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  • Caellidwen B
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    Beautiful images and this weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving so a weekend off is forgiven!  Take your time and we will see you when you return.

    Rona
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    Post count: 117

    Oh yay! Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! But I’m already back with a very epic chapter to share.

    I really wanted to write a chapter from Karnwyr’s perspective (mostly) because I kid you not, I literally forget about him half the time I’m writing and have to stick him in later. Whoops. So this one’s dedicated to the only male in the mod even worth romancing – he’s handsome, he’s loyal and he’s the sweetest out of all of them, Karnwyr!

    Man, Karnwyr though, he just really needs to find that boy he’s supposed to watch. lmao

    Chapter 61

    Through the Eyes of Wolves and into the Eyes of Dragons

     

    (Recommended background music Banish Misfortune by Erutan)

    Bishop looked at Karnwyr and firmly said, “Stay with the kid.” He pointed at Nelkir and the wolf cocked his head, trying to understand. Then Bishop added, “Look after him for me will you?”

    Karnwyr watched as the others left, then he turned and went over to sniff at the feet of the boy and sat down, looking up at him. Nelkir frowned at Karnwyr and he gave a low whine in reply.

    Nelkir crossed his arms and grumbled, “I’m not just going to stay and wait around anymore… Come on Karnwyr.” The wolf followed the boy along the path. He stopped every few steps to get a whiff of all the interesting smells among the bushes and the flowers but made sure to keep up with the small one.

    Then they came into an open area where there was no shrubbery to smell but lots of soldiers hitting things with their weapons. The boy went over to a large archway and Karnwyr saw something flapping out of the corner of his eye. He barked, feeling the instinctive urge to chase and belted across the stone ground, hardly noticing Nelkir calling after him.

    “Karnwyr! Wait! No!”

    The wolf ran after the bird, vaulting up the stairs to get higher where he could reach it and skittered over the pavement, jumping to snap at the thing. It quickly flew over the low wall and he pulled himself up with his forelegs and watched and whimpered as it soared away through the trees.

    He hopped down, whining at the loss of his prey and went back. He was supposed to watch the boy, that he remembered. It had been much easier to understand his brother when his blood bond was the same. It was difficult again with the loss of the beast blood, but he still understood the things his brother had taught him.

    Karnwyr returned to the archway but the boy was missing. He padded along into the area which was full of shrubbery for him to sniff at and tried to find his scent. He found a particularly nice bush with the scent of something he didn’t much care for and decided to erase it by relieving himself all over it. He lifted his leg and let go.

    Then he heard someone yelling at him, “Hey! Damn dog! Stop that!” Karnwyr looked up to see an angry man in robes who was missing most of the hair on the top of his head, but had plenty of it on the sides. He and the man exchanged curious looks for a moment before the man said hesitantly, “Wait… you’re not a dog,” his eyes widened and he shouted,”WOLF! THERE’S A WOLF HERE!” Karnwyr sensed his fear and anger and raised hackle, growling defensively at the man. The man drew a dagger from his robes and pointed it at him.

    “GUARDS!”

    Karnwyr knew what that meant. His brother often had trouble with the ones called guards and knew it was time to go. He lunged forward, making the man leap back and rushed through the archway. Plenty of guards and soldiers were coming to see what all the commotion was about and Karnwyr barked at them and quickly ran along, weaving through their legs as they all scattered, terrified. He even leapt up and bound off the chest of one of them and ran as fast as his paws would carry him. He scurried along down the path with ten guards chasing after him.

    Karnwyr ran towards the way where he remembered the forest being, but immediately came up to a large gate blocking him. He slid to a stop and turned, raising his shoulders and growling at all the men surrounding him, trying to make himself look bigger and more vicious, telling them to go away. They held their weapons out and they muttered to one another.

    Then Karnwyr noticed some small ones in the distance. Two girls and a boy. The boy whispered to the others and he waved, calling the wolf over to them. Karnwyr suspected the one he was supposed to watch might be with them because the small ones liked to stay together.

    He looked over all the slowly approaching guards and growled again, bearing his canines fiercely. Go away! He told them, but they kept coming. His brother had taught him a trick to throw them off though. So he stopped his snarling and spun in a circle, chasing his tail playfully. The soldiers all halted suddenly, looking perplexed by his new behavior.

    There was an opening and he took it. With one more spin around he was facing the right way and belted off the ground again, skittering between two guards as they leapt back and yelled after him. He ran towards the small ones far across the way and stopped to sniff at them. They did not smell like the one he was supposed to watch.

    He heard the guards yelling at his back again and the small ones said, “Hurry! Follow us!”

    Karnwyr followed them through a gate and into a stone hall.

    One of the girls asked, “Isn’t this the Dragonborn’s dog?”

    “I think so,” the boy said as they moved through the tunnel, “I’ve seen him with her and the Companions before.”

    “Why are the guards chasing him?” The other girl asked.

    The boy shrugged his shoulders and muttered, “I ‘unno.”

    “Let’s sneak him outside,” the first girl said.

    “We’ll take you to play with Blaise,” the second girl said to the wolf.

    Karnwyr cocked his head and whined not understanding her. They heard the guards calling behind them and shouting, “Wait you kids! That’s dangerous! Get away from the wolf!”

    “Go! Go!” The first girl shouted.

    The boy pushed open a door and they all ran up the path, Karnwyr kept the pace up with them, though he could easily outsprint them if he wanted. They hurried along to the farm where they kept the horses.

    Karnwyr wandered around, sniffing at the ground, searching for his mark, but there was no sign of the boy he was supposed to watch anywhere. He did smell another small one though and followed the scent along behind a white horse that was chewing on some hay. She eyed him warily. He looked up at the mare and whined, perking his ears up and wagging his tail. I’m friendly, he assured her. The white horse shook her head and went back to picking at the hay in her trough.

    Karnwyr continued to follow the scent around the horse stalls and sniffed at a bale of hay. He saw a small one’s foot poking out and he dug into the hay and snagged a pant leg with his jaws, pulling a boy out from the hay pile.

    “Hey!” The boy shouted.

    The other three came around, giggling and the first girl said with her hands to her hips, “Blaise are you hiding again?”

    He grumbled and yanked his leg free from Karnwyr’s grasp and said, “Yeah I am! Don’t tell Katla. She was going to make me clean out the chicken coops today,” he smirked, “but if I’m not around then Knud has to do it.”

    “Are you two still fighting?” The other boy asked.

    “Yeah, but only because he keeps making me play Soldier with him. I hate that game. He always pretends to be Ulfric and says he’s going to gut me like the Stormcloaks did with my ma and pa. He’s a jerk,” he looked angry and somewhat upset and the others didn’t seem to know what to say. Karnwyr knew what to do though, he pounced on the boy’s chest and licked at his face and the boy pushed back and laughed, “Ah! Stop it! Whose dog is this?”

    The second girl knelt down and said, “It’s the Dragonborn’s dog. We see him with her all the time. The guards were trying to get him so we saved him!”

    Blaise pushed Karnwyr off of him and the wolf sat back, tongue lolling happily at the four of them. Maybe they would help him find the boy he was supposed to watch.

    They heard a man speaking from around the stables, “Excuse me ma’am, we’re looking for a wolf that came by here. It was chasing some children. You didn’t happen to see anything did you?”

    A woman’s voice carried over, “No, I haven’t seen any wolves around.”

    Blaise hissed, “Katla!” He crawled back into the hay pile and motioned for them all to go under. They did, stuffing themselves under the yellow straw. One of the girls pulled on Karnwyr and he scurried under with them.

    The woman continued speaking, “And now that you mention it, I haven’t seen any kids either, in fact my stable boy’s been missing.”

    Another boy’s voice carried along, he sounded quite snotty too, “Blaise is probably just hiding in the hay pile behind the stables again. I’ll go get him.”

    Blaise groaned and shifted uncomfortably and the others tried to shush him. Karnwyr sensed his agitation and they heard the voices of the man and woman still speaking.

    The man said, “Well ma’am, if you see anything be sure to let us know.”

    “Oh of course! I don’t want any wolves around here lest I lose all my chickens.”

    They heard the snotty boy say, “Come on out Blaise, I know you’re hiding in there. Ma says you have to go clean the coops out,” then he spoke with a nasty tone, “And when you’re done you can play Soldier with me again. This time I’ll be General Tullius and you can be my Imperial soldier, that means you have to do whatever I say,” he laughed derisively and shoved a hand into the hay pile searching for Blaise.

    Blaise’s agitation set Karnwyr off and he barked madly, bursting from the hay pile and pounced on the snotty boy knocking him flat on his back. The boy gave a high pitched scream as Karnwyr continued barking playfully in his face, then he cried, “MOMMY! MOMMY! WOLF!”

    The woman came around, threw her hands up and screamed, then all the children burst from the hay pile and ran calling back, “Come on boy! Follow us! Come on! Come on!”

    Karnwyr jumped off the horrified child and chased after the four children as they rounded right around the guard that had been looking for them. Karnwyr skittered through his legs sending him toppling flat on his ass and he started yelling at their backs but they ignored him all laughing and running along. They hurried down towards the lumber mill and jumped into the water and swam across a small streamlet to the forested area beyond.

    They kept running through the trees and Blaise shouted with laughter, “Did you hear that!? Ahahaha! MOMMY! HAHAHA!”

    “Knud’s a milk drinking baby!” The first girl shouted through her own giggle fit.

    The other boy cried, “And he screams like a girl!”

    “Hey!” The second girl sounded offended.

    The boy shrugged his shoulders at her, “Oh come on Svari! You heard it too!”

    She laughed a little, “Okay, yeah he kind of does scream like a girl.”

    They all finally stopped by a large hollowed out tree.

    “Hey Kayd,” Blaise said to the other boy, breathless, “Think we lost ’em?”

    Kayd looked back, holding a hand up to shield his eyes from the sun and said, “Yeah, probably.”

    They all sat down to catch their breaths and Karnwyr plopped down next to them. He sniffed at the air. There was still no sign of the boy he was supposed to be watching. The first girl started scratching him behind the ears and Karnwyr loved that as he leaned into her hand. She was getting that awful, gnawing itch he had back there that he could never reach. He appreciated it when the people would get it for him though.

    “Careful Minette,” Blaise said with a laugh, “didn’t you hear them? He’s a big, dangerous wolf.”

    They all giggled and the girl hugged Karnwyr around the neck suddenly and said, “He’s so nice! Kind of smells though, I think he needs a bath.”

    Karnwyr looked on at them all. He thought they were nice too and they gave good head scratches but he really needed to find the boy he was supposed to be watching. Then a scent in the air caught his nose. He stood up and sniffed some more. The smell was very familiar. He loped along through the trees searching for it.

    “Hey! Wait for us!” Minette called. The four children all got up and followed him along through the trees.

    Kayd was hesitant, “We shouldn’t go out this way. My ma will throttle me if she finds out I went too far from the city.”

    “It’ll be fine,” Blaise waved him off, “We’re with the Dragonborn’s dog right? I bet he’s strong.”

    “Maybe we’ll even get to see her again!” Svari said hopping with excitement.

    They continued through the forest, heading into a heavier wooded area. Karnwyr ignored the small ones as they chattered among themselves and stopped suddenly when he heard another voice grumbling and scoffing loudly in the distance.

    “…Harbinger…can’t believe Kodlak would want me to…I mean really?” Aela gave a frustrated sigh, “…what am I even supposed to do? Not like we’re back in Jorrvaskr. It’d be easier there… more fire in the young bloods out that way… damned Imperials don’t want to join up,” she snorted, “can we blame them? Whiterun taken over by the Stormcloaks now… can’t find any damn recruits out here.”

    She came into a clearing nearby and her words were heard more clearly, “It’s so pointless. Just four of us now. Bishop and Rona won’t stay, that’s for damn sure. And why would they? After every awful thing you did woman and now she’s hurt again, a million stitches in her shoulder and whose fault is that? Yours!” She sat down on an old tree stump and put her face in her hands grumbling miserably, “Gah… you’re such an idiot Aela. Making stupid decisions, chasing everyone away, getting them all killed. Hell, trying to kill them yourself. Shit… she didn’t deserve that. I don’t know why I…”

    She continued mumbling to herself and Karnwyr stepped through the clearing towards her. He remembered her. She was the one who tried to hurt his brother’s mate and she hurt him too. But she also tried to help him after and seemed regretful for it. She didn’t have the blood bond anymore but she still understood him well enough since she’d lived with it so long.

    Karnwyr felt no animosity towards her, though his brother still did. He could sense her frustration and regret. He decided to cheer her up, he was good at that. Then maybe she would take him to the boy he was supposed to watch.

    He padded up to her and put his head on her knee and whined. Aela pulled her hands from her face and looked down at him. She smiled and said, “Karnwyr? What’re you doing out here you mangy rascal?”

    She scratched behind his ears and the children all came into the clearing. Aela looked them over, “What’re a bunch of pups like you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?”

    “Aren’t you one of the Companions?” Minette asked.

    Aela nodded, “That’s right. I’m the,” she hesitated and second guessed her words, “Yeah, I’m one of the Companions.”

    “Are you on a mission?” Blaise asked with interest.

    “Yeah!” Svari squealed excitedly, “are you out here to kill some bandits or something?”

    Aela smirked at them, “No. No missions now, just finished up a contract a little earlier. I’m uh, just taking a break.”

    Kayd asked her, “Do you let kids join the Companions?”

    Aela scoffed and cocked a brow, “Definitely not. But when you’re old enough to hold a sword come down to Jorrvaskr and we’ll test your arm, see if you’ve got what it takes.”

    “But I’ve seen that boy training with you, the kid with the red hair,” Kayd pointed out.

    “Oh, the whelp, Nelkir,” she shook her head, “He’s a special case. Friend of a friend’s kid and all that.”

    “Aw,” Blaise whined, “I’d join up! It sounds like you need recruits, I can fight!”

    Aela chuckled, “I appreciate the enthusiasm young blood, but I’m sure your parents would be missing you plenty if you left now.”

    Blaise turned away from her and looked sad again. Karnwyr whined and went over to him, nuzzling his nose in his hand. He had a lot of work to do, trying to cheer them all up.

    Svari whispered to Aela, “His parents were in the Legion… they got killed in an ambush.”

    “Huh,” Aela looked on at the boy and thought for a moment, “So, you’ve got nothing tying you down here then, eh? You know… that gives me an idea. What’s your name kid?”

    “Blaise,” he said.

    “Alright, Blaise,” she stood up, “I’m Aela. I’m the Harbinger of the Companions and you’re right, we’ve been struggling to get new recruits lately, but I’m thinking you’d do well. Wouldn’t be able to send you off on any contracts any time soon, but if you’re willing to put in the effort we could train you up right. Got plenty of open beds in Jorrvaskr.

    His eyes widened and he practically shouted, “Really!?

    “There’s a catch though.”

    “What? What is it?” He asked.

    “Jorrvaskr is the home of the Companions, which is in Whiterun and right now, Whiterun is home to the Stormcloaks. As Companions we don’t take sides in this war, we don’t let the state of the country or our personal feelings about it surpass the needs of our clients,” she gave him a serious look, “That means any desire for vengeance, for your parents – you leave that behind here.”

    Blaise twisted his brows together. He appeared to have some very mixed feelings about that. He thought for a moment, possibly weighing his options. Continue living as a stable boy in Solitude, sleeping in the hay piles with the horses or go off to Whiterun and live among the Stormcloaks, the very same people that killed his parents, while training as a warrior. But he’d get to sleep in a real bed too…

    The other three looked on at him curiously, wondering if he’d accept the offer, but then a low roar caught their ears and they looked up. A huge black dragon was soaring through the skies, flying over them all and heading for a burial mound off in the distance.

    ~~~

    Bishop searched for an hour or so looking for Karnwyr with no luck. When he finally stopped and asked around, a guard said, “Yeah, we saw that wolf earlier! It chased after some kids – it was trying to kill them! What were you thinking bringing a wild animal in here!? I should have you arrested just for admitting to that!”

    Bishop replied in kind sneering, “Yeah, you do that. Then you’ll not only have the Jarl and the Companions crawling up your ass, but the Dragonborn herself. You really want to take that risk by locking up her closest traveling companion?”

    The guard looked him over skeptically but the other nudged him and said, “Don’t fuck with this one Holund. I’ve seen him coming and going with her nearly every day.”

    Bishop smirked, “I’d listen to your friend if I were you. Now, if you see my wolf again, don’t even think about touching him because I will find you and I will gut you myself if there’s so much as a hair missing from his furry hide. Make sure you spread the word.” He thumbed his blade and gave them a dirty look before turning and heading back to the homestead.

    It gave him a certain satisfaction having more pull over the holds guards these days when not that long ago they’d been nothing but a pain in his ass. Granted, he was a pain in theirs too what with all the drunken bar fighting and other lecherous trouble he’d gotten himself into wherever he went. He’d really mellowed out since then. Now he just wanted to enjoy a pint with his woman and his wolf and have a quiet evening alone with her most nights. They always had trouble at their heels, he didn’t want to be the cause of more of it.

    (The song is Immortal Avenger by Two Steps From Hell)

    When he arrived home, the second he stepped inside he heard her screaming and it made his pulse quicken. Bishop rushed upstairs and found her, trapped in a nightmare, writhing madly on the bed. Her stitches must have torn because she’d soaked through her bandages and straight into the sheets. He hurried to her side and wrapped his arms around her, trying to still her wild movements.

    “Rona!” He shouted at her, “Rona! Wake up!”

    It was useless though. He’d never wake her. He’d tried everything before, shouting in her ears, shaking her, throwing water on her, even slapping her pretty hard across the face.

    He whispered helplessly, “Just hold on Ladyship. It’ll be over soon… gods please let it be over soon.”

    ~~~

    Aela, Karnwyr and the children all watched as the black dragon hovered over the burial mound in the distance and started speaking loudly in dragon’s tongue as he swooped over it.

    Karnwyr started to growl low, the hairs on his back stood on end as the dragon performed his ritual.

    “You four,” Aela said in hushed tones pointing at them, “Get back to Solitude right now. Stay low and move slowly. Keep cover under the trees.”

    All of them were trembling with fear. Three of them started to move but one poor girl was so scared she couldn’t move her legs it seemed. Blaise grasped her arm, tugging on her and whispered, “Svari, come on. Let’s leave.”

    She trembled with absolute terror, her eyes glued to the enormous beast which was far too close for comfort. Aela looked around. There was a large tree, big enough to give them cover. She lifted the girl right up off her feet and set her down behind the tree, out of sight of the dragon and said, “Stay here.” The other four stayed with her, not wanting to leave her alone it seemed.

    Aela knew she’d have to draw the dragon away to keep them all safe. But would she be able to beat it? She was so weak without the gift. She couldn’t even stand up against Potema. She’d gone into the catacombs, all on her own, seeking vengeance against the ancient queen for her mother. But it was the vampires that took her down and dragged her along to the woman. Potema saw right through her, pointing out all her fears and weaknesses and then took her body for her own. And even then the witch had rebuked her, telling her that her body was pathetic, but that she’d hold onto it until she could regain her own strength back and find a new vessel worthy of her powerful soul. Rona was strong enough, stronger than her. She was the Dragonborn. Aela was nothing now, not without Hircine’s Gift…

    And now, here she was, staring off at an enormous dragon, she being the only thing standing between the vicious creature and four small children. Karnwyr stood by her side. She looked down at him as he raised hackle, growling fiercely at the beast.

    “You’ll fight with me?” She asked him.

    He looked up at her, his face softening and gave a low whine as if to say yes.

    “Even after what I did to you, to her and to him? You’d fight with me?”

    He wagged his tail and opened his jaws into a wide smile, tongue lolling out and barked in the affirmative.

    She smirked at him and set her gaze back onto the black dragon. She shook her head, drew her bow and said, “Eyes on the prey, not on the horizon.”

    (The song is Fearless by Thomas Bergersen)

    She ran forward, nocking an arrow to her bow, taking cover behind the trees as she crept forward. She watched as the black dragon roared at the ground, “SLEN TIID VO!”

    The ground rumbled and Karnwyr stepped back and forth trying to stay upright and Aela clung to a tree as the burial mound burst open and the bones of a dragon crawled out and its flesh burned back onto its body. She took a sharp breath watching this madness and remembered what Rona had told them all over a month ago. She looked back at the black dragon and realized she’d seen him before. It was Alduin, the World Eater resurrecting another dragon right before her very eyes.

    She waited as the two spoke deeply in dragon’s tongue to one another, though she couldn’t understand a word. When they finished their conversation the one on the ground took off into the skies and made to follow the World Eater. They were headed straight for Solitude. She had to do something.

    She sprint across the ground and started shouting, “Hey! Lizard brain!” Then lined up a shot and fired it into the hide of the one following Alduin. He roared with pain and Alduin halted, soaring back around. He saw Aela and gave a low laugh, then looked to the other as they hovered there. The newly resurrected one snapped at the arrow in its side, hissing furiously.

    Alduin looked displeased and spoke again in dragon’s tongue to his fellow, “Krii fin joor, Uleignaar. Fod hi lahney ruz hi ros balaan… Rul ni zu’u fen krii hi.”

    The other looked warily at Alduin before setting his sights on Aela. He swooped down quickly roaring, “YOL TOOR SHUL!” setting the trees and grass alight with fire. Aela managed to leap out of the way, though one of her boots was smoldering. She quickly kicked at it with her other foot and put out the flame. The beast was already coming back around and she rolled out of the way again.

    Karnwyr took a brave leap however and jumped right onto the face of the creature and started biting viciously into its snout. It hissed with pain and shook its face, throwing Karnwyr off at a low height, thankfully. The wolf rolled across the ground and quickly got up again, barking and growling menacingly.

    The dragon landed and shook its head while Alduin hovered nearby, watching intently, cocking his head back and forth. Aela looked back at him, not understanding why he wasn’t helping his comrade. Then she realized, he was testing him. It was rather cruel the way he flew in that spot, laughing in a strange guttural dragon voice, almost sneering at the other.

    She couldn’t worry about that now though, she realized the four children were all too close to where the other dragon was as it started walking on all fours, gripping at the ground with the claws on its wings, heading straight for her. She ducked behind another tree as it roared, “FO KRAH DIIN!” A blast of ice peppered the tree behind her and she felt the cool frost caressing her arms.

    She nocked an arrow and waited a moment until the spray stopped then leaned around, aiming for its eye and fired just as it made to shout again. Her arrow missed its mark by an inch and shunted just above its yellow eyeball. It hissed again, scratching furiously at the arrow.

    Karnwyr raced to her side and she looked down at the wolf and said, “I’ll distract it, I need you to protect the little ones.” She spotted the tree where the children were hiding, it was only a few paces away from the dragon who was already on the move again, coming towards her it sounded like. She pointed to the tree and shouted at the wolf, “GO!” Karnwyr sprang forward racing for the children and she ran in the opposite direction, keeping her eyes on the dragon as it looked between the two targets splitting up.

    He seemed to settle on Aela though and slithered swiftly across the ground after her. She scurried through the trees and jumped up off the ground just as its jaws lunged and snapped at her from the side. She was no Rona, she couldn’t jump too high or far, but it was enough to save her feet from being snapped right off. Unfortunately, because she couldn’t jump very high she landed again very quickly, right on its snout. She took the opportunity to scramble up its face and grabbed its horn, holding on as it attempted to shake her off, roaring flames angrily as her foot kicked it in the eye. She laughed loudly out of fear and a pure rush of adrenaline, “HAH! OH SHIIIT! How does she do this!? WHOA!”

    There was no way to use her bow with one hand so she cast it aside and yanked her dagger from its sheath and leaned forward, aiming for the creature’s desperately swiveling and searching eye. In a second she slammed it straight into the dragon’s eyeball with a resounding squelch and blood burst over her hand. She yanked it free and quickly leapt off the creature before it took off into the sky again.

    Aela grabbed her bow and ran for cover behind another tree and looked back. She saw Alduin watching his fellow shaking its head fiercely. Despite being a dragon, Alduin’s eyes and the way he held his jowls showed how absolutely disgusted he was with the beast.

    Grik sahlo,” Alduin muttered with a low growl.

    The other dragon stopped its painful writhing and looked him over with its one good eye, cowering its head fearfully. Alduin lunged at the poor dragon and it flapped backwards trying to escape its new enemy. It crashed into the ground, throwing its back legs out against Alduin, trying to push him off as it hissed with terror. The World Eater was not harmed or bothered by his fighting in the slightest, his hide was far too thick for that it seemed. He cocked his head back and forth, looking at the pathetic creature under him.

    Then to Aela’s horror she saw two other dragons flying along, coming near. They hovered and spoke to Alduin, “Thur Alduin. Zu’u halvuut fin Dovahkiin. Rek los sahlo.”

    Alduin looked back to them and a wicked smile curled at his jowls while he easily held the other underneath him with his talons. He turned his head, looking right at the spot Aela was hiding. Her heart pound in her chest as her eyes met his vicious red ones. She felt lucky to be alive after facing one of them alone, especially with the World Eater watching so close by. But when he spoke directly to her she felt sick with fear.

    “You are brave,” he said almost with a sneer, “One of Ysgramor’s Companions, I remember you. Tell me mortal, where do you hide the puny Dovahkiin? The one who calls herself Rona of Dragon Fangs?”

    She couldn’t speak. It was wild enough that this creature praised her, sort of, but he knew Rona was there? The girl definitely couldn’t face him now, not with her shoulder ripped to shreds. Then he addressed her again.

    “If you speak I will allow you and your young to live. But if you do not, I will gladly make you watch as we tear them limb from limb,” he laughed and then motioned to one of his others. It flew over and stomped down in front of the tree where the four children were hiding. She heard all of them let out shrill screams as Karnwyr barked madly. The beast hissed at them but made no move against them, he only waited for his master to give him commands.

    “So, what will it be mortal?” Alduin didn’t seem like the patient sort. Aela would have to do something and soon. She sincerely doubted she could trust this monster in the slightest though and wasn’t about to go sending him off to kill the Dragonborn.

    The dragon underneath him was still frantically trying to get away and Alduin continued to speak in Cyrodillic, as though it were too much of a bother to switch between the languages, or maybe he was just demonstrating his cruelty for her benefit.

    He hissed, sharp and low to the dragon under him, “Uleignaar… you were once one of my strongest. A dov worthy enough to fly by my side. Your time in the ground has made you weak,” he snarled the word low and viciously, “I will not tolerate such frailty among my commanding force. Feel my wrath.” He gave a deep, quavering growl before lashing into the dragon, tearing its flesh from its body as it screeched and roared ice and fire in vain.

    Finally, Alduin killed the thing with a loud CRUNCH! to its throat. Aela had enough nerve to peak around the tree again and watched as the dead dragon’s body burned up suddenly. Alduin looked pleased and said to the one nearest him, “Drogaavlok, follow his soul. Use your sense to find her.”

    Drogaavlok, a deep red colored dragon with white horns, flew high into the sky as the soul of the dead creature whisked quickly away from its body, shooting across the mouth of the river and through the walls into Solitude.

    Then Alduin spoke to her again, “It seems I will not need your service mortal,” he looked to the other, a dark blue dragon with black horns and said, “Nosvaat. Kill them.”

    Alduin took off, following the other while Nosvaat growled murderously at the children, making them scream again and he made to snap at them. Aela ran forward, holding her bow aloft, when Nosvaat suddenly hissed madly and rolled over in pain. He scrambled across the ground and took off away from them all, flying into the sky. Farkas, Vilkas and Athis stood by, their weapons at the ready. Farkas’ broadsword was dripping with blood, he’d bravely swept in and struck the creature. Karnwyr happily ran over to them all, running circles around them and wagging his tail wildly. Vilkas motioned to the children calling, “Quickly! You kids! Over here!”

    Nosvaat eyed them all from the safety of the skies and second guessed facing off against three new foes. He took off after his master heading straight for Solitude.

    “Aela!” Vilkas cried when he spotted her.

    She held a hand up to stop him from reprimanding her, as she ran to them, “Trust me! If I knew I was going to be facing off against four goddamn dragons, I would have told you! I was just as surprised as you!”

    Vilkas sighed and just nodded.

    Then Athis pointed over at the ones headed for Solitude, “That doesn’t look good.”

    “Shit,” Aela muttered, “They’re going after Rona! They know she’s hurt. We have to go right now!”

    Farkas looked over at all the children and said, “What about these kids?”

    “Bring them with!” Aela shouted, leading the way.

    ~~~

    Bishop managed to tie Rona down, using their bondage rope. It was all he had nearby that he could use to try and keep her still. After he got her to stop squirming so much he ran downstairs, sweating heavily, both from struggling with her and out of his own anxiety. He rifled through their traveling pack, yanking out all of their medical supplies. She was bleeding too heavily and he worried she was going to go into shock. He ran back upstairs, tripping on a step as he went and swearing under his breath, scrambled back onto his feet.

    He hurried over to her and undid her dress quickly and yanked it down, exposing her shoulders and bra. He had an old salve that he quickly applied to the gash in her shoulder, covering over all the torn stitches and the entirety of the wound to make the bleeding stop.

    He never wanted to be a magic user more in his life, just to heal her. She was so pale and her face was red with a fever covered in beads of sweat. She kept whimpering and crying out in her nightmare. He’d never seen it last so long before and they were only ever this horrible when Alduin was nearby. For once in his life he found himself desperately praying. He thought of Talos and begged the nord hero, the protector of warriors himself, to save her, to wake her from this horrific dream. He thought about leaving and getting that damn nurse or anyone, but he was so afraid to leave her alone again and he didn’t want to try and move her lest he tear more of her stitches.

    He sat with her nestled between his legs on the bed just holding her, his arms wrapped around her chest, trying to keep her still and waited for her to wake. Then the most unusual thing happened. Something came rushing at her through the wall. It looked just like when a dragon soul washed over her. In fact, he was positive that’s exactly what it was.

    (The song is Moving Mountains by Two Steps From Hell)

    This made him very uneasy. It meant a dragon had been nearby, though someone had managed to kill it. He really wished the soul had done more than just enter her body, that it would heal her or even wake her, but it changed nothing about her condition.

    It was quiet for a moment, yet he felt overcome with a deep dread, almost like he was waiting for something and then he heard it. The low roars of dragons, definitely more than one, nearby. Then the roof shuddered and cracked, like something with a great weight had landed on it. He felt frozen there and only his eyes traveled up to the ceiling as he watched a single crack inching its way along as whatever was above slowly stomped over the roof. His lip trembled and his breath caught in his throat as he pulled the squirming woman closer to him, placing a hand over her mouth on the off chance she let out more shrill screams and gave away their position.

    The low growl of dragon tongue drifted in from a slightly ajar window. He didn’t understand it, but it definitely sounded like the beast was looking for her when it growled, “Fin dovahkiin los het. Ek laas fus lost sahlo, Thur Alduin.”

    Bishop sucked in a breath at the name of the World Eater. And then he heard the black beast’s voice next. He could never forget it.

    “Ag ni.”

    It was short and to the point and then he heard, “YOL TOOR SHUL!” and watched in horror as the roof was suddenly enveloped in flames. Rona reacted very badly to this as well, her writhing began anew and she screamed into his hand. No point stifling it now, he thought. He quickly lifted her off the bed, praying her stitches wouldn’t tear anymore and that the salve would hold as he hurried down the stairs with her. He heard people outside screaming as they finally noticed the dragons. Bishop looked at the front door and decided against going through it. He hurried down the stairs with her into the cellar and scrambled towards the side door.

    He gently laid her down. Thankfully her screaming had ceased and he carefully opened the door inward and peered out. Up above he saw a bright red dragon blasting more flames at the roof of their home and clawing madly at the blue tiles, throwing them off. A few landed in front of him, breaking into pieces. Around the way he saw Alduin, watching and waiting for his fellow to open the way, to find their prey.

    They couldn’t leave with two of the worst dragons imaginable right there, but they couldn’t very well stay inside the burning building either. Bishop stepped back in and closed the door partway. It was time to do something incredibly brave and stupid. He needed to get her to the crenellations. Tullius promised them he’d have the Legion at their backs and he needed an army.

    Bishop lifted her into his arms again and looked down at her restless face, his own brows knit together fearfully for her. He kissed her forehead and whispered, “We’ll make it. We’ll survive this. I promise you. I’ll protect you with my life. I love you Rona.”

    He burst through the door and ran for their lives.

    ~~~

    Karnwyr ran as fast as his legs would carry him, leaving the others behind. He could sense the threat. His brother’s mate, the nice female who always snuck him table scraps and scratched him in all the right spots, she was in danger again. He forgot all about the boy he was supposed to be watching and belted up the path. He stopped at the closed gate, pacing back and forth, scratching at it and howling loudly telling them to let him in, she was in danger!

    The two guards on either side of the gate drew their weapons and stepped towards him.

    “STOP!” Aela cried, “Don’t hurt our wolf! He’s a Companion!” They glanced at her and she shouted again, “There are dragons in Solitude! Take these four down to the farm! Get to safety!”

    “Right, of course Harbinger,” one of the guards said laughing slightly. Then they all heard the shout boom loudly over the walls, “YOL TOOR SHUL!”

    “We have to hurry!” Vilkas cried. The two guards were moving a lot faster now that they realized she was serious, hurrying the children and themselves off to safety.

    The second they drew the doors open they were overwhelmed by townsfolk fleeing the city. Karnwyr wove his way through them all and skittered across the path leaving the Companions behind.

    Vilkas and Farkas pushed the gates open allowing the civilians to flee quickly and safely. Aela and the others would not retreat though, their friends were in danger. They ran along the path and saw General Tullius gathering his men and shouting loudly, “THIS IS IT MEN! TIME TO TEST OUR STRENGTH! BRING THOSE BLASTED DRAGONS DOWN!”

    (The song is Never Back Down by Two Steps From Hell)

    The soldiers yelled together and marched forward through the streets. Aela shouted to the others giving direction, “Vilkas! Farkas! You two join the Legionnaires! Athis, you got your bow?”

    “Got it!” He confirmed drawing it from his back.

    “You’re with me,” she said, “We’re going up high!” She ran with Athis, heading for the walls above the crenellations. Vilkas and Farkas rushed in, joining the foot soldiers with their weapons drawn, ready to fight.

    Karnwyr dashed on ahead of all the soldiers and saw the two dragons tearing apart his brother’s home. He stopped suddenly when he caught a whiff of two very familiar scents. Then he saw the black dragon move suddenly, as something caught his eye.

    Alduin roared a purplish power at the ground just as Bishop rounded the corner and ran forward as it narrowly missed them. He saw the wolf and looked at him astounded, “Karnwyr!?” Then he ran by and shouted back, “Come on boy!” Karnwyr twisted on the spot and ran after his brother glad to be back in his company.

    They rushed into the crowd of Legionnaires who parted, making way for the ranger and the injured Dragonborn as they all looked on at her disheveled appearance horrified. Alduin was already soaring over them all, looking to kill. Bishop took refuge under the archway leading into the crenellations where General Tullius stood, directing his men, “STEADY! AIM! FIRE!”

    The Legionnaires began launching arrows against Alduin, uselessly, as they simply bounced off of his thick hide and he laughed wickedly at them. The other dragon followed along and was joined by another suddenly. Alduin stomped down heavily into the open pavilion with the other two at his side, their combined weight made the ground shudder, nearly knocking everyone standing over.

    Bishop stepped back, still holding Rona tightly to his chest as Tullius looked at her, shock etched all over his face, “She’s? Is she?

    Sleeping,” Bishop insisted, his teeth grit, “Trapped in a nightmare because of that thing.”

    Tullius looked back to Alduin and held his hand out, motioning for his men to stop firing as Alduin and his two Commanders were not fighting back.

    Alduin spoke low, his voice rumbling deeply, “You are wise mortal, to cease your attacks.”

    General Tullius said, “Leave this city… dragon.” There were few things that could break Tullius’ stone faced stare. But it seemed one of those things was speaking directly to a dragon as his brows twisted between fear, anger and astonishment.

    Alduin cocked his head and growled, “Give me the Dragonborn and I will allow you to keep your lives.”

    Bishop backed up again, holding her even closer to his body. He’d never let that creature touch her. Never.

    It seemed General Tullius felt the same as he stepped bravely forward and said, “I can’t do that. You see, I have a friend I owe a great debt to and keeping the Dragonborn alive is my top priority. Aside from that, however, it seems that we have the upper hand. You’re hardly in any position to be making demands… dragon.”

    The red dragon snarled at him, “HE IS LORD ALDUIN! Know your place mortal filth!”

    General Tullius did not waver and Bishop held a newfound respect for the man. Rona cried out again in her nightmare, her hands moved, trying to claw at something but with her arms tied she couldn’t move much.

    Alduin raised his body up, standing taller and spreading his wings and with a dragonish laugh he spat, “She dreams. Lost in the nightmares of old. I sense it now. Give her to me mortal. I see you try to protect her, to save her. She cannot escape her fate. So give her to me and I will end her suffering… quickly… painlessly,” he laughed again and snapped his jaws loudly.

    “You stay the FUCK AWAY FROM HER!” Bishop roared back at the World Eater.

    Alduin’s pupils twisted into thin slits and he said, “Watch her pain. See her suffering. DRUN HAHNU BEX!”

    He shouted something at them then and they held their hands out, trying to block it. Bishop turned with her in his arms, intending to block whatever it was with his body. It washed over them and nothing seemed to happen. Everyone looked over themselves, but no harm was done.

    Rona on the other hand started shrieking louder than ever. Then visions and images appeared all around them, a scene from another time and place. A horrible, awful scene straight from her nightmares.

    Jillian stood there, right before Alduin watching as her lover Ronin went in fighting him wildly before Alduin crushed him and tore him in half right before her eyes. The woman fell to her knees, giving up. It happened over and over again until that woman became Rona and she watched as Alduin crushed Bishop.

    His faced cringed in agony as he looked over her wanting nothing more than to wake her from this horrible nightmare.

    Alduin laughed, “Do you see now? Her suffering? I would end it eternally and restore the world to its right order. We dov were made to rule over mortalkind! It is by Bormahu – by Akatosh that you should lay beneath us, worshipping us,” Alduin flapped and flew upwards roaring loudly, “THE DOV SHALL RULE AGAIN!”

    Then an arrow spiraled through the air and shunted right into his eye socket and he roared furiously. Aela shouted from atop the landing with the widest grin on her face as she held her bow out, “FUCK YOU!”

    The blue dragon swept up and took off, heading straight for her and Athis. The two of them booked it down the path and ran as the beast clambered over the walls roaring fire at them.

    The other red one immediately made to roar its own shout at the Legionnaires when General Tullius pointed his sword forward and shouted, “ATTACK!”

    He and all the Legionnaires bravely swept into the pavilion, launching arrows and swinging blades. Farkas and Vilkas shouted with them, “For the Dragonborn! For freedom!” Even Karnwyr ran in with a newfound fearlessness.

    Bishop watched as this procession of men and women all fought bravely for her, risking their lives to protect her. He felt a tear stream down his cheek as he looked down at her, smiling and laughing, “I wish you could see it Ladyship. They’re fighting for you.”

    Alduin took off, calling for the other two in dragon’s tongue. They followed quickly, leaving behind their prey. Defeated once again in Solitude, only this time the living had saved her.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 62

    All I Ask of You

     

    There was a quiet scrawling near her ear, it sounded like a quill on parchment. Rona opened her eyes and found herself in an all too familiar hospital wing. She looked over at the sound and saw her father sitting nearby at a writing desk, head in hand as he wrote slowly, then dipped his quill into an inkpot. He looked extremely tired, like he hadn’t slept in days. He gave a low sigh as he reviewed his work and Rona whispered in a hoarse, scratchy voice, “Ata… you’re here.”

    He looked over at her, his brows knit together as he choked back a sob, then reached for her, wrapping his arms around her shoulders. Surprisingly, the shoulder she remembered being injured didn’t hurt at all when he pressed against it.

    He breathed, “We must stop meeting like this velvynen.”

    He pulled back and wiped a tear from his eye. She sat up in the bed and tried to clear her throat and swallow, but her mouth was dry, “Ata, what happened?”

    He gave another deep sigh and said, “So many things my dear. I just arrived here yesterday only to find you back in the hospital wing. You were attacked four days ago by the World Eater himself and two of his leading Commanders.”

    She shook her head. She didn’t remember that happening at all. Had she fought back? Obviously she’d survived. She couldn’t remember anything from before she fell asleep in her bed after being stitched up.

    Panic overtook her then and she looked around, searching for Bishop.

    Her father put a hand on her shoulder and said, “It’s fine, he’s fine. He and Karnwyr haven’t left your side in days so I sent them out to stretch their legs and get some fresh air.”

    She felt immediately relieved and her father got up and poured her a glass of water from a pitcher on a side table. He handed it to her and took his seat again while she drank deeply from the glass.

    “You were unconscious for the entire incident, when Alduin returned here,” he explained, “Bishop protected you, he saved your life and it seems General Tullius has repaid his own debt in full to me as well. He risked his life and the lives of his Legionnaires to keep you safe from the dragons.”

    She knit her brows together, pulling the glass from her lips, “Did anyone…?” She couldn’t bring herself to say the word.

    “Die?” Her father finished for her, “No, fortunately not. A few were badly injured. Cecil suffered a severe burn to his arm, but everyone is well otherwise.”

    She closed her eyes for a moment, just taking that in. Hundreds of people weren’t killed because of her for once. Then she looked back at him, “I was out for four days?” Her voice was a bit clearer after drinking the water and she set the empty glass onto the writing desk.

    “Alduin used some sort of shout against you,” he said looking up thoughtfully with a hand to his beard, “Bishop said it was, Drun Hahnu Bex, though he mispronounced it at first and it took me some time to find the actual words. I looked it up in that book of yours, Dragon Language: Myth No More. It means, Make Dream Open. Bishop said that it made your nightmare appear before them, but I suspect that there was another effect. I believe it was meant to make it last longer. You’ve been trapped in that awful nightmare for four days my dear. Screaming… crying… gods…” he breathed the last and put a hand to his head.

    She sighed. No wonder she felt so exhausted. Being trapped in Jillian’s personal Oblivion for four straight days? She hated going back to that place.

    She didn’t want to talk about that dream so she changed the subject, “Did you get rid of that orb, Ata? The Eye of Magnus?”

    He looked even more morose than he did before, but he nodded slowly. “I did,” he said, then looked away from her and said sadly, “Savos Aren is dead.”

    Her eyes widened and she reached out, touching his arm. “Ata…” she whispered.

    “It was Ancano,” he said looking back at her, “He was consumed by the Eye. It possessed him and turned him to madness. He killed the Arch-Mage and I in turn killed him. It was an entirely horrific affair, honestly. I wish not to dwell on it.”

    “I’m so sorry Ata,” she whispered. She felt sad for the loss of her father’s old friend. Savos Aren was a kind old dunmer and she knew they’d been good friends for decades. She knew how he must have been feeling so she didn’t press him for any more details.

    Then their attention was drawn to a woman, three men and a young boy suddenly as Aela shouted, “Finally! You’re awake girl! What took you so long?”

    “Rona!” Nelkir ran over to her, dressed in his full steel-plated armor and he hugged her. He was pretty sweaty too, she figured he must have been training with the others.

    She smiled at them all and Vilkas asked, “How’s the shoulder?”

    She looked over at her bandaged limb and said, “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

    “Because your father here is an amazing healer!” Aela said motioning to the elf.

    Serlas chuckled, “You flatter me, Aela, but without Nurse Prothe’s advanced studies in restoration and superior skill in alchemy I’m afraid Rona here would be worse for wear. My focus of study was always in destruction,” he looked on at his daughter and said, “All things considered though, I will be taking to the books to try and achieve a greater level of skill in restoration since it seems we’ll be needing it.”

    “It’s my fault,” Nelkir looked up at Rona, “You got hurt because I kept trying to prove myself. If I’d just listened, then maybe…”

    Rona pulled her little brother in for a side arm hug and said, “No blaming yourself. Just learn from the experience okay?”

    “Okay…” he mumbled against her.

    Rona looked around at them all, “So you’ve all met my ata then?”

    “Yes,” Serlas said, “Well, obviously Aela and I were already acquainted years ago.”

    “Still the same old elf talking our ears off about the Oblivion Crisis,” Aela said with a laugh.

    Serlas pouted playfully, “I thought you liked all my adventurous tales, Aela.”

    She snorted, “Yes, please tell me again about how useful calipers were in tearing down the Oblivion Gates.”

    He smirked at her and Nelkir said, “I like your stories Mister Thormin.”

    Serlas chuckled at the boy and said, “You may call me Serlas, Nelkir, as it seems my surname has proved a bit of a challenge for your tongue.”

    Nelkir blushed lightly and Serlas looked between Rona and the boy, shaking his head. “It’s absolutely striking how much you both resemble one another. You two really do take after Claudia quite a bit. Though I see Nelkir here has inherited his mother’s freckles when you did not velvyn.”

    She smiled down at her brother, “You should see him fight Ata. Got the spirit of a warrior too.”

    “Speaking of,” Aela said, “We’ll be leaving for Whiterun tomorrow. We’re heading back to Jorrvaskr.”

    “Thank the gods,” Athis murmured in the background from his spot against a wall, “Can’t stand another day in this place…”

    Aela glanced back and chuckled at him. The brothers both looked very pleased at this notion as well. Rona asked, “So you’re welcome back in Whiterun?”

    Vilkas pulled a fancy piece of folded parchment out of his furs and held it up, “Got a full pardon from Jarl Vignar Gray-Mane himself,” he laughed, “Can always count on the old Gray-Mane clan to have our backs.”

    “That’s great,” Rona said, but she was hesitant, “Just… be careful, okay? You never know if it’s really a trap or not.”

    “No worries,” Vilkas assured her, “Considering the sloppy handwriting, it’s definitely from Vignar. Man’s got the shakes so bad he can’t scrawl a single legible letter to save his life.”

    “I’m going too!” Nelkir said excitedly.

    Rona looked worried and frowned, “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

    “Already been cleared with Jarl Elisif,” Aela said, “though she really didn’t want to let him go. We’ve got some rules obviously, like no confronting the Stormcloaks,” Aela gave him the stink eye and Nelkir frowned slightly as she continued, “But Nelkir here is going to help us get a certain plan of mine going.”

    “And what’s that?” Rona asked curiously.

    “Well,” Aela started, “We’ve been struggling to recruit new members and the other day I met a whelp around Nelkir’s age. Some stable boy, an orphan. So I offered him a sword and a bed in Jorrvaskr.”

    Vilkas scoffed shaking his head and smirking, “This woman is mad I tell you.”

    Aela scowled at him, “Let me finish,” then she turned back to Rona, “So the war has been leaving a lot of kids orphaned right? I figured, why not rebuild the Companions from the ground up? We’d also be giving them a place to live while we train them up at a young age.”

    Rona smiled and laughed, “You’re serious? Like… turn Jorrvaskr into an orphanage?”

    Aela beamed at her, throwing her hands to her hips, “Not just an orphanage girl! Turn it into a place for them to call home, give them family, stability and put them to work! Hah!” She seemed really proud of herself and it didn’t sound like the worst idea. Though Rona wondered how Aela would fair with a bunch of children in her midst.

    Athis crossed his arms from his spot on the wall and grumbled, “Gonna need plenty of mead if we’re going to have a bunch of screaming brats running around.”

    Farkas grinned, “I kind of like it. Wouldn’t mind training some pups up myself.”

    “We’ll definitely have our hands full,” Vilkas said, though he didn’t seem entirely against the idea either.

    “The boy we’re bringing back with us, his name’s Blaise,” Nelkir said, “He’s the same age as me, but I’m going to show him the ropes!”

    “Whip him into shape!” Aela laughed, putting a hand to Nelkir’s shoulder.

    “That’s great Nelkir, I’m really glad you’ll meet and make friends with some kids your own age,” Rona said genuinely.

    “Hey,” Nelkir said, “Lady Elisif reinstated the Burning of King Olaf Festival –“

    “That’s right,” Vilkas butt in, “We went out and found some old bard’s verse for the College Headmaster here. He was going to ask you to go get it, but you know, since you were so busy getting your beauty sleep and all,” Vilkas laughed, “we went and found it. It was enough to get Jarl Elisif to bring the Festival back.”

    “It’s going to be tonight,” Nelkir added, “Will you come? Dagny’s supposed to sing too.”

    “That sounds wonderful,” Rona said excited, “I’d love to go with you all!”

    It really did sound nice. Some more normalcy she could stuff into all the insanity she suffered throughout her daily life.

    “I’ll go let your grumpy ranger know you’re up and about,” Aela said, “The wolf’s been missing you too. Hardly seen those two leave your side this last week.”

    “Wait,” Rona said throwing her feet over the edge of her bed, “I’ll go with you.”

    Serlas looked concerned, “Velvyn, you’ll be very weak still. You haven’t even eaten anything for four days.”

    She made to stand and nearly toppled over when Serlas quickly caught her. She frowned at her own legs then looked up at him, “Please Ata? I’ll never get stronger just sitting around.”

    He sighed and Aela walked over and threw Rona’s arm over her shoulder, “I got her Serlas. We’ll be fine,” she looked to Rona with a smile and said,”Let’s get some food in you and stretch your legs, alright?”

    Rona was on the move again with Aela helping her and she was really grateful for it. Serlas called at their backs, “Rona dear, promise me, any dragons and-”

    “I’ll come right back to Solitude!” She said waving back.

    Aela barked at the others, “Get back to training you slags!”

    Vilkas and Farkas chuckled and Athis just groaned loudly and rolled his eyes.

    ~~~

    Bishop watched as Karnwyr slipped through the brush and around to the other side of the elk they were hunting. He was trying very hard to focus on the task at hand, at least for Karnwyr’s sake, as the wolf was probably starving by now.

    He’d already lost their last two marks, having spent hours tracking them. But he just couldn’t keep his mind on anything else. He kept thinking back to four days of her torturous screaming and endless sobbing while trapped in that horrific nightmare. He felt exhausted. Vilkas and Aela tried so hard to get him to leave, to go and sleep but he just couldn’t, he wouldn’t leave her.

    Even when Serlas arrived and insisted he take Karnwyr and go for a walk he didn’t want to go. But when the elf used his magic to finally calm her, Bishop felt comfortable enough leaving her. She was in safe hands, he could always count on her father to protect her, to be vigilant, though even Serlas had looked as nearly as tired as him.

    He nocked an arrow to his bow and felt his eyelids drooping heavily as he lined up his sights. He scrunched his eyes a few times, trying to clear his vision of the blurry sleep. Then exhaustion took over and his grip slipped setting the arrow free too soon. It whistled right past the elk’s ear and the animal immediately sprint off into the forest, while Karnwyr took off after it hopelessly.

    Bishop just sighed and whistled for the wolf to return to him. Karnwyr gave up the chase and ran back, loping up to him whining hungrily. He looked down at his companion and said, “Sorry boy. I can hardly see straight right now. We’ll head back and get you some fresh meat from the marketplace instead, how’s that sound?”

    Karnwyr gave a light bark and wagged his tail, then nuzzled Bishop’s open hand trying to comfort him. He scratched behind the wolf’s ears and moved on, taking the path back to Solitude.

    He gave a loud yawn and did everything in his power to keep his eyes open. He heard the sound of a horse and carriage trotting along the cobblestone path behind him. He stepped off the path and into the grassy area to let it pass. As it came up beside him though he heard a familiar voice.

