. I’m asking for a reason you know.” Letting her anger dissipate, she sighed, looking a bit hurt. “Please don’t call me a cat.”

    “Alright! Alright,” he replied with a forced calm, scratching the back of his neck, “I’m sorry. We’re just so close now, I can feel it! My sense of smell might not be as great as yours but there is blood in the air, both fresh and old. Their camp can’t be far and you’ve already heard the wolf cries. Those aren’t calls to arms, they’re the angry demands for blood to spill for the sake of blood, not food. I swear if they’ve hurt Karnwyr in any way I’m going to make them regret ever messing with the pack-mate of THIS wolf.”

    Touching his quivering hand as it shook in anger Noir set her own feelings aside to reassure him. “Hey. We’re going to find him. I promise. Besides, I just told you the scent is stronger here so it had to have been carried downwind recently. They can’t have touched him. Not yet. Otherwise he…” blushing slightly, Noir smiled unsurely, “…he wouldn’t smell so much like you.”

    Bishop blinked and looked at Noir then down at her hand cupping his as it closed around the hilt of his trusty dagger. So that’s what she meant? It’s true that he and Karnwyr were inseparable for long periods of time unless Karnwyr went off on his own to hunt-or mate on rare occasions when instinct overruled loyalty to his master-but were they together so much it even effected his SMELL?

    True, during a few particularly cold nights when Bishop couldn’t light a fire they had curled up close to retain body heat but that HARDLY counted as snuggling. As much as Karnwyr might disagree since he loved to curl up on nights like that or even just lay his head on Bishop’s lap as they sat by the fire. Karnwyr loved that closeness, his master’s warmth, it was soothing. As wild as Karnwyr still was at heart his loyalty to Bishop was second to none and he eagerly awaited his master’s arrival so that they could hunt together and simply be together once again.

    Relaxing the grip on his dagger and switching to grasp Noir’s hand with the other, Bishop nodded, “Of that I have no doubt. The sooner we rescue Karnwyr, the sooner you can get back to saving the world from dragons am I right? Let’s go Ladyship. I look forward to seeing how you handle a real fight.”

    She snorted at him, tapping him on the nose with her free hand, “A real fight hmm? Oh, ye of little faith. You haven’t even scratched the surface of knowing what I can really do. Especially when I’m fighting FOR someone, not just defending myself or hunting. Saving lives has always been more important to me. Because there are too many people in this world who are willing to kill over nothing, for pleasure, for greed, or for other selfish reasons just like you said. You may think that you’re only acting like this right now because you want Karnwyr back so badly or you may not, I don’t know, but I don’t think that’s the whole truth. You’re a good person Bishop. Like it or not. If you weren’t then I really would have Shouted you through the roof for invading my personal space like that. I’m not as naïve as you think to what men want. But enough about that!” Pointedly lifting her tail high enough to swat his face as she turned around, Noir smirked and pointed in the direction of Karnwyr’s scent and declared, “Let the true hunt begin!”

    ~

    A few hours later Noir confirmed the source of Karnwyr’s scent coming from a cave surrounded by the tell-tale signs of the pit fighters they were looking for, aka the bandits running the wolf pits. There were two tents out in front-fewer than what they expected but the rest were likely inside and those were reserved for whoever was on guard duty at the time. To keep the guards company there were two large cages, each with a snarling half-starved wolf inside. Neither of which were Karnwyr thankfully…

    Bishop described Karnwyr to Noir so she wouldn’t confuse him for one of the pit wolves if they decided to let them loose as a distraction. He was smaller than most wolves but no less fierce in a fight and smarter than those mutts too. At least if you didn’t count him stupidly falling into a trap and getting himself captured this time when that’s what started this whole mess.

    Karnwyr was a timber wolf with a light brownish gray and white fur coat, and that alone made him different than his Skyrim cousins; he was likely born here in a pack that had at least one timber wolf in it since those were more commonly found in Cyrodil. Although Noir assured Bishop she’d know him by his scent it was better to tell her what he looked like now then have to worry about Noir killing him by accident in the chaos that they were undoubtedly about to unleash on these hapless pit fighters.

    Even Noir seemed eager to paint the earth with their blood the moment she saw the first two cages. Behind their angry snarls and raised hackles, Noir saw the fear and pain in their eyes and it brought tears to hers. “This is horrible. I knew things would be bad but look at them, I can’t imagine what kind of sickos would go out of their way to capture an animal like this and make it fight to the death for sport. Monsters I can understand but an animal? We need to get Karnwyr out of there and put the other wolves out of their misery. It’s too dangerous to let them go free in the wild. They’re too far gone and are conditioned to fight anything and everything they come across, especially each other. That’s no way to live…”

    “Spare me the lecture on cruelty to animals,” Bishop sighed rolling his eyes before moving up closer to her and get a better view on the lone guard beneath the overhang they were surveying him from. “But you’re right, we need to take out the guard then go see just how many bandits we’re up against. Guess it pays to have the Dragonborn with me. Feel free to Shout a few of them into the nearest wall for me will ya? Or knock them down so Karnwyr can tear their lying throats out!”

    Noir nodded then stepped back to let him take her spot with the best vantage point, “Care to do the honors Ranger?”

    Drawing his bow back and pulling the string taut with a notched arrow, Bishop smiled. “With pleasure.”

    Time seemed to slow as the arrow took flight towards the guard and Noir watched its progress with interest to see where Bishop was aiming for. It was the throat. Not a moment later the bandit guard let out a horribly gurgled cry as the arrow shot right through his neck. Realistically Bishop should have aimed for his head but it was clear that he wanted them to suffer for what they’ve done to these animals, more importantly to his Karnwyr.

    Once the coast was clear Noir and Bishop made their way down the overhang to the cave entrance, stopping only to make sure the guard was dead and see if he had any cage keys on him. Sadly, he didn’t, but then again why would he need them on guard duty? One of the other pit fighters was most likely in charge of wrangling the ‘new bloods’ to throw into the pit and bet on. There were probably more cages inside and these were for the more recent captures, the winners were kept inside to continue fighting until they died much like this man by drowning in their own blood.

