///Raven's Heart
Raven's Heart 2017-04-03T14:05:00+00:00

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    #22959 |

    So I have a DB story that has evolved partially from the Legacy Museum, so after several edits…here it is.
    Two points: 1 – the story has a rape…I hate using them as a plot point but historically rape was used as a torture method on men and women. So sorry, I kept it short and not described well. It makes me ill too.
    2 – Raven is the love interest for my DB. I like Bishop, Cael or Casavir; I like them a lot. However, I like how Raven “robs” the DB. So here’s chapter one.

    Raven’s Heart – Chapter 1

    The Knights of the Nine lived at the Priory of the Nine, a small settlement on the border Cyrodiil and Elsweyr. After the death of Sir Amiel in the Third Era, there were no knights. But a couple hundred years later, the Gods saw the need for more knights and in the Third Era, 433, the knights were restored. The knights searched for the Relics of the Crusader and when one was found it was placed on the altars in the Priory. As time passed, more than men became knights, Argonians, Khajiit, and Mer all joined the ranks. The Gauntlets of the Crusader lay immovable on the ground at the Temple of Chorral, cursed when they were worn during the murder of a beggar. However as the centuries turned, they vanished. The bones of Sir Amiel were recovered and lay to rest at the Priory. The new order of knights was not made of proud men and women. They were humble and mindful of their orders follies in the past. So as priests of one of the Nine they were first, then the best of them, the ones whose hearts were pure of greed, malice, and envy would be raised to knighthood. No longer chosen by men, but by the gods themselves, no knight had all of the Nine’s blessing so no knight could wear the Relics of the Crusader. At the beginning of the Fourth Era, as the Empire keened the loss of the Last Septim Emperor, a prophecy from an Elder Scroll was delivered to the knights by the Moth Priests.

    “And so when all hope is lost, when doom is upon the world, one will rise from the ashes. She must fight for the world to save. The Last Knight, she shall stand with Mercy to stave the evil spreading through the land.”

    And so the knights read and forgot about the foretelling. After all, there was so much going on in the world and they mourned their fallen Emperor.

    4th Era, 171

    “To Arms! To Arms! We are being attacked!” The priest cried out from the Priory stairs as another priest rang the bell in alarm. A swarm of Altmer warriors attacked the Priory and its residents with blade and magic. One priestess led the terrified children to the basement, as another led them out the secret passages.

    Armoured men and women struck down priests armed with only hoes and rakes. The knights were shot in the back with arrows as they faced opponents with swords. There was no glory or honour with this fight. It was a slaughter. As with all battles, there is great noise until it is over, then silence. All of the knights and priests lay dead surrounding the Priory. Many Altmer bodies joined them though the elves had outnumbered the men 25 to 1. The Altmer commander rode in on his horse as the banners of the knights were torn down. He frowned at the loss of his men. His elves were Thalmor; they really should have had a better showing.

    “Search for stragglers!” He barked out as he dismounted. Striding across the garden to the chapel of the Priory he walked straight to the Relics of the Crusader. He then smiled as he ran his hand over the armour. “Excellent, all nine pieces are here. A fine trophy!” However, when he went to pick up a piece, he could not. He tried several times and they would not budge.

    “Commander, sir, we have found a priestess and a couple children.” The Thalmor soldiers pushed the shackled young woman in to the chapel causing her to fall to the floor.

    “Kill the children,” the Commander ordered coldly ignoring the woman’s cry of No. He moved to grab the priestess by her golden hair as she tried to crawl to protect the children. Yanking her to the altar, he slammed her into the unforgiving stone. “What trick is this that I cannot move the Relics?” he demanded of her.

    “No one who is unworthy can wield the Relics. From a murder they fall to the ground, unmovable. The evil in your heart is known to the Gods. You cannot repent enough to ever wear them.” Her dark blue eyes were almost purple as she spat at her words. “Evil does not live in the hearts of the Knights of the Nine.”

    “Talos isn’t a God!” He roared at her before backhanding her across the floor. Ignoring her motionless form, he ordered his men to assemble. All of them tried to lift the Relics and not one was able. The hands of the men who had killed the children passed through the Relics as if they were not even there. The Commander grew more impatient as his Thalmor tried and failed.

    “Establish camp,” he ordered. Looking over at the woman, he saw her sitting as if meditating. It enraged him. The symbol on her chest was of Dibella, and the woman was lovely, for a human. “Give me the relics or else…”

    She opened her eyes and stared at him, unafraid. “What will you do to me? Kill my father, my mother, my brothers and sisters? Will you destroy my family?” Tears pooled on her lower eyelashes as she spoke. “It is too late, you already have done that. I am all that is left. So kill me and let me join them and the Nine. For you will never have the Relics, they are not for you.”

    “You could give them to me.” He stroked her pale bruised cheek.

    “Never,” she replied.

    Grabbing her chin roughly with his gloved hand, he lifted her up. “Then you will be persuaded to give them to me.” The Commander marched her to his tent by her bound arms.

    For the next week, the woman was tortured by the Thalmor. Each time she was given respite so that they didn’t kill her, as rays of sun touched her, she was healed by the gods as if she had never been injured. The elves tried to get the Relics and failed each time. Finally, the woman was again brought to the Commander just after finding her healed again.

    “My name is Commander Olivero, and I really must have the Relics. So be a good girl and give them to me.” He held her head in place by her hair so that she could see the determination in his eyes.

    “No,” was her quiet reply.

    “So be it,” He sighed.

    The rape lasted through the night and every man in the camp could hear her screams of pain. As the first rays of dawn entered the camp soldiers began to fall asleep until the entire camp slept. As the sun’s rays crept into the Commander’s tent, the woman was healed. She stood from the bed were she had been violated and walked naked through the camp. At the Priory doors, she knelt and prayed. Then she entered.

    “Oh, holy Nine. Hear me, please. I am unworthy for the task I must undertake. Please let me take the Relics from here.” She spoke as she walked to the altar, the guards asleep on the floor. “Let me hide them so none of these murders can claim them.”

    A dazzling light flooded the chapel and wrapped around her. As she reached out to the Relics, they moved of their own accord, embracing her in their power. The Gods anointed her at that moment as the Knight of the Nine. Now she had a choice: did she show mercy and leave or did she kill them all?

    As she rode away on the Commander’s horse, she wondered how he was going to explain his new scar to his superiors…for she had carved Rapist in his forehead. But he lived, as did they all. Mercy was given for she would not be a murderer, no matter how righteous.

    4th Era, 195

    A small thin girl with long honey colored hair sat staring at the ever blooming tree, a blessing of Kyne. Her dark blue eyes that were almost purple watched a bold pink petal fall only to be caught in the wind and drift over the stone wall. A deep serenity settled over her. As the calm spread to her fingers she began to create a symbol in the air, her fingers leaving glowing trails in the sky. As she finished, the symbol pulsed before individual drops of light showered the gardens. In a rush the sounds of the fort, garden, and temple buried her pointed ears with a cacophony of noise. She stood and bowed to the tree, praying to Kyne in thanks for her blessing.

    “Mercy!” The girl turned to the voice, smiling.

    “Yes, Sir Reghar?” She asked the large burly knight as she walked over to him.

    “Mercy, I have been calling you for the last ten minutes. Why did you not answer me?” he asked. He looked disheveled and out of breath despite being on four and twenty years of age. Some people are born old, Mercy thought as she was the same age.

    “I was meditating at Kyne’s blessing. I blocked all sounds so I could concentrate of the melody of the wind.” She skipped alongside the knight as he led her to through the chapel. Both knelt at the altar, the Relics of the Crusader resting on the stone. “I am sorry I forgot about weapon practice.”

    The large Nord man hummed as he was no longer listening to the girl. Instead he watched as the leader of the Knight of the Nine strode towards them. The woman was as fair as any; her lush curves could not be hidden by her armour. Some whispered she had been a Dibella priestess before. As she stopped in front of him, Sir Reghar found himself swearing it must be so. He lowered his head to his leader.

    “My lady,” he asked warmly. “How may I help you?”

    “I need to speak with Mercy for a moment. I am sorry she will be even later for weapons practice, Sir Reghar.” The voice was kind, as rich as velvet.

    “Of course, Lady Amelia,” he bowed and walked out to the practice field.

    “What is it, Mother?” Mercy looked up at her mother. Warm arms hugged her and she hugged back. Mercy looked into her mother’s eyes as she pulled back from the hug. “I haven’t been bad, honest Momma.” Mercy looked up innocently.

    “No, my dear, no trouble. Honestly what trouble could you get into? Way out here on a mountain on an island that most of Nirn doesn’t even know exists.” She shook her head, “So far from everything.” Her eyes took on a glazed look as she stared at something only she could see. “No, this is important. I have a couple old friends I need you to meet. M’aiq is a Khajiit priest. Auryen is a relic hunter and an Altmer. They have helped the order for a very long time.”

    Mercy gasped as she heard the last. Her father had been an Altmer and a very bad man. No Altmer had been called by the Nine since the attack on the Priory. A few Bosmer, Orsimer, and Dunmer had answered the call; but it seemed the Gods were a bit upset with the Altmer. Or maybe no Altmer answered as they didn’t believe in Talos. She wondered if they would disappear as the Dwemer did. And would she a half Altmer go with them? She might have been 24 years, but as a half elf she was still more girl than woman. Following her mother, she entered the Ante-Chamber. All of the artifacts that could be found no matter their origin once rested here. However, one night a great storm of lightening covered the fort and in the morning, the room was empty. Even the Elder Scroll with the Prophecy of the Last Knight of the Nine had vanished. Mercy knew her mother was most upset about that loss.

    After meeting her mother’s friends, Mercy was dismissed. She ran down the stairs to the practice field and stopped just outside of the fighting ring. Sir Reghar was training a new recruit, an Imperial man-boy named Theo. He had come back with Lady Heather, after she went home for her parents’ funerals after the couple had died in a fire. On her way back, Lady Heather had been ambushed by Thalmor agents. The boy had been a captive that Lady Heather released after she killed her attackers. He had chosen to stay with her, rather than return to the village that had turned him out for being the son of a Talos worshipper. Mercy didn’t like the way he looked at her out of the side of his eyes. However, as she proved at many a practice, she was a far better fighter than he was. A fact he didn’t like at all. Lady Heather saw Mercy and waved as she walked over.

