Rona's Story2018-07-13T22:26:54+00:00

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  • Rona
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    This is the first time I’ve written fanfiction of anything. Ever. Can’t believe it’s a silly Mary-Sue-esque fanfic too. I absolutely loved this mod, played it through about three different times now in different ways. IT’S SUCH A GOOD MOD WTF. You guys are all amazing and River’s rugged voice is to die for. Anyhow, I hope you enjoy my story. I have at least 8 chapters so far and am still going strong. (omg I can’t stop help.)

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 1

    A very bad day

     

    “Wait! Get Down!” Hadvar urged in hushed tones. Rona knelt down behind a boulder as the enormous black dragon soared over them and roared loud enough to shake the ground beneath their feet. She caught her breath and watched as the beast sailed over the mountains beyond.

    “We’d best keep moving,” Hadvar said, “Riverwood is just down this path a ways. Come on, my Uncle Alvor is the blacksmith there, he can help us out.”

    Rona stood and followed him as she mindlessly wiped at the blood and sweat from her brow with her ash covered hands making her face an even more blackened dirty mess than it already was. Then she rubbed her hands into her dress staining the sides with soot.

    She was lucky to find all of her things tucked into a chest in the keep they’d found refuge in. She had her bow and arrows, her dagger and her clothes; a bright red Brigida day dress, a pair of tall leather boots, and some fingerless leather gloves. She knew she was a mess but didn’t care. Not only had she evaded a beheading but she’d survived a dragon attack.

    The entire walk down and all the way up to their meeting with Hadvar’s uncle Alvor was all a blur to her. Something about Stormcloaks and dragons and Jarls and murders and conspiracies, it was too much to process. She was exhausted and ready to pass out. Alvor’s wife was kind enough to notice.

    “Here dear, take this.” She pressed forty gold into Rona’s hand, “Get a room at the Sleeping Giant Inn just down the road from us. I’d let you stay here but we only have one extra bedroll and I think you deserve a good night’s sleep after what you’ve been through.”

    “Thank you,” Rona mumbled.

    Alvor crossed his arms and looked straight into her eyes. His voice more serious than before, “Might I ask what’s next for you stranger? Whereabouts do you plan to go from here?”

    “I need to go to Falkreath – urgently,” she added, “to meet with my mother. I received a letter a week ago indicating that she’s ill and bedridden.”

    “I see,” Alvor sighed, “I don’t want to impede you on your journey, however we have a very pressing matter at hand here. Riverwood is in great danger with a dragon about and we’re sorely lacking in defense. We must get word to the Jarl of Whiterun, immediately, so we might be able to defend ourselves. Would it be too much to ask you to halt your journey home for another day?”

    “Well I -,” she paused looking over the desperation on his face. Her mother’s letter spoke as though she were on her deathbed, though she was known to greatly exaggerate her health.  And Rona couldn’t just ignore the plight of the townsfolk that took her in, it simply wasn’t in her nature and maybe, just maybe, this was the sort of excuse she was looking for to avoid the woman she hadn’t seen in over five years, “I’ll go. I’ll go to Whiterun first thing tomorrow.”

    Alvor gave a sigh of relief and put his hands on his knees.

    “Thank you,” he said.

    They spoke briefly, giving her details and information on just how to get to the city as well as what to expect when she arrived.

    Rona thanked Hadvar and his family for their hospitality and stepped outside to a dimming sunset. She turned to her left and made her way towards the inn just up the road. Two rowdy drunks were standing around hurling catcalls at each and every woman that passed by. Rona was no exception to this, but too tired to care she ignored them and walked up the steps to the warm inviting inn when again she was stopped by another man, only this one was standing idly by the door staring at her quizzically, an eyebrow raised.

    She wasn’t even sure why she said it, but the words slipped from her lips before she could stop them, “What are you looking at?”

    He smirked and retorted, “Well, honestly princess, I’m not entirely sure myself…you’ve got a little – something,” he held up a hand and motioned it over the entirety of his face, “right here.”

    Now normally Rona wouldn’t be afraid to go toe to toe with a jackass like him, exchanging witty retorts back and forth on a good day, but today was a bad day. A very, very bad day. Her face burned hot at his insult, a mixture of embarrassment and anger.

    He laughed, “I mean, with the way that those drunks were whistling at you I’d have thought they caught sight of a real beauty, although just the other day they wolf-whistled the blacksmith, so clearly their standards aren’t very high.”

    Rona glared daggers at him then shoved the door open and brushed past him. Just another drunkard to ignore, she reminded herself. She hurried up to the counter and asked the bar tender for a room, he also looked at her slightly puzzled.

    “Just got back from working in the mines, eh? It’s ten gold pieces for a night –“

    “Orgnar,” a middle aged blonde woman came in from a room on their right, “Orgnar! Are you listening?”

    “Hard not to.”

    “The ale is going bad. We need to get a new batch. Did you hear me?”

    “Yep. Ale’s going bad.”

    “I guess you don’t have potatoes in your ears after all. Just make sure we get a fresh batch in soon.”

    She glanced at Rona, “Oh wow, what happened to you?”

    “I don’t want to talk about it,” Rona said tersely, “Do you have a wash basin I could use?”

    “No, but you can wash up in the river outside if you’d like,” she said crossing her arms, “In fact I’d rather you did before you use the bed.”

    Rona frowned at the rude woman but turned briskly around and stepped outside again, fervently ignoring the ranger watching her from behind as well as the drunks howling at her on her left. She walked up to the edge of the river, pulled off her gloves and leaned over it. Just a quick rinse and then I can sleep, she thought.

    But as she splashed her face she felt the presence of someone behind her. Instinctively her hand rose to her dagger and she pulled it swiftly from its sheath whirling up and catching the six-foot brute by the hair yanking his head down to her much shorter height and pressing the blade to his throat – but in her exhaustion she forgot to account for the second drunk who came up on her right roaring, “DAMN WENCH!” his arm swinging for her.

    In an instant the ranger had appeared and gave him a hard right hook to the face, forcing his teeth to jettison from his mouth, he then grabbed the drunk’s shoulders and thrust him downward right into his up-swinging knee which landed hard into the brute’s gut knocking the wind out of him. The man collapsed on the ground with a loud groan.

    The drunk under her blade sputtered, “Come on now, we were just fixing to say hello. Weren’t doing nothin’ wrong!”

    But she pressed the blade harder into his throat, drawing blood and unleashed her fury on them, “LOOK! I just survived a godsforsaken hell on Nirn – was almost executed by a bunch of Imperial bastards and then nearly murdered by a dragon, I am not in the mood for you perverts or your vile, shady behavior!” She released her blade and shoved him down on the ground and snapped her fingers, lighting a flame in her hand, “Now get the hell out of my sight before I turn those twigs you call dicks into tinder!”

    The ranger kicked the second drunk in the head and growled, “You heard the lady, now get lost.”

    They both scrambled to their feet and ran for it, not even daring to glance back. Rona sighed and released the spell from her hand and not a moment too soon because the ranger was staring at her again, only this time with a friendlier smirk on his face, “Well I’ll be damned woman, you’ve got some real fight in you. And shit –,” he leaned in to look at her more closely, “I take back everything I said beautiful, those dimwits were right to admire you. What are you, half bosmer?”

    “Altmer,” she replied pulling away from his gaze, “and thanks for the help, but I’m not in the mood for your shady bullshit either.”

    “Whoa, whoa,” he protested throwing his hands up, “Nothin’ shady going on here. Those two have been harassing every pair of legs that’s crossed their path for days and I’ve been itching to pick a fight with them so when I saw them sneaking up behind you, well, there’s my excuse. Thought I was coming to your rescue, but you really know how to handle yourself,” he held out a hand, “The name’s Bishop.”

    She looked skeptically at his hand then at him. Sure, what the hell, she shrugged and shook his hand.

    “I’m Rona. Rona Lightfoot.”

    He raised a brow, “Rona? Like Rona with an O?”

    She squinted at him. “Yeah…yes. Rona with an O.”

    He chuckled, “Just checking. Hey, let me buy you a drink Lady Lightfoot, sounds like you’ve had a rough day.”

    She agreed to have one drink with him and they stepped back inside the Sleeping Giant Inn where Bishop ordered them two pints. They pulled up a couple of chairs by the hearth.

    “Mind if I ask you something?”

    Rona took a sip of her warmed mead. “Shoot,” she said.

    “Where did you learn to fight like that?”

    She put her elbow on the arm of her chair and rest her chin on her hand and yawned. “Well, I’m a member of the Fighter’s Guild back in Cyrodiil. I’ve worked as a mercenary for about seven years now, since I was fifteen.”

    “Wow, that’s pretty young to start that line of work.”

    “I started out training in the Mage’s Guild since I was a kid. My ata,” she glanced at him and clarified, “Ah, that means father. He works there but I never really had much of a knack for magic despite his best efforts to train me. So I ran off to join the Fighter’s Guild instead.”

    “So those flames you bust out back there?”

    “Just some measly level one destruction magic,” she admitted.

    Bishop laughed, “Well you scared the absolute shit out of those two, I don’t think they’ll be coming back here any time soon.”

    “You two managed to chase off those drunks for me?”

    The older blonde innkeeper leaned against the bar holding a steaming mug in her hands.

    “Actually Delphine, you have this lovely young lady to thank for that. She really held her own, though I managed to get a few swings in too.”

    Delphine smiled, “Well I appreciate it. Was getting tired of them scaring off our patrons. Thank you stranger.”

    Rona gave her a nod and Bishop took a swig of his drink.

    “Sooo,” he said leading into it, “What did you mean about all that stuff you said back there? Dragons, executions – what was that all about?”

    Rona stared down into her pint, she felt the stares of both Delphine and Bishop hard on her now. Ah yes, what about all the craziness I blurt out, what was that all about indeed, she wondered thoughtfully. The room was silent except for the occasional snore coming from the red-faced drunk on the floor.

    She sighed and took a sip from her drink. “I received a letter from my mother about a week ago summoning me to her farm in Falkreath. So I packed up my horse in Cheydinhal and made my way here to Skyrim. I had no idea the civil war was that bad up here and there’s not much talk about it anywhere in Cyrodiil – least none that I’d heard.”

    “Typical,” Delphine scoffed shaking her head, “The Empire likes keeping these matters as quiet as possible, so as not to upset the delicate balance among the regions – oh, sorry to interrupt, go on.”

    Rona pressed her lips together and continued, “Well I managed to make my way across the border when I saw some nord soldiers come around the path ahead of me. Next thing I know an entire Legion of Imperials were attacking them! Then some guy on horseback came rushing at me which spooked my horse and threw me off. I must’ve blacked out because when I woke up I was sitting in a carriage with the jerk that spooked my mare and two nord soldiers. I guess…one of them was the leader of the rebellion or something?”

    She glanced up at Delphine whose mouth was agape and Bishop who was half laughing.

    “You’re telling me the Imperials captured Ulfric -the Ulfric Stormcloak?” he said incredulously.

    “Yeah, well they did…briefly,” Rona clarified, “They took all of us down to a chopping block in Helgen. I tried to explain my situation, to tell them I wasn’t one of those people!” Rona threw her hands up, exasperated, “I wasn’t a spy or any of that nonsense – but they’d stripped me of all my belongings including my mother’s letter so I had no proof for why I was there and they weren’t even willing to listen to me. I really thought it was all over when it was my turn, but when I looked up at the headsman ready to swing his axe I saw it – a huge black dragon came crashing down on the keep and then it just – well, it…it wasn’t a roar, more like a-”

    “Shout,” Delphine finished for her.

    “Yeah…a shout,” Rona shrugged.

    “No you don’t understand,” Delphine said as she stood up from behind the counter to walk over to them, “Dragons have always used shouts. It’s their way of speaking Words of Power.”

    Bishop set his pint down and put a hand to his head, “You’re seriously buying all this Delphine?”

    “Hush,” Delphine cautioned him then urged Rona to continue, “What happened after the dragon shouted?”

    Rona went on remembering every awful detail all too vividly, “Fire started raining from the sky. It blasted apart homes and crushed so many people. A Stormcloak helped me get to my feet, but it was an Imperial soldier who lead me out of Helgen. We went through some underground network below the city and when we got out of the caverns we saw the dragon fly off over this way. Hadvar and his family asked me to go to Whiterun to inform the Jarl which I intend to do straight away tomorrow morning.”

    Delphine nodded approvingly, “Good. I’m glad to hear it. We’re going to need all the help we can get if the dragons are back in Skyrim.”

    Bishop scoffed looking at Delphine and motioning a hand to Rona, “If dragons are back? You’re just as crazy as her if you believe this shit,” he looked at Rona and spoke with dripping sarcasm, “And what next? You’ll have to ride your unicorn off into the sunset to rescue a falmer princess after all that?”

    She balked at him, “Believe me or not, but Riverwood is in serious danger! I have to get to Whiterun to tell the Jarl so he can send soldiers here to protect these people!”

    “I don’t doubt you for a second dear,” Delphine said with a morose look, “It’s always been foretold that the dragons would return someday and when I saw you come in this afternoon, bloody and burnt all over, I knew something terrible must have happened. But dragons…”

    Delphine paused, she seemed to be thinking hard about something. She noticed they were looking at her and she smiled and said to Bishop, “You know, I think she’s exactly the kind of companion you’ve been looking for Bishop. She’s got experience with the Fighter’s Guild and survived a dragon attack? I wouldn’t pass her up.”She pat him on the shoulder, turned away and disappeared into her room.

    “What’s she talking about?”

    Bishop leaned back in his chair. He downed the rest of his drink sighed and looked into Rona’s eyes, his gaze piercing, “I was tracking my wolf, Karnwyr, around here. We were separated while hunting a week ago. I’ve been hearing rumors of bandits holding pit fights somewhere this side of Skyrim. He’s all I’ve got and that’s the only lead. So I’m off to shut them down before something happens to him.”

    “So you’re looking to hire a mercenary to help you?”

    “Not really looking to hire anyone sweetheart,” he sighed, “but if they’re running a ring like that there’s bound to be more than a few bandits. I hate to admit it, but I need the help, so if you want to come along I wouldn’t complain. I could certainly do worse for company.”

    Rona paused, her eyelids drooping lightly from fatigue. She took a hand and rubbed her eye.

    “You know I have to go to Whiterun and then come back to Falkreath, right?”

    “Yeah I get that. I heard you. Still…I’ve been hanging around here for days looking for someone capable and honestly, you’re the first capable person I’ve come across. Look, how about we call it a night? Sleep on it and let me know tomorrow. I know you have your other, uh, errands to run, and that’s fine, I won’t stop you there, but I could help you too. I know Skyrim like the back of my hand. So think about it.”

    He grasped her pint which was slowly tipping out of her hands in exhaustion and finished it off in one gulp, then with a beguiling smirk he said, “Goodnight Princess,” and disappeared into his room.

    ~~~

    The sound of birds chirping and people milling about the inn woke her. Rona yawned and rolled out of bed stretching. She found Bishop sipping a drink at the bar.

    “Bit early to get your drink on,” she said as she walked up to him.

    “Oh this? Just some milk, here, have a sweet roll on me, sweetie,” he said winking and handed her the pastry.

    She raised an eyebrow at him, but took the food anyway and bit into it.

    “You actually managed to spook Delphine off with all your talk of dragons,” he said, “Saw her slipping out in the middle of the night armed to the teeth.”

    “She’s just out to get some supplies from Whiterun.”

    “Sure she is Orgnar,” Bishop said smirking at him and stroking his chin stubble. “You should have heard the way she went on about the dragons last night. If you ask me she’s probably not coming back.”

    Orgnar snorted and leaned against the counter ignoring Bishop’s remark. Bishop grabbed half a loaf of bread and tossed a gold piece on the counter then turned to walk outside. Rona finished off her sweet roll and hurried after him.

    “So, been thinking about what I said last night?” he asked her as they stepped into a sunny clear day.

    She pulled a red ribbon out of her pouch and used it to tie her hair up, pulling strawberry blonde strands from her face, “I did. I’ll help you but on one condition.”

    Bishop crossed his arms and said, “That being…?”

    “That as soon as we finish in Whiterun we head straight for Falkreath. After that I’m all yours.”

    He smirked, “All mine, huh?”

    She rolled her eyes at him.

    He chuckled, “I know, got to go see your mother on her little farm. No problem princess, sounds like we have a deal. Oh and when we do find my wolf, don’t go thinking you can let him lick your hand or anything. Karnwyr is not a pet. That wolf and I have been together since I was seventeen. He’s closer to me than…than a brother. Got that?”

    “Understood,” she said looking away and rolling her eyes. What a moody guy, she thought. Though her gaze turned towards Hadvar who was heading straight for them.

    Hadvar held out a knapsack for her, “Sigrid asked me to give you this. Just some supplies for your trip to Whiterun,” he then gave Bishop a quick once over and a disapproving look, “I’d watch out for this one, he’s known trouble in these parts.”

    Bishop crossed his arms and snarled back at him, “Oh please, can’t be any more trouble than someone who’s got an entire legion of Stormcloaks after him, let alone dragons.”

    Hadvar scowled at him then turned to Rona, “If you’re ever up in Solitude the Legion could really use someone like you. I know you got a bad first impression yesterday, but if you’re willing to give them another chance you should really sign up. Take care of yourself Rona.”

    He shook her hand and left them. Rona turned on foot and hurried off down the path away from town catching Bishop off guard who had to jog a bit just to catch up with her.

    “Damn woman, you’re fast!”

    She cocked her head at him, “How do you think I got the name? My comrades called me Lightfoot for several reasons.”

    “Several reasons, hmm? I wouldn’t mind getting to know what the other reasons are,” he said provocatively as he got into a comfortable stride walking alongside her.

    “Are you always this…suggestive?” she asked cringing her nose at him.

    “Not always, I can be more…sensual if you prefer,” he grinned broadly at her.

    She quickened her pace forcing him to fall behind.

    “I honestly don’t mind this angle either. Mmhm! Got a nice view of those lovely hips of yours!”

    This is going to be a long journey, she thought.

     

    Chapter 2

    She’s a bard

    Luckily Whiterun wasn’t too far from Riverwood. Barely an hour had passed when they came up on Honningbrew Meadery and the local farms. They heard the sound of people shouting in the distance. The scene immediately caught Rona’s eye. There was a Giant attacking a small group on one of the farms further down the road. She burst into a sprint and aimed straight for the commotion ahead of her.

    “Hey! Slow down ladyship! I think they’ve got it!” Bishop called from the rear.

    She ignored him and ran right into the fray. This was her element and she’d never seen a beast quite like this one before. The Giant was stooped over a small fence separating it from four terrified cows inside the pen. Two women were attacking the beast with swords and arrows with little effect as it swatted the arrows away with its mighty club. Every effort they made to cut into its ankles was met with boisterous stomping and grunting by the fiend making it difficult to get in any truly damaging cuts.

    Rona ran alongside the largest warrior, a roguish man with rippling muscles and long, black stringy hair. His eyes were stained with war paint and his battered armor spoke volumes of the fights he’d been in. He was standing back, holding a great sword with both hands waiting for an opening.

    “Think you can throw me?” she shouted at him, trying to catch his attention.

    “Uh…huh? What?” the man stumbled looking down at the petite woman suddenly at his side.

    “CAN. YOU. THROW. ME?” she repeated louder and more succinctly.

    “I…I guess so?” he said more confused, but stuck his great sword into the ground regardless and turned to face her.

    The other two women were doing their best to route the beast away from the bleating farm animals when the red haired woman with green warpaint slashed across her face screamed, “FARKAS! YOU ICE BRAIN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

    “Just hold your hands out together like this!” Rona explained as she knelt down and pressed the sides of her hands together then motioned them at an upward angle quickly as if aiming at the Giant, “Just like this – okay?”

    “You got it.” Farkas got into position and Rona put her thumb and forefinger to her mouth whistling loudly catching the attention of the Giant which turned around abruptly from its mooing prey. Rona grabbed her bow and stepped into Farkas’s open hands just as Bishop caught up to them, bellowing, “ARE YOU INSANE!?”

    Farkas threw her with a bit more force than she anticipated above the Giant’s head. She breathed an incantation to slow her fall, drew an arrow, nocking it to her bow and lined her sights up with the Giant’s upturned and bemused face.

    She pulled the arrow back, drawing weight into it, then loosed the arrow straight into the Giant’s left eye. It pierced through with enough speed and force to penetrate the beast’s skull, but still wasn’t enough to sink into its brain. The Giant roared in pain and turned its head down to tear at its face with its free hand. Rona used the opportunity to ascend quicker, allowing her to kick off its head and bounce outward and away where she safely landed on the ground.

    The other warriors used the Giant’s distraction to their benefit and began viciously hacking at its heels until it toppled over with a resounding crash. Farkas grabbed his great sword and ran across the farmland where he violently plunged it into the Giant’s vulnerable skull, killing it instantly.

    Rona was looking on at them, a small smile perking at the corners of her mouth. Finally, she was back at it, doing what she loved. Today was going to be a good day, she could feel it.

    Bishop’s voice called behind her, “Damn woman. That was…I’m seriously impressed.”

    The red haired woman strode across the farm and came right up to her, “I have to agree! You handle yourself well Shield-Sister.”

    “Shield-Sister?” Rona inquired.

    “An outsider, eh?” the woman said glancing at Rona’s pointed ears, “Never heard of the Companions? An order of warriors. We are brothers and sisters in honor. And we show up to solve problems if the coin is good enough.”

    “Oh! My mother was a Companion.”

    The woman cocked an eyebrow, “Truly? Perhaps I know of her.”

    “Her name is Claudia Windsleaf.”

    “Wait…you’re Claudia’s little girl, Rona?”

    Rona nodded. The woman grasped her hand suddenly, beaming at her, “Why you were just a pup when we first met,” she leaned in getting a better look at her now intensely blushing face. “It really is you – well that certainly explains it. You probably don’t remember me. My name is Aela. I often hunted with your mother before she left the Circle to forge her own path. How is the old wench?”

    Rona’s heart sank, right, I’m supposed to be going to see her.

    “Not well,” she said, “I received a letter from her a week ago saying that she was ill, so I’m headed off to see what I can do for her.”

    “I see. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, if you’re ever interested in joining us speak to Kodlak Whitemane up in Jorrvaskr. I’m sure the old man will be more than happy to bring Claudia’s girl into the fold. Please give your mother my regards and I’ll pray for her swift recovery.”

    The woman turned away to follow her comrades along the path.

    Rona heard Bishop’s voice behind her, “Your mother was a Companion?”

    “Yeah, she was a long time ago.”

    Bishop studied her with curiosity behind his amber eyes. “Huh…Like mother like daughter I suppose. Anyhow, warn me next time you’re about to rush into battle like that. Don’t want you to have all the fun.”

    “Oh, sorry about that.”

    “Whiterun is just around the corner you know,” he said, “Ready to tell the Jarl all about your little dragon?”

    She scowled at him and trudged right past him up the path leading to the city’s outer gates. Two guards stood as sentries, watching the familiar townsfolk coming and going. Just as soon as Rona and Bishop got there a guard proceeded to stop them, “Halt! City’s closed with dragons about. Official business only.”

    A wry sneer pulled at Rona’s lips as she slowly glanced over at Bishop who looked dumbstruck by the guard’s remark.

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said.

    The guard sounded annoyed, “No, I’m not fucking kidding.”

    Rona spoke up quickly, “Riverwood calls for aid.”

    “Riverwood’s in danger too? Damn it…You’d better go on in. You’ll find the Jarl in Dragonsreach at the top of the hill.”

    They walked in together and Rona took in the sights. A small but bustling town sprawled across low white hills, white wooden homes and businesses with yellow thatched roofs were scattered on either side of the cobblestone path. A woman was busy arguing with a man while she sharpened a sword at a forge to the right, people milled about the streets, talking and walking, carrying products, selling in a small market square. It was quaint, charming in a way.

    “This way Princess,” Bishop called to her from atop a staircase to her left.

    She hurried up the stairs following behind him as she watched three children playing a game of tag and two Redguards bickering about a lost sword. They came around a large, mostly dead looking tree where Rona overheard a priest of Kynareth complaining about the sad state of the thing. Another priest, one of Talos, was loudly preaching in the plaza to a few bystanders about the glory of Talos and the Empire’s betrayal of him.

    They carried on, up more stairs leading to an enormous palace. Guards were stationed more closely together, watching as the two strangers entered the palace longhouse. The inside was immense, with tall vaulted ceilings and wide open space, they went up more stairs which lead to a hearth in the center, flanked by two long wooden tables on either side.

    An older Nordic man sat on a tall throne discussing important matters with his steward while a furious looking dunmer drew her sword and slowly approached them.

    “What’s the meaning of this interruption? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors.”

    Looking to avoid being stabbed Rona immediately stated their intentions, “I have news from Helgen about the dragon attack!”

    “Well that explains why the guards let you in,” she said sheathing her sword, “Come on then, the Jarl will want to speak to you personally.”

    Rona looked over at Bishop with the biggest ‘told you so’ look on her face.

    “Yeah I get it, you can put the smirk away now Ladyship,” he muttered back at her.

    Rona stood before the court, this wasn’t her first time in the presence of nobility, but it was her first time speaking directly to them. She did her best to remember all the rules of etiquette her father had taught her and composed herself accordingly. Though she was a bit thrown by the way the Jarl so casually slumped in his chair, very unlike the Kings and Queens of Cyrodiil.

    Despite his slouching, the Jarl spoke with strength and seriousness in his voice, “So. You were at Helgen? You saw this dragon with your own eyes?”

    “I did,” Rona replied. She went on explaining everything that happened in detail – from her capture crossing the border and being thrown in with the Stormcloaks as a prisoner, to the fact that the Imperials nearly beheaded the leader of the rebellion before a dragon came down and shouted at them, causing fire to rain from the sky. Everyone in the court listened intently. Jarl Balgruuf stroked his beard thoughtfully as Rona finished. He then turned to his steward and said, “What do you say now, Proventus? Shall we continue to trust in the strength of our walls? Against a dragon?”

    The dunmer woman interjected, “My lord, we should send troops to Riverwood at once. It’s in the most immediate danger, if that dragon is lurking in the mountains…”

    Proventus barked back, “The Jarl of Falkreath will view that as a provocation! He’ll assume we’re preparing to join Ulfric’s side and attack him!”