    They already talked about this, these wolves were too dangerous to let loose again because unlike the ones they encountered before, these wolves did not kill to feed their pack, they killed to survive and could no longer tell the difference between the basic need to hunt and the senseless slaughter they were forced to take part in. The two wolves in the front of the cave became eerily calm as Noir approached the nearest cage…

    Her insides went as cold as the rusted metal Noir gingerly placed a hand on, ever watchful of the dangerous occupant inside of course. Looking into the wolf’s earthy brown eyes Noir couldn’t help but remember a time when she too was trapped like an animal, fearful for her life and uncertain about her fate as it was completely in someone else’s hands.

    But things were different now.

    Noir was in control of her fate and had the power to protect and help people. However, she couldn’t help those who were already broken like this. There was a deadness in the wolves’ eyes that told her that they were nothing more than feral beasts that needed to be put down. As much as that knowledge hurt to admit even when it was only about an animal that didn’t deserve to be treated this way, it might only be a small measure to reduce the threat travelers would have to face on the road then that was worth making this sacrifice for.

    She picked the locks and killed them as painlessly as possible but Noir’s heart still ached for them if only for a moment before straightening up to focus on the matter at hand. Karnwyr wasn’t like these wolves, his bond with Bishop wasn’t something so easily broken. He would fight to the bitter end just to keep hope alive that his master would come, no matter what. Noir believed that with all her heart. In fact, she prayed they were not already too late.

    ~

    After killing a second guard inside that was more likely an usher to the gamblers, Bishop asked, “You alright Ladyship? Your lips look pale. It’s the only part of your skin I can tell when it changes color under all that fur.”

    “I’m fine,” Noir replied taking the key ring off the second bandit’s corpse. “He’s close now, I can smell him. Let’s go.”

    “After you,” Bishop offered and this time Noir didn’t argue. She wanted to get this over with and as far away from these cages as possible, they were stirring up painful memories and being distracted by them now could prove fatal.

    They were both surprised by how quickly they found him. Karnwyr was stuffed into a small cage forced into an even smaller gap in the cave wall. There was barely enough room for him to lay down without having to push his paws through the bars to fit comfortable. He was thin certainly, Bishop and Noir expected that much since food was only given as a reward for winning a pit fight but they were surprised to see how relatively untouched Karnwyr was. His fur wasn’t matted or torn from bite marks and there weren’t any dried blood stains. So…why weren’t they using Karnwyr in the pit fights like the other wolves?

    His ears perked up the moment he caught a whiff of Bishop’s all-too-familiar scent and he leapt to his feet, tail wagging like mad as they approached the cage. The wolf tilted his head curiously when the strange looking Khajiit entered his field of vision. They’d met a few cat-people before when trading furs or buying something from the caravans but this was the first time Karnwyr had seen his master travel with one. She had his scent on her too so at least for now Karnwyr assumed she was a friend and sniffed her boot as Noir unlocked the cage with one of the keys. He resisted the urge to jump on Bishop and lick every inch of his face but Karnwyr still nuzzled his master when he knelt down to look him over.

    Bishop scolded him for causing so much trouble but the relief on his face was so unmistakable that Noir smiled, happy for them both. Even Karnwyr seemed to be grinning from ear to ear in his own wolf-like way. While scratching his wolf behind the ear the way he liked it, Bishop looked up at Noir, his expression hardening into rage as he said, “Let’s make these sons of b***** pay!”

    With a nod, Noir drew her daggers, turning around slowly to face the small tunnel leading to the main chamber where they could hear the din of bandits and gamblers alike mixing in with the sound of tearing flesh and snarls as one of their pit fights was commencing, ears folded back and her own hackles raising, then she replied, “I agree. Let’s end this cruel operation once and for all.”

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    (Note: Not sure if this counts as a spoiler but meh. I forgot I updated to the latest version Clockwork Castle mod and added it to my mod list again for this playthrough, not going to start that quest for awhile and if you’re wondering about the font it’s from a Skyui mod, just fyi. Also, I said this in one of the previous chapters on my fanfiction.net account but I don’t like typing in certain cuss words but that’s a personal preference and I’m sure you guys can fill in the blanks. Anyway, hope you like the new chapter!)

    Chapter 5: All Sorts Of Trouble

    They made short work of the bandits and gamblers and compared to Bishop, since Noir and Karnwyr were in the thick of it it really showed. Both were covered in large splashes of blood, Noir more so than Karnwyr. Although, Bishop wasn’t sure who looked more menacing with their fangs bared. The two of them looked equally as fierce and Noir made sure each and every bandit and gambler was dead before she visibly relaxed, turning her attention to Karnwyr.

    Her eyes narrowed when she noticed a wound on his left paw gushing fresh blood and knelt down to check the wound. Karnwyr however eyed the cat-woman warily at first, still deciding whether she was trustworthy or not. Bishop pretended not to watch their exchange as he looted the bodies for gold and anything useful then kept to the shadows in the small passage that led to the ring-leaders base of operations where the rest of the wolf cages were along with a large chest, bedroll, and a work table littered with ingredients and small bottles of skooma.

    “Shh, it’s ok boy I’m not going to hurt you. See?” Noir smiled, sheathing her daggers and reaching forward so Karnwyr could sniff her hand. She paused whenever Karnwyr’s lips curled or he pulled his head back but Noir was patient and was finally rewarded by a curious sniff on his part then a tentative lick.

    Noir flinched a little when even that small lick agitated a wound on her own hand but once she felt she’d earned enough of his trust Noir gentle pet his head, smiling when the wolf leaned into her touch and wagged his tail then glanced down at his paw again. Normally, Noir only used healing magic as a last resort, however since she didn’t know if his temperament was as bad as his master’s and didn’t want to fight to get a proper bandage on the wound. Therefore, she led him a little further in and cast a healing spell over him. At least he didn’t mind the sudden use of magic and wagged his tail even faster once the wound closed and Karnwyr felt much better.