    “Want to practice with maces?” Lady Heather asked her even though Mercy was already nodding frantically. The knight laughed and tossed a wooded mace wrapped in a thin layer of wool to the girl. As the two danced around one another, they didn’t notice Theo whose practice had finished watching the girl. His eyes were filled with hate, lust and envy. When the boy was called to, he cast one last look at Mercy before heading off.

    Months passed in peace. Her mother’s friends visited when they could but no longer did anyone bring artifacts to the island. When the knights went out hunting for them, they instead hid them at a place near the Lady Stone where the other branch of the order took them to be hidden. Mercy knew that her mother wasn’t the only survivor of the First Priory. However, she was to tell no one who wasn’t a knight; none of the initiates were to know before their vigil. Mercy knew the order survived due to the Thalmor never finding either branch.

    4th Era, 200
    Years past as they do. Island life was quiet, a hidden beacon of the light that had once been the Priory. Knight studied, practiced the art of war as well as the sciences of magic and alchemy. No new apprentices had been brought to the island in the last year. Rather they were being taken to the island refuge off the coast of High Rock. The knights were growing older and few ventured out anymore. Most spent their time in prayer. A few had left the Order as they took their families from the island to live out the rest of their years as priest of one the eight accepted gods. Even though they still believed in the Nine, they would pretend to protect their children. Soon Mercy was the youngest person on the island.

    Alone again in the garden Mercy weeded the flowers, the herbs and the veg, her mind not on her task but on her approaching anointing. Soon she would be a priestess. A priestess of… Aaaaaaand that was the problem. Mercy didn’t know which divine to serve. Stendarr? She was named for his sphere…naw, too arrogant to assume such. Perhaps Dibella? A thought which caused her to giggle a lot; she was no beauty like her mother. Mara mayhaps? Mercy wrinkled her lip. No offense to Mara, but she wasn’t planning on breeding for a couple decades or more. Okay so, Arkay, no she didn’t like preparing corpses…the smell made her gag. Zenithar? Another giggle erupted from her, she was no merchant. Hmm, Julianos? So far she could only cast flames and healing, so probably not one of his priests. Akatosh was the leader of the Nine. Maybe she could follow him. Of course there was still Kyne and Talos. She did like the outdoors and she was half human. Though she doubted her mother would let her travel as Kyne and Talos priests did. So Akatosh, if he accepts me.

    Mercy felt a bit of dread. Only one person had ever been rejected by the Nine. Theo, Lady Heather’s old novice had stood before the altar: no light had covered him nor had any shrine shone when he laid his hands on the altar. Furious, Theo had tried to grab the Relic sword in front of him. His hand had passed through it. The knights had been shocked. He had left the island blindfolded as he had come. That was a few months ago and Lady Heather had finally ended her mourning for the boy’s soul. Mercy had seen her at breakfast this morning. The knight’s eyes were haunted and she seemed to have aged a decade in the last month. Mercy was stunned at the change. Later around noon, at weapons practice, Lady Heather was quiet as she dueled another knight, a large older Redguard, Kalin. Gone was her laughter, the banter as she trained was lost. Mercy felt the sadness in her heart for the knight as she sat watching the practice waiting for Sir Bogal, a knight who was working on her two handed skills.

    Suddenly, the bell in the temple began to ring in alarm. The moment paused as if the world was taking a breath. Mercy ran to the main gate which stood open as warriors dressed in strange golden armour attacked with blades and magic. Unable to attack them, she watched as they killed her family. She froze as she saw Theo riding a horse next to a very tall mer. A scream flew from her as she threw fire at the traitor. It went through him as it he was air.

    “Mercy! Wake up! Mercy!” Sir Bogal, an Orsimer knight, was holding her down on the ground as Mercy thrashed crying out. The large orc was sweating, with the labour of holding her gently but firmly so she couldn’t hurt herself. He had feared he would break bones if he held her with too much strength.

    Mercy stopped fighting the knight as she looked around. No fire, no death, no traitor…it had been a dream. No, it had been a vision. “Thalmor are coming. Theo betrayed us.” Bogal growled at her words and looked to the gate.

    “How long?” the knight asked.

    Mercy closed her eyes remembering the vision. “Tomorrow, at this time, they will attack and the main gate will be open.” Tears poured down her golden cheeks. Mercy looked to the knight, praying he would not dismiss it and afraid that he would.

    Bogal helped Mercy stand, “We tell your mother, now.”

    Mercy and the orc raced to her mother’s office. Never having entered without knocking, Mercy sent an apology to the Gods for her lack of decorum. After telling her mother of the vision, Mercy was amazed how fast the knights could assemble and prepare for an attack. Lady Amelia was her mother, but she was also the wielder of the Relics. A chill ran down her spine as Mercy realized her mother would never leave the fort. She is going to fight them.

    Mercy sat on her bed as her mother entered with Sir Reghar. Mercy started to rise, but lowered back to sit as her mother waved her back down.

    “Reghar, you will take Mercy to Auyren at the Imperial Museum. There are enough half-elf children running around the capital now.” Reghar bristled as he was being sent from the fight. Lady Amelia laid her hand on his shoulder. “Please Reghar; it’s more important that you can ever know that she leave here. Mercy can ride my warhorse. Go get the horses.” Reghar nodded and left the room.

    “You are going to fight them.” Mercy said to mother who was more Lady Amelia right now. Mother was warm and soft, right now she was cold and unyielding. A sharp nod answered her as Mercy fell to her knees before the knight commander. “Run, please, they are going to kill everyone. I have seen it.”

    “I swore when I came here I would never run again. I knew I would die here, one way or another. I wonder if they know all the knights are here. I wonder if they planned it to be so.” The woman bent down and hugged her child. Here was mother, love and hope. “You are the only child here, and it is our job to protect you, my darling.”

    “Why send me away? Why not come with me?” Mercy asked blinded by tears as she clung to her mother. Fear for her family choked her; blindly pain filled her chest as her heart broke at the coming separation.

    “Because you must live,” Lady Amelia released her daughter and marched out of the room.

    And without another word, Mercy was packed up and bundled onto a horse. Reghar mounted his war horse and pulled a pack horse behind him. Before dusk, they rode out the gate. Their scouts had found the Thalmor army camped on the main road, so turning their horses, they began the trek down the backside of the mountain. A path that Theo knew not of, but still dangerous as the cliffs were deadly, they rode with their horses hooves covered in lamb wool to silence their steps, going slowly lest one of the animals lose their footing. As they approached the docks they saw the mighty ships of the Thalmor. A few guards watched in the wee hours of the night. Reghar and Mercy slew them all.

    “The rest must be with the Army. A dozen men left to guard the ships. Fools!” Reghar spat on one of the corpses. Moving over to the bay, he pointed to a longboat. “Load the horses.” He ordered Mercy as he walked on the elven war gallon. Quick and quiet, she loaded their gear and mounts. As Mercy began to unsaddle the horses, she felt the ship move. They had set sail and this time tomorrow, her mother would be dead. Reghar shot fire arrows at the oil he had set on the elven ships. They began to burn soon engulfed in flames.

    “Mercy, come here,” Reghar ordered as she finished with the horses. As she approached, he held out a letter. “It’s from your mother.”

    Mercy took the letter and whispered a thank you to the knight. Sitting on a coil of rope, she began to read her mother’s last words. Her heart pounded painfully in her chest as grief took hold.

    Mercy,
    I am sorry, but you have to leave. Trust no Thalmor. You know how you came into this world. You are a Knight. I am sorry your anointing is like this. I give you the Sword of the Crusader, wear it well. Fight tyranny, love, live and help the people. You are my heart and knowing that you will live makes what must be done easier. A priestess of Azura found me just before your birth helped me find the island. The priestess, a Dunmer named Aranea, told me that Azura would grant you one vision. You would have the vision when you were to leave the island and begin your quest. She told me that you were more than just a knight of the Nine, but the Last Knight. You are the Knight of Prophecy. I am sorry to have to tell you this way. Long before you could even talk, I sent all the Relics away, save the sword. Auyren made replicas for me when he visited, taking the real relic with him to hide; however each disappeared after he left the island. Find the Relics. I will destroy the fakes before we fight the invaders. They will take no prizes from here. We will die fighting and take many with us.
    Mercy, I love you. I hope you find a good life. Be brave, my darling.
    I will always be with you,
    Mother

    Tears spattered on the letter, causing words to warp. Mercy folded the letter to spare it the flood of her sobbing. Curled on a stack of ropes, she fell asleep crying. When she woke at dawn, Reghar told her to steer towards the Lord constellation. Laying out a bedroll, he slept. At noon, she looked back at the island that had faded until it was only a small mound on the horizon. Large smoke plumes rose into the sky. “Fight them!” She whispered as silent tears poured down her cheeks.

    Four more days at sea and no ships giving chase, Reghar began to relax. A large volcano came into view the next day spewing smoke and ash. Reghar said they were near Morrowind, the land of the Dunmer.

    “Where are we going to, Reghar?” Mercy asked as she stared at the Red Mountain.

    “I am aiming for Bleakrock Isle. We can blend in with the fishing boats and the traders. It’s a common port for all kinds of beings. The Dunmer excel at trading. From there, we will skirt around Skyrim. I don’t want to linger there. They have a civil war going on. Straight through the Reach into Cyrodiil, we will be in the Capital in five or six months’ time.” Reghar laid his map on a barrel and showed her their route. “The island is far south from here. We will begin to head west in another day. The Thalmor will expect us to go straight west, to get off the sea as fast as possible. We went north.”

    “What will you do once you have delivered me to Auyren?” Mercy asked, afraid to lose her last friend on Nirn.

