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    A/N: The songs in this one are a little more modern and breaking the immersion a bit, especially with some of the lyrics. Hope that doesn’t ruin it. I really liked this selection of songs I finally settled on, mostly for the energy, the voices and the violin!

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    Chapter 84

    The Boys Are Back

     

    Bishop was waiting around outside the gates to the Waterfront, leaning against a wall with his arms crossed. He’d gone back to Havnor and told him he’d lost the thieves and withheld the fact that the people who’d stolen from them both had been his own brother and sister. He swore up and down that he’d get everything back as soon as he could.

    Havnor appreciated it, but told him not to worry, that they hadn’t taken too many valuables of his, that most of what was on display were the cheaper pieces. Though he did encourage Bishop to once again take part in the upcoming challenges in the Arena, to try and win the money back so he could replace his own losses and more.

    The jeweler still seemed extremely interested in working on the engagement ring, despite Bishop not having any way to pay him. Havnor promised he’d work on it, even order the necessary dragon’s fire gems and told Bishop that he could pay him as soon as he’d won the championship.

    Bishop took his leave then, trying to figure out just what he was going to do. Would he confront his own sister and brother and take back what rightfully belonged to him? They’d looked so thin, sick and disheveled. He found himself feeling concerned for them, despite having written them off years ago. Kari looked the worst of it though, with plenty of bruises and scars around her neck… like hand marks, like someone had been strangling her.

    Kari was a year younger than him, so she was twenty-six, while Duful was seventeen at that point. He wondered if the others were with them, including his mother… he shuddered at the thought of seeing that bitch again. All his siblings would be ten years older and he was sure that they still hated him, considering he’d killed their main source of livelihood over a decade ago and now…

    He sighed deeply and leaned his head back against the wall and looked up at the crescent moon surrounded by all that was left of the thin rain clouds from earlier that day. This was just too much. First he meets his brother’s daughter, gets reamed by Elise for even talking to the girl and now he’d encountered two of his siblings. He really needed a drink.

    “Bishop!”

    He heard the voice of his lovely woman and looked forward. The entire group of Cheydinhal’s finest was approaching. He got a good look at them all, raised a brow and snorted a laugh, “What the hell? Why are you all dressed like that?”

    “It’s pirate night!” Roxlin shouted cheerfully throwing an arm up covered in gold bangles and bracelets.

    “I can see that,” Bishop said with another laugh. All of them were wearing pirate’s garb, very costumey though, not authentic in the slightest, it was all too clean for that. The men were all dressed up in red striped breeches and blooming white shirts and Magrob had an eye patch over his burned eye and a captain’s hat on his head.

    The women were all wearing tight fitted leather trousers that hugged nicely over their curves. They also had on blooming tops, with puffy sleeves that wrapped right around their shoulders and across their chests. They were a bit low cut and revealed some cleavage. Their tops were all different colors too, Roxlin in light blue, Lorrie in green, Charissa in yellow. Everyone wore strapping leather boots, the women’s being more heeled than the men’s.

    Bishop started laughing at them all, it really was too much, but then Roxlin went right over and smashed a pirate’s hat on his head and he grumbled.

    “Got something for you too Cap’n Bishop!” She barked cheerily.

    Rona giggled at his disgruntled face and he got a good look at her as the others headed through the gates to the Waterfront.

    The blooming red shirt looked great on her and she’d tied her hair up in a messy ponytail and wrapped a black bandana around her head, allowing her bangs to fall over it. She was also wearing a few pieces of costume jewelry, some long gold and silver chain necklaces, which draped nicely between her cleavage and over her ruffled top. She had on a pair of looped gold earrings too and it occurred to him he really liked her in earrings. He also just realized then that he’d never seen her wearing trousers or pants of any kind before and they looked amazing on her, accentuating all her curves and rode nicely at her hips. He let his eyes roam all up and down and moaned, “Mm, nice legs.”

    She blushed and laughed a little, “Ready for some fun tonight?”

    “Yes,” he said firmly, “I would like that very much.” He held his arm out and she looped hers with his. Drinking and partying sounded great to him after the day he had.

    They went around an enormous lighthouse and walked along a long bridge, spanning over the lake which led out to the piers. There was an enormous wall encircling the harbor and just beyond lay the dwellings of the poorest in the city. He glanced at the gates leading out that way, that was definitely where he would find them all, whatever was left of his family. But he passed by it and continued walking along with Rona to their intended destination; a large houseboat set on the water, the Bloated Float Inn.

    (The Song is The Boys Are Back by Dropkick Murphy’s)

    And from the sounds of it, it was already roaring with mirth as the sound of singing and music came echoing out the front doors.

    The minute they entered they were greeted by a very busy and bustling tavern. The place was packed full of people, all dressed in pirate garb. There were twenty or more round tables in the surprisingly spacious interior, all of them full of patrons. The bar was set to the right, every seat taken and at the head of the ship was a large stage where a group of men were singing and playing music loudly and drunkenly while the crowd clapped and sang along with them.

    It really was pirate night. However, Bishop realized then that some of those pirates, were actual fucking pirates especially when he saw the jaunty redguard man with sparkling gold teeth standing at the front of the stage singing loudly with his shanty men. Bishop smirked and said, “I can’t fucking believe it.”

    “What!?” Rona shouted loudly over the music.

    “It’s Jack!” Bishop barked back.

    She looked up at the pirate captain and then she turned, beaming at Bishop and shouted, “That pirate you met in Solitude!?”

    “Yeah!”

    She started laughing and seemed to be really excited as she looked on in amazement at the pirates on stage. He wasn’t sure if it was the prospect of meeting a real pirate or if it was just the energy of the crowd and maybe the singing, but he was glad for it all the same. They needed this.

    The others managed to find an open table, or rather, Magrob and Marco yanked a pair of drunks who’d passed out on a table and tossed them off to the sides of the crowd, out of the way of all the foot traffic.

    They took seats and ordered a round of drinks from one of the busty waitresses making their way around the crowds.

    “Gods!” Marco shouted, “Whatever possessed you two to want to come here of all places!?”

    “I love it!” Roxlin shouted, “This is so great! I want to dance!”

    “You should sing something Roxie!” Rona shouted.

    “I wonder if they’ll let me!”

    “Come on!” Rona grabbed her and the two of them were already off, squeezing through the crowd and on up towards the pirates at the front of the stage.

    “And there they go!” Charissa laughed.

    Lorrie covered her ears, “This kind of music is too much for me! Not my style at all!”

    “I quite like it,” Linel said as his eyes followed the ass of a very handsome dunmer dressed in some tight pirate clothing so that his muscular form showed through.

    Charissa slapped him on the arm and barked, “Yeah it’s the music you like, sure!”

    Linel started blushing and laughing loudly.

    Bishop leaned into Magrob and said, “Think they’ll let them sing?”

    “I hope so,” Magrob said, “Love it when my girl sings.”

    Their drinks were served then and everyone started tipping them back quickly. Bishop just grinned and shook his head at the crazy pirates up on stage. Jack was dancing like a madman and playing a guitar very quickly as he leaned in with his men singing as loud as they could. He looked incredibly drunk, no doubt off his own rum. Bishop couldn’t get the taste of that shit out of his mind, it was so bad.

    He noticed the tops of Rona’s and Roxlin’s heads at the front of the stage. They had their arms up and were hopping up and down, dancing and probably singing right along with them all.

    “The boys are back!
    The boys are back!
    The boys are back!
    And they’re looking for trouble!”

    The boys were definitely back and they were all serious trouble, Bishop laughed at the thought.

    As the pirates finished their song Jack noticed to the two women waving their arms up at him, calling him over. He got a very salacious grin on his face and leaned over where Rona and Roxlin stood at the foot of the stage. Whatever they said to him, Bishop couldn’t hear from their table but Jack raised his brows at them and cried, “Ay boys! We have ourselves some lovely lasses who’d like to sing their hearts out to us!” He snatched a violin from one of the men and passed it to Rona. Both women went up onto the stage and the tavern grew eerily quiet then at the sight of the two beautiful women standing up there.

    Roxlin grinned and Rona held the violin preparing to play. Then the blonde breton started to vocalize, her voice echoing elegantly through the room capturing and mesmerizing their audience and then Rona started to play the violin and Bishop was utterly amazed with her talent on strings as always.

    (The song is Over The Hills And Far Away and then The Longing by Patty Gurdy)

    “They came for him one winter’s night
    Arrested, he was bound
    They said there’d been a robbery
    His pistol had been found

    They marched him to the station house
    He waited til the dawn
    And as they led him to the dock
    He knew that he’d been wronged
    “You stand accused of robbery,”
    He heard the bailiff say
    He knew without an alibi
    Tomorrow’s light would mourn his freedom

    Over the hills and far away
    For ten long years he’ll count the days
    Over the mountains, and the seas
    A prisoner’s life for him there’ll be”

    Roxlin had an incredible voice too, Bishop was very impressed. It was no wonder she and Rona got along like they did, the two of them were very alike, not only in vocal talent but in height and fighting spirit. Then both women started to dance a little, kicking their legs out in unison and shaking their hips while the other pirates backed them up on their own instruments, just enjoying the view from their positions probably.

    Bishop leaned over to Magrob and said, “You’re a damn lucky man Magrob.”

    He grinned and said, “Could say the same about you.”

    He sighed, “Was lucky… but now…” He took a deep gulp of his bottle of mead, frowning a little.

    Magrob glanced over at him, “Everything alright? The hat’s not on too tight is it?” He grabbed it and tossed it onto the face of one of the drunks sleeping on the floor.

    Bishop laughed, running a hand through his hair and said, “Nah… not that. Hey, can I tell you something?”

    “Sure, ranger, what’s on your mind?”

    He decided to confide in the orc. He didn’t really have any friends he could talk to about this, but he liked Magrob and thought of him as a friend.

    “Let’s go get some bar food.” He wanted to get away from the others and their prying ears. They were nice enough but he had no interest in sharing this with them. The two of them got up and went over to the bar, snatching a pair of seats when two patrons vacated them to get a closer view of the two lovely women on stage.

    They leaned on the counter, their drinks in hand and ordered some food. Magrob looked him over with his one good eye and asked, “So, what’s eating you Bishop?”

    “I went to a jeweler today,” he said, “Brought all my gold and a few gemstones I’d collected on my travels.”

    Magrob smirked and took a sip from his flagon, “What’re you having made?”

    “An engagement ring,” he said looking up at the orc.

    “Hmm…” Magrob smiled broader and chuckled. He pat Bishop on the shoulder with his oversized hand and said, “Good man. Rona’s lucky to have you. I didn’t get much of a chance to see the way you fought back in Solitude but Casavir told us about it, said what you did for him and especially for her. Not to mention, I owe you my life. You’re a good man, I’m glad for it.”

    Bishop smirked. It felt good knowing this man, one of her closest friend’s approved of him, that he was welcomed in their tight knit family, despite everything that happened before.

    “Problem is,” Bishop said, his face falling, “Everything I had was stolen today.”

    Magrob looked at him seriously, “Shit…”

    “I’m not asking for money,” Bishop said quickly, “So don’t get me wrong. I plan to get everything back because I know exactly who took it all. I think I need help though.”

    “Who took it?”

    “My brother and sister.”

    Magrob raised a brow, “You serious?”

    “I haven’t seen them in ten years,” Bishop said, “Until today. Almost couldn’t believe my eyes.”

    “I’ve got your back, whatever you need,” Magrob said then he smirked, “Could even bring the family dogs if you’d like.”

    Bishop laughed, “No, that won’t be necessary. Just backup would be fine. Think I might pay them a visit tomorrow.”

    “Sure. Where do they live?”

    “I’m guessing right over here on the Waterfront,” Bishop said.

    Magrob nodded knowingly.

    Then Bishop said, “There’s one other thing. I’m thinking of fighting in the Arena, for that big event coming up.”

    Magrob raised his brows, “You sure? Gets pretty dangerous in the pit. You know the final matches are fights to the death right?”

    “Yeah I know, still… there’s a final piece I need for Rona’s ring and it’s fucking expensive.”

    “If you need the coin friend, I don’t mind loaning it to you.”

    Bishop shook his head, “No. This is from me to her. I won’t take anyone else’s money for it.”

    “I hear yah,” Magrob said then he chuckled, nudging him with an elbow, “Lemme guess, visited the Red Diamond over in the Market District?”

    Bishop laughed, “How’d you guess?”

    “Havnor is the best at what he does. Bet he made you tell him the whole story too, how you met, everything. The man’s all about that mushy stuff… But I’ll tell you one thing, Bishop, his designs are top quality. Roxlin loves hers,” Magrob pat him on the shoulder again, “Just say the word and you’ve got me at your back.”

    “Thanks,” Bishop said, “And hey, call me Bish,” he grinned, “All my friends have always called me that.”

    Magrob matched his grin and they grabbed their plates of food and returned to the table only to find Lorrie and Marco already gone.

    “Where’d those two go?” Magrob asked the others.

    With half-lidded eyes, Charissa pointed Marco out in the crowd. He was already making a move on a busty tavern wench, who surprisingly, seemed interested in him, of course Bishop knew it was because she was for hire.

    Then Linel, who had a sour look on his face, pointed towards the other side of the room where Lorrie was heavily lip locked with the muscular dunmer he’d been eyeing earlier. He crossed his arms and sighed, “All the cute ones are always straight!”

    The group burst into laughter and started hitting the drinks hard, downing shots of whiskey and chasing it with mead and rum and just enjoyed the rest of Roxlin’s beautiful song. Magrob’s one good eye was full of love for the woman. Bishop knew the feeling well.

    “I’m all set to veer away
    and I’m all set to go astray
    All burdens I will leave ashore
    to find what I’ve been longing for.”

    When Roxlin’s song finished Jack looked between her and Rona and grabbed at his chest shouting, “Ay me heart! You lovely lasses have gone and pierced it with your arrows! What’s your name lass?”

    “Roxie!” She shouted hopping up and down. Plenty in the crowd whistled for her and clapped, a couple even cried, “Sing another!”

    Jack had an impish grin on his face and he turned and asked, “And you beautiful? Whatever do they call you lass?”

    “Rona,” she said blushing fiercely as plenty more whistled and howled for her. She put a hand to her face, smirking and being as shy as ever.

    “You play a fine violin m’lady! Would you care to entertain us with your skill some more? I think these fine folk want to dance!”

    “Absolutely!” She shouted getting a little more confident.

    “Let’s hear it for the lovely Rona!” Jack shouted and clapped as he went over to grab a guitar, ready to join her with whatever song she chose to play. The crowd cheered and she started to play a wild tune on the violin.

    (The Music is Roundtable Rival by Lindsey Sterling)

    Bishop could not believe what he was hearing or seeing. She played the violin so quickly and with a ferocity he’d never seen in her, even when playing her lute. She really got into it too, dancing madly, shaking her hips and performing some moves that he could only assume came from her time learning ballet in her youth. The noise of the music was even making sounds which were otherworldly, no doubt because of her power.

    Roxlin came winding through the crowd and grabbed Magrob and shouted, “Let’s dance!”

    “I’d never say no to that gorgeous!” He roared back over the powerful song and the two of them disappeared into the very energetic crowd to join the rest of the people who’d started dancing.

    Charissa and Linel were both just as enthralled with Rona’s playing as Bishop was. Then Linel leaned over and said, “I honestly don’t know why she didn’t get into performing, she’s amazing!”

    “Tell me about it,” Bishop said taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, trying to calm his thudding heart and the rush of blood at the sight of her, “She’s a damn good fighter though. A woman of many talents.”

    “Damn right she is,” Charissa said still staring off at Rona. Bishop raised a brow at the woman’s back and poured himself a glass of whiskey. He had a feeling Charissa wasn’t the total prude she pretended to be…

    He, Linel and Charissa took some shots of hard whiskey and he started to get a nice buzz going. He felt damn good, but even better watching his woman. He wanted to dance with her though, so he got up and slowly wove his way through the crowd and up to the stage where Rona and Jack were in a fierce battle of song and dance. He on a guitar and she on her violin. She was leaning forward, shaking her shoulders, with a beautiful grin on her face while Jack returned the exchange from his side of the stage, grinning just as madly.

    Then she started dancing on toe, spinning in a circle and sawing that violin so fast he thought it would snap in half. When she caught sight of him her smile only grew wider and he returned it in full and cheered her on with sharp whistles. Then she gave him a show, one that he knew was meant only for him as she turned the heat up, keeping her eyes locked to his, and swayed her hips in a very sensual way.

    She was clearly having fun enticing him. H liked it too and didn’t even care how all the other men in the room were looking at her. She spun around again, shaking that sweet derriere for him and he could not appreciate it more that she was wearing such a tight pair of leather trousers right then. She spun once more and started leaping about the stage on tip toe, spinning and dancing with the sound of her music.

    And when she finished she drew her legs together, raised her arms still holding the violin and took a bow for the cheering crowd. Jack set his guitar aside and shouted, “Give it up for the lovely Rona! Siren of Strings!” The crowd roared for her and she laughed, blushing again and he said, “Tell me lass, you’re an elf? Bosmer perhaps?”

    “Nord and altmer!” She shouted.

    “AY!” Jack roared with a chuckle, “Would love to meet the curious folks who made such a fine woman. Now tell me lass, do yah have any requests?”

    “I don’t know any shanty songs, but if you know anything Celtic I’d love to hear it!”

    “Well!” He wagged a finger at her, “Pretty lady, I know just the song.”

    (The Song is Irish Way by The O’Reilley’s and Paddyhats)

    She passed the violin off to him and started clapping and tapping her foot as he began to play a quick tune and sang;

    “I was roving out one evening

    And I came down too for long

    I walked into a dimmned pub

    And suddenly I saw

    Her cheeks they were so rosy

    And golden was her hair

    She had to be an Irish girl

    ‘Cause she looked so god damn fair

     

    She took me by her lovely hand

    And whispered in my ear

    I’ll guide you up to heaven

    If you order me a beer

    Seconds later I found myself

    Beside this pretty lass

    One, two thought in my head and an ale in my glass”

    She laughed as Jack gave her a flirtatious wink and then she turned and looked down at Bishop. He threw his arms open and she leapt right off the stage into them. She shouted, “Let’s dance!”

    “All night!” He replied planting a fiery kiss on her lips before he set her down.

    He grasped her waist and guided her into the crowd where they let loose and eventually bumped into Magrob and Roxlin. Rona and her immediately started to dance with each other, getting quite close at one point and he noticed that just like himself, Magrob had stopped a moment to admire that scene.

    The girls both noticed and put a little show on for them both, grabbing each other’s hips and dancing very close, chests pressed together even. Then they started laughing hard at the sight of their men staring so hard at them and they split apart and grabbed their partners making them join in.

    Rona rode right up on Bishop pressing her chest, hips, and everything she had to him briefly before pulling away to spin and show off her beauty. Her smile though, he couldn’t get enough of it. The last time he’d seen the grin on her face that wide, was when they got drunk in the Bannered Mare out in Whiterun months ago.

    He pulled her along back to the table for a moment to do more shots of whiskey together. They found Charissa all alone as Linel had apparently wandered off with another young man somewhere. She was looking pretty sloshed and Bishop decided to be friendly and shouted, “You should come dance with us!”

    Charissa waved a hand and shook her head but Rona grabbed her arm and dragged her along into the crowd making the redguard woman follow her.

    “Dance with me!” Rona cried, making Charissa move along with the beat of the song with her.

    Charissa started to get into it a little, though she was a bit wobbly being so hazy on whiskey. They were both laughing and smiling and singing along with the song together.

    Then Rona was totally caught off guard when she got a little too close to Charissa in her drunken stupor and the redguard woman grabbed her by the shoulders and planted a kiss right on her lips confirming Bishop’s earlier suspicions. Rona’s eyes widened and Bishop felt plenty of conflicting emotions in that moment. Here was another fairly attractive woman kissing his woman, giving him all sorts of ideas, but she was also kissing his woman and he wasn’t about to stand for that.

    Bishop yanked Rona away and Charissa just blinked, and then her dark face turned fiercely red realizing what she just did and she quickly retreated into the crowd.

    Bishop looked back at Rona who looked just as stunned as Charissa did. Bishop waved a hand in front of her face and she said drunkenly, “What just happened?”

    Bishop said, “Turns out your friend fancies women. Namely you, Princess.”

    “Uhh,” Rona’s face just started to burn.

    He laughed, grabbing her around the waist and said, “Let’s just keep dancing beautiful. We’ll sort that shit out tomorrow.”

    But the song ended and Jack was standing at the edge of the stage staring curiously at the both of them. He eyed Bishop and shouted, “I know ye!”

    Bishop laughed and said, “Wow, you actually remember?”

    “Ay! I never forget a fool that leaps from me plank,” he gave a hearty laugh and said, “Bishop, right lad?” Bishop looked at the man absolutely astonished he’d remembered his name. Then Jack got a good look at Rona and pointed at her with the violin bow and barked, “Dragonborn!”

    Her face turned violently crimson as every single person in the room had eyes on her then. Magrob groaned and Roxlin smacked a hand to her face. Jack said, “Can’t hide it now lass, your feller here told me all about yah. So! What say ye Dragonborn? Lady Rona was it? Care to share with us your lovely voice?”

    She relented and asked, “Um… sure. What do you want to hear?”

    “Whatever comes to mind beautiful siren! I heard ye have the voice of an angel,” he winked at Bishop.

    She sighed, her redness slowly fading and said, “Alright, fine! But no picking on me for slurring, I’ve been drinking.”

    “Rum I hope,” Jack chuckled.

    She looked right at Bishop and smiled. The music trailed in from nowhere and her perfect voice filled the room with a romantic love song.

    (The Music is Star Crossed Lovers by Sharon Den Adel)

    “Star-crossed lovers’ high
    Star-crossed lovers’ high

    We’re like strangers
    Walking down the aisle
    Holding hands and trying to pretend
    We’re like lovers
    But here we are again
    Entangled in a dance that never ends

    This is karma, this is where our worlds collide
    So for better, for worse
    Let’s bite that magic bullet
    Leave it all behind
    I need to feel the mercy
    Of a star-crossed lovers’ high
    Bite that magic bullet
    Enjoy this crazy ride
    Only you can give me
    A star-crossed lovers’ high”

    He knew she was singing for him then, especially when she took his hands and made him dance with her. He couldn’t tell if the room was spinning because of how drunk he was or if it was just from her singing a song of love to him. It was so intense being with her like that, listening to her voice, holding her so close. He wanted to be with her like that always. To get to hear her beautiful voice every day for the rest of their lives, that was all he could ask for.

    He was so close to that dream too, he had everything and it was all swiped right out from under his nose so fast. He had to get it all back. He loved her so much and he wanted it to be perfect. That gemstone was amazing too, it was almost as beautiful as her.

    He danced with her, swaying together in the middle of the floor. Most people stood by watching, curious about the Dragonborn no doubt, but as soon as Magrob and Roxlin started dancing together, more people joined in, other lovers, dancing together with the sound of her music.

    He watched the way her lips moved with each word sang just for him and then he pulled her in closer and she rest her face against his chest. They danced slowly and enjoyed each other and their time together. It really had been a fun night, but after that song he was ready to lead her back to their incredible suite in the Imperial Palace where they could enjoy each other’s company in a way that only lovers could.

    As her song finished, she pulled back from him, gazing up lovingly into his eyes. He couldn’t help it, he had to kiss her and so he did, embracing her, hand behind her head, tasting her sweet lips and giving her the most passionate kiss he could in that moment. When they pulled away though, she almost looked dizzy, too drunk probably.

    Jack was on stage grinning at them both and shouted, “Let’s hear it for the Dragonborn and her fine companion!” He started laughing and people all around cheered. After that Jack started in on some shanty sea songs with the rest of his mates which seemed to be enough to draw the crowd’s attention away from Rona.

    Then Roxlin and Magrob came over and the orc asked, “We’re about to get going, what about you two? Planning on staying here?”

    Rona shook her head, wobbling a bit, “I’m ready to pass out!”

    Bishop chuckled and made sure to hold tight to her waist, so she wouldn’t trip over herself. As they headed for the exit they saw Lorrie, who looked like she just finished up having a bit of her own fun that evening, with her hair tossed and makeup looking a bit smeared in places. She leaned into Roxlin and asked in her sweet voice, slurring a bit, “Leaving already?”

    Roxlin nodded and grasped the bosmer’s hand as the small group left. Marco had no doubt rented a room with the tavern wench and chances were Linel had done the same with his male companion. No one had a clue where Charissa disappeared off to and neither Bishop nor Rona intended on mentioning the kiss.

    As they passed by the gates that led out to the Waterfront District Bishop caught sight of a young woman staring at him from the shadows. He stopped walking and Magrob looked back and said, “You comin’?”

    “Uh, no… I forgot my… hat,” he muttered.

    Roxlin scoffed, “Pft, just leave it! My sister’s got plenty more costume junk. She won’t miss that dirty old thing.”

    “No, it’s okay,” he insisted, “It’ll just be a minute. Can you make sure she gets back to the palace safely?”

    Magrob noticed the young woman in the shadows too and seemed to get the gist of what Bishop was trying to do. He said, “Sure, we’ll get her there. Don’t take too long though.”

    Rona looked back at him curiously but Roxlin grasped her by the arm to lean on her and both women started to use each other as support just to stand up straight. Lorrie starting gossiping with them about the ‘size’ of her partner that evening, making Rona blush and Roxlin giggle.

    Magrob gave Bishop a look that asked if he needed help. But Bishop just shook his head and waved him off. Magrob left then following the three women across the bridge spanning the lake.

    Bishop turned his attention towards the shadows and saw that the young woman was gone. He drew his dagger and carefully approached the gates, passing through them. He looked around at all the low lit shacks where the poor made their homes. Then he noticed Kari standing along the wall in an alley behind one of the run-down buildings. He approached her warily, but she just stood there, clutching her arms, looking solemn.

    He kept his distance and said, “Got anything to say for yourself?”

    She looked over at him, her golden eyes as piercing as his own but then she averted her gaze and Bishop was thrown against the wall. Being quite drunk himself he wasn’t as alert as he should have been. A huge nord man with thick rippling muscles and short blonde hair looked him over with his vicious blue eyes. He had a sneer pulling at his thick lips. Ost never did look like Torban, but damn if he wasn’t the man’s twin as far as cruel facial expressions went.

    Ost pressed on Bishop’s throat with his thick forearm and gripped his dagger hand hard, nearly crushing his fingers as he felt them cracking a bit. The man was ten years older now, twenty five years of age and he’d clearly been bulking up. The full blooded nord had always been big, even when he was younger, but now, he was on par with Thorn when it came to sheer physical mass. He was like a fucking rock, unmovable.

    He leaned his ugly, scarred face in towards Bishop’s, getting a good look at him and flashed a  nasty smirk, “Heh, well if it isn’t Torban’s second cock stain. Almost didn’t believe it when Duful told me it was you he stole all that gold from.”

    Bishop made to speak to say every hateful thing that was coming to mind, but Ost was pressing too hard on his throat, in fact he was having a hard time breathing and wanted more than anything to gut the fucker right then and there.

    “So what brings you back to Cyrodiil Bishop?” He let up a little on the choking then.

    Bishop gasped for air and snarled, “None of your fucking business.”

    “Think you can come back here and tear apart the family again?” Ost inquired wryly.

    “I don’t give two shits about that torture cage you call a family. I want fuck all to do with any of it. All I want is my gold and the two gemstones you pieces of trash stole from me.” Bishop put all his rage into his glare and his lip curled a bit, showing his canines.

    Ost sneered at him, “No. I’m going to keep those things. Call it payment for what you did to Pa.”

    “Oh, please,” Bishop scoffed, “As if you ever cared about that worthless sack you call ‘Pa’. All you ever did was lick his boots and hope that he’d drop some more scraps your way. Bet the second I killed him you started pissing all over his grave.”

    Ost chuckled and said, “Yeah, you’re right Bishop. Torban was a real twisted fuck. Learned everything I know from the man though. I learned how to be a provider, to keep my family cared for, unlike you, who went and ran away with the cat. Where is Jules anyhow? Didn’t see him with your little group of friends tonight.”

    Bishop said nothing at that and Ost looked him over, trying to read his face, but Bishop was an expert at hiding his tells. He was also trying to clear his head and find a way out of the dangerous predicament he’d found himself in. If Ost wanted to, he could easily gut him right then and there.

    “What? He die or something?” Ost asked pointedly.

    Bishop couldn’t stop the light twitch at the corner of his eye and Ost noticed. He chuckled and started to slowly shake his head, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. I see how it is. Thought you two could survive on your own, without the family. Turned out you were wrong about that then, eh?”

    Bishop snapped and gritting his teeth, he roared at that piece of shit who didn’t deserve to be his brother, “YOU DON’T KNOW A DAMN THING ABOUT ME ANYMORE. SO YOU BETTER SHUT YOUR FUCKING MOUTH! I survived on my own just fine without any of you, without any of this!”

    “Yeah I noticed that,” Ost said, smirking at the reaction he was getting, “The Dragonborn, hm? She’s quite the looker.”

    Bishop’s face fell and his heart pound in his chest. Of course. Ost must have been in the tavern too, watching everything within the crowd, keeping out of sight of him. Granted he’d been far too drunk and his eyes were very glued to her all night long to have ever noticed his hulking brute of a brother.

    “You fucking stay away from her,” Bishop warned him.

    “You’re not really in any position to be threatening me Bishop,” he pressed his arm to Bishop’s neck a little harder then, choking the breath right out of him. “Bet that’s where you got all that gold and those nice gems from. Tell me, what other nice things does she have, besides that tight little body of hers?”

    Bishop grunted and struggled against his younger half-brother’s thick arm as the man was really starting to choke the life out of him. All of a sudden a long curved sword swung down right between their faces and stopped just short of grazing Ost’s arm. It was enough to make him let go though and he jumped backward, startled.

    Jack stood by, flanked by a dozen of his men and he smirked at Ost, flashing his sparkling gold teeth, “Got a problem here lad? You makin’ a move on one of me mates?”

    Ost scowled at Jack who just kept right on smiling at the man. Bishop rubbed at his neck and caught his breath.

    Jack looked over at him and said, “Ay, best we get goin’ now first mate Bishop. Got plenty of sailing to do before the ‘morrow comes,” then he steered his gaze back to Ost and said, “I’d scurry off to whatever gutter ye came out of boy, before me men and I take to carving yer arms off for what ye did here to me mate and to that lovely lass over yonder,” he nodded to Kari. He meant the choking as the marks on both Kari’s and now Bishop’s necks were very visible.

    The other pirates drew their swords, all of them eyeing Ost threateningly. Ost threw Bishop one more nasty look and then retreated beyond the shacks without another word.

    Bishop looked over at Jack, still rubbing at his throat and said, “Thanks.”

    “Think nothin’ of it lad! Tell yer lovely woman we had a mighty fine time tonight. I shan’t be forgetting the sound of her voice or the way she sets fire to the strings anytime soon,” he laughed raucously and turned away with his men, heading for a pair of small boats on the shore. Bishop saw their ridiculous ship with the dragon’s skull at  the helm offshore in the distance.

    He looked back at the wall and saw that Kari was still standing there with the same vapid expression on her face. She gave him a side-eye glance, looking like she wanted to say something and then second-guessed it and turned to walk away. He ran over and grasped her hand and said, “Talk to me Kari.”

    She met his gaze and said dully, “Why? What do you care?”

    His lips twisted and he said, “I’ve changed a lot. Ten years ago, hell – ten months ago – I wouldn’t have given you a second look. I gave up on all of you after…”

    “After you murdered Pa?” She said.

    He frowned at her, “I didn’t murder that piece of shit, Kari. I got justice for our older brother and for the rest of us, for everything he did. Don’t tell me that you actually miss him.”

    Her eyes slowly fell away from him and she pulled her hand out of his grasp and muttered, “At least Pa never put his hands on me…”

    “What?” Bishop looked at her shocked and appalled. She tried to walk away, feebly so. She seemed so dead, so broken inside. He grasped her shoulders turning her to face him and demanded, “Are you telling me that he? That Ost has? He’s fucking touched you?”

    “I’m used to it,” she mumbled, “I pray to the Lady Mara for love and I’m blessed with love often… not just him… many men.”

    Bishop felt sick. To think that Ost could be even more depraved than their own father was almost astounding to him. He held firmly to her shoulders and said, “Who else is here? Are the others – all of them? And… Rina – is she here too?”

    “Everyone’s here Bishop. We stick together. We’re a family, it’s what families do.” She said it so mindlessly, as though someone had been drilling that idea into her head for years and it came out automatically, but she didn’t truly know the meaning of it anymore.

    He wanted to help her. He didn’t know about the others, but he wanted to help her, his little sister, the girl he’d taught how to read and write, who used to have so much hope and light in her heart before Torban snuffed it out and started selling her at the age of twelve. She didn’t deserve that.

    “Kari,” he pleaded, “You don’t have to stay with them. You don’t have to do this anymore. I can help you.”