    “Afternoon ranger. How’s Solitude been treating you?”

    Bishop glanced over to see Delphine sitting in the carriage smirking at him. He breathed a laugh and shook his head, “You’re here early. Party’s not for another three days.”

    “Hey, Thaer,” Delphine called to the driver, “Stop for a minute, we’re going to give my friend and his wolf a ride back with us. That alright?”

    “Whatever you say Miss Marjorie,” he pulled the carriage to a stop and Bishop looked over at Delphine with half-lidded eyes.

    She smiled at him and said under her breath, “Can never be too careful.”

    “Right,” he said then climbed into the back of the carriage with her. He motioned for Karnwyr and the wolf hopped in too, finding a spot on the carriage floor between their feet.

    Once Thaer saw that all the passengers were in, he clicked for his horse to move along again and the carriage resumed its steady pace down the path.

    Bishop stared sleepily off into the distance, his mind stuck on Rona and her well being as Delphine looked him over curiously and finally said, “You look like shit Bishop. What happened to you?”

    He sighed, settling his tired eyes back on her, “Long story.”

    “How’s the Dragonborn?” She asked.

    “Trapped in a nightmare,” he said deadpan.

    Delphine knit her brows together, “What do you mean?”

    He took a breath and exhaled, “I’m way too fucking tired for this Del-”

    She cleared her throat loudly before he could say her real name and said, “Just call me Marjorie.”

    He grumbled, annoyed, “Marjorie then, for fuck’s sake… Fine. So, where shall I start? From the Oblivion that was Whiterun or the utter madness of Solitude?”

    “I heard all about what happened in Whiterun,” Delphine said forlorn, “The Companions, the Jarl and the Stormcloaks? Tell me you two weren’t there for all that.”

    “We were there for all of it,” he confirmed while his expression remained stiff and drained.

    “Damn…” Delphine muttered under her breath, then she said, “Tell me about Solitude then.”

    Bishop quickly gave her all the cold facts in brief detail, telling her about how Rona was injured fighting the dead Queen Potema and then how Alduin decided to try and kill her in her weakened state. She was speechless, pausing and mulling over these details when finally she said, “And she’s still asleep?”

    Bishop nodded slowly, his tired eyes wandering again.

    “There’s nothing Serlas can do?”

    Bishop pressed his forefinger and thumb to the space between his eyes and rubbed hard and relayed what Serlas had told him, “He says dragon magic is too powerful for him to break and he wouldn’t even know where to start with this one.”

    “But if she doesn’t wake up,” Delphine sounded dire, “How can she eat? Drink? She’ll dehydrate and starve!”

    “DON’T YOU THINK WE KNOW THAT!?” He bellowed furiously making the carriage driver jump and startling Delphine. She leaned back in her seat, while Karnwyr gave a low growl under her feet. Bishop’s exhaustion, fears and worries were starting to get to him. Four days he’d stressed over her, worrying himself sick, trying to make her drink water, or eat mushy porridge or anything, but it was useless. He was just as helpless as the rest of them.

    Delphine must have realized that she was only making it worse with all her questions and whispered, “I’m sorry Bishop. I really am…”

    He turned his head away from her and stared hard down the path. They were nearly to Solitude again. He’d feed his wolf and go back, he’d do what he’d done the last four days and just stay by her side. He’d whisper his love and hold her in his arms and even hum all the songs she’d ever sung back to her while she cried.

    And then he saw her and Aela walking down the path from the gates, heading right for them and he shook his head and blinked a few times. He really needed to sleep. He was hallucinating. She never wore blue. Why would she wear blue? Not that it didn’t look nice on her. Of course she’d look nice in anything and even nicer without anything.

    And then it hit him like a giants club. She was wearing blue because her red dress had been soaked in blood and the nurse got her a change of clothes, putting her in the knee length, light blue dress instead.

    He took a sharp breath when she waved to him and called his name, smiling, “Bishop!”

    He stumbled out of the still moving carriage, not even realizing his legs were trying to take him to her. He tripped as he hopped out, falling onto one knee while Delphine looked at him, startled and Rona broke into a sprint. He scrambled to his feet and ran to meet her in the middle.

    In seconds he had her in his arms and she was saying, “Bishop! I’m sorry! I’m so sorry I worried you!”

    He’d never in his life let his tears flow so freely and in front of others too. But he didn’t care. She was awake, she wasn’t screaming and she was there in his arms. He gripped her tightly and whispered, “I love you Rona, I love you. Gods tell me this is real.”

    She pulled back from him and looked over his tear strewn face with her own apologetic one. She caressed the tears from his cheeks and said, “Yes, it’s real.” Then he kissed her and he knew it was real. It felt real. Even as drained as he was he still kissed her with the passion of a thousand suns. He was just high on the fact that she was awake and speaking to him.

    Then he pulled back and said through a choked sob, “Thought I’d lost you Lightfoot.”

    “Oh, Bishop,” she whispered with a weak smile.

    He buried his face into the crook of her neck and murmured, “I’m so tired Ladyship. I have to sleep. Stay with me, please…”

    She said, “Of course.” She gave a quick wave to Delphine as he leaned heavily on her, ready to pass out. The breton woman called over to her, waving as the carriage rounded the bend towards the farm and Karnwyr hopped out, “I’ll meet you both at the Winking Skeever later. Get him in a bed already will you? Before he collapses and we have to carry him back.”

    ~~~

    Bishop stepped into the room he’d been renting out at the inn for the last four days. He hadn’t really slept there though; it was just a place to keep all their things at the moment. His swords lay on a table and a bunch of their other belongings were scattered around the room. He’d gone back to their home after the fire was put out. The roof of had been destroyed, but for the most part the building had remained intact. He retrieved all their extra clothes, her weapons, their gold and a few other precious valuables. Everything they couldn’t live without was there.

    He looked at the bed and walked over, falling face first into it. Karnwyr hopped up and curled up in the empty spot next to him. Bishop lay his head against a pillow and Rona knelt down beside him, running a hand over his temple and she asked, “You were really that worried about me?”

    “Always,” he said wearily. She kissed him on the forehead and he tugged on the sleeve of her dress and said, “Stay with me. I can’t sleep without you here.”

    She gave him a half-smile, “I will. But first I’m going to go get some food and talk to Delphine for a bit.”

    “Marjorie,” he said. Rona looked at him confused and he clarified, “She’s using an alias because she’s beyond paranoid, Ladyship. Just thought I’d warn you.”

    Rona smirked and said, “Thanks.”

    He knit his brows together, “Come back soon?”

    She kissed him on the lips and said, “I will, I promise. I’ll be just downstairs, okay?”

    He sighed, watching her as she went. She gave him a gentle wave, closing the door over behind her and went back downstairs into the tavern.

    Aela was sitting at a lone table in a corner and Rona joined her. Corpulus swept by and said, “Lady Rona! Nasty business that was with the dragons. How are you feeling?”

    “I feel much better, Corpulus, thank you,” she smiled kindly at him.

    He put a hand to his hip and asked, “You got the bread I baked and sent over I hope?”

    “Uhh,” Rona looked at him mystified.

    Aela laughed and said, “Oh right! We’ve got a ton of stuff for you girl. The whole town brought you flowers, sweets, amulets, wine, the works! Got a whole room in the palace for all the food, trinkets and liquor everyone left you while you were out.”

    Rona stared at her stunned. Bishop already told her she had way too much stuff. But now there was even more stuff?

    Rona looked back up at Corpulus and said hesitantly, “I guess… I did get it.”

    He chuckled and said, “That’s alright, let me know how the bread is though. I’ve been working on a new recipe,” he winked and then asked, “So what can I get for the two loveliest Companions?”

    Aela smirked and ordered a meat pie and an ale. Rona asked for the same but with a tall glass of water instead. Her stomach growled a little as Corpulus walked away to get their food.

    Aela laughed, “Yeah I bet you’re hungry.”

    “Starved,” Rona said rubbing a hand to her angry belly.

    “Bishop tried to spoon feed you porridge in your sleep. It was pretty funny to watch when you weren’t… you know, thrashing around. He sure was persistent though, made a mess all over you.”

    Rona knit her brows together, “Was I that bad?”

    Aela took a deep breath and exhaled, “If you were having that same dream over and over again girl, with the World Eater killing him? Yeah. It was bad.”

    “So you all know then?”

    Aela nodded, “Yeah, the monster himself decided to show it to us… You have that dream often?”

    “Only when I’m asleep and Alduin is nearby. Otherwise I’ll dream of the Dragonborn women sometimes. They’ll teach me songs and show me bits of their lives, their adventures and struggles, like they’re trying to guide me on my path and show me I’m not totally alone or something.”

    “You hate it don’t you? Being this legendary hero?”

    Rona looked down at the table. “Is there a stronger word than hate?”

    Aela looked her over for a moment, studying her before Corpulus came by and served them their plates and drinks and took his leave again. Rona’s stomach growled at the smell of the hot food and she dug right in.

    Aela took a few bites and swigs and said, “Wish I could help you more. You know we’ll always have your back right? If you ever need us for anything don’t hesitate to ask.”

    Rona looked up at her, taking a bite and smiled through her chewing. She swallowed and said, “I appreciate that Aela. I appreciate everything you’ve done to help us and for training Nelkir too. I… I want you to know, I forgive you, for all of it.”

    Aela furrowed her brows and said, “I don’t deserve it.”

    “I want us to be friends again, Aela. Real friends, like our mothers were.”

    Aela gave her a weak smile and took a sip from her drink, “I’d like that. Been missing my little sister you know.” Rona smirked at her and Aela leaned an elbow on the table, drink in hand and said seriously, “You’re really lucky to have him you know.”

    Rona raised a brow at her, “Bishop?”

    “Mmhm,” Aela said, “He’s got his flaws, definitely – damn snarky bastard he can be sometimes – but he loves you more than anything. I really envy that about you two.” Rona looked at her surprised and Aela explained, “Skjor and I always tried to hide it. It was stupid, we both knew that everyone knew about us. I mean how could they not?” She scoffed, “Us always sneaking off together. He wanted to be more open about it, but I-,” she faltered, “I worried the others would look at me differently for it. You showed me that you can still be a warrior and a woman in love,” she turned away looking mournful.

    Rona touched her hand and said, “I’m so sorry about Skjor, Aela. He was a good man. I learned a lot from him and I know Bishop did too. We miss him… Kodlak did too. He grieved deeply over his passing.”

    Aela sniffed and wiped at a stray tear clinging to her lash and whispered, “Thank you.”

    The two of them finished eating and Aela started telling her all about her fight with the dragons and everything that had transpired four days ago.

    Rona laughed and said, “You did not!”

    “Sure did,” Aela chuckled over her bottle of mead, “Got him right in the eye and told him, fuck you!”

    Rona laughed louder, “I can’t believe it! I mean, not only that you told the World Eater off like that – but you really got him in the eye?”

    Aela shrugged, “Guess he’s not so strong after all.”

    Delphine came through the doors then and looked around. Rona waved to her and she went right over to their table and pulled up a chair.

    Rona made to introduce her and said, “Aela this is my friend –“

    “Marjorie,” Delphine interjected quickly and held a hand out. Rona gave her a side eye glance and remembered what Bishop had said.

    Aela shook her hand and said, “Nice to meet you Marjorie, I’m Aela.”

    Delphine looked over her armor and asked, “One of the Companions?”

    “Harbinger of the Companions,” Rona said with a smirk.

    Delphine looked surprised and smiled, “Ah, another strong woman in our company.”

    “So they tell me,” Aela shrugged, “So, Marjorie, how do you know our little dragon?”

    Delphine shifted in her seat, setting her elbows on the table and laced her fingers together, “We met a while back. She did some work for me, collected an old stone tablet I was looking for some time ago.”

    Aela raised her brows, “Oh yeah? Not one of our contracts was it?”

    “It was before I joined the Companions,” Rona said.

    “Nothing important really,” Delphine waved it off, “Just some old relic. I’m a collector of sorts.”

    Delphine was being incredibly vague and overly cautious, probably because they were in public and in the presence of a stranger. She could tell Delphine really wanted to speak with her alone, but she didn’t want to just rudely tell Aela to leave either.

    Delphine looked towards the stairs then and smirked shaking her head, “Your ranger has come calling my dear.”

    Rona looked back to see Bishop slowly walking over, tired as ever with dark circles under his eyes. He went right up to her and put a hand on her shoulder and muttered, “You promised Ladyship.”

    She pursed her lips and knit her brows together as she looked over his pathetic face, “Aw, I’m sorry Bishop,” then she glanced at Delphine who was holding back a laugh.

    “Go on,” Delphine said with a smirk, “We’ll talk later.”

    “Are you coming to the Festival tonight?” Rona asked her as she stood and Bishop tugged on her arm.

    “Festival? Sure, sounds fun,” Delphine said, “We’ll meet there and talk then.”

    “Ata is over at the Blue Palace if you want to talk with him for a bit,” Rona said as she slowly started to move her feet, letting her persistent ranger draw her along.

    “I think I’ll do that,” Delphine said, “Hey Bishop, do try and actually focus on sleeping will you? Can’t let those dark circles get any bigger or your eyes might just fall out of your head.”

    He gave an annoyed grunt in reply and pulled Rona along quicker with him up the stairs.

    The minute the two of them were gone, both Aela and Delphine looked at each other and let out a fit of laughter.

    “Those two,” Delphine smirked shaking her head.

    “Doubt he’ll be getting much sleep at all with her around,” Aela scoffed. Then she stood up and said, “I can take you over to the Blue Palace, Marjorie or whatever the hell your name is.” Delphine looked surprised at her and Aela just flashed her a knowing look as she said, “You’re the one helping her find the Elder Scroll to take down the dragon menace right?”

    Delphine didn’t reply, she only gave a short nod. Aela motioned for her to follow, “Well come on then woman.”

    Delphine smirked to herself, shaking her head slightly, glad to see so many sharp women in her midst.

    ~~~

    Bishop pulled Rona onto the bed with him and she had to shove Karnwyr over some more as she was suddenly sandwiched between the two of them in the middle of the bed. An all too familiar memory came to mind, one from many months ago up on the Seven Thousand Steps where she’d shivered up a storm but Bishop and Karnwyr were kind enough to provide her with their warmth. This time though she had no intention on hurting her sleepy ranger for touching her so intimately.

    She let Bishop wrap his arms tightly around her waist, pushing their bodies impossibly close and he pressed his forehead to hers and let out a low sigh, closing his eyes. She ran her fingers through his hair and looked over his sleepy face with a smile. She wasn’t tired in the slightest, having four days of sleep already, but she’d stay for him. He seemed so at ease now, holding her in his arms.

    She thought he might have already drifted off until he opened his tired eyes, looking into hers as if he was checking to make sure she was still there.

    “You should sleep,” she whispered.

    “Can’t,” he mumbled.

    “And why’s that?”

    “Nerves,” he said.

    She gave a gentle smile as she traced the line in his jaw with a finger, feeling the stubble on his face which had grown quite a bit in the last few days. It seemed Bishop had neglected to care for himself while trying to take care of her.

    “You worried the dragons will come again?”

    “They always do,” he said somberly.

    “I know,” she whispered turning her eyes down from his. She tried to take their conversation somewhere nicer, “Heard you tried to feed me porridge in my sleep.”

    “Yeah,” he mumbled, “You like that gruel right?” She laughed and he added, “Figured it’d be mushy enough that you wouldn’t choke on it. I just got it all over your face and hair though,” he gave a weak smile.

    “You’re too sweet,” she said and leaned in to kiss him. Even when he was exhausted he still made the effort to take her breath away as he caught her lips with his and their tongues entwined. Four days without sleep and he still found the energy to get excited too, pressing his hardness against her leg.

    She pulled away from his lips and murmured, “Really? I thought you were tired.”

    “If you haven’t realized by now Ladyship, my penis has a mind of its own,” he replied while continuing to prod himself up against her thigh.

    She laughed and said, “Your hips too it seems.”

    He smirked, “My entire lower half does what it likes as evidenced today when my legs ran off without me while I was still in the carriage.”

    She wrapped a hand to his back and murmured, “Sleep, love. Tonight we’ll go to the Festival and visit with everyone… but after that…” she gave him a flirty smirk and felt his member twitch through his clothes, getting what she was hinting at.

    He pressed his face into the crook of her neck, laying against the pillow under them and sighed, “Sing me to sleep then Ladyship, like you always do.”

    She started stroking his hair again and quietly vocalized a soft lullaby. It wasn’t long before he started to steadily snore in her ear, louder than usual too, indicating just how tired he was and how much he needed this deep rest. She lay there for some time, just humming and running her fingers through his hair before she began to nod off herself. This time in a dreamless sleep.

    ~~~

    They both woke up to the sounds of explosions in the distance and Karnwyr barking loudly in reply. Bright and colorful flashes came through the window and lit up their room before they faded and it darkened only to happen all over again every few seconds.

    Bishop sat straight up in a panic and ran to grab his gear shouting, “Shit! Not again! Ladyship let’s go!”

    Rona laughed as she watched him scramble to strap his swords and quiver to himself and she finally and calmly said,  “They’re just fireworks.”

    “What?” He stopped his rushing around and looked back at her perplexed.

    “You’ve never seen fireworks before?” She asked surprised.

    “Ladyship, I don’t have a damn clue what you’re even saying to me right now,” he said.

    She rolled her eyes and smiled, “I bet it’s Ata setting them off. They’re really common in Cyrodiil for celebrations and things like that,” she got up and grabbed his arm, pulling him over to the window. She undid the clasp on the window panes and pushed them open. She pointed out at the sky where the fireworks were exploding high above the Bard’s College in the distance.

    Bishop stared fixedly at the sparkling lights as they spiraled through the air and burst into colorful, bright images. Their shapes were mostly stars and flowers but a few times they created images of animals, like rabbits and foxes. Rona appreciated that her father had refrained from sending off the ever famous ones that looked like dragons, however.

    “That’s… amazing,” Bishop couldn’t seem to take his eyes off the beautiful, sparkling images as they glittered in the distance.

    Rona laughed and said, “See? Nothing to be afraid of.”

    He looked down at her, his brows knit together and shook his head, “There are plenty of things to be afraid of Rona. But… I’ll keep you safe from it all.”

    “Bishop…”

    He leaned in and kissed her gently, sweetly, caressing her cheek as he did so. She smiled under his mouth and he pulled back looking her over, a smile of his own perking at his lips, “What is it Sweetness?”

    “I love you,” she said.

    He brushed her hair from her shoulder and said, “I love you too beautiful.”

    (The music is Star Above the Garter by Erutan)

    The two of them ventured off down through the marketplace together, making their way to the College. Karnwyr stayed behind however and hid under the bed, too frightened by all the noise. Naturally with it being a celebration held by the Bards College they heard the sounds of music drifting along throughout the city.

    As they walked along, Rona noticed that Bishop was keeping his eyes glued to the sparkling explosions in the sky, completely enraptured by them. She thought it was cute seeing such a childish joy lighting up his face like that.

    When they arrived at the College, despite how late in the evening it was, the plaza was busy and bustling with people. A baker was selling some sweets, Evette San was giving away bottles of Spiced Wine and plenty of others were offering a variety of food and refreshments for the celebration.

    Rona saw her father over in the sunken portion of the plaza near the effigy of King Olaf sending off fireworks from his staff while a group of local children watched in awe and asked him questions a mile a minute. She didn’t see Delphine anywhere though and figured the woman was still probably keeping a low profile. Serlas noticed Rona and gave her a quick wave. She waved back and smiled at him, then turned her attention to the group of Companions standing near the College entrance.

    Bishop and Rona talked with them for a bit. Nelkir couldn’t stop jabbering on about all the things he was going to do once they were in Whiterun again, all good things thankfully. No talk of revenge or taking out the Stormcloak invaders to Rona’s relief. Instead he carried on about his plans to recruit other orphans like his new friend Blaise.

    Then Master Viarmo, Jarl Elisif, her housecarl and Dagny came out of the College. Dagny looked very pretty, all dressed up in a shimmering gold gown, her hair braided up around her head with gold laurel leaves woven into the braids. The little girl beamed at Rona and ran over to her giving her the biggest hug ever, “Rona! You’re awake! I’m so happy you’re here!”

    Rona got excited with her and said, “I heard you’re singing tonight!”

    “Yeah!” Dagny jumped up and down, “They’re making me an official member of the College now!”

    Rona shook her shoulders side to side with Dagny while holding her hands and doing her best to fuel the girl’s excitement. Master Viarmo called Dagny over then and she said, “I have to go, but promise you’ll stay for my song? I’ve been practicing it every day.”

    “I wouldn’t miss it for the world sweetie,” Rona gave her another big hug before she ran off to join Master Viarmo down in the plaza.

    Jarl Elisif approached Rona then and said, “I’m so glad to see you’re well Lady Rona. We were all very worried for you.”

    “Thank you for your concern and hospitality Jarl Elisif,” Rona said.

    The Jarl waved a hand, “Think nothing of it. Your companions have done an impressive job of keeping our city safe from the dragons. If anything we owe you our gratitude.”

    Master Viarmo’s voice carried up loudly to everyone then, “Welcome people of Solitude! We of the Bards College are pleased to be here to celebrate the Burning of King Olaf. The Festival would not have been possible without the hard work and dedication of the Companions guild!”

    “Whoops, that’s our cue,” Aela said. All of the Companions stepped over to the plaza as the crowd cheered them on and Master Viarmo continued.

    “Yes, you have our utmost thanks Companions. Now I would like to present our newest and youngest member, the lovely Dagny Balgruuf. A true prodigy in the way of musical and vocal talent. And with the lighting of the effigy,” he stepped forward and lit the giant straw man with his torch and said, “she becomes a full-fledged member of the Bards College! She will now demonstrate her remarkable talent for us by singing the song, All I Ask of You.”

    Bishop scoffed and mumbled sarcastically, “This should be good.”

    Rona nudged him hard in the ribs and she said, “You’ll see. Dagny has a beautiful voice.” He just rolled his eyes skeptically, rubbing at his side where she jabbed him.

    (The Song is All I Ask of You by Jackie Evancho)

    The other members of the College began to perform the start of the song on their instruments and Dagny stepped forward looking incredibly nervous. Her eyes met Rona’s and she gave the girl the widest smile she could, nodding slightly, encouraging her to go on. Dagny took a deep breath and then she captured everyone with the beauty of her voice. Even Bishop was absolutely floored and Rona couldn’t help it when she whispered with a smirk, “Told yah.”

    “No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed fears
    I’m here, nothing can harm you, my words will warm and calm you
    Let me be your freedom, let daylight dry your tears
    I’m here, with you, beside you, to guard you and to guide you

    Say you’ll love me every waking moment
    Turn my head with talk of summertime
    Say you need me with you now and always
    Promise me that all you say is true
    That’s all I ask of you

    Let me be your shelter, let me be your light
    You’re safe, no one will find you, your fears are far behind you
    All I want is freedom, a world with no more night
    And you always beside me, to hold me and to hide me

    Then, say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime
    Let me lead you from your solitude
    Say you need me with you here beside you
    Anywhere you go let me go too
    Love me, that’s all I ask of you

    Stay each day with me, each night, each morning
    Say you love me, you know I do
    Love me, that’s all I ask of you”

    Bishop wrapped his arm around Rona’s waist and she leaned into him while they listened to this beautiful song. One that captured her feelings for him perfectly. He seemed to feel the same as their eyes met and he said, “Love me Ladyship, that’s all I ask of you.”

    She smiled warmly at him and said, “You know I do.” They kissed as Serlas sent off more fireworks into the sky and the crowd cheered wildly for Dagny. Even Nelkir ran in and gave Dagny a big hug and Rona couldn’t be happier to be around everyone she loved and but most especially in the arms of the man she loved. It was happy and beautiful and she wanted it to last forever.

    She clung to it desperately, knowing deep down inside, that it would come to an end all too soon.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 63

    The Embassy

     

    Three short days of peacefulness passed. The Companions left for Whiterun and Rona and Bishop spent their time indulging in one another, trying to forget the horrors gone by. Serlas was good company as well. They had supper with him at the tavern every evening while Rona shared her voice with the townsfolk, singing and playing her lute to her heart’s content.

    When the day of the reception finally came the three of them were having breakfast together and Delphine came in with a very nervous looking bosmer at her heels. She looked around. The inn was mostly vacant except for an argonian in the corner munching on a pastry while Corpulus and his son were busy baking bread and prepping for the day and his young daughter Minette sat in a corner entertaining Karnwyr and fed him bits of her own breakfast pastry to Bishop’s chagrin.

    He grumbled, “She’s gonna give him a stomach ache…”

    Rona rolled her eyes as she took a bite of her omelette and Delphine came over to them and sat down, motioning for the bosmer to join them. His eyes darted all over and he warily eyed the argonian in the corner for a minute before Delphine finally yanked on his arm, making him sit.

    He looked over all of them and then his eyes rest on Rona and he said incredulously, “You? You’re the Dragonborn?

    She cocked an eyebrow and said, “Yup. Want me to shout you across the room to prove it?”

    He leaned back, “N-No! No… Okay,” he glanced at Delphine and said in a hushed voice, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

    “Trust me,” Delphine said, “We’re good, we’ve already got an in since Serlas and Rona here were actually invited to this party and know the Thalmor personally.”

    This did not assuage his fears in the slightest as he frowned a little at Rona and his frown only deepened at the sight of Serlas, a full blooded altmer sitting there. Serlas just gave him a friendly smile in return and turned his attention to Bishop. “I managed to secure permission for Bishop to come with us as the Dragonborn’s personal security as well,” Serlas said,“They didn’t have any room to argue, though they certainly tried.”

    Delphine smirked and said, “Perfect. The more people we have inside the better. So here’s the plan…”

    Delphine pulled out a map of the grounds and went over everything with them, telling them where they were likely to find the documents they needed to steal and made suggestions on how to get to them.

    “Once you’re all inside, that’s when the fun starts,” Delphine said, “Bishop, you’re going to be our sneak thief.”

    He leaned back and laced his fingers together, cracking his knuckles, “I’m a bit rusty but I’ll see what I can do.”

    “You’ll have to slip away from the party without raising the alarm. You’ll need a distraction.”

    “A distraction?” Serlas said, “I may be able to provide that.”

    Bishop chuckled, “Yeah, just set some fireworks off up Elenwen’s skirt. That’ll be distraction enough.”

    Rona laughed, “I was thinking of shouting her into a block of ice myself. Make for a nice decoration for the party at least.”

    Delphine chuckled and said, “Well, all joking aside, take care of yourselves in there. I’d rather not see any of you hurt. Don’t take any unnecessary risks,” she looked at Bishop and spoke seriously again, “Once you’ve managed to sneak away, Malborn here will take you to where he’s hiding your equipment. He’ll smuggle in anything you think you’ll need. Try to keep it light on him though, he can only get a few things in without raising suspicion.”

    Bishop picked up a small wrapped parcel off the floor and passed it over to the bosmer saying, “Already got everything we need in there.”

    Malborn took it and said, “Really? That’s it?”

    “Just a pair of daggers, a few lock picks and some potions of healing and invisibility,” Bishop shrugged.

    “Not bringing your swords?” Delphine asked Rona.

    “We figured I’d be too busy listening to Elenwen drone on about joining the Imperials to do much of anything else,” Rona said, “Besides I have my magic and my shouts if I need them and one of the daggers is for me.”

    “If you’re sure,” Delphine, however, sounded very unsure but moved along, “Alright. Better get changed you three. We don’t want you to be late.”

    The three of them stood and went up the stairs to the rented room. Bishop and Rona sat at the edge of the bed while Serlas went first, going behind the changing divider and coming back around after a few minutes wearing his finest, dark wine colored robes with swirling gold trim on the sleeves and the bottom hem.

    “Very sophisticated, Ata,” Rona said with a grin.

    “Very purple,” Bishop said cocking an eyebrow.

    Serlas chuckled, “They call it redguard red. I bought this in Hammerfell years ago. My finest set of robes, only to be worn on special occasions where I will be attending parties and infiltrating enemy holds, just my usual hobbies.”

    They laughed and Rona pushed Bishop forward and said, “You next!”

    He sighed not looking forward to wearing frumpy noble attire for a second time in his life. Serlas went over to a dresser pulling out a stash of clothes and handed them to him, “I know how much you hate the tighter fitting clothes so I made sure to keep it simple for you. You’ll wear the leather vest underneath it all. The Thalmor will still search you, but since you’re considered Rona’s security detail, if you’re wearing just the armor you’ll be fine.”

    Bishop took the pile of clothes and went around the divider and they listened to his irritated grumbling as he got dressed. Finally, he came around wearing a plain white, blooming shirt which he’d tucked into his tight fitted, belted black trousers. The leather armor underneath was hardly noticeable at all through the loose shirt. He was barefoot though and he wiggled his toes and said, “Hope they’re not expecting us attend barefoot.”

    Serlas picked up a nice pair of black leather boots from the side of the bed and handed them to him. “You’ll like these,” he said, “Enchanted them myself. They’ll muffle your footsteps and easily enhance your stealth.”

    Bishop sat on the bed and tugged them on and gave a pleased grin as he tapped the floor with a foot, “These are pretty nice. Might trade them out for my old worn ones instead. Gonna have to break them in though, they’re a little tight around the toes.”

    Serlas waved a hand, casting a spell over the boots and asked, “How’s that?”

    Bishop smirked, “Much better. What would we do without you Serlas?”

    “Suffer with pinched toes it seems,” he chuckled and then said to Rona, “And now you dear.”

    Rona hopped off the bed and pulled out the evening gown Bishop had rescued from their torn up home. She went around the divider and undressed from her old red, Brigida day dress, which the castle maids had kindly cleaned and pressed while she was still in the hospital wing. She threw it up over the divider and pulled on the pretty gown and looked herself over in the full length mirror standing off to the side. She ran glowing fingers through the dress, smoothing out all the creases and wrinkles and then took a minute to curl her hair and tied it up into a cute updo with long curling bangs to frame her face. Then she went about applying some makeup to her lips and eyes.

    She didn’t think she was taking that long until Bishop sighed loudly, “Ladyship, come on. It’s not the Grand Crystal Ball all over again. You don’t have to get that fancy.”

    She threw a hand up over the divider and waved, “Give me a minute!”

    When she finished with her makeup she slipped on a pair of sexy black, high heeled dress shoes she’d picked up a few days before at The Jewel. She took one quick twirl, looking herself over in the mirror and smirked. She came around the divider and of course Bishop’s grumpy expression changed immediately to one of desire.

    Serlas stood from the bed and said, “Lovely velvyn. You look positively elvish my dear.”

    “Thank you Ata,” she said smiling at him. Then she glanced at Bishop who seemed at a loss for words and she asked, “Ready?”

    Bishop grabbed a pillow and awkwardly placed it over his lap, coughed slightly and said, “Um, give me a minute. I’ll catch up. Just want to… fix my… shirt.”

    Rona rolled her eyes though she had a smug little smirk on her lips all the same as she followed her father out and down the stairs. They met with Delphine by the stables and she looked them both over, “Wow, you two clean up nicely. Rona though, you really outdid yourself. You look beautiful.”

    Rona blushed and said, “Thank you.”

    “But where’s Bishop?”

    Serlas said politely, “He’ll be catching up in a minute. Having some trouble with his trousers it seems,” Rona blushed even harder at her father making note of the obvious, then he added, “We have plenty of time though, the reception isn’t until noon and at this rate we’ll be at least a half hour early.”

    It wasn’t too long before Bishop came wandering down to the stables, he had Rona’s white cloak over his arm and Karnwyr followed at his side. He walked up to Delphine and said, “Mind taking Karnwyr back to Riverwood for me?”

    “Sure. I’ll look after him until you three get back,” Delphine clicked her tongue and Karnwyr loped over to her, looking for any possible food in her hands and then turned and looked up at Bishop.

    He firmly said, “Follow her,” and pointed at Delphine. Karnwyr cocked his head, but seemed to get the gist of it as they all boarded the carriage and the wolf stayed right by her side.

    Delphine stepped over to them and said, “Watch yourselves in there. I’m putting everything in your hands, not least of all Malborn’s life. Do whatever you have to do, we need those documents.”

    “We will not disappoint Marjorie my dear,” Serlas replied with amusement.

    Delphine smirked at the sound of her fake name and waved them off as the carriage strode along the path.

    ~~~

    It was a two hour ride up into the chilly mountain tundra to get to the embassy. Rona was grateful that Bishop had thought to bring her cloak because she needed it the minute they hit snow.

    Bishop yawned and leaned back in the carriage, throwing his hands up behind his head and rest a leg over the other. He’d taken the lone seat across from both of them.

    Serlas looked over at his very casual posture and said, “Perhaps we should go over traditional Aldmeri etiquette while we have the time.”

    Bishop glanced at him and smirked, “What? You afraid I’m not housebroken and I’ll piss on their carpets? Pft. Give me some credit.”

    Serlas chuckled, “Well I hadn’t considered that until now. Since it’s the Thalmor I certainly wouldn’t put it past you.”

    Bishop gave a loud laugh and said, “Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea honestly. Alright, so what do I gotta know? I don’t have to kiss too many asses now do I?”

    “No, no one’s rumps will need any kissing, thank the gods. However, as a human – a nord rather – you are one of a race in which they deem very beneath them. You will need to bow and give the subservient greeting in proper Aldmeri to our hostess.”

    Bishop scowled, pulled his arms down and crossed them over his chest, “Seriously?

    Serlas pressed his lips together and said, “Unfortunately, you heard correctly. It’s rather antiquated, but it is expected of those who are considered servants or ‘the help’ if you will. And since you are neither a thane, a Jarl, or a noble, you will be required to perform this one simple greeting to our hostess, Ambassador Elenwen. After that the wisest thing to do would be to keep your sharp tongue sheathed, as they don’t take kindly to insolence.”

    Bishop twisted his mouth and asked, “Alright, so what’s this formal greeting?”

    Serlas held a finger up and said concisely in Aldmeri, “A bo’sun va ni bala ae dominius ry ture vas a, ry gen am Auri-El.”

    Bishop just stared at him and Rona started to giggle under her breath. He muttered, “There’s no way. I’m never going to be able to pronounce all that gibberish.”

    “Well, we have plenty of time to practice, another hour’s ride I’d say,” Serlas said with a smile.

    Bishop furrowed his brows and asked, “What does that even mean?”

    Serlas replied, “Ah, a rough translation of it is, ‘I bow to your might and dominion as lords over me, as bequeathed by Auri-El’.”

    Bishop pursed his lips through a harsh scowl and said, “M’nope. No way. No fucking way they’re getting me to say that shit. It’ll be a cold day in Oblivion before I let those words cross my lips, in Aldmeri or Cyrodillic.”

    Serlas sighed, stroking his beard thoughtfully, “I understand your feelings about it. Well I suppose we could always insist that you’re a mute.”

    “Yeah,” Bishop agreed, “Let’s go with that.”

    “You’ll still have to bow,” Serlas said raising his brows.

    “Just tell them I’ve got a bad back too.”

    Rona let out a string of giggles and Bishop smirked at her. Their chatter died down for the rest of the ride, not wanting to go over their real plans in front of the carriage driver, staying as cautious as Delphine would expect them to be.

    When they arrived it was snowing in full force and Rona pulled her cloak around herself tighter as she shivered. Serlas and Bishop hopped out of the carriage first and then Bishop kindly helped her down, more than likely using the moment as an excuse to get really close to her. He lifted her out of the carriage by her waist, setting her down very close to him and said, “My poor pathetic Ladyship, always shivering in the lightest of snow.”

    She immediately nestled under his arm as another shiver overtook her, trying to steal some of the nordic warmth from him and said through chattering teeth, “Y-You call this a l-light s-snow?”

    He chuckled and wrapped his arm tighter around her shoulder. Serlas was already a short way ahead of them and was stopped by a very drunk redguard man who started slurring and rambling to him.

    Bishop leaned over, pressing his mouth very close to her cold ear and whispered, “I didn’t get a chance to mention it before, but you look incredible Ladyship. Very, very sexy. I’m looking forward to tearing that dress off you tonight.” Her face burned red at his words and he chuckled lightly before he nibbled at the tip of her ear and mumbled, “Your ears are blushing here too.”

    She nudged him in the ribs just as Serlas turned around and called, “Come along you two! Let us take leave of this bitter snowstorm!”

    They trudged through the snow together, Bishop still had his arm around her shoulder and the Thalmor guards at the entrance gave them the dirtiest of looks. Rona wasn’t sure if it was because she was a half-breed, or because she was allowing Bishop, a nord, to embrace her like that, or maybe a combination of both.

    But they were immediately stopped by the guards regardless, “I must see your invitations.”

    Rona frowned, “My ata has them – Ata!” She called to Serlas who was already at the top of the stairs.

    “I cannot let you through until I see your invitations,” the Thalmor repeated snidely.

    Bishop threw a hand out, “She’s the goddamn Dragonborn, what more of an invitation do you need?”

    The Thalmor guard sneered at him, “Hold your tongue you filthy snow-back. How dare you speak to me.”

    What the fuck did you just call me?” Bishop snarled, getting heated.

    Rona immediately put a hand to his chest as he started curling his fists. “Not here,” she said firmly, locking eyes with him.

    Serlas came back down and scoffed, “Honestly! I already presented invitations for them! Now may we pass?”

    The Thalmor guard looked back at Serlas, his face etched with disdain, “If he is working as her security he must be searched. That is the protocol.”

    Serlas sighed and stepped down to them, giving Bishop a stern look of warning.

    The Thalmor guard stepped in front of Bishop and demanded, “Hold your arms out.”

    Bishop’s eye twitched slightly but he complied, raising his arms and the second guard came over as they thoroughly searched him. The first one unbuttoned his shirt and muttered, “Leather armor, hm? Any weapons on you?”

    “Just my fists,” he growled.

    The Thalmor maintained a haughty look, narrowing his eyes at Bishop before he finally said, “He’s clean. The girl next.”

    Excuse me!?” Bishop snarled.

    “BY THE GODS!” Serlas exclaimed, “Velvynen needn’t be searched! She is the Dragonborn for Auri-El’s sake! Formally invited here by Ambassador Elenwen herself! Do you always treat your guests with such hostility!?”

    Rona tugged her cloak around herself a little tighter, not liking the idea being groped by these two elves, one of whom was giving her a lecherous stare.

    The first one merely smirked at Serlas and said, “We have clear instructions from the Ambassador to search the Dragonborn for possible weapons. I assure you, I am only following orders.”

    Serlas and Bishop both shared the most livid expressions she’d ever seen. But she relented and held her arms up and said, “Alright, just, make it quick please. It’s freezing out here.”

    The two Thalmor guards looked all too smug as they went over and ran their hands up and down her body through the fabric of her clothes, checking much too close to certain parts of her for these supposed weapons she might be hiding. She had no doubt in her mind Elenwen had ordered this and told them to do it this way. Another show of power by the bitch herself.

    The first guard leaned his face rather close to hers as he ran a hand over the side of her breast and said with a haughty tone and a lewd smirk, “She’s clean.”

    She immediately stepped away from them and yanked her cloak around herself. She felt a shiver crawl up her spine as they carried on up the stairs to the embassy and it was not from the cold.

    Bishop looked over at her with a mingled look of anger and concern as he uttered, “Ladyship…”

    “Don’t worry about it,” she said quickly, “Let’s just get inside.”

    Serlas went ahead but Bishop grabbed Rona’s hand and pulled her over to him, “Hey, how do you say, ‘go fuck yourself’ in Aldmeri?”

    Rona raised a brow and told him, “Tarn quelna nitani.”

    Bishop attempted to repeat it, “Tarn kelna neetahni. That right?”

    “You got it,” she said.

    A rascally grin played at his lips. The two of them entered into the embassy and looked around. It wasn’t a very large place to hold a party, though there weren’t a lot of people either. The walls were decorated with golden banners displaying the Aldmeri Dominion’s crest of a silver eagle. There were a few tables set out with hors d’oeuvres and other hot food that gave off a gentle steam. Several guests milled about and a small group of bards stood by performing some very boring music.

    (Recommended background music Dame Ne Regardez Pas by Erutan)

    Rona really hated the Thalmor and the Dominion, but she absolutely loved traditional Aldmeri cuisine and was itching to go get a plate for herself. There was a bar nearby where Malborn was working quickly to mix drinks for those who stopped to ask for them. He glanced at them and tried really hard to pretend he didn’t know them as Bishop walked up to the counter and said, “Get me a Black Briar’s will yah?”

    “Coming right up sir!” He said nervously.

    Malborn moved quickly, too quickly, as he tripped over himself rushing to get the beverage. He returned and stiffly handed it to him, looking flustered, “H-here you are sir!”

    Bishop looked at him with half-lidded eyes and said, “You really need to relax.”

    They spotted Elenwen across the hall deep in conversation with Maven Black-Briar. Rona was not surprised in the slightest. If they weren’t so obviously different races she would have guessed that they were sisters. She gave a low groan and Bishop started tipping back his drink and said, “What?”

    Rona whispered to him, motioning to Maven, “Remember her?”

    Bishop stared hard at the haughty nord noble-woman before he slowly said, “Oooh yeah. The bitch from Riften.”

    Serlas let out a grumble of his own then and said, “Sheath your sharp tongue Bishop.”

    He clammed up, pursing his lips. Finally, Elenwen noticed them, her eyes immediately scanned over Rona, almost hungrily so, and she said with a smile, “Ah, the talk of the crowd has finally arrived.”

    Maven looked over too and said unimpressed, “Oh, the Dragonborn girl.”

    “If you’ll excuse me Maven,” Elenwen stepped over, taking a few long strides across the hall, to them. She was a very tall woman, just as Rona remembered her, nearly as tall as Serlas in fact. She had long, straight blonde hair and high cheekbones that accentuated the arrogant look on her snobbish face. She wore Justiciar robes instead of a dress too, always working even when she was supposed to be hosting a formal reception. Her slanted golden eyes looked right down at Rona, sizing her up when she finally said condescendingly, “My, don’t you look lovely Miss Thoraminh. If only you were a bit taller, you might actually be able to pass for a real elf.”

    Rona just cocked her head at the woman, half-lidded eyes and made a face that screamed, really, you fucking cunt? Really?

    Elenwen curled her thin lips into a nasty smirk and said, “Ah, but where are my manners.”

    Where indeed? Rona thought.

    The woman gave a formal Aldmeri greeting, taking Rona’s hand and bowing slightly, “Ali ae alis. Maye Auri-El haimile ura argon.”

    Rona did the same, rolling her eyes at the idiotic formalities the Thalmor insisted on, “(Honor and glory. May Auri-El bless our meeting.)”

    Serlas followed suit, looking just as irritated with the whole debacle as well or perhaps he was just disgusted with Elenwen’s utter audacity to start flinging insults the minute they met.

    Bishop was sipping at his bottle of mead and looked like he was debating on how difficult it would be to kill the woman and get away with it. Elenwen glanced over at him and her lip curled at his very casual demeanor.

    “(This is your security detail then?)” She said in Aldmeri with a sneer, “(He knows the formalities I take it?)”

    Serlas replied back, firmly in Cyrodillic, because it absolutely infuriated him when people purposefully spoke in a language others could not understand, especially if it was about them. “He is aware of the formalities, Ambassador, though he has difficulty speaking the mother tongue. We would appreciate it if you could make an exception just this once.”

    Elenwen smirked at Serlas and said, “No, I cannot do that. As a servant he must know his place. Go on then, buroth. Let us hear your greeting.”

    Bishop looked her over and shrugged. He moved the hand holding his mead to his back and his other hand to his stomach and gave a low bow and said, “Tarn quelna nitani.”

    Rona snorted very loudly and uselessly covered her mouth while Serlas just groaned loudly and slapped a hand to his face.

    Elenwen’s mouth twitched and her thin brows slanted sharply over her eyes, “Amusing, buroth,” she took her long fingers and grasped his chin, raising his head up to look at hers and spoke sharply, “I will let your impertinence slide this once. Do it again and I’ll cut that dagger of a tongue of yours off. You are in my embassy, boy, and you will show your respect here.”

    He just glared at her but said no more. She remove her hand and said to the other two with a fake politeness in Aldmeri, “(Please enjoy yourselves, mingle, have some food and refreshments. I would speak with you both later about some very important matters),” then she looked at Rona and said, “(Keep your dog’s leash nice and tight Miss Thoraminh. If I so much as catch him speaking when not spoken to I will not hesitate to discipline his behavior.)”

    Rona pressed her lips together and met Elenwen’s gaze, putting every bit of hatred she had for the woman into her glare and said with a fake smile, “(Of course, Ambassador.)”

    Elenwen turned on toe and swept away from them, disappearing through a door to the right leading outside into what appeared to be a snowy courtyard.

    Serlas looked right over at Bishop and scowled at him. Bishop flashed him an impish grin and took a sip of his mead. “Too much?” He said with a laugh.

    “It is not wise to play with fire, Bishop,” Serlas replied and walked by him heading for the food laid out on the tables.

    Bishop frowned at his back, “Have you met your daughter? She’s a walking, talking, shouting inferno.”

    “Gee, thanks,” she said.

    “I only mean that in the most flattering of ways, darlin’.”

    She laughed, “That’s a new one.”

    “Hm?”

    She held up her fingers, “Let’s see, Ladyship, Lightfoot, Princess, Sweetness, and now darlin’? Sometimes I wonder if you remember my name at all.”

    He smirked at her and leaned over so only she could hear, “You forgot, love.”

    She blushed a little and moved quicker towards the tables where Serlas was busy putting together one of his own plates. He seemed more agitated than usual. Rona wondered if it was because of the Thalmor or if it was because Bishop really was playing too closely with fire.

    Although her father had seemed very down since she woke up in the hospital wing three days ago. Maybe it was the loss of his close friend. He never did tell her all the details of what actually happened while he was at the College. He also never mentioned anything about the Elder Scrolls, so she knew he probably hadn’t learned anything new.

    Or maybe he was just worried for her. Seeing her trapped in an endless nightmare, screaming and crying. Her father really was getting to be old for an elf. Technically speaking he was in his senior years. He would be considered great-grandfatherly by anyone on the Summerset Isles. He was probably exhausted by it all, by her and her journey. Rona hated herself for putting him through this.

    Bishop distracted her from these concerning thoughts when he pointed at all the platters of food and remarked, “Eugh… what is all this?”

    She scoffed, “Traditional Aldmeri cuisine. Just try some of it, it’s really good.”

    Rona started loading up a plate with some of her favorites, stuffed squid, potato salad with herring, and slaughterfish with green peppers and clams.

    Bishop was eyeing one particularly mushy looking platter of meat when he said, “The hell is that one?”

    Rona laughed, “Boiled cow’s head.”

    He gagged slightly and she scowled at him, “Oh quit that. I’ve seen you eat mammoth nose. How is that any different?”

    He shrugged, “Mammoth nose is actually pretty good.”

    He pointed at another steaming dish and asked, “How ’bout this one, it looks safe enough.”

    “Oh that’s baked apple terrine,” she said.

    “Guess I’m having dessert for lunch,” he grabbed a small plate and scooped the apple pastry onto it. The three of them loitered around, eating their food and watching the guests mingle. The redguard man from earlier was heavily sloshed on ale and trying to get even more from Malborn who was very insistent on cutting him off.

    Rona recognized a few of the thanes from Solitude having a quiet conversation in a corner. There was a male Thalmor Justiciar holding his nose high while he scanned the small party, like he was looking for any wrongdoing that he could correct.

    An older nord woman approached them with a pleasant grin on her face. “Serlas Felroonyaran Thoraminh,” she said smirking up at the old elf, “It’s been far too long my friend, what brings you all the way out here among these adders?”

    Serlas chuckled and shook hands with her, “Jarl Idgrod, a pleasure to see you as always,” he put a hand to Rona’s shoulder and said, “I am here for my daughter, Rona, actually.”

    Rona shook hands with the kind Jarl. The old woman had a firm handshake for someone who looked so frail as she said, “Ah that’s right, I heard your daughter was the Dragonborn. Ooh, you’re a tough one, aren’t you?”

    Rona looked surprised at her. Everywhere she went people couldn’t believe she was the Dragonborn, most days she couldn’t believe it herself to be honest.

    “It’s very nice to meet you,” Rona said with a smile. Then she glanced back at her father and asked, “How are you two acquainted?”

    “I had some business with your mother years ago,” Idgrod said, “She had a bit of difficulty with the task required of her, however, and I insisted she enlist your father’s help. You were quite the spritely little infant back then.”

    Rona laughed, “So we’ve met before?”

    “Oh yes, of course you wouldn’t remember though. You were much too small for that. But my, if you don’t resemble your mother. By the Divines, I’d mistake you for her if not for the ears.”

    Serlas and the Jarl chatted for a bit and Rona noticed Elenwen stalk back into the room, looking quite pleased about something it seemed. Bishop leaned over to Rona and muttered, “Think it’s about time we get this plan of ours moving.”

    He was right. They had to get going, especially since Malborn looked beyond anxious while he waited for them. They kept their voices low.

    “Ask for the toilet,” she told him, “Pretend to be sick and I’ll start the distraction myself.”

    “Got something in mind?” He asked.

    “I’ll just do what I’m best at,” she grinned.

    He looked at her with half-lidded eyes, “You’re going to sing aren’t you?”

    She laughed and nodded then she shushed him as Elenwen strolled back over to them all and asked, “(Enjoying yourselves?)”

    “(Oh yes, very much),” Rona said feigning politeness, “(but my companion doesn’t seem to be feeling very well.)”

    She forgot Bishop couldn’t understand a word as he didn’t bother to fake being sick like she’d told him to. She kicked him slightly, giving him the go ahead and he groaned suddenly, holding his stomach, “Oooohhh, my stomach. Ugh, what was in that apple dessert Ladyship? Ooooh, it hurts.

    Elenwen shot him a scathing look and said, “It’s apples and cinnamon.”

    “Must have been the squid,” Rona said quickly, “He doesn’t do well with seafood, more of a red meat kind of man. Do you have a toilet he can use?”

    Elenwen pointed over to the entry hall and said, “Do not get sick on my carpets, buroth.”

    “Ah yeah, thanks,” Bishop ran around the corner and locked himself in the lavatory. Rona did everything in her power to stifle the building laughter in her chest at Bishop’s ridiculous performance and her father’s and Jarl Idgrod’s baffled expressions. Then she quickly said, “Ambassador, I was wondering if you’d allow me to perform Auri-El’s Prayer.

    Elenwen raised her brows at her, “I suppose. I have heard tales of your voice, though if I remember right the last time you performed it was rather squeaky and off-key.” She shot her a smug grin.

    Rona’s mouth twitched and her hands curled into fists. Last time she ever sang around the woman was when she gave a quiet performance for Emperor Titus during their visit to Alinor when she was just nine years old. Of course her voice hadn’t been trained up that well and Elenwen just happened to walk by and overheard her singing. She said something just as rude back then too.

    Rona smiled and said, “I’ll give it my best, if you’ll allow me.”

    Elenwen waved a hand, “Alright. Go on then. I was getting bored of this dull tavern music anyhow.”

    Rona went over to the band and asked if she could borrow one of the player’s lutes. They obliged and she stood in front of them all and started playing, drawing everyone’s attention to her as she sang a song of prayer in Aldmeri while the other performers backed her up on their instruments as well.