    Reghar laughed a dry hard laugh. “Oh, you aren’t getting rid of me that easy. I am going to train you until you drop. Swords, spells and archery are going to be drilled into your head until you cough up arrows and runes.” His rough hand rested on her head. “We will get through this, lass. And from now on, I am your cousin, not sir.” Reghar rolled up his map and watched the young half-elf. Thirty one years old and no longer a gangly girl but still young, Mercy skin was a soft pale golden with hair like her mother’s honey gold. Though she shared her mother’s eye color, her eyes were larger almost filling her whole face. Mercy grew up graceful, slim lines rather than lush curves. Reghar knew that many called her a pale mirror of her mother. He stroked his warhorse’s neck as he watched his “cousin.” Yes, with his blonde hair and pale blue eyes, they could pass as cousins. He knew there were many half-elves around since the Great War; horrors were committed by both sides.

    Weeks passed as Reghar said. The two docked at the Isle of Bleakrock and after selling their ship, they caught passage across to the mainland with merchants, mercenaries, and other workers. Mercy tried not to stare at all the people, making sure her hood was up at all times. Reghar got a job working as a caravan guard on a caravan going to Riften. He recommended Mercy as their cook and the leader of the caravan hired her after tasting her fish soup. Everything seemed like it was going to go as planned. The caravan trip was boring and exciting in turns. Reaver attacks happened a couple times. After they crossed into Skyrim, the bandits attacked instead. Mercy could see no difference between Reavers and bandits, both were smelly, badly dressed and killers.

    At the market of Riften, they looked for a caravan headed south towards Cyrodiil. One man did catch Mercy’s eye, a tall dark haired Nord in black armour who seemed to cling to the shadows. His laughing eyes seemed to look through her. Mercy tried to point him out to Reghar, but when she turned back the man was gone. When Reghar went back to his business, the man crossed Mercy’s vision again. She tried to get close to him but he stayed at the edge of the market opposite her. If she strayed too far from Regher, he would call her back, causing the dark man to laugh at her. Their game continued until she left the city. No caravans were going to Cyrodiil, so the two knights left Riften and headed south. The day before they were to reach the guard post between two lands, Reghar called a halt.

    “Let’s set up camp while it’s still light.” He spoke as he watched the forest around them. Mercy set up the tents as Reghar went with the buckets to fetch fresh water from the river. When he returned, she already had a fire going with a pot of stew simmering.

    “I am so glad one of us can cook,” he quipped as he sat the buckets down. “What did you use for water?” Mercy held up her now empty waterskin. “Go fill it at the river before dark. Oh,” Reghar tossed her a bar of soap, “bathe for Stendarr’s mercy.” She caught the soap and retreated as she stuck out her tongue.

    After filling her waterskin, she stripped and began to bathe. The water was cold, reminding her of the fort. Home…gone now. Mercy thought. She finished and dressed, heading back to camp. At the first crash, she hurried through the brush, arriving to see Theo stab Reghar in the back through the heart. A dozen bandits were dead at Reghar’s feet. At her cry, he turned to her.

    “Well, well,” his words were as slimy as his fake smile. “Looks like I was right. Not that the Thalmor believed me.” He snorted. “Mommy had to save her precious baby. And of course she would only trust her most loyal dog.” Theo kicked the dying Reghar. “Now you are mine!” Theo lunged for her and she threw her skin at him as she bent and grabbed up her mother’s sword. As she pulled it from the scabbard, Theo’s eyes devoured it. “Oh good, I get you and a holy relic.” He swung for her and she easily blocked. Their swords clashed several times, Theo breathing hard as Mercy settled into her fighting stance. Soon he realized that he was outmatched. As Theo turned to flee, she grabbed his left shoulder bringing her sword down over his right shoulder through his heart.

    “For the knights whom you betrayed!” she cried as he died. Dropping the sword, she raced over to Reghar.
    “Reghar, heal yourself. I don’t know how! Reghar! Don’t leave me.” She pleaded as her hands tried to plug the bloody hole in his chest. Blood covered her hands and arms as it pumped from his body. “Please Reghar.”

    “Take what you can,” Reghar coughed up blood, “I am done and others will come.” He laid his head back and put one hand on hers tucking the gold pouch in. “Get away from here! You have ten minutes to get clear once you mount.”

    Mercy hurriedly gathered what valuables they had. Taking up her sword, she swung into the saddle urging her horse into a run. In her mind, she began the count. Ten minutes could only mean one spell. Reghar had been a master of destruction spells, as well as swords. Mercy knew no one would escape his magic. If only she had studied more healing spells.

    Mercy looked back and saw torches approaching the camp. As she hit the count for ten mintues, she closed her eyes so as to not be blinded by the spell Reghar cast. A large firestorm took out the space of a great hall. Turning her tear streaked face; she guided her horse north and west. She crossed a river and continued running only stopping when her horse began to foam at the mouth. Dismounting, she stroked his neck.

    “I am sorry.” She led him to a steam where he drank. Mercy organized her things, putting the coin pouch in her backpack. She kept herself busy, lest she collapse in tears and allow herself to be caught.
    Soon she was walking her horse as she looked around. Forest and more forest surrounded her. Hopefully if she didn’t know where she was, the Thalmor wouldn’t either. At first light she looked at the map. Falkreath Hold had a gate to Cyrodiil. Perhaps they had a courier post too so she could update Auyren on what had happened. As her horse pawed the ground, she mounted.

    “No running, just a steady pace.” She told him as they set off.

    Later as darkness began she unsaddled her horse and made a cold camp. Pushing her bedroll into a fallen log, she curled up and began to cry softly. Falling asleep, she didn’t see the men creeping into the nearby clearing or the men waiting around the clearing in ambush. As dawn broke, she was awakened by shouts and the clashing of swords. As she crawled from her bedroll, she didn’t see the Imperial officer sitting on the log. He however saw her and with his mace put her back to sleep.

    *****
    Mercy’s first though was that she had over indulged on mead again as she had at Alicia’s anointing. As her vision blurred and swam, she tried to put her hands on her aching head only to find them tied. Slowly her vision cleared allowing her to see the blonde Nord across from her. The moments in the wagon would be the last of peace she would know. For as the wagons reached Helgen, there were Thalmor, a headsman, and a dragon.

    Ralof became a true friend. After their escape from Helgen, he took her to Riverwood to his sister. That night she curled on blankets in front of Gerder and Hob’s fireplace, sleep eluded her. For a long time she stared at the ceiling of the cottage. Hearing a noise, she looked to the door, a shadow crept over it. Mercy pulled the imperial sword she had taken from the Imperial torturer and slowly tiptoed to the door. Her hand reached for the door as another hand covered hers. Ralof apparently couldn’t sleep either. As the two moved in unison, their escape having turned them into a fighting team, the door was opened partially and they slipped out. The shadow skulked around the northern corner of the cottage with them behind it. As they pounced, a familiar face greeted Mercy.

    “This one thinks swords are unnecessary.” The khajiit looked up at the sword and axe in his face.

    “M’aiq?” Mercy squeeked. “What are you doing here?”

    “Returning something young one should not be without.” M’aiq lifted a sheathed blade and handed it to her. “Dragon attacks make excellent distractions. This one just relived the officer of his prize as the great lizard burned the town.” He took the hand Ralof held out and stood. “Young one should be more careful.” The khajiit dropped a pack at her feet. “What if this one was not able to retrieve all of your items? Young one would have been as a furless cub.” M’aiq laid a hand on her head. “Young one’s horse is at the north gate. Mara’s mercy, young one will have to do better.”

    “How did you know where I was? If you were following why didn’t you help Reghar?” Mercy yelled at him.

    “This one saw young one at Helgen. It is the first time since the island.” M’aiq ran a hand over his furry face to straighten his whiskers. “This one is sorry for young one’s loss.” He dusted himself off and walked away from them waving as he disappeared into the shadows.

    “You have interesting friends.” Ralof spoke as Mercy caressed the scabbard. “Shall we try to get some sleep?” His eyes bulged wide as she drew the blade. “That’s…that’s,” his voice trailed off.

    “The Sword of the Crusader,” Mercy replied. She sheathed the blade and wrapped the belt around her hips. “It was my mother’s sword until a few weeks ago. She was the Knight of the Nine.”

    “You are…”Ralof seemed to grasp for words.

    “A Knight of the Nine,” she sighed. “The right to worship Talos is a true cause, so I will join your Stormcloaks. I owe the Empire and their Thalmor masters so much more than you know.” She picked up her pack slinging it over her shoulder. “First, I will go to Whiterun for the Jarl must know that Riverwood is in danger. Thank you for your kindness, but I must leave. Ralof stay safe.”

    “Wait,” Ralof went to the cottage only to return with a saddlebag. “There are some healing potions and food. Honestly though you should wait until morning.”

    Mercy shook her head. “Thank you, but no. I cannot sleep. The horrors of Helgen haunt me when I close my eyes.” Her eyes met his, “you understand as few will.”

    Ralof nodded chuckling, “My plan was to drink myself to sleep. Perhaps I will see you Windhelm.” He raised a hand in farewell as she turned to the road. When she was no longer in his sight he went back in the cabin to write a letter to the Stormcloak commander he served. Gerdur would make sure it was sent by courier. A Knight of the Nine walked in Skyrim. Ralof smiled as he took the first pull on a mead bottle. It seemed Talos had answered the faithful’s prayers.

    Helena
    Participant
    Post count: 148

    Now i really enjoyed that. I hope you carry k. With this story. Well thought out.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Thank you Helena. I am working on Chapter 2 right now. Thankfully the really hard part is done.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Two

    Mercy made the trek to Whiterun leading her warhorse which had thrown a shoe fighting some wolves. Day was stealing over the walls as she left her horse at the stables. After paying the stable master to re-shod her horse, Mercy walked over to a caravan set up outside the walls. A Khajiit sat on a rug in front of one of the tents, so she approached him.

    “Hail and greetings,” Mercy nodded her head.

    “Goods and wears of all kinds,” the Khajiit answered.

    A merchant, she thought. “May I see your goods?” she asked politely.

    The Khajiit smiled at her, “Of course.”

    After trading a bit, Mercy headed to the gates. Soon she was climbing the stairs to Dragonreach and after a bit; she was climbing back down the stairs. After a stirring trip through Bleak Falls Barrow, and then fighting a dragon at a tower, she was repeating the descent with a housecarl in tow.