    “Good boy,” Noir beamed, her own tail flicking slightly before she looked over at Bishop who was giving her an odd look. “What? Surprised I can use magic? I said so, before didn’t I?”

    Shaking his head, Bishop unfolded his arms and walked over to them briefly glancing at her handiwork on Karnwyr’s paw then up and down her body, most of which was covered in blood. One perk of being a Ranger, using long ranged attacks means you’re less likely to get blood stains on your armor. Since Noir fought in close quarters though with her daggers that didn’t work out so well in keeping one’s armor tidy and blood free. Then again, her armor was nothing but a bunch of leather scraps patched together to make clothing and was in serious need of replacement. Hopefully with the gold and treasures they would get from here she could pay for it. Or at least the supplies to craft new armor out of better material.

    “It’s not that. I’m impressed, I didn’t think a woman like you had it in you,” Bishop grinned, both because he really was impressed and secretly because he was relieved that her own wounds were mostly superficial aside from a few cuts on her hands.

    Rolling her eyes Noir laughed, “I told you I have many talents, Bishop. So…what now?” Feeling a bump against her leg as Karnwyr leaned against it, nosing her hand with his wet nose so she obliged and started petting his head again. “I’m glad we saved Karnwyr in time. I was starting to wonder if-” shaking her head, she dismissed whatever she was about to say before. “Nevermind. I guess we should have talked about it before when we had the chance.”

    “About what? Don’t tell me you’re having second thoughts,” Bishop replied with a sly wink. “We had a deal. You help me save my wolf, then I help you with that other oh-so-secret reason you offered to help me besides the goodness of your heart sweetness. And I’m nothing if not a man of my word. For now, let’s gather whatever we can to pawn off in town. I think after that fight the three of us deserve a warm bed and a cold drink.”

    “So, you’re coming with me?” Noir asked, kneeling again and scratching Karnwyr behind both ears which made the wolf positively melt into her embrace.

    Snorting, Bishop mirrored her actions earlier and bopped her on the nose. “Don’t act so surprised. That’s what you wanted isn’t it? You’ve proven you can handle yourself in a fight more than once and I look forward to seeing what other surprises are in store and what kind of trouble we can get into along the way. Why, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had so much fun.”

    Laughing, Noir purred, “Oh I’m going to get you into all sorts of trouble.”

    “Ah, I’m looking forward to that,” Bishop replied suggestively.

    ~

    “Why didn’t you heal those injuries too like you did for Karnwyr?” Bishop asked Noir quizzically with a raised brow as he watched her bandage up her hands with clean linens.

    Shrugging then tying off the end of the bandage she was working on with her teeth, Noir replied, “No reason. Maybe I only like using magic as a last resort and prefer to do the rest the old fashion way. What about you? Any injuries?”

    “Me? HA! Those fools were dead before they could so much as lay a finger on me,” he boasted, earning an annoyed snort from Karnwyr as if to say, ‘yeah right, more like I beat you to them while you were notching another arrow.’ “Well alright you helped but I did most of the work!”

    Noir giggled at their childish exchange then sat down beside Bishop by the fire. They decided to stay there for the night after clearing out the bodies since it was late and it made more sense to make use of the camp already set up out front then search around on their own for a safe place to pitch another. This cave was about as safe as they were going to get tonight.

    “You know as well as I do Karnwyr would have torn off any bandage we put on that paw the first chance he got,” Noir explained further. “Believe me, it’s hard to keep bandages on any animal since they don’t like something foreign tied around them, its unnatural. So, I figured it be easier to just heal it with a spell that’s all.”

    Yawning and leaning back against the tree behind him, Bishop relented. “Fair enough. I’m not a big fan of magic myself but good to know you can use it.”

    Not sure if that was an accusation for keeping it secret or just Bishop stating the facts on something new he’d learned about Noir, the two of them turned and watched Karnwyr eagerly devour the venison chop they gave him from that deer she killed earlier that morning. He certainly deserved some fresh meat after being half starved by those damned bandits to condition him to fight for his meals.

    “Hey Bishop?”

    “Hmm?”

    “How long was Karnwyr missing again? Days or weeks?”

    Thinking about his answer, Bishop frowned, “A week and a half at most. Why?”

    “Well,” Noir pointed out one of the bodies of the other pit wolves they killed before. “Compared to those wolves, Karnwyr is only skinny. There weren’t any signs of old wounds on him from beatings or a single hair out of place. Don’t you think that’s a bit odd?”

    “Yeah but who cares? Maybe when they couldn’t get him to fight the other wolves they decided it might be better to sell him off or skin him and just hadn’t gotten around to it, the b*****. You know how people are about pelts with uncommon fur colors.”

    Her ears visibly drooping, Noir stared blankly into the fire and replied, “That I do…”

    Closing her eyes, an unpleasant memory filled her thoughts and she had to resist the urge to shutter in disgust in front of Bishop. But she was safe to let her mind wander now that the battle was over at least. Not that Noir wouldn’t rather be thinking about anything else at the moment.

    Feeling a sudden weight in her lap, Noir’s eyes fluttered open and she noticed Karnwyr’s muzzle there, whining softly. “Aw, you worried about me? Or are you just as needy as your master when it comes to having the full attention of the ladies?”

    “I heard that,” Bishop grumbled from his perch by the tree.