    (The Song is Song of the Goddess by Erutan)

    ~~~

    Bishop waited in the spotless toilet room for the sound of Rona’s voice before he dared to step out. He was looking in a mirror and picking apple out of his teeth with his tongue. It wasn’t too long before he heard her lovely song ringing throughout the embassy. He smirked. It was in Aldmeri, of course it was. He rolled his eyes. Though he kind of liked it when she spoke the language. The Thalmor always made it sound like such an obnoxious and snotty language, but when she spoke it, it came across her lips so softly and beautifully. It was a very romantic language he thought.

    He thought of a game they could play with her saying dirty things to him in Aldmeri, then shook his head at his growing erection and nearly punched it down. He had to get moving, not sit around thinking about his sexy woman all dressed up in that gorgeous gown that hugged all of her curves and those heels bringing her up a few inches taller and accentuating her ass and thighs.

    “Focus Bish!” He snarled at himself in the mirror. He took a breath, pushing aside his kinky thoughts for another time. He opened the door and peered around. Malborn looked over at him and motioned with his eyes for Bishop to hurry over.

    He did so, creeping around the hall and saw Rona performing her song, capturing everyone’s attention as she always did. He almost regretted leaving but knew the task at hand was pressing so he quickly ducked around the bar and followed Malborn into another hall as the bosmer closed the door behind him. They stepped into a kitchen where a khajiit woman was busy working over a cooking pot. She saw them and her ears fell back as she hissed, “Who comes, Malborn? You know I don’t like strange smells in my kitchen.”

    “A guest, feeling ill. Leave the poor wretch be,” Malborn was suddenly much braver than he had been all day.

    The khajiit woman scrunched her nose at him, “A guest? In the kitchens? You know this is against the rules…”

    Malborn scoffed at her, “Rules, is it, Tsavani? I didn’t realize that eating Moon Sugar was permitted. Perhaps I should ask the Ambassador.”

    She swiped a paw at him, unsheathing her claws and hissed more fiercely, “Tss! Get out of here! I saw nothing.”

    Malborn led Bishop through the kitchen into another pantry and shut the door behind them. He whispered, “So far, so good. Let’s hope nobody saw us slip out.”

    Bishop smirked, “With the way that goddess out there sings? Nah. No one could bear to turn their eyes from her even if they wanted to.”

    Malborn raised his brows and muttered, “Uh yeah… Well your gear is in that chest. I’ll lock the door behind you,” then he said more firmly with a trace of fear in his voice, “Don’t screw this up.”

    Bishop scoffed at him and said, “I know you don’t know me, but I was the best bandit in the Rift back in the day, so have a little more faith in me than that will you?”

    Malborn looked at him skeptically as he opened the chest and unfolded the knapsack within. He took both daggers, the one Rona had given him and his old one, strapping them to his belt then slid the lock picks into his pockets and tangled one deep in his hair just in case. He latched the two healing potions and just one of the two invisibility potions to his leather armor under his blooming shirt.

    “Wish me luck,” Bishop said as he uncorked the invisibility potion and gulped it down making him vanish on the spot.

    Malborn whispered, “Good luck.”

    Bishop crept through the side door into a long hall and heard Malborn quietly shut and lock it behind him.

    He moved slowly along the hall and immediately heard two Thalmor having a conversation through an open door on the side.

    “Did you see those robes march in this morning? Who’re they with? More of the Emissary’s treaty enforcers?”

    “No. They’re high mages, just in from Alinor. I guess the Ambassador is finally getting worried about all the dragon attacks.”

    “Ah, good. I’ve been wondering how we were supposed to defend this place from a dragon.”

    “If a dragon does show up, maybe we’ll get lucky and it will eat the mages first. Might give us enough time to kill it.”

    “Ha! I’d like to see those arrogant bastards taken down a notch. Always looking down their noses at us lowly footsloggers.”

    “Well, we’d better get back to our rounds.”

    They’d already suspected Delphine was dead wrong about the Thalmor having anything to do with the dragon resurrections, but this only cemented that fact for Bishop. He watched as one of the guards came through the door and walked down the hallway away from Bishop.

    Bishop crept into the next room and saw the lone guard mulling around, looking bored. He really did love the new boots because he didn’t even squeak like his old ones did. His footsteps were so quiet he wondered if he was really there himself.

    He easily crept around them all and made his way outside into the snow courtyard where it was still heavily snowing. He looked around and noticed quite a few Thalmor wandering the grounds, too many for his liking and one even standing right in front of the door he needed to get through.

    He started running several ideas through his mind, trying to think of a way to get through when suddenly the door to the main hall where the guests all were burst open and Elenwen strode through the courtyard with Serlas and Rona following.

    “Great,” he muttered under his breath. He quickly moved along, still invisible from the strong potion Serlas mixed for him. This was his chance to slip in at least. He crept right behind Rona, as her cloak billowed in the wind and she gave another light shiver. He rolled his eyes and thought all about how he’d warm her up later, once they go through this dangerous task.

    The Thalmor sentry at the doors stepped aside allowing Elenwen and her guests to pass through. Bishop got really close to Rona and her eyes rest on his invisible form for just a second before she turned her attention back to the elvish bitch in front of her.

    The door closed behind them and they heard a voice carrying over from an office to the left.

    “But, I need that money! I earned it. I have my own expenses you know…”

    “Silence! Do not presume, Gissur. You are most useful, but do not presume. We have other informants who are less…offensive.”

    “But no one else has brought you such valuable information, have they? Etienne, he’s talked, hasn’t he? He knows where that old man is you’re looking for, he told me himself.”

    “You’ll get the rest of your money when we confirm his story. As agreed.”

    “I knew it -”

    Elenwen stepped into the room and said sharply, “Rulindil. I have guests. If you could take your discussion to another room. I must speak with the Dragonborn and her father, privately.”

    “Ah, of course Ambassador,” the Thalmor man said then turned his attention back to the rough looking nord in front of him and said with a sneer, “Our conversation is more than over. Get out Gissur.”

    The nord man made a few frustrated movements before he gave up and left the building. The Justiciar named Rulindil stepped out as well and headed for the stairs across the way.

    Elenwen motioned to Rona and Serlas, inviting them into her office. They went in and she closed the door over partway. Bishop stopped to listen for a moment but she immediately started speaking to them in Aldmeri and he couldn’t understand a word between the three of them.

    He took a quiet breath and moved forward searching for anything that would contain the documents he was looking for. He noticed a writing desk nearby and a large chest behind it. He smirked and went right over to it. He crouched down and started picking at the lock with one of his many lock picks and after a bit of a struggle, because it was a very well made piece of equipment, it finally clicked.

    Bishop hadn’t noticed that he was perfectly visible again, however, and he also hadn’t noticed the Thalmor Justiciar Rulindil come up the steps until the elf spoke in a very arrogant voice, “Well, well, what have we here? A sneak thief?”

    Bishop turned swiftly and didn’t even get a chance to defend himself when the Justiciar shot him hard in the chest with a crackling jolt of electrical destruction magic.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 64

    Party Crasher

     

    Rona sang her song as beautifully as she could, hitting every note perfectly, singing Auri-El’s praises in the mother tongue so well she was almost sure the god himself had come down and blessed her right then and there. Who was she kidding? He had already blessed her long ago, he’d given her the soul of a dragon, because Auri-El was Akatosh and he was also Bormahu. He was the soul of Anu, the Everything.

    She’d never really believed in him before. Her father had prayed to the deity occasionally, but she’d always believed that was just a throwback from a time when it was just common to believe. Now though, with her power, with everything she could do as the Dragonborn she couldn’t help but believe he was real.

    She sang his praises asking for his blessings and to bless those around her. She hoped in her heart that he really had heard and would help her with the burdens he’d placed on her shoulders because it was all getting very difficult. She felt like she was struggling, drowning in it all, and dragging those who tried to lift her from the depths right back down with her. Bishop and her father both suffered greatly because of her. She’d have given anything to remove the burdens she’d inadvertently placed on them.

    When she finished her song, the small crowd clapped loudly and one of the thanes she recognized as Erikur cried, “Encore! Encore!”

    The drunk redguard man slurred, “Girl’s got quite the set of pipes on her.”

    Jarl Idgrod went up to her and said, “Your voice is even more beautiful than your mother’s. You are very blessed.”

    Her father gave her a warm smile and she returned it. Then Elenwen went and ruined it all with her snark, “Hm, yes, that was riveting Miss Thoraminh. I can tell all that, what do the nords call it? Shouting? Has really strained your voice.”

    Rona put on her fake smile and said sweetly, “Just a bit.”

    Elenwen clasped her hands together and said in Aldmeri, “(Well then, Miss Thoraminh, Serlas, if you two would follow me there are some things I wish to discuss with you, concerning the dragons.)”

    Both Serlas and Rona raised their brows curiously. Rona almost couldn’t believe it, Elenwen might actually part with their deeply held secrets? Not without a price of course, she suspected.

    They fell into step behind the Ambassador as she led them out into the bitter courtyard. They followed her across the grounds to her Solar and Rona shivered fiercely as it steadily snowed and chill winds blew around her. As the sentry made way for their procession Rona felt something warm at her side and glanced down, then realizing she was seeing the thin outline of a certain invisible ranger she quickly turned her gaze back to the woman in front of her.

    They went inside and heard some people talking off in a side office. Elenwen quickly went in and told them to take their discussion elsewhere. A grungy looking nord man came out and left, looking very disgruntled. The other Thalmor Justiciar took his leave as well, heading towards some stairs leading down into what appeared to be a cellar.

    Elenwen invited her and Serlas into her office and closed the door over. She went around her desk and motioned for them to sit in the empty chairs, before sitting in her own high backed chair. She laced her long fingers together and said, “(So, tell me, Miss Thoraminh. I’ve heard you’ve been quite busy of late battling against the dragon menace. What is your progress on ending the scourge that plagues this fetid wasteland?)”

    Rona rolled her eyes, of course. First the bitch would see just how much information she could get from her before even considering giving up some of her own. Rona decided to take a leaf out of Delphine’s book and spoke vaguely, “(I still have quite a bit of training to do. I’m not sure how much more there is to go. There’s still so little I know about them.)”

    Elenwen sniffed, “(Oh? Really? Because my sources tell me that you know all about the return of the World Eater and the fact that he’s the one resurrecting these foul beasts.)”

    Rona quickly said, “(That’s right. I don’t know how to stop him though. Do you?)”

    Elenwen narrowed her eyes at her then looked over at Serlas, “(Something to do with the Elder Scrolls I imagine, considering you spent three months studying up on them, writing letters and asking about them, do I presume correctly Serlas?)” She smirked.

    Serlas didn’t seem to care for this game as he went in more forthright, “(That’s absolutely correct. We need to find an Elder Scroll so that Rona can defeat the World Eater before he destroys everything, including the Aldmeri Dominion. So if you have any information on its whereabouts, Elenwen, it would be in the best interests of everyone that you tell us.)”

    She looked between the both of them before she said, “(I won’t give up my information so freely),” she looked straight at Rona and said, “(You already know what we want. Join the Imperials, end the war. Then you can go back to this dragon slaying business of yours and we’ll even hand over the Scroll you’ve been so desperately seeking.)”

    Rona looked at her stunned, “(You have it!?)”

    Serlas stood up and said, “(You must give it to us! She must use it to defeat Alduin and restore order to our world immediately!)”

    A wicked smile curled at her lips, “(Not until you kill Ulfric. I know you were close once, in Whiterun? Hm? But you held back. Not this time girl. This time you seek him out and wipe that repulsive speck from the face of Nirn with all the power you have in your scrawny, little body.)”

    This didn’t make any sense. Alduin was by far the greater threat to all of them, why would she be so insistent on ending the war first? Unless…

    “You’re lying,” she said, “You don’t have the scroll, you’re just trying to blackmail me into ending the war for you. Just like you tried to blackmail Bishop into pushing me to join sides!” She got more heated and lashed out at the woman, “You disgusting, vile bitch!” Rona seethed furiously as she gripped the arms on the chair.

    A wry smirk pulled at Elenwen’s lips and she returned the exchange in Cyrodillic, “So he did tell you. Hmph, I was wondering what happened to the tails I set on you,” she glanced at Serlas who held a glare that looked like it would start the Oblivion Crisis all over again. “You killed them, didn’t you?” She gathered.

    “You threatened to have a despicable man kidnap, violate and torture my daughter. Yes, naturally, I killed them,” his hands crackled electrically in his anger.

    Elenwen also stood up from her chair and her eyes looked even darker and more sinister at that angle as she stared right at Rona and said, “You will end this little uprising, half-breed. I will make you end it one way or another. In fact, that ranger? The Thrice-Banished? I think we’ll keep him here for an extended stay until you do just that.”

    Rona stood up, toppling the chair over behind her and made to shout when they heard an explosive shock and a low groan just outside the room. Rona knew it was Bishop, he must have been caught. She looked right at Elenwen and shouted with all the force in her voice, “FUS RO DAH!” Elenwen saw it coming though and threw up a powerful ward which immediately shattered on impact from the shout.

    Rona and Serlas ran out the door and she yanked it shut behind her then shouted, “FO KRAH DIIN!” blasting ice at it, freezing it over and locking the bitch inside.

    They looked over and saw the Thalmor Justiciar from earlier looming over Bishop, his hands alight with shock magic. Serlas threw up a ward just as the Justiciar made to attack them, blocking the electrical blast. Bishop leapt right up onto his feet from his spot on the ground, grabbing his dragon bone dagger and violently buried it into the Thalmor’s neck. The elf was utterly surprised and said through a choked voice, “B-But… how? You can’t…”

    He dropped to the floor and Bishop growled, tearing his white shirt open, “Enchanted armor, fuck face.”

    The frozen door to their left cracked as Elenwen started casting powerful magic against it from the inside.

    “Move quickly!” Serlas urged them.

    Bishop knelt down and threw open a chest that was there, he grabbed several neatly sealed dossiers and stuffed them into the pockets on his vest. They ran to his side and he pointed to the stairs, “Delphine said there’s an old sewer we can escape through that way.”

    He made to lead the way when, suddenly the entire building lurched around them and they heard a dragon roar so loud that it made Alduin’s deep voice sound like a kitten’s mewling.

    They all stopped and Rona felt a terrible shudder crawl all the way up her body. She could literally sense this creature’s ire. Its murderous yearning stabbed at all her senses. She’d never felt anything like it before. Her blood boiled, definitely, but her fear gripped her like never before.

    The building lurched again and part of the roof caved in. They all ran back towards the stairs and then dared to look up at the colossal beast peering through the gaping hole it just created in the building.

    It was completely unlike any other dragon she’d met. In fact, it looked more like a wyvern than a dragon with its serpentine appearance. It had no horns, only long sharp spines going down its neck and back. It had smooth and silvery skin instead of a rough, scaly hide. Its jowls were composed of a large under bite, curling up and over the top of its mouth while its gums were flecked with hundreds of sharp and pointed teeth jutting in a mostly even pattern along its jaws. It had crystalline blue eyes with thin black pupils that kept dilating and contracting, searching for her. It was also at least three times the size of Alduin, a hulking behemoth of a creature.

    She watched as its long thin neck snaked around the opening in the roof and she whispered, eyes very wide, “Do you think Alduin’s mad about his eye?”

    Bishop swallowed hard, “I’m gonna take a guess and say he’s real pissed about it, Ladyship.”

    Serlas grabbed the both of them, taking them toppling down the stairs just as the wyvern spotted them and roared a blizzard at them. They scrambled under the stairs and watched as the walls were enveloped in the most unnatural looking blue ice she’d ever seen.

    She really hoped it couldn’t breathe fire too.

    Bishop edged his way over to the door at the side and hastily dug a lock pick into the keyhole and Serlas cast a very powerful resist frost spell over them all. The lock clicked and they scrambled inside, leaving the Thalmor to take on the hulking party crasher as they heard their yells and the creature’s bellowing shouts.

    The door clicked noisily behind them and they heard the snotty voices of more Thalmor down below. “Did you hear that?” a man said.

    “It didn’t sound like what we heard earlier,” a woman muttered.

    “No, but it did sound like someone coming in. Who’s there?” He called, “Rulindil? Ambassador? Go see what it is,” the man said anxiously to the woman.

    “Why me?” She argued, “You’re a battle mage, you’re by far the stronger of us.”

    “That’s just it,” he said sneering, “I’m a step above you, now do as I say footslogger.”

    Serlas cast invisibility over the three of them and they all kept quiet as a Thalmor guard came up the steps, hesitantly. Then another loud boom rumbled and shook the entire building, making it seem like it was going to collapse.

    The Thalmor woman took a sharp and fearful breath. Serlas appeared right in front of her, his invisibility gone as he held a hand to her chest and said, “My apologies,” before he released a powerful shock to her body, sending her backward with a jolt and knocked her unconscious.

    The Thalmor man below called up apprehensively, “Well? What is it?”

    Serlas stepped towards the railing and said, “It is a dragon.”

    The Thalmor man snarled at Serlas and started launching a barrage of icy spikes, electricity and fire at him. Serlas easily deflected all of it with his wards while Bishop snuck down, going up behind the elf and quickly slit his throat.

    Rona and Serlas hurried down the stairs and stood by Bishop who was looking in on some poor man who was chained to a wall in a cell. He was looking worse for wear with his skin literally flayed horribly in sections of his body where he’d been whipped. Other parts of his skin had been seared heavily with burns and he was covered in new and old blood. His head hung low against his chest and his breathing was ragged.

    Rona went right over to him and pressed her healing hands to his wounds. He flinched terrified but she said softly, “You’re alright, we’re here to save you.”

    He looked up at her then and she got a glimpse of the awful damage they’d done to his poor face. He had a bloodied and bruised nose, both eyes were black and swollen and he was missing plenty of teeth. He looked at her like she wasn’t real, like he couldn’t believe she was helping him.

    Serlas stepped in as well and when he saw the tall altmer before him he cried, whimpering, “Please, I told you already, I don’t know where he is. Please, I beg you, don’t hurt me anymore, just end it.”

    “I promise you I mean no harm,” Serlas said sadly, “I realize I look quite a bit like your captors, but I only wish to heal you.”

    The man looked at him in disbelief and shook his head slowly, “Is this some kind of trick?”

    Serlas pressed his own glowing hands to the man’s wounds and said, “Come see if you can unlock these irons, Bishop.”

    He went to work picking at the lock on the wall irons. It clicked and they helped the man down to the ground. The prisoner leaned against Rona’s shoulder as she sat by him healing his wounds.

    They listened to the sounds coming from above. The Thalmor were definitely hard at work fighting the wyvern outside. They couldn’t ask for a better distraction, giving them time to heal the poor man.

    “What’s your name?” Rona asked him as she traced her fingers over the gashes in his arms, sealing his flayed skin back together.

    “Etienne,” he breathed.

    “My name is Rona,” she said kindly.

    “The name of an angel,” he said, almost delusional.

    She smiled, “No, not an angel. Just a friend. Why did they bring you here?”

    “Wanted to question me about some old man hiding out in the Ratway.”

    “In Riften?” Bishop asked.

    “Yeah,” Etienne breathed, “They grabbed me in the Ratway, the nerve of these bastards…”

    “You’re Thieves Guild then?” Bishop gleaned.

    Etienne glanced back up at Bishop with his swollen eyes, he squinted slightly and said, “Don’t I know you?”

    “No,” Bishop said firmly, turning his face away from the man.

    Etienne blinked and let his head fall back against Rona’s shoulder, “They seem to think I know something and just kept asking me the same damn questions.They’re after some old guy named Esbern. Something to do withthe dragons, I gathered that much from listening to them talk when they thought I was out. I’ve seen a guy in Riften who they seem to think is him.”

    Rona and Serlas finished healing up the poor man and Bishop gave him one of the healing potions he was carrying.

    Etienne gulped it down appreciatively, then sighed and said, “Thank you. I really can’t thank you all enough, you’ve saved my life.” He flexed his arms and looked over himself.

    They’d done a pretty good job of fixing him up, though Serlas insisted, “You’ll still want to visit a Temple of Kynareth to follow up on your recovery.”

    “I will, thanks again.”

    “Maybe you can help us now,” Bishop said with his arms crossed, “We need a way out of here that isn’t back up through those doors.”

    Etienne was already on the move and motioned for them to follow, “I saw guards dragging bodies over here. Might be a way out.”

    They looked over at a trap door in the ground. It was locked and Bishop quickly set to work on opening it.

    Rona noticed that the building had stopped shaking and the sounds of the terrifying wyvern had gone as well. Then she heard a few nasty voices up on the landing by the cellar doors.

    “Listen up, blood traitors. You’re trapped in here, and we have your accomplice. Surrender immediately or he dies.”

    Rona looked up and saw two Thalmor guards holding a terrified Malborn with a sword pressed dangerously to his neck.

    Serlas seemed to notice too and he stepped forward and called up, “Release him to us and we’ll let you live.”

    They laughed raucously at that notion and Serlas took the opportunity to cloak himself in an invisibility spell.

    Malborn muttered miserably, “Never mind it, I’m dead already-”

    “Silence, traitor! Move. Slowly.”

    They couldn’t see much from their vantage point but Serlas must have moved quickly because in seconds they heard some loud yelling and then the sounds and the light of magic flashed from over the landing. Two loud thuds later and both Malborn and Serlas were casually coming down the stairs together.

    Malborn looked extremely upset and glared at them all, “Now the Thalmor will be hunting me for the rest of my life! I hope it was worth it.”

    Serlas put a hand to his shoulder and said, “I am sorry for this Malborn. I have connections to many people in Cyrodiil if you wish to seek asylum out that way.”

    Malborn looked up at him and gave a deep sigh, “Yeah, sure. Whatever you can do, please.”

    Serlas nodded then said, “I’d very much like to leave this reception now, lovely as it was.”

    Bishop finished picking the lock on the trapdoor and threw it open. He looked inside for a moment and then figuring it was safe enough, dropped down into it. Everyone else followed suit. There was a frost troll down below tearing into an old corpse. Serlas was quick to kill it with his powerful magic, however, allowing them all to move along again.

    They came out on the side of a mountain and Rona anxiously looked around but saw no sign of the wyvern. Though she hadn’t taken its soul either and she suspected that it must have retreated. Maybe the Thalmor were able to scare it off.

    Serlas told Malborn to meet up with them in Riverwood and he would personally make arrangements to seeing him off to his connections in Cyrodiil. Etienne was extremely grateful to them saying, “You didn’t have to help me, so…thanks.”

    “No we did,” Rona said with a kind smile, “Good luck to you.”

    He gave a quick wave and ran off into the forest following behind Malborn. The three of them trudged through the snow, making their way back onto the path through the flurry of a snowstorm. For once, everything seemed to go off without a hitch, or rather, things sort of fell into place neatly as they happened.

    Rona smiled, maybe Akatosh really had heard her prayer. Maybe he was finally giving her a break for once. Or maybe she was just incredibly naïve because as they came over a low hill they saw the enormous wyvern heading straight for them.

    They all backed up and turned to sprint off into the forest as the behemoth swooped over them shouting a flurry of blue ice at them. Serlas and Rona both threw up their wards but they shattered immediately when the icy blast crashed against them. She heard her father cry out in pain and looked back for just a second when she tripped over a root hidden under the snow and went tumbling down a tall slope with a shriek. Bishop cried out for her, “RONA!”

    She landed in another pile of thick snow and rolled over, trying to get her footing as her dress tore under her. Her shoes had fallen off too and her hair came completely undone. The wyvern swept around the trees high above her, shaking the ground all around. She caught her breath and felt… angry. Not scared. She was livid.

    She was so tired of it. Another damn dress ruined, her hair all tossed up again, her makeup smeared everywhere, and now she’d lost one of her nicest pair of shoes? Another day in her life of dealing with this shit. Again.

    “THAT’S IT!” She screamed. “I’m sick of it! Dragons! Dragons! DRAGONS! Everywhere I fucking turn! DRAGONS! ENOUGH!”

    (The Song is Iron by Within Temptation)

    The musical rage within her exploded all around, echoing loudly through the forests, adding more tremors to the already shaking ground. She felt her blood truly boiling then and allowed her wrath to wash over her. She glared right at the thing as it swooped down, aiming for her and an incredible force within her broke forth as golden flames erupted from her body, spinning wildly around her, melting the snow in a wide circle and fending off the steady blizzard in the skies. She roared at it, “YOL TOOR SHUL!”

    Golden fire shot through the sky and the beast met it with its blue ice. The two shouts collided and burst in the air. Rona broke into a sprint as the beast plunged through the resulting dust cloud, still chasing for her. She had no weapons, but plenty of magic. She needed more fire. She let her hands go alight with flames.

    She wasn’t afraid to use it anymore. She was going to take that damn magic into herself and cast it right back out with more power than she knew how to use, she was going to lose control of it like she did back in the vampire lair.

    She sang furiously;

    “Left in the darkness
    Here on your own
    Woke up a memory
    Feeling the pain
    You cannot deny it
    There’s nothing to say
    It’s all that you need to find the way

    Oh Damn, the war is coming!
    Oh Damn, you feel you want it!
    Oh Damn, just bring it on today!

    You can’t live without the fire
    It’s the heat that makes you strong
    ‘Cause you’re born to live and fight it all the way
    You can hide what lies inside you
    It’s the only thing you know
    You’re embracing that, never walk away
    Don’t walk away”

    She sprint along, weaving through the trees, watching as the golden flames pouring from her body licked at the foliage and melted all the snow around her. It didn’t harm the shrubbery though, it only enveloped it, clung to it and worked almost like a shield as the wyvern made to swoop down on her again and it faltered, flapping its wings trying to move backward and instead crashed down onto the ground and hissed painfully whenever the golden fire touched its body.

    She nestled herself in a spot within a thick growth of trees allowing the flames to envelope them and protect her. The wyvern snaked its serpentine head back and forth before raising its wings and shouting blue ice at her. She returned it with her own shout of fire.

    They did this again and again, her anger only mounting as she glared dragon’s fire at the beast. She threw her hands up and started blasting an inferno against the creature and was surprised that the fire from her magic was just as bright a gold as the fire from her shout.

    Bishop looked on at the petite woman of four foot eleven inches as she faced down the biggest dragon they’d ever seen in their lives. He listened to her energetic song as golden flames spiraled around her and almost couldn’t believe his eyes at what he was witnessing. She was completely holding her own against this colossal monster. He kept running though, intending to do… something, though he didn’t know just what yet. Without his bow he wouldn’t be much help.

    Serlas ran with him, looking just as stunned before he said, “Fire. We need more fire.”

    Burn it down,” Bishop snarled.

    They moved in, sliding down the snowy slope and ran off to the side of the behemoth. Its attention was so focused on Rona though that it did not notice them. Bishop stood back as Serlas began moving his hands in intentional patterns as he spoke a spell swiftly in Aldmeri. His palms lit up with flames which only grew larger as his voice grew louder and more ominous.

    Bishop watched as Rona shouted and blast golden fire at this monster over and over again, looking like a fiery, sexy mess.

    Her words became flames themselves, each one angrily sung and crashed against the creature. Finally, Serlas seemed ready to cast his own fire and Bishop ran back, giving the old elf a wide berth as a firestorm surged around him and shot from his hands. It hit the behemoth in full force from the side and the creature roared in pain then Rona hit it again with her own golden fire.

    They both scorched it with burning intensity making its flesh sear. The rumbling howls and roars it released seemed to shake the world around them as the behemoth was engulfed in flames. Rona shouted out, “Never walk away! Don’t walk away! Don’t walk awaaay! Don’t walk away! Don’t walk awaaay!” empowering the blazing inferno to grow even stronger.

    When her song ended and the flames subsided they revealed a very dead and charred dragon. Whatever remained of its flesh seared up and its soul washed over her. She stood for a moment, catching her breath and watching as the golden fire she’d made dispersed all around her. The trees still stood as though they were never touched by the flames.

    Then she saw her father, holding a hand to his chest, on one knee. She ran to him, terrified and cried, “Ata!”

    She knelt down beside him and Bishop hurried over. He pulled the last healing potion from his vest, uncorked it and quickly gave it to the elf. Serlas took it and drank deeply from it.

    His breathing was ragged and his face was covered in heavy perspiration. He knit his brows together looking into the eyes of his extremely concerned daughter as he uttered, “I’m not as young as I used to be velvyn.”

    Then he fell right over and Rona screamed for him. Bishop quickly knelt down beside the man and made to flip him over when he noticed something wrong with his shoulder. He yanked Serlas’ robes back revealing a large section of his shoulder and back that was a splotchy purple and black color. He looked like he’d been severely frostbitten and Bishop looked at Rona with just as much fear on his face.

    “We have to get him back to Solitude now,” Bishop said.

    Rona started crying and panicked as she got up and looked around. They were up in a forest in the middle of nowhere, a two hour carriage ride away from Solitude and who knows how long by foot and stuck in a horrible blizzard that was not subsiding. She shouted to the skies, “LOK VAH KOOR!” But just like in Winterhold, the storm would not stop.

    Bishop looked at her shaking his head, “Try to heal him.”

    She quickly pressed her hands to the wound on his back and steadied her breathing, trying to focus her magic. Her hands were shaking madly, a combination of fear and adrenaline pulsing through her veins. She used her grand healing over and over again to no avail. The mark remained and her tears flowed even faster. Bishop rolled him over onto his back and looked him over. He was still breathing, still alive, but for how long? What was this wound? She didn’t know what to do. She was completely helpless.

    “Ata, Ata please,” she pleaded through her sobs.

    Bishop ran a hand through his hair, looking up at the tall snowy slope and then back at the tall altmer. “I won’t be able to carry him up.” Then he looked over toward the north and said, “I need your help Lightfoot. There’s an old house not far from here. An old bandit hideout, it’s usually got supplies and food, there’s a hidden cellar inside, we can take him there and then one of us can go for help.”

    She looked into his face and nodded fervently. Bishop stood up and hoisted Serlas up under his arm. It was going to be awkward, but luckily they didn’t have to go far, “Grab him under his other arm. His legs will drag but he’ll be alright I think.”

    Rona did her best to hold her father up. The poor old elf held up between them at a sloping angle due to their height differences. They managed somehow and made their way towards a broken down shack in the distance.

    Rona was barefoot and very cold. She ignored it, letting the biting numbness take over her fingers and toes. They had to get her father to safety, that’s all she cared about in that moment. She wouldn’t let him die because of her. Because of this godsforsaken curse.

    After a twenty minute walk they made it to the shack. Bishop and Rona set Serlas down and he said, “Give me a minute, gonna make sure the place is vacant first.” Rona stayed by her father’s side as Bishop disappeared in the broken down home, scoping it out. After a few minutes he came back and said, “It’s clear.”

    They lifted Serlas again and carried him over to the hidden hatch leading into a gloomy cellar down below. Bishop climbed in first and Rona used her magic to make it so her father’s descent was slowed and made it easier for Bishop to ease the elf in through the opening.

    They brought him down into a large dreary stone room. It looked like any other old cellar in Skyrim with stone walls and flooring, however it was much dirtier and messier. There were four bedrolls laid out in various places on the floor and several shelves with some old dishes and knick knacks and even some food. A pair of dressers said against opposite walls, one of them more banged up than the other with a broken drawer. There was a hearth in the corner of the room with a few old logs sitting by it. It was a mess but it would be a suitable shelter for her father to rest in until they could get help.

    Bishop dragged Serlas over to one of the bedrolls, leaving him to lay on it.

    “We need blankets,” Bishop said, “He gets just as cold as you do in this kind of weather. Search the place for anything useful.”

    They both walked around the room, rummaging through drawers and yanking things off of shelves. There were a few fresh food supplies and Rona said thickly, “I think someone’s been coming and going, these look new.”

    Bishop yanked some blankets out of a drawer and put them over Serlas, “I’ll be our lookout tonight.”

    Tonight?” She cried, “One of us has to go back to Solitude though!”

    “We can’t go out in this snowstorm Ladyship and I’m not about to leave you in this place all alone through the night. He’ll be alright for one night.”

    “No he won’t!” She sobbed, “He’s… he’s going to,” she clasped her hands to her mouth and rubbed at her damp eyes with her fingers.

    Bishop stepped over to her and wrapped his arms tightly around her, pressing his face to the top of her head as her held her to his chest, “I swear to you I won’t let him die Rona. I promise you.”

    She clung to him and just sobbed. She couldn’t do anything else, it was all so hopeless.

    Once they’d finished ransacking the place for anything useful, they made sure to wrap Serlas up tightly in several blankets and Rona used her healing magic on him for a while. Bishop put together a small fire in the broken down hearth in the corner of the room giving them some warmth. He put together a measly meal for them out of the few things they had and made her eat. “Got to keep your strength up,” he said.

    She forced it down and immediately went back to tending to her father. Bishop sat by on one of the other bedrolls, trying to relax a little as he watched her stroke her father’s long white hair and cry silently beside him. He would go to Solitude in the morning, as soon as he knew it was safe to leave her there. Hopefully the damned snowstorm would finally let up as well.

    He couldn’t bear to watch her fret over the old elf anymore so he fished through the pockets on his leather armor and yanked out the documents they’d stolen from the embassy. These better be fucking worth it, he thought as he opened the first one.

    It was all about Delphine. All the information they had on her. The woman was right to be paranoid it seemed. They considered her extremely dangerous, which Bishop thought was a laugh. He could hardly imagine the old innkeeper being dangerous at all, then he figured he shouldn’t judge someone based on appearances alone. Rona had always proved to be a feisty one despite her tiny size.

    The next one he opened was all about him. He wasn’t surprised to see they had quite a bit of information on his past and family history of course. They already made it clear months ago that they knew his secrets when they tried to blackmail him. There was plenty of information about him and even Karnwyr which he thought was amusing.

    The wolf proves to be incredibly loyal to the ranger and a formidable and vicious adversary. Do not approach the ranger while he is in the presence of his wolf.

    Bishop smirked reading that line and really appreciated the safety his old friend provided him the last ten years.

    He folded away his dossier and came across one on Serlas. It was by far the thickest stack of papers in the pile with detailed information about the man spanning the last two hundred and sixty years. Bishop skimmed over it, most of it was about his youth as a battle mage when he lived in Alinor and then moved on to his involvement in the Oblivion Crisis and his quick rise in the ranks of the Mage’s Guild and his unwavering loyalty to the prevailing four Emperors and even a Chancellor who served as Potentate between the Septim and Mede dynasties before he was assassinated.

    He was very surprised to read that Serlas had been married once, to a breton woman named Beatrice. They’d had a good sixty years together before her passing but had no children from that marriage however. It mentioned his brief relationship with Claudia and his siring of a daughter with her. They’d even gone so far as to update the dossier to the point where he’d resigned from his position as Arch-Mage so that he could aid Rona in Skyrim.

    He gave a low sigh and folded it up, looking back over at his beloved as she hummed quietly to her father and continued steadily casting healing magic over him. She looked exhausted and was a complete mess. He wanted to comfort her but knew she wasn’t ready to leave her father’s side.

    He let her be and pulled out the next document. It was a dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak. He opened it and read it over.

    He scoffed a little at what it said. The Thalmor had been using Ulfric as an ‘asset’ or a pawn since the Great War. Every move he made was one they seemed to agree with and only furthered their agenda.

    As long as the civil war proceeds in its current indecisive fashion, we should remain hands-off. The incident at Helgen is an example where an exception had to be made – obviously Ulfric’s death would have dramatically increased the chance of an Imperial victory and thus harmed our overall position in Skyrim. A Stormcloak victory is also to be avoided, however, so even indirect aid to the Stormcloaks must be carefully managed.

    They wanted to keep the war going? He shook his head. It didn’t make sense. Why the insistence on having Rona specifically, end the war in favor of the Imperials then?

    He set aside Ulfric’s dossier and took out the next one. It was Rona’s and it was pretty lengthy. She only had twenty-five years worth of details and most recently, nearly a year’s worth of being the Dragonborn, but it was still the second thickest file in the bunch.

    He opened it. It started with the details of her childhood. Her relationship with both her mother and father were mentioned. Her failures as a mage were heavily outlined as well, but then her successes as a mercenary were noted next. Her closest allies were all named as well; Charissa Chothi, Roxlin LaRoues, Magrob Bashurn, the twins Lorrie and Linel Dorngrove, and Marco Pevicci.

    His lip curled then. It even mentioned her two year relationship with the Paladin. He rolled his eyes and continued on, skipping over that part and then he got to a page about her being the Dragonborn.

    Age 25 – Dragonborn Background:

    Rona Thoraminh’s Dragonborn powers came to light after the slaying of a dragon at the Western Watchtower outside Whiterun. Attempts to intercept and infiltrate into her confidence were thwarted by the Thrice-Banished ranger, Bishop. Tails have been set on her and her progress is steadily being observed from a distance. Her power has grown exponentially after her stay on High Hrothgar. She continues to slay the dragons with formidable prowess and only grows in strength. Her relationship with the ranger has developed from one of friendliness to one of intimacy. His continued presence in her company has thwarted any and all opportunities to join her and direct her path in accordance with the Dominion’s benefit. She remains oblivious to our surveillance. She should not be approached when in the presence of the ranger, he is highly suspect and alert to potential danger and remains very protective of her. She is to be considered extremely dangerous and deadly if provoked. She can be approached when alone and remains friendly and naive to most danger.

    Operational Notes:
    She is focusing her journey on eradicating the dragon menace within Skyrim. She refuses to take an active role in the uprising. Her lineage as half-altmer, half-nord and her status as Dragonborn, is essential in the advancement of the Dominion. It is imperative that she be the one to end the war in favor of the Imperials. She is deeply revered and admired by members of both factions. Once the dragon threat is eliminated she is to be killed publicly by our own posing as Stormcloaks to rally the divided factions to our cause. It is vital that she become a martyr and cement the Dominion’s footprints as purposeful within Skyrim.

    Bishop hadn’t even noticed how harshly he was scowling at the page. The Thalmor would use her entirely for their own benefit, to reinforce their reasons for presiding in Skyrim, and then turn her into a martyr to give them even more reason to send their troops in. They would stop at nothing to dominate every country in Tamriel even if it meant murdering a young woman who never asked for any of it.

    He looked back up at her. She was slowly starting to nod off and he collected the documents, stuffing them into his vest again before taking the armor off and setting it aside. He said, “Hey Sweetness,” she looked over at him with the saddest face ever, and her eyes were all puffy and red. “Come here. Let’s get some sleep, alright?”

    Her lip quivered and she sniffed slightly but relented, leaving her father’s side to curl up into Bishop’s welcoming arms. He pulled her into a tight embrace and they laid down on a pair of bedrolls. He grabbed a thin blanket and threw it over them, letting her bury her face in his chest while he stroked her hair and back and whispered assuring words to her, “It’s going to be alright. Everything’s going to be okay. I’m here now. I won’t ever leave your side.”

    She cried again and he let her, holding her close and allowing her to release every fear and worry she held within against his chest. And then they both drifted off to sleep.

    ~~~

    A creaking noise startled him awake. Bishop squinted his eyes, peering through the fading darkness as the hearth fire had slowly started to go out. He looked up at the corner of the ceiling across the way where the cellar hatch sat. It remained firmly shut, however he had a strong inkling it had just been opened. He grasped his dagger and pulled Rona closer to himself, making her stir in her sleep and mumble nonsensically.

    He made to sit up when he felt something pointed press tenderly against his neck. He looked off to his side and saw the outline of a person standing over him, pressing the sword to his throat.

    The woman said quietly, “Light that torch Qetesh.”

    Another figure stepped over to the hearth and stuck a torch in it. The light from the new fire illuminated the room much brighter and revealed four women in their presence. The woman holding the torch was a beautiful orcish woman with thick black dreadlocks arranged neatly on her head so that they draped long past her shoulders. She had bright yellow eyes and fairly small incisors and rather pale skin for an orc.

    Another woman, a gorgeous Imperial stood by, holding a dagger in hand. She had full natural lips and mousy brown hair she’d tied to the side of her head into a thick ponytail that curled down her chest in beautiful ringlets.

    Beside her was a young girl, no older than fourteen. The girl had very bushy brown hair that framed her cute heart shaped face like a lion’s mane. She had thick but neatly groomed eyebrows. She stood with her arms crossed defensively and had a bow and quiver strapped to her back.

    Then Bishop looked up at the thin, but curvy woman holding the sword to his neck. She was by far the most beautiful of the four, with thick, silky dark brown locks that curled around the nape of her neck. Like her companion she had full natural lips and beautiful big brown eyes that looked him over curiously.

    They were all wearing similar clothing, tan tunics with brown trousers fitted to their forms though each woman had their unique preferences with the orc woman wearing some more armor on her shoulders and chest than the others, the Imperial woman adorned herself in jewelry and the young girl had a wolf’s pelt draped around her waist. The nord woman with the sword had two loose golden bangles around her wrist.

    She looked at him with half-lidded eyes and scoffed, “Well I’ll be damned. After all these years and you still look like a horse’s ass.”

    “And your mother’s still a whore,” Bishop replied with a smirk.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 65

    Half-Sisters

    (Recommended background music We Are Thieves and Slew of Love Letters from FFIX Soundtrack)

    “You’re damn right she is,” the nord woman threw him a friendly grin, showing off her pretty, white smile. She pulled her sword back and sheathed it then crossed her arms over, looking at the ranger before her and the girl in his arms. “You’d really bring a woman here of all places? It’s not even nice in here. I hope she wises up quick and leaves your sorry ass before you get your hands on her you scoundrel… Or is that why you’re already here?”

    Bishop smirked at her and said sarcastically, “Good to see you again too, Freya. I’d ask how your sisters are all doing but I can plainly see that they’re looking well,” he scanned over them all.

    The Imperial woman gave him the dirtiest look, curling her lip slightly and snapped, “You better not have ruined my bedroll Bishop. If it so much as smells like you fucked all over it, I’ll cut your dick off and feed it back to you in nice thin slices.” She gripped the handle of her dagger a bit tighter, making her knuckles turn white.

    Bishop raised his brows at her and laughed slightly, “Ah Venus, still as vindictive as ever I see. You know you’ll feel a lot better if you let that old grudge you’re hanging onto go. Might even halt those frown lines you’ve been working on.”

    She scrunched her nose at him and turned her head away with a light huff.

    Bishop looked over at the orc woman next and gave a short nod saying, “Qetesh. Still sporting that busted up dual edged battleaxe I see.”

    She growled with a snarky smile, “Been saving it just for you, Bishop. I might have missed last time, but it’s still got one good edge.”

    He pressed his lips together and moved his gaze over to the young girl who was staring down at Serlas’ unconscious face.

    He said surprised, “Wow, Bast, you’ve really grown.”

    She looked up at him and blushed slightly. Venus stepped protectively in front of her little sister and snarled at him, “Don’t even think about it you disgusting lech.”

    “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Bishop said throwing a hand up, “Didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just saying, it’s been, what? Six years now? It’s just last time I saw her she was,” he hesitated, watching his words, “you know, shorter.”

    Freya knelt down beside him and looked over Rona’s disheveled appearance and said, “What the hell did you do to this poor girl Bish? Shit.”

    “Is he sick?” Bast pointed to the pale elf on the floor, then mumbled, “Cuz that’s my bedroll…”

    Bishop took a deep breath, glancing down at the still sleeping woman in his arms. Gods she was a heavy sleeper. Thankfully she didn’t seem to be trapped in a nightmare so Alduin wasn’t near. He said, “Honestly, I’m really glad to see you all. We need help. We were attacked by a dragon. This is Rona and that’s her father Serlas. He was badly injured, got hit by a dragon shout. We were going to head back to Solitude to get help, but with the snowstorm and the fact that Serlas is taller than a tree, there’s no way I can carry him that far.”

    Freya stood back up and said, “Well you’re shit outta luck because we came here just to get out of that storm ourselves. There’s a ton of Thalmor from the embassy stalking around too looking for some people…” She paused and then narrowed her eyes at him again and flashed him a mischievous smirk, “They wouldn’t happen to be looking for you now would they?”

    Bishop cleared his throat and averted his eyes, “Uh… maybe.”

    “Tsk, tsk, tsk,” Freya started tapping her foot, “Wonder how much they’d pay for your sorry hide.”

    Qetesh gave him a sinister look and Venus started spinning her dagger in her hand and he said, “Okay! Okay! Very funny ladies – gods. Look, the last thing you want to do is tangle with the Thalmor. They’d promise you loads of gold for us, but they’d just as easily turn around and kill you after they got us. So do me and yourselves a favor and don’t turn us over to those bastards,” then he looked over at Serlas and said, “They’d probably kill him too.”

    “Just what kind of trouble have you gotten yourself into now Bish?” Freya asked him.

    He sighed heavily, “Too much,” then he looked between them and asked desperately, “Do you have any medical supplies on you? We’ll pay you back, I swear, but we have to do something for the man. I’m worried he’s not going to make it through the night.”

    Qetesh looked a little more sympathetic and pulled a few potions from her armor and stepped over to Serlas, “Let’s see his wound.”

    Bishop gently laid Rona down onto the bedroll. She was sleeping a little too soundly for his liking, but he figured she must have just been exhausted from the fight with that dragon and from using that new incredible power she’d displayed. He’d never seen her do that before, but he was grateful she’d done it because it probably saved all their lives.

    He got up and knelt down by Serlas. The poor man was very pale and his skin was clammy. He pulled the blankets off of him and made to roll him over when Serlas murmured, opening his eyes a little, “Hmm? Bishop? Have we returned to Riverwood?”

    Bishop shook his head slowly, “No, not yet. How do you feel Serlas?”

    “Terrible,” he said promptly.

    “Yeah I bet. I’ve got some friends here that are going to try and help you. I need to roll you over and get a look at your wound, alright?”

    Serlas gave a low murmur and Bishop carefully rolled him onto his side and yanked his robes back. He took a sharp breath. The blotchy black mark had traveled over his shoulder and down his right arm and onto his chest. He pulled the robes back further and groaned, “Fuuuck,” when he saw that nearly his entire back was covered with the thing.

    Serlas muttered, “I take it that it looks as bad as it feels?”

    “Shit Serlas, we have to do something. Fuck, fuck. What even is this? Frostbite?”

    Qetesh knelt down and looked it over, “I’ve never seen frostbite like this before. This is bad. I doubt these will help, but you’re welcome to them. My own mixture.”

    Bishop laid Serlas back down and pulled his robes back up. He took the two bottles of potion and uncorked one then tipped it to Serlas’ lips. He drank quickly and some of the golden color returned to his face.

    Serlas gave a low sigh and said, “Feels a bit better, I thank you miss.”

    “Just call me Qetesh,” she said with a kind smile.

    “I will try to remember, though my head is a bit foggy. I think I will allow myself to nod off a bit… more,” Serlas immediately passed out again. Bishop set the extra potion down by him and then went over to where his leather vest lay and pulled it on, buckling it.

    “I can’t wait any longer,” he said, “I have to get to Solitude to get him help,” he looked back at them all, “Can you look after these two for me?”

    Freya snorted, “Whoa, hang on now. We can’t just have you bring back whoever from Solitude and lead them right to our hideout.”

    He raised a brow at her as he finished fastening his vest on, “Why? You got a bounty on your head or something?”

    Freya crossed her arms and cocked her head slightly making a face that said, duh.

    He rolled his eyes, “Of course you do. Well how much is it? I can probably pay it off for you, it’s the least I can do for you all helping me out.”

    Freya looked at him skeptically, “You? Pay off our bounty? Wow Bishop. When’d you get so generous?”

    He shrugged, “It’s been a long time Freya, people change.”

    She scoffed shaking her head, “No. No way you’d ever change Bishop. Last I heard you were working as a tracker, sure, but I also heard you were still sneaking out of bedrooms late at night.”

    He gave her a half-smile, “What can I say? It’s been a life-changing nine months, I’ll tell you that much.”

    Her eyes widened and she looked down at Rona and then back at him and blurted, “You!? A baby!?

    He jolted back, “What!? No! Don’t be stupid!”

    “Thank the gods,” Venus muttered and Qetesh gave a quiet chuckle.

    “So, can you do this for me? Keep an eye on her and the old man?”

    “You girls stay and watch out for ’em,” Freya said to her sisters then turned back to Bishop, “but I’m going with you.”

    He raised a brow, “Now who’s being generous?”

    She smirked, “Well with all those Thalmor out there you’ll probably need the help. Not to mention I see you’re quite lacking when it comes to your usual equipment, in fact it looks like you came from some fancy party… all of you actually,” she glanced around at the three of them and then looked back at him, “Never known you to willingly wear noble’s clothes before.”

    “Trust me, I hate every second these clothes are on me. And I appreciate the extra protection you’re offering all the same,” and he really did. With the Thalmor skulking about and the snowstorm going in full force he was going to need all the help he could get.

    “Bastet,” Freya said turning to the young girl, “Loan him your bow.”

    Bast frowned at her sister and Freya threw her a stern look and she grumbled annoyed then pulled her quiver and bow off and passed them to Bishop.

    “Thanks,” he said.

    She blushed a little but muttered, “Try not to waste too many arrows please. They took forever to make.”

    He pulled one out and looked it over, “Wow, you did a great job on these. I promise not to waste them. Thanks again kid.”

    She made a sour face at him calling her a kid and muttered, “I just turned fifteen…”

    He pat her on the shoulder and said, “And soon enough you’ll be able to buy your own ale.”

    Bishop tied the equipment to himself, lengthening the straps as far as they would go. the quiver was a bit tight and the bow kind of small, but he’d make do.

    “Shall we darlin’?” He said to Freya.

    “Oooh, hasn’t even been in my company for more than fifteen minutes and he’s already sweet talking me,” she smiled and headed for the ladder leading up and out of the cellar.

    Bishop followed and hung back on a rung and said to the others, “Uh, she’ll probably sleep through the night, but if she wakes up… well, just try not to scare her or anything alright? She can be kind of… loud.”

    They all looked at him oddly and he just hurried up the ladder hoping Rona wouldn’t wake up, terrified and give herself away with her shouts. As much as he trusted the four sisters, he still knew they were bandits and he wasn’t about to drop the actual Dragonborn right in their laps while she was out cold. It was nerve wracking enough when Freya thought to turn them all over to the Thalmor. He knew how sly she could be, after all she was his right-hand woman the entire time he worked with Thorn’s group.

    They stepped out into snowy darkness. The cold didn’t bother him much and he knew it wouldn’t bother Freya either considering she was also a full-blooded nord. They turned south, heading for the road. He stayed in step with her and asked, “So how’s the old wench?”

    “Ma? She died ages ago.”

    “Damn,” Bishop muttered, “Sorry to hear it. That’s a real loss for Skyrim.”

    Freya scoffed a laugh, “Right? Dirtiest slut in all the realm. I can tell you plenty of poor sods have been missing her.”

    “So what are you four up to these days?”

    “Being nosy now, are we? How unlike you.”

    “Just curious. Haven’t seen you all for six years, just wondering if you’re doing alright.”

    Freya laughed, “As if you care Bishop, with how fast you up and disappeared after the ambush at Arcwind Point, I figured you’d scrubbed your hands of us.”

    He pressed his lips together, clamming up. Naturally their conversation would take a dive into those bad memories.

    “What? Done talking?” She gave him a side eye glance.

    “I prefer not to go back there,” he said.