    Stars above, she thought. This land is in worse shape than we thought. Lost in thought, she didn’t notice the courier following her. His voice eventually broke her trance, as she finally turned to him just before the market. “Yes?” she asked.

    “Mercy Nightborn?” the courier asked as he handed over the letters. Apparently, he was only asking for forms sake.

    Mercy nodded and tipped the courier some coins. The first letter was from Ma’iq telling her that he had sent word to the High Rock priory about the destruction of her mother’s priory. Of course it was encoded so that it looked like little more than a pamphlet on Mara. The second letter was from Auyren, he was in Solitude and she was to detour there. Thank the Divines, he was close.

    “Problems, my Thane?” Lydia asked. The housecarl seemed happy to be working for one that had killed a dragon. Apparently, Mercy being a half elf hadn’t put Lydia off working for her. Mercy wondered if she had been a half dremora if Lydia would have had second thoughts. Probably not, the woman was remarkably calm all the time.

    “No, just an old friend in Solitude,” Mercy smiled as she stopped at Warmaidens. “However, before we go. You need better armour.”

    Days later, the two women ended their climb up the 7,000 steps. Mercy looked at the building in awe. “Alright, we made it. I know we should have brought the horses, but after that troll I am glad we left them at the bottom of the mountain. Still, I have heard of being out of the way, but isn’t this a bit ridiculous?”

    “Says the woman who lived on an island that isn’t on any maps,” Lydia said dryly.

    “Good point,” Seeing the chest, Mercy dropped Klimmit’s bag into it. “Shall we go knock?”

    After gaining entry, Mercy learned more about being Dragonborn, which meant she was to save the world from the big black dragon Alduin, and of course had to climb back down the blasted 7,000 steps. Down was much easier than up, but it still took a day.

    “I thought the island where I grew up was steep. This mountain makes it look like a hill.” Mercy said as she rubbed her sore legs. Mounting her horse was difficult as her legs were like rubber.

    “You need a guide.” Lydia told Mercy. “You are going to be travelling all over Skyrim and not necessarily by road. Someone who knows the land would be good since you haven’t travelled Skyrim much and I have journeyed less than you. This is the farthest I have ever been from Whiterun.”

    “A guide,” Mercy pondered the idea. “That is a brilliant suggestion, Lydia. Thank you.”

    “When we get back to town, I will ask around. I am sure the Companions will know someone.”

    “The Companions?” Mercy thought a moment. “Oh, like the group I meet outside the gates killing a giant. They sound like mercenaries.”

    “They are,” Lydia replied, “but they are honourable. They are descended from the 500 warriors that followed Ysgamor.”

    “Ohhhh, who is that?” Mercy waited while Lydia stared at her in shock. “Kidding, I am kidding. I know who Ysgamor is.” She rolled her eyes at her housecarl, “I grew up on an island, not a moon.”

    Lydia huffed at Mercy as they mounted their horses. “Honestly, you…”

    Mercy laughed and Lydia joined her. Lydia smiled. Finally the kid was smiling; she was usually so sad. Lydia didn’t know what had happened to the girl but it had to have been bad. The nightmares that chased her sleep were horrible. Not one night had passed without Mercy screaming awake. “We find a guide and I will stay in Whiterun to watch the Thalmor. Someone needs to keep an eye on them. Since you are openly riding around with that sword on your hip,” Lydia watched the girl shrug. “They want you dead you get that, right?”

    Shaking her head, Mercy replied, “Yes and no, they want me dead, but they want the Relics too. And I am the only one who can find them and remove them from their hiding places. Apparently no member of the Thalmor can lift them. Of course if they were smart they would get some innocent Altmer to do it, but the Thalmor are like a hammer; they see everything as a nail. They have little creativity.”

    “You said you are going to join the Stormcloaks. May I ask why?” Lydia asked.

    “Telling someone who they can and cannot worship is wrong.” Mercy pulled her horse to a stop and looked over the rise before Whiterun. “The Thalmor take people from their homes just because of which god they pray to. They torture and kill. The Empire surrendered to the Dominion and now the Thalmor have their boot on the necks of the people of the Empire. For now, they declare worshiping Talos is wrong. What will they declare next? It is a slippery slope. That is all one reason but the personal reason is just as strong. The Thalmor destroyed my home, killed my family and did it all for objects. It wasn’t the first time they did this, attacking a priory, killing priests and knights, and torturing them. They have done it before.” Tears fell silently from Mercy’s eyes as the blueish purple colors seemed to freeze as she spoke. “They cannot be allowed to continue their murderous path. My mother once gave them mercy, hoping to change their hearts. Apparently it didn’t.”

    “If I may,” Lydia paused, “is that where your name comes from? Your mother granted the Thalmor mercy, so she named you so they would remember.”

    Mercy shook her head. “Yes and no, she gave them mercy and the one thing they gave her that she wanted was me. I was the mercy they didn’t give her when they were torturing her. So Mercy became my name. Odd I know, but you had to know my mother. She was soft and gentle when she was in the roll of mother. But in the roll of Lady Amelia, the Knight of the Nine, she was stiff and stern. She was often the knight more than mother. She never married and I think I was the reason. I was her curse as one priest described me.”

    “That was cruel and wrong of him to say,” Lydia grumbled.

    “Perhaps, it was. That doesn’t make it less true,” the half elf girl shrugged and wiped away her tears. “In the end, she sent me away: All because of some prophecy. I am going to need that guide you recommend to take me to the Shrine of Azura. I have a priestess to find and ask a couple thousand questions of her.” Mercy lightly bumped her horse’s side to start it walking again.
    The two rode to Whiterun in silence, each lost in thought.

    ********

    Mercy stopped in Riverwood to return Lucan’s golden claw. She also asked about the guide Bishop whom she had been told often passed through Riverwood. Lucan hadn’t seen Bishop in a while and Camilla nearly purred as she prattled on about how handsome the Nord tracker was. Alvor hadn’t seen the man for a couple weeks but heard that he had gotten a job tracking down some bandits for the Jarl’s steward in Falkreath. Mercy stopped to talk with Gerdur, but mostly to visit with Ralof, never knowing that she was being watched.

    Bishop had watched the half elf girl ride into the village of Riverwood, as he had a perfect vantage point on the Sleeping Giants Inn’s porch. Two drunks across from the inn made bawdy comments as she dismounted in front of the inn. Bishop smiled as she ignored them. Bishop felt a stirring of lust deep in his belly as he watched her. He had his new prey. The girl went into the general goods and the blacksmith’s before she stopped to talk with the woman who ran the mill. The woman had a brother, a Stormcloak, hiding out in her home. The two seemed friendly much to Bishop’s annoyance. The man put his hand on her shoulder, running the hand down her arm, causing Bishop to expose his canines. He wanted to rip the offending arm off. He had noticed the girl and she was going to be his. The girl shook her head making her white gold tresses slide over her slim back. His mouth twitched into a smirk as the lovely girl waved goodbye to the male. Oh yes, he was going to enjoy this hunt. She turned to mount the steps of the inn, almost walking right into his arms. Up close she was even more beautiful than he could believe. Her skin was pale with a dusting of freckles, her eyes were a large deep purple on her perfect face, and oh what a face, it was as perfect as her figure. The gods had been overly generous to her. Anyone that lovely had to be vain. It was time to take her ego down a notch.

    So Bishop being Bishop insulted her to get her attention. He didn’t fawn over her or tell her she was pretty; no, rather he offended her. The lush lips of her mouth formed a frown as she looked him over. Next thing he knew she was offering to hire him as a guide. No way, princess, Bishop thought. There was no way he was schlepping her stuff all over Skyrim while she wandered around shopping. Somehow he ended up agreeing to a deal. He shrugged as he followed her into the Inn. Either way he was getting her into bed.

    Mercy wasn’t sure how she had hired Bishop, the guide that Lydia had heard about. Somehow he agreed to help her, after she helped him get his wolf back. She also wasn’t sure what she thought about him. He was rude, course and foul mouthed. The sexual comments he made were crude and caused her to blush. He was almost as vulgar as the drunks in Riverwood. However, Bishop was the name that everyone in Skyrim seemed to think was the best tracker. Now that she found him, Mercy wasn’t sure if she should drag him to temple or wash his mouth out with her lavender soap. Somehow she didn’t think Bishop would repent his sins even if she tossed him on the altar. She needed him to help her learn this land. If she went around blindly, the Thalmor could ambush her or she could stumble into a giant camp. And she needed him to get her to the blighted Shrine of Azura, or to find the priestess if she wasn’t there. Sighing at her thoughts, Mercy didn’t notice Bishop taking the reins of her horse to lead her to brush near a mine entrance. Her mind was dancing in circles about Bishop and what she had to do.

    Bishop chuckled at Mercy, whom he knew he was confusing. The girl was carrying a fancy sword and probably had no idea how to use it. Before they headed to get Karnwyr, he was going to see if she really could fight. Ahead was an old mine that bandits camped at to rob caravans between Falkreath and Riverwood, and they were going in to kill the bandits. If she was useless, he would put her back on her horse and point it towards Riverwood. Then he would have to find someone else to help him. He stopped the horses and noticed that she was still lost in her thoughts. She was probably trying to decide which pants to wear what shirt for tomorrow. Not like she was a mage and intelligent, though she did have a sharp tongue when she bantered with him. The crack about the stolen sweetroll was brilliant.

    Mercy noticed the horses had stopped and looked around. She flushed as Bishop was tying the reins to a tree. “Sorry, long thoughts.” She dismounted and followed Bishop into the bushed. “Where are we going?”

    “First we have a little task of bandit cleaning.” Bishop pointed to the lookout. “We kill these bandits and then we head to the cave where Karnwyr is.” He took his bow and nocked an arrow. Without waiting, he let the arrow fly and headed to the mine entrance, knowing his shot was fatal.

    “Okay, more bandits….yay.” Mercy quipped to the empty air.