    “I can’t leave them,” she said, “Who will take care of them and Ma? They need me.”

    He shook his head, “I can help all of you!”

    “You’re lying,” she said adamantly, “You left us with nothing. We had to scrimp and scrounge and I had to do… things. Now Ost takes care of us. He risks his own life every day to make sure we have food.”

    He held his hands out, motioning to her entire being and shouted, “Food!? Look at yourself! You’re fucking skin and bones Kari! You can’t be serious!”

    She turned away from him again and he made to grasp her once more, but this time she found the energy to throw him off of her and she snapped, “Just stay away from us Bishop! Just go back to wherever you came from!” Then she ran off, leaving him standing there to stare off at her.

    He watched and saw her enter into one of the shacks at the far end of all the buildings. He ran a hand through his hair and turned away then, leaving the Waterfront. But as he passed through the gates a young man with dark brown skin, curly black hair and eyes shaped like his peered around the wall at him.

    Duful was incredibly scrawny looking for half a redguard, especially a redguard that was nearly a full grown man, at seventeen years of age. He was wearing some tattered clothing that looked all too big for him as well, with a pair of beige trousers belted tightly to his waist and an oversized, yellowed shirt with plenty of holes in it. He’d cut the sleeves off and had a dark cloak on. He looked a lot like Torban too. He’d have been more handsome if he weren’t so ragged and rough looking.

    Bishop noticed a little dunmer girl with him too. She looked just like Rina if the woman had a grey tinge to her skin and bright red eyes, though unlike other dunmer the girl’s sclera were white instead of red. She had long light purplish hair that had been tied up into a messy ponytail on the back of her head and she wore a tattered dress and a small cloak made to fit her size. She was very shy too, hiding behind Duful.

    The redguard gave Bishop a friendly smile and he said, “Sorry I swiped your coin purse. I swear if I knew it was yours I wouldn’t have taken it!”

    Bishop just gave the kid a mournful look and said, “It’s good to see you Duful.”

    Duful scratched the back of his head awkwardly and said, “Yeah… good to see you too Bishop.” Then Bishop went right over and hugged his brother. He’d never been terribly close to the younger ones, not after Torban murdered Jack and he spent most of his time training himself and started to neglect them. He tried to chalk  it up as the whiskey was making his heart ache for his family, but he knew deep down inside that he was glad to see them, no matter how painful it was.

    Duful returned the hug and when they parted he laughed a little and said, “Wow, you really have changed Bishop. So um… heh yeah… I’d give you your gold and gems back but, uh… Ost already took them. I only managed to keep enough to feed us tonight.”

    Bishop just knit his brows together and said, “What the hell has happened to you all?”

    Duful just looked down at his worn boots and said, “A lot. Been a rough ten years, I mean, Ost doesn’t beat us as much as Torban did, ‘course he’s not around often enough to do that anyhow.”

    Bishop noticed the tentative girl staring up at him and he smiled at her and asked, “Who’s this little one?”

    “Oh!” Duful looked down at the girl and laughed, “Our little sister Rook.”

    Bishop smirked and raised a brow, “Another chess piece, huh?”

    Duful chuckled, “Yeah, Ma was feeling sentimental and missing you after she had her. Started going on and on about how you were so good with the little ones and how she could always rely on you to take care of us.”

    Bishop knelt down to the girl’s height and held out a hand, “Hi Rook, I’m Bishop, it’s nice to meet you.”

    She got a little braver and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you too,” she said sweetly.

    “That’s our big brother Bishop,” Duful said, looking down at her, “Remember I told you all about him?”

    She nodded and then said, “I’m hungry Duffy, when are we going to eat?”

    Duful undid a small bag from his belt and gave it to her, “Go home and give it to Kari. She’ll get you taken care of. Make sure Ost isn’t around when you give it to her though.”

    “Yeah I know,” she said and quickly ran off, her cloak flowing behind her.

    Bishop looked on after her and then asked, “Did Rina have any more?”

    Duful scoffed, “Thank the gods no. She had a hard time birthing Rook. It was a nightmare, she almost died from it. After that she sort of gave up on finding love, still fucked around for money though, but I think Rook’s birth made her sterile.”

    Bishop looked him over and asked, “So she’s still alive?”

    “Yeah, she’s alive. Barely though,” Duful took his finger to his temple and twirled it in a circle, “Ma’s totally off her rocker. Pretty sure she has syphilis.”

    “I don’t know how to tell you this Duful, but Rina was always out of her damn mind.”

    “Yeah, well it’s only gotten worse.”

    “What about the others?”

    “Liesel and Galric left a few years back,” Duful said, “after Ost…” He trailed off.

    Bishop looked mortified, “Are you shitting me? He laid his hands on her too?”

    Duful gave him a side-eye glance, “Yeah. It was Morgen who caught him doing it though. Found him on top of her in the girl’s room one night. Kari was just ignoring it, probably glad he wasn’t doing it to her for once.”

    Bishop just stared at his brother, mouth agape. He couldn’t bear to hear anymore but Duful just kept talking.

    “Morgen threw him off of her and said he was leaving with her and the rest of us. We were already out the door when Ost came outside, telling him he was the head of the household and a bunch of other shit, then he grabbed an axe from a woodpile and he just,” Duful cringed, “It was awful Bishop.”

    So Morgen was dead. Two of his brothers dead, killed by their own brothers no less, and two of his sisters raped by Ost. He’d left his family in shambles and with a man even more twisted than his father.

    “Didn’t take long before Liesel and Galric just up and disappeared though, those two were always close,” he sighed, “Probably for the best. I’ve been thinking of doing the same with Rook…”

    “Tell me that sick fuck hasn’t touched that little girl,” Bishop said angrily.

    “No… But the way he looks at her,” Duful cringed again and said, “I’d have left ages ago if not for Ma and Kari. I’m about ready to give up on Ma though, she doesn’t have the brains left to function right. She just rambles nonsense all day, she doesn’t even recognize me anymore. Still knows Kari though, most of the time.”

    “Duful,” Bishop said seriously, “I can help you. I have friends, resources. I can get you away from all of this.”

    Duful smiled at him but then shook his head, “It’s harder than you think you know. Ost doesn’t just lord his power over the family he’s got his own resources too. You know he’s the Grand Champion in the Arena?”

    “What does that mean?” Bishop asked. He knew that most matches were gladiatoral style fights and most of them weren’t even to the death, but the bigger matches, like the upcoming event always were.

    “Means he’s their number one gladiator. He’s got money and power, Bishop, you have no idea.”

    Bishop threw an arm out towards the shacks beyond the gate and barked, “Then why the hell are you all living out here on the Waterfront!?”

    “He likes controlling us,” Duful said, “He’s friends with most of the city guard and he only ever gives us enough money to barely scrape by. You know I… I’m not really sure if Liesel and Galric actually made it out of here alive. The guards are always watching us, at least it feels like they are.”

    “So you stole from the jeweler today because…”

    “Because we’re starving Bishop,” Duful said seriously, “I can’t even find work, no one will hire me, all dirty like this, and I,” he sighed, “I told Kari to stop selling herself. I don’t want her to do it anymore and I don’t think she does either. I don’t know what to do,” he gave a nervous laugh and looked up at Bishop with tears in his eyes, “I’m scared shitless, you have no idea. Afraid to run, afraid we’re gonna starve, terrified he’s gonna hurt Rook…”

    Bishop wrapped his arms around his younger brother’s shoulders again and the kid actually started to cry into his shoulder and said, “You have no idea how good it is to see you again.”

    Bishop felt his own eyes burning with tears. He was absolutely determined then as his brows furrowed harshly over his eyes in anger. He was going to fight in the Arena. This wasn’t just for Rona anymore, but for them, his family.

    He was going to make it to the finals and he was going to take Jules’ sword and fucking drive it through Ost’s heart just like he did to Torban ten years ago.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Took a break from writing to draw all day instead! Still a work in progress, one I actually plan to finish this time. lol

    Better resolution here at my dA > https://www.deviantart.com/ronalightfoot/art/Rona-Bishop-and-Karnwyr-WIP-772677136?ga_submit_new=10%3A1542274674&ga_type=edit&ga_changes=1

    Bishop, Rona and Karnwyr

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 85

    The Arena

     

    (Music is Youtube: Skyrim – Music and Ambience – Night)

    Bishop assured Duful that he would help them all and told him to hold on for a little longer. That he would bring him money and food and whatever else they needed in small amounts so Ost wouldn’t know.

    As he made his way back to the Imperial Palace he was going over everything in his mind. Tomorrow he would go and sign up in the Arena and start working his way up in the ranks and hopefully get to a point where he’d be accepted into the finals.

    He went into the Palace and presented his papers to the mage standing by at the magic lift, allowing him to be uncomfortably swept up twenty stories high with nothing but a spell. He hated that feeling every time and was glad to be on solid ground again once at the top.

    He went around the winding corridor, walking through the moonlight pouring in from the large arched windows on the outer walls and made it to their suite. He held his hand at the door knob, thinking and debating with himself. Would he tell her? He didn’t want her to know about the engagement ring yet, that would ruin the surprise obviously. But should he tell her about his family? About his plans? Could he bring himself to talk to her about Ost and all the awful things he’d done to his sisters and the rest of them? He didn’t want to traumatize her all over again when her own horrific encounter with Thorn was still so fresh in the last month.

    He also didn’t want to burden her with his own troubles when she had so many of her own already piled on top of her. With the dragons, the search for the Elder Scroll, her training and now the Dark Brotherhood getting in the mix, it just seemed too much. Not to mention she was participating in this wedding for her friends.

    He’d enjoyed her beautiful smile all night long, she was starting to be herself again. Singing, dancing and sharing her unending joy with the world. He didn’t want to take that from her. He resolved to keep it to himself then. He hadn’t even told her about Elise or Holly yet, not wanting to stain her happiness with his sorrow.

    Of course if he was off fighting in the Arena day after day she was definitely going to start to wonder just where in Oblivion he was all the time. He’d need Magrob’s help with that and hoped that the orc would cover for him.

    Bishop turned the knob and let himself into their suite. The room was quiet and dark, save for a few lit candles near the bed. He wandered over and looked down at Rona who was tucked under the silk sheets and sleeping soundly. She probably got tired of waiting and was too drunk to keep her eyes open. He sat down on the bed beside her and gently stroked her hair. She didn’t stir at all. She had definitely passed out. He was feeling pretty tired himself, but also restless. His mind was whirling with thoughts and memories of his family.

    He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, then got back up and stepped out of their suite. He remembered seeing a balcony nearby and decided to get some fresh air and mull over his thoughts for a while. He didn’t have to walk far to find one either. He stepped through the archway and out across the stone balcony towards the balustrade and leaned forward, resting his elbows on it. He looked up at the star strewn sky, which seemed even more incredible just from that height. Then he looked down at the city far below. It was just as amazing and, aside from how dark everything was, he could see the rolling landscape for miles. Cyrodiil really was a beautiful place, it was no wonder Rona loved it so much and wanted to come back so badly.

    He’d lived there too for a time, even there on the Waterfront when he was still just a lad, between the ages of twelve and seventeen. Granted they’d only been on the Waterfront for a few years before Torban caused enough trouble that they all had to uproot again to another part of Cyrodiil. He’d become so accustomed to that nomadic lifestyle that it had simply become a part of him. It was almost hard staying in one place for too long. Rona was like that too and it was one of the things he loved about her, despite the few times it got them into serious trouble. He wanted to travel the world with her to see every amazing thing Nirn had to offer them.

    He sighed loudly thinking over all of these things, his family, her and what he needed to do in the next coming days.

    Then he heard the sound of a man’s a voice.

    “Well… I hadn’t realized there would be someone else out this late.”

    Bishop just rolled his eyes, not even bothering to look back at the man, hoping the noble or whoever the hell it was would move on to another balcony.

    But the man continued speaking, his gentle voice approaching behind him, “I hope you don’t mind if I join you. Lovely evening tonight. How I do enjoy the stars at this time. Makes for a pleasant ambiance while one contemplates their thoughts.”

    Bishop gave a low growl of annoyance and grumbled, “Was a nice ambiance, until you interrupted it.”

    The man chuckled and said, “My apologies, I can move along to another balcony if you prefer.”

    “Yeah,” Bishop snapped, “I would prefer that.”

    He could hear the smile in the man’s voice as he said, “It’s just I do like this one. It does after all, have the best view of Cyrodiil.”

    Bishop spun around exasperated and barked, “Look! I don’t know who you think you are but… but…” His voice trailed off, his face fell and his eye twitched as he came face to face with the most important man in Cyrodiil and quite possibly all of Nirn.

    Emperor Titus Mede the Second met Bishop’s gaze with kind eyes and a warm smile. He was an older man, someone grandfatherly. He was completely bald on his head, although he did have a full and well trimmed grey beard that wrapped around his jaw and under his nose. He was dressed in very impressive noble’s clothing, wearing the dark blue robes of a royal with a red and gold patterned design and the insignia of the Imperial Empire pressed to the front. He had a fur trimmed dark blue shoulder cloak which fell down to the backs of his knees.

    Bishop stammered, “You… you’re… you’re him.”

    Emperor Mede grinned a little wider at him and asked, “Oh? Who am I then?”

    “You’re… the Emperor,” he said dumbstruck.

    Emperor Mede nodded, grasping his chin with his forefinger and thumb as he pressed his other arm to his back and said, “By Talos, I think you’re right!”

    Bishop blinked at that remark and Emperor Mede stepped forward, meeting him by the balustrade. The old man turned and looked at Bishop’s astonished face and then asked, “I hope my mention of the ninth divine didn’t offend you. I thought it might be an appropriate remark considering your heritage. If I am not mistaken you are a nord, are you not? You wouldn’t run off and tell the Thalmor about an old man’s ramblings now would you?”

    Bishop laughed slightly and rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly, “Hell no. Those are the last people I want to see these days.”

    “I thought as much,” Emperor Mede said knowingly. Then he grasped the balustrade and looked up at the stars. He pointed to a cluster of them and said, “I see our fair one The Lady is present tonight. Such a lovely constellation.”

    Bishop was speechless. He hadn’t thought a whole lot about what he would say to the Emperor if he met him, because he honestly never believed it would happen to him, but the few times he did, he’d always told himself he’d confront the damned bastard who refused to sack or even imprison the man that nearly had Rona killed back in Helgen. Now though, he was at a loss. The Emperor was so unlike his preconceived notions. He seemed normal. Which is exactly what Rona had told him once. He’s really nice. Very… easy to talk to…he just talked to me like I was any other person, almost like we were already friends.

    Emperor Mede glanced at Bishop then and asked, “Speaking of fair ladies, tell me how is Lady Rona? Doing well I hope? I haven’t had an opportunity to meet with her. Serlas tells me she’s been quite busy helping her friends plan their wedding.”

    Bishop croaked out, “Uh… she’s good…”

    He felt like such an idiot. Here was someone with so much power literally making conversation with him and he couldn’t bring himself to speak more than two words to the man.

    Then the Emperor met his gaze directly and asked sincerely, “And how are you Bishop? I hope you’re well, all things considered.”

    He knew his name? Of course he knew his name. Serlas spoke with the Emperor often, chances are he’d told the Emperor all about Rona’s journey and consequently him as well. And here he was asking him if things were well, like they were old friends. Did he really care? If he didn’t then he was doing a damn fine job of pretending like he did.

    Emperor Mede waited for a reply, but when none came he just chuckled and said, “I promise I don’t bite! Although my shadow might,” he looked over and smirked back at a tall, thin, dunmer man dressed in black leather armor, who was standing by in the shadows, arms crossed. His face was set with the most serious look on it and his red eyes watched Bishop intently. Emperor Mede turned away from his personal guard and encouraged Bishop, “Please, you are free to speak to me as you would to any other person. I’m sure you have questions or perhaps you might simply wish to share your thoughts and concerns with me. How has the city been treating you? Clean? Safe? We work very hard to make sure our citizens are taken care of.”

    Bishop frowned a little, eyes narrowing when he recalled the robbery at the Red Diamond. Although he was hesitant to out his own brother at that point. It seemed a bit naive for the Emperor to be acting like things were all hunky dory down in the city. But the man was really insistent on hearing what he had to say, so he figured, why not? Let me give this noble – this king, a piece of my mind!

    “What are you doing for the citizens out on the Waterfront other than forgetting all about them?” He asked pointedly.

    Emperor Mede didn’t even flinch at the question, “We have already put in place safety nets for the poorest members of our society. There are soup kitchens, homeless shelters and plenty more resources for them to acquire right here in the Palace should they choose to use them.”

    Bishop scowled at him, “Oh like it’s that easy to just walk into a place where a bunch of wealthy nobles hang around turning their noses down at the poorest members of their society and just ask for help! That’s incredibly ignorant of you.”

    Emperor Mede stroked his chin thoughtfully and said, “Yes, you’re right. I can definitely see how that would turn many away from the services we offer. Tell me, Bishop, what would you recommend to circumvent that issue?”

    Bishop cocked a brow at the man. He was actually asking his opinion? He could hardly believe it. “Well, for starts,” he said, “you could bring the resources to them, instead of putting them in a place they wouldn’t dare go most of the time.”

    The Emperor nodded, “I like that idea. We could build an agency out that way, a place where people have easier access to our services.”

    “Yeah and hire them to run it,” Bishop added, “Easier for them to talk to someone they know who’s lived it than to talk to someone they think will just judge them for their class.”

    The Emperor smiled and said, “I’m grateful for your insight Bishop, it’s not often that I get to speak to those who once experienced lives of poverty on a daily basis. I’m sure that was hard for you and I’m positive that if you’d had these services more readily available to you back then, things might have been different for you and your family.”

    Bishop frowned a little at the man. He really didn’t like it when strangers knew all about his family and his business, and despite the fact that he was the Emperor, he was still definitely a stranger to him.

    Emperor Mede could see his discomfort and said, “I hope that wasn’t discourteous of me. As Emperor I’m quite well-versed on many of my citizens lives and families and well, unfortunately, your father’s infamy left an enduring impression on my mind since his last visit to the city. I heard he’s since passed on though, is that right?”

    “Yeah,” Bishop muttered turning away from the man to look out at the sprawling landscape.

    “I hope you’ll forgive my indecorous words, but I was incredibly relieved when Serlas told me he was deceased. I’m sure you must have felt the same?”

    “Thrilled,” Bishop said almost sarcastically.

    Emperor Mede continued, saying, “I know some of your other family is here as well? Out on the Waterfront? I hear your brother is quite the extraordinary gladiator in the ranks of the Arena. You must be quite proud.”

    Bishop’s face was lined heavily with annoyance and anger then. The Emperor raised a brow at his expression and asked, “Hm… More bad blood I take it? I know the feeling. I didn’t always get along so well with my own siblings. Only got worse after I became Emperor.”

    “You don’t know a damn thing, do you?” Bishop grumbled.

    “Well I know a few things, you might be surprised, because making an edible chaurus pie is one of them,” he said lightheartedly.

    Bishop just rolled his eyes and shook his head slowly.

    “Not one for humor I take it? Well then, perhaps you’ll tell me what’s on your mind. You seem consumed by something.”

    “What makes you say that?” Bishop scoffed.

    “Well, normally one doesn’t come out and stare at the stars alone at oh, what is it? About three in the morning now? Unless they have something on their minds.”

    “If I told you, would it make a difference? Would you do anything about it?”

    Emperor Mede raised his brows curiously and offered, “I could certainly try, if it is something I can influence.”

    Bishop turned and looked right at him then, “My brother Ost… he’s abusing my family, whatever’s left of them anyhow. He uses the power and status he’s gained from rising in the ranks of your Arena and the money he gets to lord it over them and control them.”

    The Emperor pressed his lips firmly together and looked back out over the landscape then he said, “I’ve met your brother. When he won the last championship a year ago I was there for the event and greeted and congratulated the winner. I knew who he was, as I keep tabs on all the contenders in the Arena… My first impression of him was that he was indeed very much like your father, Torban. And that bothered me. I sent Granis here,” he nodded to the dunmer, “to observe him for a short while. I know what he’s been doing to your family.”

    Bishop got angry then and shouted, “If you knew why didn’t do anything!? Throw him in prison! Kick him out of the Arena!”

    “I would have,” Emperor Titus said, “but the Arena is not ours to start. It was sold to a private owner years ago after the Oblivion Crisis left our city in ruins. We needed the money to rebuild and my great-great grandfather, Titus the First, sold it off to a wealthy Imperial.”

    “As for imprisoning your brother for his crimes, we did once. We managed to catch him in the act of a lesser crime, brawling in a tavern where he nearly killed a man. Of course, while I tried to keep him under lock and key, even my power has its limits. We have a legal system set in place to prevent any of the leaders, myself and those in the Elder Council, from taking too much power and using it against the citizens in an unfair manner. As much as I wanted to keep him there, I simply couldn’t. He is also backed by Lucias Medici, who is the current owner of the Arena. The man’s pockets are bottomless and we have deep suspicions that he runs an organized crime ring and uses the Arena as a front for his criminal activities,” Bishop made to speak again, to argue why he hadn’t done anything about that either, but Emperor Titus waved a hand dismissively, and said quickly, “The issue with that, however, is that the Medici family are very well known and highly respected. They often give to charity and provide quite a lot to the community. Lucias is also an expert in hiding his criminal activities and without more evidence we have not been able to make a move on him.”

    Bishop narrowed his eyes at him, “So all those things you said before, keeping the city safe and blah blah, that nonsense… It’s all bullshit. Your city is completely corrupt isn’t it? The guards too?”

    Emperor Titus nodded his head slowly and said, “To be quite honest when the civil war broke out in Skyrim, well, my attentions have been kept there for some time now. As it is, I’m unable to focus much on the happenings in the city and have reluctantly left it up to the Elder Council… very reluctantly, I might add, since I am almost positive that the corruption runs deep within our own ranks as well.”

    “Fuck…” Bishop growled and gripped at the balustrade, “FUCK!”

    Emperor Titus sighed and said, “I couldn’t agree more with that sentiment.”

    “I’ll do it,” he said suddenly, “I’ll expose it all.”

    Emperor Titus chuckled and asked, “May I ask how you plan to do so?”

    “Well, I’m already joining the gladiators so I can,” he hesitated to say, kill my brother and instead said, “so I can duel Ost. Challenge him man to man.”

    “If you made it that far then you would be very close to Lucias indeed and that is a dangerous position to be in my friend.”

    “Pft,” Bishop scoffed at him, “You never met Thorn.”

    Emperor Titus averted his eyes at that one. Of course he knew who Thorn was too, he’d been the one to send the Paladins to the Rift to put a stop to it all. He was starting to feel very frustrated with this so-called Emperor, a man with insurmountable resources and power, who apparently, couldn’t do anything with it. Not to mention he was also the reason his brother was dead, at least partly and the reason Rona was almost killed, again partly. Every motion set in place by this one man had impacted them directly.

    “Why didn’t you fire him?” Bishop asked suddenly, glaring right at the Emperor, “Commander Tullius. Why did you keep him, after what happened in Helgen?”

    “Tullius has his faults and his flaws, certainly, but he is the best of the best. On council with my peers I simply couldn’t afford to lose the man, not in this war,” he kept his answer short and concise, obviously not wanting to discuss that issue.

    Bishop twisted his head, looking away from this infuriating man and snapped, “Just more shit! All you do is spew shit all day, don’t you?”

    Emperor Titus broke into a mild laughter and said, “Well, I’ve never had it said so directly to my face like that, but yes, I’m sure some would say that’s what I do.”

    “Just let the nords have Skyrim already,” Bishop said, “You know what the Thalmor tried to do to her right? What they’re planning to? I’m sure Serlas told you all about it. She almost died because of them, because of you and your fucking war.”

    Emperor Titus took a deep breath, inhaling and then sharply exhaling, “Indeed. He has updated me on the entire situation and I couldn’t be more troubled for her. However, if I let the Stormcloaks take Skyrim, then the Aldmeri Dominion will crush all of us. You were too young for the Great War, I know that, but it’s impossible. They have more power than we ever will. I know they want to keep the civil war going, to tie up our troops in the north, to keep the people divided and perhaps it is because they intend to come along and strike us at our weakest, taking what they believe is rightfully theirs. I don’t know yet. But I want her to stay out of it, just as she has been doing. We will take care of our own and we will bring the peace back to Skyrim soon.”

    Bishop roared, “THEY ALREADY TOOK WHITERUN! Gods! You’re an idiot!”

    Emperor Titus looked over at his personal guard, who had withdrawn his crossbow and had it aimed for Bishop, face still set as serious as ever. The Emperor waved a hand at the dunmer and said, “It’s alright Granis, stand down,” he cleared his throat and put his hands behind his back and said, “They hold Whiterun, for now, but from my understanding Tullius is already working on securing Markarth and advancing troops back to Whiterun. I expect they will be taking the city back in another month’s time.”

    “Just, fucking great,” Bishop grit his teeth. All of the Companions were in Whiterun and the last thing that place needed was another attack on the city. Nelkir and a bunch of other little kids were there now too.

    “You’re worried for your friends, the Companions? I’ve already informed Tullius to leave them be. So long as they stay out of the battle they will be unharmed. They did a lot for us in Solitude and we’re grateful for that. We remember those who are loyal to us.”

    “The Companions are loyal to no one,” Bishop growled, “They fight for honor and glory and coin if you’ve got it.”

    Emperor Titus smirked and chuckled, “I suppose you’re right. Well how about this then, hmm? Since you are a Companion, or were, I suggest you fight in the Arena for just that, honor and glory. Leave Lucias to us. You already have enough going on in your life that you don’t need to add the troubles of Cyrodiil to it all.”

    Bishop made no reply, but he did give a short nod of assent. The man was right. He couldn’t take on the task of ending corruption in Cyrodiil, he would need an entire Legion just to do that.

    “Now, when you do rise in the ranks, which I have no doubt you will do easily, if you are as skilled as Serlas tells me, you’ll want to watch your back very closely. Lucias will definitely take notice and he has been suspicious of every undercover agent we’ve ever sent in to try and get close to him. Stay on your guard around that man, never be alone in the Arena. Trust no one,” he said the last very firmly.

    Bishop scoffed, smirking, “That’s easy enough for me. So… what happened to your agents?”

    “Don’t know,” the Emperor said, “They simply vanished. Probably tied bricks to them and dumped them in Lake Rumare,” he sighed, pausing for a moment as he glanced up at the stars once more, “Well then…it is getting quite late and I find myself suddenly tired. It seems conversing with you has cured my insomnia.”

    The Emperor turned to leave and said, “And please don’t misunderstand, I really did enjoy our conversation, Bishop. I’d been looking forward to meeting you for some time now and I’m grateful that you didn’t hold back your sharp tongue just because of my status. I hope you and Rona are able to find the Elder Scroll soon and I will stay in touch with Serlas and share any knowledge I have on the matter. Oh, and one last thing.”

    The Emperor met his gaze then and said firmly, “Do us all a courtesy and don’t hold back on the bastard. Make sure he’s good and dead just like you did with Torban.”

    Bishop just stared at the man and Emperor Titus gave him a friendly smile before retreating into the winding corridor with his personal guard at his back.

    ~~~

    Bishop did not get as much sleep as he wanted to. Rona was already up humming to herself and noisily bustling around the kitchen throwing together breakfast and he grumbled at her from under the covers, “Don’t you have a hangover? How can you be so energetic so damn early?”

    She laughed and said, “Lorrie gave me the best potion for hangovers. You want some? I have a little bit left. I don’t even feel sick anymore.”

    “Something made by that woman? I don’t trust it,” he growled and pulled the sheets over his head.

    He felt the bed bounce as she hopped onto it and crawled over to him. She pulled the sheets back from his face and leaned over him, pursing her lips, smirking a little, “Aw…poor Bishop. You look like you got hit by a carriage. Here,” she stuck the half drank bottle of potion in front of his face. “Go on,” she insisted, “drink up grumpy.”

    He looked at her with half lidded eyes and she popped it right into his mouth. He reluctantly swallowed the rest of the strange mixture and immediately felt better. The painful feeling in his head dissipated entirely. He didn’t even feel tired anymore. He held the empty bottle out and said, “Damn, that shit’s good! Almost as good as Qetesh’s Best.”

    “Right?” She said grinning, “If there’s one thing Lorrie’s good at, it’s mixing up a damn good potion for hangovers! Her love potions could use some work though.”

    He chuckled and looked her up and down. She wasn’t wearing her usual red dress, instead she had on a loose blue tunic and beige trousers. The same pair of necklaces she had on the night before dangled over her chest as she leaned over him and her hair was tied into a thick side braid which trailed over her shoulder.

    “Mmm,” he groaned and grabbed her arms, yanking her down onto his chest. She started giggling as he buried his face on the side of her neck without the braid and he said, “What’s so funny?”

    She smiled down at him and said, “I don’t know. Just been feeling great since last night. I had sooo much fun!”

    “Yeah I know,” he smirked, “You lit a fire in me and I’m aching to put it out beautiful.”

    “No, no, no!” She said pressing a finger to his nose, “I just finished washing up! I don’t want to smell like sex before we head out again.”

    He frowned, but then rolled over with her, so he was on top and she was laying down beneath him. He was unclothed except for his underwear and brushed his hard-on against her leg. “You’d say no to this?”

    She smiled sweetly at him and just nodded, “Mmhm!”

    He made a pouting face and gave her puppy dog eyes, “To this face?”

    She laughed and stuck her tongue out at him. He grinned and leaned in, ready to take that tongue in his mouth when she gasped and said, “Bishop! What happened to your neck?”

    He leaned back, sitting upright and the sheet fell off of him and he said, “Er… what do you mean?”

    “You have a huge bruise right here,” she sat up and ran her hand gently over his neck.

    “Oh that,” he mumbled, “Uh, got into a brawl last night. Couple of drunks wanted to keep that stupid hat real bad and I got a little throttled.”

    “Are you okay?” She asked and immediately ran a healing hand over the wound.

    “Yeah, I’m fine,” he lied. He hated lying to her but he wanted so much for her to go back to laughing and smiling again, “I just let them have the hat. Figured it wasn’t worth getting choked out over.”

    She looked worried and he ran a hand through her hair, caressing the side of her head and said, “I promise I’m fine. At least now I am, you healed it, right?” He rubbed a hand to his neck.

    She nodded, “Yeah, it’s gone now,” then she sighed, “Well I’m glad you’re alright. But let’s get going. We have to go to Roxie’s family’s estate right now.”

    “Yeah?” He asked, “What are the plans for today?”

    She crawled off the bed and went back to fixing breakfast in the kitchen. “Just more wedding planning and maybe a little mischievousness too,” she gave him an impish grin.

    He rolled out of bed and grabbed the brown trousers off the floor, yanking them on, “What kind of mischievousness?”

    “Well,” she started as she opened the cupboards looking for a plate, “her aunts are all back from Anvil and they’re already finding new ways to sabotage the wedding. So we’re going to thwart them at every turn!”

    Bishop just laughed, shaking his and pulled the white shirt on. If they were going to the estate he could check in with Richelle and see if his new armor was ready, which he was looking forward to. He was also going to talk to Magrob and see if they could come up with a plan that would allow him to spend the next week fighting in the Arena without making Rona suspicious. He had to figure something out.

    ~~~

    Upon arriving at the estate they were immediately greeted by a very happy Karnwyr flanked by two huskies. The wolf leapt up onto both of them and gave them plenty of licks and they in turn gave him all the head scratches he wanted before he ran off again with his two new favorite friends.

    They noticed that the lawn was covered in large crates and many blonde breton men and male orcs were moving them around, opening them and taking out some large poles and long rolled sheets of cloth.

    “Magrob’s and Roxie’s relatives,” Rona started explaining, “They’re going to have the reception here after the wedding. Looks like they’re getting all the tents, tables and chairs for it.”

    “Busy, busy,” Bishop said. Then they spotted the girls, Roxlin, Lorrie and Charissa all standing by the front doors. Bishop noticed Rona blushing a little as Charissa glanced over at her and then quickly averted her eyes. He cleared his throat and said in hushed tones, “You two gonna talk about what happened last night? Or just pretend that never happened?”

    “Ugh,” Rona groaned, “I was hoping we could pretend it never happened,” then she looked up at him, “Please don’t attack her for it.”

    He snorted a laugh, “If she were a man, yeah, I definitely would have given her a piece of my mind a taste of my fist. But, nah, I’m not going to attack a woman.”

    She scowled at him, “What difference does it make whether she’s a woman or not?”

    He smirked at her, “The difference is that I kind of liked it.”

    Her face turned absolutely crimson and he just laughed at her. She tried to let her face cool off before the girls noticed but they were already very distracted. Roxlin was fuming, stomping around the front steps, her fists curled so that her knuckles turned white. She was grumbling loudly, “I can’t stand her! I just cannot stand her! She’s the absolute worst of all of them! I MEAN REALLY!? White!?” She saw Rona and barked, “Auntie Mina bought a white dress! A WHITE DRESS!”