    “Hmph,” she shrugged, “Suit yourself. As for us, we’ve been doing just fine without you. In fact, it’s been great,” she finished with a tone of mock seriousness.

    He knew Venus would hold a grudge for eternity, but he should have guessed Freya was still angry about it too. After all, he’d promised to get them all out of there. Swore up and down he’d never leave them. He’d wanted to help them, to protect them. These four sisters and their used and abused mother who’d gone and got tangled up in Thorn’s nasty web.

    Then he killed his own brother and he couldn’t bear to stay there. Suddenly nothing mattered to him anymore. Not even them. He really had wanted to wash his hands of it all and just forget. So he packed up his shit, took his wolf and left for Morrowind.

    The two of them finally made it up the snowy slope and started trekking down the path that would lead them to Solitude.

    She asked, “Where’s Karnwyr? He still alive?”

    “He’s staying with a friend while I… take care of some business.”

    She looked over at him then asked, “What kind of business?”

    “Private matters darlin’,” he brushed her off.

    She rolled her eyes, “Told yah you’d never change.”

    He sighed, “It’s a long story.”

    “We’ve got plenty of time!” She shouted, throwing her arms out.

    He laughed and just shook his head. Then she nudged his arm with her elbow, “So who’s your lady friend? You fooling around with a Thalmor girl? It’s no wonder you’ve got them all chasing you down,” she snickered.

    He smirked and said, “Actually, Rona is only half altmer and half nord too. Just like your sisters. So the Thalmor don’t much care for her.”

    Freya was the only full blooded nord in the bunch. Her mother was a nord as well, though her lifelong career as a prostitute had resulted in three half-breed children.

    Freya was the oldest of them and her father had been a nord. Qetesh was the second oldest, her father had obviously been an orc, she was only a year younger than Freya. Venus was the third oldest and was the result of a very wealthy Imperial man who’d been visiting the Rift at the time.

    Bastet’s father had been a khajiit, just like his brother Jules. Since their mothers were both nords they naturally had the appearance of humans instead of cats. And just like Jules, Bastet had suffered illnesses her entire life. It was one of the reasons Bishop became so close to them.

    Qetesh had mastered her knowledge of alchemy just to try and help her youngest sister. She often provided potions to Jules as well, giving him a regular concoction she’d worked up that really helped him with his physical problems.

    “How’s Bast been doing by the way?” He asked.

    “She’s good. Doesn’t get as sick as she used to. Still gets regular headaches from time to time, but otherwise she’s pretty healthy.”

    “I’m glad to hear it,” Bishop said truthfully.

    “Now quit changing the subject and tell me more about this lady friend of yours,” she smirked at him.

    “Why? You jealous?”

    “Of course I am. We always had that much in common,” Freya laughed, “Two fiercely jealous lovers. You know when you fucked my sisters I almost killed you myself.”

    Bishop scoffed, “Look, I was really, really drunk. It was an honest mistake-”

    Both times?” She grinned.

    “Yes, both times… and I mean, you’re sisters, so – honestly, I thought they were you.”

    Freya gave a raucous laugh, “You must have been piss-ass drunk if you thought Qetesh even remotely looked like me you fucking scoundrel. Venus, I could see, maybe, but her face is practically stuck in a permanent scowl, so…” she gave a snort of laughter.

    He could always count on Freya to take it light-heartedly, long after the fact at least. She wasn’t exactly the most faithful woman herself. There were plenty of times she’d screwed around behind his back, granted she never fucked his brother so there was that.

    They definitely had fun together. But she was too much like him, like an unrestrained version of himself. It got to a point where he started to wonder if he was in a crazy relationship with himself. And boy could Freya be fucking crazy. Screaming and throwing things, not even small things like tankards and bits of bread, she’d go straight for the biggest jar in the room. There were too many times she’d lost her shit over the smallest of things too, like if he ever misspoke or said the wrong thing to her. Then five minutes later she’d act like nothing happened and everything was normal.

    Rona had only ever slapped him twice, Freya though, he couldn’t even count the number of times she’d raised a hand to him. She even managed to give him a black eye once, granted he deserved it when she caught him in bed with Venus. But damn if the angry sex with her wasn’t good. She was a real firestorm.

    Rona though, she was a breath of fresh air for him. She was so… normal, aside from the freaky voice and the whole being Dragonborn legendary hero shit of course. She had a temper sure, but the woman had nothing on Freya, except maybe her shouts. He quickly thanked Akatosh for not blessing Freya with the soul of a dragon.

    They rounded a bend and caught sight of a group of three Thalmor off in the distance. Bishop grabbed Freya by the arm yanking her down behind some trees.

    They watched as the Thalmor wandered around searching for any sign of most likely him, the Dragonborn and her father. One of them grumbled loudly, “What’s the point of this? They’re obviously long gone by now.”

    “The point is,” a female Thalmor sneered, “If we go back without spending the damn night out here then her Highness will burn us all alive.”

    The other just scoffed and grumbled some more while the third started getting a little too close to Bishop and Freya. She leaned into him and whispered, “Pick off the ones over there. I’ll get the piss-skin in front of us.”

    Bishop didn’t care for her use of the slur, even if they were Thalmor. He’d heard it used on Rona and he hated it. Still, there was no time to argue about her choice of swearing. He slowly drew the small bow and slipped an arrow from the quiver. He aimed for the female beyond and pulled the string then let it fly. It whistled right by the face of the one nearest them and shunted into the back of the head of the female. She toppled over and the Thalmor in front of them looked back for just a second, giving Freya a chance to rush in and plunge her sword into his guts.

    Bishop made to take out the other, but moved too quickly and pulled much too harshly on the small bow snapping the bowstring loudly.

    “SERIOUSLY?” Freya hissed at him as she pulled her sword from the Thalmor’s now limp body.

    “Shit!” He drew his dagger and they both leapt out of the way as fire and shock magic came flying their way. They wound through the trees on opposite sides of the road, forcing the Thalmor to split his now panicked attention between the two of them. They’d done this many times before, using an old pincer attack they’d worked on together. They easily evaded his magic attacks as he was forced to work slower, trying to stop the both of them. When they were close enough they rushed him and buried their blades into his body, killing him quickly.

    They didn’t get much time to recover though when they heard more voices coming over the ridge. Freya grabbed his arm and said, “This way! We’ll cut around the old temple.”

    Bishop ran with her for a minute and then she stopped and forced him to tuck between a tight crevice in the temple walls with her. They both listened quietly as the Thalmor called out for them to halt and shouted out threats of death and violence against them.

    Bishop and Freya were pressed chest to chest and he got a nice view of her ample bosom while they waited for the danger to pass. It felt kind of… wrong though, looking at her like that. He turned his head away and she raised a brow and smirked at him curiously.

    They heard the doors to the temple opening and closing as the Thalmor made to search for them inside.

    She whispered, “Well, they’re fucked. That place is filled with some nasty shades and ghouls. Oh well,” she made to squeeze out of the crevice, roughly pressing herself against him as she did so and making a very sensual face at him in the process. He nearly rolled his eyes at her. She was definitely doing it on purpose, trying to get a rise out of him. But, and he was actually surprised at himself, he felt nothing, just slightly annoyed.

    When she slipped free he went along following her down the steps as they made their way back to Solitude.

    ~~~

    (Recommended background music Terra and Soulless Village ~ Bran Bal from FFIX Soundtrack)

    Rona roused to the sounds of people speaking. It wasn’t Bishop and it wasn’t her father.

    “He’s such a sleaze,” one woman grumbled, “I mean honestly. All over my bedroll – our bedrolls Qetesh, because apparently one wasn’t enough!” She made a gagging noise.

    Another woman laughed, “You always complain Venus, but if I remember right you still willingly slipped under the sheets with him.”

    Rona opened her eyes slightly and saw two women, one looked like an orc, the other a human sitting by the hearth fire, having a discussion. The one called Venus blushed fiercely and growled, “I was drunk! I let my guard down once. Once! And then he even had the nerve to cry out her name when he was finishing. He’s so disgusting!”

    The orc woman, Rona assumed was Qetesh just chuckled and said, “I wasn’t drunk but he was pretty sloshed when we fooled around. Had the nerve to do the same though, calling me Freya. I let him know just how I felt about that with old Bertie here,” she thumbed back to a broken duel-edged battleaxe on her back.

    “Wish you hadn’t missed,” Venus huffed, crossing her arms.

    “Hmph,” Qetesh smiled and rest her head on her fist, “He seems to have changed a lot. He’s helping these two. Never seen him go out of his way like that for anyone before.”

    “He did for us,” another person said. Rona shifted her eyes slightly and saw a young girl with very bushy, brown hair sitting by Serlas.

    Venus’ lip curled, “No, Bast, he just promised he would and then he broke that promise. Went and ran off somewhere and he left us with that… sick fuck.”

    The girl turned her head away and they were all quiet for a moment. Rona figured it was now or never to find out who these strange people were and she really wanted to check on her father. She sat up slowly and rubbed at her eye, all three of them looked over at her. She returned their stares and asked, “Um… who are all of you?”

    “We’re friends,” Qetesh said, “Well, friends with Bishop. He went to get help for you two in Solitude.”

    Rona felt a shaking relief and whispered, “Thank the gods.” She sat up and went over to her father looking him over. He was still very sickly looking. She put a hand to his head, he was feverish.

    Qetesh came over and said, “I’ve got another potion here, but he hasn’t woken up for about an hour now. Can’t get him to drink it if he’s asleep.”

    Rona’s tears sprang forth and she put her hands to her face and whispered, “I’m sorry. I just…”

    They all looked very concerned for her and the girl, Bast tried to console her, “We’ve been taking care of him. It’ll be alright.”

    Rona sniffled and said with a weak laugh, “Thank you, truly. Thank you all. Please tell me your names.”

    “I’m Bastet, but you can just call me Bast,” the girl said with a small smile.

    “I’m Qetesh,” the orc woman introduced herself and nodded back to the other woman, ” and that’s Venus.”

    The woman, who Rona could see was an Imperial, still held a slight frown but looked a little sadder for her.

    “My name is Rona,” she said.

    “Yeah, Bishop told us,” Qetesh said and she looked over the sickly elf, “He’s Serlas? Your father?”

    Rona nodded. Then she noticed his right hand. It was very, very black and mottled looking. Her eyes widened and she quickly pulled his robes back and saw that the mark had steadily traveled across his chest, down his ribcage and was slowly moving up his neck. Rona let out a stifled gasp as she threw her hands to her mouth.

    Qetesh looked at it too, “It’s getting worse and fast…”

    Rona touched her father’s face and said thickly as her tears trickled heavily from her eyes, “Ata, Ata please, you have to wake up,” she shook him and cried, “ATA! WAKE UP!”

    She couldn’t leave him like this. He was going to die. She had to do something. Then it occurred to her. Eira had healed Bishop’s severe burns once, when they were attacked on the balcony at the Grand Crystal Ball. One simple kiss to his cheek and they’d faded away not even leaving a scar behind. Maybe Eira could heal her father too.

    She glanced around the room. She’d need to summon her, but there was no space to do so inside there. She asked them, “Do you have a pair of shoes I can borrow?”

    They looked at her confounded and Bast grabbed a pair of slippers from beside the broken dresser and said, “Just these old slippers of mine.”

    Rona thanked her and pulled the shoes on. They were thin and light, not very protective but it would be enough to go outside. She stood up quickly and ran over to the ladder leading up and started climbing.

    Qetesh barked, “Wait! Where are you going? Bishop and our sister are probably already in Solitude by now, there’s no use going out in this snowstorm. You’ll freeze to death!”

    “I’ll be fine,” Rona said and pushed the hatch open, climbing up and out.

    Venus rolled her eyes and muttered, “Figures he’d pick another crazy one. What. An. Idiot.”

    Qetesh looked back at her sister and said, “Watch him, I’m going after her.”

    Why?” Venus scoffed, “We don’t owe him anything and we don’t even know her.”

    “Just watch him,” Qetesh frowned at her and quickly climbed up the ladder.

    Bast chewed on her tongue for a minute while Venus grumbled to herself, with her arms crossed before the girl decided to hurry after them, climbing the ladder.

    “Where do you think you’re going!? Bast get back here!”

    “I’ll be right back!” She shouted over her sister’s loud protests.

    ~~~

    Bishop and Freya made it to Solitude in good time. It had only taken them three hours to get there and if they took some horses at top speed they could probably make it back to the hideout in a little over an hour.

    Freya stopped walking, far from the gates and he looked back at her, “Come on, it’ll be fine.”

    “Oh, it’s not the guards I’m worried about,” she said, then quickly ducked behind a low stone wall as an argonian man came stalking down the path. Bishop looked ahead at Jaree-Ra who’d so clearly seen her run off to hide. He moved a little quicker and smirked at Bishop, “Long time ranger. Mind moving aside while I talk business with my associate here?”

    Freya groaned loudly behind the wall and Bishop stayed firmly between the two, crossing his arms as he said, “Any business you have with her you have with me now. So what can I do for you Jaree?”

    Jaree-Ra called over to her snarling, “So you can afford to hire a Companion but you can’t afford to pay me?”

    “A Companion?” She snorted a laugh, “Now that’s funny.”

    “Not being paid, Jaree,” Bishop said, “How much does she owe? I’ll cover it.”

    Jaree-Ra gave him a shifty grin and said, “For you my friend, let’s call it two thousand. You can scrounge that up pretty easily these days? Right?”

    Freya peeked around her hiding spot and barked, “I only owe you four hundred you slimy lizard!”

    “Ah, but here’s how it is Freya my dear. I’ve just learned that you’ve got an in with some very wealthy financiers, so my fee has gone up. We’ll just call it interest.”

    “It’s fine, I’ll pay it,” Bishop asserted. He hated the fact he’d be paying a significant sum to the shady argonian but he didn’t have time to sit around and haggle, “I’ll meet you down at the docks in a day or so. Got to go scrounge that gold up for you first.”

    Jaree-Ra put a hand to his shoulder and said with a smile, “Pleasure doing business with you Bish.”

    The argonian walked away with a new swagger in his step and Freya came out from behind the wall looking after the argonian.

    Bishop crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes at her, “Jaree-Ra? Really Freya?”

    “Girl’s got to eat,” she smirked then said, “And what’s this about you being a Companion? That’s got to be a joke.”

    Bishop chuckled and shook his head then moved on. She fell into step beside him and laughed, “You? A Companion Bishop? What have you been doing these last six years?”

    As they approached the gates one of the guards saw her and said, “Wait, I know you.”

    She tried ducking behind Bishop this time and he sighed and said, “She’s with me.”

    The guard seemed to be studying the both of them through his helmet and said, “Fine. But if she stirs up any trouble it’s on your head.”

    “Got it,” he said and entered.

    Freya followed and then picked up her pace and looked up into his face with genuine astonishment. He looked down at her, “What?”

    “Who the fuck are you and what have you done with Bishop?”

    He laughed. Another woman had said the same thing to him once before and he replied, “Told you I’ve changed.”

    “Huh,” she seemed at a loss for words and he pressed on heading straight for the crenellations. There wasn’t anyone out yet, dawn was another hour away. He needed to get the legionnaires moving though.

    He stopped Freya and said, “Just wait here a minute. I’ll be right back.”

    She frowned and crossed her arms. He left her there and spoke with a legion officer who allowed him in. He went inside and found General Tullius and Legate Rikke up bright and early already going over some battle plans in the war room. He stepped inside while Tullius was going on about how to secure the Pale and Rikke cleared her throat and pointed to Bishop.

    Tullius looked up with surprise and said, “Ah, Companion,” naturally he’d forgotten Bishop’s name, but he was fine with that, “What can I do for you?”

    “The Dragonborn and her father are in trouble, sir,” as much as he loathed formalities he knew it was necessary and the fastest way to get things moving.

    Tullius furrowed his brows, “What kind of trouble?”

    “We were attacked by a dragon last night and Serlas is on death’s door. We need to get to him as soon as possible, he needs help right away or he will die,” Bishop remained steadfastly calm as he explained.

    Tullius looked to his Legate and said, “Rikke, assemble a rescue party right away,” he looked back to Bishop and said, “They’ll meet you at the front gates in ten minutes. I’ll alert the Palace hospital wing of his incoming arrival.”

    “Thank you, sir,” Bishop even gave a quick bow and hurried out. He had ten minutes to get his and Rona’s gear. He hurried out and found Freya still loitering around, looking anxious every time someone passed by.

    “Come on, I need to stop by the Winking Skeever to get some things.”

    She followed him back to the room he’d rented out and he quickly tore his white shirt and the leather vest off. He slid the vest under the bed, it’d be a good enough hiding place to store the dossiers until he could come back for them. He grabbed his black leather armor and quickly changed behind the divider.

    He heard Freya poking around and being nosy when she said, “Just how long have you been shacking up with this girl?”

    “I already told you,” he said, “It’s been about nine months.”

    “Fuck, really? That’s like ten thousand years for a guy like you. She must be something special if you’ve stuck with her that long.”

    He smiled as he yanked his top on, buckling it. She sure was. He strapped his own bow and quiver to himself and equipped his swords and dagger to his belt. He came around and found Freya holding up a pair of Rona’s lacy red panties, looking them over intrigued. He quickly snatched them from her and stuffed them back into a drawer and said, “Stop being nosy.”

    She grinned at him and looked around, hands to her hips, “I see you’ve been living comfortably. She obviously has money. Never thought you’d finally settle down with a noble just so you could put your feet up and drink ale all day.”

    “She’s not a noble,” he replied as he folded up Rona’s red dress, a fresh set of underwear, and took her boots and gloves and stuffed them into his travel pack. He grabbed her bow and swords too and handed them to Freya saying, “Carry these for me will you?”

    She took them, strapping both swords and the bow and quiver to herself. She drew one of the blades and looked it over, “Wow, this is nice. The hell is this made of?”

    “You ask too many questions,” he replied.

    “Still full of secrets I see,” Freya flashed him a snarky grin as she sheathed the sword.

    He just rolled his eyes at her and gave the room a quick once over for anything he might have needed. He’d decided on keeping the nicer boots Serlas had enchanted for him instead of his old ones and he grabbed a fat coin purse sitting by and said, “I think that’s everything. Let’s go.”

    He made Freya leave the room first and shut and locked the door behind them. She cocked an eyebrow at him and he said, “I just know better than to trust your sticky hands around my things darlin’.”

    She flashed him a wry smirk and said, “That’s fine. I really only wanted these. They’re cute.” She started twirling the red panties he’d snatched from her earlier on her finger. Damn she was fast. He grumbled at her back as she laughed her way down the stairs.

    They met outside with a small group of Legion soldiers, about seven of them and Legate Rikke. They were all on horseback and had a small carriage strapped to one of the steeds. It was a medical carriage meant for carrying one or two bodies.

    Rikke motioned to a single brown steed nearby and Bishop hopped on then realized Freya was still with him. She gave him a wolfish grin that could have matched his own. He reached down and helped pull her up on the horse behind him and felt her press her chest very close to his back while she wrapped her arms around his waist and placed her hands dangerously close to his crotch. He rolled his eyes, getting that annoyed feeling again, and snapped the reins, sending them cantering along the path as he led the rescue party up to the hideout.

    ~~~

    Rona ran across the snowy fields, weaving through the trees looking for an open space to call forth the Dragonborn woman. Once she found a place, not too far from the run down shack she wiped away all her tears and took a deep breath allowing the song to pour out of her and fill the skies with sound.

    (The Song is Pale by Within Temptation)

    “The world seems not the same,
    though I know nothing has changed.
    It’s all my state of mind,
    I can’t leave it all behind.
    Have to stand up to be stronger.

    I have to try to break free
    from the thoughts in my mind.
    Use the time that I have,
    I can’t say goodbye,
    have to make it right.
    Have to fight, cause I know
    in the end it’s worthwhile,
    that the pain that I feel slowly fades away.
    It will be alright.

    I know, should realize
    time is precious, it is worthwhile
    Despite how I feel inside,
    have to trust it will be alright.
    Have to stand up to be stronger.”

    The golden flames burst from her body and created a wide swath around her, melting the snow and sticking to the trees again. Then Eira burned into being with her own white flames licking at her body and she quietly approached Rona as she continued to sing her song.

    “Oh, this night is too long. 
    I have no strength to go on. 
    No more pain, I’m floating away. 
    Through the mist I see the face 
    of an angel, who calls my name. 
    I remember you’re the reason I have to stay.

    Have to try to break free 
    from the thoughts in my mind. 
    Use the time that I have, 
    I can’t say goodbye, 
    have to make it right. 
    Have to fight, cause I know 
    in the end it’s worthwhile, 
    that the pain that I feel slowly fades away. 
    It will be alright.”

    Qetesh and Bast stood by, watching this little elf woman sing this crazy song with music that came from nowhere and then a woman, who also came from nowhere just stood by and watched her. Venus caught up to them and breathless muttered, “What in Oblivion am I seeing right now?”

    Qetesh stuttered, “I… I’m trying to figure that out myself.”

    Rona looked at Eira and pleaded with her, “Please, you healed Bishop before, can you heal my father? He was hit with dragon ice. Please Eira, I’m begging you. I can’t lose him.

    Eira stepped closer and touched her face, she was as real as any person, because Rona willed her to be real, she needed her to be. And then she spoke, which was a rarity for the woman, when she wasn’t singing.

    “My power is to heal dragon’s fire. I cannot heal burns of ice,” she said to Rona’s dismay. Her heart literally sank and she felt like she might die from hopelessness and anguish.

    Eira’s body flickered slightly because her presence was entirely reliant on Rona’s emotions, so she shook off the distressing feelings and begged, “How can I help him? What can I do?”

    “Once your fire is awakened, Akatosh can grant us one of three strengths. The power to heal dragon’s fire, the power to heal dragon’s frost, and the power to heal dragon’s slash. We cannot have more than one and this power must be used sparingly. It will greatly weaken you. Do you wish to take the power to heal frost?”

    “Yes,” Rona insisted, “Yes, I will! Please!”

    Eira looked over the golden flames and smiled, “Your fire burns brightly, it has awakened from within you. I will give you the power to heal frost then. Let me see your hands.” Eira pulled Rona’s hands into her own and vocalized beautifully to the skies.

    (The Song is Awake by Malukah)

    Rona watched as their joined hands glowed brightly and she felt a great warmth traveling across her palms and down her fingertips. They started to shudder and then a gold flame surged around their hands and shot into the sky. It flew over them and took on the shape of a roaring dragon before dispersing entirely.

    When Eira finished she released her and with her song still carrying on around them she said, “Go to him now. Place your fires to the ice and melt it away,” she looked up at the snowstorm as well and said, “With your feelings still in control, clear the skies.”

    Rona breathed and looked up at the sky then shouted, “LOK VAH KOOR!” Her shout burst through the billowing snow clouds, spreading them apart quickly and revealing a warm sunrise which bathed them in light.

    Rona looked at Eira and said, “Thank you.”

    “Stay strong Dragonborn. The path laid out before you is harsh and painful. It always is. But you are not alone. We are with you,” Eira gave her a warm smile and vanished in a pillar of white fire.

    Rona turned back and ran as fast as she could, she even ran right by the two women and the young girl that were just staring at her utterly astonished, ignoring them. She quickly went through the hatch and down into the hideout. She pulled her father’s robes down, revealing his bare and blackened chest. The frost had continued to travel up his neck and was threatening to overtake his eye. It was also dangerously close to the left side of his chest, where his heart rest.

    She pressed her hands to his chest and allowed that tingling warmth to fill her hands as golden flames licked around her palms, literally igniting the frostbite like fire to oil as it started searing away the mark.

    It moved slowly, as though the two forces were battling right on his body. She took a breath and closed her eyes, focusing her newfound power onto him, letting the golden fire envelope them both. Eira was right, she felt her strength leaving her, as though she were giving it back to her father. She would be alright though, she could sleep it off. He was going to be alright too as his eyes snapped open suddenly and he choked in a deep breath.

    Serlas watched as the mark on his arm receded and the golden flames licked his skin with no harm to him. When it was finally gone, Rona gasped and fell against him. He wrapped his arms around her and said, “Velvyn, what has happened? How did you? Where are we?”

    She looked into his face and hugged him tightly, crying tears of relief as she said over and over, “A tandile tye Ata.”

    ~~~

    As they came around the bend there was thankfully no sign of the Thalmor. Even the bodies of the ones they’d killed had already vanished, probably dragged off by predators lurking around.

    Bishop was relieved either way and then he heard it. Her song carried over to them from the ridge beyond. He groaned inwardly as Freya muttered, “What is that?”

    So much for keeping Rona’s identity a secret. He said nothing though and continued on. Then they heard her shout and the skies cleared of the snowstorm entirely. How she managed to do it now when she couldn’t before he wasn’t sure.

    He called back to the legionnaires, “We’re nearly there! It’s just over this hill!”

    They hurried along and as soon as they arrived they found the three sisters lingering around outside waiting for them.

    Freya hopped off and asked, “Why are you all out here?”

    Bishop jumped down next and snarled, “You’re supposed to be keeping an eye on them!”

    Venus looked all too smug when she cocked her head and said, “I think the Dragonborn can take care of herself just fine.”

    Freya laughed slightly, “Uh… what?”

    Bishop brushed past them all and called the legionnaires over. The four sisters stepped aside, looking warily over all the soldiers, but the men ignored them and focused on the task at hand.

    Bishop went down and to his astonishment he found Serlas sitting upright and Rona laying in his arms. Serlas looked up at Bishop and smiled saying perkily, “I’m feeling much better Bishop. In fact, I feel at least a hundred years younger.”

    Rona gave a weak smile and he went over to them and looked between them both, “What? How? How did you heal him?”

    “Eira,” she said weakly, “She gave me the power to heal dragon’s frost. It makes me really tired when I use it though.”

    Bishop smiled at them both and said, “You beat me to it Ladyship. I even got an entire rescue team here and everything.” He grabbed the potion off the floor and handed it to her, “Drink that, you’ll feel better in no time.”

    Rona did and she felt her energy quickly return to her. He gave her the bundle of clothes he brought for her and she changed quickly as they both looked away. Then the three of them climbed out of the hideout and the soldiers all looked confused. Legate Rikke said, “I thought we came out here to rescue him.”

    “I managed to heal him,” Rona said, “But we’d still appreciate it if you could escort us back.”

    “Of course Dragonborn,” Rikke said then called to her soldiers, “Alright men! We’re heading back. Stay vigilant for any enemies or predators.”

    Bishop went over to Freya and took Rona’s weapons from her and said, “Come with us. I want to thank you all properly for helping us.”

    Rona started strapping her gear to herself and Freya looked between him and this tiny girl who was supposedly the Dragonborn and frowned slightly.

    He insisted, “Come on, at least let us buy you all dinner. I’m sure you’re hungry.”

    Qetesh stepped forward shrugging, “I’m in. I won’t say no to food. Any chance you’re offering a real bed with that hot meal too?”

    He grinned, “Definitely.”

    Venus even relented and said, “As long as you don’t have a key to our room I’ll go.”

    Bast followed after her sisters as they all climbed into the small medical cart where Serlas was sitting. He pulled his legs in tightly and looked very happy to be feeling better. Bishop got up onto the horse, pulling Rona up with him and she grasped his waist and pressed her face to his back.

    The Legion started to move out, except for the wagon and Bishop looked over at Freya who was still standing there, expressionless and he asked again, “You coming or what?”

    She let a wry smirk cross her lips and said, “Yeah… alright. I could eat.”

    “Great,” Bishop said and spurred the horse on. Freya climbed into the carriage and Rona looked back at her and noticed the nord woman giving her a very dirty look. She had a bad feeling about her.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 66

    Debts Repaid

     

    The ride back was fairly quick. Rona made a point not to look back at Freya the entire way. She gleaned that Bishop had a previous relationship with the woman and quite possibly the other two as well based on everything she’d heard them say.

    She tried not to let it get to her, to bother her, but she really started to understand just how Bishop felt when Casavir was around. And she did not like it.

    Upon their arrival to Solitude, Serlas moved about with a real spring in his step. Rona was very pleased to see her father feeling so much better and just alive in general.

    He turned to them and said, “Shall we meet up in your room? I’d very much like to collect those documents, Bishop, and take my time perusing them.”

    “Yeah, sure,” Bishop turned back to the four women and said, “Get a table in the Winking Skeever and we’ll meet with you all in a little while, alright?”

    “Can we order whatever we want?” Bast asked with a hint of excitement in her voice.

    Bishop smirked at her, “Anything you want. I’ll get the tab.”

    “Fantastic,” Venus said, “I’m getting some Spiced Wine, I love that stuff.”

    “I think I’ll drown myself in plenty of Black Briar Reserve,” Qetesh grinned.

    “I really hope they have horker stew,” Bast said.

    “That’s not even that fancy,” Freya laughed at her.

    They all went in and the girls sat down at the large round table by the windows. Rona chanced a glance at Freya who looked a little happier as she joked and laughed with her sisters. She tried to shrug it off. Maybe the dirty look was just a mistake or maybe she was looking at Bishop and not her. She was sure plenty of women looked at him that way considering his reputation.

    The three of them went upstairs and Bishop unlocked the door to their room and went over to the bed where he knelt down and fished around for his vest. He passed it to Serlas and said, “They should all be in there.”

    Serlas yanked a pile of documents out of the pockets and set the vest down and smiled, “Excellent. I will be taking these over to my room at the Blue Palace to read over. I want to thank you Bishop for going to such an effort to bring me help as well.”

    “Any time Serlas. You’re family to me, you know?”

    Serlas beamed at him, “Yes, I agree. I feel the same Bishop,” then Serlas turned to Rona putting his hands to her shoulders and smiled down at her warm and fatherly. “You amaze me every day Rona dear. You’ve become so strong and so brave. I must admit, it terrifies me to see you fight these dragons… but, knowing how resilient you’ve become, how capable you are, I worry a little less. I hope you know how very proud I am of you and how much I love you.”

    She squeezed him around the waist and said, “I love you too Ata. I just hope this journey is over soon.”

    “As do I, velvyn, as do I,” they pulled apart and he stuffed the documents into a pocket inside his robes and clasped his hands together, “Please give my thanks to your kind friends Bishop and especially to Miss Qetesh. Her potion helped immensely with the pain. I will be sure to pay her back and I’d like to know her recipe if at all possible.”

    “I’ll see if she’s willing to part with it,” Bishop said with a smirk.

    “Very good. Let’s rest here for the night and tomorrow we will leave for Riverwood. I’m sure Miss Marjorie is desperately anxious to know of our wellbeing.”

    They laughed and Serlas took his leave. Bishop sighed and looked over Rona letting a gentle smile trace his lips. She went in and hugged him tightly and he returned the embrace.

    “Can you believe how far we’ve come, Lightfoot?”

    “Not really,” she said, “I’m still trying to wrap my head around being the Dragonborn most days.”

    He smiled and tipped her face up to his, “Dragonborn or not I’d still love you just the way you are.”

    She blushed a little and he leaned in and kissed her. He took his time with it, tracing her lips with his tongue before entwining it with her own. She loved the way he kissed her. There were so many different ways he’d do it and they always expressed his feelings for her in that moment. Gentle kisses, were sweet I love you’s, the more desperate ones meant to take her breath away were I want you’s, and the in between, like this one, was both.

    It had been a while since they fooled around and she was feeling just as eager as him. She decided to express as much by grasping him behind his head and pulling him in for a deeper kiss. He obliged with moaning approval and lifted her right up by her waist, wrapping his arms tightly around her and holding her against his chest as he leaned back pressing their lips very close together. She laughed a little under his mouth and he smiled but did not let up the passionate kiss as he pulled at her lips and explored her mouth with his tongue.

    Finally, they pulled apart to take a breath and she whispered playfully, “I can’t wait any longer, I have to have you.”

    He gave a low growl, “That’s my line, love. And you know how bad I want it. Buuut… we have guests to entertain.”

    “Aw,” she pouted and almost couldn’t believe he was saying no.

    “Tonight,” he said, “I’m thinking… somewhere different,” he set her down, keeping his hands wrapped to her back as she looked up at him.

    “Like where?”

    “There’s an old lighthouse around the way,” he said,”Usually deserted, that could be fun, what do you say love?”

    “Okay, but don’t be surprised if I keep up the tease all day,” she winked at him and pulled away from his grasp.

    “Mmm, I’ll be sure to do the same,” he flashed her a wolfish grin.

    She moved towards the door but stopped suddenly and asked, “So, your friends. How do you know them exactly?”

    Would he be honest with her? She had to know.

    “Ah the sisters four,” he said, “They’re just some old friends of mine,” he paused a moment before he said slowly,“back when I was still a bandit.”

    “So they’re bandits too?” She looked back at him.

    “They haven’t exactly told me so, but I suspect as much,” he searched her face for a moment and said, “I hope that’s not a problem.”

    “No, they helped us. They seem like good people to me.” This was a partial lie on her part. She trusted Qetesh just fine and Bast seemed like a nice girl. Both were very kind to her. Venus she didn’t feel one way or the other about. The nord woman Freya though, she wasn’t quite sure how to feel about her – but trust her? She definitely did not. “You said they’re sisters?” Rona inquired.

    “Yup, half-sisters. Their mother was, well to put it nicely, a working girl. Freya’s the oldest, then it goes Qetesh, Venus and Bast. Bastet’s half khajiit like Jules was, she had a lot of the same illnesses as him, so I got to know them and Qetesh helped him out a lot with her potions.”

    So it wasn’t just a bunch of old lays for him. They really were friends. They’d helped his brother. She said, “If you trust them Bishop, then that’s enough for me.”

    She turned to walk away when he grabbed her arm and took a breath and said, “I need to tell you something else.” She looked back at him and he exhaled, “Freya and I were… sort of in a long term relationship.” There it was. The truth she was waiting for and then he admitted quickly, “Aaand I may have slept with Qetesh and Venus at one point too.”

    She held her face as still as possible trying so terribly hard not to let this bother her. He was being truthful and honest. She couldn’t let it bother her, but boy did she want to let the internal screaming out.

    “You alright, Ladyship? You kind of look like your head might explode.”

    She blushed and turned away saying very abruptly, “No, I’m fine. This is fine. You told me the truth and I’m okay with that.”

    He chuckled and cocked his head, “This really bothers you doesn’t it?”

    Her face burned even more. She scowled at herself, why did her redness always have to give her away?

    “Huh,” he crossed his arms and smirked, “Nice to know even you get a little jealous.”

    She frowned at him, “Jealous? I am not jealous. Just… slightly annoyed.”

    He laughed and pulled her into another close embrace, “Don’t be jealous or annoyed or whatever it is, Ladyship. It was a long time ago, six years to be exact. The only woman I have eyes for now is you, I hope you know that. I would never do anything to betray you or your trust.”

    She looked into his eyes and was genuine when she said, “I know. I know you’d never hurt me.”

    “Never,” he whispered and kissed her again, letting his hands roam.

    She giggled at his teasing and pulled away. “Come on. I suspect we’re going to have a large tab to cover and I want to get my fair share of the food and drink before they run this place dry.” She’d said it sarcastically but as they went downstairs they were stunned to find that the four women had already ordered a full blown feast for their table with stacks of hot plates of food, steaming bowls of stew, and plenty of bottles of liquor to choose from.

    Rona looked back at Bishop and narrowed her eyes at him. He gave a nervous laugh and said, “Good thing I made plenty of extra gold working for the Companions. Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered Ladyship.”

    They pulled up some chairs at the table and looked over at the very happy sisters who were drinking heavily and digging into their food. Even Bast was tipping back a bottle of Honningbrew and Bishop reached over and snatched it from the girl, “The hell!? You’re way too young to be drinking, kid.”

    She scowled at him and Freya laughed, “Since when have you cared about keeping kids from drinking Bish?”

    “Since I’m apparently the only responsible adult in the room,” he barked back.

    She leaned on the table, head in hand and gave him a wry smirk, “What? You trying to be our father now?”

    He glared at her and glanced at Bast and said, “It can’t be good for her health.”

    Bast argued, “I’m fine! I don’t get sick like I used to anymore. Plus, I was only having one.”

    “Well, it’s my money and I say no kids are allowed to drink with it,” then he tipped the bottle back and finished it off himself while she pouted.

    Rona looked around at them all and made to say something but didn’t know where to start. Qetesh did it for her then when she decided to direct the conversation to safer waters and asked, “So Freya says you’re a Companion now, is that right Bishop?”

    “Was,” he said, “Now we’re just focusing on fighting the dragons.”

    Riiight,” Freya drawled, head still in hand as she looked over at Rona with a predatory gaze, “You’re the Dragonborn right? How’d you two meet anyhow?”

    Rona blushed slightly, pushing her hair back behind her ear as she averted her gaze and muttered, “Uh, it’s a long story…”

    Freya smirked at her, “Aw, that’s cute. When you blush it goes right up to your ears.”

    This only made Rona blush harder and she felt very flustered not wanting to share personal and intimate details about her relationship with Bishop with not just one, but three of his former lovers. Bishop could sense her discomfort and said, “We met in Riverwood. She needed a tracker and I was for hire and well, things just went from there.”

    Venus scoffed, “I’m so sure,” she looked right at Rona and asked, “Did he take advantage of you? He would. You don’t have to stay with him you know.”

    Rona laughed awkwardly and shook her head slowly, “No. He didn’t take advantage of me. Bishop’s been a great help on my journey. We look out for each other.”

    “And he hasn’t even left you yet,” Freya said with that same predatory smile, “Astonishing, really.”

    Bishop scowled at Freya and snapped, “Hey, if you don’t want my generosity and you just want to bring up the bad blood between us, then you can all scurry along back to whatever gutter you’ve been hiding out in. But if you think I’m going to sit here and take this shit, I won’t.”

    Qetesh sighed and looked over at her two rude sisters, “Mind reeling your snark back a bit girls? I like the prospect of sleeping in a real bed tonight.”

    Freya rolled her eyes and Venus just crossed her arms and turned her head away with a huff.

    Bast was just watching quietly with amused interest as she stuffed her face with horker stew and a few bread rolls. It seemed that she and Qetesh were the only mature two in the group, or at least they didn’t hold onto old grudges. Rona started to wonder just what had happened between them all to make Venus and Freya hate Bishop so much.

    Bast looked over and said to Rona with her mouth full, “I liked your song.”

    Rona laughed a little and smiled at her, “Thanks.”

    “And that… yelling thing?” She added as she swallowed her food,“That was amazing.”

    Qetesh agreed, “I was definitely impressed. Never seen anything like that before. So you fight a lot of dragons?”

    “Plenty,” Rona said.

    Freya perked up then and asked, “Wait, so, you were here for that whole thirty dragons attacking Solitude thing a while back weren’t you? I heard the Dragonborn saved the city… that was you?

    Rona sighed. That unfortunately seemed to be one of her most well-known stories and she nodded her head slowly and forlorn.

    “That was a bad time,” Bishop groaned.

    “You were there too?” Freya looked at him stunned.

    “Sure was, fought them off as best I could. Got a nice scar for the effort too,” he yanked his pant leg up as they leaned around to look at the white scars licking his leg like flames.

    “Whoa,” Bast mumbled through another bite of food.

    “Damn,” Qetesh marveled at the sight of it, “You two have been through a lot, huh?”

    “It’s been interesting to say the least,” Bishop said.

    “I’d love to hear some stories,” Qetesh grinned pleasantly.

    Bishop shrugged and started going on about their adventures, thankfully keeping most of the details light and avoiding any and all talk about their personal life. Rona picked at some of the food on the table all the while wanting very much to leave already and just be alone with him. She’d noticed the way Freya kept looking at him, flashing him flirty looks every time their eyes met and staring at him with lustful longing. It really bothered her.

    She was starting to get a perspective on just how Bishop felt every time some man walked by looking at her the same way. Only this was slightly different. Here was this incredibly beautiful nord woman, with thick coiling brown locks, big gorgeous brown eyes and an hourglass figure, who’d once been in a relationship with him. She could only imagine how he’d done it with her… in fact she couldn’t stop herself imagining it and it was very agitating as images of the two of them in the throes of passion kept flashing in her mind. Was she really feeling jealous? Rona never got jealous, but then again she’d never been put in a position like this before.

    She even found herself feeling envious of their beauty. Qetesh was just as good-looking as her sisters, even with the two small canines jutting from her lower lip. She had a similar figure to Freya and big golden eyes. Though she seemed to be entirely disinterested in Bishop romantically and Rona could appreciate that, whether he’d bed her once or not.

    Venus however, she kept a permanent scowl on her face, staring him down with a burning hatred behind her pretty blue eyes. She was still beautiful, even with that nasty look on her face. Rona wasn’t even sure how he’d gotten tangled up with her at one point, though she did mention that they’d both been drunk at the time.

    Bast had a few more years of maturing before she’d reach the attractiveness of her sisters, but she was already developing a full figure all her own and though her wild mane of brown hair was kind of messy, it laid around her head and framed her face in a way that only accentuated her features and brought out her hazel colored eyes.

    Rona started to wonder just what their mother looked like. She must have been a goddess of beauty to have brought four of the most gorgeous women she’d ever seen into the world. She started feeling incredibly self-conscious being around them all. It was a combination of the way Bishop so flagrantly chatted with them like it wasn’t strange having three women he’d previously slept with in their presence and one of them so clearly wanted to jump his bones while the other seemed to desire nothing more than to burn him alive with her hateful gaze.

    She had to get out of there. She got up and excused herself and went over to Corpulus, asking for the bath. He told her it was already filled and she was welcome to use it. She hurried along, ignoring their stares as they watched her go.

    She went inside the bathing room, drawing the curtain over and didn’t even take her clothes off. She just stood there, leaning against the damp wall for a minute, taking everything in.

    They’d just finished infiltrating the Thalmor Embassy, successfully. They’d gotten the documents they needed to continue their journey and she hoped that they had information on the whereabouts of the Elder Scrolls since everything thus far had been a dead end. Her father nearly died because she couldn’t go anywhere without attracting dragons like a magnet to her, but she’d also awoken some newfound power inside herself and saved his life. She still had so much more training to do as well because she hadn’t learned any new shouts since their visit to Arcwind Point.

    She had all these important and pressing matters to worry about but instead she was stressing over Bishop’s old trysts. This was not something she should have to think about on top of everything else! She felt frustrated by his lack of awareness in the situation. But then again, maybe he really was just trying to help out his old friends, after all they’d helped them.

    She released some of her frustrations with an exasperated sigh and then Bishop came into the room looking for her. He glanced around and saw her standing there, fully dressed and gave her a concerned look, “Bothering you that much, huh?”

    She blushed and turned her face away from him. She felt so ashamed for even feeling that way. He sighed and stepped over to her, “Don’t let it get to you Ladyship. It’s just one day, I promise. Freya’s… she’s kind of a bitch.” Rona looked up into his face with half-lidded eyes and he chuckled, “Okay. She’s the most spiteful, snarky bitch I’ve ever known. She can’t help herself and she loves to stir up trouble wherever she can. She’s just trying to get under your skin… don’t let her.”

    “I’d be lying if I said this whole thing didn’t bother me,” she said and shook her head, “But I have so many other things to think about Bishop. I can’t let this distract me from what I’m supposed to be doing. Just… do whatever you have to do to pay them back, but I can’t be around them.”

    He frowned, “Really? I mean I put up with Casavir…”

    “I didn’t sleep with Casavir,” she threw in sharply.

    His mouth twisted at those words but he relented, “Alright. Fine. I’ll take care of my business with my old friends,” then he perked up a little, “Then tonight, you and me will have a quiet evening alone. No distractions,” he added the with a smirk.

    “I’d like that,” she said sincerely.

    With a kiss they parted again and she took the opportunity to wash up while silently hoping the whole time that Bishop’s so called ‘friends’ took their leave shortly.

    ~~~

    After consoling and reassuring her, Bishop went back upstairs and found the four sisters finally finished with their feast and enjoying their drinks. He rolled his eyes at Bast, who’d already snagged another bottle of mead and he walked over and held his hand out. She frowned at him but handed it over with a scowl as the other three women giggled under their breaths.

    Then Freya said, “So, how’s your lady friend? Not too upset is she?”

    He looked back at the cheeky nord woman and said, “Hey, I promised to pay off that bounty you have on your head, what do you say we head over to Castle Dour and take care of that?”

    She smirked at him, “Alright. Since you’re still being so generous, might as well take advantage.”

    Bishop tossed a small coin purse on the table and said, “Pay the tab and get a room for yourselves.”

    Freya joined him and they started walking up the path to the crenellations when Bishop grabbed Freya’s arm and threw her hard against the side wall of the inn, out of sight of the guards. He put his hands up on either side of her head and glared at her. She still had a nasty smirk playing at her lips and he snarled, “Don’t think I don’t see what you’re doing.

    She played coy and teased, running a finger sensually up his chest, “Whatever do you mean Bishop?”

    He smacked her hand away, jut his finger in her face and spoke with a dangerous tone, “You leave her the fuck alone Freya. You have no idea the kind of shit she’s been through. She doesn’t need your snark or your nasty attitude. I don’t know what you’re playing at, but it’s over between us. It’s been over for six years. Let it fucking go.”

    Her playful expression suddenly turned to one of contempt and hatred and she replied sharply, “And you don’t know what we went through when you abandoned us and left us with that twisted piece of shit.”

    He knit his brows together and said, “What? What did Thorn do?”

    She shoved him away from her and stormed off suddenly and growled, “As if you care.”

    He watched her go for a moment, feeling miserable. He felt bad enough abandoning them after all the promises he’d made, but something must have happened to make even Freya hate him that much. He caught up with her and they silently went along to Castle Dour where they met with the guards inside.

    The Solitude guard flipped through a logbook and said, “Let’s see, Freya, Venus, Qetesh and Bast,” he looked right up at them, astonished, “You brought the leader of the Femme Fatal here!?”

    Bishop looked at her, half-lidded eyes, “The what?”

    She averted her gaze and pursed her lips, “Just what we’ve been calling ourselves.”

    Bishop sighed and looked back at the guard, “How much is the bounty?”

    “Twenty-thousand,” he said flatly.

    “TWENTY-!?” Bishop’s voice broke off and he looked back at Freya again who was pointedly staring at the ceiling with a smirk on her face. “Freya, I can’t afford the cost of a damned house for you!”

    The guard stood up suddenly, drawing his sword and said, “Then we can’t let her leave here.”

    Bishop threw a hand out, “Whoa, whoa, okay. Maybe we can discuss this. This woman – these women – they helped save the Dragonborn and her father very recently. Is there any chance we can negotiate a cut in cost for… heroic deeds or something?”

    The guard looked between the two of them then said to Bishop, “Alright, Companion. I’ll see what we can do. It’s five thousand on the heads of each of them, but we’ll make it five thousand grand total for the four instead.”

    Bishop grumbled fishing around his pocket for the fat coin purse he’d grabbed earlier that morning and noticed it was missing. He clenched his teeth, letting out a very angry, audible growl and held his hand out to Freya.

    She snickered a little then reached in a pouch on her belt and passed the coin purse back to him, “Whoops. You dropped this earlier and uh, I forgot to give it back to you.”

    “I can see that,” he said through his teeth. He took it and dropped it in front of the guard onto the desk.

    The guard said, “That’ll do. Alright Companion. They’re free women now, but they’re your responsibility. If I so much as hear about someone’s sweet roll being stolen, I’ll gladly toss you and all your lady friends in prison right quick. Do we understand each other?”

    “Completely,” he said then grabbed her arm and dragged her back out with him before she could do any other stupid thing to land her in hot water.

    When they were outside he rounded on her, “Twenty thousand gold!? What did you do!? Murder an army!?”

    Freya waved a hand, “The girls and I have just been busy is all. It’s not like we have the Dragonborn to watch our backs, we just have each other.”

    He groaned annoyed, “It’s no wonder Bast still gets headaches all the time. You are a walking, talking headache, aren’t you?” She gave a light shrug, still playing the coy bitch. He grumbled, “We still have to go pay Jaree-Ra off too. You trying to drain me dry?”

    Her lips curled sensually at that remark and he kicked himself for saying it as she got real close to him, dancing her fingers over his chest again and said, “I could if you’d only let me.”

    “Pft, keep trying darlin’.”

    He kicked himself for that one too as he quickly walked away and she called, “Oh don’t you worry Bish, I won’t ever stop trying. I’m damn good at this game and you know it.”

    Freya was proving to be a real pain in his ass. On the one hand he felt immensely guilty for breaking his promises six years ago to them but on the other he wanted nothing more than to skip town and disappear where she’d never be able to find him again. The last six years without her in his life had been relatively peaceful. Lonely definitely, but the frustrations she’d brought to his life just weren’t worth it to avoid feeling lonely. He hadn’t realized how much he’d enjoyed the peace until he was in her irritating presence again. He couldn’t understand what he’d ever found attractive about her.

    He really had changed.

    He went back to their house. The roof was nearly finished being repaired. He was going to have to pawn a few things just to pay off Jaree-Ra at that point. Luckily they had plenty of junk just laying around waiting to be sold, he almost didn’t even care if Freya snagged some it.

    He let them into the home and waited for all her snarky comments about him living lavishly and she did not disappoint.

    “Nice place, if I didn’t know any better I’d say you were a king living like this. Wow,” she looked at the wash basin mounted to a wall and turned on a faucet making it run water, “Real plumbing too? Now that’s extravagant, even for you. How do you stand it Bishop? Always thought you were the type to prefer sleeping in a tent out in the middle of nowhere.”

    He refused to entertain her goading with a reply until she said, “So is this place yours or hers? Must be hers, as if you’d ever be able to afford a place like this.” She laughed.

    “Neither,” he said, “It’s on loan from the Jarl for saving the city from dragons.”

    Riiight,” she drawled as she immediately started snooping around as he expected her to.

    He said, “Wait here and try to keep your sticky claws off most of the valuables too, will you?”

    She smirked, “That sounds like a partial invitation to take a few things.”

    He glanced back, “Yeah, sure, take a few things if you think you really need it. We’re not exactly wanting for anything, so by all means, darlin’, take your pick.”

    Luckily there wasn’t anything of Rona’s down in the kitchen or the cellar. Every one of her personal items was up in their bedroom or back at the inn. He went into the room upstairs and stepped inside. A light dust drifted through the bright sun beams poking through the few holes left in the ceiling that hadn’t been patched up yet. Their poor, beautiful, beast of a bed was still covered in debris from the wreckage and a bit charred in places from the fire.

    He started rifling through their drawers and picking out some of the more valuable items. He even found an extra coin purse with five hundred gold in it. He started thinking that he could persuade Jaree-Ra to take that much instead.

    He heard the sound of boots gently tapping on the wood floor behind him and then Freya’s voice carried in, “Wow. Now that’s a bed.”

    Here we go, he thought to himself then said, “Yeah, was a nice bed ‘til it got ruined.”

    She peered up at the ceiling and said, “What the hell happened to your roof?”

    “It was a dragon.”

    “Wow… you weren’t kidding about the whole dragon slaying thing. So what’d you do to piss it off?”

    He turned and looked at her from the dresser he’d been rifling through and said, “Nothing. They find us – her. They hone in on her and…” he exhaled annoyed by her pointless questions and turned away from the woman again as he went back to picking out old soul gems and some other items he could part with.

    “Why are you even with her if it’s this much trouble Bishop? That’s so unlike you,” she scoffed.

    He smirked and figured he’d ruffle her feathers a little since she kept ruffling his, “Because I love her.”