    “Enough!” Balgruuf bellowed, “Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once.”

    “Yes, my Jarl.”

    The steward protested, “We should not…”

    “I’ll not stand idly by while a dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people!”

    The steward seemed to get the hint, “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll return to my duties.”

    “That would be best,” Balgruuf firmly agreed. He looked up at Rona then and spoke directly to her, “Well done young lady. Considering the severity of the circumstances I appreciate that you sought me out and delayed your trip home. May I ask your name?”

    “Uh, Rona.”

    “Rona?” he suddenly looked bewildered, “Your mother…she is…Claudia?”

    Rona looked surprised at him.

    “Yes. Claudia Windsleaf,” she said.

    “Ysmir’s beard! I should have known…those rose colored locks and you have her green eyes. Why you were barely walking when I first met you child. Though you look more like your elf of a father, ah – I mean no disrespect of course.”

    “We…we’ve met before?” Rona was stunned. All this time she’d known all these people, or at least met them as an infant before her father swept her off to Cyrodiil when she was three years old. How many more people would she find that her mother had been in contact with?

    “Tell me, how is Claudia these days?” Balgruuf asked keenly.

    Rona once again shared the news of her mother’s letter and illness.

    Balgruuf sighed solemnly, “I’m very sorry to hear that,” he paused for a moment, holding his forefinger and thumb to his head as if in thought, then looked back down at Rona, “I don’t want to keep you but could I trouble you for a favor child?”

    Rona pressed her lips together tightly. There certainly was no shortage of people in need of help in Skyrim. She took a breath and said, “What would you ask of me?”

    The Jarl smiled and said, “I believe this task is suitable for someone of your particular talents, perhaps. At the very least I’m most certain the daughter of a Windsleaf can handle this. Let’s meet with Farengar, my court wizard. He’s been looking into a matter related to these dragons and…rumors of dragons.”

    ~~~

    “Wow!” Bishop laughed loudly as they stepped outside into the blistering sunlight, “Just, WOW! What is that, some kind of mental condition?”

    Rona glared at him, “What?

    “Your need to help every single moron that comes asking.”

    “You’re saying the Jarl is a moron?”

    He paused until they were out of earshot of the guards, “A bit, yeah.”

    “What’s wrong with helping people Bishop? I’m helping you aren’t I?”

    “That’s exactly it, you’re helping me, and you’re going home soon. You’ve already got enough on your plate, yet here you are, taking on every little task that comes your way.”

    “I don’t have to take care of it immediately. He said to go whenever the opportunity arises and…he paid me, a lot.

    “Oh, it was implied that you should hurry, heavily implied with all his talk of dragons. And that pile of gold? He’s keeping you on retainer.”

    Rona rolled her eyes at him and quickened her pace, “Hurry up or the carriage will leave without us!”

    They came up to a small group of guardsman, the dunmer, Irileth, was addressing them loudly, “The Jarl has finally agreed to send you all back to Riverwood.”

    One of the guards spoke up, “Yes, Housecarl. We’ll leave immediately.”

    Another said, “It’s just us against a dragon, is that it?”

    Irileth scowled at him, “I can’t afford to send anyone else. And we don’t know where the dragon is. Your main job will be to keep an eye out and get the people to safety if the town is attacked. I don’t expect the three of you to fight off a dragon by yourselves, but I do expect you to do your duty.”

    “Of course. We’ll keep Riverwood safe. You can count on it.”

    “Glad to hear it soldier. Ah,” she saw Bishop and Rona and said, “glad you two made it,” then she turned back to the guards, “these two will be accompanying you in the carriage. This young woman was kind enough to go out of her way to inform us about the dragon. I expect you three to be on your best behaviors, you’re representing Whiterun after all. Good luck!”

    “Of course Housecarl. All right men, let’s move out!”

    ~~~

    The carriage was very cramped with the five of them. After all the seating was made for four and Rona ended up squeezing in between a blonde guardsman and Bishop who leaned back and threw an arm around her shoulders. She gave him subtle glare which he only responded to with a suggestive smirk.

    They all introduced themselves, the blonde guard next to Rona was Talun, the bearded guard across from Bishop said his name was Dagun, the dusky haired guard across from Rona was Sigrs, and the carriage driver introduced himself as Bjorlam.

    Sigrs started asking about the dragon, “So Irileth was saying you saw the dragon with your own eyes, can you tell us what we’re up against here?”

    Rona hesitated, should she tell them just how awful it really was? She decided to give them general details, “Well…it was very big and very loud.”

    “How big?”

    “About as big as a house, oh…and it breathed…fire.”

    They all groaned inwardly.

    Dagun whined, “I’ve got a bad knee, rockjoint you know, I don’t know if I can handle something like that.”

    “Oh quit your bellyaching,” said Sigrs.

    Rona perked up, “I know some restoration magic, I could help alleviate the pain.”

    “Oi, keep the magic away from me,” Sigrs grunted.

    “It won’t hurt or anything?”Dagun asked nervously.

    Rona laughed, “No, of course not! It’s restoration, not destruction.”

    She leaned forward and held her hands out to him then spoke a simple incantation. Dagun looked nervously at her hands as they started to glow. It didn’t take long before he sighed and relaxed though, “Wow…that feels…that feels so much better!”

    Talun marveled at him, “Really? It didn’t hurt you at all?”

    “Definitely not. Thank you miss.”

    “Of course I -”

    Talun shouted, “Wait! Do me next! My joints have been bothering me too, plus I think I caught a case of ataxia from a skeever the other day.”

    Bishop snorted, “Never thought I’d see the day a nord would beg for some magic.”

    “I’d try it if I were you, I feel like a new man,” Dagun said flexing his knee.

    Rona cast some more magic on the blonde guard next to her, then Sigrs suddenly changed his tune and piped in to complain about his case of rattles. She decided to up the power with a grand healing when Bjorlam said he was sure he had brain rot to which Bishop and the other men burst into a hearty laughter over.

    Rona was getting into a real groove casting her magic. It reminded her of home and her time with her comrades after a long day of battle. She started out humming a song but then the words carried from her throat, a magic in themselves. She closed her eyes imagining the joy she felt among her friends as she sang.

    (The song is To My Dear Friends by Erutan)

    “The wheels of time have turned,

    and left their trails on every soul,

    and through memories I walk,

    their voices to hear, however faint,

    their tones resound in me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

    Dear friends, I loved you well,

    each steadfast heart,

    our dreams kept within,

    and though those days are lost,

    our story lives on,

    in bonds we forged, in battle blazing bright,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

    Now, by the hearth I rest,

    my battered blade,

    old friend by the fire,

    and an image I keep, their faces to see,

    each one so dear,

    forever bound to me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.”

    When she opened her eyes she realized then that everyone was staring at her, save for Bjorlam, though his head was turned as he listened closely. Rona dared a glance at Bishop who was stifling a laugh. She felt her face flush red.

    The others though were awestruck when finally Dagun said, “I think I’m in love.”

    Bishop broke into laughter then, “You know ladyship, when you blush it goes straight to the tips of your ears.”

    She jabbed an elbow into his ribs.

    “Hey now! I might need some restoration if you keep that up.”

    Dagun opined, “You have quite the talent Lady Rona.”

    “Are you a bard?” asked Talun.

    “What? No – well I mean yes. Everyone in the Fighter’s Guild sings songs of battle and glory it’s just…normal,” she said shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

    Bjorlam called back, “We’re almost to Riverwood, perhaps the lady would be kind enough to grace us with another song?”

    Dagun implored her, “Yes please! We must hear another!”

    “She’s not like the bards here in Skyrim, her voice, it’s like an angel’s,” said Talun. They all agreed.

    Rona felt her redness burning a little less and smiled, “Well, what would you like to hear?”

    “Ragnar the Red!” shouted Sigrs.

    They all burst out laughing, even Bishop who said, “Aw – no, please spare us from that atrocity.” He looked down at Rona and gave her a surprisingly kind smile, “Sing whatever comes to mind, but whatever you do, don’t sing that.”

    She felt the blush rushing back from his sudden warmth towards her, “W-well, I don’t know that one but…how about something more lively?”

    And she started in with a more confident and vocal, “Aaaaaahhh~

    (The song is You’re Not Alone by Erutan)

    “Lost in darkest blue

    Endless labyrinths weaving though

    Will you stagger on,

    with no star to light your way?

    Share with me your tears

    All your troubles and deepest fears

    I remember when you chased all my shadows away

    Won’t you take my hand?

    Come away with me from this land

    Let me give to you all that you have given to me

    Fly horizon bound

    Find the moon behind darkening clouds

    Even far apart, know our souls together will be

    When the storm draws nigh

    Dreams will shatter before your eyes

    Know that you’re not alone

    When the battle starts I will comfort your restless heart

    You’ll know that you are home

    When your stars stop shining

    Endless vines around you winding

    Know that you’re not alone I will give my all

    So your tears will no longer fall

    Down, down on sorrow’s stone

    Look into my eyes

    All eternity you will find

    In this fragile heart,

    know that you will always belong

    Shout into the night

    Show the darkness that you will fight

    Hopeless you may feel, but inside

    I know you are strong

    Keep me in your heart

    So we’ll never be far apart

    Let the bonds of love break these chains imprisoning you

    Always you will find

    Shadows lingering close behind

    Lift your spirits now,

    We shall be together soon

    When the storm draws nigh

    Dreams will shatter before your eyes

    Know that you’re not alone

    When the battle starts I will comfort your restless heart

    You’ll know that you are home

    When your stars stop shining

    Endless vines around you winding

    Know that you’re not alone I will give my all

    So your tears will no longer fall

    Down, down on sorrow’s stone

    Know that you’re not alone.”

    ~~~

    They arrived in Riverwood shortly after her song was finished. The guardsmen all clambered out of the carriage thanking her profusely for healing their aches and pains and promised her a drink whenever she returned. Dagun shouted, “Marry me Lady Rona! I’ll have a ring for you next I see you!” The others punched him in the arm lightheartedly and wished her well as Bjorlam carried on down the path.

    Bishop yawned and put his feet up onto the opposite carriage bench. “Finally I can stretch my legs. They were a fun bunch, huh?”

    “Yeah, I enjoyed myself,” Rona agreed.

    “I could tell. You gonna take him up on his proposal?”

    Rona laughed, “I don’t think so. He’s a bit my senior don’t you think?”

    “A bit, probably around your father’s age.”

    “Ha! Nobody is even close Ata’s age.”

    “Ata?”

    “I told you already, it means father in Aldmeri.”

    “Right, sometimes I forget you’re half an elf.”

    She scowled at him, “And what’s wrong with that?”

    He smirked, “Nothing at all. Trust me, I’m not one of those Skyrim’s for the Nords types. Besides, your elvishness only adds to your charm Princess.”

    The carriage stopped abruptly. Bishop and Rona looked up and saw the smoldering ruin that was once Helgen.

    “By the gods,” Bjorlam muttered.

    Rona hopped out of the carriage and ran around to the secured gates.

    “What are you doing!?” Bishop shouted after her.

    “There might be survivors!” she cried and pushed on the gates. They didn’t budge an inch. “It’s only been a day since the attack! Maybe – ”

    “Ladyship!,” Bishop urged in whispered tones, “Ladyship – Rona! Get back in the carriage!”

    “Best do as he says lass,” a voice said from above her. She looked up to find a bandit with a bow and arrow trained on her, “This hold belongs to us now. So git.”

    She backed away from the gates when another bandit, a female, came stalking along the wall beside her comrade, “You heard Thorn, anyone who comes up here gets an arrow in the – URK!”

    Bishop let loose an arrow of his own straight into the woman’s skull.

    “RUN!” he screamed. Rona kicked off the ground and sprinted around keeping close to the wall as Bjorlam snapped the reins on his steed. The carriage bolted forward just as Bishop picked off the swearing bandit with another arrow.

    The carriage lurched around the building passing her. Bishop tightly gripped the side of the carriage, leaning out over the edge and held a hand out to her. She quickly reached for it grasping his hand. He pulled her in forcing her to tumble onto the bottom of the carriage. Bishop grabbed her and pinned her under his body as more shouting could be heard from inside the walls as arrows flew over them.

    The carriage bounced onto the rocky path as they came around the town and continued to rumble underneath them. They kept up like this for another few minutes before Bjorlam slowed it down and finally breathed with relief, “Everyone okay?”

    Bishop smiled at the woman under him, “Doing just fine now.”

    She scowled at him, “You can get off me now.”

    He rolled off of her, sat up and plucked an arrow from the carriage bench. Rolling it between his fingers he looked up at her and barked, “What the hell were you even thinking?”

    “I just wanted to see if there were any survivors.”

    “Of course you did.”

    “Miss, I…I’m not sure if we passed the farm or not, I know you said it’s just outside Falkreath,” Bjorlam said.

    “Oh!” Rona stood up and gathered in her surroundings. A small house was just down the path from them.

    “There!” she said, “My mother’s farm is just beyond that house.”

    “Oh good,” Bjorlam sounded relieved.

    As soon as they’d arrived Rona thanked the driver and gave him twenty gold pieces for his trouble. She marched up a small hill and around a pond where they were met with a flourishing and quaint farm.

    A cozy and dilapidated cottage stood in front of them having been patched up in many places. A small detached stable was nearby where an old brown stallion munched on a mouthful of hay. Rona looked around, surprised to see it was all so clean and well cared for. This was extremely unlike her mother. She’d always left the farm barren and never bothered patching up the home she would barely spend any time in, though perhaps in her old age she’d finally accepted her fate of retiring on her farm and decided to clean it up.

    Rona glanced around looking for any sign of her mother and caught sight of a woman tending to some crops out on the farm. She was covered head to toe in mage’s robes and Rona was immediately suspicious.

    She carefully tread across the freshly plowed ground and came up behind the woman, drawing her dagger on her.

    “Who are you?” she demanded.

    The young woman turned to look up at her and blinked.

    “Whoa! Ladyship, is that any way to treat your…mother?” Bishop looked on puzzled.

    “That’s not my mother,” Rona muttered.

    “Ah,” the woman spoke with a gentle lilted tone of voice, “You must be Rona, your mother’s told me all about you.”

    The woman stood suddenly and wiped her hands onto her robe, then held out a hand in greeting, “It’s alright, you can put the dagger away. I’m your mother’s steward, my name is Illia.”

    Rona ignored the woman’s outstretched hand and refused to put the dagger away, “Where is she?”

    “Um…perhaps we should talk inside?” Illia suggested pulling her hand back and glancing nervously at the dagger, “I can make us some tea.”

    Where is she?” Rona reiterated fiercely.

    Illia chewed on her lower lip, “That is to say…she…she’s already passed on.”

    Rona felt the tears clinging to her lashes as she gripped her dagger more tensely than before.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 2

    She’s a bard

     

    Luckily Whiterun wasn’t too far from Riverwood. Barely an hour had passed when they came up on Honningbrew Meadery and the local farms. They heard the sound of people shouting in the distance. The scene immediately caught Rona’s eye. There was a Giant attacking a small group on one of the farms further down the road. She burst into a sprint and aimed straight for the commotion ahead of her.

    “Hey! Slow down ladyship! I think they’ve got it!” Bishop called from the rear.

    She ignored him and ran right into the fray. This was her element and she’d never seen a beast quite like this one before. The Giant was stooped over a small fence separating it from four terrified cows inside the pen. Two women were attacking the beast with swords and arrows with little effect as it swatted the arrows away with its mighty club. Every effort they made to cut into its ankles was met with boisterous stomping and grunting by the fiend making it difficult to get in any truly damaging cuts.

    Rona ran alongside the largest warrior, a roguish man with rippling muscles and long, black stringy hair. His eyes were stained with war paint and his battered armor spoke volumes of the fights he’d been in. He was standing back, holding a great sword with both hands waiting for an opening.

    “Think you can throw me?” she shouted at him, trying to catch his attention.

    “Uh…huh? What?” the man stumbled looking down at the petite woman suddenly at his side.

    “CAN. YOU. THROW. ME?” she repeated louder and more succinctly.

    “I…I guess so?” he said more confused, but stuck his great sword into the ground regardless and turned to face her.

    The other two women were doing their best to route the beast away from the bleating farm animals when the red haired woman with green war paint slashed across her face screamed, “FARKAS! YOU ICE BRAIN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

    “Just hold your hands out together like this!” Rona explained as she knelt down and pressed the sides of her hands together then motioned them at an upward angle quickly as if aiming at the Giant, “Just like this – okay?”

    “You got it.” Farkas got into position and Rona put her thumb and forefinger to her mouth whistling loudly catching the attention of the Giant which turned around abruptly from its mooing prey. Rona grabbed her bow and stepped into Farkas’s open hands just as Bishop caught up to them, bellowing, “ARE YOU INSANE!?”

    Farkas threw her with a bit more force than she anticipated above the Giant’s head. She breathed an incantation to slow her fall, drew an arrow, nocking it to her bow and lined her sights up with the Giant’s upturned and bemused face.

    She pulled the arrow back, drawing weight into it, then loosed the arrow straight into the Giant’s left eye. It pierced through with enough speed and force to penetrate the beast’s skull, but still wasn’t enough to sink into its brain. The Giant roared in pain and turned its head down to tear at its face with its free hand. Rona used the opportunity to ascend quicker, allowing her to kick off its head and bounce outward and away where she safely landed on the ground.

    The other warriors used the Giant’s distraction to their benefit and began viciously hacking at its heels until it toppled over with a resounding crash. Farkas grabbed his great sword and ran across the farmland where he violently plunged it into the Giant’s vulnerable skull, killing it instantly.

    Rona was looking on at them, a small smile perking at the corners of her mouth. Finally, she was back at it, doing what she loved. Today was going to be a good day, she could feel it.

    Bishop’s voice called behind her, “Damn woman. That was…I’m seriously impressed.”

    The red haired woman strode across the farm and came right up to her, “Could’t agree more! You handle yourself well Shield-Sister.”

    “Shield-Sister?” Rona inquired.

    “An outsider, eh?” the woman said glancing at Rona’s pointed ears, “Never heard of the Companions? An order of warriors. We are brothers and sisters in honor. And we show up to solve problems if the coin is good enough.”

    “Oh! My mother was a Companion.”

    The woman cocked an eyebrow, “Truly? Perhaps I know of her.”

    “Her name is Claudia Windsleaf.”

    “Wait…you’re Claudia’s little girl, Rona?”

    Rona nodded. The woman grasped her hand suddenly, beaming at her, “Why you were just a pup when we first met,” she leaned in getting a better look at her now intensely blushing face. “It really is you – well that certainly explains it. You probably don’t remember me. My name is Aela. I often hunted with your mother before she left the Circle to forge her own path. How is the old wench?”

    Rona’s heart sank, right, I’m supposed to be going to see her.

    “Not well,” she said, “I received a letter from her a week ago saying that she was ill, so I’m headed off to see what I can do for her.”

    “I see. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, if you’re ever interested in joining us speak to Kodlak Whitemane up in Jorrvaskr. I’m sure the old man will be more than happy to bring Claudia’s girl into the fold. Please give your mother my regards and I’ll pray for her swift recovery.”

    The woman turned away to follow her comrades along the path.

    Rona heard Bishop’s voice behind her, “Your mother was a Companion?”

    “Yeah, she was a long time ago.”

    Bishop studied her with curiosity behind his amber eyes. “Huh…Like mother like daughter I suppose. Anyhow, warn me next time you’re about to rush into battle like that. Don’t want you to have all the fun.”

    “Oh, sorry about that.”

    Bishop said, “Whiterun is just around the corner you know. Ready to tell the Jarl all about your little dragon?”

    She scowled at him and trudged right past him up the path leading to the city’s outer gates. Two guards stood as sentries, watching the familiar townsfolk coming and going. Just as soon as Rona and Bishop got there a guard proceeded to stop them, “Halt! City’s closed with dragons about. Official business only.”

    A wry sneer pulled at Rona’s lips as she slowly glanced over at Bishop who looked dumbstruck by the guard’s remark.

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said.

    The guard sounded annoyed, “No, I’m not fucking kidding.”

    Rona spoke up quickly, “Riverwood calls for aid.”

    “Riverwood’s in danger too? Damn it…You’d better go on in. You’ll find the Jarl in Dragonsreach at the top of the hill.”

    They walked in together and Rona took in the sights. A small but bustling town sprawled across low white hills, white wooden homes and businesses with yellow thatched roofs were scattered on either side of the cobblestone path. A woman was busy arguing with a man while she sharpened a sword at a forge to the right, people milled about the streets, talking and walking, carrying products, selling in a small market square. It was quaint, charming in a way.

    “This way princess,” Bishop called to her from atop a staircase to her left.

    She hurried up the stairs following behind him as she watched three children playing a game of tag and two Redguards bickering about a lost sword. They came around a large, mostly dead looking tree where Rona overheard a priest of Kynareth complaining about the sad state of the thing. Another priest, one of Talos, was loudly preaching in the plaza to a few bystanders about the glory of Talos and the Empire’s betrayal of him.

    They carried on, up more stairs leading to an enormous palace. Guards were stationed more closely together, watching as the two strangers entered the palace longhouse. The inside was immense, with tall vaulted ceilings and wide open space, they went up more stairs which lead to a hearth in the center, flanked by two long wooden tables on either side.

    An older Nordic man sat on a tall throne discussing important matters with his steward while a furious looking dunmer drew her sword and slowly approached them.

    “What’s the meaning of this interruption? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors.”

    Looking to avoid being stabbed Rona immediately stated their intentions, “I have news from Helgen about the dragon attack!”

    “Well that explains why the guards let you in,” she said sheathing her sword, “Come on then, the Jarl will want to speak to you personally.”

    Rona looked over at Bishop with the biggest ‘told you so’ look on her face.

    “Yeah I get it, you can put the smirk away now Ladyship,” he muttered back at her.

    Rona stood before the court, this wasn’t her first time in the presence of nobility, but it was her first time speaking directly to them. She did her best to remember all the rules of etiquette her father had taught her and composed herself accordingly. Though she was a bit thrown by the way the Jarl so casually slumped in his chair, very unlike the Kings and Queens of Cyrodiil.

    Despite his slouching, the Jarl spoke with strength and seriousness in his voice, “So. You were at Helgen? You saw this dragon with your own eyes?”

    “I did,” Rona replied. She went on explaining everything that happened in detail – from her capture crossing the border and being thrown in with the Stormcloaks as a prisoner, to the fact that the Imperials nearly beheaded the leader of the rebellion before a dragon came down and shouted at them, causing fire to rain from the sky. Everyone in the court listened intently. Jarl Balgruuf stroked his beard thoughtfully as Rona finished. He then turned to his steward and said, “What do you say now, Proventus? Shall we continue to trust in the strength of our walls? Against a dragon?”

    The dunmer woman interjected, “My lord, we should send troops to Riverwood at once. It’s in the most immediate danger, if that dragon is lurking in the mountains…”

    Proventus barked back, “The Jarl of Falkreath will view that as a provocation! He’ll assume we’re preparing to join Ulfric’s side and attack him!”

    “Enough!” Balgruuf bellowed, “Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once.”

    “Yes, my Jarl.”

    The steward protested, “We should not…”

    “I’ll not stand idly by while a dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people!”

    The steward seemed to get the hint and excused himself, “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll return to my duties.”

    “That would be best,” Balgruuf firmly agreed. He looked up at Rona then and spoke directly to her, “Well done young lady. Considering the severity of the circumstances I appreciate that you sought me out and delayed your trip home. May I ask your name?”

    “Uh, Rona.”

    “Rona?” he suddenly looked bewildered, “Your mother…she is…Claudia?”

    Rona looked surprised at him.

    “Yes. Claudia Windsleaf,” she said.

    “Ysmir’s beard! I should have known…those rose colored locks and you have her green eyes. Why you were barely walking when I first met you child. Though you look more like your elf of a father, ah – I mean no disrespect of course.”

    “We…we’ve met before?” Rona was stunned. All this time she’d known all these people, or at least met them as an infant before her father swept her off to Cyrodiil when she was three years old. How many more people would she find that her mother had been in contact with?

    “Tell me, how is Claudia these days?” Balgruuf asked keenly.

    Rona once again shared the news of her mother’s letter and illness.

    Balgruuf sighed solemnly, “I’m very sorry to hear that,” he paused for a moment, holding his forefinger and thumb to his head as if in thought, then looked back down at Rona, “I don’t want to keep you but could I trouble you for a favor child?”

    Rona pressed her lips together tightly. There certainly was no shortage of people in need of help in Skyrim. She took a breath and said, “What would you ask of me?”

    The Jarl smiled and said, “I believe this task is suitable for someone of your particular talents, perhaps. At the very least I’m most certain the daughter of a Windsleaf can handle this. Let’s meet with Farengar, my court wizard. He’s been looking into a matter related to these dragons and…rumors of dragons.”

    ——————————————————————————————————————

    “Wow!” Bishop laughed loudly as they stepped outside into the blistering sunlight, “Just, WOW! What is that, some kind of mental condition?”

    Rona glared at him, “What?

    “Your need to help every single moron that comes asking.”

    “You’re saying the Jarl is a moron?”

    He paused until they were out of earshot of the guards, “A bit, yeah.”

    “What’s wrong with helping people Bishop? I’m helping you aren’t I?”

    “That’s exactly it, you’re helping me, and you’re going home soon. You’ve already got enough on your plate, yet here you are, taking on every little task that comes your way.”

    “I don’t have to take care of it immediately. He said to go whenever the opportunity arises and…he paid me, a lot.

    “Oh, it was implied that you should hurry, heavily implied with all his talk of dragons. And that pile of gold? He’s keeping you on retainer.”

    Rona rolled her eyes at him and quickened her pace, “Hurry up or the carriage will leave without us!”

    They came up to a small group of guardsman, the dunmer, Irileth, was addressing them loudly, “The Jarl has finally agreed to send you all back to Riverwood.”

    One of the guards spoke up, “Yes, Housecarl. We’ll leave immediately.”

    Another said, “It’s just us against a dragon, is that it?”

    Irileth scowled at him, “I can’t afford to send anyone else. And we don’t know where the dragon is. Your main job will be to keep an eye out and get the people to safety if the town is attacked. I don’t expect the three of you to fight off a dragon by yourselves, but I do expect you to do your duty.”