    Noir just laughed then pet Karnwyr’s head, feeling soothed by his warmth. “I think I understand now why you told me Karnwyr isn’t a pet, even if he clearly enjoys being doted on like one. It wasn’t because you were trying to convince me I can’t pet him, it’s because you see him as a friend, not just some animal you tamed and own. He’s your equal. Someone you trust to watch your back. Karnwyr saved me a few times during the fight too which surprised me since we’ve only just met. Now this?” She gestured down at Karnwyr’s head in her lap looking completely content as if they’ve known each other their whole lives and not just a few hours. “Being a stranger is one thing but I’m also a cat and normally dogs bark and snarl at me even when I’m nice to them. Same with people. Damn, I’m doing it again…”

    “Doing what? Putting yourself down for being a Khajiit? It IS getting a bit old princess,” Bishop shrugged. “You can’t change what you are and neither can they so screw ‘em. I told you, playing nice gets you nowhere. It has nothing to do with what race you are. All I know is that you’re a capable warrior who isn’t going to kill us in our sleep. I know that, and Karnwyr knows that. So, who gives a s*** about anyone else?”

    “Thanks Bishop,” Noir smiled, nodding over at one of the two bandit tents. “I’ll take the first watch, you go to bed first. See you in the morning.”

    With a nod, Bishop stretched and picked the tent right behind Noir and called Karnwyr over. He perked up immediately but whined at having to move from his comfortable position. That didn’t stop him from curling up at Bishop’s feet the same as always, leaving Noir by her lonesome again. But she didn’t mind. Because at least for now Noir wasn’t alone anymore.

    Once Noir was sure the two of them were asleep, she pulled out a worn tunic from her pack that was admittedly too small for her now. It was better than nothing and Noir wanted to try getting the blood out of her leather armor until they made it to Windhelm where she could finally replace it. Bishop was right. Word must have spread by now what the Dragonborn looked like so if the guards tried to turn her away, all she had to do was tell them who she was and surely, they had enough respect for their own legends to overlook who was that living legend in this era. Plus, Bishop would be there to back her up.

    ~

    24th of Last Seed 4E201

    The trip to Windhelm was almost if not more eventful than the trip to save Karnwyr. No sooner had we left it far behind carrying as much loot as we could stuff into our packs then something caught my eye by the roadside. It was a dragon burial mound according to Bishop. An empty one at that…

    Even though I’ve been in Skyrim for a long time there were still new things to learn if this was anything to judge by. There was one thing was for sure, this had something to do with the dragons coming back and I had a very bad feeling about it. The Greybeards were waiting for me up on the Throat of the World, with answers, with guidance. And where was I? Still on the road even further from them than before.

    A new sense of urgency filled my breast once I understood the significance of that empty burial mound that I failed not notice the two bandits heading towards us in the morning fog. Luckily for me Bishop and Karnwyr were watching my back and brought my attention back to our surroundings just in time. Karnwyr’s fangs embedded themselves in the arms of the female bandit while I lunged at the second one, a male nord who charged at me with his axe. Charging at him in turn with one my daggers, I killed the man by stabbing him in the side.  I didn’t notice one of Bishop’s arrows pierced the bandit’s neck until the fight was over. Guess it was a trend with him or something.

     Either way, Karnwyr sat proudly beside his own kill while Bishop and I checked the other body. We found a note from someone named Camilla describing a newly unearthed ruin in Eastmarch leading into the Velothi Mountains. Jerk was telling him to bring good gear and suggested robbing someone for it. Too bad for him and his other partner they chose the wrong people. This might be worth looking into later and the prospect of exploring a ruin no one else had yet sent excited shivers down my spine. But no, it would have to wait. We had more important things to worry about…

    Shortly after that we found the dragon from the burial ground, who was very much alive and fierce. We got some unlikely help from a Giant it had chosen to attack with a camp much too close to the roadside given there was a destroyed horse carriage with goods littered everywhere. The horse and driver were both dead, though it appeared that the Giant killed them long before the dragon showed up. Poor fool.

    Well, at least Bishop definitely got the chance to see me in action against a dragon first hand much sooner than he thought. It was certainly a tough fight. But we won in the end, even Karnwyr got a decent bite or two out of the dragon’s hide. Have to give that wolf credit for being so spirited against such odds, both of them. I couldn’t be prouder of my boys.

    ~

    25th of Last Seed 4E201

    We didn’t make it to Windhelm yesterday like we hoped and ended up staying at the inn in Kynesgrove last night. Not that I wanted to stay overnight in the city per say, I just wanted to sell our loot and resupply for the journey ahead back in the direction of Ivarstead to see the Greybeards. Not to mention craft some warmer armor. I’m freezing my tail off here so far up north! I haven’t been this north since I escaped a certain someone and preferred the regions down south amidst the grassy hills and lofty trees to nap in.

    Bishop made fun of me for getting so easily chilled but he’s a Nord! He’s used to this! After all this time, you’d think I would be too yet I’ve had no such luck even with my ‘built in fur coat’ as Bishop put it. Besides, my armor was worn out and haphazardly patched all over and not built to withstand this kind of cold weather. I really needed some better gear. Thankfully with the gold we made selling off a few dragon bones and the other loot we’ve gathered along the way I could afford the supplies I needed to craft new armor. In fact, I made two sets. One for this colder weather, and a better set for the warmer climates.

    I thought I would feel sad saying goodbye to that older armor of mine that looking back I kept much longer than I should have. Maybe I was just hesitant to wear any armor I looted off a corpse because of having to carry the scent of its owner on my fur. Anyway, I felt liberated once I threw the old leather armor away, reborn, and ready to improve my standards of living from now on. No point in reusing any of that old leather when we had plenty of new leather left over from the wolves we pelted and other wildlife. Still feels odd carrying wolf pelts around now that we’ve rescued Karnwyr but then again, I feel the same about saber cat pelts. Silly I know but that’s how I feel.

    At least Bishop was right about news of me having spread this far which is why we were allowed into Windhelm in the first place. The guards looked ready to tell me to hit the road when I lowered my hood and they saw the ‘black Khajiit woman who was the Dragonborn that killed the dragon in Whiterun along with the Jarl’s men.’ I’ve never felt this way before, respected and feared. Not sure which of those the guards felt towards me but they let us in without the usual hassle I was used to dealing with. Needless to say, we weren’t going to press our luck. Once we sold off and bought everything we needed Bishop, Karnwyr and I made our way back to Kynesgrove since we had just enough daylight left to make it back and we’re staying the night again.