    Dead silence. He let the grin on his mouth curl even more at the beautiful silence those words provided. Ah, even his love for Rona could bring him such wonderful, blissful, peace. He enjoyed it even more when he heard Freya’s receding footsteps as she went back down the stairs.

    Who knew those words would be enough to shut her up? He finished searching their belongings and went back downstairs. Freya was standing by the door, looking away from him, arms crossed.

    He walked past her and opened the door, throwing a hand out, “After you darlin’.”

    She said nothing and proceeded out. He got a quick look at her face though but instead of looking snarky, or even pissed she just looked… sad. Now he felt even worse. He always hated making women sad, even if they were total bitches that deserved it.

    After selling off some merchandise at the local general goods store the two of them headed down to the docks looking for Jaree-Ra and saw him over in a quiet corner, loitering around. Bishop noticed a guard nearby and went over to him.

    The guard nodded to him saying, “Companion.”

    Bishop really did love the respect he got just from being a well-known member of the Companions. It was a nice change of pace from being hated and chased around by them. He said, “Hey, what’s your name?”

    The guard looked at him curiously through his helmet before he said, “Stefan.”

    “Alright, Stefan. See that argonian over there?”

    The guard glanced down at Jaree-Ra who thankfully hadn’t noticed them yet. He asked, “What about him?”

    “I’ve got some business with the lizard, but I might need to rough him up a bit to get my point across. Here’s fifty gold to uh… look the other way.” If there was one thing Bishop was good at, it was bribing people, when he had the money to do so of course.

    “Yeah, of course Companion. Feel free to take care of your business… in fact take as long as you need,” he could hear the grin through the man’s helmet and then Bishop grabbed Freya pulling her down the docks with him.

    She positioned herself a short ways behind him, probably intending to use him as a human shield if needed. Bishop went up to Jaree-Ra who looked up and smiled, “Ah, my old friend Bishop. Good to see you again land-strider. Ready to settle on the lovely maiden’s debt?”

    “I am Jaree,” Bishop handed him the coin purse with five hundred gold and the greedy argonian immediately opened it, sifting through it and counting. His smile fell and he hissed, “There’s only five hundred here. You need more time to cough it up or something?”

    “Actually, Jaree, I think that’s sufficient. The debt was four hundred and there’s an extra hundred for interest.”

    “I don’t know what kind of game you think you’re playing here ranger-”

    He was too fast for the argonian, drawing his dagger and grasping him sharply by the skin of his neck and holding the blade to his throat.

    Jaree-Ra hissed furiously at him, “You keep this up ranger and you’ll have a debt all your own to pay off!”

    “Yeah, I very much doubt that,” he growled back.

    Jaree-Ra noticed the guard up a ways intentionally ignoring them and he started making threats, “I swear ranger, I will have my black blood marauders on you and all your pretty little women before you can say-”

    Bishop gripped his skin a little tighter, yanking his head back some more and pressing the blade close enough to draw blood, “No Jaree, here’s how it is. The debt is settled. You go your way and we go our way. If I catch you so much as looking at any of them, I’ll gut you myself. Shit, if you even try to look at the Dragonborn she’ll roast you up into a fried little lizard and we’ll feed you to the dragons, how’s that sound?”

    “You fucking piece of-”

    Bishop tossed him right off the docks and into the river then where he splashed noisily and came up to the surface and just hissed at him before swimming off. He spun his dagger and sheathed it and the second he turned around Freya leapt onto him, throwing her arms around his back as she cried, “My hero!”

    He threw his hands out and away from her and said, “The hell are you doing woman?”

    She pulled back and flashed him a sensual look, batting her lashes at him and said, “Well, you just saved me. I think I owe you a good time stud.” She winked at him.

    “M’nooope,” he said quickly and carefully peeled her off of himself.

    She let a flirty grin play at her lips again and he scoffed, “Freya, enough. Alright? There. Your debts, your bounty, all of it is done and paid for. You got a free meal and room out of me. I think I’ve paid you back for everything. So, can you just stop?”

    He face fell again and she snarled, “What’s so special about her?

    “She just is,” Bishop retorted, “Why do you care?”

    She held that look of sorrow again and crossed her arms over, averting her gaze from him.

    “I’m gonna go now, alright? So… just, take care of yourself. Try not to get into any more trouble while you’re here and for the love of Talos, don’t steal any sweet rolls either,” he left her there and was almost surprised when she didn’t follow him, but relieved as well.

    ~~~

    Rona finished her bath, got dressed and went upstairs to find three out of four of the sisters still sitting at the now cleared table drinking and just having a good time. She was glad for that. She held no ill will against them and thought they had every right to enjoy themselves. Still she immediately wondered where a certain ranger and his certain ex-lover had disappeared off to and whether or not they were together.

    She made to leave, to go look for him when Bast called out to her, “Hey! Miss Dragonborn! Come have a drink with us!”

    Qetesh looked over at her too and said, “Yeah, join us for a minute.”

    Rona felt the internal screaming rising up inside her again but relented and went over, taking a seat at the table.

    Bast immediately said, “Sorry about Freya.”

    “Yeah, she’s a real cunt sometimes,” Venus spat.

    Qetesh glared at her sister and said, “Language.”

    “Oh what? Let Bast drink mead but don’t swear in front of her?” Venus snarled, her frown only worsening.

    Qetesh rolled her eyes then looked back at Rona kindly, “Really though, don’t let Freya get to you. She’s… been through a lot and tends to lash out. With Bishop around again it’s just bringing out the worst in her too.”

    Rona twisted her mouth slightly when she asked, “Can I be honest?”

    “Sure hun, go ahead,” Qetesh said.

    “This is really weird for me.”

    They laughed and even Venus gave a small smirk asking, “Did he tell you about us?”

    “A little bit,” Rona said, “He uh… mentioned his relationship with Freya and umm… his brief encounters with you both as well.”

    Venus looked shocked, “He really told you that? How… honest of him.”

    Rona found it so strange that his honesty was so odd to them and said, “Bishop’s always been honest with me, since the beginning. Well… not about his past at first, he always just hid it, refused to talk about it. But he’s never lied to me.”

    “So you know about Thorn then,” Qetesh asked, crossing her arms.

    “Yeah… actually, I do,” Rona said, “He’s threatened to kidnap and hurt me.”

    They all looked at her with a mingled mixture of horror and fear.

    Venus’ scowl deepened when she said, “Never let that man anywhere near you. Never.”

    Rona looked between them all and asked, “You worked with him didn’t you? Bishop hasn’t gone into any deep details about it. I think it was too hard to talk about. What can you tell me?”

    Qetesh took a deep breath and said, “Thorn’s not just a rapist, he’s a sadist. He enjoys inflicting severe, life-threatening and even deadly pain and torture on women. Though he’s not opposed to doing it to young boys either. He’s the most vile person I’d ever had the displeasure of knowing.”

    Rona knit her brows together and asked, “How did you all survive, living with someone like that?”

    “There were different rungs of the ladder in Thorn’s group. It’s how he held such strong control over everyone who worked with him. Our mother, Elska, was a prostitute. It was all she’d ever known her whole life. When Thorn’s group took over the Rift, she and the other working women in the region had no choice but to join his ranks and bow to him or get taken as his… playthings.”

    Qetesh talked with her hands, raising one up slightly and then a little more for each rung as she explained, “The rungs basically went like this, from lowest to highest. The Rats, they were the lowest, most everyone started out there and worked their way up. They usually consisted of beggars and young kids, their jobs were to collect information and snitch on others inside and outside the group.”

    “Next up were The Courtesans, second to the bottom. If you worked as a prostitute you got stuck there, there was rarely any chance to move up or out. You got protection and a promise that Thorn would keep his hands off of you but not much else. The next rung up were The Thieves, basically anyone with enough skill to pickpocket and pilfer. After that was the second highest rung, The Specialists. Bishop was there. He specialized in it all, thievery, threats, collections, the muscle, murder, whatever, you name it.”

    Rona knit her brows together… Bishop never mentioned that… murder?

    “Then last but not least, the highest rung, The Whips, it consisted of Thorn and his closest group of sick freaks. All the creeps that were either too afraid to step up to Thorn or who actually liked all the sadistic torture they performed on helpless girls and women.”

    Rona felt incredibly nauseas just listening to this. Then she looked over them all, “What about you all?” She looked right at Bast, eyes wide, “And her?

    Venus met her gaze and said, “We were considered of age, Freya, Qetesh and I. So we had to choose an ‘occupation’ as they called it. We’d been working on our thievery for years. Elska made us practice, she never wanted us to end up like her, as working girls. So we made it up into the rank of The Thieves pretty easily.”

    Qetesh said, “Bast wasn’t of age at the time. She was still little and Thorn knew better than to mess with The Courtesan’s kids. He kept his promises there, never touching them or their children. And because he kept his promises they all continued to work for him with little to no arguments. He really did keep that place working like a well oiled Dwemer Artifact. Any squeaky wheels and he made sure to take them out quick too.”

    Rona hesitated but found herself wanting to know more, “How did you meet Bishop? How did you all get to know him?”

    Qetesh smiled warmly but Venus’ face just crinkled up as she pursed her lips. Bast said, “He was nice to us, him and Jules.”

    Rona took a breath, “You knew his brother?”

    “Yeah, we did,” Qetesh said as she seemed to remember it all rather fondly, “We’d seen them coming and going for a while. Bishop was a regular at The Courtesans brothel.”

    Rona scowled then, almost rivaling Venus with her deep disapproval of that fact. Qetesh laughed and insisted, “He never paid for sex though. He just liked checking up on the women and I think he enjoyed the flirting and the attention they all gave him. He was the nicest Specialist they’d ever met. He never behaved like he was better than anyone else, he just treated everyone like regular people and was friendly. It was kind of sweet actually.”

    This really warmed Rona’s heart. To know that he’d always been so thoughtful and caring… but then to know that he’d forced himself to lock it all away after his brother died. It was all so beautiful and sad to her.

    Qetesh went on, “Then he met our mother and Bastet was with her and he found out that she was half-khajiit like Jules. He started hanging around them more and more and really got to know her. Then he asked to meet me when he found out I was an alchemist and mixed a potion that had really helped Bast with her physical ailments. Elska got us all together, the whole family and we met Bishop and Jules and just,” she shrugged, “hit it off I guess. They were great people, good company. Jules especially, he was probably the funniest man I’d ever met. Damn I miss him sometimes.”

    “So, then Bishop and Freya…” Rona couldn’t believe she was asking this.

    Venus scoffed loudly, “Oh my gods. You do not want to know about those two.”

    “Like oil and water,” Qetesh chuckled.

    “And fire all over that oil,” Venus huffed.

    “They were bad for each other,” Qetesh added firmly, “Freya’s a troublemaker. They’re too much like each other.”

    “Definitely,” Venus said, “Jealous.”

    “Snarky.”

    “Rude.”

    “Irritable.”

    “Vulgar.”

    “Blunt.”

    The two of them went back and forth listing off plenty of faults and flaws their sister and Bishop shared before Qetesh finally said, “And that’s not even half of it.”

    Rona laughed. She was actually finding herself enjoying their company and she was learning so many things she’d never known about his past.

    “How long were he and Freya together?” She asked them.

    “Two years give or take,” Qetesh said, “I mean, if you can call it being together. Those two split up and got back together so many times, I couldn’t keep track.”

    Venus laughed, “Yeah, every time Bishop slept with some other woman behind her back she’d go out and suck the pole of some other sod in the group, just because she knew word would get right back round to him real quick.”

    “Then the fight would break out,” Qetesh snickered, “And everyone would hear it for miles down the tunnels and you could just hear the collective eye roll every time it happened.” Then she leaned over towards Rona and said, “You know hun, I only did it with him to piss off Freya because she had the nerve to steal my stash of black soul gems and sold them for those damned gold bangles of hers.”

    Rona smirked and shook her head slightly. It was still a bit odd, hearing about Bishop’s past sexual escapades with them, but that was just it. They were in the past. It was also pretty funny too. Then she glanced at Venus and asked, “What about you? Trying to get back at your sister too?”

    Venus’ face burned almost as bright as Rona’s could when she stammered, “N-No! I was just… drunk. And he was drunk and… well, we were having a good time and he was just…”

    Rona grinned, “His usual charming self?”

    “She gets it!” Qetesh roared a laugh then said, “You know, I was a little worried we’d put you off, well, at least Freya and Venus over here ’cause they can’t keep their nasty yaps shut.”

    “Hey!” Venus grumbled, “Everything I said about him was true.”

    Qetesh held a hand to the side of her mouth and whispered loudly to Rona, “She’s just still mad that Bishop had the nerve to call her Freya mid coitus all those years ago.”

    Venus growled and glared at her sister, but Rona, Qetesh and even Bast were laughing so loudly they could hardly hear her.

    Then Rona noticed Bast hadn’t said much about it and asked her, “What do you think of Bishop, Bast?”

    “I was really little when I met him,” she said, “But I remember him and Jules being really nice to me. They always brought me presents and sweets.”

    Rona smiled. Bishop could try and hide it all he wanted too but he was great with kids and she knew he loved being around them.

    “So tell us,” Qetesh said, leaning back in her chair, “How’s he treat you? You two actually seem pretty good for each other and he seems rather taken with you.”

    Rona blushed brightly, but still had a smile on her lips when she decided why not? They’d shared plenty with her. Maybe she could even change their view of the ranger.

    She started off in the beginning telling them all about his rude and cocky behavior, his lewd remarks and every little thing. Then she told them about becoming Dragonborn and how, despite how much trouble she’d caused him he stuck it out with her. She even told them how long she’d made him wait for her before they made love for the first time. They were absolutely floored he’d stuck around as long as he did. Venus could hardly believe her ears.

    It was nice talking and gossiping with them. They felt like a bunch of old girlfriends to her, even though the only thing they all had in common was Bishop.

    By the time she got to telling them how he first confessed his love to her they were completely enthralled, elbows on the table, drinks grasped in hand and staring at her with awe.

    “Maybe he really has changed,” Venus said.

    Rona’s cheeks were still burning just from telling them all these sweet, private moments with him and she said, “I’d like to think he has.”

    Then Qetesh frowned suddenly, “Shit. We should probably go find him.”

    “Why?” Rona asked.

    Venus groaned, putting a hand to her face and said, “Because Freya’s with him and she’ll do anything to ruin his life.”

    Rona raised her brows then and laughed a little, “I trust him.”

    Qetesh looked skeptical, “Trust him all you like hun, but he’s still a man.”

    “I was worried before,” Rona said, “But after talking about everything… I think I just reminded myself that I can trust him.”

    In that moment he came through the doors to inn and looked around. His gaze met hers and they smiled at one another. He came over and said, “Alright ladies. Your debts have all been paid. You’re free women now.”

    “Really?” Qetesh looked surprised, “Like the bounty?”

    “The bounty and Jaree-Ra,” he said.

    Venus looked stunned and said, “You really have changed.”

    He snorted a laugh at her, “Don’t tell me you’re going to be nice to me now, Venus. Because that would be too weird.”

    Qetesh got up and said to him seriously, “Thank you Bishop. Really. I thought we’d be struggling with those debts for the rest of our lives, you’ve done too much for us,” then she looked at Rona, “both of you.”

    “Yeah, well, don’t get yourselves into anymore trouble and screw it up, alright? Keep that mad-woman of a sister of yours on a leash if you can,” then he said, “and don’t let her drag you down with her anymore. I don’t know what the hell is wrong with her, but she’s seriously got a loose screw or something. She’s way crazier than I remember her.”

    Qetesh looked morose and both Venus and Bast turned away and he said, “What? Did something happen to her?” He paused for a moment and muttered, “It was Thorn, wasn’t it?”

    “Don’t worry about it Bishop,” Qetesh said, “She’s our burden to bear. By the way, I just want to say, I think you’ve found yourself a really good woman here. Don’t ever let her get away you scoundrel.”

    He looked between them all and raised a brow, “Did I miss something here, Lightfoot, or are you all best friends now?”

    Rona grinned at him and said, “The best of friends!”

    He chuckled, “Well, I’m glad to hear it. Now, uh, if you’ll excuse me ladies, my woman and I have a date this evening. Shall we?”

    Rona got up and took his arm. She bade them a goodnight and thanked them all for talking with her. The two of them left and Qetesh sat back down and sighed, “I’m actually happy for him. He found someone… normal.”

    “Yeah I like her,” Bast said.

    Venus huffed a little but said, “Definitely a better woman for him than Freya ever was.”

    Their sister came in shortly after, looking absolutely miserable. She took a seat at the table and they all looked at her curiously then Bast said, “What’s wrong Freya? Our bounty’s are all paid off now.”

    “You should be celebrating,” Qetesh smiled.

    But Freya just buried her face in her arms and grit her teeth furiously, muttering so they couldn’t hear a word, “I’ll show him… I’ll make him pay… take everything from him just like he did to me.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    (Trigger Warning: Graphic Descriptions of Rape and Torture)

    Chapter 67

    Twisted Kiss

     

    As they left the inn, they headed down towards the docks through the Solitude Gates. Rona and Bishop stayed arm in arm when they slowly passed Freya who was furiously looking the other way from them as she hurried back up to Solitude.

    Rona couldn’t help but look back at the woman and then turned to Bishop and asked, “What happened?”

    “She was being an idiot and I told her so,” he said quickly.

    “She looked really upset.”

    “She’s always upset,” he rolled his eyes, “But let’s not think about her. The rest of the day is for you my dear.”

    Rona brushed it off. Freya wasn’t exactly the nicest person to her. She’d been intentionally trying to provoke her since they first met and she wasn’t very fond of the woman anyhow. She really needed to stop trying to be so nice to everyone all the time.

    They walked along, enjoying the slowly dying day as Rona hummed a light song and just appreciated being in Bishop’s company. They went a ways down the mouth of the river, heading towards the coast. It was a bit more chill out that way and she’d forgotten her cloak and gave a light shiver. Naturally Bishop used it as an opportunity to draw her closer under his arm and said, “Mm, mm. Whatever will we do about you and the cold weather my dear?”

    She looked up at him with a small smile, “You’ll keep me warm right?”

    “Always,” he grinned back then gave a sweet kiss to the top of her head.

    After a thirty-minute stroll down the coast they arrived at a tall lighthouse towering at the edge of the rough waters. Bishop went right up to the door and slipped a lock pick out. Rona grasped his hand before he could get to work on it and said, “Teach me.”

    He raised a brow, “You’ve never picked a lock before?”

    “I’ve picked a few, but I was never very good at it,” she said

    He got a very mischievous grin on his face when he said, “This’ll be fun, teaching my lovely Ladyship the tricks of my trade, hm? Maybe we’ll turn you into a real thief yet.”

    She laughed and nudged him, “Come on, hurry up and show me.”

    “Oh I’ll show you alright,” he chuckled as he pulled out what looked like a dirty rag until he unfurled it revealing an entire set of different shaped lock picks that had been stuck into little slots sewn into the fabric, “Have a look, Princess.”

    She took the cloth from him and smirked, “You’ve had this with you the entire time we’ve known each other?”

    “Oh since way before that,” he said, “These are my trusty picks. Made them myself and out of much sturdier materials than the crap you can buy from the caravans.”

    “Why are there so many of them?”

    “Because there are a lot of different kinds of lock designs. If I had the patience or the time, I’d tear a bunch of locks apart just to show you the mechanisms and how they work. But that is neither here nor there my love and I have other plans for the evening,” he gave her a salacious grin.

    “Well we’ve still got time,” she shot back, “and I want to learn.”

    He shrugged and said, “Alright.” He pointed to the first on the far left and moved down naming them, “First you have your tension wrench, your diamond pick, your ball pick, your short hook, your medium hook, your decoder pick, your curtain pick, a variety of rake picks and your bump keys. This one’s a skeleton key,” he pointed to one on the end with a lot of jagged edges on it,”I keep it handy in case I come across any warded locks.”

    “Like Nocturnal’s Skeleton Key?”

    Bishop snorted, “If I had the actual Skeleton Key I probably wouldn’t need all of these… Damn, why can’t we ever meet any useful Daedric Princes?”

    Rona laughed and asked, “How’s it work?”

    “See all the teeth along the edges? Those are called bittings. You can just file them down until you get the right shape needed to pick a warded lock, using it like a real key. It’s useless after the fact, but always good to keep one handy just in case.”

    She met his gaze with her own and said flirtatiously, “You know, it really turns me on when you talk thief to me.”

    He raised his brows, “Hmm, damn woman, I’ll talk more if you really want me to.”

    She bit her lip slightly and asked, “What else you got hiding on your person that I don’t know about?”

    “You’re just going to have to strip me naked if you want to find out,” he said, his eyes smoldering with desire for her. She loved it when he looked at her that way, she couldn’t get enough of it.

    He held up the two picks he’d already taken out of his stash and said, “Most of the older locks here in Skyrim are single cylinder locks. Pretty easy to pick,” he showed her the pick with a bent right angle and said, “This is your tension wrench, you press that in like so, to hold the cylinder steady,” then he held up the other piece with a slightly curved edge on the end, “This one’s a short hook. Usually you’ll need this or the medium hook for these old fashioned pin and tumbler mechanisms.”

    He pressed that one in the lock above the tension wrench and asked with a roguish grin, “Want to give it a try?”

    She leaned near him and gripped the picks. He ran his much larger hands over her smaller delicate ones grasping them and looked over her shoulder. His breath tickled her ear as he moved with her, making the motions to press the pins inside the lock. It was amazing how he could make something as technical as lock picking into a flirtatious affair.

    He pressed even closer to her then, getting distracted as his lips and tongue found their way across the tip of her ear and traveled slowly and sensually down to her earlobe before moving even farther down into the nape of her neck, where he started biting and nipping tenderly at her skin making her moan loudly.

    She leaned into him, letting him do as he liked, forgetting the task at hand entirely as he shifted the sleeve of her dress down her arm and continued his tender nibbling and sucking of her skin, moving his way over her shoulder and back up her neck again. He took the opportunity to reach a hand around her chest and massaged her breast through the fabric of her clothes.

    She felt her face flush red and gasped with another sharp nip, mumbling, “How do you do that?”

    “Hm?” He murmured as he continued his attack with his lips, teeth and tongue to her neck and his hand still groping at her chest.

    “Make something like this so,” she took another sharp breath as he bit her softly and moaned,“…so sexy?

    She felt his mouth curve into a grin along her skin as he pressed his lips to her ear and whispered, “Wasn’t trying love… just saw something I wanted and took it. Your beautiful, soft skin, the tip of your lovely pointed ear. I wanted a taste so I made my move. I didn’t think you’d mind of course and considering how loudly you’re moaning I’d say I was right about that.”

    Then he took his hand from hers and moved it up behind her head, curling his fingers through her hair and turned her face to his. He hovered very close to her and said, “I just want to make you feel good, Rona.”

    He pressed himself up against her rear so she could feel his hardness through their clothes. She released one of the picks, leaving it still sticking out of the lock and reached back, pressing her hand to his firm bulge and moved in to kiss him. He caught her lips with his, using the hand he had coiled in her hair to deepen their lip-lock while she groped and rubbed him through his clothes and he continued to do the same with the hand to her breast.

    He groaned under her mouth and pulled away and said, “Damn woman, we need to get this door open and fast. There are so many things I want to do to you.”

    She moved out of the way, letting him finish picking the lock so they could move along a little faster than her skills would allow. The door clicked and he peered inside, looking around for a minute and said in a hushed voice, “I think we’re good. Doesn’t seem to be anyone here. Probably won’t be ’til morning too.”

    They both slipped in, shutting and locking the door behind them. She followed him up the spiraling stone stairs several floors high until they came to an open space at the top of the lighthouse. There was a low wall lining the landing above, several pillars jut up in four even points from the rounded walls and held a tall roof above them, providing some cover. In the center of the platform was what can only be described as a giant raised up hearth or sconce with stacks of thick, tall logs piled onto it that were ablaze with a roaring fire. It was quite large to them, but would be a tiny beacon of light to guide ships far off in the distant seas as they made their passage to Solitude.

    Rona welcomed the fiery warmth. Now that she had breath of fire and a real handle on her flames spells she didn’t fear fire like she once did as a young girl who was trying fruitlessly to carve her path as a mage. She held her hands to the blazing inferno and then turned her palms back to herself. She summoned the fire from within and it burned from her hands a golden color. Bishop stood by her side watching as she held these sparkling, gold flames in her hands and said, “How do you make it that color? It looks like paper gold the way it shimmers like that.”

    “I don’t know,” she said, “Eira has white fire. Maybe her dragon soul is white,” she turned and looked up at him, “When Potema tried to take my body… I saw inside myself. A great golden dragon fought by my side… but then I became the dragon. I think that was my soul. I woke it up and now my fire matches my soul.”

    He reached a hand out, placing it above hers, near the tip of the dancing flame. “It’s warm, but… pleasant.” Then he was bold enough to reach in and grasp her burning hand, allowing the flames to touch him, unafraid. “Huh,” he smiled, “Doesn’t even hurt.”

    “It’s so strange,” she said, “I’m a better mage now than I ever was. I have more control over it. I can even keep you from being burned by just willing it to do what I want.”

    “You’re getting stronger,” he said turning and looking into her eyes, “We’ll find more Words of Power, finish your training. We’ll find the Elder Scroll you need and then…” he looked somewhat upset suddenly, knitting his brows together and looking beyond her, as though he were realizing what was meant to happen at the end of her journey.

    She would have to face Alduin, the beast of Oblivion whose ultimate goal was to see her wiped from the face of Nirn so that he might establish his cruel kingdom over mortalkind once more.

    Bishop stepped closer to her and pulled her into a tight embrace, burying his face in her hair and just held her for a moment. She released the golden fire from her hands and wrapped her arms around him, trying to give him some comfort. She wanted to assure him she’d be okay, but even she didn’t know what would happen in the end.

    “I’ll find a way to keep you safe,” he choked, stifling whatever sudden sadness he was feeling at this awful reality.

    She pressed her ear close to his chest and just listened to his heartbeat. She wanted to protect him too, to always keep his heart beating.

    Then he asked her a question that she didn’t quite know how to answer, “When it’s all over… what will you do then?”

    She pulled back from him and looked up into his handsome amber eyes, the roaring fire made them glow that much more. “I… I don’t know. I never thought about it before.”

    He smiled warmly at her, “Well, let’s think about it now. What do you want to do when you don’t have to be the Dragonborn anymore, Rona?”

    She blinked. The very notion of that idea – not being the Dragonborn – was beyond her imagination. She’d become so entrenched in her new identity, so swept up by the forces around her pushing her onward, guiding her along that path, that to think she might step off of it… to just be a normal person again, it was odd.

    “If I could go back, to when we first met,” she said, “To being that woman again… someone who was just happy to find adventure and spend time with her friends and her father. I wouldn’t mind having that again. No fancy titles, no crazy voice, no more dragons or ghosts of the past chasing me around in my dreams,” she scoffed, “and when I’m awake!

    She smiled and laughed, “I’d be happy being who I was before. Someone who struggled to pay the rent on her attic space, who always overslept on the day of a big mission and got hit in the face with pillows for it. I want to go back to chasing off the idiot suitors that came calling time and time again, to be the woman who spent her nights with her girlfriends, singing at the local tavern and getting drunk on wine and gossiping about the charming and boorish men in town. I want to remember what it feels like when nobody knows who the hell I am! I just want to be,” she paused to breathe as her face fell, “human again.”

    She hadn’t realized she was crying until a chill wind swept by cooling the tears on her face. Bishop was smiling softly at her and gently leaned in, kissing the cold tears from her cheeks as he held her in his arms still.

    His face was very close to hers and she watched as his dark lashes beat over his golden eyes as he asked her, “And where might I fit into these plans of yours?”

    (Recommended song Fly by MattiaCupelli)

    “Come with me,” she whispered, “To Cyrodiil… stay with me.”

    “I will,” he said and kissed her deeply again. She returned his passion with her own, allowing herself to burn up in the flames of lust, desire and love for him. He took his time kissing her, holding her closely before his hands roamed along to her hips as he ran his thumbs in small circles against her pelvis before he picked her right up by her waist and leaned back, holding her against his chest while they continued to pull at each other’s lips and tangle their tongues desperately. He slowly stepped over to the side wall, facing the roaring ocean and set her down, so she was sitting on the edge.

    Still he would not give up the attack on her mouth as his hand traveled down her hip and over her thigh. He gripped her there, feeling the way her soft skin felt against his fingertips and moved on again, caressing her inner thigh under her dress. He pressed his other hand to her back, holding her as he slid his fingers down the top of her panties, searching for her aching need. He touched against her swollen nub making her gasp beneath him.

    He grinned and moved the focus of his lips down her neck again while his fingers traced around her pleasure center, teasing her endlessly before he pressed harder, the way she loved it, the way she’d do it herself. He was so good, so attentive to her needs and what she loved. He always wanted to make her feel good and he did, exceeding her expectations at every turn.

    He sighed deeply against her neck as she moaned loudly for him, “Bishop, it feels so good, ah! Yes!” She leaned more into him, wrapping her arms around his back, digging her nails into his leather cuirass, trying to pull him closer as he gave her electrifying jolts with each new pass over the spot between her legs and then his fingers slid further down, touching against the wetness of her opening, making her tunnel yawn open with need. He touched her there, stroking against her folds, spreading her essence all around, making her wetter for him, so that she could accept his manhood easily within.

    “Does that feel good?” His voice was deep and sensual, yet electrifying to hear.

    Yeees,” she moaned.

    “And this?” He spread her open then, sliding two thick fingers inside her, touching her tightening walls inside and started searching for her sweet spot within. He found it quickly, pressing hard against it.

    She breathed, “Yes, there!”

    He leaned back, still holding onto her with one hand and digging into her with the other while he looked over her face, enjoying the pleasured expressions she gave him for touching her so intimately. He held a look of deep longing all his own though and it made her drip even more because she wanted him so much.

    She gripped his arms, trying to draw him closer to her and said with her brows knit tightly together and her face flushed deeply red, “I need you inside me Bishop.

    He took a sharp breath of excited anticipation and withdrew his fingers from her and quickly started undoing the belt on his trousers. In a second he yanked them open, partially pulling them down to reveal his thick erection. She tugged on her panties, pulling them down her legs and kicked them off to the side.

    He grasped her hips again and pulled her towards the edge of the wall, closer to him. She hiked her dress up  around her waist and spread her legs apart, opening for him as he moved even closer and she felt his cockhead rub hard against her slit. That feeling alone was enough to drive her wild. She grasped his shoulders again, pulling herself closer and felt him pressing partially into her opening and then Bishop couldn’t wait a moment longer and plunged himself into her warm depths and let out a very sexy, quivering groan of pleasure all his own. She moaned deeply from the feeling of him filling her all the way.

    She looked into his face, enjoying watching his eyes roll just from feeling their most intimate parts joining. He took a moment, as he adjusted to her tightness and she adjusted to his girth before he started that wonderful steady roll of his hips against hers. Slow and steady, he set the pace for some quiet and pleasured moans from the both of them. Each stroke within gave her a shudder of delight, her face flushed deeply red from her racing pulse. Even his face burned slightly, as he panted with eager need to fill her over and over again.

    Soon he was leaning into her, holding her back with one hand and gripping the edge of the wall with the other as he started to thrust more sharply, grunting with each deep pump into her massaging tunnel. She let go quick cries every time he hit bottom, pressing hard against the entrance to her womb. He filled her out so completely, it felt too good.

    She wanted to be even closer though, and touched his face, saying, “More! Thrust into me harder!”

    “Wrap your legs around me,” he said quickly. She did, locking her legs to him as he grasped her waist and lifted her. She threw her arms up around his neck, holding on and feeling herself sliding heavily onto his throbbing member with the change in gravity. He carefully stepped over to one of the pillars, pressing her back to it, giving him leverage and began to pound into her much harder, taking long, deep strokes within, making sure to bottom out every time. Feeling him press all the way in, sometimes it was painful, but when she was so aroused it became more pleasure than pain and her desire to accept him even further there was overwhelming.

    She clung desperately to his neck and looked into his face as his brows knit together, making that erotic, sexy face he did when he was enjoying her body so much. She couldn’t help but tease him the way he did with her asking, “Does it feel good?”

    He groaned heavily and breathed, “Too good, Rona, I’m getting close.”

    This always set her off too, just hearing him say such things made her insides quiver and convulse more rapidly, trying to milk him and set him off within. It was almost involuntary the way her body made to drink him dry. He let out a string of pleasured groans feeling her do this to him, suckling tightly at his member, purposefully pulling and drawing at his manhood. He grunted, “Gods woman, you trying to make come? Whenever you do that – ugh!” His head fell back as he tried to resist the eager urge to climax.

    She wouldn’t let up though, the fact that she pleasured him so deeply aroused her so much more. His thrusts became sharp and needful and with the perfect push of her swollen nub against his abdomen and the way the ridge of his thrusting cockhead pound right against that sweet spot inside her she felt her own climax happening, insistently so. She felt that electrifying jolt of pleasure surging from her nethers through the entirety of her body and her insides gripped him so tightly that he couldn’t stop himself either as he groaned deeply, “Yes! Come all over my cock! I’m – Uunnngg!”

    He grit his teeth and grunted, pushing his body against hers and taking a final thrust, deep inside. She felt the surge of warmth bursting within as he released. It was the best feeling for her. To be able to have and keep part of him inside her like that. It was so private and intimate. Something only they shared.

    They both took deep breaths, sweating from their efforts and from the roaring fire nearby. Bishop let her down and they both fixed their clothes, him stuffing himself back into his trousers and she drying herself with an old cloth and pulling her panties back on.

    He grasped her shoulders then, turning her towards him  and looked into her face and said, “Do you know how much I love you?”

    “Tell me,” she smiled sweetly.

    “I’d die for you,” he said, knitting his brows together, “I hope you know that.”

    She didn’t know what to say. Of course she knew that. He’d thrown himself in front of dragons more than once, thrown himself right onto Alduin’s face even, for her. She looked into his eyes and said, “I know.”

    They stepped over to the edge of the wall facing the ocean, both leaning against it and looking out at the moon as it slowly rose over the curling tides in the distance.

    He wrapped his arm to her shoulder and she leaned into his side. Then Rona reached into the pouch on her dress and pulled out her mother’s urn. She set it on top of the wall. He looked over at it and said, “Is that?”

    “My mother’s ashes,” she confirmed, “It’s been a while since I spread any… haven’t come across too many places I really like, until now,” she pulled the small lid off and poured half of what was left into her palm. She let them scatter as the wind carried them across the ocean.

    “Can’t believe you’ve held onto them for so long.”

    “Yeah… after our meeting with Sheogorath I seriously considered just dumping the whole thing in a cave somewhere, but… I don’t know,” she sighed, pressing the lid back onto the small, round urn and stuffed it back into her pouch. There was just enough for one more spreading.

    “You still care about her huh? After all she did?”

    “Yeah,” she said, “I do.”

    They were quiet for some time, just watching the tide drawing in and out as the moon glistened and shimmered over the rolling waves.

    Finally he said, “I’ve been thinking of it for a while now.”

    “Thinking of what?”

    “Well… we’ve been traveling together for some time now,” he said, glancing down at her.

    She looked up at him, “Yeah… it’ll be a year in a few months.”

    “Long time,” he said and smirked, “So it’s no surprise you’ve been able to get under my skin deep enough for me to start actually caring about you.”

    She laughed and nudged him in the ribs, “Oh have I now?”

    He chuckled and said sarcastically, “Completely, my dear. If I didn’t know any better I’d say I might even love you,” he sighed with a smile, running his free hand through his hair, “I honestly never thought I’d ever find love. Figured I’d just spend the rest of my days a lonely tracker, living off the land with Karnwyr. But then you came along and… boy did you come along! Feisty little elf you are.”

    She laughed, “Yeah I remember that. You know, you were really rude to me!”

    “Heh… yeah, that was my biggest mistake I think. Almost letting you get away.”

    “Hmm,” she smiled, “And I almost chased you away a few times.”

    “But I always came back,” he grinned and sighed again, “I’m just saying… you probably know me better than anyone still living. And,” he paused, turning and grasping her hands gently into his, “I want you in my life Rona, not just like a traveling companion or a pretty face warming my bedroll on a cold night – I want you to be my life. I want you to be mine.”

    She closed the distance between them and wrapped her arms around his back, looking up into his eyes, “I’ve been yours since you told me you loved me Bishop. I’ll always be yours, if you’ll always be mine.”

    He smiled, his eyes full of affection and love. They made to kiss again when they heard some voices over the landing. They both made a face like they’d been caught breaking and entering, which is exactly what they were doing. Then they heard the door down below swing and creak open and Rona held a finger to her lips and cast invisibility over the both of them, cloaking them.

    In less than a minute four people came up the stairs. Three brutish looking men dressed in leather armor and one curvy woman with long brown hair and a tan tunic and dark trousers approached the roaring lighthouse fire, carrying heavy basins of water with them.

    “Now, you two, git on that side and you sweet thing, can join me right here,” one of the bandits said directing them all and motioning with his head for the woman to join him.

    Freya scowled at the bandit who was attempting to make a move on her. She cocked her head, half-lidded eyes and said sarcastically, “That’s alright hot stuff, I’ll just get this side.” She took several steps away from him on the other side of the fire.

    The four of them took positions and Bishop and Rona both leaned back as the two bandits coming around to their side got a little too close for comfort.

    They all held their wash basins up and the one giving orders said, “On mah count. One… two… free!”

    They all dumped their basins over the fire putting it out completely, leaving it steaming.

    “Now, we wait,” he said, turning to head back down the stairs. The four of them left and not a minute too soon because Rona’s invisibility spell wore off.

    Rona looked up at Bishop whose face was etched with lines of pure disgust and anger as he stared at the top of the spiraling staircase where Freya had left with the other bandits.

    He grit and ground his teeth, “Not even a fucking day and she’s already…”

    “We have to light the fire,” Rona said looking it over. The logs were so soaked in water though that she wasn’t sure it would ignite again. They heard the voices down below and Rona ran over to look down at the water where the three men were pushing a small boat into the ocean. They all got in and the one who gave orders started patting the seat beside him while he stared at Freya who looked on with her arms crossed. Finally she relented and climbed into the boat with him, even letting him put an arm around her waist, though she turned her head away and kept her arms crossed over.

    They started rowing away, across the mouth of the river, heading east to the other coast. Bishop stood by Rona watching them go too.

    “Where are they going?” She asked and looked at him, “Why’d they put out the fire?”

    Bishop scowled deeply, keeping his eyes trained on the boat as it moved across the water, “She’s working a job.”

    “A job?” Rona inquired, “Bit late for that, isn’t it?”

    He shook his head and sighed, “Not for this kind of job,” he pointed out at the far coast where they saw a huge ship heading straight for the mainland, looking to crash into it in fact. Rona’s eyes widened and turned back to the wood pile and shouted, “YOL!” Her breath of fire licked the wood, but only made it smolder. She cried again, “YOL TOOR SHUL!”

    Still nothing. The wood was far too wet to ignite. Then they heard it, the loud creaking and cracking sound of the ship hitting ground as it collided with the rocks ahead.

    “It was too late,” Bishop said, “Even if you ignited it they were already going to crash.”

    “We have to do something!” She cried.

    He looked back at her, brows knit together and nodded, “Try not to kill her. She’ll be stupid, she’ll pick a fight, I can guarantee it, Lightfoot. But just do me this one favor and don’t kill her.”

    She touched his arm, “Bishop, I would never do that. I have nothing against Freya. Your past with her is just that, your past.”

    He twisted his mouth and said, “You’re a better person than me. If I were you, I’d want her dead.”

    She just shook her head and grabbed his arm saying, “Come on. We’re going water walking.”

    They hurried down the lighthouse and approached the coast. Bishop looked at her apprehensively as she knelt down, holding her hands out to his boots and cast a spell over them. She did the same with her own and stood back up and said, “Don’t trip and fall in or it’ll break the spell.”

    She stepped out onto the water and he just stared at her. She held a hand out, smirking, “Come on fraidy cat! It’s just a little water.”

    He gave an unsure groan and stepped forward grasping her hand. His feet touched the surface of the water as though it were solid. “This is too weird – whoa!,” a small wave curled under his boots, nearly throwing him off balance. He held his arms out steadying himself.

    “Watch out for the waves,” she said, “Think of it as a moving floor.”

    “Good thing I know how to swim or this would be a hell of a lot more terrifying,” he said. A few more steps in and he seemed to get the hang of it.

    Rona kicked off and started running for the wreckage and he called, “No, that’s fine! I’ll just catch up later!”

    She turned back, easily hopping over the waves as they rolled along and shouted, “Come on! We have to go!” She skipped over another wave, turning again, focusing her attention on the ship in the distance that was clearly under attack by the bandits as she saw spells being cast and heard the sound of weapons clanging and the yells of the crew and their attackers.

    “SU GRAH DUN!” She kicked off faster now, racing to help them. As she got closer the enemy attackers started lobbing arrows in her directing, having heard her very loud shout. She drew her blades and got low, sprinting faster than ever, easily evading the arrows and hopping over waves.

    The ship was very near and she needed to get up it easier. She started a slew of somersaults across the water, giving herself more and more leverage with each one and when she was positioned correctly in the air, her face looking at the waters below, she shouted, “WULD NAH KEST!” Shunting herself further through the air and allowing her to land right onto the deck above.

    She didn’t get any time to take in her surroundings as the enemy was immediately on her. An argonian woman was slashing at her with a sword which Rona quickly blocked with her blades.

    The argonian hissed loudly, “The damned Dragonborn!? You led her right to us you idiots!”

    Rona smirked at her and started fighting back more fiercely, throwing her back when their blades met again and she shouted, “YOL!” Blasting flames at the argonian woman. She howled in pain as the fire caught her free arm and she fell back, retreating away. Then there were two mages on her and Rona roared, “FEIM ZII GRON!”

    Her body became transparent and all their spells went right through her. She took a moment to look around and saw all of the bandits surrounding her while most of the crew lay dead or wounded. Then she saw Freya glaring furiously at her. She returned the glare with her own and said to them all, “Leave now. This ship and crew are under my protection.”

    The argonian woman was hesitant in her decision while she held her burned arm. As Rona’s shout dispersed and her form began to solidify again she heard someone coming in to attack her from behind. She turned swiftly meeting her blade with the attacker’s. Freya’s sword met her own with a loud clang and she started in with a flurry of incredibly vicious attacks.

    Rona continued to block them as she stared the angry nord woman down. Then the argonian seemed to make her decision when she shouted, “NOW! KILL HER!”

    Bishop came up then firing an arrow straight into the argonian woman’s head killing her. He started to swiftly pick off the other bandits as Freya kept her attacks on Rona up, pushing her further and further back across the ship. Rona said, “I don’t want to fight you Freya.”

    Freya snarled back, “Well that’s a damn shame because I want to kill you!

    Bishop finished picking off the bandits with his bow and ran in barking furiously, “FREYA! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING!?”

    “Killing the Dragonborn, obviously,” she said snidely, her livid gaze still stuck on Rona as their blades scraped sharply against one another.

    Rona shoved her off of her and then Freya lifted her blade over her head with both hands and made to come down from a hard upward swing when Bishop moved right in front of Rona and held a hand out, grabbing the edge of the blade with it, stopping her swing. Freya’s furious gaze turned to one of anguish as Bishop held the blade, despite that it was obviously cutting into him as his blood quickly and softly plod onto the wood deck between them. She released the grip on her sword and stepped back.

    Freya’s eyes welled with tears of pain as she said, “You’d protect her?”

    “I’d die for her,” he said firmly. He held the most hateful gaze for the woman, letting her know exactly how he felt for her right then and there with his expression alone.

    Freya’s tears sprang forth, “But you wouldn’t protect me!? Us!? You promised Bishop!” she sobbed, “You promised and then… you just left. How could you? How could you do that to me? How could you choose her?”

    She turned and ran then, leaving them alone on the ship. Bishop let her go though. He had no desire to take up that chase. He was still gripping the edge of the sword and let it drop to the ground then. He clenched his fists and Rona went over and grasped his hand into hers, healing it with her magic. She looked into his face and he just looked sad.

    “Go check on the crew, will you?” He told her quietly.

    She nodded and went around healing the wounds of the injured crew members. After everyone up top was cared for they went down below and checked on the others inside. Everyone inside was still alive and well thankfully. The crew thanked her and Bishop for saving their lives and tried to reward them with gifts, which they both declined.

    The two of them walked back to Solitude. Bishop was silent the entire way, carrying Freya’s blade with him and just staring at it the whole time, deep in thought. Rona didn’t know what had happened between them before but she knew whatever it was, it was really bothering him. From what she could gather, Bishop had promised to protect her, from Thorn she guessed. Now it was nagging at his conscience and she let him be. He’d talk when he was ready.

    They returned to the Winking Skeever and found both Qetesh and Venus sitting quietly at the large table. Qetesh stood up when the two of them walked in and said anxiously, “Have you seen Freya?”

    Bishop went right over to the table and set Freya’s sword down on it, the edge still stained with his blood, “Caught her running a job for Jaree-Ra.”

    They looked at the sword and Venus held her hands to her mouth, “She’s? Is she!?”

    “She’s fine,” he said, “She ran off once we finished killing all her new bandit friends.”

    Qetesh sat back down and put her head in her hands as she leaned over the table, “Freya…Gods, why?

    “I’m going to go look for her,” he said.

    They glanced up at him and Qetesh said, “No, she’s our sister, our burden-”

    “She wants to talk to me,” he said, “So, I’m going to talk to her. You two should get some sleep,” he turned to Rona, “You too. I’ll take care of this.”

    Rona looked up at him. She was concerned for him, but knew this was something he had to do alone and nodded, “Alright. Just be safe, okay?”

    “I will,” he leaned forward and gave her a quick kiss on the lips before stepping out the door.

    Rona looked at the two sisters and asked, “Did she say anything to you two?”

    “Nothing,” Qetesh said, “Ever since she got back… she was just sulking the entire time. Wouldn’t even celebrate with us over our newfound freedom. Then we all tucked in for the night and I saw her slip out.”

    Rona sat down at the table and asked them, “Why is Freya so… self-destructive?”

    They knit their brows together and looked at other then back at her. Qetesh stared hard at the table then, a gaze she remembered Bishop held once when he told her some very terrible secrets about his past. Qetesh began her awful story from the day of the attack at Arcwind Point.

    ~~~

    Bishop stepped outside the inn and looked around. He started to wonder just where he’d find Freya. He thought back to a time when he’d actually chosen to be in a relationship with the woman and all the times he’d pissed her off with his casual trysts with other women.

    He only cheated on her because every other day she’d scream at him over something trivial and tell him it was over. Then he’d shack up with someone else in the group, and then naturally she’d hear about it the very next day because it was impossible to keep any secrets with all those busybodies around who had nothing better to do than to share the latest gossip. And Freya’s and Bishop’s relationship troubles were their favorite gossip.

    Every time they fought she’d throw things and then go off and disappear for a while. He’d find her in the same place every time, high up on the platform, overlooking all the rats, courtesans, thieves and specialists coming and going from their cavernous hideout.

    Bishop turned his gaze to the marketplace and looked up at the landing on the archway separating the two sections of the city. Rona had gone up there once to hide from her problems too, after they’d trekked through the Fane of Ustengrav and Casavir had blurted out Bishop’s deepest darkest secret to her.

    He’d seriously considered killing the Paladin right then and there, but stopped himself for her. Now the tables were turned and Rona had decidedly not killed Freya… though she didn’t seem to hate Freya much either. He couldn’t understand it himself. If he were in Rona’s boots, he’d have shouted Freya off a cliff by now.

    He noticed the outline of a person standing up on the landing. Bishop shook his head and made his way over to the turret connecting the bridge. Just what was it with women and needing to get up high when they were upset?

    He climbed the stairs and crossed the landing, approaching her. She was leaning with her back to the wall, her arms behind her back. She noticed him coming but turned her face away from him.

    He stopped a short ways from her and crossed his arms, then said, “Alright. You want to talk. Go ahead and talk.”

    “Who said I want to talk?” Her voice cracked slightly. She’d been crying.

    He rolled his eyes and sighed, “Why Freya? I just paid him off and then you ran off to go do a job for him?”

    “You might have paid off my debts Bishop, but I still have to make money somehow. People don’t just throw it at me like they do with your new girl.”

    “No. Don’t lash out at her. This is between you and me. She’s got nothing to do with it. So say your piece already. Let it out, hit me, scream at me, whatever. Do what you need to do so you can get past this shit already.”

    She just turned her head more, refusing to even look at him.

    “Okay!” He shouted, “I left! I’m sorry! I’m sorry I fucking left! I’m sorry I broke my promises to you! I just lost my brother and I couldn’t-”

    She snapped her head back and glared at him through puffy red eyes and screamed, “YOU KILLED HIM! We were all there Bishop! We saw it happen!”

    He grit his teeth and clenched his fists turning his gaze down, “You’re right. I did. I killed my brother… and I couldn’t handle it. Nothing mattered anymore and I just had to get out of there. Away from everything.”

    She just glowered at him more, scrunching her face incredulously at him, “Do you want to know what happened when you left Bishop? Do you want to know how Elska died?”

    He met her gaze then, his heart pounding in his chest. He was afraid to know.

    “When you left… fuck,” she took a breath, “You ran off so damn fast, took a few things and Karnwyr and just vanished. And the few of us that actually survived the Paladin attack, that made it back… well that included Thorn. You fucking know that, don’t you? He. Was. Livid. Bishop. He wanted you dead. But you weren’t around. So you know who got a taste of his wrath instead? Us.

    Bishop felt his body trembling suddenly.

    There were tears swimming in her eyes, but they held there, unwilling to move. She continued, “They dragged all of us down to their lair, Bishop. Me, Venus, Qetesh, Ma and Bast,” she choked out her youngest sister’s name. She was trembling too, horribly so as the words came next, “He started raping Ma right in front of us Bishop. And then you know what he did next while we all screamed and begged for him to stop?”

    He took a sharp breath, knitting his brows together, wanting so much not to hear it.

    “He stuck his dagger in her belly and cut her open Bishop, then he started pulling her guts out… in front of my baby sister. In front of Bast! Then he just threw her to those other sick freaks and they did… so many… they did the worst things to her. She died in agony Bishop. She died screaming for you to save her. The nice man who’d promised to protect us. BUT YOU WEREN’T THERE!”

    Bishop went pale, listening to this nightmare. He felt like he was going to be sick. But she went on. He didn’t want there to be more. There couldn’t be more. But there was. There was always more.

    Freya started breathing sharply and held her arms, trying to stop her shaking, reliving the nightmare. “He was going to take Bast next. Demanded it. I told him to take me instead. So he did, Bishop,” she clutched at her arms then and her tears finally fell. He felt lightheaded and turned away, but she ran right up to him, grabbing his arms and screamed into his face, “NO! YOU DON’T GET TO RUN! NOT THIS TIME! LOOK BISHOP! LOOK WHAT HE DID TO ME!”

    She yanked her tunic up above her breasts revealing three horrific and large jagged scars. One arcing up her belly and rib cage and the other across her left breast and the third tracing her upper right chest. Old white scars that came from a dirty curved blade meant to torment, hurt and kill.