    “Of course. We’ll keep Riverwood safe. You can count on it.”

    “Glad to hear it soldier. Ah,” she saw Bishop and Rona and said, “glad you two made it,” then she turned back to the guards, “these two will be accompanying you in the carriage. This young woman was kind enough to go out of her way to inform us about the dragon. I expect you three to be on your best behaviors, you’re representing Whiterun after all. Good luck!”

    “Of course Housecarl. All right men, let’s move out!”

    ——————————————————————————————————————

    The carriage was very cramped with the five of them. After all the seating was made for four and Rona ended up squeezing in between a blonde guardsman and Bishop who leaned back and threw an arm around her shoulders. She gave him subtle glare which he only responded to with a suggestive smirk.

    They all introduced themselves, the blonde guard next to Rona was Talun, the bearded guard across from Bishop said his name was Dagun, the dusky haired guard across from Rona was Sigrs, and the carriage driver introduced himself as Bjorlam.

    Sigrs started asking about the dragon, “So Irileth was saying you saw the dragon with your own eyes, can you tell us what we’re up against here?”

    Rona hesitated, should she tell them just how awful it really was? She decided to give them general details, “Well…it was very big and very loud.”

    “How big?”

    “About as big as a house, oh…and it breathed…fire.”

    They all groaned inwardly.

    Dagun whined, “I’ve got a bad knee, rockjoint you know, I don’t know if I can handle something like that.”

    Sigrs said, “Oh quit your bellyaching.”

    Rona perked up, “I know some restoration magic, I could help alleviate the pain.”

    “Oi, keep the magic away from me,” Sigrs grunted.

    “It won’t hurt or anything?” Dagun asked nervously.

    Rona laughed, “No, of course not! It’s restoration, not destruction.”

    She leaned forward and held her hands out to him then spoke a simple incantation. Dagun looked nervously at her hands as they started to glow. It didn’t take long before he sighed and relaxed though, “Wow…that feels…that feels so much better!”

    Talun marveled at him, “Really? It didn’t hurt you at all?”

    “Definitely not. Thank you miss.”

    “Of course I -”

    Talun shouted, “Wait! Do me next! My joints have been bothering me too, plus I think I caught a case of ataxia from a skeever the other day.”

    Bishop snorted, “Never thought I’d see the day a nord would beg for some magic.”

    “I’d try it if I were you, I feel like a new man,” Dagun said flexing his knee.

    Rona cast some more magic on the blonde guard next to her, then Sigrs suddenly changed his tune and piped in to complain about his case of rattles. She decided to up the power with a grand healing when Bjorlam said he was sure he had brain rot to which Bishop laughed loudly.

    Rona was getting into a real groove casting her magic. It reminded her of home and her time with her comrades after a long day of battle. She started out humming a song but then the words carried from her throat, a magic in themselves. She closed her eyes imagining the joy she felt among her friends as she sang.

    (The song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHnverCSSB4 )

    The wheels of time have turned,

    and left their trails on every soul,

    and through memories I walk,

    their voices to hear, however faint,

    their tones resound in me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

    Dear friends, I loved you well,

    each steadfast heart,

    our dreams kept within,

    and though those days are lost,

    our story lives on,

    in bonds we forged, in battle blazing bright,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

    Now, by the hearth I rest,

    my battered blade,

    old friend by the fire,

    and an image I keep, their faces to see,

    each one so dear,

    forever bound to me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

    When she opened her eyes she realized then that everyone was staring at her, save for Bjorlam, though his head was turned as he listened intently. Rona dared a glance at Bishop who was stifling a laugh. She felt her face flush red.

    The others though were awestruck when finally Dagun said, “I think I’m in love.”

    Bishop broke into laughter then, “You know ladyship, when you blush it goes straight to the tips of your ears.”

    She jabbed an elbow into his ribs.

    “Hey now! I might need some restoration if you keep that up.”

    Dagun opined, “You have quite the talent Lady Rona.”

    “Are you a bard?” asked Talun.

    “What? No – well I mean yes. Everyone in the Fighter’s Guild sings songs of battle and glory it’s just…normal,” she said shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

    Bjorlam called back, “We’re almost to Riverwood, perhaps the lady would be kind enough to grace us with another song?”

    Dagun implored her, “Yes please! We must hear another!”

    “She’s not like the bards here in Skyrim, her voice, it’s like an angel’s,” said Talun. They all agreed.

    Rona felt her redness burning a little less and smiled, “Well, what would you like to hear?”

    “Ragnar the Red!” shouted Sigrs.

    They all burst out laughing, even Bishop who said, “Aw – no, please spare us from that atrocity.” He looked down at Rona and gave her a surprisingly kind smile, “Sing whatever comes to mind, but whatever you do, don’t sing that.”

    She felt the blush rushing back from his sudden warmth towards her, “W-well, I don’t know that one but…how about something more lively?”

    And she started in with a more confident and vocal, “Aaaaaahhh~

    (The song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmbgCBZ86z4 )

    “Lost in darkest blue

    Endless labyrinths weaving though

    Will you stagger on,

    with no star to light your way?

    Share with me your tears

    All your troubles and deepest fears

    I remember when you chased all my shadows away

    Won’t you take my hand?

    Come away with me from this land

    Let me give to you all that you have given to me

    Fly horizon bound

    Find the moon behind darkening clouds

    Even far apart, know our souls together will be

    When the storm draws nigh

    Dreams will shatter before your eyes

    Know that you’re not alone

    When the battle starts I will comfort your restless heart

    You’ll know that you are home

    When your stars stop shining

    Endless vines around you winding

    Know that you’re not alone I will give my all

    So your tears will no longer fall

    Down, down on sorrow’s stone

    Look into my eyes

    All eternity you will find

    In this fragile heart,

    know that you will always belong

    Shout into the night

    Show the darkness that you will fight

    Hopeless you may feel, but inside

    I know you are strong

    Keep me in your heart

    So we’ll never be far apart

    Let the bonds of love break these chains imprisoning you

    Always you will find

    Shadows lingering close behind

    Lift your spirits now,

    We shall be together soon

    When the storm draws nigh

    Dreams will shatter before your eyes

    Know that you’re not alone

    When the battle starts I will comfort your restless heart

    You’ll know that you are home

    When your stars stop shining

    Endless vines around you winding

    Know that you’re not alone I will give my all

    So your tears will no longer fall

    Down, down on sorrow’s stone

    Know that you’re not alone.”

    ——————————————————————————————————————

    They arrived in Riverwood shortly after her song was finished. The guardsmen all clambered out of the carriage thanking her profusely for healing their aches and pains and promised her a drink whenever she returned. Dagun shouted, “Marry me Lady Rona! I’ll have a ring for you next I see you!” The others punched him in the arm lightheartedly and wished her well as Bjorlam carried on down the path.

    Bishop yawned and put his feet up onto the opposite carriage bench. “Finally I can stretch my legs. They were a fun bunch, huh?”

    “Yeah, I enjoyed myself,” Rona agreed.

    “I could tell. You gonna take him up on his proposal?”

    Rona laughed, “I don’t think so. He’s a bit my senior don’t you think?”

    “A bit, probably around your father’s age.”

    “Ha! Nobody is even close Ata’s age.”

    “Ata?”

    “I told you already, it means father in Aldmeri.”

    “Right, sometimes I forget you’re half an elf.”

    She scowled at him, “And what’s wrong with that?”

    He smirked, “Nothing at all. Trust me, I’m not one of those Skyrim’s for the Nords types. Besides, your elvishness only adds to your charm princess.”

    The carriage stopped abruptly. Bishop and Rona looked up and saw the smoldering ruin that was once Helgen.

    “By the gods,” Bjorlam muttered.

    Rona hopped out of the carriage and ran around to the secured gates.

    “What are you doing!?” Bishop shouted after her.

    “There might be survivors!” she cried and pushed on the gates. They didn’t budge an inch. “It’s only been a day since the attack! Maybe – ”

    “Ladyship!,” Bishop urged in whispered tones, “Ladyship – Rona! Get back in the carriage!”

    “Best do as he says lass,” a voice said from above her. She looked up to find a bandit with a bow and arrow trained on her, “This hold belongs to us now. So git.”

    She backed away from the gates when another bandit, a female, came stalking along the wall beside her comrade, “You heard Thorn, anyone who comes up here gets an arrow in the – URK!”

    Bishop let loose an arrow of his own straight into the woman’s skull.

    “RUN!” he screamed. Rona kicked off the ground and sprinted around keeping close to the wall as Bjorlam snapped the reins on his steed. The carriage bolted forward just as Bishop picked off the swearing bandit with another arrow.

    The carriage lurched around the building passing her. Bishop held tightly to the side of the carriage, leaning out over the edge and held a hand out to her. She quickly reached for it grasping his hand. He pulled her in forcing her to tumble onto the bottom of the carriage. Bishop grabbed her and pinned her under his body as more shouting could be heard from inside the walls and arrows flew over them.

    The carriage bounced onto the rocky path as they came around the town and continued to rumble underneath them. They kept up like this for another few minutes before Bjorlam slowed it down and finally breathed with relief, “Everyone okay?”

    Bishop smiled at the woman under him, “Doing just fine now.”

    She scowled at him, “You can get off me now.”

    He rolled off of her, sat up and plucked an arrow from the carriage bench. Rolling it between his fingers he looked up at her and barked, “What the hell were you even thinking?”

    “I just wanted to see if there were any survivors.”

    “Of course you did.”

    “Miss, I…I’m not sure if we passed the farm or not, I know you said it’s just outside Falkreath,” Bjorlam said.

    “Oh!” Rona stood up and gathered in her surroundings. A small house was just down the path from them.

    “There!” she said, “My mother’s farm is just beyond that house.”

    “Oh good,” Bjorlam sounded relieved.

    As soon as they’d arrived Rona thanked the driver and gave him twenty gold pieces for his trouble. She marched up a small hill and around a pond where they were met with a flourishing and quaint farm.

    A cozy farmhouse stood in front of them, it had been patched up in various places. Rona looked around, surprised to see it was all so clean and well cared for. This was extremely unlike her mother. She’d always left the farm barren and never bothered patching up the home she would barely spend any time in, though perhaps in her old age she’d finally accepted her fate of retiring on her farm and decided to clean it up.

    Rona glanced around looking for any sign of her mother and caught sight of a woman tending to some crops out on the farm. She was covered in head to toe in mage’s robes and Rona was immediately suspicious.

    She carefully tread across the freshly plowed ground and came up behind the woman, drawing her dagger on her.

    “Who are you?” she demanded.

    The young woman turned to look up at her and blinked.

    “Whoa! Ladyship, is that any way to treat your…mother?” Bishop looked on puzzled.

    “That’s not my mother!” she cried.

    “Ah,” the woman spoke with a gentle lilted tone of voice, “You must be Rona, your mother’s told me all about you.”

    The woman stood suddenly and wiped her hands onto her robe, then held out a hand in greeting, “It’s alright, you can put the dagger away. I’m your mother’s steward, my name is Illia.”

    Rona ignored the woman’s outstretched hand and refused to put the dagger away, “Where is she?”

    “Um…perhaps we should talk inside?” Illia suggested pulling her hand back and glancing nervously at the dagger, “I can make us some tea.”

    Where is she?” Rona reiterated fiercely.

    Illia chewed on her lower lip, “That is to say…she…she’s already passed on.”

    Rona felt the tears clinging to her lashes as she gripped her dagger more tensely than before.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 2

    She’s a bard

    Luckily Whiterun wasn’t too far from Riverwood. Barely an hour had passed when they came up on Honningbrew Meadery and the local farms. They heard the sound of people shouting in the distance. The scene immediately caught Rona’s eye. There was a Giant attacking a small group on one of the farms further down the road. She burst into a sprint and aimed straight for the commotion ahead of her.

    “Hey! Slow down ladyship! I think they’ve got it!” Bishop called from the rear.

    She ignored him and ran right into the fray. This was her element and she’d never seen a beast quite like this one before. The Giant was stooped over a small fence separating it from four terrified cows inside the pen. Two women were attacking the beast with swords and arrows with little effect as it swatted the arrows away with its mighty club. Every effort they made to cut into its ankles was met with boisterous stomping and grunting by the fiend making it difficult to get in any truly damaging cuts.

    Rona ran alongside the largest warrior, a roguish man with rippling muscles and long, black stringy hair. His eyes were stained with war paint and his battered armor spoke volumes of the fights he’d been in. He was standing back, holding a great sword with both hands waiting for an opening.

    “Think you can throw me?” she shouted at him, trying to catch his attention.

    “Uh…huh? What?” the man stumbled looking down at the petite woman suddenly at his side.

    “CAN. YOU. THROW. ME?” she repeated louder and more succinctly.

    “I…I guess so?” he said more confused, but stuck his great sword into the ground regardless and turned to face her.

    The other two women were doing their best to route the beast away from the bleating farm animals when the red haired woman with green warpaint slashed across her face screamed, “FARKAS! YOU ICE BRAIN! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

    “Just hold your hands out together like this!” Rona explained as she knelt down and pressed the sides of her hands together then motioned them at an upward angle quickly as if aiming at the Giant, “Just like this – okay?”

    “You got it.” Farkas got into position and Rona put her thumb and forefinger to her mouth whistling loudly catching the attention of the Giant which turned around abruptly from its mooing prey. Rona grabbed her bow and stepped into Farkas’s open hands just as Bishop caught up to them, bellowing, “ARE YOU INSANE!?”

    Farkas threw her with a bit more force than she anticipated above the Giant’s head. She breathed an incantation to slow her fall, drew an arrow, nocking it to her bow and lined her sights up with the Giant’s upturned and bemused face.

    She pulled the arrow back, drawing weight into it, then loosed the arrow straight into the Giant’s left eye. It pierced through with enough speed and force to penetrate the beast’s skull, but still wasn’t enough to sink into its brain. The Giant roared in pain and turned its head down to tear at its face with its free hand. Rona used the opportunity to ascend quicker, allowing her to kick off its head and bounce outward and away where she safely landed on the ground.

    The other warriors used the Giant’s distraction to their benefit and began viciously hacking at its heels until it toppled over with a resounding crash. Farkas grabbed his great sword and ran across the farmland where he violently plunged it into the Giant’s vulnerable skull, killing it instantly.

    Rona was looking on at them, a small smile perking at the corners of her mouth. Finally, she was back at it, doing what she loved. Today was going to be a good day, she could feel it.

    Bishop’s voice called behind her, “Damn woman. That was…I’m seriously impressed.”

    The red haired woman strode across the farm and came right up to her, “I have to agree! You handle yourself well Shield-Sister.”

    “Shield-Sister?” Rona inquired.

    “An outsider, eh?” the woman said glancing at Rona’s pointed ears, “Never heard of the Companions? An order of warriors. We are brothers and sisters in honor. And we show up to solve problems if the coin is good enough.”

    “Oh! My mother was a Companion.”

    The woman cocked an eyebrow, “Truly? Perhaps I know of her.”

    “Her name is Claudia Windsleaf.”

    “Wait…you’re Claudia’s little girl, Rona?”

    Rona nodded. The woman grasped her hand suddenly, beaming at her, “Why you were just a pup when we first met,” she leaned in getting a better look at her now intensely blushing face. “It really is you – well that certainly explains it. You probably don’t remember me. My name is Aela. I often hunted with your mother before she left the Circle to forge her own path. How is the old wench?”

    Rona’s heart sank, right, I’m supposed to be going to see her.

    “Not well,” she said, “I received a letter from her a week ago saying that she was ill, so I’m headed off to see what I can do for her.”

    “I see. I’m sorry to hear that. Well, if you’re ever interested in joining us speak to Kodlak Whitemane up in Jorrvaskr. I’m sure the old man will be more than happy to bring Claudia’s girl into the fold. Please give your mother my regards and I’ll pray for her swift recovery.”

    The woman turned away to follow her comrades along the path.

    Rona heard Bishop’s voice behind her, “Your mother was a Companion?”

    “Yeah, she was a long time ago.”

    Bishop studied her with curiosity behind his amber eyes. “Huh…Like mother like daughter I suppose. Anyhow, warn me next time you’re about to rush into battle like that. Don’t want you to have all the fun.”

    “Oh, sorry about that.”

    “Whiterun is just around the corner you know,” he said, “Ready to tell the Jarl all about your little dragon?”

    She scowled at him and trudged right past him up the path leading to the city’s outer gates. Two guards stood as sentries, watching the familiar townsfolk coming and going. Just as soon as Rona and Bishop got there a guard proceeded to stop them, “Halt! City’s closed with dragons about. Official business only.”

    A wry sneer pulled at Rona’s lips as she slowly glanced over at Bishop who looked dumbstruck by the guard’s remark.

    “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he said.

    The guard sounded annoyed, “No, I’m not fucking kidding.”

    Rona spoke up quickly, “Riverwood calls for aid.”

    “Riverwood’s in danger too? Damn it…You’d better go on in. You’ll find the Jarl in Dragonsreach at the top of the hill.”

    They walked in together and Rona took in the sights. A small but bustling town sprawled across low white hills, white wooden homes and businesses with yellow thatched roofs were scattered on either side of the cobblestone path. A woman was busy arguing with a man while she sharpened a sword at a forge to the right, people milled about the streets, talking and walking, carrying products, selling in a small market square. It was quaint, charming in a way.

    “This way Princess,” Bishop called to her from atop a staircase to her left.

    She hurried up the stairs following behind him as she watched three children playing a game of tag and two Redguards bickering about a lost sword. They came around a large, mostly dead looking tree where Rona overheard a priest of Kynareth complaining about the sad state of the thing. Another priest, one of Talos, was loudly preaching in the plaza to a few bystanders about the glory of Talos and the Empire’s betrayal of him.

    They carried on, up more stairs leading to an enormous palace. Guards were stationed more closely together, watching as the two strangers entered the palace longhouse. The inside was immense, with tall vaulted ceilings and wide open space, they went up more stairs which lead to a hearth in the center, flanked by two long wooden tables on either side.

    An older Nordic man sat on a tall throne discussing important matters with his steward while a furious looking dunmer drew her sword and slowly approached them.

    “What’s the meaning of this interruption? Jarl Balgruuf is not receiving visitors.”

    Looking to avoid being stabbed Rona immediately stated their intentions, “I have news from Helgen about the dragon attack!”

    “Well that explains why the guards let you in,” she said sheathing her sword, “Come on then, the Jarl will want to speak to you personally.”

    Rona looked over at Bishop with the biggest ‘told you so’ look on her face.

    “Yeah I get it, you can put the smirk away now Ladyship,” he muttered back at her.

    Rona stood before the court, this wasn’t her first time in the presence of nobility, but it was her first time speaking directly to them. She did her best to remember all the rules of etiquette her father had taught her and composed herself accordingly. Though she was a bit thrown by the way the Jarl so casually slumped in his chair, very unlike the Kings and Queens of Cyrodiil.

    Despite his slouching, the Jarl spoke with strength and seriousness in his voice, “So. You were at Helgen? You saw this dragon with your own eyes?”

    “I did,” Rona replied. She went on explaining everything that happened in detail – from her capture crossing the border and being thrown in with the Stormcloaks as a prisoner, to the fact that the Imperials nearly beheaded the leader of the rebellion before a dragon came down and shouted at them, causing fire to rain from the sky. Everyone in the court listened intently. Jarl Balgruuf stroked his beard thoughtfully as Rona finished. He then turned to his steward and said, “What do you say now, Proventus? Shall we continue to trust in the strength of our walls? Against a dragon?”

    The dunmer woman interjected, “My lord, we should send troops to Riverwood at once. It’s in the most immediate danger, if that dragon is lurking in the mountains…”

    Proventus barked back, “The Jarl of Falkreath will view that as a provocation! He’ll assume we’re preparing to join Ulfric’s side and attack him!”

    “Enough!” Balgruuf bellowed, “Irileth, send a detachment to Riverwood at once.”

    “Yes, my Jarl.”

    The steward protested, “We should not…”

    “I’ll not stand idly by while a dragon burns my hold and slaughters my people!”

    The steward seemed to get the hint, “If you’ll excuse me, I’ll return to my duties.”

    “That would be best,” Balgruuf firmly agreed. He looked up at Rona then and spoke directly to her, “Well done young lady. Considering the severity of the circumstances I appreciate that you sought me out and delayed your trip home. May I ask your name?”

    “Uh, Rona.”

    “Rona?” he suddenly looked bewildered, “Your mother…she is…Claudia?”

    Rona looked surprised at him.

    “Yes. Claudia Windsleaf,” she said.

    “Ysmir’s beard! I should have known…those rose colored locks and you have her green eyes. Why you were barely walking when I first met you child. Though you look more like your elf of a father, ah – I mean no disrespect of course.”

    “We…we’ve met before?” Rona was stunned. All this time she’d known all these people, or at least met them as an infant before her father swept her off to Cyrodiil when she was three years old. How many more people would she find that her mother had been in contact with?

    “Tell me, how is Claudia these days?” Balgruuf asked keenly.

    Rona once again shared the news of her mother’s letter and illness.

    Balgruuf sighed solemnly, “I’m very sorry to hear that,” he paused for a moment, holding his forefinger and thumb to his head as if in thought, then looked back down at Rona, “I don’t want to keep you but could I trouble you for a favor child?”

    Rona pressed her lips together tightly. There certainly was no shortage of people in need of help in Skyrim. She took a breath and said, “What would you ask of me?”

    The Jarl smiled and said, “I believe this task is suitable for someone of your particular talents, perhaps. At the very least I’m most certain the daughter of a Windsleaf can handle this. Let’s meet with Farengar, my court wizard. He’s been looking into a matter related to these dragons and…rumors of dragons.”

    ~~~

    “Wow!” Bishop laughed loudly as they stepped outside into the blistering sunlight, “Just, WOW! What is that, some kind of mental condition?”

    Rona glared at him, “What?”

    “Your need to help every single moron that comes asking.”

    “You’re saying the Jarl is a moron?”

    He paused until they were out of earshot of the guards, “A bit, yeah.”

    “What’s wrong with helping people Bishop? I’m helping you aren’t I?”

    “That’s exactly it, you’re helping me, and you’re going home soon. You’ve already got enough on your plate, yet here you are, taking on every little task that comes your way.”

    “I don’t have to take care of it immediately. He said to go whenever the opportunity arises and…he paid me, a lot.”

    “Oh, it was implied that you should hurry, heavily implied with all his talk of dragons. And that pile of gold? He’s keeping you on retainer.”

    Rona rolled her eyes at him and quickened her pace, “Hurry up or the carriage will leave without us!”

    They came up to a small group of guardsman, the dunmer, Irileth, was addressing them loudly, “The Jarl has finally agreed to send you all back to Riverwood.”

    One of the guards spoke up, “Yes, Housecarl. We’ll leave immediately.”

    Another said, “It’s just us against a dragon, is that it?”

    Irileth scowled at him, “I can’t afford to send anyone else. And we don’t know where the dragon is. Your main job will be to keep an eye out and get the people to safety if the town is attacked. I don’t expect the three of you to fight off a dragon by yourselves, but I do expect you to do your duty.”

    “Of course. We’ll keep Riverwood safe. You can count on it.”

    “Glad to hear it soldier. Ah,” she saw Bishop and Rona and said, “glad you two made it,” then she turned back to the guards, “these two will be accompanying you in the carriage. This young woman was kind enough to go out of her way to inform us about the dragon. I expect you three to be on your best behaviors, you’re representing Whiterun after all. Good luck!”

    “Of course Housecarl. All right men, let’s move out!”

    ~~~

    The carriage was very cramped with the five of them. After all the seating was made for four and Rona ended up squeezing in between a blonde guardsman and Bishop who leaned back and threw an arm around her shoulders. She gave him subtle glare which he only responded to with a suggestive smirk.

    They all introduced themselves, the blonde guard next to Rona was Talun, the bearded guard across from Bishop said his name was Dagun, the dusky haired guard across from Rona was Sigrs, and the carriage driver introduced himself as Bjorlam.

    Sigrs started asking about the dragon, “So Irileth was saying you saw the dragon with your own eyes, can you tell us what we’re up against here?”

    Rona hesitated, should she tell them just how awful it really was? She decided to give them general details, “Well…it was very big and very loud.”

    “How big?”

    “About as big as a house, oh…and it breathed…fire.”

    They all groaned inwardly.

    Dagun whined, “I’ve got a bad knee, rockjoint you know, I don’t know if I can handle something like that.”

    “Oh quit your bellyaching,” said Sigrs.

    Rona perked up, “I know some restoration magic, I could help alleviate the pain.”

    “Oi, keep the magic away from me,” Sigrs grunted.

    “It won’t hurt or anything?”Dagun asked nervously.

    Rona laughed, “No, of course not! It’s restoration, not destruction.”

    She leaned forward and held her hands out to him then spoke a simple incantation. Dagun looked nervously at her hands as they started to glow. It didn’t take long before he sighed and relaxed though, “Wow…that feels…that feels so much better!”

    Talun marveled at him, “Really? It didn’t hurt you at all?”

    “Definitely not. Thank you miss.”

    “Of course I -”

    Talun shouted, “Wait! Do me next! My joints have been bothering me too, plus I think I caught a case of ataxia from a skeever the other day.”

    Bishop snorted, “Never thought I’d see the day a nord would beg for some magic.”

    “I’d try it if I were you, I feel like a new man,” Dagun said flexing his knee.

    Rona cast some more magic on the blonde guard next to her, then Sigrs suddenly changed his tune and piped in to complain about his case of rattles. She decided to up the power with a grand healing when Bjorlam said he was sure he had brain rot to which Bishop and the other men burst into a hearty laughter over.

    Rona was getting into a real groove casting her magic. It reminded her of home and her time with her comrades after a long day of battle. She started out humming a song but then the words carried from her throat, a magic in themselves. She closed her eyes imagining the joy she felt among her friends as she sang.

    (The song is To My Dear Friends by Erutan)

    “The wheels of time have turned,

    and left their trails on every soul,

    and through memories I walk,

    their voices to hear, however faint,

    their tones resound in me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

     

    Dear friends, I loved you well,

    each steadfast heart,

    our dreams kept within,

    and though those days are lost,

    our story lives on,

    in bonds we forged, in battle blazing bright,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.