    Bishop looked at her perplexed but Rona gasped and said, “She did not!”

    “It looked like champagne to me,” Lorrie said gently, trying to calm her friend down.

    “Champagne! Eggshell! White! What difference does it make!?” Roxlin snapped. She spun on her toe, fists clenched and burst into the manor shouting, “RICHELLE! I NEED YOUR SCISSORS! I’M CUTTING IT TO RIBBONS!”

    “OH NO YOU’RE NOT!” An older woman at the top of the stairs snapped. She looked just like the rest of them, long blonde hair and a large, blooming elegant gown, face done up in makeup and covered in glittering jewelry, the only difference was that she was clearly much older and her eyes, mouth and forehead were etched with deep lines where the scowl on her face had been present most of her life. She looked extremely snobbish and just all around vile. Bishop made a mental note to avoid that particular woman like the plague.

    Roxlin stormed up the stairs, practically throwing her aunt down in the process as the older woman screeched, “IT’S NOT WHITE ROXLIN! IT’S SHIMMERENE VANILLA! FROM THE SUMMERSET ISLES! IT’S VERY EXPENSIVE!”

    “I DON’T CARE!”

    Mimi stepped into the foyer from the sitting room, holding little Quinn in her arms and cried gently, “Roxie sweetie! Please calm down! Let’s discuss this in the sitting room!”

    “NO MAMA! I’VE HAD ENOUGH! MAGROB!” Roxlin shouted at the orc, making him jump, as he was passing by, “GET MY BATTLEAXE.THAT DRESS IS GOING DOWN.”

    She ran off down the corridor on the upper landing, her aunt chasing after her, holding her puffy dress up and then all of Roxlin’s sisters and quite possibly many of her female cousins, appeared from the opposite end of upper landing, giggling and snickering as they quickly followed after them, mostly blonde hair billowing behind each of them. Another pair of blonde witches, which Bishop could only assume were the other two aunts, went screeching after them all too.

    “Oh dear,” Lorrie whispered, putting a hand to her cheek.

    “Should we… maybe do something?” Charissa asked hesitantly as they heard more of Roxlin’s furious roars from the other end of the corridor and the screeches of her aunts and all her sisters and cousins arguing.

    Magrob came down the stairs looking incredibly drained and waved a hand, “Don’t worry. They’ll sort it out themselves.”

    “Oh Magrob dear,” Mimi simpered, “I’m so sorry. You must be just exhausted.”

    He chuckled, “I’ll be fine.”

    There was even louder shouting and the sounds of things falling, shattering and breaking and he looked back up the stairs and muttered, “I hope…”

    Rona said, “I’m gonna go check on them.” She quickly hurried up the stairs, Lorrie following close behind and giggling when she heard Roxlin’s furious swearing, “YOU FUCKING HAGRAVENS! I’LL SPILL YOUR UGLY GUTS ALL OVER THIS GODDAMNED WHITE DRESS! SHIMMERENE VANILLA MY ASS YOU BITCH!”

    Charissa seemed to be debating whether to go up to the possibly violent chaos above or stay there where Bishop was. She gave him an awkward side-eye glance and he raised his brow at her, smirking a little. She blushed and hurried up the stairs then.

    Mimi was bouncing baby Quinn on her hip and said, “Could you take him for a bit Magrob? I’m going to see if I can break up the fight.”

    Magrob took the little one and Mimi hurried up the stairs then, clutching her dress delicately as she went and then she passed by Richelle who’s hair was a mess and she muttered something to her mother who then moved at a quicker pace, heels clacking on the tile as she went.

    Richelle looked down at them and said, “Oh! Bishop! Come on up, I have your armor ready. Bring Quinn, will you Magrob?”

    The two of them went up and on to the opposite side of the hall, thankfully, far, far away from the shrieking catastrophe behind them. Bishop looked over at Magrob and said, “Been like this all day or…?”

    “Mina just showed up with that damn dress of hers, going on and on about how she was going to wear it to the ceremony. She’s doing it on purpose, trying to provoke everyone and stir up trouble, all three of her damn aunts are,” he groaned, “Can’t wait to get the hell out of Cyrodiil.”

    Bishop laughed, “And go to the dragon capital of the world?”

    “I feel like dragons would be easier to handle than this,” Magrob said, “At least it’d be more straightforward and you’re actually allowed to kill the damn things.”

    Bishop and Richelle both laughed and she led them into her sewing room. Magrob plunked down on one of the sofas, still holding little Quinn who was just as bubbly and happy as ever, oblivious to all the drama in the manor. Richelle went over to one of her many wardrobes and opened a drawer, pulling out the brand new black leather armor and laid it out on the table for Bishop to look over.

    He could not hide the grin on his face. It looked amazing, brand new leather, solid black, not patched up or worn anymore. It was definitely sleeker looking and she’d made a few tasteful changes to it, but otherwise it looked great.

    “Well hurry up!” She said excited, “Try it on!”

    He grabbed all the pieces and went around the changing divider, tearing the other borrowed clothes off and pulled on his new trousers and buckled the cuirass on. He slipped his new gloves on and looked himself over in the floor length mirror. It was a little snug in places, but otherwise fit perfectly. With the new clothes including the pair of boots he’d gotten over a month before, all enchanted now, he was really feeling at the top of his game.

    He came back around the divider and Richelle clapped, “Amazing! How’s it fit?”

    “Perfect,” he said still grinning, “This is great. Thank you.”

    “You are very welcome. Should be able to withstand incredible amounts of heat and freezing cold easily now too,” she winked.

    Magrob was bouncing the baby on his knee and smirked at Bishop, “Looking like a mighty fine ranger, Bish.”

    “Hey,” Bishop said, “Now that I’ve got you here alone, can I talk to you a minute?”

    Magrob raised his brows. “Still need some help with your… problem?” He hesitated glancing at Richelle.

    “It’s fine if she knows,” Bishop said, “In fact, I could seriously use your help too Richelle. I hope it’s not too much trouble.”

    She went over and took her baby boy from Magrob and propped him up on her hip and said, “Sure. What do you need help with?”

    Bishop started going into details then, telling them both everything that was going on. He told them all about his family out on the Waterfront and what his brother was doing to them, especially to his sister. Richelle looked appalled and Magrob seemed to be getting angrier by the second, looking ready to go and kill Ost himself. Bishop even told him how he met the Emperor the night before and everything the man had relayed to him about the inner workings of the Arena and its shady proprietor.

    “I have to do this,” Bishop said seriously, “And not just for the money, but for my family.”

    “What in the world do you need that much money for?” Richelle asked.

    Bishop glanced at her and said, “Can you keep a secret? You can’t tell anyone, least of all your sisters.” She nodded and Bishop said smiling to himself, “I’m having an engagement ring made.”

    Richelle’s eyes lit up and she got the widest smile on her face and squealed, “You’re going to propose!?”

    “I am,” Bishop chuckled, “That’s why I need the money, for this amazing stone and for the whole ring really, since my brother stole all my gold and everything.”

    Richelle was practically hopping up and down and he reiterated, “You can’t tell anyone!”

    “I know! I know!” She sighed trying to calm down.

    Bishop took a seat on one of the couches, elbows to his knees and hands clasped together, as he leaned forward he said, “I really need you all to keep her busy while I do this. I can’t tell her. I don’t want her to worry or stress over it. She needs this time away from her own problems and I don’t want to dump my own on her shoulders.”

    “I hear yah,” Magrob said, “In fact, I’m thinking this will give us both an opportunity to get away from the insanity here.” Bishop smirked at him and the orc said, “I’ve got your back on this. We’ll just tell them we’re working on a surprise or something. You’re going to have to play a lot of catch up though Bish, because the event started two days ago and the contenders are already way ahead of you.”

    Magrob stood up then and Bishop followed suit. Richelle promised to cover for them as they both left the estate and made their way to the Arena on the opposite end of city to the southeast. They headed for the Imperial Palace first so that Bishop could collect his weapons.

    “You’re allowed whatever weapon you choose,” Magrob said as they rounded the enormous central tower, “What are you planning to use?”

    “My dual blades,” Bishop said.

    “Yeah?” Magrob looked curious, “You good at wielding two blades? Rona taught you?”

    Bishop frowned, “I’m okay with it. Haven’t gotten used to using the one in the left very well.”

    Magrob stroked at the patch of hair on his chin and said thoughtfully, “I’d recommend going with one sword and a shield then.”

    Bishop frowned. He’d always considered shield users to be like paladins. And the last thing he wanted was to be anything like Casavir. Still, he wasn’t very good with the second blade and he trusted Magrob’s advice. It would probably be better to go with the extra protection and then he could focus his skill with his good arm.

    He collected his brother’s blade then, forgoing Brandr’s sword. He thought of Kodlak and knew he would have disapproved of him seeking retribution in that way. Brandr’s sword was one that should be wielded for honor and glory… But Jules’ sword, that blade had already been used to exact vengeance once before against their father. It was a union of strong and powerful materials. One half lustrous biting bone, the other sharp and deadly steel, it was made to kill and he would do just that with it.

    He took his weapon and the two of them continued on to the Arena District. Upon entering that part of the city they were greeted by the sight of an enormous Coliseum, a huge, round stone building centered right in the middle of the district. Posters showing all of the main events and attractions lined the walls of the building and warriors and battle mages of all kinds were coming and going from the enormous metal gates in front.

    Bishop stopped and looked at one of the posters near the entryway and asked, “What’s this?”

    They both looked over the poster which was painted with the image of a gladiator facing off against an enormous beast that was shaded over in black. It wasn’t discernable what it was exactly but it was depicted as being incredibly huge with terrifying red eyes. Underneath the image were the words:

    BATTLE OF LEGENDS

    GRAND CHAMPION VS THE BEAST

    100,000 SEPTIM PRIZE

    “You don’t know?” Magrob asked. Bishop just shook his head and Magrob said, “The Grand Champion is supposed to face off against some unknown beast at the end of it all.”

    “What is it?” Bishop asked, “A frost troll or an ogre or something?”

    “No one knows,” Magrob said, “But the stands will definitely be packed that night.”

    “So not only do I have to kill my own brother, I have to fight some mystery monster just to get the gold?”

    “Looks like it,” Magrob said then he started to head in and Bishop followed.

    “Ever fought here before?”

    “A few times,” Magrob said, “Got bored with it when I wasn’t allowed to finish off the contenders though. It used to be fights to the death, but the Elder Council banned that after the Great War, only making exceptions for the final matches. Guess we lost too many men to the pit and didn’t have enough to defend the city from the Dominion.”

    “So if I can’t kill them, how the hell am I supposed to win?”

    Magrob smirked at him, “Mortally wound ’em.”

    “Pft, so they can die in the infirmary instead?”

    “That’s the idea,” Magrob said poignantly, “The rules say you can’t outright kill them in the pit, but they never said anything about them dying from wounds after the match.”

    They entered into a lower chamber where plenty of contenders were hard at work practicing their swordsmanship and marksmanship on training dummies and targets. The place smelled like blood and feces and he noticed the foul mixture of just those things draining down the walls into grates on the ground.

    “Welcome to the Bloodworks my friend,” Magrob said as he started looking around and seemed to eye the person they were looking for.

    A really rough looking Imperial man stood by in heavy steel plated armor, looking over all the combatants with a fierce scowl etched deeply into his face. He had short cut dark grey hair and enough slash marks across the right side of his face that it looked like a sabre cat had slashed him three times over in crisscrossing patterns. The scars traveled all the way across his right eye, down his lightly stubbled cheek and over his lips. The eye itself was a pale white, clearly having lost his sight from whatever attacked him.

    He looked to be in his mid fifties and despite his age was still very fit and muscular, although quite lean. The man paced around the room, clicking along the floor in his steel-toed boots while his short red cape swept behind him. He barked at a few of the men, criticizing their form and giving them instructions, insulting them with racial slurs and other degrading epithets as he did so.

    The second he saw Magrob his scowl only seemed to deepen and his lip curled when he spoke in a deep voice, “Well if it isn’t the pig that ran away. You trying to come back and rejoin Bashurn? Because I won’t take you back. I never take back deserters.”

    Magrob just snorted a laugh and smirked at the disgruntled man, “Not looking to come back Jedrek, just bringing a friend who’s interested in getting his blade dirty.”

    He nodded to Bishop and the Imperial sniffed and looked him up and down then barked, “Too skinny.”

    Bishop scoffed and looked down at his own barrel of a chest and thick arms. He raised a brow at the man and said, “Got something against nords, Imperial?”

    Jedrek’s scowl deepened and he crossed his arms, “Damn right I do. Filthy snow-backs are all a bunch of hot-headed idiots, s’what keeps them so warm in that frigid asscrack they call home. I’d hardly call you a nord though, skinny as you are. Should eat more snow-bear or whatever the fuck it is you all feast on when you’re not busy getting piss-ass drunk and singing prissy little lullabies around a dirty hearth like a bunch of fat-titted tavern wenches.”

    Bishop felt the vein in his head pulsing very hard and his eye twitching furiously. His blood was starting to boil at the racist bile this Imperial was spewing at him and Magrob quickly put a hand to his shoulder and looked at him reassuringly, “Should hear what he has to say about the Imperials before you lose your temper.”

    Jedrek spit on the ground, “So you want to be a combatant, huh? Fancy getting your entrails all over my Red Room?”

    “I thought these weren’t fights to the death,” Bishop said.

    “Never stopped anyone from spilling someone else’s guts all over the walls here in the Bloodworks. Just keep ’em alive long enough to die in the infirmary and I won’t have to disqualify or expel you.”

    The man turned away and started heading towards a hall leading to another room and he glanced back and barked, “You coming, Pit Dog, or not?”

    “Wait, so you’re letting me join?” Bishop was more confused than ever. He couldn’t tell if this Imperial was just fucking with his head or what but when the man snapped, “I don’t have all day. Need to get you armored up and see how your sword arm is. So hurry the fuck up shitstain or leave and quit wasting my time.”

    Jedrek continued on through the corridor and Bishop just looked over at Magrob and gaped at him. Magrob laughed and said, “Yeah, he’s a real surly one. Don’t let it get to you. I’ll be up in the stands waiting for your fight, good luck out there Bish.”

    Bishop followed along after the angry Imperial and into an armory. The walls were lined with weapons of all kinds and in the center of the room were three piles of armor, all beaten and battered to shit and covered in blood.

    “Heavy or light?” Jedrek asked him.

    “I can’t just wear this?” He motioned to his own clothes.

    Jedrek looked him up and down, “What? You want to dirty up your pretty little leathers instead?”

    Bishop just looked at him with half-lidded eyes. Of course he’d think he was some fancy noble type wearing the brand new leather armor Richelle finished for him. But Jedrek just shook his head, scrunching his nose, “No. You wear the fucking armor we give you Pit Dog. Now, heavy or light?”

    “Light,” Bishop said.

    Jedrek went to the pile in the middle and yanked out some dirty, rusted and bloody steel plated armor and tossed it to him. Bishop glanced around for a changing divider and Jedrek crossed his arms and barked again, “Gonna stand around all day looking for some privacy? No, get changed now. No time to waste on shame when you need to try on pieces ’til you get the right fit.”

    Bishop exhaled exasperated with this man and his nasty attitude, but quickly undressed down to his underwear and folded up and set aside his nice clothes on a table and pulled on the cloth trousers and tunic before he started tying on the light steel plated armor, snapping the grieves to his legs and the spaulders for his arms. He tried getting the steel cuirass on but it was too small so he tossed it back in the pile and grabbed one from the last pile, assuming it must have been the set of large gear. That one fit him better.

    “All done then?” Jedrek asked impatiently.

    “Need a shield,” Bishop said.

    Jedrek nodded to the back wall where all the shields were displayed. Bishop went over and selected a smaller round one. He never did like anything too bulky that would encumber him.

    Once he’d finished Jedrek was already on the move again, leading him back into the Bloodworks. Bishop just followed not knowing what was next. He was utterly surprised when they arrived at a large gate which no doubt led out to the Arena. The gate suddenly creaked open and Bishop looked out. There wasn’t really anyone there in the stands. A few folks had turned out, but they just looked like other combatants waiting for their turns or taking a break.

    “Gods you’re slow,” Jedrek snarled, “Get on out there already maggot. What? You want me to hold your hand?”

    Bishop glared at the man but turned away and stepped out into the arena. The other contender’s gate was just rising as well. This was it. He was ready. He’d fight until he couldn’t fight anymore and do it all again for the next five days until he was finally face to face with the piece of shit that had no right to call him brother.

     

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Trigger Warning: Graphic depictions of violence and death.

     

    Chapter 86

    Rising In The Ranks

     

    (Background music is Corn Yairds by Erutan)

    Rona ducked as a very nice and expensive white and blue vase flew past her head and shattered in the hallway. She watched anxiously as an entire room of angry blonde breton women fought with one another. It was a few of the cousins and the aunts against Roxlin, her sisters and thankfully most of the other cousins who had sided with her.

    It was complete chaos in the room, dresses were ripped to shreds, a couch was overturned, the blue bedspread, from the full size bed was sprawled on the floor and someone had even taken a down pillow, ripped it open and there were feathers everywhere. All the women were snarling and shrieking at one another, clawing and grabbing hair and ripping each other’s clothes. A few of them looked like they were just doing it for fun too, almost laughing as they shoved one another.

    Lorrie stood next to Rona in the doorway snickering to herself and Richelle pulled herself free from one of the older cousin’s grasp on her hair and ran by them shouting, “I’m out! I got enough of this shit at my own wedding!”

    She was only gone for a minute or two when Charissa appeared at the door with Mimi at her heels. They all just gaped at the scene while Roxlin fought off her aunts Mina, Marigold and Miriam, trying to find the white dress by throwing open every dresser drawer and cabinet she could get her hands on while cackling madly. She may as well have been fighting off three goblins all wide-eyed and wild looking like she was.

    Mimi clutched a delicate hand to her pearls and cried even more delicately, “Oh! Please stop girls! Daughters! Sissies! You mustn’t! We’re family! Please don’t fight!”

    Mimi was always too sweet. She did not know how to command a room. Rona decided it was time to prove her loyalty to her best friend and live up to her title as maid of honor. She looked at Mimi and said, “I’m really sorry about your windows, Mimi.”

    The woman just looked at her perplexed. Rona stepped into the room and the second her way was clear of brawling bretons she faced the beautiful large, arched windows and shouted, “FUS!”

    The word reverberated throughout the entire room and shattered the windows. Everyone had stopped to cover their ears from the pain of the noise.

    Rona stood in front of everyone, hands to her hips and looked dragon’s fire at all of them. She shouted, “WHO’S WEDDING IS THIS!?”

    No reply. They were all too stunned by the tiny elf woman and her sudden bravado, not to mention the power of her voice. She shunted a finger at each aunt and roared, “IS IT YOUR WEDDING!? YOURS!? OR YOURS!?”

    All three of the aunts looked bewildered and even a bit frightened. “WELL!?” Rona demanded. They all slowly shook their heads. Rona calmed her voice a little, but stayed firm when she said, “Then you all need to stop this nonsense! This is Roxlin’s wedding and all you’ve done is make her cry every single night over it,” Roxlin immediately raised a brow and nearly scoffed at the idea that she would do such a thing when Rona gave her a quick reassuring glance and continued, “You should all be ashamed of yourselves! She’s the last of Mimi’s girls to be married and it should be a beautiful and wonderful day for her and Magrob and for us to share in! It’s time you all started respecting her wishes and back off! And if you don’t,” she growled, her voice getting low and threatening, “I will not hesitate to shout you all across Lake Rumare myself. Are we clear!?”

    All of the women nodded, the cousins and sisters and the aunts. All except Aunt Mina, who just looked livid. She got up and stormed out of the room in a huff, pushing sharply past Rona’s shoulder, nearly knocking her over.

    All of a sudden the other two aunts burst into tears and hugged on Roxlin who was just stunned on the ground as they moaned and cried about how they never meant to make her cry and how sorry they were. The cousins and a few of the sisters started to do the same, all hugging each other and sobbing. Even Mimi got teary eyed and ran in to pile onto her poor daughter.

    Lorrie was just outside in the hallway, holding her stomach and laughing herself into tears over the whole thing. Charissa just sighed and said, “Well… good job Lightfoot. Too bad about the windows though.”

    With all the women finally calmed down, they all went downstairs to start preparing lunches for all their hardworking men, who had all wisely stayed outside and away from the estrogen induced chaos in the manor. When finally the four of them were alone again, Roxlin was still sitting on the floor, legs sprawled out and hands on the carpet looking bewildered. Her short bobbed hair was sticking out in places and her tunic was half off her shoulder. She was a real mess. Rona held a hand out to her and she took it standing up and started fixing her tunic and trousers.

    “Thanks Rona,” Roxlin said grinning, “But did you really have to tell them I cried every night? Ugh, puh-lease.”

    Rona laughed and said, “Well it worked didn’t it?”

    She shrugged and then gave her a big hug, “Knew I chose the best maid of honor!”

    Lorrie cleared her throat and said, “I would have gladly shouted them all out the window if I could have!”

    Roxlin smirked at her and Charissa asked, “What’s with your aunts anyways? Why are they trying to hijack your wedding?”

    “It’s not just my wedding. They did it to all of us, starting with Richelle, way back when. I honestly think it’s mostly Auntie Mina, that fucking bitch,” Roxlin snarled, “She’s always hated Mama because she was the favorite growing up. She married into a wealthy family, her marriage has actually lasted and they didn’t lose all their money gambling like Mina did with her last three husbands. Oh and Papa’s still got all his hair,” she snickered and then sighed, “So she takes it out on all of Mama’s kids. She’s nuts and always knows how to wind up Marigold and Miriam and get them in on her schemes.”

    “I meant it you know,” Rona said smiling at her, “I will shout them all across the lake if they keep it up.”

    Roxlin gave her the biggest grin and squeezed on Rona’s shoulders, “You’re the best! You all are! I don’t know how I’d have survived this madness without you guys. Now let’s go get the boys and get some lunch. I want to go to this cute café over in the Temple District.”

    Roxlin and Lorrie headed out into the hall and Rona called at Charissa’s back, “Hey.”

    She stopped but didn’t turn around.

    Rona asked, “We gonna talk about what happened last night?”

    Charissa scratched the back of her head and gave a very nervous laugh, “Ha, uh what? I don’t remember. Got really, really drunk you know. The whole room was spinning.”

    Rona rolled her eyes and stepped forward, grasping Charissa’s hand before she had a chance to run off. The redguard woman turned around and was full on blushing as red as a dark skinned woman could. Rona let her hand go and Charissa said quickly, “Look… not here. We’ll talk later though, okay?”

    She hurried off then and Rona just felt so weird and awkward. She didn’t know how to approach the subject at all. If Charissa had feelings for her she certainly couldn’t return them. She loved Bishop and she just didn’t swing that way. She put it in the back of her mind then, letting it go for the time being.

    She met with the girls in the foyer and Richelle came out from the other side of the hall with her baby boy on her hip. She walked up to Roxlin and started fussing with her sister’s tunic fixing it more and asked, “Is it over?”

    “Yeah, Rona broke all the windows in Mina’s room,” Roxlin laughed.

    Richelle leaned around her sister and just gaped at Rona, “You what?”

    “I shouted,” she said sheepishly.

    “Right,” Richelle said slowly twirling a finger, “That Dragonborn thing.”

    “Did you see where Magrob or Bishop went?” Roxlin asked her.

    Rahdex was coming up the stairs then and thumbed back saying, “I just saw them both leave the grounds about ten minutes ago.”

    “What?” Roxlin barked, “Well did they say where they were going?”

    “No,” Rahdex shook his head, “They didn’t say anything to anybody.”

    Richelle waved a hand and said, “You know men! They probably couldn’t handle all the crazy in here and decided to take a break. Bishop’s been getting along so well with Magrob he probably offered to take him out for a drink.”

    “Hmm…” Rona mumbled, feeling suspicious.

    “Well whatever,” Roxlin said, “I’m hungry, let’s go get lunch!”

    The girls all headed down the stairs but Richelle stopped Rona and said, “Oh hey, wait. I’ve got a surprise for you Rona.”

    “What is it?”

    Richelle motioned a hand towards herself and said, “Come on follow me!”

    Rona went along with her to the sounds of Roxlin barking up the stairs, “Don’t take too long!”

    “We won’t!” Her eldest sister snapped right back.

    Richelle led her into her sewing room and said, “Mind holding Quinn?”

    Rona took the sweet little blonde baby and cradled him in her arms. Richelle started rifling through her drawers and Rona started making faces at him, getting him to smile. She laughed and then he laughed and she couldn’t help herself because his laugh was so cute and contagious. They both started giggling together, feeding off each other’s laughter. “He’s such a good baby,” Rona said smiling wider than ever.

    “Yeah,” Richelle said with a smirk, “He’s a real charmer that little stinker. You’ll get to meet my other boy Dameon when my husband finally gets back from visiting his parents out in Leyawiin. They’ll be here for the rehearsal dinner – Ah hah! Here they are!” She yanked a set of white, brown and dark red leather armor from a drawer and laid it out on the table.

    Rona stepped over to look at it, still cradling the baby who was reaching his tiny hands out to her and she said, “Wow, that’s beautiful. You’re such a talented tailor Richelle.”

    “Aw thanks!” She grasped Quinn under the arms taking him and said, “Go ahead! Try it on!”

    Rona looked at her stunned, “Uh, what?”

    “I made it for you! Give them a go!”

    “Are you serious?” Rona asked her stunned.

    Richelle picked up the leathers and pressed them into Rona’s arms then grasped her shoulder and pushed her off towards the changing divider, “I want to see you in them!”

    Rona went around the divider and undressed and then started pulling on the snug armor. The trousers were a thick light grey leather that fit perfectly around her hips and thighs. The cuirass was white, with beige pinstripes going all around it. The collar was a large thick piece of brown and black leather that hugged her shoulders nicely and the whole thing laced up in the front. There were long dark red leather gloves, fingerless which she preferred. It even came with a nice belt that had an assortment of holsters, pouches and pockets. It was really nice overall and fit great too.

    Rona came around and Richelle looked thrilled, “Yes! Yes! It fits perfect! Looks like my sisters got your measurements just right!”

    Rona smirked and asked, “But why did you make me this?”

    Richelle shrugged, “Hey you never know when you might need something more durable than a dress right? Especially fighting dragons. When I was making Bishop’s armor I was struck with the notion that I should make you some too. Enchanted it myself as well! Resistance to fire and ice.”

    “This is amazing! Thank you so much Richelle, I really don’t know how to repay you.”

    “Don’t worry about it girl. Just do whatever it is your dragon slaying self has to. Roxie tells me you’re saving the world or something right? So I figured, hell! Why doesn’t she do it in style in one of my own pieces?” Richelle smirked at her and said jokingly, “When you do finally save the world and they ask you who made it, be sure to tell them you got it at Divine Elegance here in Cyrodiil! I call it my Triss Armor set.” She winked at Rona who gave a light laugh. Then Richelle said, “Oh yeah, I’m having a friend make the boots for it too. Haven’t got them in just yet, but they will match perfectly.”

    Rona thanked her again and got changed back. She left the armor there and rejoined her friends in the foyer. She was having a good time with them all but was missing Bishop and wondering where he’d gone off to.

    ~~~

    (Music is Battleborn Instrumental by Two Steps From Hell)

    His sword clashed fiercely with his opponent’s, a bosmer, he was facing off against. The damn elf was fucking fast, Bishop had a feeling he was using magic to make himself move quicker, which he felt was unfair, but then again, hardly any of his matches that day had been fair.

    Everyone fought dirty in the pit and he learned quick to do just the same. As their swords scraped sharply against one another Bishop snarled into the face of the damn elf and decided to use his shield as a weapon. He threw off the bosmer and immediately lunged with his shield out, cracking the elf hard in the skull with it. He hoped he hadn’t killed the fucker, because the last thing he wanted was to get disqualified after the twelve matches he’d already had. The first few were pretty easy for him, but as the day wore on he’d started to wear down. He was playing catch up though, so it was no surprise.

    He dared a glance at the bosmer on the ground while still holding his shield at the ready on the off chance the bastard tried to throw a spell at him out of revenge like a few of the assholes he’d fought earlier did. But the elf didn’t budge. He’d knocked him out cold.

    Bishop took a deep breath and pressed a hand to his knee. He was filthy, covered in a thick layer of sweat and dirt. He had a few nicks and scrapes which had bled a bit.

    There was plenty of blood on him that wasn’t his too, after he’d managed to get in some fierce and seriously worrisome blows on an orc and an argonian earlier that day. Luckily they’d both lived.

    Bishop looked up at the stands where Magrob was sitting. The orc thumbed to the sky. That’s when Bishop realized how late it was getting, as the sun had already started to set. It was time to call it a day. He turned around and headed back to the gates where Jedrek was standing by, arms crossed watching him and scowling.

    The Imperial hadn’t said much at all to him after his first fight and went absolutely silent after the second one. He was surprised when the man actually complimented him, “Good work out there today, Pit Dog.”

    “Er…thanks,” Bishop said awkwardly.

    Jedrek’s expression hadn’t changed in the slightest though and he finally asked him, “What’s your name, maggot?”

    Bishop had already prepared for this question, “Arrow.”

    Jedrek’s scowl just deepened, “The fuck kind of name is that?”

    “Pa was an uncreative fletcher,” Bishop said curtly.

    The Imperial spat on the ground and just shook his head, walking back into the Bloodworks, “Goddamned idiots every one of yah. Think you can come up with a fancy fucking stage name like you’re putting on a prissy little drama for a bunch of puffed up, snotty nobles…”

    Bishop decided to go with an alias because if he made it to the finals like he hoped he would, the last thing he wanted was to have his actual name in bold lettering on leaflets and posters all over the city advertising him and whoever else he was facing off against just for Rona find out what he’d been up to.

    He met up with Magrob in the Bloodworks and the orc was grinning ear to ear, “Damn, I gotta admit, you’re an impressive warrior, although I guess that comes with the territory, slaying dragons and all that.”

    Jedrek looked over and barked at them, “The fuck you talking about, Bashurn?”

    Magrob grinned at the grumpy Imperial, “Oh, you didn’t know Jedrek? You’ve got yourself your very own dragon slayer here.”

    “You’re shitting me,” he said unconvinced.

    “Not in the slightest. It’s how I lost the eye you know,” he pointed at the white scarred mess where his left eye used to rest, “Would have lost more than that if the nord here hadn’t pulled me out of there. Owe him my life.”

    Bishop just smirked at Jedrek’s skeptical scowl. He looked Bishop up and down again and said, “Guess we’ll see if you’ve got what it takes tomorrow. I’m moving you up from Pit Dog to Bloodletter.”

    Magrob raised his brows and said, “Skipping him right over Brawler? Damn… Jedrek never does that, you must have really impressed.”

    “Don’t push it,” Jedrek growled. Then he looked at Bishop and said, “You’re aiming for the finals right Pit Meat? Best get here bright and early then. I expect to see you at the ass-crack of drawn. You’ll be doing twice as many battles tomorrow if you even want a chance of getting in.”

    The Imperial turned away and went back to barking out slurs and criticisms to the other combatants while they trained. Bishop exhaled slowly. He was already feeling absolutely exhausted from the thirteen battles he’d finished that day. He knew he was going to be sore tomorrow.

    “Better get changed and we’ll get you cleaned up,” Magrob said.

    “We’ll want to get our story straight too, “Bishop said, “Oh and call me Arrow around here.”

    Magrob snorted a laugh, “That’s the name you picked?”

    “I’m way too fucking tired to get creative. Also starting to miss my bow.”

    “No bows,” Magrob said, “Too easy to accidentally kill a combatant.”

    Bishop scoffed, “And yet they allow battle mages to fight.”

    ~~~

    Bishop got cleaned up in the infirmary where a few kindly mage women, two bretons and an altmer healed all his cuts and scrapes. He used the Arena washroom to clean the filth and grime off of himself, making sure he looked relatively the same as when he left earlier that day.

    He returned to their shared suite, wondering if Rona would be back yet and to his surprise she had not returned. He was almost grateful because all he wanted to do was sleep. He ate a quick supper, a sandwich he threw together, drank a bottle of mead and went and passed out on that amazing giant bed of theirs.

    He wasn’t sure how long he slept for when she finally came in, but he woke up to her straddling him and leaning over his face. He moaned, “Mmm, hey Sweetness.”

    He could smell the wine on her breath as she slurred playfully, “Wheeere you been all day?”

    “Helping Magrob with a surprise for Roxlin,” he said promptly. It was all bullshit, but it’s what the two had decided to go with, “You know, for their wedding. It’s a big deal Princess, and we want to get it just right. Gonna be gone all day tomorrow and the next few days after.”

    She sat upright and pouted, “Aw… I wanted to spend some time with you though. You sure he needs you tomorrow?”

    “Oh definitely,” Bishop lied again. He felt awful lying to her face like that, but really didn’t want her to worry, especially since he was risking his health just by fighting back to back matches in the Arena, not to mention there was always a risk of death too, even if it was just from a mortal wound or even an accidental killing in the pit itself.