    He exhaled slowly, looking them over, wanting them to vanish. Freya dropped her tunic back down, her tears steadily streaming from her eyes as she said, “Qetesh saved me. She lost it, she just went in fists flying, knocking out Lars, and Sten and getting those other assholes in the gut. She kicked Thorn so hard in his disgusting dick that he cried like a baby. She got us out of there, she carried me, bloody and broken Bishop,” Freya sobbed, “And we had to leave Ma. We couldn’t… she was…”

    His lip trembled and he felt his own tears rising. Pained by it all. Thorn punished them because of him. It was his fault. If he’d kept his promise, if he’d stayed, at least got them out…

    Freya whispered, “You said you love her… but did you ever love me?”

    He knit his brows sharply together. He didn’t know what to say. She grasped him around the neck suddenly and kissed him. He made no move. He couldn’t, to throw her off now, it would just be more torture for her. He couldn’t do that to her, not after everything she’d just told him. But he made no move to meet her kiss, no move to deepen it further. He just held still and waited.

    Finally she pulled back and looked at him sadly. “I loved you,” she whispered through a short sob. Then she let  go and walked away from him. She went back to the inn alone.

    Bishop just stood there. Frozen. It was too much to process. He felt sick with guilt.

    ~~~

    Rona felt cold. Qetesh’s story, the tale of what happened to them, their mother and their oldest sister was absolutely horrifying and heart-wrenching. She suddenly had a new perspective on Freya. It explained so much.

    The two women were silent. Venus wiped at her tears. She’d been crying nearly the whole time Qetesh talked.

    Finally Rona choked out, “I want to help you all. You said you stay north to avoid Thorn right? I can help you. My ata, my father, he has connections in Cyrodiil. He can get you asylum out that way, get you new lives… the farm he stays at is in Falkreath, but… I have a house in Whiterun. You can all stay there and work with the Companions while he gets into contact with his connections.”

    Qetesh looked stunned, “You’d really do that for us?”

    “Yes,” Rona said firmly, “I want to do this for you.”

    The two sisters looked to one another as if their prayers had been answered and Qetesh looked back to Rona and nodded, “Yeah. We’ll take you up on that offer. Anything to get out of the business of banditry… to get away from this hellhole.”

    Rona gave a weak smile and stood, “Alright. We leave tomorrow. We’ll go to Whiterun first and get you all set up there.”

    The other two stood and Qetesh went in and hugged Rona and just said, “Thank you.”

    Venus grasped her hands too and said, “We owe you our lives.”

    “Please, don’t worry about it,” Rona assured them.

    They said goodnight to one another and Rona went upstairs to her shared bedroom with Bishop. She looked over the messy room and took a breath, thinking of all the awful things they just told her. Thorn had brutally raped and murdered their mother in front of them all… then he’d raped Freya and tried to kill her too.

    She wanted nothing more than to see that awful man dead. Thinking of these terrible things made her feel rather ill and so she stepped over to the window to open it and get a breath of fresh air. She unlatched it and pushed the glass panes open and looked outward. The moon was full and bright in the sky and illuminated Bishop’s and Freya’s entwined figures so neatly against the backdrop of the night sky. She just stared, stunned, forcing herself to prove that what she was seeing was real.

    When the strange image of them kissing would not fade, she took a step backward clasping her hands together and felt her stomach drop. Her heart hurt a lot, it felt like someone had stabbed it.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 68

    Dragons Are Watching

    She was so hurt, so angry and so confused all at once. She tried to calm her sudden shaking and sat down on the bed.

    She thought about it over and over again, that image of them both standing there, Freya holding him around his neck while they kissed. It was kind of dark, hard to see. Maybe it was a mistake. Maybe Freya was just provoking him… but why hadn’t he pushed her off then? They stood there for so long like that. At least it seemed long. Like an eternity to Rona. The image wouldn’t leave her mind.

    After a few minutes of calming herself she stood up again. What if they were still out there, like that? Or even worse? More than like that? She looked at the open window and forced herself to walk to it.

    She looked out again but there was no one standing on the archway anymore. No sign of Bishop or Freya anywhere. Where had they gone? Somewhere private? Alone?

    She closed the window and sat back down on the bed. What was going on? Why was this happening?

    She sat there thinking. She started feeling angry. He said all those things to her. All those touching, sweet and beautiful things. They made love. They promised to stay together. But now… where was he? She’d confront him and give him a piece of her mind.

    But as the hour dragged on with no sign of Bishop she started to feel even worse. She laid down on the bed just trapped in a torture chamber of her own mind while her assumptions plagued her.

    More hours gone by. It was very late now, past midnight. He didn’t come back. She felt tears staining her cheeks and dampening her pillow. Her anger fading as pain and heartache set in. She closed her eyes and tried to sleep.

    She tossed and turned all night. When she woke up in the morning it was to the quiet sound of someone fishing through a bag, looking for something. Rona opened her eyes, feeling absolutely exhausted from a fitful slumber.

    Bishop was sitting in a chair by a table restringing a small bow and he looked like shit. Like he also hadn’t slept all night… why wouldn’t he sleep though? Because he and Freya… She quickly extinguished those thoughts, taking all her insistent assumptions from the night before and pushed them into the back of her mind.

    She sat up, rubbing at her eye and Bishop glanced over at her. “Hey,” he said miserably, “Morning.”

    She looked at him concerned. His behavior wasn’t necessarily one of a man who just spent the night making love to his old flame.

    “When did you get in?” She asked him.

    “‘Bout an hour ago,” he said as he focused hard on fishing twine through the small bow, making sure it was taut properly as he plucked it a little.

    She tread carefully, “You were out all night?”

    “Mm hm,” he said mindlessly. He didn’t seem to be in a mood to talk. But she needed answers.

    “Did you find Freya?”

    “Sure did,” he said tersely.

    Rona paused again, speaking slowly, “Did you two talk?”

    “Little bit,” he was keeping his answers so short. The tell tale signs of someone with something to hide. He wouldn’t even look at her. Just kept fussing with the bow.

    She swallowed hard and went for it, “Bishop, what’s wrong?”

    He stopped tying the bowstring and looked right at her, his expression was incredibly sad looking. He set the bow down and cleared his throat, “I just uh… had a really bad night. Didn’t sleep much… didn’t sleep at all actually.”

    “Why didn’t you sleep?”

    “I um,” he pressed his lips together and shook his head, “I can’t talk about it right now.”

    She stared at him and let the words cross her lips, “Did something happen with Freya?”

    He met her gaze and furrowed his brows, “What? You think I? That we?”

    Her face said it all and he turned away looking somewhat angry now. She couldn’t believe it. He had the nerve to act like she was in the wrong for thinking something happened when she did in fact see something happen! He was… lying.

    Rona got up and left the room. Bishop neither protested nor chased after her. She hurried down the stairs into the tavern cellar to bathe alone.

    ~~~

    After washing and spending some time to mull over her thoughts, Rona went upstairs to have breakfast and found the sisters four and her father seated at the large round table already digging into their own food. Serlas looked up and smiled brightly at Rona, “Good morrow and bright tidings to you velvyn. Please, come have a seat.”

    Rona sat down next to her father. He was extremely jovial for a man who’d nearly just died the other day. She smiled at him, “How are you feeling Ata?”

    “Delightful my dear! Why I feel two hundred years younger! I don’t know what it was you did, but whatever that magic is, it truly worked a miracle. Not only did it cure that gruesome bout of frostbite, but it worked wonders for these old joints of mine.”

    She grinned, “I’m so glad Ata,” she leaned into him giving him a side hug.

    He motioned to the other girls and said, “So, Qetesh here says that you have offered them some assistance.”

    “That’s right,” Rona said, “I was hoping you might be able to get into contact with your connections in Cyrodiil and get them asylum along with Malborn.”

    “I will certainly see what I can do for you ladies, after all you did help save this old elf’s life!”

    Qetesh smirked and said, “I’ll be sure to get you that ingredients list for my signature brand healing and stamina potion too.”

    “I would greatly appreciate it Qetesh, I thank you kindly.”

    Rona glanced at Freya who was staring very hard at her snowberry crepe. She didn’t look guilty of anything amorous. In fact, she looked just as miserable as Bishop.

    He came down then and walked up to Bast and handed her the small bow and her quiver, “Here, had to restring it for you since I snapped it the other day. Only used one arrow, so I threw one of my own in there for yah.”

    Bast had a mouthful of sweetbread and took it mumbling, “Thanks,” she plucked at the bow a few times and grumbled a little, then swallowed and said, “It’s too tight!”

    He scoffed at her, “Seriously kid? Fine, I’ll loan you my twine if you’re going to be picky about it, brat.” He smirked at her then grabbed a sweet roll and looked at Rona and said, “I’m going to stop by the house and pack up some stuff, mind getting the room upstairs packed?”

    “Sure,” she said. He gave a quick wave and disappeared out the door. Rona stared after him. What the hell was that all about?

    Serlas was also looking at the door and then looked back at Rona and asked, “Everything alright dear?”

    She sat up straighter and quickly said, “Hm, yeah. No, everything’s fine,” then grabbed a sweet roll of her own to hide her face behind, as all the girls looked at her. Freya suddenly had a nasty smirk curling at her lips while she slowly munched on her crepe.

    They finished up breakfast and Rona took care of packing up their bedroom and collected their travel pack and met everyone down at the stables. She spoke with the stable master about purchasing a new horse and bought a beautiful red colored stallion with white hair. She named him Ember, it seemed appropriate considering her new relationship with fire.

    She got him saddled and got all their equipment strapped to him, including her lute, though she honestly didn’t feel much like playing or singing.

    Serlas went up to Rona when she was away from the other four women who were busy getting together their own few belongings and getting settled in the carriage they rented.

    He spoke in Aldmeri to keep their conversation private, “(Daughter, I went over the documents that Bishop collected. The most interesting dossier was this one about a man named Esbern. He might just have the information we’re looking for related to the Elder Scrolls, he seems to be an expert in dragon lore as well.)”

    “(But there was no mention of the scrolls in the dossier’s themselves?)” She asked.

    “(No, unfortunately not. I also found it odd that the Thalmor seem to have plenty of information on myself, Bishop, Delphine and even Ulfric Stormcloak, but there was nothing for you, which surprises me. Perhaps Bishop failed to collect your dossier, or Elenwen had it stored somewhere else.)”

    “(I wouldn’t worry about it. We already know everything there is to know about me),” she said with a laugh.

    He sighed, “(I suppose, but I would have liked to have known their intentions for you. They’ve given statuses to each of us. I’ve been marked as an ‘uncooperative asset’, which I’m rather proud of, if I am to be honest,)” he chuckled, “(Delphine is marked down for ‘capture or kill’. Bishop’s read as ‘uncooperative asset’ as well, so they consider him worth keeping alive, at least for now.)”

    “(What about Ulfric?)”

    “(That’s what I wanted to speak with you about. He is also considered an ‘uncooperative asset’. It seems that the Thalmor very much want to keep the Civil War going, which surprises me considering their insistence on involving you. I’d like to know more, but without your dossier…)”

    Bishop came along then, carrying some supplies with him and looked over the group, frowning slightly. “Where are they headed?” He asked.

    “I offered them our home in Whiterun,” she said, “Ata is going to work on getting them asylum outside of Skyrim along with Malborn.”

    “Really?” Bishop looked to Serlas, brows knit together, “You can do that for them?”

    “I will certainly try my best,” Serlas said clasping his hands together and smiling.

    Then Bishop looked at Rona, “And you offered the house in Whiterun too?”

    “Of course,” she said, “I talked with Qetesh and Venus last night and well… I just want to help them as much as I can.”

    He nodded slowly and said, “Yeah. Me too.”

    Rona grabbed one of the bags from him and strapped it to their new steed and said, “We’ll pick up Misty once we get to Whiterun.”

    “You mind riding front saddle?” He asked, “I’m overdue for a nap.”

    It was so hard to stay mad at a sleepy Bishop. He was too cute when he was tired. She smiled and said, “Sure.”

    She climbed up and he pulled himself up behind her. Serlas mounted Whiskey and they started their journey to Whiterun. It wasn’t very long before Bishop leaned heavily onto her back, his grasp around her waist loosening slightly and his head drooped onto her shoulder. She listened to his light snoring as they rode along and felt… happy and sad. Happy that he was holding her so close, but sad because she had no idea what had happened the night before.

    She completely doubted that anything amorous happened between him and Freya based on how they’d both behaved that morning. Maybe it was just the kiss. But why had they kissed? Would he tell her? She tried to be patient. She knew he’d explain himself eventually. He always did.

    Rona and Serlas both led the way ahead of the carriage. Serlas looked over at Bishop and said, “(He’s very tired. Did he not sleep well?)”

    “(He didn’t sleep at all),” she said, “(He never came to bed last night.)”

    Serlas looked concerned, “(Is everything alright between you two, daughter? He seemed quite short with you this morning.)”

    Rona sighed and motioned back to the carriage, “(Freya and Bishop used to be… romantically involved.)”

    Serlas’ expression changed to one of dawning realization, “(I see… How are you taking that?)” She twist her mouth up and Serlas gave a slight smile. “(Not well I presume?)” He gleaned from her face.

    Rona looked over at her father and decided to confide in him everything about these four women and their involvement with Thorn. She told him everything, in Aldmeri. Normally Serlas would have objected to speaking about others in their presence in a language they couldn’t understand, but in this case he made an exception.

    He listened intently to her tale, taking it all in. She held back on some of the more horrific details, but Serlas was disgusted all the same. Rona did not mention her seeing the kiss between Bishop and Freya. She wasn’t ready to discuss that with anyone but Bishop yet.

    When she finished Serlas was looking away, face etched with lines of revulsion, while he was deep in thought about the four sisters predicament and he uttered, “I would kill this vile creature that poses as a man myself, if only we could find him.”

    He looked back at the four sisters, then. Venus and Qetesh were happily chattering away about what they wanted to do in Whiterun while Bast leaned against the side of the carriage, nodding off and Freya stared fervently off in the distance, arms crossed. She looked unsure of the new path they were taking, but said nothing considering how thrilled her sisters were about leaving and getting to live in a real house.

    “(Those poor women… to have been made to experience such an atrocity… and the girl, Bastet you said her name was? Only nine years old when she saw it? That is very traumatizing for someone so young.)”

    “(It’s why I want to help them Father, you understand).”

    “(I will do everything I can for them Rona dear. Of that you have my word.)”

    They arrived and passed through Dragon’s Bridge while it was still light out and continued their travel through the rest of the day. They made it to Rorikstead where they would spend the night.

    Bishop had slept most of the way there, getting a full night’s sleep in one day. She really hoped he’d get some rest that night though otherwise he’d throw off his sleeping patterns altogether.

    They dismounted their steeds and the carriage driver pulled up by the inn. The girls got out of the carriage, stretching and yawning after a long journey.

    Serlas said, “I shall see about getting us rooms.”

    “Don’t bother,” Bishop said, “There’s only four beds in this place and they’re usually booked up. Just let Mralki know we’ll be camping out behind the inn instead. See if he’s got anymore bedrolls he’d be willing to rent us too.”

    Bishop started to unpack their camping gear while Serlas went inside to speak to the innkeeper about their sleeping arrangements.

    Qetesh walked up to the inn doors and called back to Bishop, “Hope you don’t mind but I’m going to get something to drink.”

    “Go easy this time!” Bishop smirked at her, “My coin purse is getting a lot thinner with the four of you around.”

    Qetesh grinned back and said, “I’ll keep that in mind. You want anything?”

    “Might as well eat while we’re here,” Bishop said, “See if he’s got any potatoes and venison for the seven of us. I’ll cook something over the fire. Oh and get me a couple mugs of mead, whatever’s on tap is fine. Oh and a bottle of wine for the lady,” he motioned back to Rona.

    “You got it,” Qetesh said and left them.

    Bishop started giving orders to the other girls then, “Hey, can you three go gather some firewood for me?”

    Venus crossed her arms and scowled at him, “Why don’t you go do it?”

    “Fine, if you’d rather set up the tents and cook dinner for seven then by all means, I’ll go get the firewood.”

    Venus pursed her lips and said, “Alright fine. We’ll go get firewood.”

    “Do the three of us really need to go?” Freya asked suspiciously.

    “Yes, the three of you need to go and stick together,” he insisted, “Watch out for predators.”

    Freya rolled her eyes as she followed Venus who was already on the move. Bast just shrugged her shoulders and walked off after them.

    Rona figured Bishop was trying to get the two of them alone together, which became even more obvious when he said, while still unpacking their gear, “So you think I screwed around with Freya last night?”

    Rona took a breath and sighed, “I…. no. Not anymore.”

    He looked back at her, brows furrowed and said, “But you thought I did?”

    She said exasperated, “Bishop, what was I supposed to think? You went off to go look for her and then I waited around for hours while you were out and didn’t come back. You didn’t come back all night!

    He studied her, frown on his face then turned back to the tents he was unfurling. “You’re supposed to trust me, remember?”

    “I do,” she said, “But you have to do the same with me. So what happened last night?”

    He was quiet for a minute, before he took a deep breath and said, “I went hunting.”

    She rolled her eyes, getting annoyed and crossed her arms. “You know what I mean. Stop deflecting.”

    He turned and looked back at her, face etched with anguish, “Ladyship… I… I learned some really… awful facts about the girls and… I couldn’t cope with it. So I stayed out all night hunting or walking or whatever you want to call it. I didn’t catch anything, that’s for damn sure.”

    She stepped closer to him and searched his face, “What awful things Bishop? Tell me. Talk to me.”

    He pressed his lips together looking so much like he was searching for another way, any other to say it without saying it. Then it dawned on Rona. He learned about what happened with the sisters, their mother and Thorn and she looked at him questioningly, “You didn’t know?”

    He knit his brows together, now just as confused as her, “Know what?”

    “I thought you already knew. Qetesh told me what happened to them,” she brought her voice down an octave and said, “To Freya.”

    He looked sick, his tan skin suddenly going a shade lighter. He swallowed hard and said, “No. I didn’t know. She told me last night. Ladyship,” he sighed, “It’s all my fault. I promised them that I’d… and then… with Jules and everything I just…”

    He was struggling to formulate these thoughts into sentences. When the topic of discussion was something like this, it was always difficult for him. It was so much easier for him to bury it and lock it inside his heart where he could keep it away from the world.

    She hugged him and said, “It’s okay. You don’t have to talk about it Bishop.”

    He wrapped his arms tightly around her, giving her a grateful and relieved sigh. He still hadn’t said anything about the kiss though. Would he ever tell her about it?

    They went around to the back of the inn and started putting their campsite together. After a short while the three sisters returned with plenty of firewood and both Serlas and Qetesh joined them, arms full of food supplies from the inn.

    Bishop remained withdrawn for the most part, focusing on putting together food for everyone while Serlas told stories to the girls about the Oblivion Crisis.

    “Terrible things those gates were,” he said describing in vivid detail to them, but especially to Bast who was listening with great interest, “You knew one was opening the moment the skies clouded over and turned a deep red color and a strange electrical storm would spark through the clouds. Then the stone arches would burst through the earth, rising up forcefully. Between them the red gate would open, like a fiery eye, a portal to a truly horrific realm that would release waves upon waves of Dremora, Daedroths and vicious Daedric Spiders,” he skittered his fingers through the air, like little feet.

    Bast was seated next to Venus, crossed legged with her elbows on her knees, her head in her hands and her mouth agape. She asked, “How did you stop them?”

    Serlas stroked at his beard, “Well, that was the most frightening part of it all. In order to destroy an Oblivion Gate one would have to enter it, and tear down it from the inside.”

    Qetesh sputtered, spilling mead over herself, “You’ve been inside an Oblivion Gate!?”

    “Indeed, I have, many times in fact. Before I attained my position as Arch Mage of the Mage’s Guild in Cyrodiil, I was heavily relied on by Legions all around Tamriel in destroying those gates. I was called to High Rock, Valenwood, Elsweyr, Hammerfell, and Black Marsh. Skyrim had the worst of it though. I spent a good year here leading teams of soldiers in to destroy them,” he sighed, “We lost so many good men and women back then. They were inexperienced so it couldn’t be helped. But those I did train began setting out to take the gates out with teams of their own.”

    “How long did it take to destroy all the gates?” Bast asked him.

    “Well we did not destroy them all. We did not have to. You see, it was on the twentieth of Sun’s Dusk, the year four hundred and forty two, nine years after the Crisis of Kvatch. Mehrune’s Dagon was summoned within the Imperial City itself. This giant Daedric Prince of death and destruction wreaking havoc on our city. I remember exactly where I was when it happened. I was sitting in my office at the Mage’s Guild, perusing some materials given to me about the Mythic Dawn when I saw that monster terrorizing the city through my window. He crushed the roofing of the Imperial Palace in the heart of the city and that’s when it happened. Emperor Martin Septim, the last surviving member of the Septim dynasty gave his life by breaking the Amulet of Kings, thus binding his blood with those of the kings and gods held within. He then became an avatar of Akatosh, an enormous golden dragon.”

    Rona perked up listening to his tale. She’d heard this story a million times before, but hadn’t ever really paid close attention until now. Her father went on, “As this new divine dragon god, Martin towered over the Daedric Lord and they battled, tearing the city apart. Martin ultimately defeated the Daedric Prince, sending him back to the wastes of Oblivion and sealed all of the gates for eternity.”

    Rona cocked her head, “But Ata, the Guild and I destroyed a gate in Anvil years ago.”

    He went wide-eyed, “That actually happened!?” She nodded and he looked stunned, then started to stroke at his beard again thoughtfully, “My colleague Nostradamus would not stop talking of it. I honestly believed he was pulling my leg… Well I suppose that it would be possible for a conjurer to open one still…”

    “It was an amateur conjurer,” Rona said, half lidded eyes, “With a fascination with the Mythic Dawn. He had some old book that he managed to summon it from.”

    “What did you do with the book?”

    “We burned it,” she said.

    He looked slightly distressed by this fact. Burning a book with lots of important knowledge was definitely something Serlas would object to, but he conceded, “Ah… probably for the best. But wait my dear, however did you close the gate?” He went wide-eyed again, “Don’t tell me you?”

    Rona grinned, “Well, you did tell me all those stories my whole life, I figured I could handle it.”

    Serlas looked mortified at the fact that his only daughter had gone inside and managed to close an Oblivion Gate.

    She waved a hand, “It was fine! With everyone in the Guild there, it really was no problem Ata.” That was a lie. It was one of the most terrifying adventures of their lives and they all almost died more than once. She wasn’t about to tell him that though.

    Bishop was finishing putting together plates of food for everyone when he shook his head, chuckling, “Even when you weren’t the Dragonborn you were still doing insane things. Bet you just shaved a hundred years off his life telling him that.”

    She smirked at him as he passed her a plate, “It’s fine since I recently gave him back two hundred of them.”

    Serlas chuckled and accepted his plate of food from Bishop. He finished passing out everyone’s dinner and they all tucked in. Qetesh and Venus chatted quietly while Bast and Serlas sang Bishop’s praises on his cooking, which he looked rather smug about.

    Freya didn’t eat much, just stared into the fire while chancing the occasional glance at Bishop who was purposely avoiding her gaze. Rona couldn’t wait to get to Whiterun. She’d keep her promise, get them set up in her homestead there and with the Companions and then they could leave and she and Bishop could hopefully move on from this obstacle in the road of their relationship.

    After everyone finished their food, things died down and Bast continued asking Serlas plenty of history questions. She really seemed to have a penchant for learning. Rona suspected that the girl never received much of an education considering the kind of environment she was raised in. Finally Serlas said, “I have plenty of books on the subject my dear, if you would like I shall bring them to you next time I’m in Whiterun.”

    Bast beamed at him and said, “That would be great!”

    (The music is Quen a Omagen by Erutan)

    Rona grabbed her lute and started to play a sleepy tune on it. She was feeling a lot better after her brief talk with Bishop. She still wanted to know about that damn kiss, but she also knew it wasn’t an appropriate topic of discussion in their current company.

    Everyone was drawn to Rona’s gentle playing, making her blush a little, but she ignored it and continued.

    Bishop laid down on his side on his bedroll and said, “Not going to share your lovely voice with us this evening, eh Ladyship?”

    She smiled, “Not tonight.” She had no desire to sing around Freya. The woman already hated her, the last thing she needed was to shove her vocal talent in her face on top of it all.

    Qetesh said, “You’re quite talented. Singing, playing lute, dragon slaying. What else can you do?”

    Rona blushed fiercely, “That’s… mostly it.”

    “Definitely can’t cook,” Bishop yawned.

    She kicked at him and he grinned at her. Their playful flirtations returning really eased her heart.

    “I’m sure you could teach her a thing or two about alchemy, Qetesh,” Serlas added.

    “Hey!” Rona pouted, “Quit picking on me.”

    Bishop smirked at her, “We only tease because we know the dragon has such a thick hide.”

    She chuckled and sighed. Skjor had said that once to her. They’d be going to see the Companions tomorrow. She wondered how they were all doing and was really looking forward to seeing her brother again.

    Freya stood up suddenly and said, “I’ll be right back… need to use the little girl’s room.”

    She disappeared over the hill and Bishop looked over at her sisters and said, “Maybe one of you can go with her? There’s a giant’s camp nearby and it’d just be safer.”

    Venus frowned at him, “She’ll be fine. Besides it just makes her mad whenever she’s trying to do her business with us around.”

    Bishop just rolled his eyes and made to roll over when Serlas said, “Bishop, before you nod off, could I have a word?”

    He looked back at Serlas and said, “Sure,” he got up and they went around the front side of the inn. Rona continued to quietly play while the other three sisters all laid down on their bedrolls getting ready to fall asleep.

    It wasn’t long before Bishop came storming back around to their camp and looked around, “Freya’s not back yet?”

    Rona shook her head and Qetesh sat up a bit, “Something wrong?”

    “I need to speak to her, now,” he said, anger in his voice. He started walking over the hill to go look for her.

    Venus scoffed and called out to him, “Pervert!”

    Qetesh shouted, “Better not bother her while she’s doing her business Bish! She’s still got her sword you know!”

    Serlas came around too as Rona set aside her lute and he asked, “Is everything alright?”

    Rona looked right at him and asked in Aldmeri, “(Why is Bishop mad at Freya?)”

    Serlas said quickly, “(I asked him about what may have happened to your dossier. He said he had one for you, that he already read it. He suspects Freya may have taken it.)”

    Rona groaned and said, “Just stay here. I’m going to make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid.”

    They all watched her go. Rona walked a ways down the sloping hills until she heard Bishop’s angry snarling, “Give it back now.”

    Freya taunted him, “Give what back?”

    “You fucking know what you sneaky thief. The paperwork on the Dragonborn. Give it to me.”

    Her voice was lilted with a teasing chime to each word, “I have no idea what you’re talking about Bishop.”

    Rona came up close to the ledge where she heard them speaking. She stopped to listen.

    “Why are you doing this?”

    She heard the angry quaver in Freya’s voice then, “Because you belong to me Bishop. You are mine and I’ll be damned if I’m about to let that ugly little piss-skin take you from me!”

    “Don’t!” He shouted and she glanced around the ledge. He’d grabbed Freya’s outstretched hand and he growled low, “Don’t do it again, wench.”

    She yanked her arm back, rubbing her wrist and glared at him, “Oh, so I’m a wench now am I? Is that how you think of me?”

    “Anyone who tries to slap me is a damned wench,” he said, “I took enough beatings from you back then. I won’t take them anymore.”

    She got close to him then and danced her fingers across his chest saying, “We could have something again Bishop. I know you loved me. You never said it, but you always came back.”

    “You manipulated me Freya, just like you’re trying to do now. It won’t work anymore.”

    She looked incredibly sad then. It amazed Rona how quickly this woman shifted through her emotions. Like she was trying them on to see which one would work to get her way.

    He was firm and remained angry when he said, “Don’t give me that look. Hand over the papers, now.”

    Then she got mad again, her face immediately shifting to one of fury and she shouted, “I don’t have to give you anything! I don’t owe you anything! If anything you owe me!”

    “I’m done playing this game,” he said warningly, “I’m going to give you the count of three to hand them over.”

    She scoffed, “Oh treat me like a child why don’t you!”

    “One.”

    “Is it because she’s the Dragonborn? Is that why you love her? Can’t be because of her looks,” she stuck her tongue out, gagging.

    “Two.”

    “I know. You’re with her for the money aren’t you? Well that’s fine, darling, just drink her dry and then you and I can run away together, just like you always promised.”

    Three.”

    He reached for her and she backed up, scowling at him. He took another step and she made to turn when he grabbed her arm and started grabbing at the pouches on her belt and fished through her pockets. She writhed and screamed furiously at him, scratching sharply at his arms, “NO! NO! LET ME GO! LET ME GO! DON’T TOUCH ME! DON’T TOUCH ME!”

    Finally he let her go and stepped back, taking a breath. Freya clutched herself protectively and looked at him fearfully, shaking all over. Her lip trembled and she whispered, “No one touches me without my permission. No one!

    Bishop held his hands out apologetically, then ran one through his hair and said, “Freya…”

    Freya broke into tears then and shouted, “Is it because of what Thorn did to me!? Is that why you won’t love me!? Because I’m just used goods now? Covered in scars from his dirty knife!?”

    Rona couldn’t tell if the tears were real or not. Freya’s outburst certainly sounded real and she seemed truly upset, but with this woman, who could change her emotional state on a whim, she couldn’t be sure at all.

    “Don’t think of yourself like that,” he said, “Don’t ever think of yourself that way.”

    Freya shot back, “Then why Bishop!? Why won’t you come back to me!?”

    “Why do you want to be together Freya?” He argued, “All we ever did was fight. It was… toxic. We were poison to each other.”

    She actually looked perplexed, as though she were asking herself the same thing for the first time and then she said, “I… I love you Bishop.”

    “No, you don’t,” he said, “You’re just feeling jealous. You see me as something to own, not someone to love. And now that I’m with someone else… fuck. You’re like a child that just wants their toy back because some other kid’s playing with it.”

    Rona smiled. Bishop really had grown a lot. He too once had a similar sense of possessiveness over her. Now though, he saw it for what it was. Not something out of love, just toxicity.

    “No,” Freya shook her head, “I know I love you. For so long I wondered where you were. I thought maybe the Paladins got you, maybe you were in prison or dead… I thought about you Bishop. But then I heard you were working out in Riverwood. I wanted to come find you… but… it was too close to Falkreath. I couldn’t.”

    Bishop put his head in his hand and gave an audible and irritated sigh.

    Rona decided to make her presence known because obviously they weren’t going anywhere with that conversation. She came around the ledge and touched Bishop’s shoulder. He looked down at her with a face that just looked exhausted. She gave him a reassuring smile and looked over at Freya who was glaring hatefully at her.

    “Freya,” Rona said, “Your sisters were wondering if you’re alright.”

    She scoffed, “So you came to look for me? Daddy’s little girl?

    Rona frowned at her, but Freya lit into her with a nasty smirk on her face, “Yeah, that’s right. I know all about you. Lucky you, to have had a father that cares. I never met mine. He was just another notch on my mother’s bedpost… speaking of mothers though, you certainly had a sick one didn’t you? Almost killed you as a baby and when she drug you off on her little adventures? Shame she never succeeded.”

    “I fucking knew you had them,” Bishop growled.

    Freya gave him a snide look then turned back to Rona and said, “How many times has he almost died because of you? Because according to this,” she pulled the folded dossier out of a hidden pocket in the back of her tunic, “You’ve almost been the death of him, at least a dozen times now,” a nasty smirk played at her lips, “How’s it feel knowing you’re the reason everyone around you always dies?”

    Rona tried very hard not to let this awful woman get under her skin. The things she was saying, Rona had to remind herself, she already knew. She sighed, “Freya, I don’t have anything against you. I just want to see you and your sisters get out of this pit you’ve fallen into. I just want to help you.”

    “What a hero!” Freya said throwing her hand up, “You’ve really got him convinced that you’re this decent, upstanding woman. Does he know about your relationship with the Paladin too? The same Paladin that orchestrated his brother’s death?”

    Bishop groaned, giving a heavy eye roll that his entire head went with, “Just give it up, already Freya. Yes, I know.”

    Freya looked frustrated by this fact. She was running out of moves to make.

    Rona maintained a friendly tone, trying to kill with kindness, “Freya, I know why you’re lashing out at me. It’s okay. You don’t have to hold onto that pain anymore. You can let it go.”

    Freya stared at her with a look of disgust. “What are you talking about?”

    Rona shifted her shoulders uncomfortably and took a deep breath, “I know what happened to your mother… and to you. Your sisters told me everything.”

    Freya looked livid, her face scrunching furiously and she shook her head, “They had no right. No damn right to tell you that!”

    “I asked them,” she admitted, “I wanted to know why you’re… why you carry so much anger and pain.”

    Freya threw a hand to her chest and shouted, “You know why I carry so much anger!? So much pain!? It’s because of him! Because he promised to save us from that sick fuck! And he lied! Just like he’s lying to you! I hate you! I hate you both so much!”

    Rona wasn’t looking at Freya anymore, but beyond her when she took a deep breath and exhaled, “Well, you’re going to hate me a whole lot more now.”

    “Oh and why’s that!?” Freya snapped at her.

    Rona said, “Because I’m about to save your life.”

    The low roar of a dragon echoed over the plains.

    “God damn it,” Bishop grumbled as he drew his bow and Rona used her Whirlwind Sprint to throw herself against Freya, forcing them to roll a ways over the plains just as the dragon swept in, grabbing at the grass and ground where Freya was just standing.

    Rona got up off of Freya who was absolutely stunned as she watched the dragon fly high overhead, looking to redirect it’s attack at them.

    Bishop ran up to them and said, “Usual plan, Lightfoot?”

    She smirked and said, “You know it.”

    (The Song is In The Middle of the Night by Within Temptation)

    She summoned a song of power from within, creating the sound of music out of nothingness and vocalized loudly, leaping in front of Freya and firing a blast of ice at the dragon’s breath of fire as it roared down on them again. The beast flew through the resulting blast and moved back up high into the sky. She drew her swords and started running across the plains while Bishop stayed by Freya, lobbing arrows at it.

    “I’ve been walking this road of desire,
    I’ve been begging for blood on the wall.
    I don’t care if I’m playing with fire,
    I’m aware that I’m frozen inside.
    I have known all along.

    So much more going on, no denying,
    But I know I’m not standing alone

    You’ve been playing my mind through my wishes.
    You can feel that we’re haunting the truth.
    Don’t know, I can’t hold on, always losing control.”

    Rona ran along watching the creature, singing her song at it. But it stayed at a distance. It was being careful when none other had. Alduin was teaching them, training them. She was sure of it. She stowed her blades away and drew her bow then. If it was going to stay up high then she needed to get at it from there. She kept up the sprint while it circled and then went in to shout at her, it blast another fiery breath at her and she cried, “FEIM ZII GRON!” With her transparent body the flames merely blast through her and crashed onto the ground.

    It was just testing the waters though and circled back overhead again. She started firing her own arrows, breaking her shout, making her visible again. With each word from her song her arrows became imbued with golden flames. She missed each time though, as the dragon dove up and down through the sky in a wave-like fashion. It was too wary and continued to study her movements.

    Then she saw a lightning bolt crackle through the sky, missing the dragon as it dodged the attack. She turned back and saw her father, Bishop and the sisters four standing by. She noticed some of the townsfolk had even come looking, though they stayed at a further distance than the rest. Bishop and Bast were both taking aim at the dragon which was suddenly very interested in them.

    Rona ran for it, chasing after the creature. She couldn’t allow it to harm them and if Alduin was training them as she suspected, then it knew to go for the people nearest to her first. She used her Whirlwind Sprint to shunt herself across the ground, keeping pace with the speed of the beast and looked right at it and cried, “FUS RO DAH!” Just as the dragon shouted fire. It must have thought she would use ice breath and she finally caught it by surprise when her Unrelenting Force broke through the fire and hit it, throwing it down from the sky.

    The dragon went spiraling through the air and crashed heavily onto the ground on its back. Rona used another Whirlwind Sprint, aiming her bow and preparing a shot. She felt the power of the song burning in her throat and a choir of voices echoed over the plains, as her arrow started to burn and glow brightly. The dragon flopped around on the ground, hissing as it tried to regain its footing to take off again.

    “In the middle of the night
    In the middle of the night

    In the middle of the night,
    I don’t understand what’s going on
    It’s a world gone astray.
    In the middle of the night,
    I can’t let it out.
    Someone keeps searching
    And shatters your life
    It will never be afraid
    In the middle of the night”

    The dragon managed to get to its feet and took to the skies as she raced beneath it. She aimed for its heart and released her now golden, flaming arrow. It spun swiftly through the air and pierced sharply into its chest, bursting its chest cavity open. The beast roared, “[DROGAAVLOK! NOSVAAT! YOU WOULD FORSAKE ME!?]” as it plummeted to the ground.

    Rona stopped her running and stared, confused by its outburst. Then she heard more roars off in the distance and saw two dragons flying away, the moonlight illuminating their forms far off in the distance.

    She felt the soul of the dragon wash over her, snapping her from her reverie. Bishop came up to her side and said, “You alright Ladyship?”

    “Did you see them?”

    “Who?”

    “Those two dragons that just flew away.”

    He looked up at the sky and shook his head, “No, but I was pretty far away. You must have scared them off by killing their friend here.”

    “No,” she said, “Those were Alduin’s Generals. They were watching me… studying me.”

    Forbidden kiss or not, she needed Bishop by her side more than ever now.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 69

    Dreams of the Past

     

    They walked back up to the group on the hill and Bishop immediately went over to Freya and held his hand out, “Ready to give it up?”

    Freya scowled at him, pursing her lips but relented and handed over the documents. He gave them to Serlas then and said, “There it is. Everything the Thalmor have on her.”

    Serlas raised his brows and said, “Thank you Bishop.” He gave a quick nod to Freya and left them, heading back to camp and saying, “I will be perusing these immediately to see what we may learn.”

    Rona asked Bishop, “Just how much personal information is in those documents?”

    Bishop seemed to realize that he just handed over the particulars of their relationship, including some very intimate details to Serlas and ran ahead shouting, “Uh, hang on Serlas! Maybe you could just read these other pages…”

    Rona smirked at his back then glanced over at the sisters who were a short distance from her. Both Venus and Qetesh looked like they wanted to kill Freya. Bast however was just looking on at the dragon bones in the distance, while a few townsfolk hurried over to get a better look.

    “You stole from them?” Qetesh was furious. Freya just crossed her arms, turning her face away.

    “We finally have something good going,” Venus said, “Are you trying to ruin this for us?”

    Freya looked over at her and muttered, “We were doing fine without them.”

    Qetesh scoffed at her, “No! We were not! I won’t let you do this to us anymore Freya. For once in our lives we could live a normal life in a place that’s safe. We could live with a real roof over our heads instead of hiding out in every dirty cave or ruin we find, wondering if that’ll be the day that the law or all the damn bandits we owe finally catch up to us!”

    “You really think the cities are safe!?” Freya argued, “With the war going on they’re just as dangerous as anywhere else!”

    “Just stop!” Venus cried.

    “You can’t keep doing this!” Qetesh barked, “It needs to stop. You need to stop.”

    “After everything I’ve ever done for you all! I made sure we had food, shelter, clothes on our backs, even money!”

    “At what cost!?” Qetesh barked, “Your way of doing things has always been to steal and run. Always! And all its ever done is put us all in danger. Every. Single. Time. Enough Freya. I’ve made too many excuses… I’ve let you drag us down for too long.”

    “Oh? I’ve dragged us down? Really!?”

    “Yes, really!” Qetesh grit her teeth and curled her fists, getting right in her sister’s face, “I’m sick of it Freya. Your attitude, your behavior, all of it! You need to start taking responsibility for your actions!”

    “I’m only like this because Bishop-”

    Qetesh threw a hand in her face, “NO! You can’t blame him anymore Freya! It’s been six years, damn it! SIX! You are this way, because you choose to be! Stop being so selfish and for once just think of your little sister. Bast deserves to have something other than this! All the banditry, the thieving, the lying, the running! If you’re just going to sabotage it – try to ruin it for us – if you don’t want this – then just leave!

    Qetesh gave her one last hateful glare and turned away, Venus followed close behind and called back, “Come on Bast. Let’s get some sleep.”

    Bast turned away from the sight of the dragon bones and gave Freya a sympathetic look before walking along and joining her siblings. Rona turned away too. She had a strong feeling that she was the last person Freya wanted to talk to and she wasn’t exactly in the mood to have a discussion with the woman anyhow. If her own sisters couldn’t get through to her she doubted she’d have much luck either.

    Qetesh stopped Rona as she was coming down the slope to their campsite and said, “I’m so sorry Rona. I want to personally apologize for everything-”

    Rona waved her off, “Don’t. It’s alright Qetesh. I’ll make good on my promise. We’ll get you to Whiterun tomorrow and get you all settled in.”

    Qetesh gave her a weak smile and went and laid down with her sisters. Serlas was sitting by the fire reading over the dossier while Bishop sat with his back against the wall of the inn, lost in thought it seemed.

    She went over to him and sat down by his side. He smiled at her and handed her a stack of papers and whispered, “Heh… managed to rescue some of the more, uh, personal stuff.”

    Rona took the papers and skimmed over them. She turned beet red reading some of them and realized that they’d been followed and watched by the Thalmor for a long time. There was an entire page recording the first time she and Bishop were ever intimate and lengthy details of their long week spent by the falls.

    He chuckled at her, “You know, I might hang onto these, just in case you’re not around and I’m feeling a little lonely.”

    She gave him a side-eye glance and lit a fire in her hand.

    He snatched the papers back and quickly stuffed them into his pocket and said, “Don’t burn them! They might have something important in them.”

    She scoffed and smirked at him, “Yeah. It just proves what lechers the Thalmor really are.”

    “I thought that was obvious when they groped all over you back at the Embassy,” he growled, “If I’d had my dagger then…” He curled his hand into a fist.

    Rona just smiled and leaned into him. He put an arm around her and said, “Guess this means we’re okay then? You done making assumptions about what you think I did the other night?”

    She turned her head and looked right into his eyes and said, “Yeah, no more assumptions. If there’s anything you want to tell me, I’ll listen.”

    He met her gaze looking curiously at her for a moment but said nothing about the kiss. Instead he asked, “You really think the dragons are watching you?”

    She turned her face away from his, pressing her cheek to his chest instead. She couldn’t understand why he still hadn’t mentioned it, but couldn’t bring herself to ask about it. She wanted so much for him to admit what happened. It seemed that he might never tell her the truth.

    She said, “I do. I started to suspect that they’ve been studying me ever since my fight Alduin at  Arcwind Point,” she looked back up at him, “Whenever they use fire breath or ice breath, I use the opposite against it. The two shouts collide together and create this dusty explosion. I’d use it as cover, to leap in and attack when they couldn’t see… but Alduin knew. He was ready for it then. The same thing happened with the dragon at Nightgate Inn too. It was ready for my attack. Not to mention they already know to target you or anyone else close to me first… They’re keeping up with what I know, learning how I fight.”

    Bishop gave a deep sigh and ran a hand through his hair, “If the dragons are watching you, you’re going to need to train more.”

    “If I could find the time to train I would. It’s hard you know? Practicing fighting without actually fighting any dragons.”

    “You should at least practice your shouts,” he suggested, “Maybe we should go back to High Hrothgar.”

    She cringed a little at that notion. She liked the Greybeards just fine and Paarthurnax was her favorite dragon because he was the only one not trying to kill her. But that place just seemed to bring the worst out in her. She wasn’t ready to go back until she had the scroll in hand.

    She said, “Maybe. But first let’s try to find the Elder Scroll. What I really need is Dragonrend.”

    “We’ll find it… we have to find it,” he spoke low as his gaze turned towards the dancing firelight of the campfire. Rona watched as the fire flickered in his eyes and both fell deep into thought, staying quiet before laying down to doze off into strange dreams.

    ~~~

    (Recommended background music One Problem Settled or Tantalus’ Theme from FFIX Soundtrack)

    Bishop and Karnwyr stalked along the dirt road to Lost Knife Hideout. It was still fairly early in the morning. He’d gone all the way to Riften the day before to purchase the week’s worth of potions Jules’ would need from Elgrim’s Elixirs in Riften. He was in a bad mood too because the damned alchemist hadn’t even kept good on his promise to slash the cost of the potions if he brought him his list of alchemical ingredients. Bishop had spent days between jobs collecting all sorts of ridiculous plant life and stored it away in bottles.

    Elgrim had the nerve to tell him that none of it was fresh enough for his use and yet still wanted to take them and charge him full price for the potions. He was pissed. He ended up getting a small discount in exchange for the ‘spoiled plants’ as Elgrim called them, but still could only afford half a week’s worth of what Jules’ would need.

    As he rounded the bend in the road and came up to the lake he caught sight of a line of men standing outside the hideout.

    Bishop snorted and muttered under his breath to Karnwyr, “Can’t believe it’s not even noon yet and they’re already lining up out the door for the girls. How much you want to bet they’re putting on show tonight? Eh, boy?”

    Karnwyr perked his ears up at Bishop and gave a low whine.

    Bishop frowned at the long line of mostly nord men and a few other varying races as he walked by them all. Plenty of other folk were coming and going from the hideout too. He saw a pair of Rats he knew, two young brothers, about fourteen years old, trying to work their way up in the ranks. Only joined because they’d been kicked out of Honorhall for being unadoptable, as they’d essentially aged out.

    He felt bad for the kids. They had no idea the kind of shit show they were getting themselves into. He saw a few Thieves leaving too, heading out to work another job for Thorn most likely.

    One of his fellow Specialists was leaving too, an old dark elf, trailing behind the three Thieves and caught sight of him giving him a toothy grin, “Where you been Bish?”

    “As if that’s any of your business Joren,” he growled.

    Joren smirked at him and just shook his head, “Always the secretive one, eh? Well I guess that’s why you’re the best then. Can never be too careful.”

    Joren walked by him chuckling nastily under his breath.

    Bishop rolled his eyes and continued on into the hideout. He couldn’t trust any one of them. They’d act like his friend, they’d play pretend, try to cozy up to him and learn his secrets, but he knew that game just as well as any of them. He didn’t like it when people got up into his business and started asking questions. He made sure to shut that shit down, right quick every time.

    He walked along the cavern and looked over at the line of clients, standing outside the brothel. Thorn was a nasty bastard definitely, but he’d done a damn fine job of renovating and revamping the entirety of Lost Knife even after it was ruined several years prior from a raging fire, which was started when two rival bandit groups got into a territorial dispute. A dispute which unfortunately he and his brother both got mixed up in. They managed to survive, got picked up by the rival group that won and worked with them for a while.

    Then Thorn and his group came along. The Oblivion and terror he unleashed on the Rift was nothing anyone had seen before. It wasn’t long before every brigand and thief around was bowing to him.

    He took over Lost Knife and turned it into his own kingdom. He actually dug out more tunnels into the rock, creating the brothel near the entrance to Bishop’s right and off to his left was another section made for his drug trade, a private place for every addict in Skyrim to come and snort their fill of Moon Sugar or drink Skooma until they passed out or died of an overdose.

    Today though, there weren’t as many addicts as there were horny men looking to get their fill of what the Courtesans had to offer. Bishop, gave a nod to the two huge orc men who were standing outside the brothel. They were working Muscle in case any of the clientele got too rough with the ladies. He walked right by the line of men who were stuck behind a roped off section. The few in front were lecherously ogling the women inside as they walked about the brothel in skimpy clothing or with their breasts exposed.

    The room was very open and decorated in plenty of frilly drapes, curtains, rugs and even some erotic artwork which had been hung on the walls. There were plenty of luxurious looking couches and chairs in corners where men could have private ‘dates’ with the ladies before they flounced off to one of the many rooms in the back. Most everything in the brothel was some shade of red or pink aside from the wood floors.

    There was a counter set up by the line where one of the girls was working in a very tight fitted red corset, made to accentuate her bust and give the men a peak of what they might enjoy next. She collected their dues before giving them a number and sending them off to one of the many private rooms with a Courtesan of their choice – well, a Courtesan they could afford. Some of the women, depending on their physical assets and how well ‘used’ they were, were more or less expensive than the others. The most popular women were the priciest and brought in the most money.

    As Bishop stepped past the entire line of men, two in front barked, “Hey! Get back in line buddy!”

    “Yeah! We were here first!”

    Bishop looked back smirking at them and the young lady at the counter squealed, “Bishop! What brings you in today cutie? Bring us any presents?”

    He looked over at the cute busty, blonde breton and said, “Sorry to disappoint Berinna, but all I’ve got is my charming smile for you today.”

    She bat her lashes at him and gave him a flirty smirk, waving her hand, “Oh you! Hey, Bishop, real quick!” He stepped over, leaning on the counter as she whispered with her hand up to her mouth, “You should come meet me in room fourteen later today. I’ve been feeling real lonely and wouldn’t mind offering you some fun for no charge at all.”

    He gave her a roguish grin, “As tempting as that offer is Berinna, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disappoint again.”

    “Aw!” She pouted, “You never bother with us Courtesans. You just like to come and tease us all you bad boy!”

    He laughed, “You know me too well, beautiful. I’m gonna go pay a visit to the other girls. See how they’re all doing.”

    “Go right on in cutie!” She said with her over the top girlish voice.

    Bishop glanced back, flashing a snarky smirk at all the men standing in the line who were just gaping at him.

    He couldn’t get enough of messing with the idiots that crawled into that place. Karnwyr loped alongside him and he rounded into the girl’s changing quarters. They were all completely nonchalant about it, seeing as they often strolled around almost or even entirely nude most of the time.

    Their changing room consisted of plenty of vanities lining the walls, the dressing tables were covered in tons of different kinds of makeup and perfumes. There were a few changing dividers which served as nothing more than a place to hang their lacy undergarments as they were rarely used for privacy. There were several tall wardrobes lined up against one wall, two partially open revealing an assortment of sexy lingerie, corsets and everything else the women would dress up in. There was even one with plenty of kinky costumes, the most popular being the maid’s outfit.

    A bunch of the girl’s squealed, “Bishop!” A pair of them were topless as they knelt down to scratch behind Karnwyr’s ears and give him plenty of loving attention and pets. Bishop had a feeling the wolf enjoyed visiting the brothel as much as he did, if not for the nude women, then definitely for the head scratches.

    One of them said, “We’ve been missing you for a whole week, where have you been?”

    A cute redhead pouted playfully while she applied her eye makeup in a mirror and said over her shoulder, “Bet you found some girl you’re sweet on, hm? Is that why you’re ignoring us?”

    Bishop grinned and said, “Not at all ladies! I would never do that to you. Just been busy running a lot of jobs lately. They had me working Muscle out by Refugee’s Rest when that shipment of Moon Sugar came in.”

    They squealed, “Oooh!”

    “How’d that go?” A tigress looking khajiit asked as she sauntered by to sit at one of the many vanities in the room, her ample bosom swinging freely, “Heard you all had a bit of trouble with some necromancers.”

    “Wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle,” Bishop said with a cocky smirk.

    “Give us the dish Bishop!”

    “Yeah tell us!”

    He beamed, flashing his nice smile at them all. He really did love the attention all these beautiful women gave him. It was one of the few pleasantries he got from working for a creature like Thorn. He pulled up a chair, sitting on it backwards in the center of the vanity room and started getting into telling them the story, going into nitty gritty detail and definitely embellishing the tale for their entertainment.