     

    Now, by the hearth I rest,

    my battered blade,

    old friend by the fire,

    and an image I keep, their faces to see,

    each one so dear,

    forever bound to me,

    in a warrior’s ageless heart.”

    When she opened her eyes she realized then that everyone was staring at her, save for Bjorlam, though his head was turned as he listened closely. Rona dared a glance at Bishop who was stifling a laugh. She felt her face flush red.

    The others though were awestruck when finally Dagun said, “I think I’m in love.”

    Bishop broke into laughter then, “You know ladyship, when you blush it goes straight to the tips of your ears.”

    She jabbed an elbow into his ribs.

    “Hey now! I might need some restoration if you keep that up.”

    Dagun opined, “You have quite the talent Lady Rona.”

    “Are you a bard?” asked Talun.

    “What? No – well I mean yes. Everyone in the Fighter’s Guild sings songs of battle and glory it’s just…normal,” she said shifting uncomfortably in her seat.

    Bjorlam called back, “We’re almost to Riverwood, perhaps the lady would be kind enough to grace us with another song?”

    Dagun implored her, “Yes please! We must hear another!”

    “She’s not like the bards here in Skyrim, her voice, it’s like an angel’s,” said Talun. They all agreed.

    Rona felt her redness burning a little less and smiled, “Well, what would you like to hear?”

    “Ragnar the Red!” shouted Sigrs.

    They all burst out laughing, even Bishop who said, “Aw – no, please spare us from that atrocity.” He looked down at Rona and gave her a surprisingly kind smile, “Sing whatever comes to mind, but whatever you do, don’t sing that.”

    She felt the blush rushing back from his sudden warmth towards her, “W-well, I don’t know that one but…how about something more lively?”

    And she started in with a more confident and vocal, “Aaaaaahhh~”

    (The song is You’re Not Alone by Erutan)

    ~~~

    They arrived in Riverwood shortly after her song was finished. The guardsmen all clambered out of the carriage thanking her profusely for healing their aches and pains and promised her a drink whenever she returned. Dagun shouted, “Marry me Lady Rona! I’ll have a ring for you next I see you!” The others punched him in the arm lightheartedly and wished her well as Bjorlam carried on down the path.

    Bishop yawned and put his feet up onto the opposite carriage bench. “Finally I can stretch my legs. They were a fun bunch, huh?”

    “Yeah, I enjoyed myself,” Rona agreed.

    “I could tell. You gonna take him up on his proposal?”

    Rona laughed, “I don’t think so. He’s a bit my senior don’t you think?”

    “A bit, probably around your father’s age.”

    “Ha! Nobody is even close Ata’s age.”

    “Ata?”

    “I told you already, it means father in Aldmeri.”

    “Right, sometimes I forget you’re half an elf.”

    She scowled at him, “And what’s wrong with that?”

    He smirked, “Nothing at all. Trust me, I’m not one of those Skyrim’s for the Nords types. Besides, your elvishness only adds to your charm Princess.”

    The carriage stopped abruptly. Bishop and Rona looked up and saw the smoldering ruin that was once Helgen.

    “By the gods,” Bjorlam muttered.

    Rona hopped out of the carriage and ran around to the secured gates.

    “What are you doing!?” Bishop shouted after her.

    “There might be survivors!” she cried and pushed on the gates. They didn’t budge an inch. “It’s only been a day since the attack! Maybe – ”

    “Ladyship!,” Bishop urged in whispered tones, “Ladyship – Rona! Get back in the carriage!”

    “Best do as he says lass,” a voice said from above her. She looked up to find a bandit with a bow and arrow trained on her, “This hold belongs to us now. So git.”

    She backed away from the gates when another bandit, a female, came stalking along the wall beside her comrade, “You heard Thorn, anyone who comes up here gets an arrow in the – URK!”

    Bishop let loose an arrow of his own straight into the woman’s skull.

    “RUN!” he screamed. Rona kicked off the ground and sprinted around keeping close to the wall as Bjorlam snapped the reins on his steed. The carriage bolted forward just as Bishop picked off the swearing bandit with another arrow.

    The carriage lurched around the building passing her. Bishop tightly gripped the side of the carriage, leaning out over the edge and held a hand out to her. She quickly reached for it grasping his hand. He pulled her in forcing her to tumble onto the bottom of the carriage. Bishop grabbed her and pinned her under his body as more shouting could be heard from inside the walls as arrows flew over them.

    The carriage bounced onto the rocky path as they came around the town and continued to rumble underneath them. They kept up like this for another few minutes before Bjorlam slowed it down and finally breathed with relief, “Everyone okay?”

    Bishop smiled at the woman under him, “Doing just fine now.”

    She scowled at him, “You can get off me now.”

    He rolled off of her, sat up and plucked an arrow from the carriage bench. Rolling it between his fingers he looked up at her and barked, “What the hell were you even thinking?”

    “I just wanted to see if there were any survivors.”

    “Of course you did.”

    “Miss, I…I’m not sure if we passed the farm or not, I know you said it’s just outside Falkreath,” Bjorlam said.

    “Oh!” Rona stood up and gathered in her surroundings. A small house was just down the path from them.

    “There!” she said, “My mother’s farm is just beyond that house.”

    “Oh good,” Bjorlam sounded relieved.

    As soon as they’d arrived Rona thanked the driver and gave him twenty gold pieces for his trouble. She marched up a small hill and around a pond where they were met with a flourishing and quaint farm.

    A cozy and dilapidated cottage stood in front of them having been patched up in many places. A small detached stable was nearby where an old brown stallion munched on a mouthful of hay. Rona looked around, surprised to see it was all so clean and well cared for. This was extremely unlike her mother. She’d always left the farm barren and never bothered patching up the home she would barely spend any time in, though perhaps in her old age she’d finally accepted her fate of retiring on her farm and decided to clean it up.

    Rona glanced around looking for any sign of her mother and caught sight of a woman tending to some crops out on the farm. She was covered in head to toe in mage’s robes and Rona was immediately suspicious.

    She carefully tread across the freshly plowed ground and came up behind the woman, drawing her dagger on her.

    “Who are you?” she demanded.

    The young woman turned to look up at her and blinked.

    “Whoa! Ladyship, is that any way to treat your…mother?” Bishop looked on puzzled.

    “That’s not my mother,” Rona muttered.

    “Ah,” the woman spoke with a gentle lilted tone of voice, “You must be Rona, your mother’s told me all about you.”

    The woman stood suddenly and wiped her hands onto her robe, then held out a hand in greeting, “It’s alright, you can put the dagger away. I’m your mother’s steward, my name is Illia.”

    Rona ignored the woman’s outstretched hand and refused to put the dagger away, “Where is she?”

    “Um…perhaps we should talk inside?” Illia suggested pulling her hand back and glancing nervously at the dagger, “I can make us some tea.”

    “Where is she?” Rona reiterated fiercely.

    Illia chewed on her lower lip, “That is to say…she…she’s already passed on.”

    Rona felt the tears clinging to her lashes as she gripped her dagger more tensely than before.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 3

    Sadness and Sorrow

     

    Illia knit her brows together, a look of pained sorrow crossed her face.

    “Please, let us go inside, dear. I can tell you everything over some hot tea,” she insisted.

    Rona sniffed, nodded and sheathed her weapon. Bishop followed the two of them into the worn cottage. The room, which was once more sparse than anything, was filled with furniture, flowers and food. Alongside the bed were a dozen potions, some empty, some half full and a few tipped over.

    “Please pardon the mess,” Illia said as she gathered a kettle and some tea bags to set on the stove. She used magic to light a fire and began stirring her brew together. Rona numbly sat down at the small round table she’d once shared with her mother years ago. Bishop leaned against a wall by the door, his arms crossed still not totally trusting the mage in their presence.

    After the fire was set and her brew was made Illia took a seat across from Rona and smiled gently, “Go ahead, ask me anything.”

    “When…when did she die?” It was the one question she had to know. Was she a day too late? Was it her fault for taking on these tasks and pushing off seeing her mother? Was it because she took her sweet time preparing to leave Cheydinhal instead of taking her mother’s letter seriously?

    Illia sighed, “Your mother was very sick all winter. She was sure she’d get well once spring arrived, but it just didn’t happen. I did everything in my power to heal her. I’m not terribly good with restoration magic, but I tried every concoction and healing potion at my disposal. And when that failed I traveled to Whiterun and sought out the priests of Kynareth. Even they couldn’t do anything for her, she was too far gone. Your poor mother waited until the last possible moment to send for you. It was only two days after the courier left that she passed in her sleep.”

    So it wasn’t her fault. The courier hadn’t even handed her the letter when her mother died. There was no way she could have made it in time. But still, I could have…I could have seen her, I could have come here, I could have tried. Rona felt sick to her stomach.

    The kettle whistled and Illia rose to pull it off the stove. She looked over at Bishop and asked, “How do you like your tea?”

    “I’m good, thanks,” he declined.

    “Alright,” Illia pursed her lips, poured two cups and stirred honey into them. She placed the steaming cup in front of Rona and sat across from her again, sipping at hers.

    Rona stared into the cup. She felt numb all over. “How did she die?” she asked finally.

    “We think it was bone break fever. She had a run in with a bear last fall. She’d been tasked with clearing out a den of them for the Jarl of Falkreath and contracted it after getting scratched badly.”

    “And her body?” Rona asked.

    “You mean, where she was buried?”

    “Yes.”

    “Your mother’s last request was to be cremated. She also wanted me to give you this letter.” Illia pulled a folded note from her pocket and handed it to Rona. It was her mother’s handwriting, but it looked thin and shaky in places.

     

    Rona,

    I apologize that this letter is given to you under these circumstances. I realize now that the courier will not reach you in time. My illness has taken a turn for the worse and it seems I will not make it through the night. I have instructed my steward, Illia, to take care of my personal affairs and to ensure that everything from my estate goes to you. My strength leaves me as I write to you and though I still have so many things I want to tell you, first and foremost I want you to know how sorry I am for everything. I was never a good mother to you, I know this.

    I never had it in me to be motherly to anyone. I had dreams of adventure and couldn’t live a stationary lifestyle even if it meant stability for you. I was selfish and I relied heavily on the fact that your father took you and raised you. For that I am grateful. I made many mistakes, but you were never one of them. I want you to know how proud I am of you.

    When I’d heard you ran off to join the Fighter’s Guild I celebrated all night with the Companions. After that I wanted a chance to make things right, so when you came back to Skyrim five years ago I did everything I could to make it work, but it wasn’t meant to be. I realized in our brief time together that without having raised you we had become complete strangers. We were doomed from the start and the blame for that lies squarely on my shoulders. I never held it against you, for choosing to avoid me for all these years.

    You are a beautiful, strong and smart young woman. Much smarter than I ever was. And your talent for magic, though it may not be up to your father’s standards, I always thought it was truly amazing. I want you to know that. And please know, I always loved you from afar.

    I have one last selfish request for you; scatter my ashes among the farm, but take some of me with you and scatter me in the most precious places you find on your journeys. I want you to make your own destiny Rona and follow your heart just as I once did.

    With all my love,

    Mother

     

    Rona felt warm tears streaming down her cheeks as she read through the letter. As she set it down Illia handed her a handkerchief. Rona dabbed at her eyes and noticed Bishop looking away into the hearth fire, his arms crossed.

    She looked back at Illia and asked, “Where are her ashes?”

    Illia stood and grasped a small round urn from a shelf over the hearth and handed it to Rona. “Here, I’m sure you’ll want to spread them.”

    Rona grasped the urn which fit perfectly in the palm of her hand. “I’ll be back in a little while.”

    “Of course, take your time,” Illia said, “I wasn’t sure when to expect your company so I will add a bit more to the stew to feed all of us.”

    Rona nodded and stepped outside. A light rain had started which seemed all the more appropriate. She walked across the grass to the edge of the farm overlooking the lake and sat down in the grass.

    A gentle wind picked up blowing strands of her hair across her face. She carefully opened the urn and ran her fingers through the ash letting it spread across her palm. She watched as the remnants of her mother fluttered off with the wind.

    She felt so much in that moment. Sadness and sorrow overtook her and she released her voice to the wind.

    (The Song is Sadness and Sorrow by Erutan)

    “Tears fall, but hope stays,

    Pick yourself up so we can find home someday,

    Wishing, when this ends,

    We can live in peace and happiness, again.

    Death might surround us, but we can’t lose hope,

    In everything we’ve fought for,

    When we finally find peace we can go home,

    and throw away this sadness and sorrow.”

    Tears streamed heavily down her cheeks now as the rain picked up and the first sob of her agony burst painfully from her chest. She pushed herself off the ground and grasping her mother’s urn threw it at the dimpled lake. It landed in a bush and scattered on the ground.

    She was so angry, more angry than she’d ever felt in her life. Of course her mother was a terrible mother. She’d always known this, but she couldn’t understand why the woman never tried. She just wanted her to try harder. They were strangers, maybe, but she could have tried.

    “SHE SHOULD HAVE TRIED HARDER!” Rona screamed at the wind. A lightning bolt clapped in the skies above her. “IT’S NOT FAIR! WHY!? WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!?”

    She pleaded and screamed as the wind swirled around her. Then a familiar roar came from the mountains. It was no doubt the sound of a dragon, maybe the same one from Helgen. She wanted it to come claim her right then and there but a pair of hands grasped her shoulders and pulled her inward pressing her face to his strong chest. It was Bishop and Rona didn’t care. She turned her face into his welcoming arms and cried her eyes out.

    “Come on ladyship,” he whispered gently, “It’s getting really bad out here. Come inside.”

    She followed him in and rubbed at her eyes with her sleeves. She felt pathetic and really wished he hadn’t seen this side of her.

    Bishop held a bottle of alto wine out to her, “Take it, you look like you could use a drink.”

    “Oh good…my favorite,” she blubbered.

    She took it, not even bothering to pour it in a glass, and downed several gulps straight from the bottle. Illia was working by the hearth, preparing a meal for them.

    Bishop sipped at his own bottle of mead, standing resolutely against the wall. Rona knew he was keeping an eye out for her and she was grateful. He was kind enough to let her have this time to mourn without giving her shit for it like he usually did.

    Bishop made small talk with Illia while Rona just sat on the bed and listened, tuning them in and out as her mind tried to process her feelings. She drowned her sorrows in the bottle before passing out on her mother’s bed only to wake in the middle of the night with a brutal headache.

    Illia was sound asleep on a bedroll on the floor, another bedroll beside her was missing it’s occupant however.

    Rona crawled out of bed and poured a glass of water from a pitcher on the counter then stepped outside to a cool breeze. The rain clouds had dispersed for the most part and a bright full moon peaked just over the mountains.

    Bishop cleared his throat to make his presence known. He was seated on a small bench on the porch, still sipping at his mead, “Couldn’t sleep either?”

    She sighed, “I just woke up with a bad headache. How long was I out for?”

    “A while now actually. Been about five hours I’d say,” he paused to take another sip, “How are you feeling?”

    “I’m ok,” she said as she looked out over the gently swaying field. Then she turned to him and said, “I’m sorry. I know you came with me in the hopes of finding your wolf and you probably don’t need all of this.”

    “Got that right,” he smirked, “Buuut it’s okay. We made a deal, you come home to take care of your business and then we head to the Rift…you’re not giving up on me now though, are you?”

    “No!” she blurt, “No, oh hell no! I have to get away from here. Really, I cannot be here right now.”

    “I hear yah,” he said.

    They were quiet for a moment, as she drank her water to chase away the hangover and he took a few more swigs of his mead. The buzzing sounds of torchbugs broke the silence. Rona leaned over the railing of the porch and said, “Can I tell you something?”

    “Sure,” he shrugged.

    “She was a really shitty mother.”

    He laughed, “Oh Princess, I could tell you all about shitty mothers.”

    She gave him a half smile. She didn’t know why she did it, maybe because it was cathartic, but she spilled her guts to him, “No, really though. I came to live with her when I was ten years old, I wasn’t getting along with my ata and I really wanted to try and get to know her. To…to have a mother. And you know what she did? She drug me along with her on all her contracts and left me at the local inns while she ran around doing mercenary work. We did this for eight months and the last time she left me she was gone for a whole month! I ran out of money and begged the innkeeper to let me send word to my ata. I promised he’d pay them, so they let me stay and Ata came to get me and take me back to Cyrodiil with him.”

    Bishop raised an eyebrow, “Wow, she sounds like a real piece of work.”

    “You know how long I waited to hear back from her after that? It was another two months before we got a letter from her apologizing for forgetting about me. Either she was gone for three months doing gods know what or she decided to wait and wait and wait before even bothering to apologize to me…”

    Bishop set his mead down and stood up where he leaned against a pillar on the porch next to her, “So why all the tears for her ladyship? Sounds to me like she’s not worth a damn bit of your time.”

    Rona sighed and turned her head down, “She’s my mother. It’s hard you know? Trying not to care about a parent.”

    “Gonna have to disagree with you there Ladyship.”

    “Well it was hard for me…I came back here five years ago, trying to make up with her again. She seemed to be trying harder but it all fell apart really fast and we fought a lot. I had so many expectations of her as my mother and she just wasn’t what I wanted her to be. Then one day she just up and disappeared, no note, nothing. So I went back to Cyrodiil and never looked back.”

    “Some women were just never meant to be mothers,” he said. “My mother was a real bitch of a woman, she never should have had us, ever.”

    “You have siblings?”

    Bishop pursed his lips, realizing his slip, “Ah, you wouldn’t want to hear about it.”

    “Sure I do, but I won’t pester you to tell me.”

    “Good ’cause I don’t want to talk about it. Well I’m going to bed. You should get some sleep too Ladyship, we’ve got a long day ahead of us tomorrow,” he said, patting her on the shoulder and disappearing into the cottage.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 4

    Bleak Falls Barrow

     

    “You’re welcome to stay here Illia,” Rona said as she finished saddling the old brown horse. Bishop came out of the cottage with a bundle of supplies in his arms which he stuffed into the saddle bags on either side of the steed.

    “I’d appreciate it if you could continue taking care of the place for me…treat it like your own home.”

    “That’s very kind of you Rona. I’ll admit I was a bit worried about what I’d do after you arrived, but you’re being quite generous,” Illia confided to her.

    Rona looked out over the flourishing farmland once more. It was more beautiful than it ever had been in her memories. She looked up at Illia and smiled, “I’m more than happy to do this for you after you took care of my mother for all these years. I’ll probably stop in periodically, at least until I go back to Cyrodiil. I’ll be sending gold home as well which should pay for the upkeep around here and you’re welcome to some of it for yourself. Think of it as a living stipend for maintaining the place.”

    “Oh no, please don’t worry about paying me dear, getting to live here is enough for me,” she looked around at the cottage and thought for a moment, “You know, I’m sure the house could use a bit of an upgrade. Would it be alright if I used the money to build onto it?”

    “Sure,” Rona shrugged, “Do whatever you like with it. I think it needs a new roof honestly.”

    Illia stepped forward and gave Rona a big hug, “Take care of yourself out there.”

    Though Rona had spent such a short time getting to know the woman, Illia had shown her a kindness and patience her own mother never had. She appreciated it more than ever right now. She smiled and hugged her back, “I will.”

    Bishop was staring at them with heavily lidded eyes, clearly unimpressed by their touching moment, “Ready to go Ladyship?”

    “Almost! I have one more thing to grab!” She ran into the cottage and looked around the room. Her mother’s urn was sitting on the table. Rona went back to collect it from the bush it had fallen in though most of the ashes had spilled and blown away with the wind the night before.

    She’d decided to honor her mother’s last wish and take what was left with her. She placed the tiny urn into her pouch and gave the room one more once over. A bright red lute on the side of the bed caught her eye. She fingered the strings remembering all the songs her mother had taught her. It was the only thing they’d ever enjoyed about each other’s company. She took it with her as she left.

    Bishop looked over at her, scowling, “What…is that?”

    “A lute!” Rona said cheerily.

    “No I can see that it’s a lute. Why do you have it?”

    “So I can sing on the road! It’s better with music.”

    “Nooo, no, no, no…no,” he objected, “Look, the little bits of singing before, cute as it was, that’s not gonna to be a regular thing.”

    “Oh yes it is,” she argued back as she buckled it onto the top of their packs on the butt of the horse. Rona put a foot in one of the stirrups and pulled herself up onto its back before he could argue it any further.

    Bishop grumbled then pulled on the reins steering the horse onto the dirt path which would lead them towards the road. Rona gave one last wave and goodbye to Illia before Bishop suddenly said with provocative undertones outlining each word, “Hold tight Ladyship.”

    Rona pursed her lips at him, “Must you always be so vulgar?”

    He laughed and snapped the reins forcing the horse into a gallop which nearly threw her before she grabbed onto his waist to hang on.

    She screamed at him, “You jerk!”

    Rona clutched at his shirt and pulled herself forward wrapping her hands around his abdomen. She could feel his muscles flexing through his clothes and knew he was doing it on purpose just to annoy her.

    They rode for about a mile before he slowed it down and gave her a chance to let go and catch her breath. She didn’t even get a chance to tie her hair up and now it was a tangled mess. She went to scold him when he suddenly looked over his shoulder at her and sounding serious said, “Hey, we’re going to have to go back around Helgen, it’s the fastest route through to the Rift.”

    “Okay,” she said as she pulled a red ribbon from her pouch.

    “So that means we’ll have to deal with the bandits again,” he stated.

    “So what’s your plan?” she asked as she held the ribbon between her lips and ran her fingers through her tangled hair to pull it back.

    “You’ve got magic right?”

    “Yeah,” she confirmed as she finished tying her hair up, “but my expertise is in restoration. I know a tiny bit of alteration and illusion, my skills with destruction are very basic, like small flames and sparks, nothing great.”

    Bishop looked her over and said, “That’ll be fine. We only need enough to distract them. One more thing Lightfoot.”

    “What?”

    “I’ll make you a deal-”

    “If it’s to never sing again, no deal,” she interrupted.

    He smiled then shook his head, “No, not that. We can go back to Riverwood or cut straight through to the Rift after Helgen.”

    “Um…okay?”

    “What I’m trying to say is, your little task from the Jarl…I think we should take care of that first.”

    “But what about your wolf?”

    Bishop clenched his teeth, “Karnwyr is strong. I know he can take care of himself for a while longer. But I heard that dragon yesterday, didn’t you?”

    She looked up at him wide eyed, “You heard it too?”

    “Why do you think I pulled you inside? Because I cared about your crying fit? Pft.”

    She scoffed at him in disbelief, “Then why bother dragging me out of the rain at all?”

    “I’ve already wasted three days on you woman and I’ve seen your skill in battle. You’re no use to me if you get eaten by a dragon, still, what do you say? We make a trip up to Bleak Falls Barrow, get your little magic stone or whatever it is and deliver it to the Jarl – oh, and I get a share of that pile of gold he gave you.”

    She narrowed her eyes up at him. What a sly dog. “Fine,” she agreed.

    He smiled back at her, “Perfect. Now here’s the plan. We’re going to stop off out of sight of Helgen, then you’re going to sneak in and set a couple of pines on fire – on the opposite side from where we’ll be going of course. Then you’ll sneak back and we’ll cut around the place with little problem.”

    “Why don’t we just take them out?”

    “NO,” he practically shouted, “I mean…no. Look Ladyship, you didn’t get a good look before, being under me and all, but there were way too many of them to fight off, even with the two of us.”

    “I’ve taken out hordes of bandits on my own plenty of times before,” she insisted.

    His eyes flashed angrily and he firmly said, “No.”

    “Fiiine,” she sighed crossing her arms. Bishop snapped the reins forcing Rona to grab him around the waist again.

    ~~~

    The plan went off without a hitch. Rona enveloped herself in a low level invisibility spell and snuck around the south side of the town where she set two trees on fire. As the bandits panicked and rushed to put the fire out she cloaked herself again and hurried back to the north side of the walls. Bishop was already there and pulled her up onto the saddle behind him. She drew her bow and steadied herself as he snapped the reins and sent their stallion rushing along the north wall.

    There were a few stragglers on the walls which Rona easily picked off with her bow.

    As they rounded the bend and got back onto the road they saw a small group of people ahead of them.

    “Shit!” Bishop swore.

    “More bandits?” Rona inquired.

    “Hold tight Ladyship!”

    She wrapped her arms tightly around him as Bishop pressed their steed to speed up. They came up on the group which scattered from the road, save for one solitary bandit who stood firmly in the middle of the road staring them down. Bishop pulled the reins forcing the horse to go around the man and everything seemed to move in slow motion as they passed around the blonde haired nord before them.

    His eyes met with Rona’s and his gaze was unnerving to say the least. He stared, fixated on her as they sped around him and then he gave her the most sinister smile she’d ever seen. A chill ran up her spine. Something was utterly wrong with that man. She was grateful that Bishop didn’t slow down.

    They continued speeding along the path until they were in Riverwood where Bishop brought them to a trot.

    They dismounted and Bishop pat the exhausted brown stallion, “Damn – this horse got a name? Hotfoot maybe?”

    “Illia said his name’s Whiskey…mother named him after her favorite drink,” Rona mumbled the last part slowly.

    “Whiskey huh?” Bishop admired the stallion. “Whelp, good enough for me. Thanks a lot Whiskey! Hey, what do you say we go grab ourselves a drink? Maybe see if Delphine ever schlepped back into town?”

    Rona said, “Yes, please.” Anything to get her mind off that creepy nord and the day before.

    They padded up the steps to the Inn and Bishop burst inside bellowing over the bard’s awful singing, “Orgnar! Get me a mug of Honningbrew and a glass of Alto for the lady will yah?”

    Orgnar looked up from his busywork of cleaning mugs out with a rag and said in a blasé tone of voice, “Oh, s’just you two again.”

    Orgnar proceeded to slam two mugs onto the counter and poured Honningbrew in both as they sauntered up to the counter.

    Bishop looked to the mugs and then back to Orgnar several times then said, “Wow, you really are going deaf, I said one Alto Wine for the lady.”

    “All out,” said Orgnar indifferently.

    Rona grabbed the mug and said, “It’s fine, I enjoy mead just as well.”

    “You know you’re not getting a tip for this, right?”

    “You never tip.”

    “And I never will, now,” Bishop remarked sarcastically. He took a few swigs and swirled the liquid in his mug, “So where’s Delphine?”

    “Why you askin’?”

    “She’s still not back huh? I knew you scared her off with all your talk of dragons. Tsk tsk.” He shook his head at Rona.