    She pursed her lips, making a pathetic, sad face and then leaned in again and smirked, “I have you all to myself now though, right?”

    He groaned a little, but not in an eager, ‘yes, let’s get to fucking’, way. It was more of a reluctant, ‘oh gods I’m exhausted and I’m going to regret every second of this’ way. In her drunken stupor she did not seem to hear the difference and immediately started making the motions to try and get him hard, kissing him and humping him. In all fairness she was doing an alright job of it, plastered as she was, until she stopped suddenly and fell asleep snoring on his chest.

    He muttered, “Oh thank the fucking gods.” He never thought there’d be a day when he’d be so relieved to not be having sex.

    He gently rolled her over onto the bed next to him and curled up behind her, spooning her and resting his arm over her waist. He breathed in the soft scent of her hair and whispered, “I’m sorry Rona… I’ll tell you everything after, I promise. Just… keep being happy…”

    He was grateful when sleep claimed him, but disgruntled as the first morning light stirred him from his slumber. Rona was in the same exact spot in his arms from the evening before. He pecked her on the cheek, rolled out of bed, got dressed, ate a quick breakfast and was on his way again. He left a brief note for her and hoped she wouldn’t be too mad at his sudden disappearance again.

    For the next five days Bishop fought match after match, working himself to death. Jedrek was so impressed, or at least, he assumed he must have been, because he started pushing Bishop through the ranks very quickly. From Bloodletter, to Myrmidon, to Warrior, to Gladiator, and finally up to Hero, he was rising fast and the fights were only getting more violent and dangerous.

    The challengers were mostly men, although he did face off against a few women. Every single one of them played dirty too, so he made sure to play dirtier. No one seemed to care either, so long as they didn’t kill each other in the pit. Bishop was almost positive he’d killed a few combatants, that they’d died in the infirmary from the mortal wounds he’d left on them. He didn’t care though. Everyone there just pissed him off and he’d have gladly killed everyone of them if given the opportunity.

    Every day he fought in twenty or more battles and every night he’d get all fixed up by the healers in the infirmary and washed clean like it never happened before returning to their suite. His muscles were on fire every evening from pushing himself the way he was. And then he had to entertain Rona and her pestering questions as well.

    She was highly suspicious of what he was up to, but he kept telling her that he’d swore up and down to Magrob that he wouldn’t say a word to anyone about it. Whatever ‘it’ was, even he hadn’t figured it out. It was nothing but lies. He almost told her everything he was doing one evening just to get her to stop asking, but instead he passed right out from exhaustion.

    His absence the last five days was starting to strain their relationship. She was getting angry at him leaving so early and returning so late. Magrob said Roxlin was drilling him the same way every night, but he’d promised to stick with Bishop and see him through it all. Bishop felt like the orc had become a true friend to him which he couldn’t have been more grateful for.

    Finally on the sixth day of battles, he’d made it. Jedrek moved Bishop up to the rank of Champion and he finished with his twenty-second match of the day. It had been the qualifying matches, meant to thin out the herd. They were allowed to wear their own armor and use any weapons they wanted. The qualifying matches were a free for all, matches to the death, unless their opponent pleaded ‘Mercy’. Bishop did not hold back at all. He wore his nice new leathers and used every weapon in his arsenal, including his dragon-bone dagger, his bow and a slew of fire, frost and shock enchanted arrows he’d had made. And of course he had his sword as well as a brand new ebony shield he’d commissioned by a local shield-smith to be enchanted with a spellbreaker for all the battle mages he knew he’d go up against.

    His last battle of the day was against another nord. He was a really tough opponent too. He’d almost gotten Bishop a few times, nearly maiming him in his sword arm and his left shoulder, but he’d been getting a lot better with the shield and used it as a weapon itself. He’d deftly evaded the nord’s next blow and slammed his shield right into the man’s gut, knocking the wind out of him. Bishop got a sharp, deep swipe across the man’s chest and quickly pinned him down with his shield.

    As he aimed the tip of his blade for the man’s face, the nord called ‘Mercy!’ and it was over. He’d finally done it. He’d made it to the Championship. He would only need to fight in a few more battles, including the one against his own brother tomorrow and then he was supposed to go up against some mystery monster and he was done. Bishop went back towards the gates and Jedrek said, “Got someone here to see you.”

    Bishop raised a brow at him and Jedrek led the way up into the Bloodworks. His quick rise in the ranks had drawn the attention of quite a few onlookers lately. Plenty of people had filled the stands to watch the qualifiers and he’d heard his alias being spoken about a lot by the locals whenever he walked through the city and occasionally stopped by the Waterfront to check in on Duful and Rook. He was hearing a lot of ‘Arrow this and Arrow that,’ which just made him glad that he’d used an alias in the first place. But he had also drawn the attention of someone else in particular and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

    They went up into the filthy training room where a clean-cut Imperial man dressed in fine clothing stood. He wasn’t overdressed though, as he wore sleek black trousers, a white under shirt and a black pin-striped waistcoat. His black boots were absolutely spotless, in fact they looked like they’d been shined that very morning. He had on a single silver ring on his left hand with a family crest on it and his thick black hair was parted on the side and curled over his forehead slightly. He was actually very handsome for an Imperial.

    He was also flanked by two very burly, stone-faced breton men. They reminded him of the orcs Biggs and Wedge, as large and muscular as they were. They were no doubt the man’s personal protection.

    The Imperial looked Bishop over with dark hooded eyes, before he stepped forward, holding out a hand in greeting and gave a gentle smile. His voice was strong and clear, “You must be Arrow. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

    Bishop thought it wise to take the man’s hand instead of reject it. He also thought it wise to put on his friendliest demeanor, “Nice to meet you too… er?”

    “Lucias Medici. I am, as I’m sure you already know, the proprietor of the Arena.”

    “Right,” Bishop said nodding slowly, “Good to meet you.”

    Lucias pulled his hand back and said, “I’ve heard quite a bit about you. Saw your last three matches as well. You’re an incredible warrior, the likes of which I haven’t seen here in a long time. You know, there’s already people placing bets in your favor for the Grand Champion title match.”

    Bishop didn’t know what to say to the man. He was actually feeling a bit nervous meeting him. He could sense the danger in this person and knew he was getting himself into some real deep shit. Lucias might not be a sadistic fuck like Thorn was, but he could tell the man was not opposed to killing and removing anyone who got in his way.

    When Bishop made no reply Lucias smirked a little and asked, “So, what brings you so suddenly to our Arena, if I may ask? Why do you fight? For the septims? Or perhaps for the glory?”

    Bishop decided to keep it simple. “For the money,” he said, “That’s a hell of a lot of gold you’re offering and I wanted to try my hand at winning it.”

    Lucias nodded his head slowly, still studying Bishop, predatorily, sizing him up. Then he said, “I heard you’re a dragon-slayer. You come from Skyrim then? Well, obviously, seeing as you’re a nord and all.”

    “Yeah,” Bishop said.

    “Dragon-slaying not paying well enough these days?”

    “Pays fine,” Bishop replied, narrowing his eyes a little to meet Lucias’ threatening gaze, “But this is easier and the pot is sweeter too.”

    “Hmm,” Lucias hummed and smirked again, “I suppose you must also be looking forward to fighting our Grand Champion. It’s a fight to the death you know.”

    Of course. Being the Grand Champion, Ost was very close to Lucias and so naturally he’d have told him all about his brother. They’d already seen each other a few times in the Arena from a distance.

    Bishop just narrowed his eyes further and said slowly, “Can’t wait.”

    Lucias just kept smiling, almost viciously so, “Well take care out there. Our Grand Champion has never lost a fight yet. Although if you do win, I’d love to see how you fair against our mystery monster. Best of luck to you, Arrow.”

    Lucias left then with his two guards and Bishop watched them go. He made to leave himself, feeling irritated from the conversation when Jedrek stopped him.

    “Hey, Pit Meat, matches start at seven in the evening tomorrow. If you manage to beat the Grand Champion you’ll have to face some kind of beast, so be ready for that.”

    Bishop met Jedrek’s gaze and asked, “What is it? Do you know?”

    “Not a damn clue,” Jedrek said, “Lucias has been cooking this one up for a while though. Said it’s to bring in more coin from the folks getting disinterested in the Arena battles. But I think he’s got another motive.”

    “Like what?”

    Jedrek averted his gaze and shook his head, “Not for me to say. Anyhow,” he cleared his throat, “You’re doing well out there, so try not to get yourself killed.”

    The Imperial turned and left, leaving Bishop more bemused than ever. He was starting to think the man actually liked him or something. He’d even let up on the nasty comments and slurs over the past few days.

    He hurried along and met with Magrob for a minute to update him on the event tomorrow. They parted ways and he decided to pay a visit to his brother and little sister out on the Waterfront before going back to the Palace. He stopped by a local cafe to pick up some food for them. He wove his way around the Imperial Palace and through the Temple District and out to the Waterfront. He made sure to stay on guard though, on the off chance Ost happened to be around.

    He hadn’t seen Kari since the night they went to the Bloated Float Inn and he definitely still hadn’t seen his own mother. He didn’t feel quite ready to meet with the old hagraven after a decade apart. He still felt angry and resentful towards her for everything she ever did, or rather, didn’t do, when he was young. Even knowing how far gone she was in her own mental state he couldn’t let those feelings go.

    There was no sign of any of them around, but he stood in the shadows between the buildings and the wall, waiting on the off chance any of them decided to show up. It was the meeting spot they’d decided on because it was easy to hide in and still see the people coming and going.

    He kept his eyes on the small shack in the distance, the one he’d seen Kari go into once before and that Duful pointed out as their current home. The sound of a young man’s voice startled him, “Yo.”

    Bishop practically jumped out of his skin, spinning around and snarled, “Don’t fucking do that!”

    Duful stood by with their little sister Rook. He laughed and said, “Sorry bro,” then he eyed the bag in his brother’s hand and said, “Oh yeah! What’d you bring us?”

    “Dinner,” Bishop said promptly handing him the bag of Cyrodiil sandwiches.

    “Aw sweet! These are the best!” Duful stuffed his hand into the bag and pulled the food out, passing one of the sandwiches off to Rook who looked just as excited to be eating so well.

    Bishop sat down with his back against the wall and the other two joined him, tucking into their food. He smiled at Rook, she didn’t shy away in the slightest though. She was actually quite bold once she got used to new people. In fact she was a real chatterbox now that she knew Bishop was her older brother. She seemed to enjoy talking to him. He liked it too and she reminded him so much of Jules. She was only two years older than her own niece, Holly, and he wondered if the two would ever get to meet and if they would get along.

    He’d started hoping that after it was all over, he might be able to bring his family back together. It was a faint and optimistic thought he held and however improbable it was, he clung to it. At the very least he was glad to have the two of them in his life again.

    Duful asked through a mouthful, “So you said you’re using the name Arrow in the Arena right?”

    “Yeah,” Bishop said, “That’s right.”

    “Why?” He took another big bite of his sandwich.

    “Because I don’t want my woman to know the kind of trouble I’m getting myself into.”

    Duful grinned with a mouthful of bread, “You men da Dragahborm wight?”

    Bishop chuckled, “Would you swallow your damn food before you talk?”

    Duful swallowed and said, “The Dragonborn right?”

    Bishop sighed, “Yeah, the Dragonborn.”

    “Is she hot?” Duful asked jokingly, “You know, cuz she’s a dragon or something?”

    “You’re an idiot,” Bishop laughed at him, “She’s definitely hot though, not because of the dragon thing, but for plenty of other reasons. Been getting pissed at me lately though.”

    “Damn bro, I wouldn’t mess with a girl like that. She breathes fire right?”

    “And ice,” Bishop added, smirking.

    “Shit…” Duful tore into another bite of food.

    Rook said, “Ost’s been getting mad.”

    Bishop looked down at her, “Mad how?”

    “He keeps coming in and breaking things. He hit Kari really bad yesterday.”

    Bishop looked seriously at Duful who was averting his gaze. “What the fuck Duful? Talk to me.”

    Duful frowned, “Look, I didn’t want to worry you, alright? But with you rising in the ranks so quick… Ost is starting to lose it. I think he’s actually afraid of you.”

    Bishop paused, mulling over that for a minute. If his getting that much closer to facing his brother in the Pit was scaring him enough to lash out at the family, Bishop couldn’t risk leaving them there.

    “I’m going to give you some gold,” Bishop said.

    “If Ost finds it, he’ll just take it,” Duful objected.

    “He’s not going to find it,” Bishop said, “You two are going to stay at an inn nearby.”

    Duful knit his brows together, “We can’t leave. He’ll know! All the guards know what we look like. They’ll tell him, he’ll find us and then do gods know what to us. Beat the living shit out of me and then Rook…” He looked down at the little girl, mortified. Then he added, “Can’t leave Kari and Ma either.”

    “She’s not even your real mother!” Bishop barked.

    Duful shrugged, “Closest I ever had to one. But, really, I can’t leave Kari. Ost will fucking destroy her if he finds out we left.”

    “I can’t lose you two,” Bishop said gritting his teeth, “I already lost Jules. I can’t lose what’s left of my family. You’re everything to me, you know?”

    Duful looked at him, taken aback by his declaration, then he smiled and said, “Look, we’ll be fine, Bishop. I’ll high tail it out of here with Rook to someplace safe if Ost starts to lose his shit again, I swear. Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’ll be okay. ‘Sides, I run way faster than that potato anyhow.”

    Bishop looked mournfully at his younger brother and Duful just pat him on the arm and said, “Quit looking so sad bro! You’re actually doing it! You’re almost there. After tomorrow Ost will be dead and we’ll be free, all thanks to you.”

    Bishop nodded slowly, “I swear to you both, I will get you the hell out of this place. I take care of my own.”

    He left them shortly thereafter, feeling tired and wanting to get as much sleep in as he could. When he got back to their suite late that evening he found it completely empty. Rona was nowhere to be found. He did, however, find an angrily scrawled note on the kitchen counter and read it over.

    Bishop,

    I’m spending the night at the estate with the girls. I would like to see you again soon, but since you’d rather spend all your time doing whatever it is you’re doing I’ll just leave you to it. See you whenever!

    Rona

    He frowned at the angry letter. She was definitely still pissed with him. He’d been blowing her off for five days straight, disappearing very early and then coming back incredibly late. The night before she’d even tried to fool around with him but he was just too tired and fell asleep on her halfway through. She threw him off of her, livid, demanding to know what he was really doing. He wouldn’t say though. He couldn’t. This was his problem now and he intended to finish what he’d started without involving her. He felt, even as angry as she was with him, it was better than her worrying over his safety or trying to talk him out of it, and he knew she’d try to talk him out of it. Try to convince him that whatever money he’d needed could come from her.

    But he couldn’t take it. He’d already sworn to himself that her engagement ring would come from all his efforts and he was going to do just that. He’d kill his brother, beat the monster, collect his money and confess everything to her after the fact, at least, everything but the ring.

    He undressed and face planted right into the bed, rolling over on those nice sheets and fell into a very deep sleep. If he had his way, he was going to sleep forever.

    ~~~

    The girls were sitting around a pretty white, iron-wrought, table with matching chairs in the atrium which had an amazing view of the garden through large shining bay windows. The garden was covered and fenced in with crisscrossing white trellis which had a magnificent array of vines and flowers weaving up and over it. Plenty of flowery bushes were scattered throughout and arranged in neat patterns around several fountains. Butterflies and bees fluttered and buzzed around, dotting the blooming flora all around.

    Roxlin grumbled through her bite of pastry, “Magrob took off early this morning again. He still won’t tell me what he’s up to!”

    Rona sighed, twirling a spoon in her teacup and asked, “Has he been really tired lately?”

    Roxlin raised a brow at her, “No. Not at all, why do you ask?”

    “Because Bishop comes back late and then just passes out. Every night, he’s completely exhausted and he still won’t tell me a thing.”

    “Well this better be one fucking amazing surprise,” Roxlin growled.

    Charissa looked between them both, looking like she wanted to say something but Lorrie spoke up first, “You don’t think they’re fooling around do you?”

    Charissa snickered under her breath and Roxlin and Rona both gaped at her and Lorrie quickly clarified, “Not with each other! Oh my gods, honestly! But I just mean like with… other women.”

    Rona highly doubted that, Bishop was not the disloyal type and there was nothing that really led up to this sudden change in his behavior that would make her suspect that. At least there was certainly nothing she did that she could think of that would push him into the arms of another woman.

    “No,” Rona said, “They’re up to something, but I don’t think they’d do that. I just can’t figure out what it really is though. I mean, what could possibly be leaving Bishop absolutely dead tired every night but not Magrob?”

    “You got me,” Roxlin said shrugging her shoulders and taking a sip of her tea.

    “Forget those two,” Charissa said, “Let’s just keep having fun without them. The wedding is in another three days and maybe they really are working on some big surprise or whatever. Either way, we’ll find out then.”

    Rona was almost disappointed that the wedding was so close. She’d been enjoying her time in Cyrodiil a lot and didn’t want it to be over, because when it was she was due back to the pressing destiny that plagued her life up in Skyrim.

    Charissa said, “So, Roxlin, I have a surprise of my own for you.” She fished through a pouch on her belt and pulled out four tickets and put them in the middle of the table.

    Roxlin took one and then squealed, “WOW! Really!? This is so awesome Charissa!”

    “What is it?” Rona leaned over her shoulder, trying to look at the ticket.

    “They’re front row seats to the Arena tonight!” Roxlin shouted, “I thought I’d have to miss the big event because we didn’t buy any tickets on time, but oh my gods! How did you get these!?”

    Charissa grinned at her and said, “I have my ways and I know how much you love a good, bloody, battle to the death. Figured we could all go together, girl’s night out.”

    “Oh this is so exciting!” Roxlin practically squeaked with glee, then threw her hands on the table, “You know the Grand Champion is supposed to fight some mystery monster too? I can’t wait to see this! Thank you Charissa!” She hopped up running over to give her a big hug.

    Rona was still feeling down, but tried to get excited for their day out. She had a nagging feeling that Bishop had been lying to her for the last five days about what he was up to. Things had changed so abruptly after their night partying at the inn on the Waterfront. It was right after he’d disappeared to go get a hat he didn’t even care about. Something had happened, she just knew it. But she didn’t know what yet. She kept thinking about the bruise on his neck and wondering what that had really been all about too.

    She let it go though, trying her damndest not to let it fester in her mind and instead focused on enjoying her time with her friends. Things with Charissa had been okay too, although they continued to avoid the topic of their brief and drunk kiss as both seemed to not want to broach that subject.

    The manor had quieted down a lot too, with all the women getting along, especially now with all the men around to distract them and keep them busy. Rona had plenty of fun nights partying with Roxlin’s family and singing with all her sisters and cousins the last five days too. The only person who’d made themselves scarce was Aunt Mina and Roxlin highly suspected that the woman had one last scheme up her sleeve, especially since it was her room Rona blew the windows out of and boy did that woman know how to hold a grudge.

    They spent the whole day in, visiting with Roxlin’s family before they got dressed to go out that evening. Rona wore her usual red dress and the others put on their own Fighter’s Guild armor, save for Lorrie who instead wore her green mages robes. They figured since it was an event for warriors they might as well dress as they usually did. Like warriors.

    Rona was amazed when they arrived at the Arena, a huge Coliseum of a building. It wasn’t the first time she’d seen it of course, but she’d never actually been inside. What amazed her though was not the building itself, but the sheer number of people that had come to see the matches. Although she suspected the headlining monster was the main reason people had arrived.

    “Bet it’s the biggest ogre we’ve ever seen!” Roxlin shouted over the loud crowds as they pushed their way into the seating area of the Arena.

    “Maybe it’s a Daedroth,” Lorrie suggested.

    “I’m thinking a minotaur lord,” Charissa tossed.

    Rona laughed, “What are the chances they caught a dragon from Skyrim and dragged it all the way here?”

    Roxlin looked at her wide-eyed and Charissa scoffed, “Uh, yeah, I don’t think so.”

    They found their seats at the edge of the Arena walls. It was a perfect view of the pit down below. The stands were absolutely packed, wall to wall with people and they could hardly hear each other over all the other chatter and speculations people were making about the mystery monster.

    As it got darker there were mages at the top of the structure that cast bright candlelight spells to illuminate the entire Arena. There was a single spectators box set in the center of the south side of the Coliseum where a finely dressed Imperial man was seated with several other high ranking nobles. One of them Rona realized was the Emperor himself. She was surprised to see Titus Mede present at such a bloody event.

    The Imperial man stood up then, approaching the edge of the box and the chattering died down to complete silence. He spoke loudly and with profound strength in his voice.

    “Welcome citizens of Cyrodiil! And welcome to those of you who have traveled great distances from other lands to join us in our glorious Imperial City! I cannot thank you enough for your patronage to our humble Arena! Even our great Emperor Titus Mede the Second has agreed to join us and represent our own at the head of the King’s Podium! Now, let us get on with the games! For our first match this evening, I present to you, all the way from the lands of Morrowind, a deadly assassin, who lays claim as a former member of the Morag Tong, Drohdis the Dark!”

    The gate to their far right creaked open and a formidable looking dunmer man stepped out into the pit. He was dressed head to toe in actual Morag Tong assassin armor with his head and face covered in the bone chitin armor, except for his vicious red eyes. His weapons consisted of a pair of short swords and what appeared to be twenty or more throwing knives, glinting on his belt.

    “And for our second Champion, one of our newest combatants in the Arena, who rose very quickly in the ranks, proving himself an unbeatable and highly formidable foe in every match thus far, I present to you the dragon-slayer extraordinaire, Arrow!”

    Rona’s heart nearly stopped at those words. Dragon-slayer. Dragon-slayer!? The gate to the left creaked open and all her mounting suspicions were confirmed in an instant because Bishop stepped out, wearing his new leather armor, with his brother’s sword in hand, and she was surprised to see a shield in the other.

    She felt her blood absolutely boiling in anger.

    “You can’t be fucking serious,” Charissa blurted.

    “Oh. My. Gods.” Roxlin muttered beside her.

    Rona just stared at him. This is what he was doing? But why? Why had he lied about this? She didn’t understand. Did he honestly think she wouldn’t have approved of him fighting matches in the Arena? Well… to be honest, she wouldn’t have. Not with the wedding coming up and certainly not when he was meant to face off against people as deadly as former assassins in fights to the death. But why did he want to do it anyways? He was the one who was constantly moaning about needing to take a real vacation and this was far from that.

    “I’M GONNA WRING HIS NECK!” Roxlin roared and stood up, looking around the stands. She spotted Magrob several stands up and pushed her way through the boisterous crowds. The orc was cheering Bishop on, right up until Roxlin appeared right in front of him and then he made a face like he’d just been caught in bed with another woman.

    They watched for a moment as Roxlin lit into him, though they couldn’t hear a damn thing over the roars of the crowd. Rona quickly turned her attention back to Bishop though, feeling absolutely terrified for him.

    He hadn’t noticed her at all, probably because the stands were a bit darker than the pit itself and he was wise not to take his eyes off his current opponent.

    Then they heard someone shout, “LET THE MATCH – BEGIN!”

    ~~~

    (The Music is The Last Stand by Two Steps From Hell)

    Bishop was ready. He’d gotten a full nights rest and more. He’d trained for a bit beforehand, getting himself properly stretched and pumped up for this. He was going to finish off each opponent as quickly as possible. There were only five matches, which meant he’d only have to face off against three total combatants that evening, including his brother.

    He got into a fighting stance, spreading his legs out and holding his shield up and held his sword at the ready. The dunmer opponent paced back and forth in the Arena, sizing him up or perhaps waiting for him to make the first move. Bishop kept his eyes trained on the man and noticed when he turned just enough so that his left hand and left hip were out of sight, in that split second the dunmer twisted swiftly launching a glittering throwing knife at him.

    Bishop was quick to react though, blocking with his shield. But when he moved the shield away the dunmer was gone from his spot. Bishop grit his teeth, pissed at himself for falling for that one.

    He quickly backed himself up to the edge of the Coliseum walls to make sure that his back was at least protected while he searched for any sign of a thin outline of an invisible man. Then he saw it, another knife splintering his way, he blocked again with his shield, but then felt something sharp hit him in his sword arm. He looked over at it, another knife. The dunmer had moved fast, throwing the first one to distract him and then the second to hit him.

    He made the quick decision to sheath his sword and snagged a potion from his pocket, drinking it quickly to ward off whatever poison had been stuck to the knife in his arm. He yanked it out of his arm and slid it into his belt. Something caught his eye then, the faint outline of an invisible man, just barely gleaming with the way the mage’s candlelight touched him. He averted his gaze, not wanting the dunmer to know he’d seen.

    He undid the straps on his shield then and held it like a discus, then he spun swiftly on toe, putting his weight into the move and flung it right where the dunmer was standing. As the elf made to block the incoming shield, in his distraction, he hadn’t noticed Bishop swiftly draw his bow because in less than a second he was pelted with three shock arrows which broke his invisibility and stunned him. Bishop did not hesitate to start firing arrows rapidly, one after the other right into the chest of the man.

    He got him at least a dozen times in the body and twice in the arm. The dunmer’s eyes started to roll and Bishop snatched his dragon-bone dagger from his belt and snarled, “This is how you throw a fucking knife!”

    He threw the blade sharply at the dunmer, getting him square in the eye, killing him. He was glad it was over because whatever poison had been on the dunmer’s throwing knife was a lot stronger than he expected. He looked up at the roaring crowd for just a moment as everything started to slowly spin around him. He thought that for just a second he saw Rona in the stands, but that wasn’t possible. She had no idea he was there. He quickly retreated to the gates where Jedrek caught him under the arm as he was about to topple over and gave him a few choice words, “Fucking shit-head. Letting a little poison get to you. Come on, let’s get you down to the infirmary. The ladies will get you all fixed up. You’ll get a break between the matches and it looks like you’ll need it since you’re such a goddamn pussy.”

    “Fuck you,” Bishop mumbled and Jedrek laughed.

    The Imperial got him down into the infirmary quickly and the women went right to work on him, but moved a little faster when Jedrek said, “Got him with poison.”

    Bishop yanked the throwing knife from his belt and passed it off to the altmer woman. She took it over to her alchemy table and quickly tested it. He heard her muttering something before she quickly threw together some sort of mixture and passed it to him, “Hold your nose and drink it all. Should be the right antidote. Good thing you brought that knife. That poison was made with Jarrin Root, really potent and deadly stuff. You’ll be good to go again in another hour.”

    He downed the nasty mixture while one of the breton women healed the cut in his forearm where the knife had got him.

    “You got damn lucky out there Pit Meat,” Jedrek said, “Barely a scratch on you. You sure managed to fuck over that grey-skin real quick though.”

    “Trying to get through this fast,” Bishop muttered as one of the ladies made him lay down on the bed.

    “Smart,” Jedrek said, “I’ll keep an eye out to see who you’re up against next.”

    Bishop lay there staring at the ceiling and thought back to what he’d seen through his blurring vision. It really did look like Rona, absolutely mortified to see him out there. In fact, it looked like she was with all her friends. He tried to shake it off. Maybe the poison was making him hallucinate. It had to be, he told himself.

    It was barely forty minutes when Jedrek came back and said, “You’re up nord.”

    The altmer woman said, “He needs more time!”

    “You know how it is Cecilia. He fights as is. Come on Pit Meat.”

    Bishop sat up and stumbled to get his bearings for a minute. It wasn’t good, he was still feeling a little off from the effects of the poison. But he forced himself to move anyhow. Jedrek led him back down to the gates where his shield and dagger were. He collected them and waited for the next match to start.

    “Going up against one of the most nasty she-cats I’ve ever seen. Watch out for her claws, oh and she will not hesitate to use her teeth either. Not a magic user, thankfully, but she’s got one damn nasty scythe.”

    “A scythe?” Bishop gaped at him.

    “Free for all Pit Meat, now go.”

    (The Music is Cry by Two Steps From Hell)

    The gate rumbled and rose up then. Bishop stepped out, this time he decided on starting with his bow. He got a good look at the khajiit woman, all dressed in blue leather armor, with a dark hood covering her ears. She was holding the biggest scythe he’d ever seen too. He’d never fought someone with a weapon like that before. In fact, he’d never considered something like that as a weapon since farmers typically used scythes to cut wheat or grass.

    She was quite beautiful for a khajiit, white fur, speckled with dark grey ring shapes. Her eyes were a dark blue and her smile was almost sweet. But he could see the deadliness in her movements alone. It was no wonder she’d made it that far. No one would suspect a sweet smiling khajiit woman to brutally maim or murder them.

    He didn’t let his guard down for a second, at least he tried not to, but he was still feeling woozy from the poison. Her tail flicked back and forth predatorily while she held that grin on her black lips and scanned him over with her big eyes.

    The second they heard the words, “LET THE MATCH – BEGIN!” Bishop was already yanking arrows from his quiver and firing them at her. She actually took the handle of the scythe, into her mouth and started pelting off the ground on all fours, running right for him. He tried to keep his aim steady on her, but the combination of her weaving back and forth and his fog-headedness was making getting a hit in really difficult.

    She was getting way too close for comfort too, especially when she pounced off the ground, high into the air, and yanked her scythe from her mouth with her hands, bearing down on him with it. He shunted out of the way, but felt as she cut a deep swath across his right calf. He tumbled and rolled then, yanking his sword from its sheath as he went and spun around just in time for the dragon-bone edge of his blade to clash with her curved blade.

    She hissed at him and he caught his breath, trying to ignore the stinging pain in his calf. Then she leapt backwards, like Rona could do, somersaulting swiftly, still holding that insane weapon. She landed on her feet and looked him over again, smirking viciously as she caught sight of his wounded leg. Her tail was practically snapping back and forth with delight at his predicament.

    He started to wonder if she won, if Ost would be able to beat her. But then again, he didn’t want to lose because he definitely didn’t want to die there and you couldn’t call ‘Mercy’ in the final matches. They were absolute, no holds barred, fights to the death.

    This was bad. He wasn’t sure if he could move with his leg the way it was. But he sure as hell forced himself to try, using his sword for leverage, he pushed himself off the ground and stood upright only to sink immediately to his knee, as his leg caved with the pain. She laughed at him then, derisively. She was taunting him, just standing there, making no move against him, yet.

    He had to get that fucking scythe away from her somehow. Although he wasn’t sure how keen he was on taking her claws and teeth over that weapon either. He had an idea then, bold and stupid as it was, it was something.

    He smirked at her and barked, “What are you so afraid kitten? Worried the big bad wolf will bite?”

    Her sneer was wiped right from her face then. He laughed at her, loudly, purposefully provoking her. She did not like that it seemed and he snarled, “Come get some kitty-cat.”

    She hissed, “Fine. You want to die, nord? Then let me bring you sweet release!”

    She pelted off the ground, spinning her scythe in wide circles and he watched carefully, waiting for just the right moment. As she drew nearer to him he pulled his dagger from its sheath and threw it right at her. It was enough to distract her, to force her to block it and then he made his move, gritting his teeth through the pain in his leg, pushing himself off the ground, he deftly evaded her spinning scythe, only getting a few grazes on the shoulders and leaving her utterly stunned as he full body slammed right into her, knocking the wind right out of her.

    Her weapon went spinning across the arena and while still sitting on top of her, holding her throat with his knee, he raised his sword with both hands, making to come down directly into her face. But she dug her claws up into his ribs, making him howl in pain. It was her last move and he had to end it quickly. He endured that pain like he’d always endured every kind of pain inflicted on him his entire life and slammed his sword right between her eyes with a loud crunching, squelch.

    She went limp, but her claws remained in his sides and he released the grip on his sword to yank them from his body, painfully so. He was completely ignoring the roaring cheers from the crowd above, chanting, “Arrow! Arrow! Arrow!”

    He just grumbled, “Fucking idiots.”

    But then he heard one voice that stood out among the rest. One that knew his real name.

    “BISHOP!”

    He looked up at the sound of it and saw her staring right at him, brows knit tightly together, hands clutching the edge of the wall separating her from him and his heart sank.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Trigger Warning: Graphic depictions of violence and death.

     

    Chapter 87

    GRAND CHAMPION VS THE BEAST

     

    She looked at him with those beautiful green eyes, pleading with him and asking, why?

    All he could do was mouth, I’m sorry, because everything else would be lost in translation. The pain in his leg reminded him of what he needed to do then. He had to go get healed as soon as he could in the infirmary before shortly returning to finally face his brother.

    He turned away from her and limped back into the gates where Jedrek helped carry him down to the healers. They fixed him up as well as they could in the time they had. Bishop made them focus on his leg, because the deep gash in it had split his muscle wide open and hurt like hell and he really needed both legs working for this battle.

    “Time to get out there,” Jedrek said after only ten short minutes.

    The altmer woman bristled at him, “We’re not finished yet!”