    The lady innkeeper seemed excited when we went out of our way to stay here rather than rent a room at the inn in Windhelm since that was what usually happened. This wasn’t exactly the smartest place to build an inn when the safety of a city was just down the road. Needless to say, she was glad of our business and gave us an excellent meal as well as her best room for the night. I for one am thinking of making this the inn of choice whenever we’re in the area. After all, Windhelm is such a cold place. And trust me, it’s not because of the snow.

    On a more serious note, facing that second dragon-I mean third if you count the black one-unsettled me. I recently told Bishop all about what happened in Helgen, saving Ralof, and how I found out I was the Dragonborn in Whiterun leading up to us traveling together and he shares my concerns. Not so much because he’s worried about other people getting hurt but rather he’s worried about the dangers we’ll have to face on the road ourselves.

    I wish Bishop would act so heartless when it came to others and their troubles but that’s who he is, I can’t change that overnight. What I can do is show him that there are certain unseen rewards that come from helping them too. Things he’s probably never felt before. Things that I hope he feels whenever he is looking out for me. That feeling of being able to shape your fate and the fates of others, seeing that in the face of all the forces working against us in the wild and amidst people, we can make a difference and defy it.

    I have already defied one fate I thought was set in stone in my youth. And now, I am making my own path towards a destiny I’m more than willing to embrace because I want to protect as many people as I can from these dragons. I want to protect the world Bishop lives in even if he can’t see just how beautiful it is beneath the ugliness he sees in the dirt rather than the brilliance of twin moons shining down on us.

    So, if we manage to reach the foot of the mountain tomorrow, I hope Bishop will see the adventure of the climb where we’ll be close enough to touch the heavens once we reach the top instead of the hard work it will be trekking up the entire 7000 steps to get there. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s going to be tiring. Yet the adventurer in me can’t wait to get that far and see what the Greybeards have in store for me in their hallowed halls.

    Profile photo of NoirNoir
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    I just fixed the tags, didn’t realize I forgot they need comas! Also new chapter coming soon!

    Profile photo of NoirNoir
    Participant
    Post count: 32

    Chapter 6: A Shared Secret

    “If I’d known how much lighter I would feel I would have made new armor sooner,” Noir commented as she put on the warmer set of armor she made yesterday, giving it a girlish twirl before leaving the room, her tail swishing happily.

    Bishop was already up feeding Karnwyr since he still had a bit of weight to regain after the whole captured-for-pit-wolf-fights ordeal. But at least they both seemed more at ease now that they were together again. She watched them for awhile, smiling to herself when Karnwyr caught her scent and barked in greeting when Noir came out, making Bishop look up as well.

    “Well well look who’s awake. And here I thought you were the early bird of the two of us,” Bishop laughed, tossing Karnwyr the last bit of meat from his hand and straightening up. Then he leaned over and grabbed his pack, heading for the door. They’d finished all their shopping yesterday so there was no reason to linger. That didn’t stop Noir from saying goodbye to the innkeeper and buying a few apples to snack on along the way.

    “Hey Bishop? Think fast!” Noir called mischievously, tossing an apple in his direction in a wide arch.

    Normally, his reactions were razor sharp but something must have been on his mind because the apple amply bounced off the top of Bishop’s head and he stumbled forward a few steps before clumsily catching it with both hands. Turning to glare at Noir indignantly, Bishop rubbed the sore spot on his head and complained, “Oi, watch it Ladyship.”

    “Sorry Bishop, I really thought you’d be able to catch it,” Noir chuckled, barely able to contain the urge to laugh at him for being such a klutz. Walking up and gently patting his head once his own hand was out of the way, she cast a quick healing spell to dull the pain and hoped he wouldn’t notice. Still, it was so funny seeing Bishop slip for once, proving that even he made mistakes sometimes. “In my defense, YOU need to pay more attention. If that had been a rock and not an apple you’d be eating dirt instead. Is something on your mind? You seem distracted.”

    “Depends on what you mean by ‘something’ princess,” Bishop replied coyly.

    Rolling her eyes and swatting the back of his head now that it was healed, Noir snorted, “Oh shut up and eat your apple. We’ve got a long way to go if we want to get to Ivarstead before dark.”

    Smirking in his usual smug way, Bishop replied dramatically, “As my lady commands.”

    ~

    After backtracking to Windhelm to cross the bridge heading west, the three of them followed the road a ways then turned to follow the road southwest to Ivarstead. They were attacked by a few wolves along the way and Noir still felt a bit guilty about killing them but it seemed like Karnwyr was more concerned about protecting his ‘pack’-which now consisted of both Bishop and herself-then caring about whether he was attacking his own kind.

    Karnwyr was such a sweetheart despite Bishop’s warnings that he wasn’t a pet. He always came to check on them after a fight, looking proud of his kill as he wagged his tail and waited beside it until it was time to move on. It was funny how much Karnwyr’s personality mirrored Bishop because he was the same way with Noir. Bishop was always checking to make sure she didn’t hurt herself too badly and followed close behind to protect her from danger. This was a good feeling. The feeling of being a part of something, sharing the task of keeping an eye out for enemies instead of constantly feeling on edge when so much as loose leaf brushed past her ear…

    Their journey together was very enjoyable, almost quiet were it not for the last several wolf attacks. But then out of nowhere they were suddenly attacked by a rogue high-elf mage who rushed at Noir from behind a tree just before they reached another bridge leading back across the river, sending a searing bolt of lightning in their direction. Neither Noir nor Karnwyr had caught his scent before then. It was hard to smell anything distinct in the humid air wafting in their direction from the geysers in the hot springs below. The three of them were just past the Giant camp where they killed their first dragon together as a team. Only now they were further up the mountainside on the other side traveling on a different road towards Ivarstead.