    “I already told yah, she’s gettin’ supplies,” Orgnar maintained, “Now, how long you planning on staying? Gonna get a room or not?”

    “Nope, just stopping off before we move on again,” said Bishop.

    “Good,” Orgnar sniffed and stepped away from the counter. Just then the door slammed open and three guards burst in, completely tripping over themselves.

    Bishop laughed into his mug and Rona bit her lower lip nervously as Dagun, Talun and Sigrs all rushed up to her. She was not in the mood to discuss her trip home, but maintained an air of politeness all the same.

    “Lady Rona!” they cried in unison.

    She smiled feebly at them. Talun yanked his helmet off showing off his blonde hair which had matted down to his head under his helmet, “You’re back already! How was your trip?”

    “It-it was fine,” she muttered.

    Sigrs and Dagun both pulled their helmets off next.

    “But what about your mother?” Dagun asked.

    “Oh…well she,” Rona mumbled as she ran a hand up and down her forearm looking away from them.

    “She died,” Bishop finished for her. She slowly turned to glare up at him. He shrugged, “What? No use beating around the bush Princess,” he pat her on the shoulder and started to walk away, “I’ll let you catch up with your little fan club.”

    He winked and walked outside. The three guards each gave her their condolences as she reluctantly told them what had happened.

    They were seated around the hearth fire as Sigrs told them about his Pa kicking off from a case of bone break fever. Dagun said, “Shut it, she don’t want to hear about how painful a disease it is.”

    “Oh yeah…sorry Lady Rona,” Sigrs apologized.

    “It’s fine,” she lied. She was ready to leave. She really didn’t want to think about her mother and was looking for a way out, “I do have to get going soon though.”

    “Oh yeah, where you headed next?” Dagun asked her.

    “We’re going up to Bleak Falls Barrow.”

    Sigrs gaped at her, “You’re really going up to that old ruin? Whatever for?”

    “Going at the Jarl’s request,” she said and started to stand up.

    Talun grasped her hand and pounded his chest with the other, “I’ll go with you my lady! I’ll gladly protect you from the draugr in that dreaded tomb!”

    Dagun smacked him on the head, “Don’t be daft boy! You’re stationed here in Riverwood and I’ll not be having any deserters now!”

    Rona chuckled, “It’s alright, I’ve got Bishop with me, besides I’m a trained mercenary. I’m sure it’s nothing I can’t handle.”

    “Lady Rona, can I be honest with you?” Dagun looked up at her seriously, “I don’t trust that ranger. Been hearing talk about him around town and none of it’s good.”

    Her heart sank. “It’s fine, really,” she assured him, “Bishop’s already saved me a few times. I’ll be okay. It was good to see you all though, I’ll stop by again soon.”

    She gave them a weak smile, said goodbye and left. She found Bishop in his usual spot outside, holding up the wall of the inn.

    “Already finished entertaining your fans?” he asked cocking his head at her.

    She rolled her eyes at him, though his words had a tinge of truth to them. The guards were unusually fixated on her. Ignoring his comment, she walked over to their horse and made to climb up when Bishop said, “Nope, we’re walking.”

    “Really?”

    “Yup,” he pointed up at the mountain ahead of them, “Whiskey isn’t made to climb steep cliff sides, so we’re leaving him here with ol’ Embry,” he nodded to the red-faced man leaning against the railing and spoke louder, “who has promised not to run off with all our things in exchange for forty gold pieces and all the mead he can drink when we get back. Got that Embry?”

    “Yeah I heard yah Bishop,” Embry grumbled, “What am ah – *hic!* – gonna do with an old horse anyhow? ‘Sides, you know where I live.”

    “Great, glad we’re clear on that.”

    As they left down the path alongside the river Rona looked over at Bishop quizzically. He met her gaze and said, “What?”

    “You’re really going to trust,” she threw her hands up and gestured back, “HIM, with all our things?”

    “Let me make something clear to you Lady Lightfoot, I don’t trust anyone, not even the man pouring my drink. The only two things I trust anymore are myself, and my wolf. Got it?”

    “Then why did you leave our only horse and supplies with…with that drunk?”

    “Because I bribed him Princess. People you don’t trust you bribe. He’s got no use for some old camping supplies and an old horse. He does have use for coin and drink though.”

    “Riiight,” she drawled skeptically. She thought about what Dagun said about Bishop and decided to confront him, “You know, the guards were saying that you can’t be trusted.”

    “Of course they did,” he said unfazed by this notion.

    She looked at him bewildered, “And why shouldn’t I trust you?”

    He stopped and faced her. “I already told you Princess, trust is for fools. The only person you can trust is yourself,” he poked a finger to her nose, “Now quit worrying your pretty little head about these things. You and I have a deal, I help you with your fetch quest and then you help me find my wolf.”

    He started walking again and she followed by his side, keeping up with his pace. She looked at him and scoffed, “And what if I don’t hold up my end of the bargain? That means you’re trusting that I’ll follow through.”

    Bishop rolled his eyes and said, “Oh please. I know you’ll follow through.”

    Rona squinted at him, “How could you possibly know?”

    “Because you’re one of those types,” he said waving a hand in the air.

    “One of what..types?”

    “You know, you’ve got this naive belief in honor and justice and all that other Companions crap. You’re all noble about it, when you say something you mean it and you always keep your word even if it means fiery death by dragon in the end, am I right?” he smirked at her, “I’m right aren’t I?”

    She just blinked at him. Don’t give him the satisfaction, don’t reply to it, don’t say anything. She quickened her pace so he’d stop looking at her expression.

    He laughed loudly, “This again? That’s fine Princess. I could look at your ass all day.”

    She felt her cheeks burning red, though this time it was in anger and as they wound their way up the mountain path Rona was so distracted by her frustration that she nearly walked into a bandit trap, thankfully Bishop had been keeping an eye out and yanked her back.

    “Watch yourself Lightfoot,” he growled.

    He looked up and down the tower ahead of them, “I count one at the entrance and one up top. I’ll take out the guy up top while you pick off the one at the entrance. On my count.”

    They drew their bows and nocked their arrows, taking aim. Bishop counted, “One…two…three…shoot!”

    They let their arrows fly and nearly hit their targets at the same time. As Rona went to stand though Bishop held out a hand to stop her. “Wait for it,” he cautioned.

    A shriek was heard from inside the tower and a bandit woman came running out, swinging a sword and screaming, “I’LL KILL YOU!” but Bishop was already on it. She only got several paces out of the entrance before Bishop pierced her heart with an arrow. He stowed his bow back, stood and cracked his knuckles, “And that’s how it’s done.”

    Rona shrugged, “I’ll admit it, you’re a good marksman.”

    “And I know how to pay attention to my surroundings too,” he said mocking her.

    She scowled at his back as he continued walking onward up the slope. As they reached the summit they caught sight of three more bandits and took them out quickly.

    Rona looked up at the enormous doors in front of her then asked Bishop, “So…what exactly is this place?”

    He cocked an eyebrow, “You’ve never heard of a barrow before?”

    She shrugged, “We don’t have anything like this in Cyrodiil.”

    “They’re tombs, really old tombs that ancient nords used to bury their dead in. Be careful in their Ladyship, the dead sometimes come alive in the form of draugr. Ever fought one before?”

    “Never. But I’ve gone up against my fair share of the undead,” she held up a hand, counting on her fingers, “reanimated skeletons, wraiths, zombies-”

    “They’re kind of like zombies,” he interrupted, “walking around with the skin still stuck to ’em. They’re not hard to take down, but they can overwhelm you with sheer numbers and some of them know how to shout, so be careful.”

    “Shout?”

    “Yeah, like your dragon.”

    Rona looked after him bewildered as he pulled the enormous door ajar and slipped in. She followed after, sneaking along. They heard voices ahead and held still behind a massive stone pillar to listen.

    A woman argued, “So we’re just supposed to sit here while Arvel runs off with that golden claw?”

    “That dark elf wants to go on ahead, let him. Better than us risking our necks,” replied a man.

    “What if Arvel doesn’t come back? I want me share from that claw!”

    “Just shut it and keep an eye out for trouble.”

    Rona looked at Bishop, held a finger to her lips and drew her dagger from its sheath, then she pointed to him and tapped her bow. He looked at her quizzically as she whispered an incantation and vanished before him, only a blurred outline could be seen where she knelt.

    She slipped around the pillar and Bishop getting the hint finally, drew his bow and aimed for the male bandit. Rona snuck around behind the woman, yanked her backward by her hair, exposing her neck and quickly slit her throat. The man didn’t even get a chance to react when an arrow pierced his skull.

    Rona breathed and smiled at Bishop. “Nicely done,” she said.

    “Heh, yeah. We make a pretty good team,” he agreed. “Now let’s go find that claw, bet it’s worth some money.”

    “We’re here for the Dragonstone, remember?”

    “Doesn’t mean we can’t pick up some loot along the way. If you see anything nice grab it, it sells for bundles at the markets. The caravans are privy to it as well.”

    Rona looked at him in disgust, “You’d rob a tomb?”

    Bishop rolled his eyes, “Of course! People do it all the time. These places are so damn old nobody remembers who any of these dusty bones were anyways, except for the famous ones like Ysgramor.”

    They moved on into the tomb and Rona said, “That’s probably why your dead keep coming back. Because you disturb their rest.”

    “You think? I always figured they just got bored of laying around all the time and wanted to get a stretch.”

    She laughed and shook her head. They didn’t have to walk long before they heard the pleading cries of the dark elf in question. Arvel was wound up in a spider’s web, begging for help. Bishop and Rona struggled, but ultimately managed to kill the giant frostbite spider that had wound the man up.

    “You did it! You killed it! Now cut me down before anything else shows up!” he cried.

    Bishop scolded him playfully, “Now, now. We heard your friends talking back there and we’re interested in this golden claw of yours.”

    “Yes, the claw! I know how it works. The claw, the markings, the door in the Hall of Stories. I know how they all fit together! Help me down, and I’ll show you!”

    “Hand over the claw first,” Bishop demanded.

    Arvel was exasperated, “Does it look like I can move!? You have to cut me down first!”

    Bishop looked over at Rona, “I say we just kill him and take it for ourselves.”

    Arvel screamed, “NO! NO! Don’t do that! I BEG YOU!”

    “Bishop, don’t be cruel,” Rona started cutting into the webbing to release the dunmer.

    “Yes! Yes! Thank you m’lady! What a kind, good woman you are!”

    The second he was down though he cackled loudly and drew his blade on them, “GET BACK!”

    They both backed off as he laughed more then turned swiftly and ran down the passageway. “You fools! Why should I share the treasure with anyone!?”

    Bishop scowled at her, “See? This is why you don’t trust, anyone. Least of all a bandit.”

    “Who said anything about trusting him?” she countered coyly.

    “Wha-?”

    “Listen,” she said hushing him.

    They heard the draugr shuffling around and Arvel shouting some more down in the tombs.

    Bishop gave her a wry look. “Huh…I get it. Wake the draugr with all his stomping around.”

    “And now we don’t have to worry about waking them ourselves giving us easy pickings,” she said smiling.

    Bishop headed into the next room and said, “Smart thinking Lightfoot. Got to wonder how long he’ll last though.”

    A thundering clang echoed throughout the tomb. “Guess that answers that question,” Bishop mused.

    They easily picked off the now wandering draugr and came upon a dead Arvel, impaled on a deadly wall trap. Rona cringed at the sight as Bishop picked through his pockets pulling out the claw and a journal.

    “The ancient nords were really…disturbed weren’t they?”

    “Huh? Oh you mean this?” Bishop thumbed at the spiky wall trap, “Nah, they just wanted to make sure people had a hard time robbing their tombs. Speaking of,” he peered down a hallway and laughed, “already got another one. Wait here a second.”

    He shot an arrow over the landing, triggering three enormous blades to start swinging back and forth. Bishop carefully timed each step as he walked down the hall grunting, “Now this is…how you get…a close shave!”He leapt forward and pulled a switch to stop them from moving. He held out a hand out to Rona and said, “My lady, after you.”

    Rona laughed and followed after him. The man was starting to grow on her, as frustrating as he could be sometimes, she enjoyed his sense of humor and she had to admit, they worked well together.

    They walked on for another hour, taking out draugr and evading a slew of traps. They even trekked through a portion of the tomb that had branched off into a cavern until they finally reached a strange door with three rings and a round panel in the center. Different animal figures had been carved into the rings.

    Bishop pulled the claw from his belt and held it up to a round piece in the center. “Looks like a perfect fit,” he said.

    “Wait,” she grasped his hand to stop him from turning it. She pushed on one of the rings causing it move and change the animal symbol. “It’s a puzzle.”

    “Huh…so what’s the solution,” he wondered fingering his chin with his free hand.

    “You’ve never seen one like this before?”

    “Ladyship I don’t make it a habit to go around disturbing the dead if I can help it. Here hold this,” he passed her the golden claw and pulled Arvel’s journal from his pocket then scanned over it, “Fingers…trembling…blah blah, power of ancient nords…yup – key to Bleak Falls Barrow, got it. Hmm, okay here’s something. When you have the golden claw, the solution is in the palm of your hands.”

    He looked at the claw then back at the journal, licking a finger and thumbing through the rest of its blank pages then tossed it over his shoulder and said, “Well that was useless. We know that thing is the key, but what’s the solution? Look around, see if you can find anything on these walls.”

    Bishop started to feel around the walls, looking for a hidden crevice or switch.

    Rona looked at the strange murals, pictures of dragons and nords, in battle, but in some images it looked as though they were communing with them. She ran her fingers over the palm of the claw as she studied the walls, to her surprise it was not smooth. She held it up for a closer look. It was carved with the same animal figures on the door.

    “Bear…moth…owl…,” she said aloud.

    “What’s that Lightfoot?” Bishop called over his shoulder as he kept feeling around the walls.

    The answer was in the palm of the claw. She ran over to the door and started spinning the rings to match the claw. Bishop came over, “You found it?”

    She held the claw up to his face. “The solution is in the palm of your hands!”

    Bishop crossed his arms and groaned, “Well that’s just stupid. That’s a claw, not a hand.”

    Rona laughed at him then pressed the claw into the center dial. She turned it and the door shook and started to slowly fall casting dust up into the air, indicating it hadn’t been opened for centuries.

    The two carefully tread inside the cavern beyond. Bats scattered and flew around them and high up into the room. A waterfall splashed by a bridge, which lead across a small creek. Beyond were steps leading up to a large stone mural and a coffin.

    “Do you hear that?” Rona asked.

    “Hear what?”

    “That chanting.”

    Bishop cocked an eyebrow at her and shook his head, “You’re hearing things.”

    As they approached the mural the chanting grew louder and louder, it reverberated throughout the cavern. She felt drawn to the strange mural which had a language she’d never seen etched into it.

    One word in particular seemed to call to her. It spoke to her very soul and shone brightly among the rest.

    Fus…

    The word sounded in her mind. She touched it and stared deeply into the light it emitted which caused her vision to fade and blur. She realized the chanting had been so loud that she couldn’t hear anything else. She shook her head trying to shake off the blurriness when the sound of Bishop’s angry voice broke into her ears, “RONA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!? MOVE IT!”

    She spun around only to see Bishop’s dagger scraping against a draugr’s enormous broadsword. He was struggling to push back against the creature. Rona drew her bow and quickly nocked an arrow which she let fly into the draugr’s head. It stumbled back giving Bishop a chance to stab it in the chest and kill it.

    He turned on his toe and stormed right up to her bellowing, “WHAT THE HELL IS YOUR PROBLEM? Didn’t you hear anything I was saying!? That draugr nearly killed you! You need to start paying attention to your surroundings before you get us both killed!”

    Rona cast her gaze away from him, “I’m sorry I just…you didn’t see that word on the mural? Or hear those…voices?”

    Bishop scoffed, “Obviously we need to get you out of this place. It’s starting to play tricks on your mind.”

    He turned back and rummaged around some treasure chests, stuffing his pockets with valuables. Rona stepped up to the coffin and looked down into it. A stone slab with the same markings as the mural lay inside. She picked it up and said, “Found what we were looking for.”

    Bishop turned to glare at her then stormed right past her up more stairs and grumbled, “Good, then we can get the hell out of here.”

    She followed him, keeping her distance. Her mind was swirling with strange thoughts. The word FUS continued to reverberate within her.

     

    Chapter 5

    Dragonborn

     

    They spent the night in Riverwood and Bishop went straight to his room without saying a word or even looking at her. Rona tossed and turned all night, dragons and strange people shouting at them filled her dreams. There was one person in her dream, however, that really stood out.

    She was a beautiful nord woman with waist length flowing black hair and crystal blue eyes. She sang powerful commanding songs which shook the mountains and soared through the skies. She called herself Jillian and she greeted Rona as an old friend, inviting her to come and sing among the dragons, to show them her power.

    But before she could go with her Rona was awakened by a knock on her door and the sound of a familiar voice, “You up? Time to go.”

    They were the first words Bishop had said to her since yesterday. He sounded less angry, though still stand-offish. Rona gathered her things and pulled on her boots and met him outside. He was already mounted on the horse and waiting for her, not looking at her at all.

    “Come on, we’re going to Whiterun to drop off that stone tablet and then we’re heading straight to the Rift, let’s get moving.”

    That was it huh? He was already done with her and ready to complete their bargain so he could go on his own way. She took a deep breath and without a word climbed up onto the back of the saddle and gripped his waist again.

    They set off and were in Whiterun in less than an hour. As they dismounted Whiskey Rona began to walk up the path and noticed Bishop was hanging back. She said, “Coming?”

    “No, I’ll wait here while you finish up. Try to make it quick will you?”

    She sighed and hurried up the path alone.

    When she arrived in the palace to meet with Farengar she found he was not alone. A hooded woman stood beside him discussing what sounded like important matters related to the dragons.

    They leaned over a pile of opened books on a desk, Farengar was tracing a line with his finger and said, “You see? The terminology is clearly First Era or even earlier. I’m convinced this is a copy of a much older text. Perhaps dating to just after the Dragon War. If so, I could use this to cross-reference the names with other later texts.”

    “Good,” the woman replied, “I’m glad you’re making progress. My employers are anxious to have some tangible answers.”

    “Oh, have no fear. The Jarl himself has finally taken an interest, so I’m now able to devote most of my time to this research.”

    “Time is running, Farengar, don’t forget. This isn’t some theoretical question. Dragons have come back.”

    “Yes, yes. Don’t worry. Although the chance to see a living dragon up close would be tremendously valuable… Now, let me show you something else I found… very intriguing… I think your employers may be interested as well…”

    The woman looked up and saw Rona standing there, patiently waiting for them to finish their discussion. “You have a visitor,” she noted, nudging him.

    “Hmm?” Farengar looked up from his books, “Ah yes, the Jarl’s protégé! Back from Bleak Falls Barrow? You didn’t die, it seems.”

    Rona looked at him open-mouthed then charged over and dropped the stone tablet onto his desk. “Here’s your stone,” she seethed.

    Farengar hardly noticed her temper as his eyes were hungrily taking in his prize, “Ah! The Dragonstone!”

    The woman stared at the tablet then glanced at Rona from beneath her hood, “You went into Bleak Falls Barrow and got that? Nice work.”

    “Yes,” agreed Farengar, “Seems you are a cut above the usual brutes the Jarl sends my way. My…associate here will be pleased to see your handiwork. She discovered its location, by means she has so far declined to share with me.”

    The hooded woman clapped him on the shoulder and said, “Just send me a copy when you’ve deciphered it.”

    Rona gave the woman one more quick once over as she walked away. There was something familiar about her, though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Farengar began rummaging through his cupboards and said, “Yes, now about your pay-”

    “FARENGAR!” a woman cried from the foot of the stairs. She came breathlessly sprinting up them. It was the Jarl’s Housecarl, Irileth. “Farengar, you need to come at once! A dragon’s been sighted nearby!” She looked at Rona and said, “You should come too.”

    They went around into the main hall and hiked up another flight of stairs, Farengar remarking, “A dragon! How exciting! Where was it seen? What was it doing?”

    “I’d take this a bit more seriously if I were you,” Irileth sounded annoyed.

    ~~~

    Rona kept up her pace with Irileth and her town guardsmen. She cringed at the fact that Bishop was never going to let her hear the end of this one…he might even give up and leave.

    She stopped beside him and caught her breath as the others ran along the path leaving her behind. Bishop standing on a small hill by the stables, staring off in the distance towards the watch tower. He actually appeared concerned, maybe even anxious.

    Then he muttered, “It was a dragon.”

    “You saw it!?” Rona burst.

    He looked down at her and threw his arm out, “Yeah I saw it! It spewed flames all over the field and picked off a couple of guards. Glad you’re back, let’s get the hell out of here before it comes back.”

    She knit her brows together, “Aaactuallyyy…

    He glowered at her, “No.”

    She gave him a weak smile.

    No. No, no, no, no, no,” he waved a hand in front of his face then harshly pointed a finger at her, “We are NOT fighting a dragon.”

    “I told the Jarl I would!” she protested.

    “I don’t care what you promised the Jarl! We made a deal,” he barked.

    “I know Bishop but I-”

    “NO!” he roared at her and mounted the horse, “We are leaving now. Get on.”

    Rona stood resolute and said, “I’m sorry Bishop. I have to do this!”

    Then she took off after the guards.

    “DAMNED WOMAN! DON’T EXPECT ME TO WAIT AROUND OR SAVE YOUR ASS THIS TIME!” He fumed and clenched his teeth. Then muttered, “Damn it…damn it, gods be damned this woman is going to get me killed!”

    He dismounted Whiskey and ran off after her.

    Rona caught up with Irileth and the others as they carefully approached the watch tower, weapons drawn.

    A guard came stumbling out of the building stammering, “No! Get back! It’s still here somewhere! Hroki and Tor just got grabbed when they tried to make a run for it!”

    Irileth barked at him, “Guardsman! What happened here? Where’s this dragon? Quickly now!”

    “I don’t know!” he cried back. A low rumbling roar echoed off the mountains beyond. Everyone looked up to where an enormous dragon flew up over the mountains and high into the sky, setting its sights on them.

    “Kynareth save us, here he comes again.”

    “Here he comes!” Irileth yelled, “Find cover and make every arrow count!”

    Rona was enthralled by the creature as it flew over them, roaring loud enough to make the earth rumble. Something about it made her blood boil. She had a strange urge to fight the beast…to dominate and destroy it.

    “Lightfoot!”

    Rona turned to see Bishop running over to her, his bow drawn, “So what’s your plan you fucking lunatic!? How do you plan to fight a dragon!? Well!?”

    She withdrew her bow and pointed to the watch tower, “We’ll have a better vantage point from up there!”

    The dragon bore down on them and roared fire from its throat. They rushed inside the building, the fire narrowly missing them. Bishop smacked at his arm which had lit with a small flame. “Damn it!” he grumbled.

    A strange ethereal voice whispered to Rona “Come to me Dragonborn.”

    An odd light was coming from the landing above, so she climbed the stairs, Bishop following close behind. At the top of the tower she saw the raven haired woman from her dreams. Jillian held a hand out to Rona and spoke gently, “Sing with me Dragonborn.”

    Rona strode across the roof and took the woman’s hand.

    “Shit! Here it comes again! Hey Lightfoot – Rona get your bow ready we’ve…”

    She heard Bishop’s voice vanishing in the background, just as it did when she stared into the word FUS on the wall. A chorus of voices and music rumbled all around her and the words came to her as though she’d known them her entire life.

    (The Song is Jillian, I’d Give My Heart by Within Temptation)

    Everything became so clear to her then, she felt completely attuned to her surroundings and to her prey.

    The dragon was on the ground snapping at the guardsmen. But as Rona’s voice grew louder and more powerful it’s gaze turned to her. It flapped it’s wings casting itself swiftly skyward.

    Rona  poured her heart into the song, drawing power from it and taunting her prey.

    The dragon whirled around the tower circling them. It only had eyes for her now and she only had eyes for it. The beast hovered in the air before her, contemplating her before it belched a flurry of flames at her. She sang stronger now, her voice penetrating the blaze and casting them on either side of her.

    The dragon stopped and turned its head to peer at her curiously. She stared it down as she sang.

    “Jillian our dream ended long ago.
    All our stories and all our glory I held so dear.
    We won’t be together
    for ever and ever, no more tears.
    I’ll always be here til the end.”

    She breathed deeply and nocked an arrow to her bow as she cried,

    “Jilllliiaaaannnnn!!! Nooo moooore teeeaaars!!!

    Jilllliiaaaannnnn!!! Nooo moooore teeeaaars!!!”

    A great glowing wind swept up around her and she let her arrow fly. It glowed a pure white as it sped through the air piercing the dragon straight through its heart. The creature seemed to stare at her in disbelief as it fell from the sky and she finished her song.

    “I’d give my heart, I’d give my soul.
    I’d turn it back, it’s my fault.
    Your destiny is forlorn,
    have to live till it’s undone.
    I’d give my heart, I’d give my soul.
    I’d turn it back and then at last I’ll be on my way.”

    The music and the voices that echoed off the mountains faded and dispersed. Rona fell to her knees, trembling. It felt like her energy had drained completely from her. She looked around and saw Bishop slumped against one of the walls just staring at her.

    She clambered to her feet and rushed over to him, “You’re hurt!”

    “Yeah, just a bit,” he admitted through clenched teeth. His left hand was badly burned and parts of his clothing had burned and tore in places. She clutched his hand and whispered an incantation to heal him. It transformed his severe burn into a mild one.

    “There,” she said, “that should hold you over until we can get a proper potion on it.” She looked up at him, he was just staring at her with complete awe. She felt her cheeks burning. “W-what?” she stammered.

    “What…are you?” he genuinely asked her.

    “Never mind that,” she said, “we need to get you to an apothecary right away.”

    She threw his arm over her shoulder to help him stand. Being a foot shorter than him and significantly lighter she wasn’t able to support him easily but he stood up with her help and let go. They came down the tower to observe the scene in front of them.

    The guardsmen were all around the dragon, muttering to themselves, some looked over and gawked at Rona, making her blush hotly again. Then all of a sudden the creature’s body moved, it’s flesh started to sear and burn.

    The guardsmen yelped and ran away, another cried, “What’s it doing!? Watch out!”