    “Already told you Cecilia-”

    “It’s fine,” Bishop said quickly. He pulled a bottle of Qetesh’s Best he’d mixed up himself and downed it. It helped dull the pain definitely, but didn’t heal him the way he’d hoped because he still wasn’t very good at making them as potent as Qetesh could.

    He hurried along with Jedrek and they stopped at the gates, listening as Lucias Medici started introducing the Grand Champion.

    Jedrek was staring at the gate when he said, “I know your focus is on this match, on killing your brother-”

    Bishop was stunned by his remark and stared right at him. Jedrek met his gaze looking serious when he said, “But after you kill him, do me a favor and keep an eye out for the Emperor. Whatever this mystery monster is, we have no doubt that Lucias is planning to use it to assassinate Emperor Titus.”

    Bishop looked at him with dawning realization, “You’re-”

    “An undercover agent for the Palace,” Jedrek actually cracked a smile, which Bishop honestly didn’t think he could physically do considering his permanent scowl over the last seven days, “Been doing this for years now, trying to crack open this place and expose it for what it is. Lucias never trusted me as much as I’d hoped though. Oh and uh, sorry for all the racist shit,” he smirked, “It was part of my undercover identity. But I will admit, it was kind of fun pissing you off like that.”

    Bishop returned the smirk and laughed, “You damn dirty bastard.”

    “You really are kind of skinny for a nord though,” he chuckled as the gate creaked open, “Good luck out there, Bishop. Don’t fucking die.”

    “I don’t plan to, not while my woman’s watching.”

    (Background music is No Honor In Blood by Two Steps From Hell)

    Bishop stepped into the Arena once more to the roaring cheers of the crowd. Across the way was Ost, looking as smug as ever, holding his Daedric helmet under his arm.

    Bishop chanced a glance back at Rona, who was still watching him with worry etched all over her face. All her friends were there too, including Magrob who was standing by looking like he was in deep shit. Which he was since Roxlin was lighting into him and punching him in the arm. She was absolutely tiny compared to the orc, but damn was she feisty.

    Bishop turned his focus back onto the task at hand though. He’d seen his brother fight a few times over the last week. He specialized with a huge and formidable Daedric greatsword. He was definitely going to be a challenge. Ost was all muscle and brute strength. He also wore a set of heavy duty, black Daedric armor, definitely chosen because it made him appear more threatening and because of how hard it was to pierce. Bishop figured it must have been a gift from his generous benefactor, Lucias Medici, because there was no way in Oblivion that Ost managed to get the materials to have something like that forged.

    Ost gave him one last nasty smirk before putting his pointed helmet on. He was completely suited up. Bishop knew this was going to be a real challenge, getting through that hard shell he’d put around himself. But he had plenty of enchanted arrows and his own sword and shield.

    His heart was pounding in his chest as he waited for the match to start. And then something happened which he was not expecting. Ost raised a hand and thumbed back behind him. Bishop looked at him confused for a minute, as there was nothing behind the man but wall. But then he looked up into the stands and was horrified to see all of this siblings, Kari, Duful and Rook staring down at him with three very threatening nord men standing at their backs.

    Bishop felt a vein pulse hard in his head as Duful gave him the most terrified pleading look he’d ever seen. Kari just stared vacantly out at the pit, not looking at any of them and Rook looked like she’d been crying.

    Ost was using them as leverage. He was trying to use them to get Bishop to throw the match in order to save them. His blood was absolutely boiling then, his desire to kill stronger than ever.

    Then they heard the call, “LET THE MATCH – BEGIN!”

    (Background music is Preliator and then Doomsday by Globus)

    Bishop pelted off the ground, blinded by pure rage. Shield at the ready, sword in hand he was going to gut Ost for this. He was going to hack that ugly head from his shoulders and throw it to the monster as a gift.

    Ost had his own sword at the ready and Bishop made sure his dragon-bone edge met with Ost’s Daedric blade. They hit with a resounding clash and then Bishop threw his shield out, under the greatsword, flinging it upward and throwing Ost off balance for just a moment. He leapt in with his new opening, jabbing swiftly at his chest plate. The armor cracked from the hardness of the dragon bone but did not break. Then Ost regained his footing and kicked Bishop in the gut, throwing him down onto his back a few paces. He rolled out of the way just as Ost came lumbering down with the sharp edge of his blade, sinking it into the earth instead.

    Bishop came up behind him, getting a few more swings in against that armor, cracking it more. Ost was definitely slow compared to him, but he knew if the man got even one hit in, he’d easily lose an arm, a leg or even his head. Ost spun around, bringing that huge blade with him and Bishop leapt back just in time for it to barely slice across his midriff, cutting a swath into his new armor, and only grazed his skin underneath. That only served to piss him off even more though.

    Ost lumbered forward and brought his blade swinging down hard. Bishop blocked with his shield and it felt like the bones in his arm were going to snap just from the sheer force of the blow alone. His brother was incredibly strong, however as he kept putting the pressure on the shield, Bishop used the opening to jab more at that damn armor, getting him in the chest plate some more. Ost pulled his blade back, giving Bishop a chance to breathe, before he slammed it back against his shield again, throwing him right off his feet and sending him careening across the pit, kicking up dust as he rolled.

    He hurried to push himself off the ground just as Ost came bull-rushing forward again, swinging that damn blade. Just as he got up, he felt it swipe hard against his back, carving deeply into his flesh and tearing up his poor armor.

    He fell forward again in pain and scrambled to move and that huge blade sunk into the ground right next to his head, narrowly missing him. Ost was still just too slow with that hindering armor and he figured it was probably hard to see out of that stupid helmet too. He quickly rolled out of the way, just as Ost yanked his blade from the earth and slammed it back down, another few inches from where Bishop’s leg just was. He got to his feet and ran over towards one of the walls, gritting his teeth with the stinging pain in his back and the light one in his midriff. He turned around and watched Ost warily.

    Ost pulled his blade from the ground again and held it out with one hand. He started laughing and said, “You realize what’s going to happen if you try to win, right? Might as well give up now Bishop.”

    “Never,” Bishop snarled back.

    “Then they’ll die,” Ost muttered angrily, trying to be threatening.

    Bishop just smirked at him, “What? In front of all these people? In front of the Emperor himself? Yeah I doubt even you’d be that stupid.”

    “I’ll fucking do it Bishop!” He pointed his enormous blade at him, “Go ahead and mock me one more time. Just say the word and I’ll have them gutted right in front of you, right here, right now!”

    He was like a child throwing a tantrum for not getting his way. Bishop hesitated realizing that maybe Ost really was just that stupid. He glanced up at his siblings for just a second. The men holding them probably had concealed knives at their backs. They could quickly and easily stab an artery or other vital organ and leave them to die right there in the stands, in the darkness and no one would be the wiser.

    ~~~

    Rona was covering her eyes and moaned, “Oooh, I can’t look. Tell me when it’s over!”

    “Rona…” Charissa touched her arm, “It’s going to be okay. He’s doing fine.”

    “They’re just talking to each other,” Roxlin said.

    Rona uncovered her eyes and saw Bishop and his brother conversing for a moment. And then he looked up into the stands again. He kept looking there for some reason. But in that moment Ost started charging forward, with his blade swinging and Bishop didn’t seem to notice. Rona felt all her nerves leap with fear and she screamed, “BISHOP!”

    He jolted at the sound of her voice and ducked just as Ost’s greatsword swung over his head, narrowly missing him. He took that opportunity to lunge himself forward, barreling right into his brother’s sharp armor with his shield. Some of the sharp points on the armor punctured parts of his unprotected arms and his legs, but he did manage to knock that damn brick wall of a man over.

    They all watched as Ost toppled to the ground hard and Bishop cast his shield and sword aside, snatching his dagger from his belt and pounced on him, starting to hack away at the crevices of his armor, snapping the leather bindings holding it all in place. He managed to tear apart the bits holding the arm pieces on and then he aimed for an opening under the helmet going for his brother’s neck when Ost roared, “DO IT!”

    Rona did not understand why, but Bishop leapt back off of him and ran to the outer wall, he looked up at that same spot in the stands again and Rona squinted her eyes through the darkness, trying to see what he was seeing. That’s when she noticed them. Three people held at the front of the Arena stands, two adults and a child, with three very malicious looking nords at their backs.

    She acted immediately, shoving Roxlin and Lorrie out of the way and barreling past Magrob as she ran as fast as her legs would carry her through the crowds. She rounded right around the King’s Podium, catching the eye of the Emperor for just a moment before continuing her race to help these strangers.

    Strangers that obviously meant something to Bishop because he’d given up the opportunity to kill his opponent for them. She watched as one of the nord men forced a young redguard forward, towards the edge of the wall, overlooking the pit. She saw the dagger pressed to the lad’s back and she lit her hands with crackling electrical magic and shouted, “WULD NAH KEST!” She bound off the ground, throwing herself forward, over the crowd who was so entranced by the battle below that they hardly noticed her, or her shout.

    She landed right behind the nord and threw her hands onto him and released a powerful shockwave right into his body, making him shudder painfully. He released the redguard and collapsed onto the ground. Then she lit her hands with golden flames and looked at the other two murderously. They immediately released their captives and ran for it.

    The redguard looked at her and said, “Whoa! You must be his girl… right? The Dragonborn?”

    Rona was stunned when she looked at the redguard. He was the spitting image of Bishop if he’d had dark skin, curly hair and dark eyes. Their facial features were so alike though, it was uncanny. She realized then, that this must have been one of his brothers and she glanced at the other two. The full blooded nord woman with honey-brown hair and golden eyes was enough to convince her as much that they were his other siblings. Things were slowly starting to click into place then. She brushed past the redguard lad, gripped the edge of the wall, looked right at Bishop and shouted furiously, “FUCKING KILL HIM BISHOP!”

    ~~~

    He felt heartened at her support for him. He drew his bow then and looked on at Ost, who’d stood up holding his greatsword at the ready again, but he was now missing the pauldrons and gauntlets of his armor since Bishop had snapped the bindings holding them together. He roared something nonsensical out of anger, throwing another tantrum perhaps because he was so used to getting his way, being at the top and controlling others beneath him. Bishop couldn’t see his face, but he knew that Ost was outraged and probably worried now that his dirty trick had been foiled and he no longer had any leverage to stop Bishop from absolutely murdering him in front of all those people.

    Bishop gave him the nastiest, smug look he could muster which only served to enrage his brother even more. It was definitely something they shared, being easily thrown into a blind rage, something they’d inherited from their father no doubt, but Bishop had learned to control his anger over the last year. He was pissed now, but he had people who cared about him there supporting him, especially her. He knew when it was all over, he’d get the tongue lashing of a lifetime, but he was so glad she was there.

    Ost barreled forward then, running in his fury and Bishop started nocking frigid, frost arrows and going for the only open spots on his brother, his arms. Even with hit after hit into his flesh, Ost didn’t stop his momentum. However, as he tried to raise his greatsword, his arms would not move. Bishop had frozen the muscle tissue within and even if he could move them, his arms would probably shatter.

    Bishop belted out of the way as Ost roared past him and he started pulling out his shock arrows and firing them at the cracks in his brother’s armor. Ost spun around, still gripping his greatsword and Bishop started to pelt the front of his armor. With each hard shock the cracks started to splinter more and more until finally he managed to burst a hole in that ugly black armor. With the new opening, he quickly nocked his fire arrows and landed two shots directly dead center into Ost’s chest.

    His brother lurched to a stop and Bishop stowed his bow away as he watched Ost fall to his knees. He walked over picking up his sword and he carefully approached Ost, who was wobbling a bit, finally feeling the effects of all the enchanted arrows penetrating his flesh. He was also gurgling and struggling to breathe.

    Bishop stood over his brother’s kneeling position and looked at the Daedric greatsword clutched in his grasp in front of him. Bishop did not hesitate when he brought his sword up and then slammed it down, right through Ost’s wrists. Being frozen though, they just exploded apart, leaving disgusting splintered pieces of icy cold meat where his hands once were.

    Bishop knelt down then and yanked his brother’s helmet off his head, casting it aside. He looked Ost right in the eyes narrowing his own into the fiercest scowling slits he could muster and said, “How’s it feel to have my arrows fucking you when you don’t want it? Hurts, doesn’t it?” He flicked one of the fletchings on the arrows and uttered,”These are for my sisters and every sick thing you ever did to them you vile shit.”

    Ost just gasped, choking up blood, because one of his arrows stuck in his lung. He looked like he was in a lot of pain too, which was exactly what Bishop wanted. Payback for all the pain he’d inflicted on his brothers and sisters. Then he stood up again and used a foot to kick his brother over onto his back. He gasped for air and his eyes were pleading with him. But Bishop had no mercy to give to Torban’s cruelest spawn and he snarled at him, “TASTE MY BLADE!” And slammed his sword straight through the opening in Daedric armor, right where his heart lay, killing him. The light from Ost’s eyes faded and it was finally over.

    He’d done it. He’d killed his brother in mortal combat and legally too, in the Arena. He couldn’t be arrested for it. He sighed, taking a deep breath and looked back up at Rona who didn’t look angry, just worried still. He hated seeing her like that, but then he remembered he still had one final battle, which may have explained her trepidation.

    He heard Lucias Medici’s voice and looked up at the King’s Podium where he stood, getting the cheering crowd to quiet with just his standing presence alone.

    When the Arena was silent he said, “Today we have seen incredible skill and courage from our warriors and today I have the honor of crowning our new Grand Champion – Arrow!”

    The crowd roared cheering again, though there were some jeers as well. Bishop assumed the few people booing must have lost their bets on the fight.

    Some Arena attendants came out and he was quickly ushered towards the gates. They grabbed his weapons, returning them to him and immediately disposed of Ost’s body, somewhere down below. All of a sudden, incredibly thick, iron-wrought fencing started to rise from the upper walls where the crowd stood, blocking them out from the Arena entirely.

    The fencing moved up and arched together at the top, creating a sort of caged in bubble. There were wide openings between the bars, allowing the crowd to see inside still, but it was clearly a protective measure for them. Bishop started to wonder just what the hell he was fighting that the crowd needed this kind of protection for. Then he saw twenty or more battle mages gathering around in places along the walls and they all cast out wards which melded together and morphed over the bars, filling the open spaces with a clear protective barrier.

    He was fighting something that required defensive with wards. Something which could cast magic? He thought of a dragon priest. He’d fought those before so that wouldn’t be too difficult and he at least had a spellbreaker on his shield.

    But then the ground under his feet rumbled and the floor of the Arena started to open up. In seconds the enormous beast below was forced to rise up, on a large steel surface.

    “You can’t be fucking serious,” Bishop gaped at the sight of the thing.

    (Background music is Archangel and then Unforgiven by Two Steps From Hell)

    A very large red backed and white chested dragon sat crouched on the steel plate. The damn thing already looked pretty beat up too with rips and tears in its wings, making it impossible to fly. Its flesh had been flayed in places, most likely in attempts to control it. It was chained with thick steel shackles around its legs and even thicker chains coming off of those. Its snout had been clamped shut with a wrought-iron muzzle giving it no way to shout. It also looked a bit sickly, like it had been starved.

    Even Bishop felt almost sorry for the thing, especially because it just looked like a frightened animal, not wanting to be there at all. The dragon stood up then, as best it could and looked around at the astonished crowd. Some people were roaring excited while others were backing away fearfully.

    ~~~

    Rona just stared at it, her pulse quickening. She tried to tell herself it would be okay. They’d fought plenty of dragons before and Bishop knew exactly what to do, but the Arena had just become that much smaller and more cramped with the immense beast in it.

    “Holy shit,” the young redguard said next to her, gaping at the beast, “Is that a dragon?”

    “Yes,” Rona said still staring at it.

    He looked over at her and asked tentatively, “Is Bishop going to be alright? Maybe you can help him?”

    “Yeah,” she said still thinking hard, “I… I’m going to help him,” she turned away from him then and started racing through the stands again, searching for an opening that led down into the pit. The young man called at her back, “Um, hey! Thanks for before! Aaand she’s gone…”

    Something wasn’t right about this dragon. It wasn’t giving her that blood boiling feeling she always got when in their presence. In fact, she sensed its fear and its burning desire for freedom. She felt compelled to… help it. She tried to tell herself that was just stupid. Why should she ever help a dragon? Well… she would have helped Paarthurnax. He was one of the good ones though, in fact the only good one she could think of.

    Maybe it didn’t want to kill her yet because it didn’t know she was there. She had to find out. She suddenly found her way into the Bloodworks and started shouting down several battle mages that stood in her way.

    ~~~

    As soon as the audience silenced again Lucias said, “And now, I present to you our final match of the night! The Grand Champion versus a legendary and ferocious Dragon!”

    The shackles on the dragon suddenly snapped open, releasing it and the muzzle on its jaw broke away and fell as well. He was free and his first move was to try and escape. He scrambled up to the protective walls and was thrown back immediately as his body was hit with a violent shockwave by several battle mages standing at the edges of the stands. He shuddered on the ground and shook his head, then looked up at the King’s Podium and Bishop could tell he was glaring at the proprietor of the Arena, Lucias Medici, the man who’d imprisoned him.

    Bishop had yet to make a move on the beast either, simply stunned by its lack of interest in killing him. But then the dragon turned its gaze right at him and roared, “YOL TOOR SHUL!”

    Bishop quickly held his shield out, protecting himself from the inferno coming his way. It splashed against his shield, heating it to extreme temperatures that nearly burned his arm as he held it. Luckily he had a spellbreaker enchantment and resist fire on his leather armor which seemed to insulate and protect him from the heat well enough. When it stopped he looked up at the dragon, who’d turned its attentions back to the Podium.

    The dragon roared ice at the walls right where Lucias and the Emperor were and managed to shatter the ward there. Bishop saw the Emperor turn to run when someone, that looked a lot like one of Lucias’ bodyguards, threw him back, forcing him towards the dragon. A scuffle seemed to break out there, between the Emperor’s personal dunmer guard and Lucias’ bodyguards. The dragon made to shout again when an unrelenting force flew right past Bishop and crashed into the dragon, forcing it to slam back against the wall.

    Rona stood by his side then, weaponless. All she had was her magic and her voice. The dragon hissed and scrambled to its feet and made to attack them. Her golden fire burst from her entire being, engulfing the both of them, protecting them as the dragon recoiled from the flames.

    He cried out at her in dragon’s tongue, “[No Dragonborn! Stop! I do not wish to fight you! I have no desire to lose my soul to you today!]”

    He pressed himself to the edge of the Arena walls, almost cowering. She stared hard at the creature, waiting for that feeling of murderousness to seep into her blood, but it did not come.

    Then the dragon looked back up at the Podium where the Emperor had been quickly removed by his personal guard and possibly several others as the scuffle had ended. The proprietor of the Arena still stood there, looking absolutely livid. The dragon growled, “[So the mortal lied. He does intend to kill me… permanently it seems.]”

    “[Who’s trying to kill you?]” Rona asked quickly, drawing her fires in closer to the two of them and away from the dragon.

    The dragon motioned his head towards the Imperial on the Podium, “[He promised me my freedom if I was to kill your Emperor. Although I never did trust him to hold to his word. Mortals are deceitful and treacherous like that.]”

    “[Not all of us],” Rona said, taking a tentative step forward, “[I want to help you.]”

    She watched as one of the dragon’s enormous yellow eyes closed over and opened again as he studied her closely and curiously.

    “[You remind me of her],” he said.

    “[Who?]”

    “[One of your predecessors. Aleile Auryne… I believe your kind called her a breton? She was a… friend of mine.]”

    “[You were friends with one of the Maidens of Dragon Flame?]” Rona asked astonished.

    “[Yes],” his jowls curled into a smile, “[She taught me how to sing.]”

    Rona just gaped at him then. She’d always thought it odd enough for there to be a woman who fell in love with a dragon, but for a dragon to actually be able to sing?

    “[Let me help you!]” She cried.

    He made to speak when suddenly he was shocked fiercely by one of many battle mages peering out of one of the champion’s gates, clearly trying to provoke him into fighting. He hissed and roared at the ground as they all started shocking him. “YOL TOOR SHUL!” They scattered away from the flames and he said quickly, “[Sing a song of power Dragonborn and I shall join you! Free me from my prison and my allegiance is yours!]”

    She looked right at Bishop and said, “We’re helping him out of here!” He looked at her incredulous and she said furiously, “Don’t you dare give me that look! You have to trust me this time. After all this, I deserve that much.” He did not argue, only nodded quickly and followed her lead. They both ran forward towards the dragon and she said, “I’m going to heal your wings!”

    (The Song is Dangerous by Within Temptation)

    The dragon brought himself closer to the ground, allowing her to cast a powerful grand healing over him. Battle mages started to pour into the Arena then from both gates and Bishop began picking them off with his bow. Her music filled the entire Coliseum and people all around watched in amazement as she sang loud and proud and then the dragon joined her.

    “I know I won’t change, I have tried
    Was feeling so caged, hands tied
    I can’t find anything feeling so right,
    it’s blinding hope

    The reaper is close, seen his smile
    A matter of time, can’t deny
    I won’t turn around, around, around
    This destiny’s mine

    The countdown has begun
    The walls are falling down
    My life is on the line
    The freedom is mine

    It’s dangerous to sacrifice
    It makes your blood run to throw the dice
    It’s dangerous, it’s what you like
    It’s what you’ll die for to live this life
    We’re going on and we’ll never stop
    We’re going on ’til worlds collide
    It’s dangerous
    So dangerous
    Dangerous”

    When he was healed she shouted and pointed up, “Let’s aim for the ceiling! It’s the weakest spot!”

    The dragon lowered his head to the ground and said, “Come along then dovahkiin!”

    She climbed up onto the head of the beast, grasping his horns and Bishop looked dismayed but she motioned for him to join her. He took a deep breath and quickly climbed up beside her. The dragon raised his head up high and they both started shouting powerful waves of frost against the top of the cage, a combination of her, “FO KRAH DIIN!”

    And his “IIZ SLEN NUS!”

    They threw the power of their voices together, blasting wave after wave of ice with the words, “Dangerous! It’s dangerous!” Using the force of the song to enhance the strength of their thu’ums. Finally, the bars seemed to be frozen over enough that they started to crack.

    Bishop continued to fire arrows into their new enemies and the dragon spread his wings, sensing his nearing freedom and he roared, “Hold on mortals!”

    Bishop and Rona both gripped his horns tightly as he shouted, “FUS RO DAH!” With so much force that it absolutely destroyed the bars above and shattered the wards. Suddenly they were swept up into the air, as the dragon took off into the sky, roaring their song into the night. She could sense his elation and she didn’t feel afraid at all, in fact she was feeling a high of excitement being swept off into the sky like that. It almost felt natural to fly, if only she had wings of her own…

    “Nothing matters anyhow
    It’s like I’m floating off the ground
    Into the hands of air I dive
    Rays of light flashing by

    Like the time is slowing down
    When the world is out of sight
    All the memories in my mind
    Won’t leave me behind
    It’s dangerous (dangerous)
    It’s dangerous (dangerous)
    It’s dangerous!”

    She noticed Bishop clinging desperately to one of the horns and scrunching his eyes together. He always did hate heights. She grabbed his hand and he looked at her brows knit together. She let go of the horn she was clinging to and wrapped an arm around his waist and clutched the other horn with her free hand,trying to reassure him. They flew past the enormous tower of the Imperial Palace and over the entire city. She let the feelings of the song wash over her and sang strongly with a broad smile sprawled across her face,

    “It’s dangerous to sacrifice
    It makes your blood run to throw the dice
    It’s dangerous, it’s what you like
    It’s what you’ll die for to live this life
    We’re going on and we’ll never stop
    We’re going on ’til worlds collide
    It’s dangerous
    So dangerous
    Dangerous”

    (When the song ends, background music Braska’s Daughter from the FFX Soundtrack)

    The dragon landed just outside the Imperial City on the edge of Lake Rumare to the north. He let them both down and was grinning as dragons do, jowls curled up. She returned the smile and said, “Thank you for not uh… killing my companion or the Emperor.”

    “Thank you dovahkiin, for trusting me and for living up to your word. As promised, my allegiance is now yours. Fun zu’u… Tell me, what do they call you young one?”

    “My name is Rona.”

    “Geh, I’ve heard that name. Rona of Dragon Fangs,” he laughed a bit, “Such a small mortal to strike so much fear into the great Lord Alduin.”

    She raised her brows at him and he said, “Dreh ni faas. Do not fear dovahkiin. I was there when Alduin cowered behind the wings of the others as you crushed and dominated them with the strength of your thu’um. Many of us have started to question Alduin’s lordship, whether his thu’um is truly the strongest. Among ourselves of course. Mu ni meyye. None are yet ready to openly defy him. But your thu’um is strong, like many of the dovahkiin before you. Here… take my name for yourself. Should you ever need my aid, cry it to the skies and I shall come.”

    He turned to the ground and shouted, “OD AH VIING!”

    The words etched themselves into glowing strikes on the ground and she stepped forward taking them in. She blinked as the words embedded themselves into her mind. She looked up at him, “Odahviing? That’s your name?”

    “Geh,” he uttered. Then he looked back at the peaks of the Jerall Mountains in the far off distance, “I will return to Skyrim. I do not care for this place. Not enough mountains and too many cruel little mortals.” Then he looked back at her, smiling still and said his farewells in dragon’s tongue, “Tiid bo viing. Vah su’um ven dovahkiin.”

    He took flight then, roaring loudly over the plains as he swept off into the far north. Rona watched him disappear before letting her anger slowly return to her. Bishop was standing nearby, bloodied and beaten up from all his battles and she just glared at him.

    He looked ashamedly at her and immediately said, “I swear I was going to tell you-”

    She put a hand up and snapped, “I don’t want to hear it Bishop.”

    He looked angry and said, “You won’t even let me explain myself? Let’s talk about this.”

    “NO!” She roared throwing her hands out, “You LIED to me. Over and over again, day after day, all so you could go fight in the Arena? So you could fight your brother?”

    He sighed, “Rona please-”

    “NO!” She knelt down and cast a spell over her boots and immediately stepped onto the lake and started storming away. She realized that she was far too angry to speak with him. He’d lied to her all week long and put himself at risk all for what? So he could challenge and kill his brother? She was fuming.

    He was running along the shore towards the bridge leading over the lake as he called at her back, “That’s not fair! You lied to me too! Remember the Companions!? You lied about that!”

    She spun around and shouted, “Are you seriously going to throw that in my face!? After all this time!? It’s not the same thing and you know it! I made a promise to Kodlak! It was a mistake! But this…” She shook her head and started walking away again, right across the lake.

    “RONA STOP! We need to talk about this! I have to tell you why! Will you just listen to me!?”

    She felt her rage boiling over as she stomped across the lake, leaving him behind her. She saw him out of the corner of her eye, racing along the bridge, trying to catch up with her. She was already at the other side of the lake when Bishop came around, breathlessly meeting her at the other edge of the shore and she just seethed at him throwing a hand to her chest, “YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO TRUST ME BISHOP!”

    “Okay!” He roared back, “Yes! I lied! But do you want to know why Rona!?”

    “No!” She snapped again, curling her fists and started walking along the edge of the water, staying at a distance where he couldn’t reach her.

    He followed along the shore and snarled, “Oh come on. Stop being so melodramatic about it.”

    She stopped and glared at him, “Melodramatic!? Really!? You almost died Bishop! More than once!”

    “Yeah! And you do the same thing, all the time! Now you know how I fucking feel!”

    She looked daggers at him and stormed off again, staying on top of the water. He ran along the shore and snarled, “That’s it!” He dove right into the lake and started to swim towards her and she shouted, “No! Stop it Bishop! There are slaughterfish in this lake!”

    “I don’t fucking care!” He barked. She took several steps back from him and he quickly splashed at her feet breaking the water walking spell. She fell in with a yelp and he grasped her around the waist and she struggled, splashing water, shoving at him and he shouted, “Hold still and listen to me damn it!”

    “FINE!” She shouted back, “Let’s just get out of this lake before we get bit!”

    He let her go and they both swam to shore, climbing up, soaking wet. Bishop sat back, catching his breath while she stood up and he flashed her an irritated look and she said, “I’m not going anywhere! I’m just drying off…”

    She cast a quick dry spell over herself, purposely ignoring him and leaving him soaking wet. He took a deep breath and leaned forward, elbows to his knees and said firmly, “I did it for my family.”

    She sat back down next to him, pulling her knees up to her face and clasping her arms around them, keeping the space between them both. She stared hard at the lake, her lips pressed tightly together to keep from snapping angrily at him while he spoke.

    “Ost was abusing them, okay? Beating them, stealing from them and he… he touched my sisters.”

    Rona gave him a side-eye glance, which gave her feelings away, but she tried to stay stony faced and returned her gaze back to the water.

    “I knew I couldn’t get away with killing him in some dark alley somewhere, because he had too much power. Everyone knew him and the owner of the Arena was backing him. Shit, you saw what he was trying to do to my brother and sisters back in the Arena. He tried to kill them to get to me,” he paused and said, “Thanks for that by the way. For saving them.”

    She said nothing. She just waited for more of an explanation on why he didn’t tell her what he was planning. He was quiet for a moment and she finally asked, “Why? Why did you lie about it?”

    “Because Rona! You already have a million things going on in your life. The dragons, your insane destiny, finding the Elder Scroll, this crazy wedding and even the Dark Brotherhood now. I didn’t want to dump all my problems on your shoulders on top of it all, okay? I just wanted you to be happy for once.”

    “You’re supposed to trust me!” She shouted back, “Even with all that, I still would have wanted to know! I could have helped you!”

    “You would have just tried to talk me out of it,” he said, meeting her gaze.

    She huffed a little and turned to look back at the water, pursing her lips. He was right about that.

    He grasped her hand, tightly, so she couldn’t snatch it away and he said, “I care about your happiness Rona. All I wanted was for you to have this time to yourself for once, to think about you and no one else. Not me and my problems, not the fate of the world… to just do what you wanted to do, to be happy,” he looked mournfully at her, “Because I know the minute we get back to Skyrim, it’s all going to be swept away again and you’re going to go right back to being… miserable.”

    She knit her brows together and mumbled, “Is that how I really am? Am I just miserable all the time?”

    “A lot of the time,” he said, “Yeah… But that night at the inn, when you were dancing, singing and playing that violin, that was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen you. I wanted to hold onto it somehow. I just want you to be happy.”

    She softened completely, but turned her face from him, trying to stay angry, when she simply couldn’t anymore. He said, “I’m sorry I lied to you. I love you Rona and I would have never have done it if I didn’t feel like it was the right thing. You count on me to make the hard decisions and I did just that. It’s over now though… my family is safe and, well, I’m glad you found out. If you hadn’t have been there, who knows what would have happened.”

    She looked at him teary eyed, although she was trying hard to hold it all back. He smiled warmly at her and said, “Not the waterworks, please Ladyship.” Then he moved closer to her and wrapped his still soaking wet arms tightly around her and she buried her face in his chest and mumbled, “I don’t want to fight Bishop. I hate fighting with you. But you just make me so mad sometimes…”

    He chuckled softly into her hair, “Yeah, well, you piss me off pretty regularly too, Princess. But I’m still here and I’m always going to be… for as long as you’ll have me.”

    She sniffled and leaned back, looking up into his face with her own pathetic teary eyed one. She hit him in the arm and said, “Don’t do it again! Promise me… Even with all my problems, we’re in this together. Your burdens are mine to bear too. I love you Bishop and I’m here for you, just like you’ve always been there for me…”

    He sighed and pulled her in again and said, “I promise. I’ll always be honest. No more secrets and no more lies,” then he said, “And do me a favor Lightfoot and don’t go freeing strange dragons from their imprisonment.”

    She grumbled into his chest, “You’re not allowed to be mad about that.”

    He laughed, “Fine. You get one freebie, but that’s it. No more rescuing strange dragons.”

    She wrapped her arms tightly around him and he just held her there for a while, enjoying the peace of the night and having her close to him again.

    They heard Roxlin shout out, “There you are!”

    Karnwyr came racing over to them and nestled himself right between them as he started whining and licking at their faces and arms.

    Roxlin and Magrob had Bear and Boomer with them too and they walked over to them. Magrob said, “Was getting worried that we’d lost you both to that dragon.”

    “Yeah!” Roxlin said sniffling and her lip curled, “What were you even thinking Rona!?”

    Rona got up, leaving Karnwyr to lick on Bishop and she hugged her best friend, “Aw I’m so sorry Roxie. Were you really that worried about me?”

    Roxlin hugged her tightly and cried, “Of course I was! You’re my best friend woman! And I thought… uwah!” Then she burst into tears and cried like a baby and Rona just gently stroked her hair, laughing a little at her friend’s pathetic sobs.

    Magrob offered Bishop a hand, pulling him off the ground and said, “The Emperor was looking for you both too. Said he wanted to personally thank you for rescuing him and well, the entire city from that dragon.”

    “Ohdaviing wasn’t going to hurt anyone,” Rona said immediately.

    “Odah-who?” Magrob asked raising a brow at her.