    Bishop learned three things in the mine. One, she was very, very good with her magical sword; two, Mercy was also a mage; and three, she was DRAGONBORN. Even now, he could see the bandit approaching from her left. She turned then shouted the bandit off his feet and the ledge. Bishop had to admit she had surprised him. Okay, that was a bit of an understatement. They had to talk, seriously. He had to know what he was getting into with her around. Hells, if he was smart he would get his wolf and just say so long to the Dragonborn. However, if he left he wouldn’t get her into bed. Hmmm, choices, choices; he would have to consider them carefully.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Okay, so Chapter 3 is done. And Bishop is making a strong case for his romancing Mercy. Chapter 4 will be done soon….if I change her romance partner, how do I change the name of the thread. Oh well…Here is Chapter 3.

    Chapter Three

    “Okay, it’s a long ride to the Rift where the cave we need to go is, so start talking.” Bishop said as he mounted his horse.

    “I beg your pardon?” Mercy asked confused. She was checking her girth strap on her saddle before she mounted and looked up at Bishop, her large purple eyes full of confusion.

    “Your story, Princess, let’s have it. I have a feeling this trip isn’t long enough to get the whole story, so start at the beginning and we will see how far we are by the time we get to the cave.”

    “I am no storyteller. I am afraid it will be rather dry in its telling.” She mounted and followed Bishop as he turned his horse north.

    “Still if you want my help, you are going to have to tell me everything.” Bishop smirked at her.

    “Fine, but know that rather than being a dupe and fool that the Thalmor will release, you will now be a conspirator in their eyes and they will try to kill you.” Mercy ran her hands over her eyes.

    “Thalmor can’t kill what they can’t find. I can handle myself,” Bishop glared. “Now stop stalling and spill.”

    “Twenty-nine years ago, the Thalmor attacked the Priory of the Nine where my mother was a priestess of Dibella.” Mercy left out nothing in the telling; only pausing to drink from her waterskin. As they stopped and set up camp, Bishop would have her continue the tale until they slept. The day before the cave, they were camped not far from an Imperial encampment making Mercy fidgety.

    “Stop worrying,” Bishop ran a hand over his horse’s neck before joining her at the fire. “They will guard their patch of land and not wonder too far. They may see our fire, but they won’t investigate it. So continue, you were outside Whiterun fighting a dragon at the Western watchtower.”

    “If they see us, they will report it to the Thalmor.” Mercy looked towards the fires again.

    “Great, now watchtower, dragon,” Bishop motioned with his hands for her to continue.

    Mercy sighed and picked up where she left off as she ate the stew. Soon she was to where Bishop had met her. Of course she left out that Ma’iq, and Auryen were friends, her joining of the Companions’ Circle and being a werewolf and the priory in High Rock. She couldn’t trust their lives to Bishop yet.

    “Well told, Princess.” Bishop sat back on his bedroll. “So basically you have to save the world from ending, you have to save Skyrim from the Thalmor and yourself from just about everyone.” Bishop chuckled as she blushed. “Okay, so tomorrow we go save Karnwyr and then to the Shrine of Azura.”

    The cave with the pit fighting wolves should have been more difficult, but Mercy entered the cave and for some reason all the pit wolves turned on the gamblers and fight organizers tearing them apart. Bishop and Mercy killing the ones that ran for the doors. Soon the fighting stopped, Bishop looked at the fighting wolves as they surrounded Mercy. She bent her head to them and the wolves lowered their heads to her. Bishop was stunned, why did they wolves acknowledge her as an alpha? The wolves threw their heads back and howled before departing the cave.

    “Can to explain?” Bishop asked Mercy. Mercy blushed and stammered as she moved to working on the chest behind the bar. “Seriously, why didn’t they attack us? Just more bipeds, so why didn’t the wolves come after us?” Mercy kept her eyes on the lock she was fiddling with. Bishop sighed and waited. Once she popped the chest open and looted it, he moved to pin her between the wall and himself. “I have a feeling there is more to this story than you have mentioned, princess.”

    Mercy sighed, “I joined the Companions before I met you.” She placed a hand on his chest, “If you promise not to shoot me I will tell you a secret that no one outside the Circle knows.”

    Bishop swore, “You joined the f*king Circle!” He pulled her to him and looked deep into her eyes. “Shit, shit, shit.” He let Mercy go as he began to pace. “You let them turn you. Of all the stupid, foolish…” His swearing filled the cave and was so inventive that Mercy heard new ones that the Companions had never used. It was truly impressive.

    “Wait, how do you know about the Companion Circle?” Mercy asked.

    “Cause, technically, sweetness, I am one.” Bishop grinned at her as her jaw hit the floor and her eyes grew as wide as saucers. His smirk exposed his one canine which was large for a human. Divines, she had been blind.

    “You are a …were?” She whispered the last, despite their being in a cave full of dead people.

    Bishop threw his head back and laughed, “Oh yes, but I am a lone wolf, not some beta that takes orders from an alpha….Holy shit, you are an alpha female.” Bishop started swearing again.

    This time Mercy sat down on a bar stool and picked up a piece of roast chicken. She glanced at Karnwyr and tossed the chicken to him. He fielded it easily and gobbled it down. The wolf moved to sit next to her, laying his large copper head on her lap. Mercy stroked the fur as they watched Bishop pace around the cave, swearing.

    Finally, he stopped and pointed at her. “You left that part out of your story, princess.”

    She shrugged, “It’s not only my secret. What if you had been out for a large score, their heads would be worth a lot of money.”

    “What else did you leave out?” Bishop was stalking towards her. She was amazed she hadn’t seen it before. He moved like a wolf in human form. His gaze was intense as was his manner. It was almost like he had been a wolf first rather than a man, before he was turned. The yellow eyes should have been a clue. Oblivion, she had assumed he was just a man.

    Mercy looked up, “Just some priory stuff and a friend or two that I may have failed to mention. I cannot endanger them.”

    “Okay, I get that,” Bishop backed off and started for the entrance.

    “Just like that you get it?” Mercy tossed up her hands. “No more questions?”

    “Nope, either you will tell me when you trust me or you won’t.” Bishop jerked his head forward and Karnwyr leapt up and chased after the ranger.

    “Hells,” Mercy said to the now empty room. She was starting to trust the ranger and his being a Companion, well she would check with Vikas before she assumed anything about Bishop again.

    Helena
    Participant
    Post count: 148

    Great story. I look forward to more updates

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Four

    Bishop brushed his hand over Karnwyr’s fur, making his wolf whimper with delight. The princess was bathing as she did every night whether they stayed at an inn or camped near a safe body of water. Bishop was resting against a tree giving him the perfect view of her under the waterfall. The fading light made her skin glow golden. Her hair was plastered to her skin as Mercy lathered her skin with some lavender smelling soap the merchants sold.

    He was glad he had agreed to stay with her. She was lovely and wary of him, though less so each day. They were continuing their way north to the shrine she really wanted to go to. During a brief stop in Windhelm she had sent off a courier message. The inn had nice beds, though they were still in separate rooms, unfortunately. A couple days while she waited for a reply, didn’t hurt Bishop’s feeling. Sadly they had met Alec, a really obnoxious bard who wanted Mercy in his bed. Bishop wasn’t going to allow that, ever. The bard had pressed until she had gone to his performance and yes, the boy could sing. She was polite but she didn’t fawn over the bard which made Bishop smile wider. She apparently wasn’t attracted to the singer. Gods, what a hat! Bishop laughed as he remembered it.

    “Bishop, I told you not to peek!”

    “Not peeking, sweetness. I am watching your back so nothing creeps up on you while you are defenseless.” He smirked as he replied. He could almost hear her grinding her teeth.

    “I am quite capable of defending myself, even when I am undressed.” Mercy snarled.

    “Yes, I know you can get all fuzzy,” Bishop’s voice was condescending and really annoyed her.

    “Yes and no, I also have my magic and my voice.” Mercy turned her back to the direction of Bishop’s voice and continued to lather her body in soap. “So go away and leave me in peace.”

    No sound came from Bishop so she continued bathing. Then something hit her on her bum. Turning to peer into the water, she saw a green apple bobbing. Arching her eyebrow she looked in the direction it had come from.

    “Really, Bishop,” Mercy’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “You attacked me with an apple?”

    “If it had been Frostbite venom, you would already be a snack for a spider, princess.” Bishop was laughing as he spoke. Mercy shivered at the thought of the one creature that terrified her. “Or some silent assassin could shot you with a crossbow and that is all they wrote about your exploits.”

    “I wish they wouldn’t write anything at all,” Mercy grumbled under her breath. “Alright you have made your point; I am vulnerable when I am bathing. Somehow though I doubt my protection was the main goal of your watching me.”

    “Never know, princess,” Bishop smirked. “Since I am here, tell me how you can fight duager, dragons and demora without an ounce of fear; but one small frostbite spider sends you into a panic.”

    “I didn’t panic, and it was not small.” Mercy was defensive as she snapped at him. “I just used a large magic spell.” Her nose lifted a bit as she hrumfted and lathered her arms with the soap.

    “A large magic spell? Darling, you flambéed it.” Bishop chuckled mockingly. “And that was a small spider.”

    “Are you mad? It was larger than my horse!” She screeched at him.

    “Right, a small one!” Bishop yelled back at her. She was so busy screaming him that she hadn’t noticed he was standing next to her. His hand reached out to hold some water. “While we are talking magic, how the hells do you get the water warm?”

    Mercy rinsed off and started to move to the large bear robe. Bishop’s hand on her arm froze her in place. “Please, Bishop don’t.”

    “Not going to do anything you don’t want,” Bishop picked up the robe and draped it around her, pulling her to her chest. “Now answer the question. Water, warm.”
    Mercy could feel the heat from his body against her cooling one. Out of the water, she had begun to cool quickly. Unconsciously she snuggled into his warmth.

    “A rune,” she replied as she buried her nose in his chest.

    Bishop’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, as his other hand lifted her chin. “A rune? Like the traps in dungeons that explode?”

    “Sort of,” Mercy stared up into his golden eyes, “these are from Kyne and they don’t explode they change an aspect.”