    The scales on its body dissipated and a flood of wind and light rushed out of the creature and surrounded Rona. She felt strangely warm, her energy returning to her. A single word flit into her mind. FUS…

    When it finally stopped one of the guards ran right up to her and gasped, “I can’t believe it! You’re…Dragonborn!”

    Another said, “Dragonborn? What are you talking about?”

    A third guard muttered, “That’s right! My grandfather used to tell stories about the Dragonborn. Those born with the Dragon Blood in ’em. Like old Tiber Septim himself.”

    “I never heard of Tiber Septim killing any dragons.”

    “There weren’t any dragons then, idiot. They’re just coming back now for the first time in…forever. But the old tales tell of the Dragonborn who could kill dragons and steal their power,” the guard looked right at her, “You must be one!”

    Rona stammered, “I-er…uh…”

    “What do you say Irileth? You’re being awfully quiet.”

    “Come on, Irileth, tell us, do you believe in this Dragonborn business?”

    She grumbled at them, “Hmph. Some of you would be better off keeping quiet than flapping your gums on matters you don’t know anything about. Here’s a dead dragon, and that’s something I definitely understand. Now we know we can kill them. But I don’t need some mythical Dragonborn. Someone who can put down a dragon is more than enough for me.”

    “You wouldn’t understand, Housecarl. You ain’t a nord.”

    Irileth scoffed offended by his remark, “I’ve been all across Tamriel. I’ve seen plenty of things just as outlandish as this. I’d advise you all to trust in the strength of your sword arm over tales and legends.”

    The guard shook his head and pressed Rona, “If you really are Dragonborn, like the old tales, you ought to be able to shout. Can you? Have you tried?”

    Rona didn’t even know where to start. She looked over at Bishop who was holding his hand close to his body. He met her gaze and said, “Go on, try to shout Ladyship.”

    The word seemed to pry at her throat. It wanted out, so she took a deep breath, looked to the sky and shouted, “FUS!”

    “That was shouting, what you just did! Must be. You really are Dragonborn then…”

    A crack like thunder shook the world around them and the words, “DOH-VAH-KIIN!” exploded from the mountain beyond the horizon as if in reply to her.

    Everyone gasped and turned towards the mountains behind them and one of the guards said, “The Throat of the World. That was the call of the Greybeards.”

    Irileth, ignoring her men, walked right up to Rona to address her directly, “That was the hairiest fight I’ve ever been in, and I’ve been in more than a few. I don’t know about this Dragonborn business, but I’m sure glad you’re with us. You better get back to Whiterun right away. Jarl Balgruuf will want to know what happened here.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 6

    Rescuing Karnwyr

     

    Their walk back to Whiterun was slow and quiet between them. Rona was poring over every detail of what just happened to her when Bishop mused, “Dragonborn huh? Well, that explains a lot.”

    She’d almost forgotten he was there and mumbled back, “Yeah…”

    “So her fearlessness has a reason for being so and a reason for being completely bullheaded too,” he laughed weakly.

    She glanced over at him and gave him a half smile, “Are you trying to make me feel better about all this?”

    His smirk dropped and he looked forward, “No. Just trying to break the tension between us,” he sighed, “Guess we won’t be leaving today like I’d planned.”

    They stopped by their horse, Whiskey, who was chewing on a mouthful of dry grass as though nothing strange had happened.

    “Guess I’ll get this guy stabled for the night and we can get a couple of rooms over at the Bannered Mare, how’s that sound?”

    Rona looked down at her feet and said, “I’m sorry Bishop. I’m so sorry. I never meant to cause all this trouble for you. You just wanted to find your wolf and all I’ve done is drag you around Skyrim and get you into dangerous situations.”

    He went to cross his arms and pulled them back as his hand flexed painfully and said, “Ah – ow, yeah, well…you do seem to attract a lot of trouble.”

    “Here,” she handed him a coin purse full of gold, “that’s everything the Jarl gave me plus what the court wizard paid me today. I’ll understand if you just want to take it and leave.”

    He smirked at her and pushed it back. “Don’t worry about it I’m not going anywhere just yet. We still have a deal and this time I’ve got the Dragonborn on my side. Can’t go wrong there,” he said looking over his partially healed hand, “…mostly. You know what? Give me some of that gold, I’m gonna buy a few potions and get us a room at the inn and some mead. Lots and lots of mead.”

    ~~~

    As Bishop went off to the local apothecary, Rona made her way up to meet with Jarl Balgruuf once more where she relayed everything that had happened out at the watch tower, including her being Dragonborn.

    The Jarl was pleased with this news and granted her the title of Thane of Whiterun and gave her a key to her own residence. He bade her to travel to the High Hrothgar to answer the Greybeards’ summons and learn more about her newfound power.

    Rona left more apprehensive than before. She knew nothing about being a Dragonborn, nor of their history. She’d read maybe one or two stories about dragons in her youth but since they didn’t exist anymore they simply did not interest her. Now she desired nothing more than to read all the books she could on the subject. She had to know more.

    She stood just outside the Bannered Mare. The sun had already set and the light from the tavern shone through the windows. It was bustling and busy inside, she really needed a drink. She entered and found herself surrounded by all kinds of people, the townsfolk and guards gathered round a hearth. A few of the guards from the watchtower were regaling about their fight with the dragon, adding in a few exaggerated details to curry favor with the wenches on their arms.

    Rona looked around and saw Bishop sitting at the bar, a mug in hand and a busty tavern maiden perched on his arm. She wondered if he was telling tall tales too until she saw the look of complete disgust all over his face. “I told you to get lost, flea,” he growled at her.

    She huffed at him, “Will you stop calling me a flea? I’m a thief, not a flea…”

    “You’re a parasite, attaching yourself to a body to make use of it for food, protection or whatever. Until you move on to another body, or are caught and get pinched to death.”

    She bat her lashes at him and moaned, “I can show you a good time, I make a good belly warmer.”

    Bishop grumbled at her. In response the wench rubbed her bosom up against him and whispered loudly, “You are everything I desire in a man, I’d be a fool if I didn’t give it every effort.”

    “Consider it given, now get lost before I slit your throat.”

    She seemed to get the hint finally and slunk away in a huff though it didn’t take long before a drunk pulled her right into his arms and she turned her attention to entertaining him while slipping a few coins from his pocket.

    Rona sauntered up to the bar and took a seat next to Bishop. He actually smiled at her, seemingly happy to see her, “Hey beautiful. You’re looking smoky.”

    She cocked her head at him, puzzled, until he took his thumb and wiped it against her cheek to show her the ash smeared on her face. “You don’t look as bad as the last time you faced off against a dragon, but you are still pretty dirty. Damn,” he grasped at some wisps on her head, “it even managed to singe your hair in a few places.”

    Rona shrugged, “Comes with the territory now.” She looked at his hand, which was wrapped in some bandages. “How’s the hand?” she asked.

    He flexed it, “Much better, though the woman at the apothecary tried to sell me some cure disease potion too, insisting that I have ataxia or some other nonsense. Do I look like I have ataxia to you?”

    “No,” Rona chuckled and noticed a glass of Alto Wine in front of her, “That for me?”

    “Yup, that’s your favorite right?”

    “I’d drink anything at this point,” she said taking the glass and downing it in a single gulp.

    Bishop looked surprised at her and said, “Wow, guess I’ll order another.”

    “Please do,” she said wiping her mouth on her sleeve. Bishop called over a tavern maid who quickly poured her a fresh glass before winding her way back through the crowds.

    He swirled his mug and ran his eyes over Rona. She noticed his staring and said, “What?”

    “Just trying to figure out how this tiny elf could possibly be Dragonborn. What are you? Four foot even?”

    She smirked and pushed his arm, “Four foot eleven inches thank you very much!”

    “Ah, so damn close to a full five feet!” he teased.

    “I wish,” she sighed, “Altmer are sooo tall! Ata is like six foot five but Mother was even more petite than me. When I was seventeen I realized I’d stopped growing and tried to get my friend to use magic to make me grow a few more inches. He wouldn’t do it though, just pat me on the head and told me I was cuter this way.” She pouted.

    He smiled at her, “Well he was right about that.”

    Her cheeks burned at the compliment and she pulled the freshly poured glass of wine to her face trying to hide her blushing but Bishop just said, “You’ll never hide that red, it always races right to the tips of your ears and practically matches your pink hair.”

    “Ah!” she pressed a hand up to her ear and grumbled at him, “My hair is not pink! It’s strawberry blonde!”

    Bishop laughed, “Looks more strawberry than blonde I’d say.”

    She stuck her tongue out at him and sipped her wine when he said, “So, what was up with that song?”

    Rona looked up at him and said, “I saw a woman with long black hair. Did you see her?”

    “Nope, not at all. Just you, staring off into space. That dragon flew around us and I tried to tell you to get your bow and start shooting but you completely ignored me. Same as before in the barrow actually…”

    She thrust her hands to her knees, “I told you I heard chanting in the barrow! Some loud voices of men and there was a word on the wall…fus. It was glowing and when I approached it everything around me just faded and all I could hear was that chanting.”

    “So that’s why you didn’t hear me when I was saving your skin. You know, you’re damn lucky I was around,” he twisted in his seat and leaned an elbow and his back against the bar, “That draugr was ready to blow you away with a shout before I stepped in.”

    “Thank you,” she said sincerely, “And sorry about your hand too.”

    “Ah yeah,” he flexed it through the bandages, “I tried to pull you away when that dragon blast fire at you, but you wouldn’t budge an inch. I don’t know how you deflected the flames though, otherwise we’d both be nice and crispy right now.”

    She shrugged, “I guess I did it with…my voice.”

    “You made all that music too?”

    “You heard that?” she asked.

    “Yeah, loud singing all around us and trumpets or something. Talk about some of the craziest shit I’ve ever heard… Ah well…,” he gulped from his mug and paused to watch the guards getting rowdy as they waved their arms telling the story of how they killed the dragon.”By the way,” Bishop said, “I rented the bath out earlier. Already used it myself, but if you’d like to get cleaned up I can keep watch at the door for you.”

    She snorted, nearly spraying her wine back into the glass and gave him a cynical look.

    He laughed, held up his wounded hand and said, “I swear on my oath as a ranger not to peek.”

    “I really doubt that, but I would like to get washed up,” she said rubbing her soot smeared fingers together.

    They stood and walked over to the bathing room. Bishop stood outside the door, leaning against it and watched the people mill about.

    Rona went inside and undressed behind the carefully placed dividers around the bath. She allowed herself to sink into the warm water and washed away the filth all over her. She could barely see the top of Bishop’s head from where she sat, but he thankfully hadn’t budged an inch. He was surprisingly honest in that regard.

    She started rinsing her hair when she heard a very drunk and deep voice echo into the room, “Who yah hidin’ in there?”

    No one,” Bishop sounded mad.

    “I saw ‘er, some sweet little thing in a dress. She naked in there?”

    “None of your business, now piss off.”

    “I think we deserves ourselves a quick look, what do yah wan’? Sum gold? How much for a peek? Ten gold pieces? Twenty?”

    “Zero, now get out of my face before I rearrange yours.”

    Rona grabbed a towel and dried herself off as things started to escalate. She peered around the divider to see a hulking brute of a man towering over Bishop. He was as wide as he was big and covered in steel plated armor, save for his large, potato shaped head. He grinned drunkenly at Bishop.

    “Tell yah what, I’ll give yeh fifty gold pieces if you let me fuck ‘er.”

    Bishop moved fast, making sure his fist met with the man’s face. There was a loud crash as the brute tumbled to the floor, breaking a bench with his body. Everyone in the room was silent as they stared at the scene before them.

    Bishop shook his hand and roared, “God damn it! I just had this hand healed you stinking piece of shit!”

    The man chuckled and slowly pushed himself up, “Wouldn’t have done that if I was you.”

    He drew a mighty broadsword from his back and gave Bishop a toothy grin. The innkeeper started screaming, “GUARDS! DO SOMETHING!” But the much smaller guardsmen were all too bewildered to budge.

    The brute rushed at Bishop, who already had his dagger in hand, Rona, holding just a towel to her body, yanked Bishop backward and thrust herself in front of him and shouted, “FUS!”

    The man was thrown, hard, across the inn where he crashed into a wardrobe with a loud CRACK! He slumped onto the floor.

    People screamed and others stared, the inn keeper yelled and thrust her finger at the door, “OUT! GET OUT!”

    Bishop came up behind Rona and pulled her towel around what she realized was her bare naked back and bottom, she’d only been clutching it at her chest to cover her front and in all the commotion forgot to actually pull it around herself. Her face burned red hot. But all he said was, “Get your things, we’re leaving,” as he traipsed past her.

    She threw on her dress and grabbed her boots, gloves, and weapons and profusely apologized to the innkeeper as she was walking out, the woman had fists to her hips and glared furiously at them.

    Rona caught up with Bishop who was already halfway across the town, swinging his arms and walking very quickly. “Wait up,” she called, “We don’t have to leave.”

    “Don’t know if you noticed Princess but that was the only inn in town and we just got kicked out of it, so we’re camping tonight.”

    “No, I…,” she nervously ran her fingers through damp hair, “I have a house…here.”

    “You…have a house…in Whiterun?” he looked unconvinced.

    She breathed, “Yeah. I do now. The Jarl gave me a house here when he found out I’m the Dragonborn.”

    Bishop smacked a hand to his forehead and laughed, “This is just too rich. Everyone just hands you everything on a silver platter, don’t they?”

    She scowled at him, “I never asked for any of this.”

    “Right,” he said sighing, then changed the subject, “So where is this homestead of yours?”

    She looked around, “Ah! He said it was the second building on the right as you come through the gates. Sooo,” she whirled around, it was right in front of them, “it’s this one!”

    She pulled the key from her pouch and pressed it into the lock. With a gentle turn it clicked and opened. They stepped inside. It was a cozy home, lightly furnished, but mostly empty otherwise. A hearth sat in the middle of the room and the cupboards lay barren but as far as she was concerned it was a place to stay for the night.

    Bishop stalked past her up the stairs and into the first room on his left, “Bed in here, but it’s small, like a closet.” He came back and rounded the corner to his right and called, “Now that’s a bed! I’m sleeping in this one, you get the closet.”

    Rona pulled up a chair by the hearth and tossed a pair of logs onto it then lit a fire. Bishop came down and said, “I was just kidding, you can have the big bed if you really want.”

    She smiled weakly at him, “No, it’s ok.”

    He leaned up against the wall by the stairs and spat, “Stop that.”

    “What?”

    “Feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not going to change anything, alright? You’re the Dragonborn, so what? Just accept it and move on. Besides, that was pretty badass what you did back there, shouting that bonehead across the room…you know, not to mention the fact you just killed a dragon today.”

    She smiled at him, “You think so?”

    “I know so. Oh and speaking of asses, yours is pretty fine if I do say so myself.”

    Her face burned bright red again, “That was the one and only time you’ll ever get to see it!” She laughed and threw an empty tankard from the hearth at him which he easily dodged.

    He chuckled, “We’ll see about that. I’ll win you over just yet.” He turned back up the stairs and headed for the small room on the left then called back, “Hey Lightfoot, remember that you never need anyone, let alone some man to defend your honor. You’ve got that handled all on your own.”

    ~~~

    Bishop slept in late and she was surprised when he finally came down around noon. She poured him a bowl of hot porridge and served it with a glass of milk and some sweet bread. He yawned and looked down into the bowl scrunching his nose at it.

    “What’s this?” he asked.

    “It’s cinnamon porridge, it’s really good, I made it fresh myself.”

    “It looks disgusting,” he gagged.

    “Just try it!” she urged. He took a bite of his bread and ignored the porridge.

    She rolled her eyes and said, “I stopped by the inn and apologized to Hulda for last night. I even paid for the damages. She said we’re welcome back any time.”

    “Good, I like that tavern,” he said through a mouthful of bread.

    “The guards arrested that brute too, Hulda said it took six of them just to carry him off to the prison.”

    “Hah, I bet it did,” he said downing the glass of milk and standing up.

    She took his bowl and dishes to a wash basin, took a few bites of the porridge before rinsing it, mildly disappointed he didn’t even try it and said, “Ready to go?”

    “Ready whenever you are Ladyship,” he said as he collected his quiver and bow, “Hopefully we can get to the Rift without any interruptions this time.”

    She held two pressed fingers up and said, “On my honor!”

    He smirked at her and they left.

    Down at the stables Bishop mounted Whiskey and noticed Rona pulling herself up onto a white mare.

    “Wrong horse Ladyship.”

    She settled into the saddle and said, “Nope, this is definitely the right horse.”

    He looked at her with heavily lidded eyes, “That’s some bard’s horse, got a drum and a bunch of instruments strapped to it.”

    She smiled broadly at him and pat the mare on her neck, “Yeah, my horse. Her name is Karinda, I bought her from the stable master this morning and did a little shopping. I figured this would be easier than sharing a saddle with you, plus we can carry more!”

    Bishop sighed, “Damn, I sure am going to miss the feeling of your bosom pressing up against my back.”

    He laughed at her reddening face and snapped his reins taking off down the path heading east. Rona pulled her mare around and spurred her steed on after him.

    ~~~

    The two of them spent several days traveling on the road towards the Rift. Bishop spent most of his time finding ways to sexually harass his quarry and stir her into blushing fits, while she took every opportunity to draw up an instrument and sing her heart out just to annoy him.

    It was the second night of their travels and they’d made camp a short ways from the road. Bishop insisted it was safer to stray off the path a bit than to camp too close to it where passersby could easily rob them in their sleep.

    He was stoking the fire while Rona strummed her lute and hummed a tune to herself. A light snow began to fall around them and a chill brushed through the air. Rona shivered.

    “Thought you were a nord.” He grabbed a blanket and threw it at her.”It’s hardly even snowing.”

    She pulled it around herself. “I’m half a nord that grew up in the warmer climates of Cyrodiil. I’m not used to all this cold and ice everywhere.”

    A sensual gleam crossed his eyes and he said, “I could keep you warm all night if you’d like Princess.”

    She kept strumming at her lute, she was wholly used to his lewd remarks now that they hardly fazed her, “I don’t think so ranger.”

    He smirked at her, “So you gonna sing me a song or just keep playing with that thing?”

    “You want me to sing?”

    “It’s not a matter of wanting or not, Lightfoot,” he said as he lay down on his side, “Just sing it already and be done with it so we can go to sleep. Knowing you, you’ve got some song bouncing around in your head, so let it loose already.”

    He was right about that. She often found herself humming songs she’d never known before. Perhaps it was the visitors from her dreams, the other Dragonborn. Each one that had come to her the last three nights were women and each taught her songs they knew and every morning her mind bubbled with the words. She had to get this one out of her system already.

    She parted her lips and sang;

    (The Song is Winter Moon by Erutan)

    “In the woodlands low, born of ice and snow,

    there’s a maiden weeping tonight.

    Snow falls softly ‘neath the winter moon

    Forest bare and white, she dwells there by night

    Listen to her cry sorrow’s song.

    Snow falls softly ‘neath the winter moon

    Breathless, icy, bright. Daughter of the night.

    Oh, who do you cry for?

    Keening softly ‘neath the winter moon

    Traveler passing through, feet all bare, his smile was true

    His eyes shone with starlight

    He walked softly ‘neath the winter moon

    Love made my heart soar, you’re the one I’ve waited for

    Stay with me forever

    she cried softly ‘neath the winter moon

    In the snow he stayed, from my side he did not stray

    My hands could not warm him

    He died softly ‘neath the winter moon.”

    Bishop stared into the firelight as she sang. She’d noticed him gazing off the last few nights, a trace of a shadow crossing his eyes each time. Something from his past, she was sure of it. He was truly an enigma wrapped in a mystery. Every attempt to learn more about him was met with immediate deflection so she stopped asking. What did it matter? She told herself. He was probably going to leave her the minute he got his wolf back anyhow.

    “Sad song,” he said startling her. He grinned at her, “What, did I scare you?”

    She put her lute aside and pulled the blanket around her more and fell onto her bedroll, “No, just cold. Night!”

    ~~~

    Another day of travel and plenty of asking around, Bishop and Rona finally got the lead they were looking for after raiding a bandit camp and threatening the bandit leader. He spilled his guts to them figuratively and quite literally after Bishop gut him.

    His information brought them to a cave called Cragslane Cavern. They left their horses just off the road and carefully approached the bandit’s den scoping it out from a small hill overlooking it. A nord was milling around the cave entrance. Two pit wolves were locked in cages nearby. Bishop took no time in waiting, he nocked his bow and picked off the bandit before he had a chance to see them. Rona took pity on the starved beasts in cages and put them out of their misery with quick shocks to their hearts.

    Bishop pressed his back against a wall and peered into the cave, a little ways down he spotted another bandit. He glanced at Rona who was ready, she pulled out her dagger and crouched down, using her free hand to cloak herself and slowly started sneaking down the path. Bishop walked in after her and put on a friendly voice, “This where they’re holding the pit fights?”

    The bandit was alert and drew a dagger from his belt, “You’re not invited, stranger.”

    Rona came up behind him and yanked on his shirt to pull him back and slid her dagger across his throat. He dropped his weapon and clutched at his neck before collapsing on the floor.

    Bishop had already charged further down the landing where he found his wolf Karnwyr in a cage. “Ah, there you are, you mutt! The hell were you thinking, getting trapped and making me track you all the way to this godforsaken place!”

    He pried the lock open with his knife and Karnwyr stepped out. The poor wolf was ragged and looking a bit thin. He licked at Bishop’s hand and whined.

    “There, there. What do you say we go play a little game for old time’s sake? I’ll shoot an arrow into one of these bandit bastards knees and you can go rip his face off.”

    Karnwyr barked and wagged his tale. Bishop shouted, “Let’s go make these sons of bitches pay!”

    Rona followed after the two of them and watched their incredible teamwork. Bishop did indeed loft several arrows into several knees, and guts, and heads, and Karnwyr didn’t hesitate to tear into their flesh and rip them to pieces.

    Rona got a few kills in herself, picking off some of the wealthy patrons of this sickening debacle. Then while Bishop was too blinded by rage, plunging his dagger into the bandit leader, another fellow came up behind him swinging a hammer. The bandit would have crushed his skull if Rona didn’t loose an arrow into his ribs giving Karnwyr a chance to attack.

    The wolf lunged at the man and sank his teeth into his skull, the man screamed but fell silent after a squelching crunch! Bishop looked back at the scene and then at Rona who just scowled at him and said, “What did you tell me about paying attention to your surroundings?”

    He chuckled and stood up, wiping the blood from his hands onto his shirt, “Heh, guess I got a little carried away there.” He kicked the mangled head of the corpse under him. “Pieces of shit like this just piss me right the fuck off,” he growled.

    Rona turned towards the exit and Bishop followed her out of the cavern and into the bright sunlight. It was midday and the light really showed just how filthy they were, Bishop in particular had blood spatter on his face and all over his hands.

    “Come on, I know where there’s a streamlet nearby that we can wash up at.” He started walking down the path, northward, Karnwyr padding beside him but Rona didn’t budge.

    She stared at his back, stunned. He noticed she wasn’t following and turned around and said, “You coming?”

    “I…,” she paused and fumbled with her hands, then met with his gaze, “I thought you would have left, now that you have Karnwyr back.”

    He cocked an eyebrow and smirked, “You still need a tracker don’t you?”

    “To track what?”

    “Dragons of course!” he said as he walked away.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 7

    Stony Creek Cavern

     

    Bishop led her but two miles up the road to a spring nestled among the mountains. A small dock and broken fishing boat lay at the edge of the pond, covered in moss. They left their horses to graze on the grass around the creek. Rona stopped by the dock and watched as tiny tadpoles swam around a nook in the boat.

    Bishop wandered up to a small cave opening in the pond and drew his dagger, Karnwyr followed him. “This is Stony Creek Cavern, a usual hiding spot for bandits. I’ll clear the place out and then we can bathe at ease,” he said.

    He vanished into the cave. Rona sat down on the edge of the dock, pulling her boots and gloves off and slid her feet into the cool water. The sounds of barking and shouting came from inside the cave, but she waited patiently. She had full confidence that Bishop could handle it, not to mention she was beat.

    He came out shortly and wiped at his brow, smearing more blood across his forehead. Karnwyr padded along behind him and stopped at the pond to take a drink. Bishop plopped down on the grass beside Rona and pulled his own boots and gloves off, he splashed his feet into the water and said, “Aaahh, that’s better!”

    She said, “I’ll let you wash first, you’re way filthier than me.”

    “Who says we have to take turns Ladyship?” He stood up and started unbuckling his top and slipped it off revealing his trim physique. Rona’s eyes widened and her cheeks burned.

    “We-we-I-I don’t have a bathing suit!” she stammered.

    “You’ve got underwear don’t yah?” he inquired wryly and started to unbuckle his pants, “That should be good enough.”

    He dropped his pants to reveal his underwear, a pair of short white braies and a substantial package bulging under them. Rona threw her hands up to cover her eyes and felt the tips of her ears burning. Bishop just laughed at her and dove in, splashing her in the process. Karnwyr took this as a sign that the water was okay and jumped in next.

    “C’mere boy!” Bishop grabbed the wolf and ran his fingers through his fur, “Aw, you’re covered in fleas!”

    Rona peeked at him through her fingers, still stunned that he’d just disrobed in front of her. He was too busy washing his wolf to seem to care though. Then he looked up at her, grinning, “C’mon on in Lightfoot! The water’s fine, ‘sides I’ve already seen your ass. There’s not a whole lot more to discover.”

    She jumped up and dashed over to the horses, flustered. She’d never, ever disrobed in front of a man before. The very idea of it was so – thrilling. Thrilling? She thought to herself, exasperated. What is wrong with me? To want to do that with…him? Still, she could hear him splashing and playing with Karnwyr and it sounded…fun. Maybe just once, just this once, she could do something crazy. As if everything in my life isn’t crazy already.

    She started rummaging through the saddle bag on her mare and pulled out a bottle of perfumed tonic and a bar of soap. A mischievous smile curved over her lips. She came back over to the tiny dock to find Bishop digging into one of Karnwyr’s ears and muttering, “Looks like you got ear mites buddy. God damn those bandits were filthy.”

    He looked up to see Rona standing on the dock, barefooted, hands on her hips. He blinked at her then said, “Sooo, you joining us, or?”