    “That’s his name,” she said, “The proprietor of the Arena was trying to use that dragon to kill the Emperor.”

    Magrob’s one good eye widened and Roxlin stared at her, stunned.

    “We should head to the Palace and talk to the Emperor straight away,” Bishop suggested, “Tell him what Lucias Medici was up to.”

    Rona nodded in agreement and the group left, bringing the dogs and Karnwyr with them.

    They caught up with Lorrie and Charissa along the way who were both absolutely relieved that they were okay. They returned to the Palace, only to find it buzzing with people, even being as late as it was. It was mostly people from the Elder Council, some of them still dressed in their nightgowns but plenty of Palace guards were running around as well. Rona caught sight of her father speaking with the Emperor while several formidable looking guards stood nearby, keeping an eye out for any potential assassins.

    The minute her father noticed her, he cried, “Velvyn! Thank the gods!” The group went over to them and the Emperor smiled at kindly at them all. Serlas embraced Rona and said, “Emperor Titus told me everything that happened. You really flew off on a dragon velvyn? By choice this time?”

    She smiled up at him, “It’s fine Ata, I promise… well mostly fine,” she added looking more serious.

    Emperor Titus approached her and she, and all the others, except for Bishop gave cordial bows to him. Bishop looked perplexed, until Magrob pushed on his shoulders with a large hand and he mumbled, “Oh…” as he too bent a knee.

    Then they rose again and Titus Mede said, “Please Lady Rona, it is I who should be bowing to you. What you did today in the Arena was incredible to say the least. I can’t help but think that you saved many lives today.”

    “Just yours,” she said, knitting her brows together. He looked on at her, perplexed and she explained, “Emperor Titus, I spoke with that dragon.”

    “Yes I heard, in a fascinating language I’ve never had the pleasure of hearing before.”

    “Sir, the proprietor of the Arena-”

    “Lucias Medici,” Bishop interjected.

    “Right, Lucias Medici,” Rona acknowledged, “he promised the dragon, Odahviing, his freedom in exchange for killing you.”

    Several of the members of the Elder Council who were nearer to them gasped in horror and a few started muttering and whispering to one another.

    “I see,” the Emperor said thoughtfully. He glanced around the room and said, “If you will all come with me, to my private quarters, we can discuss more there. You and your friends and, ” he glanced down at Karnwyr who was happily pawing at his robes and chuckled, “And your dogs are all welcome as well. Please, follow me.”

    They all followed the Emperor and his personal guard to the mage lifts. They were swept upwards, what felt like a hundred stories high, although everyone landed fine, save for Bishop who looked like he was suffering from a bad case of vertigo. Magrob helped carry him along as their one wolf and two dogs ran through the corridors, barking up a storm.

    A pair of guards stationed at the doors to the Emperor’s private quarters stared at the animals stunned. Emperor Titus smiled at them and said, “They are all my guests, even the wild ones.”

    The men cast a spell, unlocking the doors and allowed the Emperor and the rest of them to enter into the most incredible room in the building. A beautifully furnished sitting room, sat sunken into the floor near some incredibly large windows that overlooked the city and the landscape outside. A large marble fireplace sat against the wall, with a soft blaze already going. Everything was decorated in shades of gold and red, the colors of the Empire and of royalty. They didn’t see much else of the enormous suite, because every room was behind a corridor, or a door, but Rona assumed there must have been enough space for a kitchen, a dining area and even servants quarters, as they were greeted by several serfs busting about, tidying up, taking the Emperor’s cloak from him and serving drinks on the coffee table.

    Emperor Titus motioned a hand to the sitting room and said, “Please, everyone have a seat. You are all my guests, do not be concerned with breaking or ruining anything.”

    Rona remembered that Bishop was still a little damp from their dip in the lake and she quickly dried him off with her quick dry spell. They all took seats, except for Bishop who walked over to the windows and looked down. He immediately stepped back and said, “Whoa… we’re really high up.”

    The Emperor took a place in a tall backed, gold and red patterned chair and smiled, “Yes, we are at the very top of the Imperial Palace you know,” he turned his attentions back to Rona then and said, “So, what is this about your dragon friend trying to assassinate me?”

    “It’s just like I said,” she explained again, “He told me that Lucias Medici made promises to free him if he killed you.”

    Emperor Titus stroked at his short beard and said, “Yes… that does confirm our suspicions.”

    “What?” She asked perplexed.

    Emperor Titus explained, “We’d already expected something like this to happen.”

    “Then why did you go?” Bishop turned around, “Why put yourself in danger if you suspected he was going to try and kill you?”

    The Emperor just smiled at him and glanced over at his personal dunmer guard, who stood stony faced with his hands behind his back, “Well, many did try to talk me out of it, but I was determined to expose Lucias once and for all. I made a grave mistake in doing so as you may have seen what happened. His own men tried to throw me back in the face of the dragon and poor Granis here had to take several lives this evening.”

    “What happens now?” Rona asked.

    Serlas said, “They took Lucias Medici into custody. However we suspect he may find a way to wriggle out of this one. He’s trying to claim that it was you, velvyn, who pushed the dragon into attacking the Emperor.”

    “ME!?” She gaped at him.

    “The fuck?” Bishop uttered.

    Serlas sighed nodding his head.

    Emperor Titus clasped his hands together and said, “It is because you spoke with it and then you freed it. You needn’t worry my lady. I promise you, nothing will come of it. However he will most likely go free as we don’t have much evidence against him and his two bodyguards are dead and their bodies completely vanished,” the Emperor sighed, “Just more lack of evidence…”

    “What about Jedrek?” Bishop asked quickly, “Is he safe?”

    Magrob raised a brow at Bishop, surprised he’d give a damn about the old Imperial.

    “Jedrek has been safely removed the Arena and he will be stationed with the Imperial Legion in Skyrim. I will have him working closely with Commander Tullius.”

    “Wait,” Magrob said, “You telling me Jedrek’s-?”

    “One of the Emperor’s,” Bishop said.

    “Wow,” Magrob said, “Well that asshole owes me an apology!”

    Bishop smirked and chuckled, as did the Emperor.

    Roxlin rubbed her head and said, “I’m so confused. What is going on?”

    Emperor Titus smiled at her and said, “Please, Miss LaRoues, do not concern yourself with our troubles. I assure you it is all under control and if not for your fiancé here, as well as his friend’s,” he nodded to Bishop, “then I probably would have lost my life this evening. It seems that Talos truly is keeping a watchful over us all and has ensured that every piece was set perfectly into place so that the events happened as they did.”

    They all widened their eyes at his mention of Talos, except for Bishop and Serlas who both grinned to themselves.

    Emperor Titus said, “I do hope that your wedding is a most beautiful and perfect day for you both.”

    They all stood then and made to leave, the Emperor saw them off with kind farewells and even gave Roxlin and Magrob a finely wrapped gift for their wedding.

    Serlas, Bishop and Rona were the last to leave and Emperor Titus said, “If I may have one quick word with you Bishop, in private?”

    Serlas and Rona looked back at them and Bishop said, “Uh sure… your… majesty,” he looked at them both and said, “I’ll catch up in a minute.”

    Rona nodded and she and her father left with Karnwyr at their heels, disappearing around the winding corridor.

    Emperor Titus led Bishop out to a private balcony across the way which gave an incredible view of Cyrodiil. The landscape could be seen for miles and miles, even up to the borders of other lands.

    Bishop scoffed and said, “I think you were lying about that other balcony having the best views of Cyrodiil.”

    The Emperor chuckled and said, “Yes. I did fib a little then. I was just very interested in speaking with you and it’s always fun to see the startled expression of those who don’t realize they’re speaking with me, so rudely, in fact.”

    Bishop gave a light laugh and said, “Yeah, sorry about that.”

    “It’s fine,” he replied, “I sometimes miss the days when people treated me like any other man. Now, as for why I called you here,” he reached into his robe pocket and pulled out several pieces of folded parchment and passed them to Bishop.

    He opened the first one and looked it over. It was a line of credit for one hundred thousand septims. He gaped at it and said, “I… I can’t accept this.”

    “Oh yes you can,” Emperor Titus said, “You can and you will, because that is the gold you won this evening. Lucias Medici will not pay you what is rightly yours after everything that happened, I can promise you that. So I wanted to make sure you received what you earned and I assure you, every septim was earned.”

    Bishop just stared at it, smiling a little.

    “It will be placed into an account that you will have easy access to from anywhere in Tamriel, well, except for the Summerset Isles, though I doubt you have any desire to travel abroad there.”

    They both laughed at that notion. Then Bishop opened the second piece of parchment. It was several pages long and appeared to be a formal document of citizenship in Cyrodiil as well as a full pardon for him and his entire family for the crimes Torban committed.

    “That is for you and your entire family,” Emperor Titus said, “You are all official citizens now and are free to live and work in Cyrodiil. I am also going to offer the city’s services to your family, to help them. We have trauma counselors that your sister, Kari, can speak with to recover from her abuses and brainwashing. It will be a long road of recovery for her, but I wanted to assure you that we will take care of her while you continue your journey with the Dragonborn. As for your brother and youngest sister, I already have a job lined up for him and an open seat in a classroom for her to start her studies.”

    Bishop couldn’t believe everything he was hearing and found himself asking, even surprising himself, “And my mother?”

    “As for Rina,” the Emperor said, stepping towards the balustrade, “There is a home for her with nurses who are formally trained to care for her in her dying years,” he met Bishop’s gaze and said, “However, you may have to convince your sister to let her go. It will be difficult for her, I’m sure, but everything is taken care of.”

    Bishop actually felt tears welling in his eyes, pathetic as that seemed, but he was absolutely overwhelmed with emotions over the Emperor’s generosity.

    Emperor Titus smiled at him and said, “Now, there is a certain jeweler in the Market District who is looking forward to seeing you tomorrow. It seems he has a very special set of rings ready for you and I expect that the gold should cover the cost and leave you with a nice sum to live comfortably off of for the rest of your life.”

    Bishop choked his tears back and whispered, “Thank you.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    You all still with me in this thread? lol

    Been so quiet. We’re in the home stretch now! Only two or three more chapters until the end of Book 1!

    Afterwards I will be making a new thread for Book 2, although I will probably be taking a month off from writing (pft… maybe) to try and draw instead and maybe do another playthrough of Skyrim with the Romance Mod and get refreshed on the Dark Brotherhood and Thieves Guild questlines. I also want to illustrate the covers for both Book 1 and Book 2 before I start posting chapters of Book 2. We’ll see though. Knowing me I’ll be writing like a maniac and itching to post. lol

    ———————————————–

    Chapter 88

    Taking Care of the Family

     

    She stood by the windows of their Imperial suite, clutching her arms and looking out at the dark clouds brewing in the sky as a light rain began to fall, pattering gently against the windows. She was thinking over everything Bishop told her that night and everything he’d done. He seemed so sure that she was going to go right back to being miserable when they returned to Skyrim, in fact he’d said she was miserable a lot of the time.

    And he was right about that. She started to wonder if her sadness over her own destiny was pushing him away. If it was making it so that he felt like he couldn’t trust her, or tell her something as important as the fact that his own family was in trouble and that he wanted to help them.

    She knew he was just trying to protect her, to keep her happy as long as he could before they returned to Skyrim, but it still hurt that he’d lied, that he hadn’t trusted her enough to share something as important as that. She started to blame herself for it and felt like she was going to lose him if she didn’t try harder to find some kind of joy to hold on to.

    Just thinking about all of it was making her even more sad. She sighed deeply and decided to release her feelings with her lute, as she often did. She picked it up and clicked to Karnwyr, who’d taken up a spot on one of the nice couches. He looked up at her and she leaned over and gave him a kiss on the head. He whined a little at her, possibly sensing her sorrow. He was too sweet, always trying to find ways to make her happy, just like Bishop.

    “Come on,” she said to him, smiling, “Let’s go play in the rain.”

    She stepped out of the suite and walked along the corridor a short ways. She found a nice balcony and walked right out into the rain. Karnwyr dashed forward and started biting at the raindrops, being his usual playful self. That always put a smile on her face and she started to think that maybe it wouldn’t be so bad, searching for the Elder Scroll. It would definitely take a long time, scouring every dwemer ruin imaginable, but at the very least she would have Bishop and Karnwyr with her every step of the way and those two were the greatest joys in her life.

    (The Song is Raindancer by Erutan)

    She tipped her face up to the sky, letting the cold rain pelt and drench her completely. She loved it, chilly as it was. She couldn’t imagine shouting away those storm clouds when she’d rather feel the rain wash away her sorrows instead.

    Rona pulled her lute up to her chest and listened as a loud crackle of thunder boomed in the distance. She strummed the strings and started to vocalize to the skies. It was a simple song, one without real words or lyrics, but it was one she enjoyed all the same.

    It was nice to be able to play like that. Just a fun, happy tune with no real meaning behind it, just feelings. She started to dance in the rain with Karnwyr as he ran around her, barking with her words. They splashed in the puddles having fun together.

    It wasn’t too long before the wolf looked towards the archway leading in to the corridor and ran over and started barking at Bishop who was standing by, inviting him to join them. Rona smiled at her handsome ranger and he returned a pleased and charming grin all his own. He continued to stay out of reach of the rain though, hiding under the cover of the archway.

    When she had a pause in her vocalizing she shouted, “Come dance with me!”

    He chuckled, “I don’t think so, Princess. I’ve gotten drenched enough already today.”

    She ran over and grasped his hand, pulling him out into the rain with her anyways. He relented and went with her, saying, “Nice to see you’re in such a good mood.”

    “Just having a little fun!”

    “I can see that,” he laughed again as she spun around, dancing through the water and vocalized loudly to skies.

    “What language is that?” He asked her, raising a brow.

    “Not a language!” She cried, “Just vocalizing!”

    “Heh… I almost started thinking you were fluent in four languages,” he chuckled, watching her with warm amber eyes, “You know, your voice always impresses, Ladyship, but I have to admit, I always do find it amazing how well you play the strings. How’d you learn to do that?”

    “Practice!” She shouted.

    He scoffed, “No I mean, where did you learn it? In the Arcane University?”

    “My mother taught me,” she said, pausing her dance but continuing to play quickly and easily, “When I saw her again, when I was ten. It was the first time I ever held an instrument, this same lute actually.”

    “Huh,” he crossed his arms, “I never would have guessed that, considering your history with her and all.”

    “It was the only thing we liked to do together, the only time we ever really got along actually. She taught me to sing too, all kinds of druid songs passed down by her mother’s side of the family.”

    “Right,” he said, “That unintelligible accent and all that.”

    She smirked and rolled her eyes at him. Then she said, “I loved it you know, singing and playing. Mother said I was a natural.”

    “She was right about that,” he said, crossing his arms and squinting his eyes as the rain picked up, pelting them a little harder.

    “When Ata brought me back to Cyrodiil I couldn’t stop picking up the strings. The lute, the violin, the viola, the cello, the guitar, oh! The harp too – it’s one of my favorites. Then I touched a piano for the first time and it was hard, but I just had to learn it.”

    “So, let me get this straight, you did all of that, learned all those instruments, then learned ballet of all things,and practiced magic?”

    She blushed, “Well, I usually ran off to play the lute Ata bought me instead of practicing magic…”

    He chcukled at her, grinning a little as he shook his head.

    When her song finished, she sighed deeply, feeling so much better.

    (Background music Let Love Flower and/or Introvert and/or Tomorrow will be better, I promise by Exist Strategy)

    “Done already?” He asked.

    “You were hoping for more?” She raised a brow at him.

    “I always want more of what you have to give, love.”

    She blushed and he put a hand to her cheek, running his thumb over the redness there. “I love it when you blush,” he whispered, “so beautiful.” He leaned in to kiss her and she met his lips, halfway, almost surprising him with her eagerness.

    “Mmm,” he hummed under her lips and took his time, kissing her the way she loved, entwining his tongue with hers, tasting each other’s lips and pulling her closer to him. She enjoyed the feeling of him clutching at her hip and running his open palm over her rear before he got a handful and she gasped a little under his mouth.

    He pulled his lips back and pressed his forehead to hers, gazing into her eyes and said, “This might surprise you Sweetness, but I’m still completely exhausted from my hundred or so matches in the Arena… I’m honestly not sure if I have it in me tonight.”

    She laughed a little and said, “Well, don’t go starting what you can’t finish then.”

    He growled low and said, “I know… I just can’t help but touch you. It’s been ages.”

    “No, it’s been two days,” she clarified, smirking, pulling her head back and pressing a finger to his nose, “Two days since you fell asleep on top of me I might add.”

    He grinned and said, “That does not count.” He hooked his arm with hers then and started to guide her off the balcony and back into the dryness of the corridor.

    “So it doesn’t count if you don’t come?” She laughed.

    “Nope!” He said succinctly and then whistled for Karnwyr who was busy rolling in a puddle on the balcony.

    They reentered their suite and Rona started lighting candles and as Bishop started to unbuckle his cuirass he said, “Hey, mind looking at these wounds for me? Never got a chance to get healed up after everything.”

    She went over to him and he pulled his leather top off, tossing it to the floor, along with his gloves. She leaned in and looked at the thin cut on his midriff. She whispered an incantation, making her hands go alight with white magic and she ran her fingers over the wound healing it and sealing it shut.

    He turned around and she got a look at the one on his back, which was much deeper. “Ow, Bishop,” she said grimacing at it, “Doesn’t that hurt?”

    “Stings like a bitch,” he said.

    She pressed her hand to it, focusing on healing it over without causing him pain. He breathed relieved as she sealed it up, leaving only a thin white scar where it once was. Then she wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her face to his back. “Left another scar,” she said.

    She felt him grasp her hands with his much larger ones and he said, “It’s fine. They’re all worth it.”

    “You’re a survivor,” she said and he turned around in her grasp and looked down at her. He just stared at her with loving eyes and then he scooped her right up off the ground and she yelped and grumbled a little as he chuckled at her.

    “I never get tired to picking you up, tiny.”

    She rolled her eyes a little, but didn’t complain as he carried her over to their enormous bed, where Karnwyr had already made a spot for himself at the edge of it, dampening the sheets.

    “Damn it Karnwyr,” Bishop grumbled. He set her down, giving her a chance to undress out of her soaking wet clothes. She shivered a little and crawled under the sheets as Bishop tried to shove the wolf off the bed. Karnwyr would not budge though and Rona laughed, “It’s fine, this bed is huge, there’s plenty of room for all of us.”

    “Well don’t complain to me when you wake up with a puckering wolf asshole staring you right in the face tomorrow.”

    She snorted a laugh to that remark as he undid his trousers and yanked them and his underwear off together before joining her under the silk sheets, pressing right up next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.

    She laid her head against his chest, curling her fingers through his chest hair and she asked, “So… what did the Emperor want to talk to you about?”

    “Well, first he gave me my prize for winning in the Arena.”

    “Prize?”

    “You didn’t know? You’re looking at a very wealthy noble now,” he grinned, “One hundred thousand septims.”

    Her eyes widened, “Wow, that’s a lot of money!”

    “Damn right it is.”

    “What are you going to do with it all?”

    He shrugged, “Probably buy the nicest bedroll I can find and go sleep under the stars somewhere.”

    She laughed and rubbed her face against him a little, “Always the humble one.”

    He stroked her arm with his other hand and said, “The second thing he gave me was my freedom.”

    She turned her head to look up at him, “What do you mean?”

    “He pardoned me and my whole family for Torban’s crimes. We’re no longer weighed down by the name Thrice-Banished,” he said, “He also gave us all official citizenship in Cyrodiil. Got a job lined up for Duful, a place where Kari can go to talk to someone about what happened to her, and my youngest sister Rook will get an education now.”

    Rona smiled at him, “That little dunmer girl? She’s your baby sister?”

    “She is. She’s a great kid too,” he paused a moment before he said, “Will you come with me tomorrow? To meet them?”

    “Of course I will.”

    “My… mother,” he hesitated with that word, “she’s got a place lined up for her too. She’s not all there anymore, at least, that’s what Duful told me. I still haven’t seen her and to be honest I’m not sure if I want to.”

    She grasped his hand, lacing their fingers together over his chest and said, “Whatever you want to do Bishop, I’ll support you. If you want to see her, I’ll be right by your side. If you don’t, that’s fine too.”

    He took a deep breath and sighed, “I’m going to sleep on it. Think about it some more. Oh… one more thing, remember back in Cheydinhal? When you caught me getting drunk alone? I did that because I saw Jules’ family… Elise and Holly. They live two doors down from your house and I swear Ladyship, that little girl looks just like him.”

    “Oh, Bishop… why didn’t you tell me?”

    He frowned a little, “Because Elise caught me talking to Holly. She called me a murderer and threatened me. Looks like Casavir told her what I did, probably embellished it to fit his narrative too. I just felt really ashamed about it. Didn’t want to talk about it at all…”

    She pushed herself up and gave him a pained look as she caressed his cheek, “I’m so sorry Bishop.”

    “It’s alright,” he said, “I have some of my family back now and it’s more than I could have ever asked for.”

    She leaned in and kissed him before settling back against his chest and then they talked late into the night, Bishop telling her every little detail about what had happened in Cheydinhal and explaining what happened to his brother Morgen and he shared Duful’s suspicions that Ost may have killed Liesel and Galric when they tried to escape.

    He was coming clean about all of it to her and then he listened when she talked, telling him all about her own fears and worries, especially over the last week with him and all his sudden disappearances. It was healing to talk to one another, to confide and share and she felt so much closer to him after it all.

    As the night wore on and her eyelids slowly drooped, she listened to his soft snoring and resolved to make the effort to be happier for the rest of their journey. To hold close to him and the joy he gave her.

    ~~~

    (Background music YouTube: Oblivion Music & Ambience – Towns 10 Hours)

    In the morning she was met with a very well-rested and energetic ranger. Bishop took no time in letting her know just how aroused he was, surprising her when he went down on her the minute they woke up.

    He made her come at least two times that way before taking her himself. She was feeling almost dazed after three orgasms that morning and he seemed incredibly smug and proud of himself for it.

    They washed and dressed for the day, heading out to the city, bringing Karnwyr with them as they walked through the Temple District, heading for the Waterfront. Rona stopped a moment to look up at the dragon statue in the center of the destroyed Temple of the One. That dragon had once been Martin Septim, who in turn became a dragon-god so that he could save mankind from Mehrunes Dagon.

    Rona felt a kinship with him. She too faced a harsh and difficult path, one that she didn’t know where it would take her, though she truly hoped that the golden dragon within her would not burst forth and claim her life in the same way it did with Martin Septim.

    Bishop looked back and said, “You comin’ Ladyship?”

    She smiled at him and said flirtatiously, “For a fourth time today? I don’t know if I could.”

    He laughed, “Pft, just you wait, temptress, I bet I can get you another three times later.”

    She darted off, running past and giggling at him, “I’d love to see you try!”

    He and Karnwyr both dashed after her all the way to the Waterfront. She came to an abrupt stop though as she looked out at the dilapidated little village on the outskirts of the city. She’d never actually bothered to come out to the Waterfront in all her time in the Imperial City. It was just something you didn’t do if you wanted to keep your coin purse.

    Bishop caught up to her, still laughing and grasped her waist and started planting biting kisses along her neck. She hummed a little, but the sight of that broken down part of the city had taken any and all excitement out of her so quickly.

    He noticed her lack of response and looked over the shacks and said, “Pretty shitty huh?”

    She looked up at him with her brows knit tightly together, “Your family lives here Bishop?”

    “That they do Princess. Used to live here myself about fifteen years ago. You’ve never seen the Waterfront?”

    She blushed and turned away, “I’d heard things, but it was mostly advice on avoiding the place, so I always did.”

    “Hm, yeah,” he sighed, “That was smart. It’s where the poorest residents live. It’s not so bad though, Ladyship. Most of these folks just want a little coin to get by and have a nice ale every now and again, to try and forget their circumstances.”

    She looked sadly at him and he pinched her cheek and said, “Quit being so sad. You’re about to meet my family, for real this time. And speaking of…”

    He looked up and a redguard lad and a little dunmer girl were approaching from one of the alleys. Duful had a wide grin on his face and Rook looked pretty happy too. The little girl ran right over, her cloak flapping behind her as she embraced Bishop, giving him a big hug and he picked her right up off the ground.

    “You did it!” She shouted.

    “I did!” He yelled back with a wide grin on his face, squeezing her in his arms before setting her back down again.

    Duful laughed and saw Rona, he held a hand out and said, “Oh hey, Dragonborn, we uh, didn’t get properly introduced last time. I’m Duful.”

    She shook his hand, smiling and said, “Nice to meet you. I’m Rona.”

    “I’m Rook!” The dunmer child chirped proudly, hands to her hips. Rona knelt down to her height and said, “It’s really nice to meet you Rook. I love your hair, such a pretty color.”

    “I like yours too!” She said and walked over to run her fingers through Rona’s rosy locks.

    “Whoa!” Duful shouted as Karnwyr came strolling up, soaking wet as it appeared he took a dip in the lake. He started sniffing at Duful’s feet.

    “Oh yeah, you two haven’t met Karnwyr yet,” Bishop said, “I’d like to introduce you all to my best friend on all of Nirn.”

    Duful laughed, “Weirdest dog I’ve ever seen.” He bent down to scratch behind Karnwyr’s ears, who enjoyed that very much.

    “Not a dog,” Bishop said, “He’s a wolf.”

    “A very, vicious and wild wolf,” Rona added sarcastically.

    Bishop scoffed, “Well he used to be until you took all the bite out of him Ladyship, spoiling him like you do all the time.”

    She laughed but then they all reeled back and threw their hands out as Karnwyr started shaking off the water all over them.

    “Augh! Karnwyr!” Bishop grumbled.

    Rook started giggling and ran her fingers through his damp fur, petting him enthusiastically and said, “I like him.”

    As Karnwyr started licking all over her hands and face Bishop said, “I think he likes you too.”

    Duful said, “So uh, Miss Dragonborn-”

    “Please call me Rona,” she insisted.

    “Heh, yeah, Rona. I just wanted to thank you again for what you did for us back at the Arena. Saved all our lives. And wow! Your voice and all those things you did! That was amazing!”

    She blushed and said, “You’re very welcome. I’m just glad you’re all okay… all of you are, right?” She glanced around,“I don’t see your other sister?”

    Duful frowned a little and then looked at Bishop, “Kari hasn’t said a word since yesterday. I think she’s actually mad that you killed Ost.”

    Bishop sighed, crossing his arms, “Yeah, I figured she would be.”

    “Why would she be mad about that?” Rona asked, baffled that anyone would be upset over their abuser being killed.

    Duful looked at her and twirled a finger to his temple, “Kari’s almost as crazy as our mother.”

    “I want to talk to her,” Bishop said.

    “She’s looking after Ma right now,” Duful said.

    Bishop twisted his lips a little at that notion, but Rona put a reassuring hand to his arm. He met her eyes with a soft expression and breathed, “I want to see them both.”

    Duful looked a little anxious and said, “Alright, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. Ma was having an episode this morning… she’s calmed down a lot now, but if she sees you Bishop. I hate to say it man, but you look so much like Torban, it might just throw her over the edge.”

    “It’s fine,” he said, “Take me to them.”

    “Alright,” Duful shrugged and turned, leading the way through the Waterfront. They passed by a poor woman and her children hanging tattered laundry out to dry in their dirty yard and walked around several sickly looking beggars still sleeping on bedrolls.

    Rona felt distressed seeing so many poor and disheveled people in the city and started to wonder how Emperor Titus, a man who she’d always thought was so kind and generous, could allow such poverty to continue.

    As if reading her mind Bishop said, “Even if they gave these people everything they needed to get back on their feet, some of them would fall right back into it Ladyship. These are people with addictions, whether it be gambling, drinking or drugs, that’s the life they chose. You can’t save everyone, especially if they don’t want to be saved.”

    She glanced back at two little boys kicking a ball around their yard and said, “They didn’t choose it though.”

    “No, but would you rather tear their families apart and take them from everything they’ve ever known?”

    She opened her mouth to reply, but then closed it again, second guessing her words.

    “Hard decisions, Ladyship.”

    “Wouldn’t have minded if they took us from Rina, ages ago,” Duful said dully as they pressed on, winding through the shacks and walked by a small group of poor men, who were already drunk that early in the day. They looked happy enough as they chattered amongst themselves, grinning, laughing and singing a few songs together.

    Hard decisions indeed, Rona thought. She felt that despite it all, Bishop wouldn’t have changed anything. His past made him the man he was now. He’d learned everything not to be and worked so hard to meet that goal.

    Duful stopped in front of one of the shacks at the far end of the Waterfront, nearest the water and pushed open the door. He took a deep breath and said, “I’m just gonna stay out here with Rook,” he gave Bishop a meaningful look and said, “Good luck bro.”

    Bishop and Rona stepped inside together, leaving Karnwyr outside with the other two. The shack was comprised of a small single room. An old wooden table with two rickety chairs was pressed against the side wall. On the floor were three bedrolls and a small hearth had been built into the floor, near the wall by the front door. Further along the back wall was a large changing divider with dirty clothes strung over it. Old trousers, a child’s dress and even worn temple’s robes. Rona could see the edge of a single person bed, sticking out from behind the divider and two lumps under the yellowed blanket, no doubt the feet of someone laying in it.

    They heard a weary voice say, “Please eat your porridge Ma. It’s getting cold.”

    And then the scratchy voice of an older woman replied, “Don’t want it, woman! Take it away!”

    “Please Ma…” the girl pleaded feebly.

    Rona looked up at Bishop. His face was stricken with a tumultuous mixture of emotions that she could hardly place. Fear, anger, anxiety, sorrow. They all played there and he took a deep breath and slowly exhaled to try and calm himself.

    Bishop swallowed hard and stepped forward. He walked by the changing divider and felt his hands trembling at what he saw. Rina looked like she’d aged thirty years, although it had only been a decade since he’d left. Her once beautiful shimmering blonde locks had thinned out considerably and become a dull light grey with plenty of straggly white strands streaking throughout. Her face was lined with sharp wrinkles, crow’s feet stamped all around her eyes and thick lines etched deeply around her mouth and across her forehead. She was thin and sickly and the dirty old nightgown that buttoned up the chest hardly fit her at all. She was laying back on a large dirty pillow, her waist covered by soiled blankets. Her eyes which were once as bright and golden as his own, had dimmed incredibly as cataracts were slowly forming in them.

    Kari was sitting by, on an old stool, trying to feed their mother who was rejecting it every time and giving excuse after nonsensical excuse.

    Bishop put a hand to Kari’s shoulder and said, “Let me try.”

    She looked up at him, almost surprised to see him there. He saw a faint glimmer of anger burn in her eyes at him, but couldn’t seem to muster the strength to hold onto it. She got up, passing him the bowl and stepped out of the way.

    He sat down and looked on piteously at the woman he’d spent so much of his life hating. She didn’t seem to recognize him at first and rejected his attempts to spoon feed her, grumbling something which made no sense.

    Then he said, in his deep husky voice, “Please eat, Rina.”

    She looked at him with new eyes then, as though she were finally recognizing him and she whispered in a scratchy voice, “Torban?”

    “No,” he said shaking his head, “It’s me, Bishop.”

    Her disgruntled expression softened more and she said, “Bishop? My sweet little boy?”

    He laughed a little, his voice cracking as he choked back his tears, “Yeah.”

    She pushed herself up on the bed a bit, leaning forward and touched his face, running a hand over the scar on his cheek, “That damn bastard… damn him for scarring your handsome face. I’ll tell him off. I’ll do it. Take the beating and everything. He shouldn’t have done it to you.”

    “Ma…” he whispered, just staring at her.

    Something changed in her eyes and she said, “Torban, why did you leave? I can’t raise all these brats alone. How am I going to pay for them all? You promised. You did. You said you’d stay until we found our true love. Until Mara gave one of us what she promised!” Her voice was becoming distressed as she lost herself in her own addled mind, “I can’t do it alone! And now Bishop is gone and Jules! It’s all your damn fault!” She hit him weakly on the chest over and over again, “Why do you have to be this way!? Are you going to beat me again!? Are you!? Then just end it! I can’t do it anymore!”

    Bishop dropped the bowl of food on the floor and grasped her hands as she screeched at him, falling into another long lost mixed up memory, “JACK! You killed him! Oh! You killed my boy! My first boy! Jack was going to make something of himself Torban! He was going to marry that beautiful woman. How could you!?” She wailed.

    Bishop tried to calm her, “Ma, please. It’s me, Bishop.”

    “No! No! Bishop’s gone! I saw him leave! He took the carriage! He took everything! Even took Jules! They’re gone! They’re gone! How can I do it now!? What will I do!?”

    He let her hands go and got up, panic rising in his chest. He stepped back just watching her lose herself in a slew of memories that had mixed and melded together while she continued to mistake him for his father.

    He couldn’t handle it anymore and quickly rounded the divider, nearly crashing into Rona who was standing by, watching it all. He hurried outside leaving both her and Kari there.