    As he told his story he noticed one of the middle aged nord ladies come in, bringing a very young girl with her. It was Elksa, one of the more expensive and experienced Courtesans working there. She had long, dark brown hair, beautiful, large dark brown eyes and very full lips. Her figure was incredibly curvy, hourglass shaped. Her hips went on for days and her breasts were enormous. She was only wearing some black panties and a thin red robe which was wide open in front. She was in her mid forties, but looked half her age. She worked as a mentor to the newer Courtesans in the group. All of the girls looked up to her and sought her out for direction on a variety of issues they faced as working girls.

    She had remedies for any diseases they might encounter from the dirtier men, potions for unwanted pregnancies the girls found themselves with, she even helped when they chose to keep their pregnancies, giving them advice on how to work while pregnant and the women often helped with the births. She had plenty of tips and training for dealing with dangerous men who might be getting too rough with them, though there was enough Muscle around that any attacks were rarely a problem there.

    Bishop noticed that she was looking a little agitated, as she grabbed an extra chair, putting it by one of the open vanities, allowing the child to perch nearby while she sat and worked on her makeup. The little girl was dressed in a clean blue dress and holding an old doll. She had a thick bushy mane of brown hair around her head and two pretty hazel green eyes.

    “Then what happened?” The cute redhead asked when he’d stopped talking suddenly, distracted by the child in the room full of some very inappropriate and adult themes.

    He snapped out of his reverie and said, “I slit his throat obviously,” he smirked at her, “These magic users think they’re so much better than the rest of us, but I say all you really need is some physical prowess and a nice sharp knife.”

    “Mmm, you can knife me any old time Bishop. Come by room eleven if you’re ever in the mood.”

    “Chandrel!” The girls all gasped at her, giggling and tossing some bras and pantyhose at her jokingly.

    Bishop played coy though, “You know me ladies, still saving myself for that special someone.”

    The tigress khajiit laughed, “Or you just don’t like sloppy seconds!”

    His grin grew a little wider as he conceded, “Thaaat may be a factor too.”

    The girls scoffed and laughed at him, a few walked by poking him in the arm, caressing his shoulders and one even went right up and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He was polite. He let them poke at him, but he made sure to never touch any of them. It wasn’t in his nature to be fondling women that didn’t want it. Now granted, plenty of them wanted it, but he wasn’t about to stoop so low as to pay for sex or sleep with a woman who did it for a living. He still had standards for himself too, nice as they all were. He preferred being the only man giving it to any woman he was with.

    Elska sighed deeply, catching his attention again, while she put on some earrings and applied a dark red lipstick.

    “Mama,” the girl said, grasping at her mother’s robe.

    Elska focused her attention to the girl and sweetly asked, “Yes, Bastet my dear?”

    “Are we gonna stay here all day?”

    “You will sweetie. The girls will watch out for you, but Mama has to… work today.”

    Bishop got up and went over to them, leaning on the vanity and getting a view of Elska’s naked, ample bosom in the process. It felt weird staring with a kid around though and he looked away, blushing slightly as he asked, “Hey Elska. How’re you doing today? Putting on another show?”

    She smiled up at him, “Oh, Bishop! Good to see you and yes… Thorn’s idea,” she rolled her eyes – he tried so very hard to keep his gaze on her eyes, “Said we needed to get the coin flowing and since it’s the summer there’s plenty of foreign clients looking to get a taste of our local variety, if you will.”

    “Hmph,” he gave a half-smirk, “I know. You’ve got a line going all the way out past the lake.”

    She sighed, “It’s going to be a long day and a longer night.”

    Bishop looked down at the girl who was fussing with her doll’s dress and asked, “Who’s the little one?”

    Elska ran her fingers through her daughter’s wild hair and said, “My youngest Bastet,” she glanced up at him, “I know what you’re thinking. I wouldn’t have brought her here if I didn’t have any other choice. My other three girls are busy running that big job with the Thieves and my friend Millie, who was supposed to watch her disappeared on me. I suppose that’s what I get for trusting a Rat.”

    “I could keep an eye on her for you,” he offered.

    She looked up at him wide-eyed, “Really? You’d do that for me?”

    He shrugged, “Just spending the day looking after my brother. I wouldn’t mind it.”

    “I’d be so grateful if you could! Really!” She grabbed her travel pack and started fishing through it, pulling out a bottle of potion and handed it to him, “That’s for emergency use only. Sometimes Bast gets a bad cough and needs it. She only needs half though.”

    “Got it,” he said as he tucked it away with the rest of his potions, “Anything else I need to know? She’s, uh,” he glanced down at the little girl who was still more interested in her toy than them, “toilet trained, right?”

    Elska laughed and waved a hand, “Oh of course she is! This is perfect. I’ll stop by your room tonight to pick her up after the show’s over. It might be pretty late, will that be alright?”

    “Not a problem. I’ll teach her how to play cards,” he grinned.

    Elska chuckled and said, “My other three girls have already done a fine job of that. I’d watch out for Bastet, she might just clean you out!”

    They shared in a laugh and he whistled for Karnwyr who was busy getting a belly rub from an argonian woman dressed up in a maid’s outfit. The wolf rolled right over, tail wagging and tongue lolling and went up to Bishop. Bast seemed suddenly interested in the new furry animal near her, but she just looked, she didn’t touch.

    Elska grasped her daughter’s hands then and said, “Bastet, sweetie, you’re going to go with Bishop today. He’s going to keep an eye on you while Mama works, okay?”

    Bast looked at her mother then glanced up at Bishop. He gave her a kind smile, but like any other kid, she did not return it and looked anxious about leaving her parent to go with a new stranger instead. She shook her head slightly and grasped her arms around her mother’s neck.

    “Don’t be shy, hun. Bishop’s a very nice man. Go on now.” With a bit more encouragement and urging from her mother Bast finally relented and followed Bishop out of the brothel.

    He made sure to stay close to her, keeping her sandwiched between himself and Karnwyr. He didn’t trust any of the sleazy creeps in there, no matter how much Thorn promised none of them would touch the Courtesan’s kids. They walked along through the winding tunnels, passing by the open water filled cavern with the three waterfalls.

    That entire area had been renovated too. They outfitted the lake area with planks of wood, covering most of the surface of the water and creating an entire bar and dining area down below. There was even a large stage set up on the far end, just for shows like the one that would be happening later that day. The entire dining area was busy and bustling with some clients waiting for the Courtesan’s show to start and plenty of Rats, Thieves and Specialists drinking and having a bite to eat. Thorn knew exactly how to make it look appealing to work for him when he had such a lavish setup. Bishop knew better though. The floorboards down there were damp and moldy, they watered down the ale and the food all tasted like crap.

    They kept going, moving on up into the depths of the winding tunnels, passing by their fair share of more of Thorn’s working men and women who had the day off to do whatever they liked. That’s how Thorn ran the place. You worked five days and you were off two unless he absolutely needed you for something and couldn’t live without you. Bishop had been one of those people that Thorn seemed to need all the time. He figured it was mostly because the degenerate liked to call on him and harass him every chance he got. All because he’d refused to join the rank of The Whips.

    The price for that level was far too disgusting and depraved for Bishop to stomach. Plus he wanted as little to do with Thorn as possible. The man absolutely repulsed him.

    As they neared the Specialist’s sleeping quarters they passed by Slash, a Whip and one of the worst of them. He was a grey fur coated khajiit man and got sick pleasure from sinking his claws into human flesh while doing other foul things to them.  Another sadist, just like Thorn.

    Slash looked over at Bishop and his eyes caught sight of Bast and he said, “Oh and who is this now? You would bring a child into the den of wolves? Hmm… What nice new skin she has,” he gave a wicked chuckle.

    Bishop stood protectively in front of Bast, hand to his dagger while Karnwyr moved to his side and bared his fangs, sensing the malevolence in the air.

    Slash’s ears lowered at the sight of the wolf and he hissed, “You know Bishop, Thorn only allows you to keep your pet here, so long as he does not bite. If he bites though, I will gladly cut him open.” He allowed his claws to draw and gave another low hiss at Karnwyr.

    “You know Slash, Thorn doesn’t tolerate people threatening or eyeing the Courtesan’s kids and if you don’t sheath your claws I will gladly bury my dagger in your throat,” Bishop threatened right back.

    Slash eyed the little girl, who was now clinging to Bishop’s leather cuirass and peering anxiously around at the khajiit.

    He retracted his claws and curled his lip, “A child of a Courtesan? My mistake…” He left quickly, hurrying down the path, leading away from the sleeping quarters.

    Bishop looked down at Bast and asked, “You alright kid?”

    She looked up at him with her big hazel eyes and nodded slowly. He smirked and said, “Not much of a talker are you?” She shook her head slowly again and he laughed and said, “Come on. We’re almost there.”

    After another few turns in the tunnels they’d arrived at his small living space. As a Specialist he was offered a private room of his own. One of the perks for being the best. It was a small room though, only enough space for two beds on opposite sides of the walls, one dresser and a small table with two chairs centered in the middle. It had no windows and the entire room was made of rough stone that had been carved out. They hadn’t even bothered to lay a wood floor down.

    He and Jules did their best to make it comfortable, adding a rug and some paintings they’d managed to steal on some of their outings. Bishop hardly stayed in the place though. It was too claustrophobic for him. He preferred the outdoors, sleeping under the stars in the forest. Not to mention he remembered what it was like when the place was on fire a few years back. It was dangerous to stay in a room with only one door like that and so high up in the tunnels with no real exit.

    He went over to the bed on the right where a young man with thick dark hair and thick eyebrows was nestled under the covers. His facial hair was growing quickly and was full of curls always. His face was sweaty with fever too. He looked exhausted. Bishop sighed. When he’d left the day before Jules was doing alright. It was worrying how quickly he went from being slightly sick with a light cough to being bedridden with fever.

    He touched his brother’s forehead, pushing some of his damp and tangled hair out of his face. Jules opened his eyes slightly at the feel of Bishop’s fingers and coughed harshly. He wheezed, taking a deep, choked breath.

    Bishop took out one of the potions he’d bought from Elgrim and gave it to him, “Drink.”

    Jules took it and gulped it down. He smacked his lips and made a face while he wiped at his mouth. “Ugh… Why’s it always taste like raw Chaurus guts?”

    “Because the recipe calls for Chaurus guts,” Bishop replied with a smirk.

    “Disgusting,” he muttered. But the color was returning to his face and he was moving a bit more. He sat up on the bed and grumbled, “Had to cancel with Elise tonight. I was really hoping to take her out. But… just not feeling up to it.”

    “You still seeing that Thief?” Bishop pried.

    “Uh yeah,” Jules looked at him, holding his hands up to his chest and groped the air, as he said, “Have you seen the rack on her? I mean seriously, those gorgeous melons are just -” he noticed the little girl standing off to the side next to Karnwyr, just staring at him as he stumbled, “r-ripe for the picking,” he furrowed his brows, “I mean… no, uuh…why is there a kid here?”

    Bishop burst into laughter and said, “You should see your face right now!” Jules frowned at him, but Bishop quickly explained, “She’s Elska’s kid. I offered to watch her ’cause she’s going to be busy all day and all night.”

    Jules looked at him with half-lidded eyes, “Line out the door?”

    Bishop snorted, “Line wrapped around the lake, twice.”

    Jules rolled his eyes then said, “Hey, give me one more of those skeevy potions. Maybe if I take another I’ll perk up enough and can still go on my date.”

    “Sorry little brother, only have enough to barely make it through the week. And you’ll have to take them sparingly, like half of one when you’re feeling really bad.”

    Jules scoffed, “Seriously? I thought you got a week’s worth?”

    “Yeah well, Elgrim being the pissant he is went back on our deal,” he said pulling up a chair at the small table, “Didn’t even give me much of a discount for all those damn plants I collected for him. I would have strangled it out of him, but I can’t afford to get banned from another city. I already fucked up trying to threaten Nurelion’s outrageous prices down. I can’t even afford to pay my bounty out that way and I definitely can’t show my face around The White Phial ever again.”

    Jules knit his brows together and asked, “I thought Thorn just paid you though?”

    Bishop scoffed, “Pft… like half a share of what he promised. It barely covered the cost of our food. Been trying to scrimp and save, but,” he grumbled, “I know he’s trying to keep us down. He knows the second I have enough saved that I’d skip out and he knows the longer you stay sick, the less chance we’ll leave, ’cause we can’t survive out there Jules. Not with your cough and fevers always breaking out at the wrong time.”

    Jules looked away and said, “I don’t know if I would leave…”

    Bishop cocked an eyebrow at him, “Wow, you’re really sweet on this girl of yours aren’t you?”

    Jules blushed a little and said, “She’s great Bish… seriously. I’ve never met anyone like her. Smart, witty. Fucking sexy,” he sighed, “And the things she can do with her…” his eyes traveled back to the little girl who was sitting quietly on the floor fussing with her dolls dress again, ignoring the both of them. “Umm…yeah. So, the kid’s just here ’til tonight, right?”

    Bishop laughed, “Yeah, just ’til tonight. Hey, give me your playing cards will yah? Gonna teach her how to play blackjack.”

    They were both startled when Bast spoke up suddenly, “I already know how to play,” she looked over at them, “Freya taught me how.”

    Bishop grinned at her and asked, “Oh yeah? Well come have a seat and show me the ropes then kid.”

    Bast got up and pulled her tiny self up onto the old rickety chair by the table. She was a little too short to see over the table and Bishop said, “Hey, pass me a few big books for her to sit on.”

    Jules leaned over and yanked three thick tomes from the shelf carved into the wall. He passed them to Bishop who set them onto the table, then picked Bast up and set her on the floor for a second and stacked the books onto the chair. He lifted her up again and sat her onto the books. She was just the right height to lean on the table.

    He gave her a friendly smile and said, “There we go, better?”

    She nodded and watched as he started shuffling the cards with incredible skill. He decided to show off a little and did a few tricks for her then he spread some cards out on the table and dealt two to the girl. “Alright,” he said, “Show me what you got.”

    She looked up at him and said, “I don’t have anything to bet…”

    He chuckled, “Ah right,” he pulled out a small coin purse and dumped thirty gold pieces onto the table then divided it up giving her ten and keeping twenty for himself, “House rules. So, how much you wanna bet?”

    She shifted two gold pieces out in front of her on the table.

    Bishop smirked and dealt two cards in front of him, one face up the other face down.

    Bast looked over her cards and his and said, “Hit.”

    Jules stroked Karnwyr’s back and snickered a little as he watched his brother play this gambling game with this little girl who clearly knew the rules and terms as she placed bets and won more times than she lost. It was probably only an hour gone by when they were on their last round.

    “Stand,” she said.

    Bishop flipped his card over, he was just under seventeen so he drew making him draw up to nineteen.

    “Your turn,” he said.

    She said, “Hit.”

    He dealt another card, an ace, making her hit twenty one, “Damn it.” He chuckled and said, “I can’t believe it. You actually cleaned me out.”

    Bast let a gentle smirk pull at her lips then and took the rest of the gold he passed her, stuffing it all back into the coin purse. She handed it back to him though and said, “Thanks for playing with me.”

    He pushed it back and said, “No you keep it kid. You won fair and square. How old are you anyway?”

    “Seven,” she replied.

    Jules snorted loudly and said, “Wow, bro, you just got hustled by a seven year old.”

    Bishop picked up the cards and shuffled them back together as he leaned on the table shaking his head and looked over at Bast and said jokingly, “Mind keeping this between us? I’ve got a bit of a reputation to keep around here.”

    Bast grinned at him and nodded.

    Then he asked her, “You hungry? It’s probably about lunch time.”

    She shrugged and nodded again. Jules laid back down on the bed and said, “Get me something good this time, will you? That cabbage stew you brought up last time tasted at least four days old.” He scrunched his nose.

    “It probably was,” Bishop said. He whistled for Karnwyr and Bast followed him along out of the room. They headed back down the winding tunnels and she clung a little closer to him, trusting him more, while she watched an entire assortment of people coming and going.

    She’d probably never been in the place before. Most of the Courtesans, at least the well paid ones, had living arrangements over in Fort Amol very close by. It was a safer place where they could raise their children and not expose them to the depravity of the inner workings of their day jobs. Just another thing Thorn offered that was appealing to the broken and downtrodden members of society, but just like always it wasn’t much of anything. Just another nasty, crumbling place, full of mold, parasites and skeevers.

    Thorn liked to pretend he was some sort of messiah to these people, while at the same time he sent his Specialists out to kidnap young women and bring them back for his personal pleasure.

    And right on cue he saw Slash coming through, leading the way while Bane, another one of the Whips, a dirty nord man in leather armor, held a bound and gagged girl by the arms. She looked pretty beat up too, she’d fought against them.

    Slash looked over at Bishop again, who once more stepped protectively in front of Bast, while Karnwyr gave a low growl of warning.

    Slash stopped a minute and said, “See anything you like Bish? You know, Thorn’s still offering you a position with us at the top if you’re interested.”

    Bane held the girl close to him and he leaned his face up next to hers so they were cheek to cheek while he gave Bishop a nasty smirk. Then he went ahead and licked the poor girl from the neck up making her shiver with fear and whimper through her gag. Bishop instinctively reached back to cover Bast’s eyes.

    He just glared at them. He wanted to help her, to save her, but he couldn’t. Everyone in that place was far too tangled up in Thorn’s web to ever give up what little he gave them any move he made, he’d be dead in seconds. And he had to think of his brother.

    Bishop watched, a scowl etched fiercely on his face as Bane circled his nasty tongue around the girl’s cheek before he moved back down her neck and bit her sharply making her wince in pain as he drew blood. Then he gave Bishop a nasty smirk and said, “She’s a tasty one. Sure you don’t want a piece?”

    “Get the fuck out of my face,” Bishop snarled. He couldn’t bear to stand there and watch these sick fucks do this for a minute longer. Finally, he grabbed Bast by the shoulder and hurried her along the path, while Karnwyr followed, his hair still bristling as he looked back at the two Whips who were both chuckling wickedly.

    Bast didn’t ask about it and he was grateful for that because he didn’t know how to try and explain what they just saw to a seven year old. He was feeling a lot less hungry after seeing that too, which was fine because they were broke.

    They went down to the dining area and he saw several men and a few of the Courtesans getting the stage set up for their show. They were busy erecting five separate metal poles along the stage and putting out plenty of candles for mood lighting.

    Bishop went up to the bar and called to the old nord fellow who ran the place, “Hey Ulftaag, what’s on the menu today?”

    The old man, who only had one good eye and a nice pair of scars over his bad one, scratched at his chin stubble and said, “Cabbage stew.”

    Bishop looked at him disgusted, “The same cabbage stew from last week?”

    “S’all I got,” he shrugged, “Got plenty of mead and ale if you’d rather fill up with that. Least its fresh.”

    “Fresh until you water it down with the swill in this lake,” he retorted.

    The old man leaned heavily on the counter and scowled at him, “You accusing me of ruining perfectly good drink Bishop?”

    “Yeah, I am.”

    Ulftaag frowned but then his lips twisted into a smirk and he laughed, “Well you’d be right about that. Thorn’s orders you know.”

    “I figured,” he said, “Look, do you have anything fresh? I’m watching Elska’s kid and don’t want to give her anything that’s gonna make her sick.”

    Ulftaag leaned around Bishop and looked over at the little girl who finally braved a pet on Karnwyr and started stroking his wiry fur. The old man sighed and said, “Alright, fine,” he pulled a key out of his pocket and said, “Take a look in the store room, but take just enough for the kid. I catch you stealing anymore than that and I’ll make sure the Whips hear about it. Already had enough trouble with the damn Thieves trying to break in there all the time.”

    Bishop grinned and said, “Thanks Ulftaag. I owe you.”

    “I’m doing this for Elska not you,” he turned away and went about cleaning some mugs with a dirty rag, which seemed counterintuitive but Bishop never drank there anyways.

    He went back up towards the entryway of the hideout and crossed over the small streamlet to a pair of very securely locked doors. Bishop chanced a glance over at the brothel. The line had gone down quite a bit, he could actually see the end of it. They’d started to let the clients inside for ‘dates’ probably. The whole thing was a show and a game. First they got them all riled up with ‘dates’, casual flirting and teasing by the working girls, then the men would get to watch the show, enjoy their drinks and toss gold at the feet of the women dancing for them and after the fact they’d get to bid on their favorites before having an entire night alone with the woman they won.

    Bishop rolled his eyes. It was crazy and pointless to him, but he figured if he was as butt ugly as some of those poor sods he’d probably be just as pathetically desperate too.

    Thorn was a real genius coming up with something like that. The wealthier men who came calling, especially those coming in to visit from faraway places like Elsweyr, Hammerfell and even the Summerset Isles, spent a ton of coin just for the experience. Elska was damn good at what she did too, making sure to put on a real spectacle with her girls. He’d seen it once himself and had to go take a dip in the lake just to cool off.

    Bishop turned his attention back to the task at hand then and fit the key into the lock on the store room door and let himself in. He looked around. Most everything up front was starting to spoil, which was why it was up front, it needed to be used. He started browsing around the back of the shelves and managed to find some good bread, it was a little stale, but better than nothing and he went over to the large ice box and pulled out a fresh slab of horker loaf from the bottom. He grabbed a few decent looking vegetables and snagged a couple bottles of Honningbrew for himself and his brother, stuffing the few things he probably shouldn’t have taken into a bag on his hip.

    Once he had everything he needed he locked the store room up again and went back up with Bast and Karnwyr, making sure to stop by the bar to give Ulftaag his key and his thanks.

    The minute they went into his room though he saw Jules convulsing violently on the bed. Bishop dropped everything and ran over to his brother, putting a hand to his chest and arms, trying to hold him steady, “Jules! Jules!” He shouted.

    After a minute or so the convulsions stopped and Jules took a sharp, struggling breath. He was covered in perspiration and wheezing harshly. He squinted up at Bishop and choked out, “Don’t think the potion’s… working… anymore.”

    Shit,” Bishop looked around then grabbed another one of the bottles of potion from the table nearby. He uncorked it and took a whiff. It didn’t have the usual smell it was meant to have. Could Elgrim have used the wrong ingredients? Maybe he used some of the spoiled plants he brought with him. He didn’t know, but he was afraid to give more to his brother in case he was having a bad reaction to it.

    Jules leaned over suddenly and started coughing hard into his hand, hard enough that he coughed up way more blood than Bishop was comfortable with.

    Bast went over to him and said, “Sometimes I cough up blood too.” Bishop looked down at her and she looked up at him and said, “He can have some of my potion. Qetesh will make me more. She’s got lots of it.”

    Bishop pulled the strange red and green potion out of his pocket. Elska said that if Bast got sick that he’d only need to give her half of it. He looked back over at his brother who was taking short, sharp breaths, like he was struggling to breathe.

    Bishop went for it. He grabbed an old but clean tankard from a shelf and poured half of the potion into it and knelt by his brother and held his head, “Drink this.”

    He held the tankard to Jules lips and he quickly swallowed the strange mixture. He sighed and leaned back on his pillow. In minutes the color had returned completely to his face and his breathing went from ragged to normal.

    He took a few deep breaths and sat up suddenly saying, “Wow… wow.” He looked at Bishop and asked, “What was that stuff? I feel… normal. Healthy! And it didn’t even taste like Chaurus guts either. It was good like, juniper berries.”

    Jules stood right up and flexed his hands out, and shifted his shoulders, “Amazing. I don’t even feel achy anymore.”

    Bishop couldn’t believe the transformation in his brother. He looked over at Bast, then knelt down to her height and put his hands to her shoulders, “Thank you Bast. Thank you.”

    “Yeah!” Jules said, twisting his waist back and forth while he stretched his arms out, “Thanks a lot! That potion was amazing!”

    “You’re welcome,” she said politely.

    “You said your sister makes it?” Bishop asked. Bast nodded and then he asked, “Do you think I can meet her?”

    She smiled, “Sure. We can ask Mama.”

    Bishop returned her smile and though she probably didn’t realize it then he was more grateful to her than she’d ever know.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 70

    Squeaky Wheels

     

    (Recommended background music Limited Time or The South Gate Border from the FFIX Soundtrack)

    It was fairly late in the evening. Bishop sat by in one of the rickety chairs at their small table, sipping on the second bottle of Honningbrew. He’d tucked Bast into his bed earlier, letting her sleep when she got tired. Jules was feeling so good he ran off to go find Elise and pick her up for their date and hadn’t returned yet because he was probably spending the night with her.

    Karnwyr slept soundly in Jules’ bed too. On his back with his feet in the air, paws curled over. Bishop tipped the rest of the drink back then set it aside on the table and yawned. He was ready to pass out himself. It had to be nearly three in the morning. Then he heard a light rap at the door and went over to get it.

    He opened it and Elska was standing by, fully dressed in a white and mauve tavern dress, which accentuated her figure nicely. For a woman who’d been dancing and having sex all night she sure looked amazing. Perfect makeup and hair still.

    “Sorry it’s so late,” she whispered.

    “No problem, figured you’d be busy all night,” he said quietly as he let her in and she went over to her sleeping child.

    “How was she?”

    “Quietest kid I’ve ever met,” he chuckled.

    Elska smiled and leaned over to kiss the little girl on her forehead, “I’m glad she was good for you. I never have to worry about her, she’s so mild mannered,” she turned back to Bishop and asked, “What do I owe you?”

    He waved a hand, “Don’t worry about it.”

    “Are you sure?” Elska pulled out a thick coin purse from inside her bra, “I made quite a bit this evening.”

    He crossed his arms and leaned against a wall and said, “Don’t worry about paying me. But can I ask you something?”

    “Of course.”

    “Who was Bast’s father?”

    Elska blinked and raised a brow, “Well, to be honest I really couldn’t say. You know my line of work Bishop…”

    “I mean, where was he from? Do you have any idea?”

    Elska thought for a moment and said, “I’m pretty sure he was a khajiit. I got pregnant with her around the time the Rift had a visit from plenty of wealthy khajiit nobles from Elsweyr,” she scrunched her nose, “I didn’t much care for that. They get too rough with their claws and the biting and their dicks are all barbed, hurts like hell-”

    Bishop put a hand up to stop her. That was way more than he ever wanted to know about the khajiit. He said, “My brother is half-khajiit. That’s why I asked.” She looked at him curiously as he pulled out the potion she’d given him earlier and he said, “Jules has suffered with physical problems for years now. He gets this awful cough and a fever really bad. At the worst he’ll cough up blood. It happened today. He was convulsing and could barely breathe. I used half this potion on him and it worked better than anything else I’ve ever tried.”

    He stepped over and handed it back to her and she looked it over in her hand and smiled weakly. “Bast was the same way,” she said, “My second oldest, Qetesh, she started to study alchemy and tried so many different mixtures and recipes. She tried everything to help her. Finally, she came up with this amazing elixir, a mix between a stamina potion and a health potion. It was a miracle,” she looked back over at her daughter and caressed her forehead, “She hardly ever gets sick anymore and when she does we just need half a bottle of this and she’s all better.”

    “Can I meet her? I’ll do whatever I have to do, but this other shit – the garbage I’ve been buying from these other alchemists that don’t give a damn, they’re not working anymore. I’ll pay, buy or find the ingredients myself. I’ll do anything,” he pleaded with her and she smiled kindly at him.

    “I’ll gladly introduce you. In fact, why don’t you come down to Fort Amol on your next day off and we’ll have dinner. You can meet all my girls and I’m sure you and Qetesh can work up some sort of arrangement together.”

    “Thanks Elska. I owe you for this.”

    “Think nothing of it Bishop. You’ve been kind to me and all my working girls. You’ve always looked out for us and have never tried to hurt us like some of the other men around here,” she handed him back the half potion and pulled another out of her bag, “Take these as payment for watching her for me. I’ve got another to tide me over until we get back home and it sounds like your brother needs them more than she does.”

    ~~~

    His next day off couldn’t come fast enough. He got stuck working Collections and had to threaten to crack some skulls at the local businesses in the Rift, which he never cared for. Most of the people he was harassing were just innocent folk, trying to go about their lives in peace and here he was shaking them down for ‘protection’ money.

    Thankfully his next day off was tomorrow and he planned to go see Elska with Jules then. He’d finished up for the evening and was heading back up to his room with Karnwyr when a Rat caught up to him and stopped him.

    “Uhh, Bishop? You’re Bishop right? With the wolf?”

    Bishop didn’t even look at the boy as he kept right on walking and said, “Yeah. What do you want Rat?”

    “Thorn’s asking for you.”

    Bishop grit his teeth and grumbled, “God damn it.” He kept walking though and took Karnwyr up to his room and went in. He caught Jules in a precarious position with his lady friend, not totally unclothed, though her top was yanked down and she was straddling him on the bed while they were heavily lip-locked. Karnwyr padded right over to them and threw his front paws up on the bed, making to lick at Jules face startling the both of them. Bishop smirked and said teasingly, “I’m home pumpkin.”

    Elise quickly pulled away from Jules, blushing furiously and yanked the top of her tunic back up as she sat back on the bed normally. She was a very pretty nord woman with beautiful, long golden blonde hair, gorgeous dark brown eyes and she had a very nice figure.

    Jules leaned around her, pushing Karnwyr down and scowled at Bishop, “Ever heard of knocking!?”

    Bishop laughed, “Why would I knock on my own door?”

    Jules held a hand out to Elise who looked even more embarrassed when he said, “Because of the obvious?

    Bishop rolled his eyes and took his quiver and bow off, setting them aside and said, “Don’t mind me. Just stopping in to drop a few things off. Feel free to continue after I leave.”

    Jules frowned at him, “Where are you going?”

    “Got called down to Thorn’s lair,” he said, setting his dagger on the table.

    Again?” Jules scoffed.

    “Guess it’s my own fault for being too good at what I do.”

    “He creeps me out,” Elise said as her embarrassment subsided, “How do you put up with it?”

    “Well,” Bishop said, “I like keeping my skin firmly attached to my body. That’s all the motivation I need to put up with it.”

    She looked at his weapons and said, “You’re going unarmed?”

    “Those are the rules,” he replied.

    She knit her brows together and asked, “Will you be alright?”

    He shrugged, “I’m sure he just wants to pile more jobs on my shoulders,” he looked over at Jules and said, “Which means our meeting tomorrow might get pushed back.”

    “I should be okay,” Jules said, “I only needed the other half of that potion once this week. That stuff is amazing. It lasts way longer than that nasty goop you were getting from Elgrim.”

    “Glad to hear it,” Bishop said as he walked to the door again, “Look after Karnwyr for me and uh,” he smirked at them, “have fun you two.” Jules looked at him annoyed and Bishop gave him a wink before sweeping out the door.

    Thorn’s lair, as everyone called it, was located further down in the tunnels. He liked being closer to the first floor and got some sort of weird pleasure over it being a little deeper down in the ground, treating it like a real lair. Bishop was sure it was because it struck more fear into his victims whenever they were dragged down there.

    He came up to the entrance where the two orcs from the day before, that were working Muscle outside the brothel, were now working Muscle outside Thorn’s doors. Their eyes followed Bishop as he let himself in, but otherwise made no move to stop him. He was such a regular that they never even bothered to search him anymore.

    (Recommended background music Gloom from FFX Soundtrack)

    He went down the tunnel, walking by Thorn’s torture chamber. Thankfully there was no one screaming in there that evening. He hated arriving, only to have to listen to one of those deranged monsters torturing some helpless woman within. Instead he heard the voices of every one of The Whips talking loudly further down. He stepped inside and found six men, seated at a large table centered in the middle of the lavishly furnished room eating a traditional nordic feast. All the food was fresh and clean looking. Of course Thorn would never dine on any of the rotten stuff he left for everyone else.

    The room itself looked like an incredibly absurd and mismatched palace. There were plenty of high end and elegant pieces of furniture fit in the corners and against the walls, but none of it matched. There was also an assortment of odd paintings, all very violent and abstract looking, some even ripped and torn. There were banners hung up from each hold as well which were burned at the edges or cut to ribbons.

    There was a very large and elegantly, patterned khajiiti rug on the floor which had probably been beautiful at one point in time but was now ripped and frayed in the corners and stained in places with wine… or blood. Probably blood, he guessed. Thorn’s taste in decorating was strange to say the least.

    Seated around the table were Thorn’s closest nord companions, Bane, Sten, Lars and Vince. Bishop always got the feeling that Vince was the only one of them that didn’t care for the sadistic shit they were all into, but he certainly wasn’t opposed to forcing himself on a woman either and he seemed to like the power that being a Whip gave him. The only odd man out was Slash, since he was a khajiit. Thorn was seated in the center of the table facing the hall and he was in the midst of a particularly nasty tale of his, “…and then I carved out her liver. Mmm, the way she squirmed and screamed under me as I ripped it out of her, listening to those thick veins snapping… makes me shiver with pleasure just thinking about it.”

    The others had wicked grins on their faces and chuckled lightly at the disturbing dinner conversation.

    Bishop stood by, arms crossed, maintaining his gruff demeanor and expression as he watched all the sick freaks tear into their plates of bloody venison. He cleared his throat and caught Thorn’s attention.

    Thorn looked up from his very rare bite of meat and flashed Bishop a nasty grin, “Ah, if it isn’t Bishop. Glad to see my Rat caught up with you.”

    “What do you want Thorn?” He was curt and to the point. The sooner Thorn told him whatever the hell he wanted the sooner he could leave.

    “Why the hurry?” Thorn asked. Bishop rolled his eyes. He always asked this. Every time. Because he enjoyed provoking Bishop and wasting his time whenever he could.

    “You know why,” he said shortly again with half-lidded eyes, “Now just tell me what job you’ve got for me and I’ll go take care of it like I always do.”

    Thorn gave a dry laugh and said, “You are my favorite Bishop. Wish the other Specialists had more drive like you. We’d get a lot more done around here if they had your attitude.”

    Bishop grumbled under his breath as Thorn kept stalling and dancing around the subject.

    His nasty grin got a little wider as he said, “Fine job you did this week in Collections. Real fine job.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Bishop said annoyed, “Can you just tell me what you need? I’m fucking tired and want to go get piss-ass drunk and pass out already.”

    Thorn picked at a piece of red meat stuck in his teeth with his thick, dirty finger and leaned back in his throne of a chair, throwing his boots up on the table, “Alright Bishop. I’ve got another Collections job for you that only you can handle.”

    Bishop made a face that shouted, so out with it!

    “I need you to make a trip out to Riften. There’s an old friend of mine there that owes me quite a bit of gold. Name’s Mercer Frey.”

    Bishop scowled at him, “You want me to hit up the leader of the Thieves Guild for protection money? Are you insane?

    Thorn’s grin got a little wider and nastier when he said, “I think it’s about time the Guild started to learn their place in my kingdom. They need to pay their dues and oh my… do they owe me.”

    “So you’re sending me on a suicide mission then? Trying to kill off your best?”

    Thorn laughed, “I’m not an idiot Bish. I’ll be sending plenty of Muscle with you. You’ve got the orcs, Biggs and Wedge, along with six of my best Specialists. I’m sending a bunch of the Thieves with you as well, including your brother, that way you have more incentive to get out of their alive.”

    Bishop did not like this idea at all. He’d had some sparse dealings with the Thieves Guild in the past. The only one he’d really been acquainted with was Delvin Mallory when he’d used him as a fence to pawn off some more expensive steals and even then the man had screwed him over.

    He’d seen the place. The Flagon was dirty, being in a sewer and all, and really didn’t seem like much to look at, but he knew appearances weren’t everything. He figured they made it look like a shithole intentionally so anyone looking to screw over the Guild would let their guards down and be easier to gut and dump right into that slimy water.

    He’d also seen plenty of their own coming and going and they had quite a bit of muscle themselves. But it was only natural that Thorn would continue to spread his reach over the Rift and it seemed that day had finally come.

    “When do you want me to take care of this for you?”

    Thorn clasped his hands together and smirked, “No worries, I won’t cut into your time off. Take your days to yourself, get plenty of rest. I want you at your sharpest. You’ll head out on Morndas and should be in Riften in a day or so. That’s when you’ll meet with Frey.”

    “And he’s expecting us?”

    Thorn chuckled dryly, “Shouldn’t be, unless we have a squeaky wheel in the group.”

    Bishop raised a brow at him, “You think someone in group is leaking information to the Guild?”

    Thorn licked at his lips and said, “That I do. That big job I had my Thieves running… seems the Guild beat us to it. Only way they’d have known about it is if one of our own ran off and told them. Been happening a lot lately, in fact.”

    “So you’re looking to flush them out,” he paused thinking and realized, asking, “The Thieves coming with me?”

    “All on my suspects list,” he confirmed, flashing a wicked grin and said, “I’m sure you’ll go run off and ask your baby brother if he’s the one double dipping, working for me and the Guild.”

    Bishop felt his heart pounding in his chest then. Jules wouldn’t… he couldn’t be that stupid, could he? He wasn’t always around though. Sure he got sick a lot, but most of the time he was doing okay and working with some of the other Thieves. A tight knit group of them in fact. Him and five others… Thorn was sending six Thieves and six Specialists. Bishop pieced it together. Thorn suspected Jules and all his friends and he had Specialists ready to work Murder for each of them if he was right.

    Thorn stared at him, watching his face for any flicker of movement that gave away his thoughts, but Bishop was an expert at staying straight faced. Then looking smug Thorn finally said, “It’s up to you whether you confront him first or not. By all means, spread the word for me. Get our little beehive buzzing. I want everyone to know that I won’t tolerate traitors. We’ve got enough Rats crawling around here, I don’t need any more in my kingdom. I’ll tell you one thing for damn sure though, Bishop. If I find out it’s him… any of them… well, let’s just say I’m looking forward to painting my walls with blood.”

    ~~~

    Bishop stalked up the path back to his room mulling over this new information. He could ask his brother and make sure he kept his fucking mouth shut about it. But if Jules didn’t… he’d run off and tell the others in his group. No doubt, if they were guilty, some of them would get scared and Thorn would be prepared, jaws open and ready to snap shut on any one of them that tried to run.

    He probably had Rats on all of them already. Bishop stopped suddenly and looked over his shoulder, glancing around for any sneaky kids tailing him. No sign of anyone though… he made sure to squint his eyes, really looking. If they had invisibility potions and many of them did, he’d see their outline, a thin transparent line, distorting the cavern walls. Nothing.

    He continued walking, feeling incredibly paranoid. Jules wouldn’t like it, but he was already planning their escape from that place. First they’d meet with Elska, meet her daughter, the one who made that potion. He’d fucking learn how to make it himself. He was okay at alchemy, knew how to brew a good healing potion. He was sure he could handle something like this if he really focused and paid attention.

    He made it back to their room and went inside, making sure to tuck through the door tightly, in case he really did miss anyone tailing him. Karnwyr was sleeping over on his bed, face on his paws while he snoozed and Jules was alone, laying on his bed, hands behind his head, with a satisfied smirk on his face. At least he wouldn’t have to kick Elise out.

    Bishop pulled up a chair, sitting backwards in it facing his brother. Jules looked over at him, still grinning and asked, “So, what’d the degenerate want?” Bishop gave him a very serious look and Jules raised his brows, “What?”

    “You trust me, right?”

    “Yeah of course,” Jules sat upright looking over his brother’s stern expression and asked again, “Bish, what? What is it?”

    “I need you to trust me Jules and I need you to be totally honest with me,” he said firmly.

    Jules grumbled frustrated, “Would you spit it out already? You’re starting to freak me out.”

    “You been picking up side work with the Thieves Guild?” Bishop kept his eyes on his brother and caught a tiny hint of a tell when the corner of his eye twitched ever so slightly. Jules caught himself though, he’d been getting damn good at keeping a straight face.

    And then he lied, “No. Of course not. Why do you ask?”

    “I’m working Collections next week,” he said.

    Jules looked perplexed, “What’s that got to do with the Thieves Guild?”

    “Collecting from Mercer Frey,” he said flatly.

    Jules’ jaw dropped and his eyes widened, “Is Thorn insane? He’s going to get you killed!”

    “Not going alone,” Bishop said, “We’re bringing Muscle, Specialists and plenty of Thieves all our own.”

    Jules looked really worried then and said, “Who?”

    “You.”

    Me? But why me?”

    “Thorn knows Jules. He knows what you and your group have been up to. He knows you’ve been leaking information on their jobs to the Guild and he’s coming for blood. Yours, theirs, every single squeaky wheel in the place. He wanted me to tell you because he wants you to tell them and he’s ready for whoever runs,” Bishop was firm, telling him everything as matter-of-factly as possible. Then he glared at his brother, his brows lowering darkly over his eyes, “You promised to trust me and you fucking lied to my face just now.”

    Jules looked away ashamed, “Bish… I’m sorry. Elise… she’s… fuck,” he looked back at his brother, knitting his brows together, “If Thorn ever gets his hands on her… gods.”

    Bishop said, “I won’t let that happen. We’re going to get the hell out of here, but we have to be safe about it. Tell the others, but no one runs,” he jut a finger at him, “You make damn sure of that because anyone that runs, Jules, dies.”

    “Fuuuck… fuck, fuck, fuck!” Jules clenched his fists and looked around the room, getting antsy.

    “Why?” Bishop asked him shaking his head, “Why’d you do it?”

    Jules sighed “Because the money’s good Bishop. And the people are good, damn better than here. They actually respect you if you know what you’re doing… and I mean, I’m not as good a thief as the others, but I’m great with numbers and Mercer always needs me. I’m practically his right hand man when it comes to cooking books.”

    But telling them about the jobs,” Bishop seethed, “You didn’t think Thorn would fucking notice every damn time the Guild beat him to the punch!?”

    “That wasn’t me!” Jules shouted, “It was Vilvik. He’s an idiot, thinks he can make his way up in the Guild by leaking every one of Thorn’s secrets to Mercer.”

    “This is how you get yourself killed,” Bishop growled, “By trusting these people. Haven’t you learned anything yet? You can’t trust anyone.

    Jules met his gaze and asked, “Not even you?”

    Bishop snarled, “I’m the only one you can trust. I’ve always had your back Jules. I hope you remember that next time you get the nerve to lie right to my face.” He got up and stalked over to his bed, throwing his clothes off down to his underwear then yanked the blanket up, forcing Karnwyr to move over.

    He crawled in his bed, turning away from his brother. He was pissed, he was scared and he had a bad feeling about all of it.

    ~~~

    (Recommended background music Frontier Village Dali or Lindblum from the FFIX Soundtrack)

    The next day the two of them hardly spoke. Bishop was still furious with his brother for lying to him and Jules could sense his ire. The two of them got dressed though and left with Karnwyr for Fort Amol. Luckily it wasn’t too far away, only an hour’s walk from the hideout.

    When they arrived at the old broken down fort they were greeted by a few of the Courtesans and some of the Thieves living out of there. The place was fairly busy and bustling for being so run down. There were plenty of kids running all over the place too. The folk that lived there had essentially turned the outside pavilion into a small market square where they could sell and exchange goods and services.

    Since Bishop was one of the more well known Specialists he was personally greeted by plenty of the Courtesans and a few of the Thieves. He was polite but short with them as they wandered around looking for Elska. She’d said she would meet them outside so they stopped by a well that’d been dug up and fashioned together with some old stones in a quiet corner to wait.

    Karnwyr sniffed at the feet of all the passersby and a few stopped to pet him. One woman in particular caught Bishop’s eye as she stopped to give the wolf some lavish attention. She was drop-dead gorgeous. She had beautiful, long, dark-brown hair that curled around the nape of her thin neck and past her shoulder blades, she had very full lips and long eyelashes that bat over her big brown eyes. She was wearing a green, belted tunic, and dark trousers that shaped nicely around her curvy hips and firm ass. As she knelt down to give Karnwyr some really thorough neck scratches, putting her pretty face up to his and cooing at him, Bishop got an excellent view of her ample bosom and her lovely cleavage as her tunic dipped a little.

    “Well aren’t you a handsome man,” she said with a beautiful smile to Karnwyr, praising him as she rubbed him in just the right spot behind his ears, getting him to start scratching at the air with his leg as if to say, yeesss that’s the spot!

    She gave the wolf a kiss on his head then and Bishop couldn’t stop himself, he didn’t want to. “Can I borrow one of those?” He asked her.

    Her pretty eyes looked right up at him curiously and she cocked her head a little. “Borrow what?”

    “One of those kisses.” She laughed a little, which pleased him very much. Then he said with a charming grin, “I promise to give it back.”

    A flirty smirk curled at her luscious lips and she stood up, her bosom bouncing with her and she said, “You must be Bishop.”

    “Damn, already heard about me. Only good things I hope.”

    “Well considering you stole my little sister’s heart, I’m not so sure about that,” she teased.

    But his smile fell and he started wracking his brain on just what woman he slept with that might still be pissed at him for coming and running – and who might’ve been related to this beautiful woman in front of him. He was at a loss and said dumbfounded, “Uhhh…”

    The woman held out a hand and said, “Freya. My little sister Bast’s told us all about you.”

    “Ooh,” he said with relief as he took her hand and flashed her his roguish grin again, “That little sister. Yeah, she’s a real sweetheart, you know when she isn’t taking me for all I’m worth.”

    Freya laughed then looked over at Jules who was turning his head away, as if he were trying really hard not to be noticed. She said, “Oh Jules, I didn’t know you had a brother.”

    Jules said, “Uh yeah. My big brother, Bishop. Now you know,” he seemed not too thrilled about this meeting.

    Bishop of course gave him a hard time about it saying, “You know this goddess and you never introduced me?”

    Freya cocked an eyebrow, still smirking and started to get a real good look at Bishop then, with her eyes traveling up and down his muscular form and resting for a brief moment on the outline of the package in his trousers before she moved on again.

    Jules pressed his lips together and said, “Well… we’re just acquaintances really.”

    Bishop threw his arm over his brother’s shoulder and said, “Baby brother, you do not keep a holy Divine like her all to yourself.”

    Jules rolled his eyes and changed the subject, looking at Freya and asking, “So if you’re Bast’s sister then that means… you’re one of Elska’s kids?”

    “Sure am,” she said, “The oldest of the four.”

    Bishop had to meet them. He had to know if the other two were as sexy as her. “So, when do we get to meet the rest of your lovely family?”

    “Right now,” she said, motioning for them to follow her.

    Bishop’s eyes were glued to her round derriere with hardly much tunic covering it, he praised the gods for that. She led them through the fort and past the kitchens into a spacious living area the occupants had adorned with plenty of furniture, which, much like Thorn’s lair, was all mismatched. The place was a lot less sinister looking though, especially since there were toys and little kids running all over the place.

    Both Bishop and Jules had to watch where they stepped as children between the ages of five and ten wove between them, chasing and playing with each other. Several stopped to grab at Karnwyr too who growled, annoyed and he had to give the wolf a few warnings because he was afraid he’d bite one of them. Bishop even caught sight of a few toddlers stumbling around while some of the Courtesans, presumably their mothers, sat by entertaining and watching their babies and kept an eye on the other kids.

    Bishop nearly tripped when one kid plowed right into him. The little boy stumbled back, looking up at him wide-eyed before a little girl ran over and touched his shoulder and screamed, “TAG! YOU’RE IT!” Then ran away again giggling madly.

    Bishop stuck his pinky in his ear, twisted it and snarled, “Gods! How do you put up with this? You live here?”

    Freya laughed and said, “Yeah, you get used to it. You never get bored, that’s for damn sure.”

    “I bet,” he said as they finally got away from the child infested living space, however there was no shortage of little ones running through the halls either. Both he and Jules watched their feet and finally Freya led them into a large room with four beds pressed against the side wall. Three dressers and a wardrobe adorned the rest of the wall space and a medium sized dining table sat in the center of the room with long benches flanking either side of it.

    Elska and two other women, Bishop presumed were her other daughters, were seated at the table with an assortment of alchemical ingredients sitting in front of them in bowls.

    Bishop noted that the other two women were very close in age to Freya and also just as beautiful. If there was one thing Elska was good at, it was producing some of the prettiest women he’d ever seen.

    Elska looked over at the two of them and said, “Oh Bishop! Please, join us.”

    “Gladly,” he grinned. Jules went with him and they sat down across from the three women. Freya made a point to sit right next to Bishop, which he did not mind in the slightest.

    Elska said, “You must be Jules,” she held a hand out and he took it.

    “Yeah, nice to finally meet you Miss Elska,” he said politely.

    “Oh, please,” she smiled warmly, “Just call me Elska. I see you’ve already met Freya. And these are my other daughters Venus,” she put a hand to a pretty Imperial looking woman with high cheekbones and long mousy brown hair. Then she put a hand to the obviously orc woman and said, “And this is our famous alchemist, Qetesh.”

    Bishop shook her hand. Although she was clearly half orc she was incredibly beautiful too. She had a full figure just like Elska and very small bottom incisors that jut out a bit from her full lips. Her thick, black dreadlocks were long and well cared for, parted nicely around her face and her bright golden eyes rivaled Bishop’s amber ones.

    “Great to finally meet you,” he said to her.

    “Likewise,” she said smiling, “Bast just can’t stop talking about you.”

    He chuckled and looked around, “That quiet little girl? Where is she anyhow?”

    “Probably out playing with the other children,” Elska said, “She likes the outdoors and tends to spend her time climbing up any good trees she can find.”

    Bishop looked over the ingredients on the table and asked, “So, is this it? Everything you need to make that crazy potion of yours?”

    “That’s all of it,” Qetesh said.

    Bishop looked over each bowl and pointed to the one nearest to him, “Alright, what’s this?”

    “Charred skeever hide,” she said.

    Jules made a gagging face, “Ugh… really? I have to drink this you know.”

    Qetesh laughed, “Well you definitely don’t want to know the next one then.” He looked over at the soupy goop in the next bowl over and she said, “Sabre cat eyes.”

    Jules held a hand to his mouth and Bishop asked, “You, uh, mash them up?”

    She shrugged, “Makes for a better consistency,” she looked at the third and said, “Hawk feathers. You’ll want to grind them down into this dust.”

    He glanced at the fourth bowl and raised his brow, “Nirnroot? Thought that stuff was for invisibility potions.”

    “Usually is,” she said, “Something about adding a leaf of Nirnroot just binds the mixture better. Thing is though, it’s nothing compared to a special kind of Nirnroot I came across once.”

    “What kind of special?” Bishop asked.

    “Well, I’d been all over Skyrim, years ago, when I was still trying to make the best potion I could for Bast. I stumbled upon a very strange place underneath a Dwemer ruin. It was a huge cavern full of tall, glowing plants. It was otherworldly. I discovered a red colored Nirnroot down in that place. Brought as many as I could find back with me, once I’d figured out how to get the hell out of there. Used it in my mix and damn… the effect it had was astounding. Bast didn’t need another potion for over a month. Unfortunately, I ran out years ago and never had an opportunity to try searching for that strange place again. Regular leaf of Nirnroot works just fine for it, but it’s not as effective as the red one sadly.”

    “What Dwemer ruin was it in?”

    “Alfthand,” she said, “Nasty place that was. Full of falmer and of course Dwarven automatons. I don’t recommend trekking through there. It’s easy to get lost and even worse if you find yourself in the depths of that strange place below the ruins.”

    Unfortunately, Bishop didn’t have the luxury to go spend days, weeks, or months at a time crawling through ruins, not with Thorn at his back. He’d have to stick with the regular Nirnroot. Skeever hide would be easy to get considering the damn things were crawling around everywhere in Lost Knife. The sabre cat eyes would be a bit harder, but nothing short of his usual prey, same with the hawk feathers. As for the Nirnroot, well that’d be easy too since you could hear the damn things from miles away.