    “On one condition!” She had his full attention now and he waited, eyebrows raised. “That you use this soap,” she foisted the soap up in one hand, “and you let me wash your hair with this tonic,” she held the bottle up with her other hand.

    He chuckled, “Ladyship, I don’t know if you can count or not, but that’s two conditions.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him, “You want to see me in my underwear or not?”

    He looked at her, lascivious and yelled, “Toss me the soap!”

    She threw it to him and set the bottle of tonic down on the dock. It was almost comical the way Bishop stared so intently at her while using the soap to scrub an armpit.

    She took a deep breath, sighed and reached back to undo a button under her hair. Her dress came loose and fell down to her feet revealing her lacy white bra and simple white panties. She was petite, with light pink skin, a tinge of gold in certain light, and her breasts weren’t very big, but just big enough to suit her small frame. She turned absolutely crimson as Bishop drank in the sight before him and as usual, couldn’t seem to help but comment, “Mmm, you temptress.”

    She kicked the dress aside and shouted, “Coming in!” She leapt into the chill water making a tiny splash. The pond wasn’t too deep, but enough that her feet couldn’t quite reach the bottom. She came up for air allowing her hair to pull back on her head.

    Again she caught Bishop gaping at her, so she splashed him. “Hey!” he laughed, “I’m not done soaping up princess, but I’m glad to see you’re having fun now.”

    She smiled, “This is fun. Awkward, but fun.”

    “Awkward? Are you telling me that two people – who hardly know each other, I might add – swimming around in a pond in their underwear is somehow awkward? I couldn’t disagree more Ladyship.”

    “No…but, seeing your umm…that,” she pulled a hand above the water and pointed downward, “is awkward.”

    The water was fairly clear in daylight and he glanced down, then moved a hand to cover his crotch and said, “Ah, yeah…the raging erection. Yeah, that would be awkward.”

    She rolled her eyes at him and swam back over to the dock grabbing the bottle of tonic. She came up close to him, taking him by surprise. She gave him a sensual smile and said, “Close your eyes.”

    He closed them and said, “Oh, you gonna surprise me?”  And then she dumped the syrupy concoction all over his head. He grunted and leapt back in the water opening his eyes, “What the hell is this? Ah it burns! What are you doing to me woman!”

    “Keep your eyes shut and hold still!” she scolded and swam around to his back where she started to rub the tonic into his hair, making it foam.

    “Augh, it smells like – like a woman!”

    “It’s just honey lavender and rose petal, they’re flowers,” she insisted.

    “I do not want to smell like a woman or like flowers!” he growled.

    “Quit moving and let me wash your hair! It’s disgusting. You’ve got dried blood from two days ago still in it.”

    He sulked but held still as she ran her hands through his hair, picking out a few twigs and some dead bugs. After scrubbing for a few minutes she couldn’t help but notice the scars outlining his back, some small, others deep, but all healed over and dulled with age. She mindlessly traced a finger over one of the deeper, longer gashes, wondering what had happened to him.

    Bishop’s low sounding voice startled her, “Thought you were washing my hair? You done back there?”

    “Ah, yeah,” she said pulling away, “You can rinse.”

    “Finally,” he mumbled then dunked his head underwater forcing the soap bubbles to rise up. He swam over to the water’s edge and pulled himself up and out of the pond grabbing his boots as he went. He didn’t dare to turn around though, Rona figured for a very pointed reason. When she asked him where he was going, he waved a hand back and said, “Gonna go make camp and get us some dinner.”

    He left his clothes behind, no doubt intending to wash them later. Rona decided she’d wash them up for him, along with her dress. She spent a good hour bathing herself and then another thoroughly rinsing their clothes and used a spell to quick dry them. She dressed herself and fixed her hair up. Feeling refreshed she wandered over to where the horses were grazing and where Bishop had set up their tents. He was nowhere to be seen, though a pot was simmering over a fire. She pulled the lid off and stirred the stew.

    A piece of meat flew through the air and landed in the grass nearby. Karnwyr rushed over and tore into it just as Bishop was seen strolling through the trees, still in his underwear, with just his boots on. He was carrying his bow and had two dead rabbits skewered on an arrow.

    “Got dinner,” he said as he set the rabbits down by his bedroll.

    “Washed your clothes,” she said and tossed him his trousers.

    He caught them and said, “Hey thanks!” He kicked his boots off so he could pull his pants on, though he left his shirt up on Whiskey’s saddle. He took a seat on the ground withdrew his dagger and started skinning the rabbits. Rona watched as he did it with ease, something he’d obviously done hundreds of times before.

    “Nice knife,” she said, “Where’d you get it?”

    Bishop swiveled it in his palm, “This dear right here is a token I took from one bandit back in the day. I was seven, barely learned how to use a bow, some bandits attacked my village and well, we fought them off. I took this one from one of the corpses and killed the last bandit who thought I was just a lad unable to make a quick decision.”

    “I see you use it all the time. Does it have any enchantments?”

    “No, it just cuts, Princess,” he looked up at her, the firelight dancing in his eyes, “want to feel?”

    She cringed, “Are you trying to be sensual? Because if so, it’s just creepy.”

    He sighed, “Ah, and here I thought I was being clever with my innuendo. Here,” he tossed her the meat of the first skinned rabbit, “Mind peeling the meat off that one and mixing it in the stew?”

    She obliged and finished helping him make their dinner. Rona spent the evening telling him stories from her time in the Fighter’s Guild, sharing some of the more absurd contracts she and her comrades were sent on. Such as the time they were enlisted to hunt for a unicorn out in Harcane Grove at the request of a very wealthy noble, to no avail of course, or the time they had to clear out an infestation of smelly scamps in some woman’s home after she offended a daedra when she stole his staff. He laughed particularly hard at the story about the Oblivion gate some amateur conjurer managed to open in the middle of his house, blasting it to pieces and unleashing an army of dremora and daedroth on the local townsfolk.

    She always seemed to be the only one telling him about herself though. He rarely opened up about himself or his past, and when he did he kept it brief and vague. Because he doesn’t trust anyone, she reminded herself, not even you.

    As they said their goodnights and laid down to sleep Rona resolved that she would make a new dagger for him, one that didn’t have such a sad story attached to it.

    ~~~

    The next morning Rona was finishing packing up their supplies while Bishop struggled to hold onto his wriggling wolf to check in his ears. “Just hold still you damn animal!” Karnwyr pulled himself free of the headlock, barked and ran off around the camp.

    Rona giggled at the sight of the happy wolf chasing the birds and rolling in the dirt, his tongue lolling partly out of his mouth as he panted.

    Bishop laid back on the grass, put a hand to his head and sighed, “He’s got a bad case of ear mites, think he’s still got some fleas too.”

    “I know,” Rona said, “They chewed me up last night.”

    “You too? Ah, damn it.”

    Rona pulled a potion and a piece of jerky from one of the pouches on her horse. She knelt down, whistled and clicked her tongue at the wolf. Karnwyr looked over at her, wagging his tale. Bishop pushed himself up on his elbows and said, “Careful princess, don’t want you to get bit.”

    She smiled at him, “It’ll be fine.” She clicked her tongue at the wolf again and showed him the piece of jerky. Karnwyr’s ears perked up and he licked his chops. He got up and warily padded over to her, cocking his head slightly. She tore it into smaller pieces and dangled one in front of him. He lunged forward grabbing the small piece and ran off with it to drop it in the dirt and tear at it with a paw.

    Bishop just shook his head at her, “Nice try, Lightfoot. You won’t get him to trust you that easily.”

    She smirked back at him, “Just give me a minute.”

    After Karnwyr finished scarfing down the dried meat Rona held her hand out again and clicked her tongue. He cocked his head curiously and came up closer, pausing by her hand this time. She held the piece in her fist and pressed her hand to the ground. Karnwyr laid down and sniffed and licked at her hand.

    She scratched behind his ears and pet him, then let him have the piece. “Good boy,” she praised him and continued petting him. But as soon as Karnwyr finished his piece he ran off again.

    Bishop shook his head at her simply said, “Told yah.”

    “I’m not finished yet!” she exclaimed, “Be patient.”

    Again she put a piece of jerky in hand and clicked her tongue at the distracted wolf who was barking at some birds up in a tree. As soon as he heard her clicking he turned around and padded right over to her without hesitation. She pressed her hand to the ground and he laid down to sniff at it again. This time she held it there as she scratched his back and pet him more on the head.

    With her free hand she pressed his ear back and got a glimpse of the festering mites inside. She grabbed the potion beside her and uncorked it with her teeth then dribbled some around on the side of his head where she was able to massage it into his ear all the while praising him, cooing and saying what a good boy he was.

    Bishop stared at her open-mouthed. She gave Karnwyr the piece of jerky and while he chewed it up she grabbed one more piece and clicked her tongue showing it to him. She got him to turn around so she could work potion into his other ear and for good measure poured the rest of the potion across his back and rubbed it into his fur.

    By now her hands were all sticky and covered in fur but she’d managed to apply the whole bottle which would kill any parasites on the wolf. After chewing up his last piece of jerky he whimpered at her and rubbed his nose against her hand, probably looking for more food. She showed him her empty hands and he rolled over exposing his belly to her, tongue lolling out of his mouth. She laughed and rubbed her sticky hands all over his belly.

    Bishop pushed himself off the ground and as soon as he did so Karnwyr leapt to his feet and started racing around their camp again. Rona stood up, holding her hands out so as to not touch anything.

    “I can’t believe he let you do that,” Bishop said, stunned. Karnwyr barked at him playfully, butt in the air, tail wagging and Bishop called back, “Traitor!” He sighed and crossed his arms, “He must take after me, he’s got a weakness for pretty women.”

    Rona smirked and turned towards the pond, “I’m just gonna go wash my hands and then we can get going.”

    “Sounds good,” Bishop said as he pulled himself up into his saddle.

    Rona rinsed her hands in the water and pulled her mother’s urn from her pouch. She held it to her chest and looked over the crystal clear surface. She opened the urn and took a pinch of ash and scattered it across the grass and smiling to herself she whispered, “Where I did something…thrilling.”

    She turned on foot as Bishop called, “Hurry up Ladyship! Before the sun sets already.”

    She mounted Karinda and they both watched as Karnwyr rolled around in a particularly muddy patch of earth.

    “Honestly, I’m thinking of doing the same thing,” Bishop said, sniffing himself, “I still smell like a bouquet of roses.”

    “At least you don’t smell like a dragon breath anymore,” Rona quipped.

    He gawked at her as she snapped her reins and sped off down the path.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 8

    Ivarstead

     

    They headed west along some small dirt paths until they came upon the main road. Bishop said Ivarstead wasn’t more than a day’s ride from where they were so they moved casually, taking their time. Rona enjoyed taking in all the sights of the lush forest and meeting the unique people that passed by from time to time. They even came across a traveling caravan of khajiit and though Bishop was wary of them Rona insisted they stop and stock up on potions and arrows. She bought two honey-nut treats on skewers for each of them and a slab of raw meat for Karnwyr.

    Bishop scolded her for spoiling the wolf as he’d just fed him and she argued how thin he was. Karnwyr didn’t complain either way and scarfed the food down while Rona and Bishop ate theirs and bickered back and forth about how much the wolf should get to eat.

    They met a traveling bard named Talsgar the Wanderer and Rona asked if he would perform some songs with her. Bishop rolled his eyes at her but patiently waited as the two of them sang along to the Age of Aggression then Talsgar played on flute as she sang a solo rendition of Scarborough Fair.

    (The Song is Scarborough Fair by Erutan)

    Talsgar was quite impressed but even more so once Bishop nonchalantly said, “Yeah, and she’s the Dragonborn too.”

    “By the nine!” he gasped grasping her hands, “To meet the Dragonborn in person! I’d never have believed it. You’re…,” he paused glancing at her ears, “an elf?”

    Rona laughed and shrugged, “Half altmer, half nord actually.”

    Talsgar chortled, “I see, I see! The Gods certainly like to play such games with us. Well Lady Rona, I’ll be sure to sing your stories all across Skyrim! And to be as accurate as possible certainly now that I know just how lovely you are!”

    Rona gave him a smile and thanked him for singing with her. She asked him for some tips on his speechcraft when he waved a hand and said, “Ah. Well. After a little incident with a roguish lad and the daughter of a prominent Thane… Well, let’s just say, best not. But if you’re serious about that tongue of yours, you might try the Bard’s College in Solitude.”

    Rona’s eyes lit up, “There’s a Bard’s College here in Skyrim?”

    “Yes, it’s where I trained as a lad, although to be quite honest m’lady, you’re already quite proficient in the art of song,” he reached into his travel bag and said, “Ah, here, I’d like you to have this.” He handed her a small, worn book with the title Songs of Skyrim scrawled across the cover in flaky gold lettering.

    “For me?” she said as she traced the title with a finger.

    “Yes, for sharing in some poetic eddas with me. I truly enjoyed them my dear and I’m quite glad to have crossed your path on this fateful day. Why it’s not every day one meets a living legend after all. I do hope that you will continue to share your lovely voice and infectious joy with Skyrim, Gods know we need it now more than ever.”

    “Thank you,” she said pressing the book to her chest.

    “You are most welcome my dear. It was a pleasure, take care!” He left them singing, “Our hero, our hero claims a warrior’s heart! I tell you, I tell you the Dragonborn comes!”

    She smiled and slid the book into her saddle bag then climbed back onto her horse. They moved on, continuing their journey. Bishop said, “We’ll be there in another hour or so. We’re making good time, the sun’s still up.” They were quiet for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts before Bishop said, “It’s probably a good thing you’re a bard.”

    She gave him a side-eyed glance and said, “Why’s that?”

    “Because you can write your own story and sing it and it’ll be more true and accurate than whatever those other bards make up. Especially when they teach a song and then someone else changes it or forgets a line and just makes it up and it keeps going from person to person until it’s just nonsense.”

    “Hmm…I could write a book,” she said pulling, Songs of Skyrim from her saddle bag. She thumbed through the pages, “If I write it all down then they can’t change the story,” she paused and said quietly, “I’ll sing about you too.”

    “What?” he leaned towards her as though he hadn’t heard her.

    She looked up at him, their gazes meeting. “I said…I’ll sing about you. How you helped guide me through Skyrim.”

    He waved a hand dismissively, “Don’t go singing about me. I’d rather fade from history.”

    “Why?”

    He gripped the reins of his horse and growled, “Because my story isn’t worth remembering.”

    Rona looked concerned and reached out to touch his hand, “How could you say that about yourself? Of course you’re worth remembering.”

    He looked up at her and had the most gentle expression she’d ever seen on his face. Was this what it looked like when Bishop expressed warmth or affection? It faded all too quickly though as he turned away from her and laughed under his breath, “I’m just saying, no one cares about the man that followed the Dragonborn around, they care about the Dragonborn herself and her story. That’s what they’ll want to hear, so that’s what you should sing about…Hey, I see Ivarstead coming up!”

    She didn’t see any sign of the town anywhere, but Bishop spurred Whiskey onward to evade her gaze. Rona didn’t know how to get through to this mystery of a man. Was he ever going to trust her with the stories of his past? He chose to continue journeying with her, so surely he trusted her somewhat…

    It wasn’t for another twenty minutes that they finally reached the town. Ivarstead was small, with about four buildings, one of them being a burned out structure across the river. A few townsfolk were working on a farm in the distance while a couple of Stormcloak guards patrolled the area. Bishop lead his horse near the river and dismounted, Rona did the same and they allowed their steeds to take a drink from the river and graze in the small paddock near the inn.

    Rona looked up at the mountain before her. It was tall and patches of snow covered the higher rungs. Bishop said, “Never had a reason to climb that mountain before. Guess now’s as good a time as any. We’ll leave bright and early tomorrow morning.”

    Karnwyr started barking and growling aggressively around the other side of the inn and they heard people shouting. Bishop and Rona ran around to find two Stormcloak guards cornering him, their weapons drawn.

    A male Stormcloak muttered, “Can’t believe a wolf would come this close to town, stupid mongrel.”

    “Just kill it already Hamvak and be done with it,” said the female Stormcloak beside him.

    “Hey!” Bishop shouted at them, “Touch my wolf and you’re dead.”

    The male Stormcloak called Hamvak turned to look back at him and scoffed, “Your wolf? This mangy pit meat belongs to you?”

    Rona pleaded, “Please don’t hurt him, he’s very friendly, he won’t bother anyone.”

    “Friendly?” Bishop growled at her then glared back at the guards, “Karnwyr is not friendly. Go ahead and give him a reason to rip your throats out, I dare you.”

    “You’re not helping Bishop,” Rona clicked her tongue and called to Karnwyr, who, hair still bristling along his back and fangs bared, carefully padded around the guards and up to her. He calmed slightly and pressed his nose into her hand, obviously expecting food.

    “No wolves allowed in town,” Hamvak ordered, then he nodded in Rona’s direction and added, “And no knife ears either.”

    What did you just say?” Bishop snarled.

    “I said to take your bitches and leave.”

    The female Stormcloak mumbled, “Hamvak, please stop…”

    Bishop drew his dagger and took one step towards the man, but Rona grabbed his arm to stop him and said, “We have every right to be here.”

    “Oh yeah? By what right?” Hamvak scoffed at her.

    She stepped forward and held her head high, “By birthright. I am Dragonborn.”

    “It can’t be…” the female Stormcloak gasped.

    The male Stormcloak sneered, “Hah, if the Gods ever went and made some arrogant piss-skin the Dragonborn then I’d be a frost troll’s uncle.”

    Rona took a deep breath and cried to the skies, “FUS!”

    The thunderous rumble of her shout shook the mountainside and caught the attention of all the townsfolk who stopped plowing their fields to stare at them.

    The Stormcloak woman pulled her helmet off and gaped at Rona, “By Talos…so the legends are true.” She scowled at her associate and smacked him on the back of the head, hard. “You idiot! How could you say such foul things to her? What’s wrong with you!?”

    Hamvak threw his helmet off and rubbed his head, “Augh! That hurt!”

    “You deserved it,” the woman hissed back.

    To her surprise, Rona saw that he was just a lad who couldn’t possibly be older than sixteen or seventeen.

    Bishop slid his dagger back in its sheath and crossed his arms, “I didn’t exactly see you standing up for her either.”

    The woman bowed her head to them and profusely apologized, “I’m so sorry m’lady. I should have spoken up sooner. Please, I hope you can forgive me and my dimwitted little brother for our behavior.”

    Rona hesitated, “It-it’s alright. I just didn’t want to see anyone get hurt.”

    The woman smiled at her and said, “That’s very kind of you. My name is Risla and this is my baby brother Hamvak. He’s still a bit of a milk-drinker but he’s got a good heart, I promise you.”

    The young man scowled at his sister and Bishop commented, “Got a sharp tongue too, he’d best watch himself.”

    Rona smiled back at Risla and said, “I’m Rona and this is my companion Bishop. Oh and this is Karnwyr,” she said scratching the happy wolf who’d calmed down now that everyone else had relaxed.

    “Welcome to Ivarstead,” Risla said, “We’re very glad to see you’ve finally arrived. We heard the Greybeard’s call a while back and were wondering what it all meant.”

    “Yes, I’m here to answer their summons and begin my training.”

    “That’s wonderful! I hope you’ll enjoy your stay, and please don’t worry about your wolf, we’ll leave him be, right Hamvak?” She frowned at her brother.

    “Whatever…,” he muttered.

    “Thank you Risla,” Rona said and then looked over at Hamvak who was still scowling, and sulking with his arms crossed. She approached him and gave him a warm smile, “It was nice meeting you too Hamvak. By the way I’m only half a piss-skin if that makes you feel any better. The other half is all snow-back.”

    She winked at him, making him go pink in the cheeks. Then she turned and lead the way into the inn, Bishop and Karnwyr following closely at her heels.

    Rona took a seat at a nearby table and Karnwyr laid under it at her feet as Bishop asked the innkeeper for two rooms and ordered their usual drinks. He sat down across from her, sliding their drinks on the table and immediately said, “The hell was that all about? You flirting with that kid, or what?”

    She laughed, “Well I figured if I can’t win him over by being nice I can always win him over by being flirty, I did learn from the best after all.”

    Bishop rest his head in his hand and leaned forward on the table, “So you’re saying I’ve won you over?”

    “Well…not quite yet.”

    “I suppose I’ll just have to try harder then,” he gave her a salacious smile.

    She returned it and said, “I guess you will.”

    He laughed, “Don’t tempt me Princess.”

    The evening was quiet at the inn, the only people in attendance were the rugged, middle-aged innkeeper and an attractive female bard. The short-haired woman played her lute softly and chattered with the innkeeper while Bishop and Rona drank their drinks and exchanged some more flirty remarks.

    Bishop set his drink down and said, “Tsk tsk, the things that come out of your mouth sometimes.”

    “Can you blame me?” she tossed back laughing, “You’re a bad influence.”

    He grinned and thumbed the label on his drink, pausing to think before he said, “So you deal with that sort of thing a lot?”

    “What sort of thing?” she asked resting her chin over her hands.

    He nodded to the door, “That kind of blatant racism?”

    “Hmm…not a lot, at least not in Cyrodiil. People are a lot kinder to mixed people like myself on that side of Tamriel,” she mused, “I still got the usual, ‘Thalmor scum’ remarks from a few people holding a grudge but it’s been a long time since I heard something as off-color as that.”

    “I hate the way they look at you,” he said, “Makes me want to pound their skulls in.” He  cracked his knuckles.

    “Oh? The way who looks at me?”

    “These damned nords and any man really. Got half of them looking to kill you and the other half following your ass around.”

    She looked at him, half-lidded eyes, “Oh, you mean just like you – nord?”

    He smirked, “Exactly! Although I think I’m the only one looking at you both ways, depending on my mood and how stupid you’re being.”

    “Gee thanks,” she drawled and then asked him, “Are you from Skyrim?”

    “Born here, but wouldn’t say I’m from here.”

    “Where did you live?”

    “Everywhere.”

    “Can’t you ever tell me about yourself without deflecting or being vague?”

    Bishop rolled his eyes, “You can ask, but I’ll answer however I damn well please.”

    “How am I supposed to get to know you better if you never talk to me?”

    He drank from his bottle of mead and said, “Look Lightfoot, I don’t like to dwell on the past. It was all shit, all the way up until…well I came here I guess. And even then, it was shit.”

    “Is it still shit?”

    He looked at her, “What? You mean like with you?”

    “Yeah,” she said dejectedly.

    “Hell no! Meeting you…well it was crazy at first, definitely considered skipping out a few times, like with that dragon,” he pointed a finger at her, “You are walking trouble, that’s for damn sure. But it’s been fun, plus you helped me get this mangy mutt back,” he scratched the sleepy wolf behind his ears, “and I’ll always be grateful for that.”

    She smiled and blushed a little.

    “Ah there it is,” he smirked at her, “Been missing that. I have to be more bold these days to get any kind of rise out of you.”

    “Doesn’t take much to get a rise out of you though,” she teased.

    He laughed and shook his head at her, “You know I think I’m starting to rub off on you Ladyship.”

    “Not yet,” she shot back matching his laughter.

    Their word games were just that, playful games, always trying to one up each other as much as they could. But as they turned in for the night and Rona lay in her bed she began to wonder what her feelings really meant. Being around him, at first he, was just a vulgar hedonist, but now she almost enjoyed it. Every time he complimented her, every time he looked at her with lust filled eyes she couldn’t help but get excited.

    He was so different from the few men who had court her. The would-be paladins and the stuffy, proper men that put on a mask, a lie, to try and win her heart. Bishop was just so different. He was honest and blunt, he never hid who he really was. He was electrifying and…dangerous. She wanted so much more from him.

    But she was afraid too. To fall for someone like him, to let him bed her…would he leave? He often treated her like a challenge. And so she played that game, she ran and he chased when all she wanted to do was turn around and run right into his arms.

    She didn’t want it to end though and so she would play their game a while longer and see how long he would chase – see if perhaps he could win her heart when no other could.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    Chapter 9

    The Treacherous Climb

     

    Rona woke up much earlier than Bishop. She was dreaming of the Dragonborn women again. There were so many of them singing around her, that when she woke their voices still rang in her ears.

    She greeted the day with cheer, spreading her infectious smile along to the innkeeper and the lovely bard before heading outside to collect her lute. Her mind was brimming with songs and she was determined to set them free on such a beautiful day. She sat down on the edge of a large boulder near the river, crossing her legs.

    Her fingers trailed across her lute and she sang loudly and elegantly catching the attention of the farmers and guardsmen. Some of them gawked, others laughed and whispered to each other, one man even clapped. For the first time in forever she honestly did not care what they thought of her.

    (The song is Birds of a Feather by Erutan)

    “I will always love you 
    I love you 
    and with this kiss I make this vow 
    to love you forever 
    Like birds of a feather we’ll be 
    You with me 

    And I will always need you
    I need you
    It’s not too late to say this now
    I’ll love you forever
    Like birds of a feather we’ll be
    You with me

    Oh when my heart was locked up tight
    another day, another day
    without you burning in me bright
    I found in the night, light
    here, here with you

    I will always love you
    I love you
    and with this kiss I make this vow
    to love you forever
    Like birds of a feather we’ll be
    You with me.

    I’ll love you forever

    Like birds of a feather we’ll be

    Here with me.”

    “That was lovely milady, I didn’t know you were a bard.” Risla said as she sauntered up to her.

    Rona smiled, “I wouldn’t say I’m really a bard, at least, I don’t do it professionally, it’s more of a hobby?”

    Risla laughed, “Either way it’s wonderful. You have a beautiful and powerful voice which is why I’m sure the Gods chose you as Dragonborn.”

    “Perhaps,” Rona hesitated. She wasn’t terribly religious or anything but she respected the Aedra the same way she did the Daedra, as something to keep a considerable distance from, for safety’s sake at least.

    “Ah you’re probably wondering what I’m doing here, I wanted to give you this.” Risla handed her an Amulet of Talos, “It belonged to our father. I…I just wanted you to understand the reason for my brother’s…behavior yesterday.”

    “You mean his unabashedly flagrant racism?” Bishop came into the paddock, Karnwyr at his side.

    Risla lowered her head shamefully, “Yes. His hatred of the Thalmor has sadly extended towards even the innocent – to elves who are not acquainted with them and who may even hate them just as much as we do.”