    Rona looked back at the woman and sat down on the stool next to her. She started to hum quietly, a sleepy little song and Rina slowly started to calm down before letting her eyes rest on Rona as her gentle vocalizing carried throughout the tiny room.

    The woman settled back onto her large pillow and just listened and studied Rona, as though she were trying to figure out who she was. Then she said, “You have a pretty voice. Don’t let Torban hear… he doesn’t deserve to hear such beauty. He’d just ruin it.”

    Rona smiled gently at her and picked up the bowl off the floor. A bit of the porridge had spilled, but most of it was still there. She took a spoonful and said softly, “Would you like something to eat?”

    “Hmm,” she mumbled, “I suppose if you’re offering I could. I am a bit famished.”

    Rona gave her a few spoonfuls of the porridge and Rina scrunched her face through each bite muttering, “Never liked that stuff. Too mushy.”

    Rona laughed a little, “I know someone else who hates it too.”

    “What’s your name sweetheart?”

    “My name is Rona.”

    Rina smiled and said, “I thought of naming my daughter that. Torban said it was too much like my name, though. He wouldn’t let me name her, my first daughter even.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” Rona said kindly and gave her another spoonful.

    “It’s fine,” Rina said rubbing her belly, “Got another on the way. I know it’s a girl this time too. I’m going to call her Liesel. Torban doesn’t get to name her because she’s not his.”

    After a short while of feeding the woman and chatting nonchalantly about nothing that made any real sense Rona stood to leave and Rina grasped her hand and spoke to her as though she were meeting her again after months apart, “You were the nice one who sang for me. Don’t let Torban hear it… Will you sing for me again?”

    “If you would like,” she said.

    “Yes,” Rina said, as she started to close her eyes over, “I would… you should meet my second boy. He’d like you. His name is Bishop and he has a lovely voice. Torban tried to beat it out of him. Scarred his handsome face… haven’t heard him sing in a long time…”

    Rona turned away from her, feeling a hard knot building in her chest. Kari was just staring at her, amazed. Rona nodded politely to the girl and left that little shack. She saw Duful and Bishop sitting by the edge of the lake, skipping rocks while Rook was chasing Karnwyr around and getting him to chase his tail.

    She walked over to them and sat down beside Bishop, pulling her knees up and looking out at the calming waters.

    Duful leaned forward looking around Bishop and said, “She’s a fucking mess, isn’t she?”

    “She’s fine now,” Rona said. Then she looked up at Bishop who was staring hard at the water. He flipped a smooth rock between his fingers before finally pulling his arm back and snapped it across the water, making it skip at least seven times before it plunked in. “Are you alright?”

    He groaned and shook his head, “I wasn’t ready for that.”

    “She seems to do better with people she doesn’t recognize,” Rona said, “Maybe we can get some people out here to collect her, take her to that home you were talking about.”

    “Yeah,” Bishop nodded, “Let’s do that.”

    Bishop already told Duful everything, about the job lined up for him, how Rook was going to start school, that they’d have people Kari could speak with and a home for their mother where she’d be well cared for until her inevitable passing from whatever disease that was addling her mind.

    Bishop also planned to get them into their own home as soon as possible. Using some of the money from his winnings to ensure they were cared for. Duful was thrilled at the prospect of starting work and they decided to spend the day getting them all set up in a new home and with new clothes and everything else they would need.

    Their first stop was in the Imperial Palace itself, where Bishop established his line of credit at the local city bank. He took a small amount of funds out and they spent their day shopping in the Market District, getting both Duful and Rook fitted in new clean clothes and buying extra pairs that they could take home with them. Rona thought of Kari and purchased two new temples cloaks as well as two modest dresses for her.

    Afterwards, Bishop asked if Rona wouldn’t mind going back to the Imperial Palace to start making arrangements to move his mother into the specialized home that would take care of her needs. She agreed to and took Rook and Karnwyr with her while Bishop led Duful through the Market District to his new job.

    “So, what exactly am I going to be doing?” Duful asked.

    Bishop smirked at him and said, “You’re going to be an apprentice.”

    Duful scrunched his nose, “Armor smithing or something? I don’t have any talent with that.”

    “Not quite,” Bishop said as they stopped in front of a small storefront with a large black sign with bold red lettering that said, Red Diamond Jewelry.

    Duful looked uneasily at the sign and then back to Bishop and said, “No way! I can’t go back there!”

    Bishop laughed and pulled his brother in by the arm. The minute they stepped inside they found Havnor Red-Tooth in his usual place behind the glass cases, looking over several pieces of glittering gemstones and some gold ore with a magnifier.

    He glanced up and smiled kindly at them, “Well, well. Been looking forward to seeing you again Mister Bishop.”

    Duful was trying to pull away from Bishop’s grasp, but he just yanked him forward up to the counter with him. Havnor pressed his elbows to the countertop and held his chin over his hands, smiling still, “I see my new apprentice is already dressed for work as well.” Duful looked nervously at the old nord.

    Bishop said, “He’s real sorry for stealing from you Havnor, but thanks for taking him on. I promise he has no reason to pilfer from you or anyone anymore.”

    Havnor chuckled and said, “Yes, I thought as much. I heard all about your incredible feats in the Arena. Well done, I knew you had it in you!”

    “Uuhh…” Duful sounded confused, “What’s going on?”

    “Well young man, Emperor Titus has arranged for you to work for me as my apprentice. You’re going to start off paying your debt to me. A few months of work should suffice and once I’m confident that you are a knowledgeable jeweler I’m going to start training you in numismatics.”

    “Numa-wha?”

    Havnor smirked at him and reached down, opening a drawer and pulled out a black leather case. He opened it revealing a wide variety of coins set into slots in red velvet, “Numismatics, the study of currency. I’ve been looking to expand my business and reach out to local coin collectors in the area. When I’m done training you, you’ll be able to appraise their collections. It is a highly sought after position, as there are very few numismatists in Tamriel and even fewer willing to train others in the profession. I expect you will be able to travel and use your skill all across Tamriel at some point, but for now, we’ll be staying local.”

    “Huh…” Duful mumbled as he stared at the coins, “So… you’re really going to teach me all that?”

    “That I am. You will be learning all the specialties of my trade and perhaps you will truly learn to appreciate the value and craftsmanship of the precious gems and pieces of jewelry you stole.”

    Duful looked at him sheepishly and mumbled, “Yeah, sorry about that.”

    “It’s alright. The Emperor enlightened me to your situation and I can’t really blame you for it. Now, Mister Bishop, I have something for you.”

    Havnor opened another drawer and pulled out a pair of round black velvet boxes and set them on the counter. He opened the first one revealing a stunning women’s engagement ring.

    The setting was antique gold molded into the shape of a blooming rose. The sides were shaped like weaving petals and dotted with sparkling diamonds. In the very center of the rose itself was a large glittering dragon’s breath gemstone. It also looked like Havnor had taken pieces of the gem and melded it into the edges of the petals, making the entire thing glitter in radiant colors.

    Bishop was smiling widely at it and said, “It’s perfect.”

    Havnor nodded and said, “I’m very glad. I do take great pride in my work. Now, as for the second one I know we never discussed it, but I thought you might want the matching piece.”

    He opened the second box revealing a much simpler ring. Smooth and round, it was made of antique gold. The central molding was designed with the same color gold which had been etched and shaped into nordic style figures of dragons chasing wolves in a repetitive pattern. Underneath the gold in the empty space was that same glittering dragon’s breath gemstone, matching it perfectly with the woman’s engagement ring.

    “Try it on for a minute, will you?” Havnor asked, “I’m pretty good at eye balling the size of one’s fingers, but if it’s too big or small I can adjust it.”

    Bishop slid it on and shook his head, smirking, “Fits just right.”

    “Excellent!” Havnor said excitedly, “I expect hers will be a perfect fit as well.”

    Bishop took it off and set it back into its slot in the box, although he picked up Rona’s engagement ring and continued to admire it.

    Duful said, “Wow… that looks expensive. Wait – is that for? Are you?”

    Duful gaped at him and Bishop grinned broadly and said, “Yeah. I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

    Duful hit him on the shoulder and shouted, “Seriously bro!? That’s awesome!”

    Then the door opened behind them and Rona walked in with Rook by her and she said, “Oh hey! We finished early so thought we’d meet up with you.”

    Bishop quickly snapped the box shut and pushed them both back towards Havnor who seemed to realize who she was. He took them both back and stuffed them into a drawer.

    “Heeey Sweetness,” Bishop said awkwardly, “You finished early?”

    “Yeah,” she said laughing a little, “That’s what I just said.” She looked around the room and said, “Wow. So this is where you’ll be working Duful? This is amazing.”

    “You must be the Lady Rona,” Havnor said, putting a hand out to her in greeting, “Havnor Red-Tooth. Pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

    Rona shook his hand and said, “Oh, it’s very nice to meet you. You have a beautiful shop.”

    “Thank you my dear,” he chuckled a little and started to really study her. She blushed a little at his awkward staring and Bishop cleared his throat loudly.

    Havnor said, “Oh! My apologies. It’s just, I heard all about what happened at the Arena, that the Dragonborn flew off on an actual dragon. That was you?”

    “Yes,” she said smiling sheepishly.

    “Such a lovely young woman,” he said, still staring.

    “So,” Rona said turning to Bishop as she ran a hand through her hair, “Do you want to get some lunch and then we can pay a visit to the Talos Plaza District and have a look at the vacant homes there?”

    “Sounds great,” Bishop said, “We’re just going to finish up with Havnor here and we’ll meet you both at the All Saints Inn in a little bit. Mind ordering us our food?”

    “Sure,” she said.

    Then Havnor jumped in, “Oh, before you go Lady Rona. Your companion here wanted you to have this.”

    Bishop glared incredulously at Havnor as he set a round velvet box on the counter. She took it and opened it up. “Oh wow. They’re beautiful Bishop.”

    He peered over her shoulder at two sparkling Dragon’s Breath stud earrings and exhaled with relief.

    Then she looked up at him, smiling and said, “Why earrings though?”

    “Uh… well,” he stammered, “I really liked the ones you wore at the Bloated Float Inn last week.”

    She laughed a little and said, “They were fake though, my ears aren’t pierced. Although I suppose now I have a reason to get them done.”

    He rubbed a hand to the back of his head and mumbled, “Yeah…”

    She hugged him and said, “Thank you. They are really beautiful. We’ll meet you in the Temple District, alright?”

    “Mmhm,” Bishop said as he watched her take Rook’s hand, the two girls chattering together as they left.

    The minute the door shut Bishop rounded on Havnor and snarled, “You trying to make my heart stop old man!?”

    Havnor chuckled and said, “Sorry about that. It’s just I had plenty of Dragon’s Breath left over after making the ring that I decided to make a pair of matching earrings as well. I would have gone with a pendant if I knew her ears weren’t pierced. Ah well… she really is quite lovely. So odd though, to think that such a small person could hold so much power.”

    Bishop just sighed wearily and Havnor passed him the two boxes with the rings again. He pocketed them both and made arrangements to pay the substantial fee for them. Havnor told Duful when he expected to see him every weekday and went over a few of the responsibilities he would have working there.

    When all was said and done, they met up with Rona and Rook and the rest of the day was spent looking at moderately sized homes in the Talos Plaza District. They were no beautiful manors, like in the Elven Gardens District, but they were modest and decently priced. They settled on a smaller two story home with three bedrooms. All in all Bishop spent only a third of his Arena winnings on everything, including the ring set and the cost of the home already furnished.

    As the sun slowly set they made their way back to the Waterfront and Bishop said, “You’ll both be able to move in to the home tomorrow… and Kari too, if she wants.”

    “What about Mama?” Rook asked, looking up at Bishop with her big red doe eyes.

    He smiled gently at her and said, “Ma is going to be very close by at a place where some nice people are going to take care of her,” he looked at Duful and said, “I’ll be here early tomorrow morning. They’re going to take Rina and I know Kari’s not going to be happy about it.”

    Duful ran a hand through his curls anxiously, “Uh yeah. She’s going to freak out.”

    “Don’t tell her about it,” Bishop said firmly, “I don’t want to upset her right now.”

    “Right…” Duful mumbled. Then he looked between them both and reached in for a hug, wrapping his arms around Rona and Bishop. “Thanks so much you guys. Seriously… this means a lot.”

    Bishop pat him on the back and said, “You’re family Duful.”

    Duful pulled back and said, “I just knew when I saw you that day, Bishop… and when you didn’t kill me for stealing all your stuff,” he chuckled, “I knew everything was going to be okay. We owe you our lives, bro.”

    Bishop shook his head, “It’s what families do for each other. I know that now. I’m sorry I left you all with him… and with nothing.”

    Duful smirked, “Well you’ve made up for it a thousand times over.”

    Bishop sighed and said, “I love you Duful. Just want you to know that.”

    Duful’s eyes widened and Rook said, “I love you too Bishy!”

    He chuckled at her, kneeling down and embracing her tightly, “I love you the most Rook! Prettiest little sister I ever had.” She blushed a little but smiled brightly at him and he said, “I hope you’re excited to start school.”

    She nodded fervently and he stood up again and put a hand to his brother’s shoulder, “See you tomorrow Duff.”

    Duful grinned and said, “Yeah, you too Bish.” As they turned away, clicking for Karnwyr to follow, they heard Duful shout, “Oh and uh… love you too bro!”

    Bishop threw a hand up in acknowledgment and Rona grasped his arm as they walked, huge smiles spread across their faces. She said, “You’re a good big brother.”

    “Yeah well… I learned from one of the best big sisters I’ve ever seen,” he smirked at her.

    “Aw,” she whined, “Now you’ve got me missing Nelkir.”

    “And Dagny too, right? She might as well be your little sister at this point.”

    “And Frothar!” She shouted.

    Bishop scoffed, “Pft, as if. He was the whiniest one of the bunch, that little snot-nosed brat.”

    She laughed and sighed, “I want to go see them when we get back.”

    “Hm… as my lady commands,” he said smiling warmly at her and pulling her closer.

    He knew in his heart things were going to be okay. They would take their time searching for the Elder Scroll. But before all that… he was already imagining every possible place and scenario for proposing to her. He wanted to finish their journey as husband and wife and he intended to do just that, sooner than later.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    One more chapter after this one! Then Book One will be complete. What a journey.

    ——————————————-

    Chapter 89

    The Wedding

     

    Bishop insisted that Rona stay behind as he got up early to meet with his family for his mother’s move into the home that would be looking after her. She felt nervous for him and wanted to support him, but he explained that he really didn’t want her to see his family in distress because he already knew Kari would not handle it well.

    He left, taking Karnwyr with him and she took her time slowly getting ready for the day. They were supposed to go to Magrob’s family’s estate just outside the Imperial City, to the east near Lake Poppad. She ran the bath, humming to herself while she picked out a nice outfit in the closet. She bathed with light rose perfumed soap because she really loved the flowery smells, not caring about Bishop’s opinion on that, even using a little extra just to bug him a bit. Then he’d have to work extra hard to get her own smell to come out… she blushed a little at herself thinking of the fun they could have doing that later.

    After she finished her bath she got dressed in the nice semi-formal gown she’d found in the closet. It was a bright copper color, made with shiny satin fabric. It was sleeveless, with only two thin straps that went over her shoulders and crisscrossed over the low dipped back. The dress was long, just barely touching the floor. She curled her hair and lengthened it a bit with her magic then put on a light amount of make-up. Soft natural browns for her eyes and dark liner to bring them out. She got a little bold with a bright red for her lips though, to match the dress. Always skipping the blush because she blushed enough without any help from the makeup.

    The best part of her outfit though, in her opinion, was the pair of boots she found. They were thigh high, black leather boots, with sharp heels that laced all up the fronts. They took forever to lace up, but she liked them a lot, impractical as they were and she was looking forward to surprising Bishop with them later because they could hardly be seen under the long dress. She also put on some matching lacy black lingerie, only this time her panties didn’t have any extra holes.

    The last thing she planned to wear were the stud earrings Bishop had bought for her. They really were beautiful. She liked the simplicity of them, just a pair of smaller earrings, they didn’t dangle or get in the way. The round gemstones were incredible too, with a bright magenta melding with a dark blue and it looked like little stars were set in the midst of them. It was really thoughtful of him. She still had the wolf carved ring he gave her too, the one Jules had made for him. It was one of her most precious possessions and she never took it off. She liked to look at it from time to time and she would think of him.

    She decided then to pierce her ears herself. She’d seen Lorrie do it years ago in the Mage’s Guild and so she knew exactly what to do. She whispered an incantation, lighting the tip of her finger and pressed it to her earlobes, numbing them. Then she pulled open a drawer in the vanity and found a small pincushion with sewing needles in it. She pulled one out, setting it on top of the vanity. She held the earrings up to her ears, positioning them exactly where she wanted them, then she picked up the needle and pressed it through the skin on her earlobes. It was painless, although she did feel a slight pressure. She pulled the needle out and quickly pressed the earring in then did the same with the other and fastened them both.

    Once they were in and she was pleased that they were even, she cast a healing spell over her ears with the earrings still in. The wounds healed completely, but the holes stayed with the earrings still there.

    She wiped the little bit of blood away with a damp cloth and then stood up and gave a quick spin in front of the mirror. Satisfied with her look she went back into the sitting room to wait for Bishop, playing her lute and humming to herself all the while.

    Another hour passed on by and he finally came back, Karnwyr at his heels and he sighed loudly. She glanced back at him from the couch, looking over the backing and asked, “How did it go?”

    “Terrible,” he said, “Kari practically clawed my eyes out when they took Rina. My frail little sister… I have no idea where she gets all that energy from. Anyhow, got Duful and Rook settled in the house now. Kari refused to go, but she’ll hopefully come around.”

    He stepped into the room and Rona stood up, smiling at him. His eyes widened and he uttered, “Whoa… Ladyship. You cannot do that to a man this early in the day.”

    She laughed and gave a little twirl, “You like?”

    “Like is a complete understatement my dear. I don’t know if there are words to express just how much I like all of this,” he said motioning his hands to the figure of her curves. Then he quickly closed the space between them, taking several long strides across the room and immediately wrapped a large hand to her lower back and grasped her hand with the other, taking her in a dancing pose. He touched her earlobes and raised a brow, asking, “Did you pierce your ears?”

    She smirked at him, “Yeah, what do you think?”

    “Beautiful,” he smiled and leaned in to kiss her but she put a finger to his lips stopping him and said, “You need to go get ready now. We were supposed to leave a half hour ago.”

    He sulked a little and she quickly kissed him on the cheek before pulling out of his grasp and pushing him off to go get cleaned up. Bishop spent all of fifteen minutes, bathing and throwing on a pair of black trousers and a black buttoned doublet which he pulled over a white blooming shirt that he didn’t even bother to tuck in. She frowned at him when he came out, hair still sticking out wet in places and she started fussing with his clothes, straightening them. She tucked his shirt and doublet in and felt him flexing his muscles there.

    He grinned at her when she looked up at him saying, “Really?”

    He moaned, “Mm, can’t believe I have to wait until tonight to tear that dress off of you.”

    She finished fussing with his clothes and started blushing when she said, “Well… it’s a very big estate and a very big manor. I’m sure it won’t be that hard to find some privacy.”

    He raised his brows at her and her cheeks burned even more.

    “Oh Ladyship, I think I’m really starting to rub off on you.”

    “Nooot yet,” she said sing-song.

    He chuckled at her back as she hurried along, clicking for Karnwyr to follow them. Bishop made sure to keep the flirting and fondling up as he groped her ass through the smooth fabric of her dress and she continued to put on a little show for him, thrusting her chest out a bit to show off her cleavage, or her rear a little when he got close enough to run a hand over it.

    As they walked along through the city, there was a moment when their flirting got so heated that Bishop couldn’t help himself. They passed by a pair of homes in the Elven Gardens District with a small alleyway between them. He grasped her hand, yanking her along with him and immediately ran his hands up and down her hips and started to caress and fondle her breasts through the dress.

    She moaned and reached for him too, grasping his very firm bulge in his trousers and stroking him through the fabric. He groaned heavily and smiled at her before leaning in to kiss her deeply. Their kiss was incredibly passionate as they licked over each other’s lips before letting their tongues entwine again in each other’s mouths, tasting each other with the dance of their lips.

    She got a lot bolder then, swiftly undoing his belt and unbuttoning his trousers before sliding a cool hand down his abdomen and taking a handful of his hardness making him gasp under her lips. He barely parted from her lips, the heat of their quickened breaths meeting between their open mouths as they hovered so close to one another.

    She loved the look of pleasure on his face that she gave him. He seemed to grow even harder at the feeling of bare naked skin touching him there and so out in the open too. He grasped her hips and leaned in to her groaning in her ear, “Mmm, Ladyship, this is very sexy. If you keep it up, I might just come right here.”

    She felt her face flush even more at that thought and a deep feeling of arousal surged through her core as she grew quite damp between the legs. She started to stroke him hard, noticing a distinct wetness dripping from his cockhead. She ran a finger over just the tip, spreading his own precum all over the head and rubbing it gently under the ridge so that the entire head of his throbbing cock was well lubricated. This only seemed to make him produce more of it and she heard his breath quicken in her ear as she grasped the tip of his penis and started to stroke just that part, swiftly.

    His breath hitched and he gasped, “Yes, just like that.”

    She continued the motions, enjoying the grunts and moans he released as she pleasured him so boldly in broad daylight, out in public like that. It was so shameful, yet so arousing all the same. It was no wonder Bishop wanted to take her in public. The idea of potentially being caught in such an embarrassing predicament was incredibly thrilling to her.

    She started to stroke him harder and faster, sliding the dripping precum he was making further down his shaft. She was amazed by how much he was producing, but the naughtiness of what they were doing must have made it that it much more pleasurable to him too.

    Then he breathed, “I’m going to come soon Ladyship… don’t want to make a mess of our clothes though…”

    He was right. There was nowhere to do it without making a complete mess of everything and forcing them to go back and change. Everywhere except…

    She looked around, her face burning utterly crimson at what she was about to do. She quickly knelt down, pulling her dress above her knees so as to not press it into the dirty cobblestone ground. She held his rigid and pulsing cock in her hand, looking at it as the head flared and the tip seemed to be breathing open. It was so erotic. She looked up into Bishop’s eyes and he looked down at her, a redness burning over his own face as he waited with bated breath for her to make a move.

    She said a certain incantation, lighting a finger and touched her tongue with it. In seconds she wrapped her lips around him and essentially swallowed him whole. She felt his hands running up through her hair, gripping two handfuls, probably making a mess of it, though at the moment she didn’t really care. She took several hard, wet, sucking strokes on him with her mouth and in less than a minute he was groaning deeply, trying to hold his own voice back, as she felt his entire shaft twitch and thicken under her tongue and he started coming forcefully down her throat. She heard him give a low impassioned growl of pleasure and he muttered, “Oohh… fuuuck…” as she took every wonderful inch of him in.

    She looked up again, enjoying the sight of him actually blushing and breathing hard as his chest rose and fell quickly while he climaxed deeply down her throat. She swallowed as he came, making sure he felt her tongue doing so. His face was very sexy, with his lips parted and his eyes rolling a bit with deep satisfaction.

    When finally he finished he took a deep breath and leaned back against a wall. She released him and he quickly pushed his softening manhood into his underwear, Rona noticed that it was covered in lipstick marks, before he buttoned and belted himself back in.

    She gently wiped at her mouth, trying very hard not to smear more of the lipstick all over her face and then she stood up, smirking a little proudly at him. He returned the smile and grasped her hips again, pulling her closer to him so that her chest was pressed to his and he said, “That was amazing. You’re amazing.”

    She gave him a quick kiss to the cheek, lingering there for just a moment as she said, “Maybe we can have some more fun later?”

    “Definitely,” he said, taking the opportunity to nibble at her ear, making her giggle.

    Then they heard a window up above open and someone tossed some dirty bath water out, where it splashed on the ground nearby, luckily missing them entirely. A middle-aged imperial woman glared down at them and snapped, “Oh disgusting! Another tramp with his harlot! I’ll call for the guards this time, just you wait!” She disappeared into the house and both Bishop and Rona burst into laughter. He quickly grasped her hand and they ran out of the alley and towards the LaRoues Estate just outside the city. Karnwyr appeared out of nowhere, excited to be running now and skittered alongside them both.

    Bishop was laughing hard when he shouted, “Damn! That really was a close one Lightfoot! I was hoping to hold out a little longer but – shit!”

    Rona was blushing, bright red and laughing out of sheer embarrassment and the thrill of what they just did, “I probably really would have lit on fire from embarrassment if she saw us!”

    He glanced back at her very red face as they ran and snorted a string of laughs even louder, which only fueled her own giggles. Finally they made it to the estate and fortunately they were not the last to arrive.

    Roxlin, Magrob, Marco and Charissa were all dressed in their finest, the men in simple black trousers and doublets like Bishop and the women in nice dresses. Roxlin was wearing a cute short light pink dress that dipped just below her knees and she had on a pair of short white, buttoned boots with a low heel. Charissa was wearing a medium length and modest looking gown, going with a pretty silver, with form fitting sleeves that went down to her wrists. She had some regular light brown boots on though, not matching anything in the slightest. She always did prefer comfort over style though.

    As they approached, Rona’s heart was still racing and she was really hoping her face would cool off already.

    Marco noticed though and raised a brow. “Lightfoot, you’re as bright as the Red Mountain.”

    Roxlin narrowed her eyes at her and grinned, “Were you two up to something naughty? Is that why you’re so late?”

    Rona’s face burned even more at her friend guessing right. Magrob started chuckling, Charissa turned her gaze away, rolling her eyes a little and Marco said, “Looks like that would be a yes.”

    Rona put her face in her hands and Bishop snickered then said, “So where are the other two… Linel and Lorrie?”

    Charissa scoffed and said, “They probably saw a hot piece of ass on the way here and started fighting over him.”

    Marco snorted a laugh, “I’d believe it.”

    Rona’s redness started to vanish and she quickly asked, “Did Ata come by already?”

    “Yeah,” Roxlin said, “He took the carriage with my brother and sisters. Started telling them all kinds of stories. I think he was even flirting a little!”

    Rona laughed and said, “Gods I hope not.”

    After a few more minutes both Linel and Lorrie strolled up. Linel was dressed in nice grey trousers and a doublet, while Lorrie wore a light yellow floor length gown, very elvish in style with cascading sleeves.

    “There you are!” Roxlin barked.

    Lorrie, who was looking a little frazzled, immediately climbed up into the waiting carriage without a word. Linel was tittering to himself and Rona asked, “Is she alright?”

    “Oh she’s fine,” he said with a smug grin, “But she finally got a taste of her own medicine. It seems that the love potion she used on Bernard hasn’t quite worn off yet and the minute he saw her, he cornered her and kissed her something fierce right in front of the entire Mage’s Guild. She had a bit of trouble getting away. Needless to say, the headmaster was not pleased, but when he tried to pull them apart Bernard started casting flames everywhere and declaring his love to her. He even tried to propose while his own robes were on fire and half a classroom was burning down.”

    They all just stared at him, aghast, but Linel laughed still and waved a hand, “No worries! The headmaster put the fire out and I made Lorrie come clean about what she did. She got a nice little suspension for a week and Bernard is now free from his unbearable lust for my dear, sweet twin.”

    Lorrie sighed, exasperated, and rolled her eyes, “Okay Linel. Done having your fun now?”

    “Oh hardly, sister,” he chuckled as he joined her in the carriage, “I am never letting you live this one down.”

    The others all climbed into the carriage as well, with Karnwyr taking space up on the floor by their feet. The carriage driver snapped the reins of the two white steeds and they were off.

    Rona looked at Lorrie, who sat across from her. She was almost as disheveled as she imagined herself to be after her brief encounter with Bishop in the alleyway. Then she noticed a little bit of white gunk on Lorrie’s face and leaned forward, wiping it off her cheek, holding it out on her finger.

    Lorrie shuddered and cried, “Eeeww!”

    Linel snickered, “Oh gods Lorrie! Did one of his pimples pop on you?”

    She started wiping at her face and gagged fiercely. The others just burst into laughter and Rona quickly wiped the bit onto Bishop who said, “Hey! Don’t get it on me! Eugh!”

    They all had a good laugh at Lorrie’s expense, though she took it well enough and started telling them more stories about her failures and successes with the love potions over the years. Bishop complimented her on her potion for hangovers and asked for the recipe which gave her a little boost of confidence.

    (Background Music YouTube: Best Relaxing Piano Studio Ghibli Complete Collection 2016)

    The trip to the Bashurn Estate wasn’t too long. They arrived in a little over an hour and were greeted by an enormous piece of land, significantly larger than the LaRoues Estate. There was an enormous red brick wall, very worn and old looking, and covered in overgrown vines, which went on forever, wrapping around at least twenty acres of land, or more. The rolling hills were covered in lush green trees, and they could hardly see the enormous red brick manor at the far end of the property.

    They all got out of the carriage and started to follow a winding dirt path through the trees. The landscape was beautiful, with enormous boulders, flourishing wild plants and very old oak trees everywhere.

    Bishop even caught sight of some wild game, a pair of deer, that were grazing on some of the tall grass in a thicket just off the road. “Wow, nice place you got here Magrob,” he said admiring the natural state of everything.

    Magrob grinned, “My parents’ place. Our family got lucky, buying the land up a hundred years ago after some Imperials were desperate to sell,” he pointed out at the lake on the far end, which was hardly visible, nestled within a thick growth of trees, “The Shrine of Vaermina overlooks Lake Poppad there. Back then there was a group of cultists worshipping her and the family that lived here was plagued by never-ending nightmares. My great-great grandparents managed to snatch up all fifty acres for coins on the septim. Then they went in and wiped out all the cultists, though a few did escape taking the Skull of Corruption with them, which was the cause of the nightmares. Haven’t had a problem since. Pretty sure the dogs keep away any cultists that think of coming on the property.”

    “You said your family breeds them?” Bishop asked.

    “That’s right,” Magrob said and as they drew closer to the manor they heard the loud barking and howling of way too many dogs. Then they were greeted by at least five huskies that Karnwyr started to excitedly chase and play with, while a little orc boy and a breton girl around the ages of eight and nine followed after them giggling loudly.

    The property was busy and bustling with plenty of finely dressed orc men and women and mostly blonde bretons meeting and greeting one another outside and around the property. Lots of kids too, also mostly bretons, but several little orc children ran around, playing together. Roxlin’s family was by far the majority there, as Magrob didn’t have as many relatives that lived in Cyrodiil.

    Rona loved seeing such a mixed group getting along so well, but then again, aside from Roxlin’s aunts, both families came from humble roots and were generally good people all around.

    They stepped into the large clearing where the red brick manor stood, old but still in good condition. There was a large fountain in the middle of the dirt path, although the fountain was completely dry and chipped and cracked in places. The manor itself was in a sideways ‘L’ shape, with the short end off to their right and a large wooden front door was centered in the middle of the longer portion. It stood three stories tall, with smaller square windows, spaced closely together in certain sections.

    They looked off to the left where the loud barking was coming from. Far off the property were what appeared to be four very large and run down old barns. Each barn was fenced off from one another with thick wood picket fencing and there were at least two hundred howling huskies divided up within each building.

    Karnwyr, who ran by, still chasing one of the other huskies on the grounds stopped suddenly, catching sight of the barns and all the howling dogs in the distance. He got very excited at the sight of them all and started to wag his tail and bark and howl in reply to them.

    “Oh shit!” Before Bishop even had a chance to stop him, Karnwyr pelted off the ground and dashed straight for one of the barns on the end.

    Magrob chuckled and said, “Guess he smells all the females in heat. Don’t worry about it Bish, I doubt he’ll be able to get in there.”

    “You sure?” He said watching Karnwyr reach his desired destination where he started meeting noses with the other huskies through the thick wood fencing. He pawed at the walls and whined, pacing around trying to find a way in.

    “Magrob my boy!” They looked over to see a much older, short and stout orc man approach them with his arms thrown wide open in greeting. He wore a fine set of noble’s robes and had on a thick fur cape.

    Magrob gave a bear hug to the orc, patting him on the back and said, “Good to see you Pa.”

    Roxlin jumped up and gave the older orc a big hug and said, “Hi Grolak! How are you?”

    He returned the hug, although he was a little more gentle with his embrace, considering how much smaller she was than him, “Doing just fine my dear and please, call me Pa!” He chortled and put his hands to her shoulders, “Looking forward to tomorrow? Hm?” He glanced at Magrob, grinning and looking very proud of his son.

    Roxlin nodded fervently and said, “Oh I can’t wait! I have so much to tell you uh… Pa,” she blushed, “Hey, is Ushga around? I want to visit with her too!”

    “She’s inside finishing cooking with your mother and sisters,” Mr. Bashurn then looked on at the rest of the Fighter’s Guild members and greeted them with familiarity, having already met them all several times before, save for Bishop, who Rona introduced.

    “It’s very nice to meet you young man,” Mr. Bashurn said shaking his hand. Then he glanced over at the barns where Karnwyr was still urgently seeking companionship with some of the huskies on the other side of the fence, “Is that your wolf?”