    At first Noir thought nothing of the fight, supposing this was just some rogue mage robbing travelers, when she noticed something odd. He wasn’t trying as hard as most rogue mages do to kill them and instead focused all his attention on Noir whenever her two annoying companions allowed it. That’s when Noir realized that this mage was missing her on purpose and seemed intent on wounding rather than killing her. The pattern of his attacks and the way he kept trying to open a path past Karnwyr and Bishop to reach her suggested so.

    But that would mean-was this mage…seriously thinking he could capture them? Another tell-tale sign of his intentions was that the mage didn’t utter a single insult their way like most brigands do during. He was silent and focused, realizing too late he wasn’t up for the task when Noir decided to end his little game by dodging another lightning bolt, knocking him to the ground with a deafening Shout, kicking off the ground to stab him in the stomach before he could recover his footing.

    The elven mage let out a gurgled cry and collapsed to the ground again, out of magic and out of luck. Even so, a horrible feeling formed in the pit of her stomach when she took a closer look at the dying man. He seemed familiar. But even if he was familiar why should that bother her? Unless…

    “I…should have known…” the mage weakly cackled with his dying breath. “So much for…an easy…job. ‘Bring her to me or else’ he says, as if he didn’t know his little pet was the Dra…guuulgh…”

    Whatever he’d been about to say died on his lips the moment he did. His withered voice had been no higher than a whisper so thankfully Bishop didn’t hear a word of it and was already preoccupied with regathering as many arrows as he could that were still usable from the ground.

    Noir heard it though, every single word, and she refused to allow her rising suspicions about who this mage was working for cloud alert Bishop to there being more to the attack than the usual. The mage said so himself, she WAS the Dragonborn and thanks to her new abilities Noir had little to fear from her old enemies or even new ones for that matter. Regardless, Noir hoped she was wrong about which old enemy had at last caught wind of her once again after all these years. Someone who was not so easily forgotten…

    ~

    Noir didn’t let the incident with the elven mage disturb her or show it outwardly and as a result Bishop wasn’t especially concerned about it either. They merely looted the body afterwards for anything useful then Noir surprised Bishop by going out of her way to drag the corpse over to the edge of the cliff before tossing the body right over the waterfall. Usually Noir was more respectful of the dead, even those who were their enemies, so this open display of distain was totally unexpected coming from her. Then again that mage WAS being an annoying pain in the ass that took forever to kill. And that ended up wasting valuable daylight so maybe Noir was just getting irritated by the extra delay in making it to Ivarstead before dark and decided to take it out on the dead guy.

    After killing their first dragon together Bishop noticed Noir’s renewed sense of obligation to put a stop to the threat they posed that filled her glowing yellow eyes like dragon fire. She still took most things in stride, slowly opening up to Bishop too by teasing him back, and it was amusing to make fun of how exceptionally happy Noir got over something as simple as finally upgraded her gear. But throughout their time together, that urgency Noir felt about going up the mountain to meet the Greybeards never really went away.

    Bishop could only guess why Noir thought seeing them was so important. It wasn’t like Noir owed them anything, let alone had any reason to save any of these ungrateful b****** in the first place. If it were up to Bishop he’d find other ways to preoccupy his lovely companion in ways that didn’t involve anyone else. Whether it was reminding her of the thrill of adventuring in the wilderness, embarking on a dungeon diving spree, or venturing into old ruins in search of secrets and treasures, Bishop wanted nothing more than to show Noir just how great traveling with him could be now that she had proven herself in his eyes.

    Noir dutifully kept her promise to focus on rescuing Karnwyr first instead of going to see the Greybeards straight away, but now it was she was getting anxious because of the spike in dragon attacks. It made Noir…for lack of a better word, fidgety. Which was why getting there now was all she could think about before something else delayed their arrival at least to Ivarstead today.

    As time went on, her ears perked up at the smallest sounds as she urged them on, desperately hoping to at least make it more than halfway to Ivarstead by sundown. Especially since it would be difficult to find a safe place to camp here in this mountainous region. Watching from behind, Bishop noticed how her tail kept flicking from side to side with annoyance which sorely tempted Karnwyr to nip at it playfully a few times. However, after giving Karnwyr a look and shaking his head, his four-legged friend took the hint and silently padded over closer to her, nudging Noir’s hand every so often as a sign of concern in his master’s stead…

    When they made it to a road sign indicating that they were more than halfway there at last Noir heaved a sigh of relief and pointed it out to Bishop with a bright smile. “Finally! I thought we’d never make it this far. I think we can afford a short break here for now. I’m starving. Let’s find a safe place to relax and then we’ll-”

    Behind them, Bishop and Noir failed to notice Karnwyr crouch down, lips curled into a snarl, then rush towards a mountain goat he spotted mere yards away from where they were standing. He was already way ahead of them as far as catching some lunch. Karnwyr even killed the second goat that foolishly wandered into his field of vision as well for good measure. Looking at each one of his kills then over at Bishop, peering at his master as if to say, ‘the other one is for you’ Karnwyr picked the first one he killed and started tearing off large chunks of meat. Leaving the other one for them.

    “Whelp, looks like he’s got the lunch part covered,” Bishop laughed, walking over and taking the second goat, loosely slinging it over one of his shoulders.

    Noir tilted her head and considered the goat for a minute or two then shook her head, “If it’s all the same to you I’m actually more in the mood for some fish. You two go ahead and enjoy your goats. Now that the fog has cleared it’s easier to see our surroundings and look, there’s a pond just over there too. That’s sure to have plenty of fish in it.”

    “What, are you too good to share a meal with wolves’ ladyship?” Bishop joked. “Meat is meat so better enjoy it fresh whenever you can. Who knows when we’ll have to go hunting next.”

    “Pfft, fish are made of fresh meat too you know!” Noir pouted teasingly, making her ears droop on purpose then stuck her tongue out at him. “You have your meat preferences and I have mine. So there!”