    “Like making cold water, warm enough for your bath, princess?” Bishop’s voice seemed deeper to her, warmer and heavier. His amber gaze was making her warmer as well. His hand on her chin gently caressed her cheek before his thumb brushed over her lower lip. “So princess, what knight gave you your first kiss?”

    Mercy’s blush covered her freckled face and continued down under the fur of the robe. “Allan, once a priest of Mara, now a Knight of the Nine, kissed me when I was seventeen. He wasn’t much older and it was his first as well. It was kind of sloppy and wet. He’s married now, to a priestess of Mara who had given him six children last I heard.” She tried to lower her head to hide her embarrassment but Bishop’s hand had moved back to under her chin as if he had known how she would react.

    “No one else waiting for you? No fiancé hiding at a priory?” He asked softly as he lowered his face to hers.

    “No,” Mercy whispered moments before their lips met.

    The heat that rushed through her was akin to lava. His kiss was gentle, firm and demanding. At some point her lips parted in a gasp and his tongue invaded her mouth.Her body arched against his firm chest as he deepened the kiss. It was anything but sloppy. The kiss was demanding and giving. As his tongue wrapped around hers, it led her on a dance of passion. Her robe fell from her shoulders as Mercy’s arms wrapped around his neck as she surrendered to his kiss. Blinding heat curled in her chest demanding release as his lips brushed over hers. Bishop lifted her to his chest, tightening his hold on her sleek form as he groaned into her mouth. A soft moan was her reply as her fingers twined in his silky hair.For an eternity they remained locked in the kiss uncaring and unaware of their surroundings. Eventually Bishop pulled his lips from her. As they both leaned against one another panting, Bishop pulled her robe about her again which he had had enough mental wherewithal to notice before it hit the water.

    “If that is how you kissed that knight, he was an idiot to marry another.” Bishop smirked and started back to camp. Mercy stood there naked save for the fur
    around her shoulders gawking at his back. Growling low in her throat, she picked up the bobbing apple and launched it at his back. Moments before it hit, he turned at caught it. “Thanks, sweetness.” He saluted her with the apple before taking a bite and continuing to their camp site.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Four

    As Mercy emerged from the cave, Bishop spoke. “I must say you handle yourself rather well. So I think we should keep traveling together after I get you to your shrine.”

    “It’s not my shrine; it’s the shrine of Azura. I don’t worship Daedra.” Mercy brushed some cave dust off her shoulders.

    “Right, you are a knight of the nine….so closest two towns of any size are Riften and Windhelm. Smaller villages are Shor’s Stone and Kyne’s Grove.” Bishop pointed out the directions of each.

    As Mercy looked in the direction of Riften, she smiled at the memory of the man with laughing brown eyes. Sadly, Riften was south of where she wanted to go, so no hunting him down as he hid in shadows. A small sigh escaped her lips as she remembered his smile.

    “So what interests you to the south, Princess?” Bishop asked sharply. His dark amber eyes alight with temper or something else she couldn’t identify.

    “Just remembering the last time I was in Riften, Sir Reghar and I had arrived with a caravan. It was easier to blend in when with a group. Reghar died the night we left the town.”

    “RRiiight, and that memory made you sigh like a girl remembering her first love?” Bishop snorted at her, with disbelief on his face. “You were probably sighing over Brynolf like half the silly girls that see him.”

    “Whom?” Mercy asked looking confused.

    Bishop smirked at her, and for some reason Mercy really wanted to wipe that smirk off his face.

    “I don’t know who this Brynolf is,” she smiled at Bishop. “But if you must know I was remember a man with laughing dark eyes who stayed in the shadows. I never saw his whole face at once. Always part of it was in the shadows, like a game he played with me. If I got too far from Reghar, I was pulled back. I really wanted to see his whole face. I don’t know why, curiosity maybe. Or perhaps I wanted to know because he made me laugh when I had very little to laugh about.” She stuck her tongue out at Bishop and mounted her horse. Yes it had been childish and she was sure he was going to make her pay for it, but it had felt ooh so very good to put his nose out of joint, figuratively rather than literally.

    Bishop grumbled to Karnwyr and mounted his horse. The muttering continued as they rode to Kyne’s Grove.

    ********

    Bishop brushed his hand over Karnwyr’s fur, making his wolf whimper with delight. The princess was bathing as she did every night whether they stayed at an inn or camped near a safe body of water. Bishop was resting against a tree giving him the perfect view of her under the waterfall. The fading light made her skin glow golden. Her hair was plastered to her skin as Mercy lathered her skin with some lavender smelling soap the merchants sold.

    He was glad he had agreed to stay with her. She was lovely and wary of him, though less so each day. They were continuing their way north to the shrine she really wanted to go to. During a brief stop in Windhelm she had sent off a courier message. The inn had nice beds, though they were still in separate rooms, unfortunately. A couple days while she waited for a reply, didn’t hurt Bishop’s feeling. Sadly they had met Alec, a really obnoxious bard who wanted Mercy in his bed. Bishop wasn’t going to allow that, ever. The bard had pressed until she had gone to his performance and yes, the boy could sing. She was polite but she didn’t fawn over the bard which made Bishop smile wider. She apparently wasn’t attracted to the singer. Gods, what a hat! Bishop laughed as he remembered it.

    “Bishop, I told you not to peek!”

    “Not peeking, sweetness. I am watching your back so nothing creeps up on you while you are defenseless.” He smirked as he replied. He could almost hear her grinding her teeth.

    “I am quite capable of defending myself, even when I am undressed.” Mercy snarled.

    “Yes, I know you can get all fuzzy,” Bishop’s voice was condescending and really annoyed her.

    “Yes and no, I also have my magic and my voice.” Mercy turned her back to the direction of Bishop’s voice and continued to lather her body in soap. “So go away and leave me in peace.”

    No sound came from Bishop so she continued bathing. Then something hit her on her bum. Turning to peer into the water, she saw a green apple bobbing. Arching her eyebrow she looked in the direction it had come from.

    “Really, Bishop,” Mercy’s voice dripped with sarcasm. “You attacked me with an apple?”

    “If it had been Frostbite venom, you would already be a snack for a spider, princess.” Bishop was laughing as he spoke. Mercy shivered at the thought of the one creature that terrified her. “Or some silent assassin could shot you with a crossbow and that is all they wrote about your exploits.”

    “I wish they wouldn’t write anything at all,” Mercy grumbled under her breath. “Alright you have made your point; I am vulnerable when I am bathing. Somehow though I doubt my protection was the main goal of your watching me.”

    “Never know, princess,” Bishop smirked. “Since I am here, tell me how you can fight duager, dragons and demora without an ounce of fear; but one small frostbite spider sends you into a panic.”

    “I didn’t panic, and it was not small.” Mercy was defensive as she snapped at him. “I just used a large magic spell.” Her nose lifted a bit as she hrumfted and lathered her arms with the soap.

    “A large magic spell? Darling, you flambéed it.” Bishop chuckled mockingly. “And that was a small spider.”

    “Are you mad? It was larger than my horse!” She screeched at him.

    “Right, a small one!” Bishop yelled back at her. She was so busy screaming him that she hadn’t noticed he was standing next to her. His hand reached out to hold some water. “While we are talking magic, how the hells do you get the water warm?”

    Mercy rinsed off and started to move to the large bear robe. Bishop’s hand on her arm froze her in place. “Please, Bishop don’t.”

    “Not going to do anything you don’t want,” Bishop picked up the robe and draped it around her, pulling her to her chest. “Now answer the question. Water, warm.”

    Mercy could feel the heat from his body against her cooling one. Out of the water, she had begun to cool quickly. Unconsciously she snuggled into his warmth.

    “A rune,” she replied as she buried her nose in his chest.

    Bishop’s arm wrapped around her shoulders, as his other hand lifted her chin. “A rune? Like the traps in dungeons that explode?”

    “Sort of,” Mercy stared up into his golden eyes, “these are from Kyne and they don’t explode they change an aspect.”

    “Like making cold water, warm enough for your bath, princess?” Bishop’s voice seemed deeper to her, warmer and heavier. His amber gaze was making her warmer as well. His hand on her chin gently caressed her cheek before his thumb brushed over her lower lip. “So princess, what knight gave you your first kiss?”

    Mercy’s blush covered her freckled face and continued down under the fur of the robe. “Allan, once a priest of Mara, now a Knight of the Nine, kissed me when I was seventeen. He wasn’t much older and it was his first as well. It was kind of sloppy and wet. He’s married now, to a priestess of Mara who had given him six children last I heard.” She tried to lower her head to hide her embarrassment but Bishop’s hand had moved back to under her chin as if he had known how she would react.

    “No one else waiting for you? No fiancé hiding at a priory?” He asked softly as he lowered his face to hers.
    “No,” Mercy whispered moments before their lips met.

    The heat that rushed through her was akin to lava. His kiss was gentle, firm and demanding. At some point her lips parted in a gasp and his tongue invaded her mouth. Her body arched into his firm chest as he deepened the kiss. It was anything but sloppy. The kiss was demanding and giving. As his tongue wrapped around hers, it led her on a dance of passion. Her robe fell from her shoulders as Mercy’s arms wrapped around his neck as she surrendered to his kiss. Blinding heat curled in her chest demanding release. Bishop lifted her to his chest, tightening his hold on her sleek form as he groaned into her mouth. A soft moan was her reply as her fingers twined in his silky hair. For an eternity they remained locked in the kiss uncaring and unaware of their surroundings. Eventually Bishop pulled his lips from her. As they both leaned against one another panting, Bishop pulled her robe about her again which he had had enough mental wherewithal to notice before it hit the water.

    “If that is how you kissed that knight, he was an idiot to marry another.” Bishop smirked and started back to camp. Mercy stood there naked save for the fur around her shoulders gawking at his back. Growling low in her throat, she picked up the bobbing apple and launched it at his back. Moments before it hit, he turned at caught it. “Thanks, sweetness.” He saluted her with the apple before taking a bite and continuing to their camp site.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Five

    Mercy was ashamed of herself. How could she kiss Bishop with such abandon? He was handsome to be sure, but he wasn’t the settle down with a house full of children type. She ran her fingers over her slightly swollen lips. She could still taste him. Muttering at her girlishness, Mercy snuggled into her bedroll with a huff, her back to Bishop.