    “Show me how to mix it,” he said.

    “You ever mixed potions before?” She asked.

    “Plenty of crappy healing potions,” he grinned.

    She chuckled and got up and said, “Alright, let’s get started then.”

    Qetesh spent a good couple of hours showing him the right temperature for each ingredient, when to mix it and how much of each. She even added in juniper berries after to help with the taste.

    While the two of them worked on that Jules got to chatting with the other three women and as another hour rolled on by Bast finally came in, a surprising little chatterbox, going a mile a minute, “Mama, when is Bishop going to be here? I found a pretty yellow mountain flower, like his eyes and -” she saw him over in the corner, mixing potions with Qetesh and he glanced back, waving at her, smiling and saying, “Hey kid.”

    Her face turned the deepest shade of red and she clammed right up and ran back out the door. The other women all burst into laughter and Freya said, “Told you she couldn’t stop talking about you!”

    Bishop,” Elska simpered, “You’ve gone and stolen my youngest’s heart, how could you!”

    He chuckled, “Must be my animal magnetism.”

    He finished mixing his potion and Qetesh looked it over, “Seems alright,” she said, “Bit too much eyeball fluid, but it’ll do. Let him try it.”

    Bishop walked over and passed the potion off to Jules who grimaced and said, “Too much eyeball fluid?

    “Bottoms up,” he said smirking at him.

    Jules sighed and drank it in a quick gulp. He scrunched his face and said, “Not as bad as Elgrim’s, but definitely not as good as hers. Kind of sour.”

    “Picky, picky, picky,” Bishop rolled his eyes, “The real question is, how do you feel?”

    “Pretty good,” he said, “But I’ve been feeling great since the last time I took that stuff.”

    “Well, keep practicing it anyhow,” Qetesh said, “And when he has an episode give him one and see how he feels. I’ve gotten really good at making it myself and have plenty of extra too, but I’ll have to charge you if you want to buy from me, the ingredients aren’t the easiest to come by.”

    “We’ll keep that in mind,” Bishop said.

    Jules however tossed a coin purse on the table and asked, “How many can I get with that?”

    Qetesh took it and sifted through the pouch, “Got a decent amount here, I can sell you four more. This’ll be enough to cover the cost of the ingredients plus a little extra for my labor.”

    “I’ll take it!” Jules said grinning.

    Bishop frowned, “What? Don’t trust me to make it for yah?”

    Jules narrowed his eyes and held his hands out, “Too much eyeball fluid.

    They all shared in a laugh and Elska asked, “So, what do you boys plan to do with the rest of your day?”

    “Didn’t have any other plans,” Bishop said. He wasn’t in any hurry to leave though, especially when his eyes met with Freya’s and he said, “What do you say we stay for dinner? I can cook you all something.”

    “That sounds lovely!” Elska said cheerfully.

    He and his brother spent the rest of the day with the women, having good conversation, telling stories and laughing a lot. Even Bast found the courage to rejoin them at one point, though she went tight-lipped around Bishop again. He found a small branch laying on the floor and started whittling it with his knife while he listened to Freya and Qetesh tease Venus for being such a poor thief.

    She frowned deeply, arms crossed and said, “I’d rather be a merchant if I had a choice!”

    “Yeah, too bad there’s no Merchants tier in the group,” Freya laughed, “Bet you could sell all those bits of jewelry you make for a lot though.”

    “You should see what this woman can do with all the tacky stuff we come across,” Qetesh said enthusiastically, “tears it all apart and makes some of the most beautiful pieces I’ve ever seen”.

    Elska clutched at a pretty and intricate necklace, adorned with emeralds on her neck and said, “She made this piece for me. It’s my absolute favorite.” She gave Venus a very motherly kiss on the cheek and the woman blushed a little and scoffed, “Mother.”

    They all teased and Bishop was grinning. He was enjoying their company, it was a nice change of pace getting out of the hideout and away from all nastiness that festered there. Elska and Qetesh had gotten up to use the powder room, as they called it, while Jules was busy asking Venus about the possibility of her making a pair of earrings and a necklace for Elise if he provided the materials. Bast was over on her bed playing with her raggedy doll and petting Karnwyr who was leaning into her hand as she scratched behind his ears.

    Bishop finished whittling a doll sized bow and two tiny sticks for arrows while Freya watched him curiously the entire time. He leaned over to her asked, “Mind if I take a hair?”

    She raised a brow at him, “You want a bit of my hair?”

    “Just one strand will do, then I can finish the bow I’m making,” he held up the tiny thing and she smirked at him.

    She turned her head and said, “Alright, but just one.”

    He ran his fingers through her soft locks, enjoying the feeling on his hand, then touched her scalp underneath and started to massage her head a little, giving her a taste of his skills.

    She gave a light sigh and said sensually, “I thought you were taking a hair?”

    “In due time, my dear, but to get the best one you have to stroke it gently.”

    She chuckled a little and he set his tiny project aside as he took his other hand and began a full scalp massage on her. Her light moans were doing a fine job of making his trousers a bit too tight. He didn’t want to drag the tease on too long though, as the others would be back soon, so he reeled it back and gently pulled a single hair from her head.

    She turned to face him again a light blush burning on her cheeks as she asked, “Hmm… did you get the best one?”

    He looked over her beautiful face, his eyes smoldering with desire and whispered, “Oh definitely.”

    Then as Elska and Qetesh returned he quickly grabbed the tiny bow and started to twist Freya’s hair to it, creating a string for the thing. It certainly wouldn’t work like a real bow, too small and easy to break, but it would do for a child’s toy. He tore a piece of stray leather from his cuirass and cut it down into a small strip then got up and went over to Bast, who was happily swaying her shoulders back and forth while she made a funny face at Karnwyr, sticking her tongue out like he was.

    Bishop chuckled and she looked up at him, fully embarrassed yet again. He asked, “Hey, lemme see your doll.”

    She grabbed the ratty thing and passed it to him. He tied the leather strap over the shoulder and hip of the doll and tucked the bow and two arrow sticks into it and handed it back to her, “There, now she’s a real hunter.”

    Bast stared wide-eyed at the thing, amazed and she looked up at him and shyly mumbled, “Thank you…”

    He grinned and said, “You’re very welcome, Princess.” Then he turned back to the others and said, “Who’s hungry? Let’s get some food cooking.”

    Everyone agreed and Bishop spent the evening in their shared kitchen with Freya, who’d volunteered to help him, much to Jules’ chagrin it seemed. He ignored his brother though and focused his attention on the tasks at hand, one being to make supper and the other being to flirt and charm this lovely woman as much as possible.

    After they all dined, Elska thanked Bishop for his kindness and went to go to bed with Bast. Venus joined shortly thereafter, but Freya insisted they continue the evening together, suggesting they play a game of dice. Bishop eagerly agreed and Qetesh shrugged, saying she’d join. Jules was itching to go already, but reluctantly joined them all when Bishop told him they’d probably have to spend the night anyways since it was too late to travel the roads safely.

    They took their drinks out into the now quiet living space, devoid of any children who’d all been hurried off to bed for the night and sat down at a medium sized table. Karnwyr plopped down between Bishop’s legs and nodded off. Freya pulled out a deck of playing cards and started shuffling them with impressive skill.

    Bishop kept his eyes on her the entire time. He liked her hands, she had nice nails, she had nice everything to be honest, but he liked way her delicate hands moved as she shuffled the cards and dealt them out. He wanted those hands to touch him.

    She rolled out two die and grabbed a nearby child’s cup, half full with water and poured it out then set it on the table. The four of them started the game and Bishop renewed his subtle flirtations with both women, though he focused mainly on upping the ante with Freya.

    Jules even got a little more interested in the game when they started betting real gold. He was telling jokes and being his usual friendly self, though a few times he kicked Bishop in the leg whenever he got too flirty with Freya.

    Bishop ignored him of course, keeping up the tease with this fun woman. He’d noticed she was cheating throughout the whole game too. Whether she made it visible to him on purpose though, he wasn’t sure, but he did see her swipe the die out a few times for her own weighted pair and occasionally slipped one card out for another under her sleeve.

    Jules groaned loudly and Qetesh scoffed after Freya won another round and started raking in the gold on the table toward herself. Bishop flashed her a roguish grin, taking a sip of his mead and said, “I suppose I should know better than to play a game of dice with a bunch of Thieves.”

    She smirked at him and said, “Oh? You accusing me of cheating?”

    He chuckled, setting the bottle down and leaned his elbows on the table, “Now, now, darlin’, I wouldn’t do that since it’d require me to strip you down and search your person for those loaded die and the three aces you’re hiding up your sleeve. And I am a gentleman. I’d never strip a woman naked unless she wanted me too.” Freya’s eyes burned heavily with desire and he made sure to return the look.

    Qetesh leaned back and said, “Damn, you two need to get a room already. And seriously Freya? Couldn’t play one honest game?”

    Freya bit her lip and shrugged. Qetesh got up then and said, “Well, it’s been fun boys, but I need my beauty sleep. It was really nice meeting you both. And Jules, I really do hope you start to get better.”

    “With these potions, definitely,” he said and thanked her again. Qetesh disappeared down the hall and he looked over at Bishop and asked, “We really spending the night here?”

    “Unless you want to make the trek back in the middle of the night,” Bishop replied.

    Jules gave him a half-smile and said, “That I do! Meet you outside bro,” he got up, clicking for Karnwyr to follow and left Bishop and Freya alone together.

    She stood, collecting her cards and dice from the table and said, pouting a little, “Sorry to see you leave so soon.”

    He got up too and said, “Just keep an eye out for me at the hideout, darlin’. I’m usually around.”

    She stepped over to him, putting a hand to his hip and asked, “Still need to borrow that kiss?”

    He raised his brows and wet his lips, smiling, “Oh, very much so.”

    She leaned in and kissed him, deeply and he returned it with just as much vigor, wrapping his arms around her waist and exploring the depths of her lovely mouth while he got a nice taste of her very full lips. He enjoyed it a lot, especially when she got a handful of him through his pants. When they parted, reluctantly so, she said, “Be sure to give it back next time I see you.”

    She sauntered off down the dark hallway and he sighed, watching her go.

    He met up with Jules and Karnwyr outside and they started their walk back to Lost Knife. Bishop had been smiling the entire time and Jules finally said, “You should stay away from her.”

    The smile was wiped from his face and he looked over at his brother, “Why?”

    “She’s bad news, Bish. She plays nice, but Freya’s fucking nuts. You do not want to get involved with her.”

    “What kind of nuts?”

    “Like manipulative, crazy bitch nuts.”

    Bishop scoffed, “Pft… dealt with plenty of those types before. It’s nothing I can’t handle, plus the crazier ones are always a little more fun.”

    “Not this one Bishop. Just trust me on this.”

    They were quiet for a while and Bishop finally asked, “You told any of your friends yet?”

    “No,” Jules said, “I’m going to tell Elise tomorrow.”

    “Make sure she knows Jules. She runs…”

    “Yeah. I know,” he ran a hand through his mop of hair and sighed heavily, “The fuck have we gotten ourselves into?”

    “It’ll be fine,” Bishop assured him, “As long as no one runs, as long as you all keep your shit together and your mouths shut. We’ll get through this.”

    Bishop wasn’t so sure though. He was worried. But he prepared himself. His brother and his wolf were his number one priorities. He’d protect them, Jules especially, first and foremost, like he always did.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    (Trigger Warnings: Multiple Executions, Descriptions of Graphic Violence and Torture.)

    Chapter 71

    Your Torturous Ways

     

    Early Morndas morning, Bishop took Karnwyr with him and met up with the six Specialists and the two Muscle that he’d be working with down in the dining area. He groaned inwardly at the sight of Joren. He really couldn’t stand the dunmer man. He’d been trying to work his way up into the Whips and was nearly as depraved as the rest of them.

    The other five he recognized but didn’t really know too well since he tended to keep to himself most of the time and often worked alone. They consisted of three male nords, a female nord and one altmer man. He was also surprised and not very thrilled to see Slash and Lars with the group. But if they were Collecting from the Thieves Guild it was probably better to have more Muscle than not, not to mention magic and Lars specialized in that.

    Slash gave him a nasty grin, showing off his pointed teeth as he came down, “Was wondering if you were still going to show. Thought you got scared and ran off.”

    Bishop just rolled his eyes, crossed his arms and said, “So what’s the plan Slash?”

    “Hold on, still waiting for our Thieves,” he said.

    Thorn had called the six Thieves into his lair first thing that morning. It seemed he wanted to personally vet them for the job, which Bishop knew was a cover for his real plans. He wanted to strike fear in them, make sure they knew he was watching. He probably wanted to see how they all reacted to his questioning and Bishop had no doubt that he was busy torturing some poor soul in front of them to show them just what he was capable of as well.

    Bishop had warned Jules, told him to be ready for it and Jules in turn prepared the others. His brother was most worried for Elise though. She’d panicked the day before when he told her what was going on and Jules had to stop her from running. They spent a good two hours trying to calm her down up in their room and Bishop had to reiterate over and over again that if she ran, she was dead. He spent the entire day coaching her on keeping a straight face too for this exact situation.

    Things were getting tense, but they just needed to get through the day. One day, just one day, he kept reminding himself, just hold your shit together for one god damned day.

    Finally, after another twenty minutes of waiting the six Thieves arrived. With them were Jules and Elise as well as a breton woman, Rey, a dunmer man, Vilvik, a nord man Thogas and a young khajiit woman Anri. It was everyone from Jules’ tight knit group of friends and they all looked incredibly shook up, though unharmed, thankfully.

    Slash and Lars both had wicked grins on their faces as they watched the young Thieves come down. They all stood by and waited for orders. Slash stepped forward and said, “Alright, good, everyone’s here. So as you already know, we’re heading to Riften to shake down the Thieves Guild and put those cretins in their place. For too long we’ve been putting up with them beating us to every single job out there. Mercer Frey owes us plenty for all the jobs he’s swiped out from under our noses. Make sure you’re armed and ready. If they know what’s good for them they’ll start making regular payments.”

    He turned to Bishop then and said, “You’ll be our messenger Bishop. Make sure you’re clear on the terms,” Slash gave him a sheet of paper outlining everything Thorn was demanding. He folded it neatly and put it away in his pocket. The group set out then taking the path towards Riften.

    They stayed in their collective groups too, leading the way ahead were The Whips, behind them the two orc Muscle, Biggs and Wedge, then the Thieves, then Bishop and Karnwyr and the Specialists all behind them. Bishop noticed that his fellow Specialists would intentionally fall behind and slow their walking if any of the Thieves started walking slower or straying a little. Vilvik was the jumpiest of them all, probably, Bishop assumed, because he was the reason they were all there in the first place. It was his damn fault for leaking information on all their jobs.

    Finally, Jules went over, grabbing Vilvik’s arm and yanked him in with the rest of the group, forcing him to keep pace and whispered something most likely along the lines of, don’t do anything stupid.

    The entire half day’s walk to Riften was quiet between them all. Not a word was spoken by anyone which only served to make things that much more tense.

    Once they neared the gates Bishop called everyone back and made them stop saying, “We need to split up into groups going in. The guards here are all backed by the Guild and if we all go in at once they’ll get suspicious and figure out what’s going on.”

    Slash agreed and paired everyone off into groups of two and three. He made sure to pair each Thief up with a Specialist, however, so they couldn’t try to escape.

    Once everyone was paired up, Bishop getting stuck with the two Whips, they started sending them all in at spaced out intervals. It took a good two hours getting everyone inside so as to not make it extremely obvious they were all together.

    After waiting around another twenty minutes Bishop and the Whips went inside. They went around the old river and took the steps down into the Ratway below meeting the others inside.

    “Anyone see you?” Slash asked.

    Biggs, or Wedge, Bishop couldn’t be bothered to tell them apart, held up the corpse of some Ratway thief and tossed his body aside. “Just one,” he grunted, “Already took care of it.”

    “Good,” Slash grinned then looked at Bishop and motioned a hand forward saying, “After you.”

    Bishop rolled his eyes and went ahead of the entire group, Karnwyr following close by him. They took out a few more brigands down in the sewer, though Bishop was pretty sure one of them was just a crazed madman and not one of the Guild members.

    Once outside the Flagon doors he looked to everyone and said, “Wait here for a minute. I’ll go in and arrange our meeting with Frey.”

    Slash raised his furry brows and crossed his arms, “How brave of you. I see why Thorn likes you so much Bish. Shame you refuse to join the rest of us at the top.”

    Bishop cringed at him and turned away, Karnwyr close at his heels. He went inside and the place still smelled like shit and piss, as always. He figured anyone working or even living down there must have burned off all their nose hairs just to make it bearable.

    He stepped around the foul cistern in the center of the room and walked up the board planks into the Ragged Flagon, the nastiest bar he’d ever had the displeasure of entering, even worse than the one at Lost Knife. He saw Delvin sitting at a table, shuffling through some papers and made to go over to him when a really big guy stepped in front of him, arms crossed and said, “You got business with the Guild?”

    Bishop looked him over and said, “Just with Mallory.”

    “Oh really?” The big guy turned back and said, “Hey Delvin. This fella brought half his group here just for you. You musta done something pretty bad to piss off the fuckers over at Lost Knife.”

    Delvin looked up from his pile of papers and grinned, throwing an arm over the back of his chair and said, “Come on now Bishop. We saw you and your people comin’ miles away. Funny, how you bothered to split yourselves up comin’ in here though. Complete waste of time. Now, you and your folks got somethin’ to say to us, then bring them in.”

    “I’m here to deliver a message,” Bishop said firmly.

    “So what’s the message then, eh?”

    “It’s for Mercer Frey,” he said.

    Delvin smirked at him, “I’m his eyes and ears. Whatever you want to tell Mercer, you can tell me.”

    “For his eyes and ears only,” Bishop reiterated.

    Delvin chuckled, shaking his head, “How long you want to play this game Bishop? You’re not gonna see Mercer, so you might as well have a seat and talk to me, before Dirge here gets the sense to snap your neck and drown your mutt.”

    Bishop eyed the big guy again and edged around him. He noticed two women and three men at the bar, standing by, hands to their weapons. He ignored them and went over to Delvin’s table and took the slip of paper out, passing it to him. Delvin opened it and read it over, his small smirk turning into a bigger and bigger grin before he laughed loudly, “Gotta say, your boss has some mighty big stones peddlin’ this shit to us,” he smacked the paper with a hand, “Eighty-five percent – of everythin’ we steal?” He looked up at Bishop again and said, “You read this shit? Your boss is takin’ too much Skooma if you ask me.”

    Bishop said nothing, maintaining his stern gaze.

    “You know he ain’t gettin’ a lick, right? None a yah,” he crumpled the paper up and tossed it over his shoulder then and said harshly, “Tell your people that if I see any of them in my sewers again, they’ll be havin’ themselves a nap at the bottom of Lake Honrich.”

    Bishop said severely, “That’s not an option Mallory. You ever met Thorn? You know what he does to people?”

    “I heard things. That he’s some sick, twisted fuckhead that likes to pull people’s guts out while they’re still squirmin’ around. But you should know, none of that scares me Bish. Before all this,” he waved a hand to the dirty sewer and narrowed his eyes, “I was Dark Brotherhood. I know all about his kind,” he shifted his shoulders and gave him a bored look, “If you know what’s best for you, you’ll get out – and not just out of my face or my Ratway, but out of Lost Knife too.”

    “Not an option,” Bishop said, giving Delvin a pleading gaze this time. One that was asking for help.

    Delvin looked a bit sympathetic then and sighed, “I wish I could help you lad, I really do. But you’re in too deep on this one. I mean ‘ell, look where you’re standing now, what you’re demanding of us. Its madness is what it is.”

    Bishop got angry then. They were only there because the Guild went ahead and started stealing from Thorn. If they’d just backed off and not made it so damn, fucking obvious what they were doing in the first place then he wouldn’t be there, making outrageous demands of them.

    He thumbed his dagger and his eye twitched slightly as he felt his blood boiling and a vein throbbing in his head. “You assholes got my brother mixed up in your shit and now we’re here,” he slammed his hands on the table, shaking it and scattering the papers and got right in Delvin’s face, “This is your fucking fault! All of it! You could have told our Thieves to piss off when they came here looking for work and now Thorn’s threatening all their lives, you fucking pieces of shit.

    Delvin looked him over and asked, “Who’s your brother?”

    “Jules,” he said.

    Delvin pursed his lips and turned his gaze away, “Damn shame. Poor kid. He’s a good one.”

    “Bring me Frey, now,” Bishop demanded.

    Delvin met his angry gaze and said, “Can’t do that.”

    Bishop had enough. Clearly his brother meant nothing to these people. If they wanted him to bring the fucking hammer down, then he would. He whistled sharply and Karnwyr raised hackle, growling at Delvin suddenly while the rest of his group came in.

    Slash and Lars led the way with the Muscle right behind them, then the Thieves and then the Specialists.

    Slash walked over with both orcs flanking him. Biggs and Wedge made the big guy guarding their entrance look like a small child compared to them. Dirge tried to keep up his intimidating face but he just looked stupid as both orcs plowed right by him, nearly knocking him into the cistern.

    “So, this is Frey?” Slash asked looking over Delvin.

    “No,” Bishop said, “This is one of his fences.”

    Slash sighed, his tail flicking annoyed behind him, “Not here to talk to the fence. We’re here to talk to Frey and go over our terms for all the jobs he’s been stealing from us.”

    “Yeah,” Delvin said, “I read your demands. It’s shit, so I tossed it.”

    Slash looked over at the bar, taking notice of the two women and three men standing by. They had their weapons drawn now and were looking warily at the group standing by their front doors.

    “Bring Frey here, or we will bring the Whip down,” Slash said.

    Delvin smirked at him, arms crossed as he casually leaned back in his chair, “You idiots have no idea who you’re messin’ with. Go ahead and try threatenin’ me again, I dare yah.”

    Slash looked back to the others and said, “Do it.”

    The Specialists each grabbed a hold of their own Thieves and forced them to move forward.

    “What the hell!?” Jules barked as he struggled against Joren who had a tight hold on him.

    “Wait! Wait! What the fuck, what is this!?” Thogas, the nord man roared.

    “Lemme go!” Anri the young khajiit woman hissed.

    The others cried out, trying to fight back too, but the Specialists had been ready for it and they were much better trained than any of them.

    The Thieves were hauled over to the edge of the cistern and forced to kneel in front of the nasty waters. The Guild members just stared astonished at this new turn of events.

    Bishop stormed right up to Slash and said, “WHAT THE FUCK SLASH!? LET HIM GO, NOW!

    Slash ignored him though and said to Delvin, “Which one is the rat?”

    Delvin carelessly glanced over the group and said nonchalantly, “Never met a one of ’em.”

    “Then they all die,” Slash said.

    Bishop started to shout, “THE FU-!” But one of the orcs grabbed him, by both arms, holding him back. Karnwyr lost it, barking madly and went in to kill, when the other orc wrangled him, taking his vicious bites like a champ, while he gave the poor wolf enough of a chokehold to make him pass out.

    The Specialists all drew daggers and pressed them to the throats of the Thieves. Elise was sobbing hysterically,  taking sharp breaths and pleading, “Please! Please! Please don’t hurt my baby! I’m pregnant! I beg you please!

    Jules looked over at her, brows knit together and eyes wide, astonished and mortified, “Elise…”

    Slash grinned wickedly as he looked over Delvin’s face, who couldn’t stop himself from reacting to the spectacle. He got up from his chair and said, “Now hold on here. You’d murder a bunch of your own… why? What’s the point?”

    Slash sneered, “Our own? I believe these Thieves belong to all of you, don’t they?”

    Then another voice carried in from behind them all, coming from what appeared to be an old larder. A breton man with dirty light brown hair, stepped into the room. He was flanked by another man, with long red hair and many more Guild members followed in after, all armed to the teeth, ready to go down with a fight.

    “You’re right,” the breton man said in a deep, scratchy voice, “They are our own. Now, if you want to negotiate, I’d ask that you let our men and women go.”

    Slash looked the man up and down and inquired, “Mercer Frey?”

    The breton man replied, “You’re talking to him.”

    “Good,” Slash said. Then he looked at Bishop and said, “I can’t whistle Bish, so do me a favor and give me a nice sharp one.” Bishop looked at him, perplexed and Slash said, “Do it now or I’ll have them cut your brother’s baby out of his girl’s belly and see if she’s telling the truth.”

    Bishop who was still being held tightly by the orc pursed his lips and gave another sharp whistle.

    (Recommended background music Seymour’s Theme or Kuja’s Theme from FFX and FFIX Soundtracks)

    Thorn and the rest of his Whips walked in then, along with plenty of other people from their group, practically filling up the front end of the Flagon. Bishop noticed most of them were Thieves, and he saw that Elska’s daughters were with them too. Freya, Venus and Qetesh all started whispering to one another, looking confused and shocked by the scene in front of them.

    Thorn stepped forward, arms crossed and grinning. Bishop didn’t understand. He had no idea what was happening. Why was Thorn there? Was he going to kill him and his brother finally? Then why all these theatrics? Why any of it? Why not just do it in their sleep at Lost Knife?

    Mercer Frey moved ahead too, crossing through the bar area and onto the platform in the middle of the cistern with just the small pool separating them, while his second in command followed close behind him. The two leaders stared each other down for a moment before Thorn said with a smile, “Mercer Frey. Nice to finally put a face to the shitbag that’s been stealing from me.”

    “I take it you’re Thorn,” Mercer gleaned, then said, “So what can I do for you and your,” he glanced around at the massive number of brigands now in his Ratway, “…people?”

    Thorn started pacing back and forth at the edge of the cistern, in front of his prisoners, “You can start by handing over everything you stole from your last eight jobs. Because let’s see… oh right… those were our jobs.”

    Mercer shrugged and said, “Can’t help it if we got to them first. You just have to work faster,” and then he said remarking on the large group, “It’s quicker with a few of your best thieves instead of using huge untrained groups you know. Might give that a try next time.”

    Next time?” Thorn grinned wickedly and then he looked back at Vilvik and leaned down to him, “Yeah… next time you won’t have this one running his mouth to you.”

    Vilvik looked terrified and shrieked, “WHICH ONE OF YOU RATS SPILLED YOUR GUTS!? HUH!? WHO TOLD HIM!? I SWEAR I’LL KILL YOU!”

    Thorn sneered, “None of them.”

    Vilvik stared at him, his red eyes bulging wide.

    “The only one spilling their guts today is you Vilvik. Like right now, when you just admitted it was you who ran your mouth to the Guild. Now tell me, how many jobs was it? Eight… ten? I think it was quite a few. I’ll round up,” Thorn stood up and spoke to the Specialist holding Vilvik, “Hold him aside for me.”

    The Specialist forced Vilvik onto his feet and stood at his side while Thorn went around to his back. He got really close to Vilvik then, pressing his cheek to his ear and grasping half the dunmer’s head with his other large hand so that his fingers nearly pressed into his bulging red eye.

    Thorn spoke loudly, mainly addressing his own, “I want every damn Thief in here to pay close attention now. This is what happens to those who cross me.” He looked right at Mercer and drew his blade and leaned back, still holding Vilvik’s head and slowly dug his sword into the dunmer’s back so that it speared out his front. Then he slowly pulled it out and did it again all while Vilvik screamed in agony. Thorn counted sinisterly with each squelching thrust, “One… two… three…”

    Vilvik gasped painfully when he could scream no more and the other Thieves and even the Guild members all watched in silent horror. Thorn made sure to spear him ten exact times as the man shuddered and shook in his grasp.

    “…ten,” he finished. And without breaking eye contact with Mercer he tossed the barely living dunmer facedown right into the slimy water with a loud splash.

    Thorn spun his blade in hand and sniffed a little, “Well. Now that, that’s taken care of. Who wants to go next?”

    The other Thieves on the ground looked up at him shocked and the red headed man spoke up then, “Let’s sit down and talk, Thorn. Just leave the lads and lasses out of it.”

    Mercer glared at the red-headed man and said, “We don’t negotiate with lunatics Brynjolf, you know better than that.”

    “They’re our own Mercer, you were ready to talk a minute ago, why not now?”

    “That was before I realized I was dealing with a madman. Can’t talk sense into these types,” Mercer looked back over at them all and said, “Sorry kids, it’s just business.”

    Brynjolf was pleading with his eyes and whispered, “Mercer…”

    Jules looked sick as he stared over at Elise who was trapped in her own shaking terror, sobbing hysterically and had her eyes shut tightly, trying to look away from the corpse of her friend floating in the dirty water.

    Bishop pulled uselessly against the orc holding him, his heart was pounding in his chest. Why was this happening? How could he have let this happen? They should have run. Did Thorn really have that much of a hold over him that he truly believed he couldn’t have run?

    Thorn shook his head and grinned at Mercer, “Well, it pleases me to know you don’t mind having more blood on your hands. I know I certainly don’t.”

    He turned and grabbed the breton woman Rey by the hair, yanking her away from the Specialist holding her. She started screaming terrified and Thorn released a disgusting sexual groan, twisting his head back taking pleasure from it, “Mmm, yes! Scream for me sweet thing,” his eyes rolled a bit as he yanked harder on her hair, causing her more pain and then he held her head up, waist length to him and took his sword, aiming for her neck and in one swift motion beheaded her. Her body slumped to the ground and Thorn held her lifeless head up and gave it a kiss on the lips before smiling cruelly and tossing it over at Mercer’s feet.

    Mercer didn’t even look down at it. He just stood there, eyes locked on Thorn with his arms crossed. Brynjolf said, “Mercer, this has to stop. We can’t just let him…”

    Mercer gave his second in command a look of warning, but didn’t budge, waiting for Thorn to make his next move.

    “Eighty-five percent,” Thorn said suddenly, “First you give me everything you owe me from all the jobs you stole and then you pay me eighty-five percent of everything thereafter,” he looked around the Flagon laughing a little, “Which I assume won’t be much considering the squalor you’re all living in.”

    Mercer just cocked a brow and said, “You really are a madman.”

    “Thirty percent,” Brynjolf said quickly.

    Mercer looked back at him, “Like hell we’re giving him anything!”

    Brynjolf gave him a fierce glare and said, “I’m not just going to stand here while he kills these people right in front of us.”

    Thorn grinned wickedly again, “Seventy-five,” then he stooped down next to Thogas and said, “Let’s hear it Thogas. Just had a baby with the wife, hmm? Things were going good?”

    Thogas was crying almost as much as Elise when he nodded, unable to speak it seemed.

    “Good, good,” Thorn stood up and looked over at them, “So? Seventy-five? I think I’m being quite generous.”

    “No deal,” Mercer glowered back.

    Thorn looked back at Thogas and said, “I’ll be sure to give your lovely wife my regards when I drag her down into my lair tonight.”

    Thogas whimpered and sobbed and pleaded, “Please… not my wife.”

    “You seem like a nice fellow Thogas, so I’ll give you a choice. You want to die quick by beheading like Rey here,” he nodded to the bloody headless corpse next to him, “Or would you prefer the slow and painful method Vilvik got?”

    Thogas looked absolutely mortified and opened his mouth to speak but no words came out. Thorn looked over at Mercer again, “Last chance. Seventy-five percent.”

    “Forty,” Brynjolf said.

    Mercer shouted, “NO! No deals with this lunatic!”

    “Shame,” Thorn said and swung his sword without warning, sending Thogas’ head across the floor where it rolled right into the water joining Vilvik’s corpse.

    Anri, the khajiit woman started screaming which only served to put a more sinister smile on Thorn’s face and he groaned, “Oohh yes… I love the sound you’re making cat. Keep screaming for me!” He looked wild eyed now, facing Mercer Frey again and said, “I’m feeling pretty good right now, so let’s make it seventy percent.”

    “Fuck you,” Mercer said.

    Thorn took his sword and raised it over his head, aiming for Anri and she shrieked even louder. He swung it down, hard, right into her skull. Her screams stopped abruptly and she made a strange, garbled noise as her eyes rolled. He yanked the blade from her head and let her slump onto the ground.

    Next was Elise and Jules started shrieking, “NO! TAKE ME! TAKE ME!”

    Bishop roared at the top of his lungs, “STOP!”

    Thorn looked back over at his favorite pet and cocked his head, “Ah Bishop. Here we are again, same as two years ago when I took you and your brother in,” then he looked down at Jules and said mockingly, “And this is how you repay me? Joining the Thieves Guild and cooking their books? Telling them about my jobs and my people?

    “It was Vilvik,” Jules said, his chest rising and falling quickly as his body shook madly, “Just Vilvik. I worked for them, yeah, but I never said a word about the jobs. Elise wasn’t involved at all. She had nothing to do with any of it. Please, just let her go.”

    “No…no,” he said, placing the tip of his bloodied blade to her chin and lifting her head up, forcing her to look at him. She whimpered and her lips trembled. She was incredibly pale with fear. “I know she worked for them too. Had my Rats on the six of you for months.”

    Thorn knelt down right in front of Elise and placed a hand on her abdomen and she flinched. “Congratulations on the baby, Elise. Been meaning to tell you that for the last two months now. Think it’s a boy? Or a girl? Let’s say we find out now?” He flashed her a wicked grin.

    “WHY!?” Bishop roared, “WHY WON’T ANY OF YOU STAND UP TO HIM!? HE’S JUST ONE FUCKING MAN! DO SOMETHING!” He writhed against the orc holding him, bruising his arms in the process, but the Muscle held him very tightly and wouldn’t budge. None of the Thieves or the Specialists, or any of them made a move at his outburst though.

    Thorn had done his job. He’d instilled the fear of himself into these people. And for some of them, he’d given them something good. Food, shelter, work. He’d given them their lives back, no matter how awful a person Thorn was, they’d remain loyal… or end up like the four dead Thieves in front of them and the two about to get the Whip.

    Jules was going to die and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

    Brynjolf barked, “Half! We can give you half! Give us those two and you can have half.”

    Mercer glowered at him, “I’m not making any deals with this freak Brynjolf.”

    Brynjolf had enough, “NO MERCER! I won’t stand for this!” He got right into Mercer’s face and said, “I fucking told you not to go after every damn job that gray-skin brought us. I told you it’d just bring us trouble. Look at them all, we’re outnumbered as it is. The only madman here is you for letting it get this far in the first place!”

    Thorn grinned at their little exchange but was still haggling it seemed when he said, “Sixty-five percent and you get the girl.”

    Mercer opened his mouth again but Brynjolf shouted over him, “Deal! We’ll take it!”

    “Deal,” Thorn grinned, “Now come get her.”

    A white haired woman behind them uttered, “Brynjolf…”

    “Shut it Vex,” Brynjolf hissed back and started walking around the cistern to go collect Elise. He glanced at Bishop, giving him a sympathetic look and continued around, eyeing all of Thorn’s people. He knelt down beside Elise and said, “Come along lass,” then he looked over at Jules and said, “I’m sorry lad.”

    Jules just nodded and choked out, “Get her out of here.”

    Brynjolf tugged on her as the Specialist holding her let her go. She threw her arms over Jules though and cried into his shoulder, “Jules! I wanted to tell you about the baby… I love you, Jules…”

    Jules pressed his face to her hair and said, “I love you Elise. I’ve always loved you. Never forget that.”

    “Time to go pretty thing,” Thorn said impatiently, “before I change my mind,”

    Brynjolf grasped her arm and guided her to her feet. He threw Thorn a nasty look as he walked the shaking woman back up to the bar area. He pushed her into the arms of a raven haired woman who ushered her out of there.

    Thorn prowled around Jules then, tracing the tip of his sword around the floor near him as he looked him over. “Hm, hm, hm. What to do with you now, Jules.”

    Jules looked up at Thorn, a hateful glare burning behind his dark eyes. Thorn just laughed and said, “Don’t look at me like that boy. This is your own damn fault and you know it. But look at it this way, at least your legacy lives on.”

    “Wait!” Bishop shouted, “Take me.”

    Thorn looked back at him and sneered, “I already own you Bishop. You’ve got nothing left to offer.”

    “If you kill him… then I’ll have no reason to live and I sure as fuck won’t keep working for you,” he said, “And I don’t care what kind of sick torture you threaten me with. Torban was even sicker than you. I already know every trick in the fucking book thanks to that twisted piece of shit.”

    Thorn laughed, “Oh I know you can take your beatings, Bish. That’s why I took you and your useless brother here in. If not for you carrying the weight of the two of you, I’d have gut you years ago. Shit… even the dog’s worth more than you boy,” he said to Jules.

    “Give him to the Guild and take me,” Bishop said.

    Thorn looked at him with half-lidded eyes, “Got anything new to offer me?”

    “My allegiance, my loyalty. Whatever you fucking want,” he said, “Name it.”

    Thorn continued his circle around Jules and thought for a moment. “You work whenever I want. You work for free. You get whatever scraps I’m willing to feed you. You bow to me Bishop. You belong to me.”

    “Fine,” he said.

    “Kneel before me,” Thorn said maintaining his nasty grin, “Lick. My. Boots.”

    The orc let him go and he rubbed at his arms and walked over to Thorn and stood in front of him. He felt disgusted with himself at what he was about to do, but if it saved his brother’s life he’d do it.

    He met Thorn’s piercing gaze with his own hateful one and knelt down, getting on his knees. Jules just knit his brows together, pleading with his eyes for him not to do it.

    Bishop leaned over Thorn’s scummy boots, covered in bits of mud, blood and whatever the hell else he’d stepped in over the years. That’s when he heard the mad barking of his wolf coming to. Karnwyr ran in, leaping over the dirty cistern and buried his jaws right into Thorn’s leg, making him howl in pain.

    Karnwyr ripped a huge chunk of flesh from Thorn’s leg and ran to Bishop’s and Jules’ side, still growling fiercely. Thorn lifted his sword, roaring in anger and made to kill the wolf when Bishop threw himself in front of Karnwyr and felt the blade swipe across his back, from shoulder to hip. He grunted, taking the hit and grit his teeth, dealing with the pain.

    “THAT DAMN DOG! THAT DAMNED FLEA RIDDEN BITCH!” Thorn roared furiously.

    “Stop!” Bishop pleaded. He tried to calm himself because he knew Karnwyr was reacting to his emotions, “Just calm down boy. It’s alright. Everything will be alright,” he stroked at the wolf’s fur, feeling the blood on his back welling and trickling steadily through his clothes.

    “You know what? Fine. Keep your damn pet, Bishop. But I’m punishing you for this. Severely. Bring him,” he motioned for the Muscle to collect him and the big orc grabbed him by the arm again.

    “Sixty-five percent,” Thorn said to Mercer Frey, “I expect it on the first of every month. Do not be late. Oh and I’ll give you a week to bring me everything you stole from the last ten jobs. And if you try to fuck me over, I will be back, and I will not hesitate to wipe this shit stain you call a Guild right off the face Nirn.”

    Bishop took one last glance back at Jules before he was hauled away with the others.

    ~~~

    (Recommended background music Black Water from FFVII Advent Children Soundtrack)

    Thorn spared no time in punishing him for the chunk Karnwyr took out of his leg.

    He and the other Whips hauled him down into his torture chamber the minute they got back. The entire room was disgusting, covered in old and new blood. The corners of the walls and floors were festering with bugs and he saw a few skeevers coming and going, no doubt looking for scraps of raw human flesh to eat.

    There were three dirty tables laid out in the room, each with iron cuffs nailed into them to hold down their victims. There were several meat hooks in the ceiling too and in one of the corners was a hanging prison with buts of rotted flesh, scummy flesh still stuck to it.

    There were chains and an assortment of torture devices hanging all over the walls, blood drips were permanently stained to the walls where the tools sat.

    They stripped Bishop shirtless and bound his arms tightly then hung him up on one of the large meat hooks from the ceiling. They even chained Karnwyr up nearby. It seemed that Thorn wanted to punish the wolf as well.

    Thorn pulled down an actual whip from his wall and he circled Bishop predatorily and said, “I’m not disappointed in you Bishop. I knew it would take more than you to get Mercer Frey to show his face. In fact, you did everything exactly like I planned. You actually did well. But this has been a long time coming and you know it,” he grinned and said, “Now, I’m not cruel Bish, I need you in decent working condition. So I’m thinking, six lashes for the six little shits that fucked me over. Sound good?”

    Bishop said nothing, he merely turned his gaze away from the deranged man and steeled himself for what was to come next.

    Thorn walked around to his back and said, “Hmm… That looks bad. Might get infected from my dirty blade. Ah well. I’m sure you can visit the brothel after and the ladies will fix you up,” he laughed and uncoiled the whip.

    The first lash against his back sent a sharp shuddering pain through his entire body. He grunted but grit his teeth. He would absolutely not give Thorn the satisfaction of hearing him cry out.

    Karnwyr started barking loudly and writhing wildly against the chain tethering him back. The wolf even leapt backward a few times trying to break free. He started snarling and growling, foaming at the mouth.

    Thorn laughed at the wolf and let the first lash settle for a minute and then hit him again, this time it pelted his rib cage as his body slowly spun in a circle from the force of the impact.

    Again and again and again. Six times he was hit.

    Thorn came back around to his front and sighed, “Well I am rather disappointed that you didn’t scream. How’s that feel though? Sting a little? Bet I hit harder than Torban ever did,” he smirked.

    Bishop said snidely, “How’s your leg feel?”

    Thorn frowned at him and then walked by him, Bishop noticed, limping a little and he said to the others, “Let him down.”

    Bane and Lars pulled him down from the hook and he crumpled to his knees. The stinging pain on his back, sides and abdomen was immense. Then he heard Thorn speak one more time, “Oh and Bishop, if I catch you running off to the Guild to even look at that little brother of yours, I’ll fucking gut all of you once and for all. I don’t care how good you think you are.”

    They all left him there and he waited, trying to let the stinging pain settle and he waited for Karnwyr to calm before he finally forced himself up and collected his shirt and his wolf and left.

    ~~~

    (Recommended background music Tifa’s Theme from FFVII Advent Children Soundtrack)

    He put his top back on, not wanting anyone to know what he’d just experienced. Instead he held himself together and hurried up the path to his room with Karnwyr at his side. He was nearly there when he heard a woman’s voice call to him.

    “Bishop wait!” He looked back to see Freya running up to him. He turned away from her and continued walking, but she grasped his arm and said, “Wait… Bishop, please, what did he do?”

    “Don’t want to talk about it,” he said shortly, “Maybe another time.”

    She wouldn’t let go and she said, “Please, let me help.”

    Even at his most humiliated he couldn’t say no to a beautiful woman. He relented then and said, “Fine, follow me.”

    He led her up to his room and they went inside. Karnwyr hopped up onto Jules’ bed and put his head on his paws. The wolf actually looked as sad as Bishop felt, knowing Jules was gone and they wouldn’t get to see him anymore, at least not for a long time. But he was relieved too. Jules was safe… and he was going to be a father.

    “That fucking idiot,” Bishop murmured as he mindlessly undid his top, forgetting Freya was still there. He pulled it off and she gasped. He spun around and she held a hand to her mouth as she looked over the flayed flesh on his body and the blood dripping from each wound. He turned his head away and said, “Not as bad as it looks.”

    She fished through a pouch on her belt and pulled out one of Qetesh’s potions and said, “Sit down. Let’s get you cleaned up, alright?”

    He sat down at the edge of his bed and he pointed to a dresser drawer and said, “Got some more medical supplies in there, cleaning cloths and all that.”

    She went over and pulled out the items she’d need then stepped back over to him and knelt down in front of him. She knit her brows together and poured some of the potion into a clean cloth and started dabbing at the wound on his abdomen. He allowed himself to hiss with the pain of the stinging. It felt good to let out some noise after holding back while he received his lashes.

    Freya had gentle hands as she worked over each wound, with him slowly turning so she could get to each one. She bandaged him up and gave him a fresh bottle of potion to drink when she was done. He downed it and it helped immensely with the pain.

    She sat up on the bed next to him and said sadly, “I’m sorry about your brother.”

    “I’m just glad he’s alive,” he said.

    “I’m glad you’re alive too,” she said.

    He looked at her and she flashed him a pretty white smile. He smiled weakly back and asked, “So, what did Thorn tell you before leading you all down there?”

    “Said we were running a job in Riften and he needed all the Thieves. You know how it is, he cracks the Whip and we all go running,” she put her elbows to her knees and pressed her face in her hands and said, “I hate it. Working for him, being in this place. I’d rather do anything else, honestly.”

    He cocked a brow, “Anything?

    She laughed, “Well, except what my mother does for a living. I already get enough men chasing me down and groping me when they think I’m not looking, ugh.”

    “Want me to gut ’em for yah?” He offered.

    She smiled again and this pleased him. He liked to see her smile.

    She said, “No. I usually do that myself. Oh by the way…”

    “Hm?”

    “I know you just borrowed that kiss the other night, but I’ve been really needing it back,” she flashed him a flirty smirk and he returned it with his own.

    “Well, if you insist. I suppose I could part with it again,” he leaned over, looking deeply into her eyes and barely touched his lips to hers before she quickly closed the distance and kissed him herself. He groaned under her mouth as she moaned under his and both their hands started roaming.

    It really did help to numb the pain he felt when he made love to this beautiful woman after everything he’d experience on one of the worst days of his life. And after that they continued to see one another.

    It was good with Freya for a few months. It was wonderful. Thorn kept him busy with endless work and little food, but she made it bearable, until she didn’t anymore. Until their romance turned from playful and fun, to irritating and frustrating. For Freya it was a lack of seeing Bishop, because he was so busy all the time. For Bishop it was her endless accusations and the constant fighting with her.

    (The Song is Torture by Les Friction)

    The memories fractured then, showing them pieces of everything. Their twisted relationship and the twisted man that Thorn was and how he affect Bishop’s life on a day to day basis.

    Rona watched all of it, spiraling down like shattered glass as Bishop’s feelings rang through it all in the form of a beautiful and heartbreaking song.

    “Savor the time and the trouble
    Just leave me trapped in the maze
    I’ll live and die in this bubble
    But I’ll never give in to your torturous ways

    I cower when you’re near
    It’s torture, torture

    Never considered it futile to carry the weight of your pain
    A gift conceived by angels
    Dark blessings offered in vain

    I stood outside when the roof gave in
    You called from the wreckage you were lying in
    You were out of reach and we’re out of time
    But I took it all and towed that line
    You held my hand and pulled me down with you”

    For two years Bishop tried to make it work, he made promises to Elska and her girls, he became their family, their friend. He carried their burdens on his back. Because that’s what Bishop did, he tried to save people, to help them.

    And for two years he tried to escape this woman he’d tangled himself with as she chased off him into the arms of other women with her viciousness, only for her to manipulate him right back into her clutches.

    It was Freya’s own form of twisted love, Rona was sure of it. Freya had grown up in that life, broken and downtrodden like the rest of them. She didn’t know the meaning of keeping a healthy relationship. Bishop was much the same in that regard. For them, this was normal.

    The screaming, the accusations, the fighting, the abuse, all of it. To anyone outside of it, it was insanity. But to them, it was normal. And Thorn, on top of it, only added to the mess. It was torture for Bishop.

    Rona found herself falling into a familiar shard of glass, into a memory she’d seen once before. They were up at Arcwind Point, standing in a flurry of snow. Bishop held his brother in his arms, crying into his chest. And then someone came at him with his sword. Bishop turned and faced Casavir. The Paladin roared at him, accused him of murder and made to kill him.

    Bishop broke then. He murdered his brother. After all of it, he couldn’t stay. To go back to Thorn, to go back to the abusive relationship Freya offered him… he didn’t want it. None of it. He ran to the cliff edge, away from the Paladin who attacked him. He slid down the icy slope and escaped. He ran and ran and he nearly got kicked in the face by a white mare with a young woman riding. She shouted, “Hey! Watch it!”

    He ran by her and roared, “Out of my way!”

    And Rona took a breath and said, “Bishop?”

    He stopped and looked back confused.

    “Bishop,” she said, “Wake up. You’re dreaming. Wake up!”

    ~~~

    He took a sharp breath and opened his eyes. Gazing back at him were Rona’s beautiful, serene green ones.

    She put a hand to his arm and whispered, “Bishop… I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…”

    He uttered a sigh of realization as she wiped at the tears on his cheeks. He choked out, “You saw?”

    She nodded slowly and he quickly sat up, trying to shake himself out of the dream. His heart was pounding like he was still there. He looked over at their quiet campsite. The sun was barely rising and everyone was still asleep on their bedrolls.

    Serlas was snoozing near the fire and all four sisters were completely out still.

    Rona sat by him and glanced anxiously over at him. He took a deep breath of the cold air and asked, “Want to get some breakfast?”

    “Yeah,” she said. The two stood and wandered around to the front of the inn. They both went inside and took a seat at one of the private tables in the corner. Mralki came by and they gave him their food orders and he left them again.

    Bishop held the side of his head in his hand as he continued to mull over the dream. It wasn’t really a dream though, it was like one of his nightmares, the ones he always had before he met her. Were they coming back?

    She touched his hand with hers and he looked back up at her.

    She knit her brows and asked kindly, “Do you want to talk about it?”

    He searched her face. Here was the woman he loved, who just watched him make love to Freya, in his dreams, more than once and she just looked… concerned. He didn’t understand her. He wanted to be like her. She was so strong that way, never letting things like that bother her, when it would have bothered him immensely.

    “What do you wanna know?” He asked in return.

    She looked at him surprised and seemed to think for a moment before she asked, “All of that really happened?”

    “All of it,” he confirmed, “Exactly like you saw.”

    She turned her face away and said, “Oh Bishop… he did that to you?”

    “I really did have worse,” he smiled weakly, “Torban hit way harder than Thorn ever did. But I guess it’s different when you’re beating your own hated offspring.”

    She gave him the saddest expression he’d ever seen and he chuckled, “I’m just… kidding Ladyship… sort of.”

    “I wish I could heal your pain.”

    “You can,” he said, “You do it all the time.”

    “Not physical pain,” she said, “Emotional.”

    He smiled warmly at her, “You already have.”

    Then he took a breath and asked something that had been on his mind since the day they left Solitude, “What’s been bothering you Rona? The last day… it’s not because you think I slept with Freya, is it?” Rona turned away blushing and he raised a brow and asked, “So you do think I slept with her?”

    “I saw you two,” she said, “I saw you… up on the archway in Solitude.”

    “Ah fuck,” he smiled and shook his head, “I completely forgot about that.” She stared at him in disbelief and he said, “I swear I would have told you. Freya just got finished… telling me what Thorn did to her. She was hysterical Ladyship, she just threw herself at me. I didn’t want to push her off because I don’t know… it was stupid. I let it happen,” then he looked right at her, meeting her eyes, “But I swear to you Rona, I didn’t try to kiss her back or touch her or any of it,” he grasped her hands then, running circles in her palms with his thumbs as he said, “You’re too important to me. I would never throw away everything we have now for some tryst with,” he scoffed, “pft, Freya of all people. And considering you were just crawling around in my head just now… well I hope now you know why.”

    She could barely hide her smile, which pleased him greatly. It pleased him more than Freya’s rare, sweet smiles ever did, because Rona’s was genuine.

    He leaned over the table, tugging her over to him and she met him halfway. He kissed her, deeply, affectionately. He made sure she knew he loved her and always would.

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