    Relieved to see Noir was finally in a better mood again, they waited for Karnwyr to finish his own meal-or at least bring what was left of it with him-then found that nice spot tucked away on the side of the road with a small pond full of fish she pointed out earlier. And as luck would have it, there was also an abandoned beehive beside it. Karnwyr found it while sniffing around the pond so now they could treat themselves with something sweet too after their meal.

    Noir looked just like a real cat, possibly a bear, as she snatched the fish out of the water one by one with her bare hand as if swiping them with a paw. She looked so adorably childish and playful doing it that it was hard for Bishop to remember that Noir was in fact the almighty Dragonborn. Bishop watched her and Karnwyr for a while similar to how Noir watch him back at the inn in Kynesgrove while setting up a small fire to cook the other goat on using a make-shift spit.

    Once Noir grilled her own fish on a flat stone over the coals, Bishop ate as much of the goat meat as he could then gave Karnwyr the scraps as usual. And he was amazed at how much better it tasted. It wasn’t as though Bishop cooked it any differently so why? Could it be because of Noir? Was it because for the first time in years, Bishop was willingly sharing a meal with someone he was beginning to trust besides his wolf…?

    ~

    Figures that the calm moment they shared before during lunch turned out to be the ‘calm before the storm.’ Because not even a few yards away from where they were beside the pond, Noir noticed a cave entrance nearby that was crudely decorated with dried bones caked with old blood on a pair of spikes driven into the earth. Since she was feeling a little more adventurous now that they were within reach of their goal and there was plenty of daylight left Noir suggested they all go inside and see what awaited them in the darkness. It was still early noon so Noir foolishly assumed they’d have plenty of time to get back on the road and still make it to Ivarstead before dark.

    Boy was she mistaken.

    The cavern proved a lot deeper and the situation more complex than they thought. In fact, it was similar to the cave where Karnwyr was held prisoner by bandits. Only this place didn’t stop with just wolves. There were cages filled with all sorts of animals, including a saber cat, and the bandits even fought each other for gold from the look of things. Either way it still complicated things.

    For the most part, using Noir’s new crossbow-since it was a weapon she always wanted to try out-and Bishop’s normal bow, with their combined efforts to silently take out their enemies they took out most of the bandits up until they reached the large main chamber that was littered with cages filled with both live animals and dead ones they hadn’t cleared out yet. Gross. It was difficult to remain undetected the closer the three of them came to the cages when the beasts inside could smell them coming from a mile away and snarled, their mouths watering at the prospect of fresh meat.

    At first the bandits just ignored them and one even kicked one of the cages to make them stop their infernal growling. However, when Noir managed sneak close enough to open the saber cat’s cage and set it loose they realized something truly was amiss. At least the saber managed to kill at least two of the bandits before it was stabbed in chest with a great-sword. Clearly it was too weak from hunger to do much more damage than that. And when Noir and Bishop tried to pick off the remaining three with their arrows and bolts, unfortunately, they were finally spotted by someone who raised the alarm. Although this was kinda pointless since most of them were dead now…

    Up until then Karnwyr stayed by their side without making a sound while the two of them were sniping the bandits. He was used to that because Karnwyr did this whenever he was out with Bishop during a hunt too. Once their cover was blown though he eagerly leapt into the fray along with them. Noir had a bit of difficultly towards the end fending off the last bandit wielding a large hammer while Bishop was making his way through the maze of cages to reach the pit but thankfully, like many times before since rescuing the exceptionally loyal wolf, Karnwyr saved her at the last minute and landed a killing blow when he tore the bandit’s throat out…

    Exhausted from the unexpectedly long journey through the cave fighting wave after wave of bandits, the three of them finally made it back outside only to find that it had grown dark already! Noir whimpered when she saw this, disappointed in herself more than anything for getting carried away, then rushed back down to the road to check the sign so they knew which direction to go again. Damn it, she was such an idiot! They pretty much wasted the rest of the day venturing into a single cave. It should have been a quick trip in then out again with whatever loot they found but now, it hardly seemed worth it.

    “We should keep moving,” Bishop suggested, his tone soft but serious. “Technically we did clear out that cave and could stay there for the night. But going back would only waste more time. As dangerous as it is traveling at night I don’t think we have much of a choice. With any luck, we’ll still make it to Ivarstead today even if it is dark.”

    Shoulders slumped, Noir sighed deeply then nodded. “Alright.”

    ~

    It was late but by some miracle the three of them finally made it to town and headed straight for the inn, asking for a room and a hot meal. And the nice thing about small village inns was that most owners don’t care what race you are or where you came from, they’re just eager for the business. Unlike the inn at Kynesgrove however, the innkeeper wasn’t exactly overly-friendly and eager to please but rather…resigned to how things were here in Ivarstead. Business was always slow and very few travelers passed through their village unless they were pilgrims about to make the trek up the 7000 steps to High Hrothgar.

    The innkeeper also mentioned he was very troubled about the ghost lurking in the Nordic ruins within throwing distance of the village that was also discouraging travelers from staying very long. When Noir heard about this ghost while the innkeeper was serving their food she smiled and told him she would investigate it as soon as they returned from High Hrothgar. Thankfully he didn’t ask them why they were going up there, assuming the two of them were just more travelers making the pilgrimage. He never could have guessed they were going because Noir was the legendary Dragonborn the Greybeards personally summoned to the mountain top almost a week ago.