    Bishop watched in amusement as Mercy fought her internal war. Knowing what she felt like in his arms wasn’t going to help his sleep but she wasn’t ready for more than a kiss. The panic in her voice before he had kissed her suggested that someone had tried to do more against her will. Bishop sighed, he really hated asking personal questions but he knew he was going to have to ask about it. Karnwyr lay at his side, his own golden eyes watching the half-elven girl. Karnwyr liked Mercy, as far as Bishop could tell. The wolf hadn’t peed in her boots, yet. As Bishop’s hand stroked the wolf, both seemed tranquil.

    Bishop’s hand stilled in the soft fur and the wolf’s head turned. Both rose silently moving to the sound. Then a piercing shriek filled the quiet woods. Mercy was sitting on her bedroll wrapped in furs as a giant Frostbite spider was fast approaching the camp. Of course it had been drawn by the fire, but Mercy’s scream pinpointed the prey perfectly. Damn it!

    Bishop drew his bow and Karnwyr attacked the spider’s left to draw it away from Mercy. The spider’s legs attacked Karnwyr as it still moved towards the girl. Bishop’s arrowed sank into the spider seeming to no effect.

    “Karnwyr move,” Mercy cried as she stood. The top of her body covered by the large white shirt she wore with her long bare legs exposed. Her hands glowed with blue flames. The wolf ran behind a tree and she unleashed her magic. The spider was engulfed in flames and seemed to turn to ash as it moved. Karnwyr moved to Mercy’s side as she collapsed. Mercy buried her face in Karnwyr’s neck as she cried.

    Bishop walked over to the pair, sitting down next to Mercy. “Come here, princess.” Bishop carefully pried her hands from Karnwyr and moved her to his own lap. “The spider is dead. It can’t hurt you.”

    “It was bigger than a cottage,” Mercy snuffled as she cried into Bishop’s shoulder. Bishop kept his voice calm and his tone gentle. Not something he was used to, but he was afraid she might torch the woods and kill them.

    “Who teased you with spiders?” For the life of him, he couldn’t imagine any knight teasing a child with spiders.

    “A knight applicant, Theo. He was awful. He wasn’t chosen for priesthood, much less a knight. His hand passed through the blade.” Mercy hiccupped as she sniffled. “He was a child murder and a truly awful person. He used to come into the bathes when I was bathing. He would leave live spiders in my dresser drawers and one night he dropped a bucket full of live spiders on my bed with me in it.” Mercy tried to stop her tears, but Bishop held her head to his chest.

    “Yes, he was a creep,” Bishop’s hand stroked her hair. “It’s okay to cry.” Mercy clutched at Bishop like a child. Bishop murmured comforting words as he held her. “Would this Theo be the same one that you killed south of Riften?” At Mercy’s nod, he clucked his tongue. “Pity, I wanted to use him for target practice.”
    At Mercy’s giggle, Bishop’s stomach unknotted. Fear could sometimes crack a person’s mind.

    “So you really have to lay off the fire spells in the forest, princess.” Bishop looked down to see Mercy looking up at him inquisitively. “You could burn it down around us.”

    “Oh sorry,” Mercy bit her lower lip. He knew she was still afraid. The primitive part of her that feared spiders was deep. She was reacting like a child.

    “Just a warning for next time.” Bishop caressed her cheek. “By the way, that was a big one.”

    Mercy shivered in his arms. “Ick,” she whispered.

    Bishop reluctantly sat her back on her bedroll and moved to his own. Removing his shirt and boots, he lay down and closed his eyes. The adrenaline from the foray was starting to drain leaving him tired.

    “Bishop?” Mercy’s voice was quiet and still childlike.

    “Yes, princess,” Bishop didn’t open his eyes.

    “May I move my bedroll next to yours?” At that his eyes flew open. Mercy was still sitting where he had placed her. Chewing on her thumbnail as she looked all too delicate and delicious.

    Bishop groaned and acknowledged the request with a gruff “sure”. All the while thinking about the torture of her delightful body so close to his. He kept his eyes on her when she moved things around, suffering as he stared he thought.

    As she started to lay her bedroll down, he growled, “Between me and the fire, princess or you will be sleeping on my bow.”

    “Oh but you will get cold.” Bishop knew watching her was a terrible mistake as he wouldn’t take advantage of her emotional upset, no matter how appealing she looked.

    “I will be fine,” Bishop held out his hand. “Come here.”

    Mercy took it without a single quibble. She lay down on her bedroll and nestled against him. With a soft sigh, Mercy fell into sleep. Bishop followed after a while, grumbling about her pressing against him. Bishop could fell Karnwyr laughing at Bishop’s discomfort.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Six

    The next morning, Mercy woke in confusion. She was warm and comfortable and it seemed she hadn’t had a single nightmare. She opened her violet eyes to stare into a pair of warm amber eyes.

    “Good morning, princess.” Bishop caressed her lower lip with his thumb. “Stop biting your lower lip, you will bruise it.” As his thumb drug away it pulled at her lip, which filled her body with heat. This caused her to bite her lip again.

    “Tsk, I will just have to punish you until you stop doing it.” Bishop’s lips claimed hers. Any coherent thought left her brain as the heat rushed her system. Mercy let herself submit to the passion that Bishop stirred as she kissed him back. A soft moan left her throat without her realizing it, although Bishop noticed it and murmured approval. His hands cupped her flushed cheeks, caressing them as they began to move lower.

    And as suddenly as she yielded she began to pull away. Bishop stilled and reluctantly let her disentangle herself from him. As her bare legs struggled, Bishop realized why she was pulling away. His erection scared her. Her reaction was like a terrified horse even with the same expression in the eyes. He put his hands on her arms to hold her.

    “Relax, princess, it was just a good morning kiss. Nothing to worry about,” Bishop didn’t like the scared look in her eyes. The look made it too easy to remember that while she was a couple years old than him, her true age was younger. Damned half elves matured so much slower than humans.

    Mercy stopped as his words sank in and a blush covered her face and neck. She lowered her head. “I am sorry.”

    “Don’t be sorry,” Bishop stroked her hair as she laid almost an arm’s length away from him. “Tell me what happened that made you so scared. Who tried to hurt you?”

    “Theo,” Mercy whispered the name. Bishop growled as she spoke. “Yes, the same Theo I killed south of Riften. He was a horrible person, but he always behaved into front of the others. He only showed his bad side to me.” Mercy let Bishop pull her close again. He always seemed to know what to do, she thought. “One morning, Mother went down to the docks with several of the knights and their families. I had already said my goodbyes and so it was only me and the apprentice knights at the fort. We all had duties to perform, so we did them, knowing if we didn’t have them done or mostly done by the knights’ return there would be lectures. I was in the kitchen pantry putting away some food stuffs when he grabbed me and threw me on some bags of flour. His hands ripped my shirt and he kept rubbing his…” she stopped and looked up at Bishop floundering for the right word.

    “Penis,” Bishop supplied quietly. He was calming stroking and holding her, despite the storm raging inside. He hated rapists. They were the worst type of scum. “Alright, so pantry, dick rubbing his dick and?”

    “I grabbed a cast iron pot and hit him upside the head.” Mercy shivered and Bishop tucked her under her chin, trying to smiling comfortingly.

    “Well done, princess.” Bishop chuckled.

    “He would rub against me whenever he could after that.” Mercy trembled again. “I never told because he said it was my fault that he lost control. I was leading him on.” Her breathe caught as she held back the tears.

    Bishop barked back a flurry of swear words. “What horseshit, it was his actions not yours. He had no control.” He gently lifted her quivering chin with his hand. “He was at fault completely.” Her amethyst eyes looked up at him questioning. His own amber ones met hers; her eyes were searching and his were steady. After a time hers closed and Bishop knew that she believed him.

    Bishop mentally sighed. The boil had been lanced and the poison was out. Now all that was left was some healing time. His smile turned wicked as he rested his chin on her head. When Mercy was ready, she would turn to him and he would be oh so ready. Until then, it was best to play it cool. He pulled away from her and said, “I don’t know about you, princess, but I need to water a tree.” He rose from their bedrolls and grabbed his shirt as he walked away. He knew she was watching so just before he disappeared in the forest he looked over his shoulder and winked at her.

    ******

    As the looming giant statue of Azura came into view, Mercy gasped. “That is massive!”

    “Actually it’s much bigger; you just have to get closer. Like so many large things…” Bishop implied as he waggled his eyebrows at her.

    Mercy snorted and stroked Karnwyr’s fur as the large wolf pressed against her. “I hope the priestess is there,” she murmured to herself.

    “Look, princess if she’s not there, we will track her down. Not a problem.” Bishop pointed out the pass. “Head to the left and at the top there should be a right through the mountains to reach the shrine.”

    “Bishop, why am I always in the lead if you are the one who knows where we are going?” Mercy questioned.

    “That way I get to enjoy the view of your lovely hips when you take the lead.” Bishop smirked as she whipped her head around at him. She was about to talk to him about the night the spider attacked and the morning after but she heard the roar of a bear and turned around to see Karnwyr attacking a large cave bear. Mercy drew out her sword and charged into the fight hoping to spare Karnwyr any injury. Arrows shot over her shoulder as Bishop fired with lethal speed. The bear was soon dead from their combined effort. Mercy looked at the dead mound of fur and back at Bishop.

    “I suppose you want to skin it,” she had grown accustomed to his ranger ways.

    “We did kill it,” Bishop knelt down and began to field dress the bear. “You know, princess it wouldn’t hurt for you to learn to do this yourself.”

    Mercy wrinkled her freckled nose. “I suppose it couldn’t hurt.” Tilting her head to one side, she looked at the ranger. “And you will be my teacher?”

    “Oh princess, the things I could teach you,” Bishop’s voice was lower as he leered at her. Mercy felt the heat from his amber eyes and turned away as she knew her face was flushed. Bishop had been his normal self since that night. He still dropped sexual comments, but he never grabbed her or rubbed against her. Mercy was thankful for his restraint, but she didn’t know how to handle the fact they hadn’t talked about what happened. He hadn’t kissed her since. She wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad one.