    “Let me guess, the Thalmor killed some close relative and now he’s got it in his mind that he should hate them all. And you obviously felt the same way, so you both ran off to join the Stormcloaks and chase them and all the other so-called outsiders out of Skyrim,” Bishop was clearly on point as Risla gave him a guarded look.

    She swallowed hard. “You’re right. I hated them, I still do,” she lamented turning back to look at Rona, “The Thalmor murdered our parents, drug them off in the dead of night, charged them as heathens and publicly executed them. We couldn’t even give them a proper burial since they burned their bodies. They left us with nothing but that amulet, a token of our beliefs hidden away under a floor board.”

    Rona looked down at the amulet and said, “I can’t accept this. You and your brother should have it.”

    “Lady Rona, I know why the Gods chose you. You said it yourself; half nord and half…altmer,” she seemed to struggle with the word, “They chose you because your destiny is entwined with ours. Can’t you see? The struggles of Skyrim are yours too!”

    “Bullshit!” Bishop barked, “Skyrim’s struggles are its own! Don’t go dumping the world’s problems on her just because she’s the Dragonborn.”

    Risla studied him and said, “You’re a nord, wouldn’t you fight for our freedom?”

    “I’ve got no stake in the petty squabbles of Jarls and Kings. I fight for myself and no one else.”

    “You fight for her do you not?” she nodded to Rona.

    “I fight with her,” Bishop clarified.

    She grimaced at him then turned to Rona. “And what say you Lady Rona? Your companion seems to speak for you, but would you fight for Skyrim? For our freedom?”

    Rona thought for a moment before she answered, “When I first came to Skyrim, I was taken prisoner by the Imperials and thrown in a carriage with two other Stormcloaks. We were destined for the chopping block that day and if not for the dragon that destroyed Helgen, I wouldn’t have survived. A Stormcloak soldier pulled me to my feet and guided me away from the turmoil. But it was an Imperial soldier who showed me the way out of Helgen. They were both nords, they both fought for Skyrim, for what they believed in.”

    Risla stared, silent.

    Rona continued, “Before that day I would have sided with the Imperials, every time. Now though, I don’t know who to follow. You may be right, that my destiny is intertwined with the fate of Skyrim and its civil war, I’ve thought that too. But the more time I spend here, the more I meet people – like you,” she nodded to Risla, “I just want to see the bloodshed end.”

    Risla shouted, “You are destined to usher in the new era, I know it!”

    “So you’re saying she should join you? Join the Stormcloaks? The very people that would spit on her see her thrown from these lands as soon as Ulfric claims his throne?” Bishop accused.

    Rona stood up and held the amulet out in her hand, “I’m sorry Risla, but I can’t accept this. I can’t join your cause.”

    Risla looked at her crestfallen, then pressed her lips together and smiled feebly, “No, you keep it.” She grasped Rona’s fingers and pressed them back onto the amulet. “You will need Talos’ guidance more than us. When you hold it…if you pray over it, please remember what we fight for.”

    Rona reluctantly accepted it and slipped it in her pouch, she spoke softly, “I’m sorry for your loss. I know what it means to lose a parent.”

    “Thank you m’lady,” Risla said, tears filling her eyes. Rona smiled at her, “Please don’t be sad, today’s the day I go to High Hrothgar!”

    Risla beamed at her and said, “Ysmir’s blessing on you.”

    ~~~

    Bishop made arrangements with the innkeeper to stable their horses and finished packing up a few necessities into a pack on his back before they began their trek up the Seven Thousand Steps to High Hrothgar. Karnwyr followed along, stomping through the snow and disappeared ahead of them to chase after a fox. Rona was worried they’d lose him at first, but Bishop assured her it would be fine and they’d catch up to him no doubt eating the fox.

    Bishop had thought ahead too and made a warm wool and fur trimmed cloak for her. She was amazed when she saw it. It was as white snow and incredibly soft.

    She held it up amazed by the craftsmanship, “You made this?”

    He grinned, “Yeah, just a little hobby of mine.”

    “But…when did you make it? I was with you every night and never once saw you working on it.”

    Bishop said, “Sometimes I don’t sleep…well, so you know. Spent a few sleepless nights working on it…” she gave him a worried look and he urged her, “Go on! Try it on already.”

    Bishop seemed quite pleased when she put it on. It wrapped snugly around her shoulders and the cape draped just past her dress.

    “It fits perfectly!” she said excitedly and spun in a circle.

    “Good, now you won’t freeze to death up there,” he smiled.

    “What about you?” she asked.

    “I’ve got a cloak if I need it, but it’s not even that cold.”

    She frowned at him and shivered under her cloak. He laughed and said, “Damn you’re pathetic!”

    The start up the path wasn’t too bad, Rona practically sprinted her way up at first. Bishop was gasping as he attempted to keep up with her, “Why…are…you…running? They’re stairs you lunatic!”

    She turned around and jogged in place, “I’ve got to keep my heart rate up if I want to stay warm!”

    He bent over, putting a hand on his knee and waved at her, “Fine, go on without me, I’ll catch up with you in a few days.” He wheezed trying to catch his breath.

    She laughed, ran over and pulled on his arm, “C’mon you slow poke!”

    He caught her by surprise when he grabbed her arm, yanking her closer and slid his hand around her waist under the cloak to pull her into a close embrace, his face inches from hers. She felt her cheeks flush red, though she was already so warm from the sprinting that she hoped it wasn’t noticeable. His breath was hot on her face and he whispered, “Am I going to have to strap you to me just to keep us at a normal pace?”

    She stammered, “J-just trying to stay warm.”

    “If you want warmth Ladyship I can show you a better way, we don’t even have to take off all our clothes.”

    Her face burned, no hiding it now, she thought. Bishop grinned at her and let her go, only to trudge past her through the snow. “There!” he called back, “That should keep you warm for a while!”

    You win this round, she pursed her lips, pouting before she ran after him.

    They caught up to Karnwyr after two hours of walking. He was whining and digging at a fox hole in between some rocks piled with snow.

    “Lost your prey buddy? That’s a shame,” Bishop whistled drawing the wolf’s attention and said, “Come on.”

    Karnwyr padded up to them, keeping pace next to Rona where he nuzzled her hand looking for food.

    “See?” said Bishop, “You’ve got him expecting food now every time he hears a whistle.”

    “Well at least he knows to come now.”

    Bishop scoffed at her but then inquired, “How’d you learn to train an animal like that anyhow?”

    She scratched Karnwyr’s persistent muzzle and said, “One of my comrades bred and trained huskies as war dogs. I learned how to teach them a few tricks through positive reinforcement.”

    “The hell does that mean?”

    “It means whenever the dog does something you want it to, you use food to reward him. Teaching them commands was a lot more difficult, but it’s just a lot of repetitive training.”

    He looked over at Karnwyr who in that moment decided to wildly chase after a bird, barking loudly and attracting the attention of a rather large frost troll. He yelped and ran back, fur bristling as he growled and barked at the creature.

    Rona drew her bow, and Bishop tossed his pack aside and thumbed his dagger, “You know, Karnwyr could probably use some of that training.”

    “You think!?” Rona shouted back as she ran through the snow keeping her bow aimed at the troll. Bishop spun his dagger in hand and stared the creature down, taunting it, “C’mon. Come get me.”

    The troll stomped through the snow with ease and took a swipe at Bishop who leapt backward. Rona hit it with an arrow to the back and it howled giving Bishop a chance to lunge forward and stab into it.

    Rona launched three more arrows into its body before it fell on all fours and swiftly turned round to focus its fury on her. She yelped and stumbled backward, tripping on a snow bank as it rushed her, swiping furiously. She cried out as she felt its claws slice through her face. Bishop came up on it quickly, burying his dagger into the nape of its neck. Its growls turned into gurgles as it slumped over. Rona ran a hand across her face and held it up, it was covered in blood. Bishop took one look at her and said, “Shit! Shit, shit, shit!”

    He ran back to grab his discarded pack and rifled through it looking for their medical supplies. He pulled out bandage wrappings and a potion. Rona held her hand to her face and used a healing spell to stem the bleeding. Bishop stumbled back over to her and grasped her chin with his free hand, holding her head steady, “Hold still,” he said as he poured the potion onto her cheek. It stung and she twitched, but he ran his hand up the other side of her head, holding it steady.

    She could feel the calluses on his hand as he pressed his fingers into the back of her scalp. He took a clean cloth and wiped at the wound, then poured more potion onto it. His face was very close to hers as he scanned the cuts then said, “Try another healing spell.”

    She pressed her glowing hand up to her cheek and felt some relief from the throbbing pain. She studied him as he dressed the wound, carefully pressing the bandages onto her cheek, gluing the outer edges with sterilized tree sap. His face was lined with concern as he worked on her, but it vanished as their eyes met and he said, “What?”

    She parted her lips to speak, to thank him for his concern, but second guessed it and instead said, “Is it bad?”

    He gave her a gentle smirk, “No, I think it’ll be fine. Definitely going to scar, but what’s the Dragonborn without some battle wounds?”

    He pulled her out of the snow bank and she dusted the fluffy powder off as best she could. After several more hours of walking they came up to a spot with a slight overhanging cliff, good for cover and decided to set up camp for the rest of the day.

    Bishop found a small amount of brush and put together a fire pit which Rona quickly lit and put her hands to. Karnwyr laid down next to her, also looking for warmth. She ran her fingers through his fur, he was damp and dirty.

    “He needs another bath already,” she said.

    Bishop sat back pulling some dried horker meat and bread from his pack to make them some sandwiches and said, “He’s always going to be dirty. You bathe him and the next chance he gets he’s rolling around in the mud, you’ve seen him.”

    “Well, he’s flea free at least!” she remarked.

    “Yeah, I’m glad for that. Don’t know if I could handle another night of bites.”

    Bishop threw her the sandwich and rolled a bottle of mead across the snow. They both tucked into their food and ate in silence, both exhausted from their day of hiking and their fight with the troll. Rona spent the rest of their evening singing songs and entertaining Bishop with stories of her childhood in Cyrodiil. She was surprised when he actually asked her, “You said your father works for the Mage’s Guild, what does he do there?”

    She shifted uncomfortably on the ground and averted eye contact, mumbling, “Oh Ata? He’s the Arch-Mage of the Arcane University…”

    Bishop narrowed his eyes at her and he said, “What was that?”

    She sighed, “I said, he’s the Arch-Mage of the Arcane University.”

    Bishop snickered and shook his head, “You mean, he’s the top guy? The one who runs everything and teaches their students and all that junk?”

    “Yeeaahh,” she breathed.

    “So that makes you, what? Some kind of noble?”

    “I am not a noble!” she snapped back, “We lived…comfortably, but never in excess. Ata always made sure that I understood what it meant to live, normally, like other common people.”

    “Other common people? My, you are privileged aren’t you?”

    She waved a hand, “That came out wrong. Look, alright, so I grew up around pompous noble types and I was never left wanting. Never experienced poverty or anything like that, but I did leave it all. I couldn’t be around…that anymore. Dealing with the Thalmor and the Emperor and ugh! I hated it all. You had to dress a certain way and just be a certain way. And how the Thalmor always looked down on me for being a half-breed – I couldn’t stand it!”

    Bishop scoffed, “It explains so much, you were just a rebellious little girl, running away from all the expectations.”

    Rona looked down at the lute in her lap, “It was more than that.”

    “How so?”

    “I loved to sing and to fight, I was more nord than my ata could handle.”

    “So you tried living with your mother, right. I remember, but that didn’t work either so?”

    “So I went back and tried to work on my magic, to be the mage my ata expected of me…”

    “And you failed again.”

    “Yeah, so I left. I had a good mage friend, Lorrie. Her brother, Linel, was in with the Fighter’s Guild, he was failed mage too. She said he could get me in with them, that they’d train me from the ground up if I was willing to take a good beating. I jumped at the chance and snuck out one night with just the clothes on my back and a dagger in hand. I left Ata a note admitting what I’d done –“

    “And he tried to drag you back, right?” Bishop interrupted.

    “Actually,” she said, “no, he didn’t.”

    Bishop raised his brows in surprise, “Why’s that?”

    She looked into the fire and watched the flames dance then breathed, “He told me that he thought it was the best thing I’d ever done for myself. He was actually glad for me, because when he saw me again, after spending a year in the Fighter’s Guild I was just so much happier.”

    They were both quiet for a moment before Bishop said, “He’s a good father. He cared more about your happiness than keeping up appearances.”

    Rona smiled, “Yeah, you’re right.”

    “What’s his name?”

    She looked up at him and said, “Serlas Thoraminh.”

    He chuckled, “So your surname is Thoraminh huh? Never would have guessed that in a million years. So what’s your middle name?”

    She went beet red and said with mock seriousness, “I’ll never tell.”

    Bishop laughed, “Now this I gotta know!”

    She yelled, “No way! That secret is dying with me!”

    He smiled and pressed her, “What’s it start with maybe I can guess?”

    She narrowed her eyes at him, “What’s your middle name?”

    He clammed up real quick and pursed his lips, “Yeah you know what, we don’t need to share those details.”

    She was curious now, but she’d wait for another time, perhaps when he was a bit more pliable to get the answer to that question.

    A chill wind blew over the mountain, passing through their camp. Rona shuddered and Bishop sighed, rolling his eyes and throwing their only blanket at her. She gave him a thankful smile as she wrapped it around herself and plucked at her lute. It wasn’t long before her teeth started chattering though. Still cold even with her cloak, the blanket, the fire and Karnwyr lying beside her.

    “Gods woman, I can hear your teeth chattering from here.” Bishop stood up and sat down beside her. He yanked the blanket off her shoulders and pulled it around the both of them then grasped her around her waist and pulled her in close to his body. She didn’t complain, the warmth was too welcoming.

    She leaned in and lay her head against his chest. She could hear the steady rhythm of his heart beat and his warm breath caressed her ear, “You’re really pathetic sometimes you know that?”

    He was certainly right about that. When it came to cold weather she was utterly pitiable. She felt her eyelids drooping and her breathing slowed. She mumbled, “I can hold my own against a dragon though…”

    “You sure can Lightfoot,” he whispered softly.

    ~~~

    She must have nodded off soon after that because when she woke up she found herself not only draped in her cloak but Bishop’s and to add to that she was sandwiched between both Karnwyr and Bishop with the blanket draped over the three of them.

    She could hear Bishop snoring gently, his hand resting over her waist and his body pressed close to hers. She felt warm and strangely content like this.

    After a minute or so Bishop roused and stopped snoring. Her back facing him, he must have thought she was still asleep. He pressed his face to her hair and she felt his hand begin to travel upwards resting on her breast. Oh, I see how it is, she grit her teeth and pulled her leg forward then threw it back right into his crotch causing him to lurch backward and cry out, “AUGH! FUCK! THAT HURT YOU WENCH! THE FUCK!”

    She sat right up and glared daggers at him.

    “You don’t do that to a man first thing in the morning, ugh,” he groaned and rubbed at his crotch.

    “And you don’t go around grabbing a woman’s tit because you think she’s still asleep!” she shouted back at him.

    He rolled over grumbling and grabbed his cloak from her to throw it over himself. “This is the thanks I get for keeping you from freezing to death all night?”

    “So you want payment in fondling?” she shot back.

    “Yeah actually, I think that would be nice considering you just hit me where it hurts most,” he said sarcastically.

    She rolled her eyes at him and grabbed her things to storm off into the snow, leaving him to pack up their small camp. It didn’t take terribly long for him to catch up to her however, as the snow was knee deep and she found herself completely stuck in a snow bank. She attempted to melt the snow around her with a flames spell but only managed to turn it into an awful mixture of slushy sleet.

    Bishop gave her a derisive look as he came up. “Now what are you going to do Princess?”

    She grunted, pulling on her legs in an attempt to move them. When they wouldn’t budge she gave him pathetic puppy dog eyes.

    “No. Don’t give me that look. You kicked me right in the snowberries, so why should I help you?”

    She sighed, “Okay! I’m sorry I kicked you, even though you kind of deserved it.”

    He crossed his arms, “No man deserves to suffer that – hey! Karnwyr! Damn it!”

    Karnwyr started digging into the snow bank around Rona’s knees, giving her enough room to pull herself free. She kicked at the snow and jumped out then knelt over the wolf, scratching him behind the ears and said, “Who’s a good boy?”

    “So damned disloyal…” Bishop grumbled and stomped off through the snow, “Good luck keeping up your shortness!”

    Rona followed behind, doing her best to keep up with him when they came to an open plateau. A nord woman was seated, cross legged in front of an etched stone emblem.

    As Bishop walked along, ignoring the woman Rona kicked snow off her boots, ran up to her and said, “Excuse me, I’m very sorry to bother you, but can you tell us how much farther High Hrothgar is?”

    The woman looked up at her, slightly annoyed and replied, “‘Bout another hour’s walk I’d say. Don’t know why you’d bother going all the way up though, the Greybeards won’t speak to anyone.”

    Bishop was hanging back waiting when he crossed his arms and said, “Bet they’ll talk to the Dragonborn.”

    The woman’s eyes lit up and she hopped onto her feet, swinging her arms, practically knocking Rona over in the process. She raced right up to Bishop and grasped his hands and said, “Can it truly be!?”

    He looked utterly perplexed and muttered, “Uhh…”

    “I was just outside Ivarstead when it happened! The call of the Greybeards…it was such an exciting moment! Nothing like this has happened in centuries. I’ve heard tales of the Dragonborn, but you are far more handsome than I’d ever imagined.”

    Bishop chuckled, “Me? You think I’m the Dragonborn?”

    As though she hadn’t heard him she said, “Please you must tell me all about your escape from Helgen, I must hear it firsthand!”

    Rona looked on with half-lidded eyes as Bishop chuckled and said, “Of course! Anything for a lovely woman such as yourself.”

    He gave Rona a cocky look then wove an absurd tale about his imaginary escape from Helgen, every word dripping with sarcasm, “Ah yes. My bold escape from Helgen. It was truly remarkable. There I was,” he waved a hand to an invisible scene, “captured by the Imperials and thrown in with the Stormcloaks – complete misunderstanding to be honest. They were going to lop our heads off right then and there when – all of a sudden – a vicious, bloodthirsty dragon came down on us and shouted half the soldiers to pieces! I managed to escape my bonds and fought the beast bravely and with the power of my voice I destroyed the dragon and sucked its soul straight from its bones.”

    The woman was in complete awe of him at this point and Bishop seemed to be enjoying himself all too much when she implored, “Please! I must hear your mighty shout Dragonborn!”

    He chuckled, “Oh? My shout? Right. That…,” he gave a fake cough and pointed at his neck, “Think I caught a bad cold, throat’s been a little sore ”

    Rona had her hands on her hips, smirking at him before she threw her head to sky and cried, “FUS!”

    The woman practically whirled around when she did so. Rona smiled and gave her a little wave, “Dragonborn, over here.”

    Bishop chuckled nervously until the woman started hitting him on the arm, “YOU LIED! YOU’RE NOT DRAGONBORN! HOW DARE YOU TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A WOMAN LIKE THAT!?”

    “Okay! Okay! Just stop hitting me! I’ve been beat on enough today!” he bellowed, blocking her fists with his arms.

    The nord woman ran across the way and in a strange turn of events grasped Rona’s hands and said, “Dragonborn! You are more beautiful than I ever could have imagined! Please tell me the truth, all about your escape from Helgen.”

    Bishop snickered as Rona’s ears peaked bright red. She stammered, “Uh, um…Well most of what he said was pretty accurate.”

    She begged for more details. Rona relented and gave a brief recounting of the events at Helgen. The woman was so thrilled as Rona told her tale that she gave them five different potions as a gift and then, before parting, kissed Rona on the cheek bid them farewell and ran off through the snow.

    Bishop started laughing when they were out of earshot of the woman and Rona put a hand to her cheek and said, “I was not expecting that.”

    “I could sure get used to being the Dragonborn if sexy women are just going to throw themselves at me and give me free stuff,” Bishop smirked at Rona. He was obviously trying to get under her skin with his flirtations.

    She made to speak when Bishop stopped abruptly and said, “You seeing what I’m seeing?”

    Rona looked ahead and felt her skin crawl with goose bumps, stunned by the sight of it. Hundreds of ghosts plod along the path ahead of them. The sounds of music and singing reached their ears.

    (The song is Battleborn by Two Steps from Hell)

    “Oh! There is fire in the air that I am breathing

    There is blood where the battles rage

    These are faces I will not remember

    Will I fight for the queen or the slave?

    The treacherous part

    To claim with our heart of courage

    Where the wind from the north

    Bodes the dragon

    And the armies and legions have formed

    We have camped for the night fully covered

    Fading ghosts in the shadow of war

     

    Battleborne!

    Battleborne!

    Battleborne!

    Battleborne!

     

    Gone.

    All the villagers led out to pasture

    The black wing of death as their liege

    Felt the ground

    It was bare from the plunder

    Soldiers that lie at my feet

    The maidens were lost

    Wading across an ocean

    On a ship heading south to the mainland

    I am standing in wake of the storm

    I was raised by the wolf and the stallion

    This sword was battleborne”

    Rona felt a strong connection with them. The words burned into her very soul. She was one of them, climbing the path they all once took long ago.

    “They’re Dragonborn,” she whispered.

    “Are they all bards? What’s with the singing?” Bishop wondered.

    “Songs of glory and battle,” Rona asserted, “Many are warriors that sing of the glories of battle, but not all of them.” She walked alongside one of them and looked into his face. He was a skinny nord man who looked petrified. She ran over to glimpse into the face of another, a bosmer this time, he was smiling, barely able to contain his excitement.

    “Some of them, they were given a gift…for others, it’s a curse,” she said as she continued to peer into their faces seeing their changing expressions. All of them pressed forward, not even noticing her.

    Bishop was also looking at them too and said, “Hey! A khajiit woman, and this guy’s an orc – I think. Half orc maybe? Wow, got a mixed bunch…mostly nords though.”

    Rona was amazed and bewildered by them. She too was meant to join their ranks. So I’m not alone, she mused to herself. She stared off at them, listening to the bard singing, “Battleboooooorn!

    The spirits all stopped abruptly and turned to face the same direction. The song was burning inside Rona as she too turned to look, to see what they were all looking at. At first she saw Jillian, ghostly and transparent, it looked as though she were calling out to Rona, and then she saw the beast – it’s face distorted in Jillian’s transparent body as it opened its maw and made to spew white hot rage at her.

    Bishop leapt onto her, dragging her down into the snow just as the flames blast around them, molding the snow into hard sleet.

    “GOD DAMN YOU WOMAN! WHY DO YOU HAVE TO GO DEAF EVERY TIME ONE OF THESE BASTARDS SHOWS UP!?”

    Bishop was shouting at the top of his lungs at her.

    “I’m – I’m sorry!” she cried back. They scrambled to their feet and watched as the spirits all cried at once, “FUS! RO! DAH!”

    It was so loud that the entire mountain lurched around them and the dragon was thrown a great distance. Jillian’s spirit came up to them and she said, “You know the song Dragonborn, you must sing if you are to survive! Now go!”

    Rona looked around, “Where’s Karnwyr!?”

    Bishop called out for the wolf and searched around the crevices in the mountainside. They found him laying on his side, tale tucked between his legs, whimpering and sitting in a pile of yellow snow.

    “Is he hurt?” Rona pleaded.

    Bishop pulled the wolf up and threw him over his shoulder, “No time to worry about that!” He pointed down at the dragon which had finally gained it’s bearings, “What did she say about some song!? Better start singing!”

    Rona took a deep breath and released the lyrics burning in her mind. As she sang the other Dragonborn sang with her, this seemed to disorient the dragon which decided to fly high up and above them to avoid their echoing words.

    (The song is Our Solemn Hour by Within Temptation)

    They ran as fast as their legs would carry them and as much as the snow would let them. Rona cast jets of flames at the snow, trying her hardest to make it more powerful, taking a risk with her destruction magic in order to clear a path for them. She surprised even herself as her bold maneuver paid off.

    The dragon however was ready for them at the top of the stairs as it came around a corner, crawling on all fours and growled at them. It spoke to her in dragon tongue, she didn’t understand much but it definitely sounded like a threat. Rona didn’t know what else to do, so she shouted with all the force in her voice, “Sanctus Espiritus redeem us from our solemn hour!

    The power of her voice careened across the steps and crashed into the flames bursting from the dragon’s maw. As the fire dissipated the dragon pressed forward, snapping its jaw at her. She felt it was the end when enormous grey claws grasped at the dragon’s neck and pulled it from its feet, violently throwing it out over the mountain.

    Both Bishop and Rona stared, open-mouthed as another dragon fought with the first. The grey beast roared at its quarry before belching flames at it. The two flew up and over and around one another, snapping at each other and roaring flames, ice and whatever dragon’s say to insult one another before the grey one caught the other by its neck, snapping it and disappearing down below as they both fell.

    “It…is it helping us?” Rona sputtered.

    Bishop grabbed her hand, pulling her along and said, “I’m not about to wait here and find out.”

    She agreed and ran the rest of the way with him. They were not far from the summit when they came upon a great stone monastery looming over them. Bishop hiked up the steps, still holding Karnwyr before he set the shaking wolf down to look him over. Rona stood by, incredibly worried, her healing magic at the ready.

    After a few minutes of pushing his fur around and checking over his paws Bishop shook his head and laughed, “Not a scratch on him. He was just scared. So damn scared he pissed all over himself.”

    Rona was on the verge of tears with worry and hugged Bishop, “I’m so glad you’re okay! That you’re both okay! I’m so sorry!”

    Bishop was so surprised by her sudden affection that he just pushed her off of him and said, “It’s not like it was your fault.”

    She wiped at a stray tear with the palm of her hand and knelt down to pet Karnwyr who was still trembling. He calmed down a bit as she stroked his fur and used a healing spell on him.

    Rona turned back to Bishop who quavered slightly. Trying to hide just how shook up he was he stared up at the peak of the mountain and said, “The Throat of the World…wonder what’s up there.”

    Leonora
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    Wow! I love this story. Chapter 9 gave me the chills! Great work!!

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 110

    I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it! I’m enjoying writing it a lot.

    I have up to chapter 17 now, however I went back to edit the previous chapters for errors, so I will be updating them here and posting the new chapters once I read them over again and edit some more. =)

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