    She winced when she realized it had taken them this long just to get to Ivarstead. It felt very disrespectful to have made them wait so long. But Noir hoped that-the Greybeards being Nordic monks or something-they would be more than forgiving of her tardiness. Being the Dragonborn carried a whole new set of responsibilities for one person and doubtless many insisted on calling for her aid. Besides, Noir managed to slay another dragon along the way and that was one less dragon out there to kill innocent people, so surely that counted for something…

    This was normally the time when Noir would dig out her journal and start writing once they had a room or a tent set up for the night but she was too tired to bother with it and decided that this might be a good time to get to know Bishop better. She already felt she understood Karnwyr well. He was loyal, protective of his master, playful and curious, and he craved attention as much of not more than Bishop did from her. Karnwyr took an instant shine to Noir after she saved him and healed his wounds, which honestly surprised her and Bishop alike. After all, Noir was still a Khajiit, aka a cat. Not that he seemed to care about that though, in fact, Karnwyr seemed to like her more because she was furry too and they shared a lot of the same basic instincts and playfulness, strange as it may seem. Oh well. It was better than him seeing her as a meal like every other wolf they’ve met so far.

    Noir couldn’t remember if she’d said so or not but while scratching the wolf behind the ears, she smiled softly, “Your wolf is really sweet Bishop. I’m surprised he’s so friendly with me. I mean, I’ve always loved animals but even I think this is a little bizarre…”

    Smiling over at her sitting beside him, even if was only until they went to bed for the night and she took the other one much to his disappointment, Bishop replied, “He likes you. You know why?”

    Noir tilted her head a little to the side then asked, “No idea. Do you know why?”

    “You’re not afraid of him like the others.” Bishop answered, observing Noir as she watched Karnwyr settle down for the night and curl up on the floor.

    Standing up and making her way to her own bed on the opposite side of the room, Noir laid down on her side and smiled, “Once you understand an animal, you don’t need to be afraid of it. I basically said the same thing back when we killed the bear just past Helgen. They’re incapable of hatred unlike people, though they do have natural enemies. It’s just a matter of showing them if you’re an ally, prey, or the enemy.”

    “You see?” Cupping his hands in his lap as he leaned forward, meeting Noir’s golden eyes with his own, Bishop continued with a smirk, “And THAT’S why you and he understand each other. You understand what he is, what he does. But most importantly, and this is the most important, you understand what he’s capable of doing.”

    “Why do I get the funny feeling you’re not just talking about Karnwyr?” Noir mused with a soft chuckle. “While we’re on the subject, I’ve been wondering this for a while now. How did you become a ranger Bishop?”

    Stiffening, Bishop responded carefully, “Why the sudden interest?”

    Noir shrugged, resisting the urge to counter his question with another question and decided to answer honestly. “Well we’ve been together this long and I just want to get to know you better.”

    “Ahh, princess, you don’t have to hear my life’s story to do that.” Bishop told her, his amber eyes smoldering with a barely-contained desire.

    Now it was her turn to tense up, recalling the incident in the alchemist’s shack when Bishop cornered her which made Noir blush deeply at the mere memory of his closeness. Not that Bishop could tell she was blushing unless he was paying close attention to the color of her lips or the light greyish skin turning slightly pink on the inside of her pointed ears. Ignoring the heat still burning her cheeks, Noir folded her ears back and pouted, “Aw come on, just answer the question.”

    Slightly disappointed she didn’t take the bait on his invitation, Bishop sighed as he stared up at the wood ceiling. “Ugh, fine. How did I become a ranger? Like why anyone else sells themselves. I was raised with the skills. The difference is that I was taught them to survive, not for profit. Not an…honest kind of profit, anyway. I started ranging about…seven years before we met. Word got around that I could track runaways or hunt meals for fat, lazy nobles…whatever. I didn’t plan on it but they had gold and I had a bow, so I became their ranger.” Looking back down at Noir again, Bishop asked in turn, “What about the illustrious woman before me? You’re so nosy about my life.”

    Laying down completely now to get more comfortable, Noir answered calmly, “I’m sure you’ve already guessed as much given my unusual appearance but I was born in Elsweyr. The first few years of my life I spent tucked away with my parents on the outskirts of our village in the Tenmar Forest. But it wasn’t long before I lost them and went to live with my aunt and her tribe. We were happy together for at least a few years until…something happened and I wound up in Skyrim. I’ve been here ever since. I couldn’t return home so I’ve been hunting and doing some of the same things you have most likely, just not as often since people don’t trust my kind. I tried traveling with one of the Khajiit caravans once but that didn’t work out. Because, well, just listen to me,” Noir laughed humorlessly, “Haven’t you been wondering why I talk so…human rather than like other Khajiit’s? You know, saying things ‘this one grew up in the great green forests of her homeland’ or ‘Noir thinks you smell like a wet dog?’

    After hearing that last remark, Bishop gave her a dirty look.

    “What? I’m kidding! You smell fine! Really nice actually all things considering. Although you could use a bath,” Noir laughed again, this time genuinely.

    After an awkward moment of silence between them, Bishop finally snorted, “Elsweyr huh? You don’t say! Well, I’ve gotta say, I never actually met a Khajiit FROM Elsweyr. The sands probably got too hot for your asses, right?” Growing somber again, he continued with a shrug, “You know what, our pasts are our pasts. We’re not going to make the future any better by going on about them. As for the present, wasn’t there somewhere we had to be going? Some long-lost hat to be retrieving? No? If all else fails-”

    ’There’s always the inn.’ You always say that. I swear Bishop, are you sure you’re not a drunkard instead of a ranger? Every time we head anywhere civilized that’s the first place you want to go!” Noir complained, though she clearly wasn’t all that serious about it. “The first day we met you were drinking too or at least tried inviting me to drink with you. Maybe I should start calling you ‘drunkest’ just like you called those two men in Riverwood ‘drunk’ and ‘drunker.’

    “Yeah well maybe instead of the Dragonborn I should start calling you Fuzzyface,” Bishop smirked, earning himself a dirty look in return. “Hey. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it darling. Anyway, we’ve made it this far so…let’s get this over with and see what those old fossils want with you. Maybe then you’ll stop acting like someone’s about to pull your tail if we’re any later getting there. Well if it’s any consolation, if they do I promise I’ll slice their hand off for ya. The only one allowed to chase your tail around is me.”

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