    “Princess, pay attention,” Bishop snapped her out of her reveries. She looked back as he tossed a hunk of meat to the wolf, well the one on four feet anyway. “I am going to show you what to extract for your alchemy ingredients.” The lesson continued until he was burying the remains of the corpse. “Always bury the left overs, otherwise they can cause problems. They have to be at least 3 feet down or else.”

    After the lesson, they continued their way to the shrine. Mercy thought about bringing up things, but she admitted to herself that she liked this comradery that they had now. Why change things?

    She stopped at the base and stared. She knew she was staring; but by the Divines, it was massive. “It’s huge!”

    “Yes, I do so love it when a woman says that to me.” Bishop leaned on the base and ogled at her. Mercy’s mouth had dropped open when she saw the size of the statue, but Bishop’s comment kept on the floor.

    “Honestly, Bishop. Did you have to say that?” Mercy shook her blonde head and started up the stairs. “Really, Bishop you need to get your mind out of the brothel.”

    “But it’s happy there, princess.” At the same time as Bishop followed her up the stairs, Karnwyr bumped into her knocking her backwards into Bishop’s arms. “Well now, taking me up on my offer, princess?”

    Mercy pushed herself out of Bishop’s arms. “No!” Bishop held her after he caught her, and she noticed he didn’t paw at her or rub against her when he held her to his broad chest. She was almost disappointed. Annoyed with herself she marched up the stairs.

    “As you wish, princess,” Bishop followed her up the stairs smirking at having won another round.

    Mercy
    Participant
    Post count: 28

    Chapter Seven

    “Greetings, Mercy May Nightborn.” A dark elf woman held out her arms to Mercy. As the half-elven girl took the priestess’ hands she was pulled into an embrace. “You are so young to have suffered such loss. I am sorry I could only watch and wait for you here.”

    “Greetings, Aranea, Priestess of Azura, child of Morrowind and Seer of Answers,” Mercy pulled from Aranea’s arms and stood straight and tall. She towered over the priestess in size, but the priestess seemed equal in power to Mercy.

    “I knew you would come here, just as I know you aren’t going to like the answers you are going to hear.” Aranea moved to stand before the altar. “Place your hands on the altar, child. Azura herself will answer your questions.”

    Mercy nodded and followed the priestess’ instructions. Bishop watched as Mercy’s large violet eyes began to glow with the light of twilight. For the first hour, he stood at alert waiting for Mercy to end her question and answer session with the Daedric prince. After that, he sat down in the tent with the priestess and enjoyed some warmed sujamma. Karnwyr lay next to him always watching their surroundings, perhaps looking for his next meal.

    “She’s going to be okay, right?” Bishop asked Aranea. “No permanent effects from talking directly with a Prince of Oblivion?”

    “Does disappointment and anger count as effects?” The Priestess pondered looking sadly at Mercy. “She will be protected from the elements while she talks with Azura. She is learning truths. The truth is a bitter pill to many. Imagine knowing that someone died for you for the wrong reasons. They died believing that you would be something you will never be.” After taking a long drink, she continued. “Mercy is learning what she is. This is not a choice. She was born to be the Last Knight and the Dragonborn. What she does with that,” she shrugged. “Only she can choose which way to go on the paths ahead of her.”

    Bishop regarded at the priestess. “Do you see the past of the people with her?” He asked guardedly.

    “Yes,” the priestess answered. “I know who you were and who you might become.” She reached down and stroked the wolf’s copper fur. “Being born into your family doesn’t define you. You have made a different life, a better one. You have potential to be so much more than you can ever imagine.”

    Bishop’s jaw dropped. “My family was thrice banished. I was a bandit and I am a werewolf. I have no potential, priestess.”

    Aranea smirked at him. “You left your family. You were a bandit and are no longer. You exchanged that life for another. Now you are a ranger and a Companion. You are going to save this world with her. Do you honestly think she can do it alone?” The dark elf took a deep drink. “Besides, she is a werewolf as well.”

    Bishop glared at the priestess. “Does anyone keep secrets from you?”

    Shaking her head, Aranea smiled. “No. Azura is the Seer, and no secret is safe from her. Mephala may be the Lady of Whispers, but Azura sees the truth.” Then she stretched out on a bedroll. “She is going to be hours, you might want to get some rest.”

    Bishop set up his tent on a lower level. There he could keep an eye on Mercy as she stood unmoving leaning on the altar. He didn’t like the gods and he really didn’t like dealing with Daedric Princes.  As he pulled his furs around him, he stroked Karnwyr. “It’s going to be okay, boy.” Bishop sounded far more confident than he felt.

     

    ****

     

    The next morning Bishop made breakfast for Aranae and himself. Karnwyr had loped off in search of a meal at dawn. Mercy was still frozen to the spot.

    “How much longer, priestess?” Bishop pointed over his shoulder at Mercy.

    “As long as it takes,” Aranae smirked at him. He decided he really didn’t like that response.

    The day crept into the night and still, Mercy hadn’t moved. Bishop paced behind her, in front of the altar, up and down the stairs leading to the altar and on the ground all around the shine. Karnwyr watched him for a bit before lying down near the fire. Aranae just read books and ignored Bishop. Her hands did on occasion stroke the wolf. Bishop ate and slept, hoping that when he awoke Mercy would finally be something other than a statue. As dusk began for the second time since they arrived, Mercy fell back from the altar. Tears began to fall down her cheeks as she gaped at the giant statue.

    “It’s not true. It cannot be true.” Mercy cried out. Her voice sounded with the pain of her whole world being destroyed, again.

    Bishop leapt up the shrine stairs at Mercy’s first movement. He pulled her into his arms and held her as she whimpered. He didn’t know what had been said but the priestess had told him enough to prepare him for the storm of emotions that were flooding Mercy.

    “It’s okay,” Bishop crooned to her as he stroked her hair. Sniffles and sobs were his only answer. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her to their tent. As he lowered them to their bedrolls, he kept ahold of the distraught Mercy. Aranae followed and poured warmed tea for them. When the crying stopped, Mercy looked at the priestess, her purple eyes filled with pain.

    “Please tell me it’s not true,” Mercy begged.

    “It’s all true,” Aranae answered.

    Mercy curled her body against Bishop’s, seeking warmth or comfort, he didn’t know. “It’s okay, princess.” His hand continuing to stroke over her blonde locks.

    “The Last Knight isn’t holy,” Mercy cried out, as her heart broke again. “The Last Knight is a servant of the Daedric Princes.”

    “And the gods,” Aranae corrected. “The Last Knight is the only knight who serves both Aedra and Daedra.”

    Bishop slowly began to consider the possibilities and not one of them was good.

    “My mother and the others died for nothing!” Mercy wailed as she tried to pull away from Bishop, who just held fast and pulled her to his chest as she began to sob again. “Reghar was murdered for nothing!”

    “He died protecting you, as did the others,” Aranae stated. Bishop turned a hairy eye to the priestess. If her goal was to calm Mercy down, she wasn’t doing a very good job of it. Aranae shrugged at Bishop.

    “You dislike the Daedric Princes because they are evil. Perhaps Mercy May Nightborn, you do not know that many of them were gods before they were kicked out. Meridia was once the goddess of light before Akatosh threw her out. Hermaeus Mora was the god of knowledge, Hircine was the god of hunting, Sanguine was the god of revelry, and Vaermina was the goddess of dreams. All tossed out because they didn’t love mortals enough according to Akatosh, didn’t obey him or dared to disagree with him. Only Sithis who is Akatosh’s equal was never Aedra nor Daedra.” Aranae sipped her tea and continued her lecture. Bishop had felt Mercy’s tears cease as she listened to the priestess. “The Daedric princes may not need you do heroic deeds. Sometimes doing nothing will help the prince. Perhaps Molag Bal will ask you to kill all the mages in a town. As the Last Knight, you have the power to refuse him, to thwart his plans. You aren’t their servant, Mercy. You can choose to help them or stop them. The power is yours.”

    “The Vigilants of Stendarr are going to hate this and hunt me,” Mercy groused as she tried to hold back a new wave of tears. Bishop was grateful for her restraint as his chest piece was soaked.

    “They cannot, as you also serve Stendarr,” Aranae countered. “Help them, hinder them or do nothing at all, the choice is yours, Last Knight. Besides, they would hunt you if they knew you were Moonborn.” The priestess smirked at Bishop who growled back.

    “My mother couldn’t have known about this,” Mercy was still desperately trying to deny what she had learned.

    “She knew, as I told her everything while we sailed to the island. At first she like you denied what you are. But as we talked, she began to understand that you cannot be only a knight for the Aedra. You must save this world and to do that you need all the help you can get.” Aranae stood and walked from the tent. She then stopped at looked back over at Mercy and Bishop, “You must accept that you will need the Daedric princes’ blessing as well as the Aedra’s, or we will all die.”

    With that, she walked up the steps and lay her hands on the altar.

    “Are you okay?” Bishop slid his hand under Mercy’s chin tilting her face up. Looking at her tear-streaked cheeks and her sad violet eyes, he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

    “I don’t know,” Mercy sighed. “I think I just need to sleep.”

    “Tonight we will sleep here and in the morning we head back to Winterhold to get the horses.” Bishop brushed her hair from her face. “If you want we can stop at the College and get some more spell books, lessons or whatever it is you need.”

    “Bishop,” Mercy’s voice made his name more of a question.

    “Yes, sweetness?” he asked softly as his hand glided over her cheeks, sweeping away stray tears.

    “Thank you,” Mercy rested her head on his chest and fell asleep.

    Bishop settled her on their bedrolls, as Mercy always slept next to him since the night the giant spider had attacked. Wrapping furs around them both, he let her head rest on his arm. The tension in his body began to fade as he stared up at the shrine.

    “I am so happy we came here,” he said sarcastically to Karnwyr.

    Karnwyr wagged his thick furry tail before laying down on the other side of Mercy. Bishop sighed and fell asleep, knowing that the emotional storm wasn’t completely over and wondering how much more they would have to face.

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