    “Uh, yeah, that’s Karnwyr,” Bishop said, “Sorry about that, he’s not exactly trained.”

    “But he’s tame?” Mr. Bashurn asked curiously.

    “Tame enough,” Bishop smirked.

    “Do you mind if I meet him? I’d like to see his temperament firsthand.”

    “Sure,” Bishop shrugged and looked at Rona, “Want to come with?”

    “Might as well,” she said looking over at everyone else who’d disappeared to mingle among the crowds. Roxlin and the girls had already gone off to visit with her mother and future mother-in-law and Magrob and the boys were busy joking with his older brother and a few of his cousins.

    They walked along the rolling hills and Rona almost regretted wearing the high heeled black boots as the heels kept sinking into the grass as she walked. She grasped Bishop’s arm, so she wouldn’t lose her footing and trip. He glanced down at her, “You alright Lightfoot?”

    She said, “Oh, I wore heels which are definitely not made for walking on soft grass.”

    He chuckled at her, rolling his eyes a little. They arrived at the barns after a few minutes of traversing the rolling landscape. Bishop whistled catching Karnwyr’s attention for a minute, before he went back to howling around the barn.

    “Wow,” Bishop said, “He usually comes when I whistle.”

    “Well that particular barn houses all our breeding females and I’m sure plenty of them are in heat at the moment. So he no doubt wants to… well… mate!” Mr. Bashurn chortled and went right over to Karnwyr who’d started digging at the fencing, intent on finding a way in somehow. He rolled up his sleeves, revealing plenty of faded scar marks that looked a lot like teeth marks. Rona could only imagine the number of times he’d been bit trying to train war dogs to be as vicious as they needed to on command and he clearly took the brunt of that training on his own arms.

    He knelt down by the wolf who was hardly paying attention to him, so focused on his current task. The old orc scratched him on the head and then rolled his ears back and started to look him over, examining him, running his hand over the wolf’s back and underbelly, then lifting his tail out and straightening it.

    “He’s very healthy,” he said over his shoulder, “How old is he?”

    Bishop laughed and scratched his head, “That’s a lot more difficult of a question to answer than you might think.”

    Mr. Bashurn raised a brow at him and Rona said, “We had an encounter with a Daedric Prince that gave Karnwyr five years of his life back. He was about ten, right?” She glanced at Bishop.

    “Yeah, he was ten going on eleven,” he confirmed, “But he’s about five or six now.”

    Mr. Bashurn stared wide-eyed and smiled, “Well, damn… that’s quite incredible.” He gave Karnwyr one last pat on the back and then stood up and walked back over to them, “I’ll give you a thousand septims for each healthy litter.”

    Bishop laughed, “What?”

    “I’d like to let him breed my girls. I’m always looking to strengthen my litters and to have a little more wolf back in the blood, well I think it’ll be good for them. At least hone their senses a bit more. Not to mention he’s tame enough that they can still be easily trained.”

    Bishop gaped at him, “Damn when Magrob said you’d pay me to let my wolf fuck – er” he glanced at Rona who was looking at him with half-lidded eyes and cleaned up his words, “to breed your dogs, I thought he was just kidding.”

    “Not at all. I’m very interested in studding your boy,” then he grinned and said, “I’ll give you first pick of the litter.”

    Bishop laughed, “Yeah? Well alright then,” they shook hands firmly, “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

    “Excellent,” Mr. Bashurn looked back and said, “Suppose I’ll let him in now. You might want to look away from this. They get a little aggressive when they mate. You don’t mind if he spends the night here, do you? I’ll bring him back for the wedding tomorrow.”

    Bishop had a broad grin on his face when he said, “Let him at it!” Then he called, “You hear that boy? You get to have your way with as many of these lovely ladies as you like!” Rona pressed a hand to her head, laughing under her breath a little.

    Mr. Bashurn went right over and gave a sharp whistle, catching Karnwyr’s attention again, then he looked at all the excited females and barked, “BESHK!” They all immediately sat, although they looked very anxious still. He opened the gate and Karnwyr ran right on in and immediately mounted the first female he laid eyes on.

    Rona blushed and quickly turned around and started to walk away, heels sinking in the grass again as Bishop burst into laughter and said, “Wow… been a looong time since I’ve seen that.”

    “Oh gods!” Rona uttered with disgust. He caught up with her still laughing and helped her walk back down the rolling hills before she snapped an ankle in her boots.

    They mingled and met with plenty of Magrob’s family, including his kindly mother Ushga Bashurn as she served them all some very orcish hors d’oeuvres. The platter was full of meats and what appeared to be thinly sliced animal organs, heart, liver and kidneys with crackers and dips.

    Rona stuck with the few foods she actually recognized and was surprised to see Bishop dig into the stranger pieces. Granted he really did like any kind of red and bloody meat.

    He had a piece of liver on a cracker and took a bite saying, “Mm, this is good Ladyship! You should try it!” He stuck the other bit in front of her face and she cringed away from it.

    “Nooo,” she said giggling a little. He kept moving it closer and then she ducked and tried to get away as he playfully chased after her with the bit of food.

    “Never going to outrun me in those heels Princess!” He called after her as she giggled and ran into the manor. She ducked behind by Roxlin, who was coming out of the kitchen with more hors d’oeuvres on a platter.

    Bishop stopped suddenly, an impish grin on his face, “Hey Roxlin, tell her how good the liver is.”

    Roxlin snorted a laugh and shrugged, “It’s pretty good.”

    “Eww,” Rona said, knitting her brows together. She started looking for a way out as Bishop leaned back and forth around Roxlin, looking to stick the cracker back in her face. She quickly darted up the green carpeted stairs behind her and Roxlin snapped, “Get it out of my face ranger! Before I drop this platter!”

    He chuckled and carefully went around her, “Sorry ’bout that.”

    Roxlin smirked at him and said, “Hey! No fooling around up there! The rehearsal starts in ten minutes and I need my maid of honor!”

    He was moving up the stairs quickly and glanced over his shoulder saying, “I hear yah!”

    He looked around but didn’t see Rona anywhere. He called, teasing “Ladyshiiip! Roxlin just gave me an entire platter of this stuff, so you get to try it all.”

    He peeked into what he thought was an empty room and saw Charissa sitting on one of two twin beds alone. She looked like she was sulking. He muttered, “Whoops,” and made to leave when Charissa looked back at him for a second before turning away and said indignantly, “Her name is Rona, you know.”

    He scoffed, “Uh yeah, I’m aware. Don’t know if you noticed, but nicknames are kind of my thing. Besides she likes it.” He smirked at her at back.

    Charissa sighed loudly, dejectedly even.

    Bishop leaned against the door frame, heavily lidded eyes and said, “Damn. You’re still feeling sour about that kiss huh?”

    He noticed her bristle a little at that remark and he expected she was probably blushing too.

    She said, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

    “Oh don’t I?” He drawled, “I guess I was just imagining it then when you smashed your lips onto hers last week.”

    “Pft… knowing you and your perverse mind, you might as well have,” then she shook her head and muttered, “What in Oblivion does she even see in a man like you?”

    Bishop laughed, “And what does a prude like you, see in a woman like her?”

    She looked back, glaring at him then got up and went right up to him, getting in his face, “Don’t think I forgot what you did back in Solitude, in the barrow. I know what kind of person you really are, bandit and I’ve been nice and tolerant for her sake, but I still don’t trust you. You don’t deserve a woman like her.”

    He raised a brow and said mockingly, “Are you saying all this because of your upstanding belief in honor and justice, or because of the little torch you’ve been carrying for her all these years?”

    Charissa’s brows lowered sharply over her brown eyes and she growled, “Like I said, you don’t know a damn thing.”

    “I know lust when I see it,” he retorted.

    “Only because you’re full of it.”

    He smirked and said, “I won’t lie, yeah. I’m a real red-blooded man and I know what I want,” then he leaned into her face a little more, narrowing his eyes, “I let it slide last time because you were drunk. But if I ever catch you doing that to my woman again, I won’t hesitate to take you outside and have words.”

    “Hmph,” she smirked a little, “Nice to know you wouldn’t go easy on me just because I’m a woman.”

    “I’ve seen your skill with a bow,” he said leaning back against the door frame, “And I’ve fought with plenty of warrior women in the Companions, so I expect you know how to throw a punch too. I wouldn’t underestimate you.”

    “Good,” she snapped, “Because I wouldn’t hold back.”

    He chuckled and then said, “I’m sure you wouldn’t. Now… you’d best douse that torch you’re carrying for my woman, because I can promise you it will get you nowhere.”

    Then they heard someone clear their throat and Bishop spun around. Rona was standing there in the hall, with half-lidded eyes and said, “Mind if I talk to Charissa for a minute? Alone?”

    Bishop smirked at her and ate the rest of the cracker he was still holding. He glanced back at Charissa and said, “Watch yourself woman. Don’t go tripping over these green carpets and falling lips first into anyone.” Then he headed down the stairs and disappeared out the front door.

    Rona stepped into the room and gently closed the door behind her. “What was that all about?”

    Charissa pursed her lips, “Just talking man to man.”

    Rona laughed lightly and then sighed, “Charissa, we really need to talk about what happened.”

    Charissa turned away from her and walked towards one of the small square windows and asked, “Why?”

    Rona took a tentative step forward and clutched at her own arms, “Do you have feelings for me Charissa?”

    Silence. An awkward, dense silence. Charissa sighed, shaking her head and sat down on the bed, back still facing Rona. She mumbled, “Yeah…”

    “How long?”

    Charissa looked back at her then, a red tinge to her dark cheeks, “Since always Rona.”

    Rona walked around the bed and sat down beside her, pressing her hands into the comforter and said, “You know I can never reciprocate, right?”

    Charissa scoffed slightly, “I always knew that. It’s why I never told you. I just wish… I mean why him?”

    Rona blushed a little, “Bishop is a really good person Charissa. I know that might be hard for you to see considering everything that happened in Solitude…”

    “Casavir is a good person Rona… he would be so much better for you, not this,” she spat the word, “ranger… You’ve changed so much.”

    Rona shook her head. There was so little Charissa knew. Sure Bishop might have been the crude one, yes he had a serious temper at times… but Casavir was hardly the man Charissa thought he was. Rona’s opinion of him had changed so much when she realized how he’d manipulated Bishop’s brother into betraying him. He was the cause of a young man’s death. He was hardly what she would call a good person.

    Rona looked at her and said, “First of all Charissa, Casavir is a Paladin. We could never be together. And just how have I changed?”

    Charissa sighed, “You used to be so sweet and… pure,” she blushed.

    Rona laughed a little, “Pure Charissa? Is that what’s appealing about me? Being virginal?”

    Charissa looked at her, still blushing, “Yeah actually.”

    “Well, I’m sorry that you feel that I’ve changed for the worse. But that’s never going to change how I feel about Bishop. He’s done so much for me… been with me every step of the way on my insane journey and risking his life to do so.”

    Charissa turned her eyes down and said, “Yeah I know…”

    Rona grasped her hand and said, “Charissa I want you to know that I appreciate everything you’ve ever done for me. You’ve always been a good friend to me, but you need to know it’s not Bishop who changed me. It’s being Dragonborn. I’ve had to face a lot of hard things in the last year and I’ve had to find ways to become stronger for it,” she paused then said, “I really do hope that you’ll find a way to let go of these feelings you have for me and that you find your own happiness with someone who loves you. You deserve that.”

    Charissa looked tearful and she gripped Rona’s hand a little tighter.

    Rona continued, saying sadly, “Besides… You wouldn’t want this. Being with me is… painful. It’s been hard on me and Bishop. There’s just so much you don’t know. Please let go Charissa… just let me go.”

    Charissa’s hand loosened, as though she meant it that way. Rona stood up and walked away. She didn’t dare hug or express physical affection to her friend. She didn’t want to make it harder. It had to be this way, firm and final.

    She hurried down the steps and wandered outside, realizing that she was probably late for the rehearsal. She did in fact find everyone on the side of the house, sitting in chairs that were set up in a mock setting for the rehearsal wedding. Only those participating in the wedding itself were present, while the others were inside finishing the feast they’d all share in that evening.

    Rona hurried along to do her part, trying to take her mind off the fact that she probably just broke her good friend’s heart. She even got teary eyed when Roxlin and Magrob practiced their vows. They were so sweet together and it left her thinking of herself and Bishop and wondering if they’d ever have that someday. She hoped they would. He’d expressed interest before, mentioning it a few times and said he’d thought of it. Even when she stumbled once, talking about their future children together he only warmed up to her more and it made her heart ache with love for him.

    After all was said and done they went inside and enjoyed a very hearty feast. There were plenty of orcish foods, so many strange animal organs and other odd things that Rona shied away from, while Bishop kept finding something new and gross looking to pester her with. She enjoyed her time with him though relishing every minute that they were together and laughing. No dragons, no drama. It was wonderful and she hated the idea of it ending, but promised herself she wouldn’t let it get to her. She would enjoy her journey with him and take their time doing it. And even if the world ended, she thought, it would be okay, because at least she would be with him.

    After dinner, most of the LaRoues family started to leave, thanking their gracious host and hostess, Mr. and Mrs. Bashurn. Rona saw her father off as well and he promised they’d meet again in the morning for the wedding.

    Things were getting exciting. Roxlin could not stop chattering about it, seemingly releasing more of her nerves than anything. Even Charissa had started to cheer up, whether she was putting on a facade or not she couldn’t tell, but was glad she was trying either way.

    She and Bishop never did find a chance to get away and fool around on the grounds, but that did not stop either of them from persisting with the flirtations all through the evening. They returned to the Imperial City, getting back around eleven at night. They said their good nights to Roxlin and Magrob while the others walked back to the palace and headed off to their private suites.

    (Music: I listened to Identikit by Radiohead for this one. Not a necessary listen. Choose what you like or nothing at all.)

    The second they were behind closed doors Bishop was already on her, hands all over her body, lips entwined. She of course returned the passion, wrapping her hands around his neck to pull herself up to meet his lips more closely.

    He started to untie the back of her gown and she fumbled with the buttons on his doublet. As she felt her dress slowly slipping down her waist he yanked the doublet off and actually started ripping his blooming white shirt open, snapping buttons and muttering against her lips, “Fuck these nobles clothes.”

    She giggled and whispered back, “No, fuck me.”

    He smiled and moaned at that remark and stifled her light laughs with his lips and tongue. Her dress hit the floor and she felt his arms wrap tightly around her back, feeling her up and down while she quickly undid the belt on his trousers and let them fall. She immediately grasped his erection through his underwear and gasped a little as she felt his hand slide down her panties, and feeling how wet she already was, he slid his fingers right inside.

    Both took their time touching each other, forcefully and intimately, with her hand finding its way under the remainder of his clothes to grasp and stroke while he made sure to bury two thick fingers into her, spreading her wide and slipping them in and out, touching her convulsing insides and filling her.

    She pulled her mouth from his and rest her head against his chest, moaning with the pleasure he gave her, stopping the motions on his cock so that she could just feel how good it was to have him touch her like that. He still hadn’t seemed to notice her lingerie or the boots, as it was fairly dark in the room and she breathed, “Let’s take this to the bed.”

    She grasped his arms though to stop him from going to pick her up. He withdrew his fingers and looked down at her smirking. She said, “No lifting me. I want to light the candles.”

    “Alright Princess, whatever you want.” He walked by her to go sit on the bed and she started touching all the wicks on the candles on the table and shelves in the entryway lighting them with magic. And then she stepped into the living area and lit the ones on the dresser. With enough light Bishop was definitely able to see what she was wearing and as she turned around she realized that she had not gone unnoticed in the slightest. His eyes were absolutely glued to her, running up and down every part of her body. She loved it.

    She walked across the carpet and stepped onto the hardwood in the kitchen area, making a few light clacks as she went. She turned, holding her legs apart slightly and pressed her hands to her hips, giving him a full view of everything she had to offer.

    Bishop felt his heart thudding hard in his chest at the sight of her. She never ceased to amaze when she dressed up and always found new ways to liven things up. He loved the way her breasts were pressed so firmly together in that tight black bra, giving her ample cleavage. And of course she had matching panties that hugged just right at her well developed hips. She might have been petite, but she still had such an amazing figure; perfect breasts, not too big, not too small, a delicate curve of the hips from her lovely toned, yet flat stomach with a beautiful naval that he really wanted to caress. Her thighs though were just incredible, most especially in those tall, laced up leather boots she was wearing. The heels gave her just the right amount of upward and forward lean to really amplify everything as well.

    Seeing her touch herself though was what really set a fire in him. He watched as she started running her hands up and down her own body, touching everything, from her own breasts, to smoothing them down her belly to her hips and down to her thighs, even between them. Her delicate hands touching all over herself was very erotic, but he wanted more than anything for those to be his own hands. Of course he also wanted to see what she had planned next. He did always enjoy when she surprised him in the bedroom and this was a delightfully pleasant surprise.

    She took a step forward. Mmm, he thought, take another. And she did, closing the distance between them and sauntering with a sway in her hips that was very sexy. She stood in front of him now, while he sat at the edge of the bed, knees apart and so hard it hurt. She took another sexy step forward, straddling him so that her womanhood was resting on top of his leg and her thigh was pressing against his groin, which felt nice but was hardly the kind of relief he ached for. She leaned over him, barely taller than him, even standing as she was and looked on lovingly with hooded eyes, blushing cheeks and slighted parted, pink lips, pouting just so.

    She reached around her back, undid the clip on her bra and pulled it off. Her ample tits fell gently apart with gravity and were perfectly positioned in front of his face giving him unfettered access to them. He immediately dove, in, grasping them into his hands, pressing his fingers into the softness and then his face, burying himself between her lovely cleavage and enjoying the supple warmth they provided. He fondled her for a moment like that and then took one into his mouth, licking all over her pink and puffy areola and nibbled gently on her nipple eliciting perfect, pleasured moans from her. He chest bounced a little as she gasped and in reply he squeezed and sucked harder.

    She definitely enjoyed it as much as he did. But gods, his cock was throbbing hard and he really wanted to see what those heeled boots were doing to the back end. He released his hold on her breast and wrapped his rough hands around her waist and then stood up, lifting her a little as he went. She gave a light cry of surprise and looked up at him, still so incredibly short even with those boots. He stepped around her, still not taking his hands from her waist, and made sure to position himself so that he was behind her and she was in front of the bed.

    She watched him as he slowly circled and gave her an almost predatory look. When he was behind her, he bent to her height and buried his face in the crook of her neck, nipping and biting her, sending goosebumps racing all over her skin and making her mewl with pleasure. He ran his tongue up the side of her neck and nibbled at her earlobe before uttering a simple command in his husky voice, “Bend over.”

    She did so, leaning over the bed, but staying standing and he got an incredible view of her pert ass in her tight panties, the sides of which were barely holding each cheek in, and the fabric pressed into her soft skin, creating a delicate shape. He looked down at her beautiful legs, still tightly wrapped up in the leather boots and groaned. He really liked them and he made a mental note to stash them in their belongings before they left.

    Refocusing on his current task, he started to trace the very damp spot on her panties, prodding her a little through the fabric and making her moan a little. He pressed a little harder then, making her release another delighted mewl. He grinned, enjoying that very much and started to grope her tenderly, running his hand all over the fabric, pressing it into her just a bit before pulling back. He’d started to stroke himself with his free hand and felt himself twitch every time she cried out. He couldn’t wait anymore and really wanted to make her howl. He grasped the side of her panties, pulling them out of the way, got a good look at her gorgeous glistening pussy and pressed his cockhead to her entrance.

    She was ready and he was very ready, rubbing his precum all across her slit before slowly pressing himself into her, wanting to watch as her folds swallowed him whole. He held a hand to her lower back, keeping her from bucking her hips, though that didn’t stop her from trying. He chuckled a little when he felt her try to thrust back. He was feeling a little dominant that evening and said, “Don’t move. I’m going to fuck you in good time, Sweetness. Have patience.”

    She whimpered at his words and he felt her tunnel grip the tip of his prick a little more. He liked that and it seemed she did too so he said, “I’m going to tell you what to do and you’re going to obey every word, how’s that sound, Princess?”

    She glanced back at him, her face very red and she nodded.

    “Good,” he said playfully, “I’m going to fuck you slowly. I want to enjoy the way you feel wrapped so tightly around me.”

    She moaned in reply and he let himself slip further inside, pushing until his entire length was buried within, pressed right up against the entrance to her womb. He loved that feeling and was always amazed, as small as she was, that she could take all of him. He started the motions, pulling himself out and then pressing in again and truly savoring how hot, tight and wet she was around him. He got into a steady rhythm and soon he was pumping a little faster, making his hips slap with her ass and he watched as her creamy skin rippled and jiggled with each hit.

    She was moaning and panting at the feel as well, though he noticed she had yet to start touching herself, since both her hands were near her head gripping the sheets. He said, “Finger yourself, Rona. I want you to tighten more around me.”

    She quickly complied, pushing herself up slightly so that she could reach between her own legs and he actually felt her hand there, with each new hard pump against her, as his balls hit there. He let her play with herself for a moment, groaning hard as he felt her gripping him much tighter within as she only added to her own pleasure.

    He started to thrust a lot faster and harder then, feeling his pleasure rising as well as hers as she started to become much more vocal and began to plead for more. He leaned over her back then, burying himself that much deeper into her and she gasped at the new feeling of fullness. He growled low into her ear, “I’m going to fuck you hard until I come and when I tell you it’s coming I want you to reach back and grab my balls and massage them while I empty myself inside of you.”

    He felt her really clenching him now and noticed a bright redness peaking at the tips of her ears. He smirked at how easy it was to make her face burn so furiously red with just a little dirty talk. He pulled back from her then, grasping her hips hard and started to forcefully pound into her, making her voice come out in delighted yelps. She continued to stimulate herself and he kept up the pace, moving fast and pumping recklessly into her wonderful depths. His climax was definitely coming on soon as he felt his shaft thickening and twitching more. She must have noticed too because she practically started screaming, “Bishop! Bishop! Do it! Come! Please come! Come inside me!”

    Her pleas for him to come inside really sent him over the edge. Then he felt her walls gripping him tighter than ever, nearly pushing him out, as she fell into the convulsive bliss of her own orgasm and moaned deeply into the sheets. He roared, “I’m coming Rona! Gods I’m fucking coming!”

    He gave one more hard slam into her making her scream with pleasure and felt her hand immediately clutch his balls, massaging them, which only served to heighten the power and strength of his orgasm as he spurt, thick rivulets of potent seed into her. Wave after wave, torrent after torrent, it felt like he’d never stop, it just felt too good unloading everything he had into her as her pussy walls continued to milk him dry. He gasped with each pleasurable wave hitting him as he ejaculated and eyes rolling as always when he got lightheaded from shooting so fucking hard.

    When it was over, he just wanted to fall over, but forced himself to stay standing so as to not crush her under him or hit the floor himself. He knew he was about to make a mess but didn’t care. He pulled out, letting it spill everywhere, ruining those sheets completely and she didn’t move either. He was sure that she must have been seeing stars too considering how loud she screamed with her orgasm.

    He stepped to the side of her and fell onto the bed on his back and took a deep breath. She was looking over at him, somewhat dazed but smiling satisfied and he asked, “Good?”

    “Amazing,” she said as she caught her breath.

    “I do aim to please,” he said, matching her smile.

    She pulled herself over to him and they cuddled, enjoying the afterglow.

    He said, “I’m just glad I finally got a chance to tear you out of one these lovely gowns you’re always wearing. No interruptions this time.”

    She smirked and buried the side of her face into his chest and whispered, “Me too… You know, there’s another nice dress I have to wear tomorrow.”

    He grinned, “I’ll be sure to help you out of it later.”

    ~~~

    (Background Music The Splendid Performance from FFX Soundtrack)

    The next day they went to the LaRoues estate early to prepare for the wedding. Rona getting dressed in her seafoam green bridesmaid dress and peach colored heels while Bishop put on his finely tailored formalwear. They’d packed up everything from their suite and brought it with them, planning to leave later that evening with Serlas to begin their journey back to Skyrim.

    Although Rona had enjoyed her time in Cyrodiil, she was almost looking forward to heading back. She found herself curious about the state of that side of Tamriel, wondering how everyone had been faring without their heroic Dragonborn. She was also missing her brother and wanted to pay a visit to the Companions soon.

    She, Lorrie and Roxlin all finished up with hair and makeup and stepped out into the foyer on the first floor, meeting their little entourage which consisted of all of Roxlin’s sisters and her mother. The men and everyone else had already left for the Arboretum.

    Rona and Lorrie were dressed up identically, both very elvish looking with their pointed ears poking out of the long wavy bangs on the sides of their faces, the rest of their hair was tied up into neat updos on their heads and they had a light amount of makeup applied to their faces.

    Roxlin looked absolutely stunning in her floor length white gown with the slit in front, revealing her shapely legs and her bright white heeled slippers. Her bust was nicely accentuated in the floral bodice which wrapped around the sides of her arms. Her hair was still very short, although curled nicely, framing her lovely round face and her makeup really brought out her big blue eyes.

    All her sisters squealed and fussed over her, telling her how gorgeous she was and Mimi practically burst into tears at the sight of her daughter.

    “My baaabyyy!” She wailed, clutching poor Roxlin by the shoulders.

    “Mother!” Roxlin scoffed.

    Richelle laughed a little and tugged on her mother’s arm, “Come on Mama, time to go.”

    All the sisters and Mimi led the way outside and Lorrie turned to Roxlin and said, “Oh Roxie, you look sooo beautiful!”

    “So excited for you Roxie!” Rona said practically jumping up and down.

    She gave her a big hug and Roxlin was smiling but then her face fell a little and she said, “I didn’t see Auntie Mina this morning. I know she’s up to something. You know, I never did find that damn Shimmerene whatever – that damn white dress of hers! I swear if she’s wearing it there I am going to rip it off her body!”

    “I could always set it on fire for you,” Lorrie suggested as they started walking outside.

    “Please do!” Roxlin cackled. They all climbed into a beautiful white carriage, pulled by two white stallions and were on their way.

    In less than ten minutes they’d arrived at the Arboretum and saw hundreds of benches set out in front of the Shrine of Mara, filled to capacity on the bride’s side with mostly blonde bretons, the other side only half full with orcs. All of them dressed in their best. Rona caught sight of her father, the rest of her friends and Bishop sitting behind all the orcs and Karnwyr snoozing steadily by Bishop’s feet, tuckered out from his own night of passion probably.

    Magrob was already standing by the Priest of Mara waiting. There was even an entire orchestra and a choir on standby. Their families really had spared no expense to make sure it was a beautiful wedding and it really was.

    The carriage wound around the backside of the Temple of Tiber Septim and as all her sisters and her mother exited and went to find their seats, Roxlin gripped Rona’s hand and said, “Oh my gods, this is really happening.”

    Rona laughed and said, “Yeah it is. Don’t tell me you want to back out now.”

    Roxlin looked right at her and said, “Hell no! Are you kidding me? Magrob is like… he’s perfect Rona… I love him so much.” She looked like she might actually cry, which was a rarity for Roxlin and it was making her teary eyed.

    Rona quickly hugged her and said, “Aw Roxie. We’ll be right there with you.”

    Lorrie hugged on her too and Roxlin’s lower lip quivered as she choked out, “I love you guys!”

    “No crying,” Lorrie said in her gentle, lilted voice, “Don’t want to ruin your makeup now do you?”

    Roxlin sniffled and nodded and her father approached the carriage, smiling broadly at her. He held a hand out and said, “Ready to meet your future husband sweetheart?”

    “Yes, Papa, I’m ready,” she said confidently. She hopped out of the carriage and took his hand. They all went through the Temple, which had been allowed open only for the ceremony to take place. Everyone took their places as the orchestra started to play and a choir vocalized softly.

    (The music is Sun Gazer by Two Steps From Hell)

    The first to head down the open doors, leading across the white carpeted aisle were Roxlin and Magrob’s six and seven year old cousins, a sweet little orc girl and a breton girl, both dressed in bright orange dresses and wearing orange flower crowns to match. They were holding baskets of dyed orange and seafoam green rose petals. As they walked out they tossed the petals onto the ground. Next to go was Richelle’s older son, Damien a very precious four year old boy, blonde as the rest of them, who’d been given the task of ring bearer. He followed behind the girls and went up to Magrob, presenting the wedding rings to him before awkwardly aiming towards the orc side of the aisle. Magrob quickly directed him to the breton side of the audience, allowing him to shyly scurry off to his mother, to the mild laughter of everyone in the audience no less.

    Next were Rona and Lorrie. Both women were given small bouquets of bright orange and white flowers to hold. Rona took Magrob’s brother’s arm and Lorrie took his cousin’s and the gentlemanly orc men guided them down the aisle before splitting at the end and taking positions at the front.

    Finally Roxlin stepped out with her father on her arm and she absolutely could not hold back her grin, nor could Magrob, Rona noticed. It just made her and everyone else smiles that much wider she thought. She caught Bishop’s eye for just a minute and he was staring right at her, a cheerful grin playing on his face as well. She blushed a little and directed her attention back to Roxlin as she finally reached the end of the aisle and her father gave her hand to Magrob, who grasped it so gently in his own much larger hand.

    As the music died down the Priest of Mara started to speak, giving a small speech about the blessings and the beauty of love and the unending joy of uniting two lovers together as husband and wife. Then Magrob was first to give his vows, promising to forever hold and cherish his beloved wife in sickness and health and also possible grave injury after a battle, which everyone mused at. They said their, “I do’s” exchanged their lovely rings and the minute the Priest of Mara declared that he may kiss the bride, Magrob pulled her in, dipped her in his huge arms and planted a passionate kiss on her lips.

    Everyone clapped and cheered, many of them standing up and Rona heard Bishop whistle sharply from the crowd as he also stood to clap loudly beside her father and the others. It really was the perfect wedding. Afterwards everyone returned to the LaRoues Estate for the reception and were greeted with plenty of food and drink set out on tables under the tents they’d put up.

    The orchestra had also followed along and played lively ballroom dance music to Roxlin’s chagrin. She eventually ran over making them change it to something more her style and they ended up settling on some druidic style songs.

    (Background Music Youtube: The music of Ireland: Jigs and reels)

    Rona and Bishop were digging into the food as they people watched and pointed out some of the funnier moments when everyone started dancing.

    Bishop leaned into her, grinning and said, “Hey, see that guy there? The old guy, with all the nose hair.”

    Rona laughed and said, “Roxlin’s great-uncle Frinerto?”

    He threw her a look and asked, “How in Oblivion do you remember everyone’s names? No, nevermind, look at him though! He’s about to snap his spine in two throwing himself around like that!”

    The old man really did look like he was going to, at the very least, break a hip as he danced a wild jig with the orc flower girl.

    Rona just laughed and Bishop grabbed a curious looking bottle of wine from the table and gave her a roguish grin, raising his brows, “What do you say you and I take a few shots of Sanguine’s brew here and go show these people how to really party?”

    Rona gaped at the bottle and said, “Are you serious? Is that from Sanguine!?”

    “Sure is,” he said chuckling.

    “Good gods, I do not want to touch that stuff ever again.”

    He pouted, “Aw come on, it’ll be fun.”

    “Put it down ranger,” she smirked.

    “Tsk, tsk, such a wet blanket.” He set the bottle back down and they watched as someone else immediately grabbed it and disappeared back into the crowd.

    “Uhh,” Rona muttered.

    “Well shit, this’ll be fun to see,” Bishop laughed, “Good thing I left Sheogorath’s gift back in Skyrim.” Rona looked at him with wide eyes and he said, “Don’t ask.”

    Roxlin came storming over to the table suddenly, with Magrob hot on her heels. She grabbed one of the many glasses of champagne on the table and tipped it back, downing it in one gulp, then she smashed the glass against the table, breaking it into a dangerously jagged piece and barked, “THAT BITCH IS GOING DOWN!”

    Magrob wrangled the glass from her and both Bishop and Rona looked at them perplexed. Magrob nodded his head back and said, “Check out Aunt Mina.”

    They peered around him and saw Aunt Mina parading around the dance floor in a very white looking wedding gown. It was incredibly poufy and covered in sparkling white gemstones and was all around just obnoxious and over the top.

    Roxlin practically roared with fury and Bishop looked at Magrob and said, “You had my back, now I’ve got yours. Let me handle this.”

    He turned back to the table and grabbed a huge wine glass and filled it full with red wine. He took the entire bottle with him for good measure and they watched as he was suddenly stumbling, in a drunken manner across the grounds. He walked right up to where Aunt Mina was arguing with Richelle and shouted in a fake, slurring voice, “What a beautiful bride! Maaayyy I haaave this dance goorgeous?” Aunt Mina just gaped at him and he proceeded to trip all over himself, throwing the red wine from the glass right onto her dress and she threw her arms out and screeched at the top of her lungs.

    Then he said, “Oohh, sssorrry ’bout that. Here! Lemme jus’ wash it for yah! Got some water riiight here.” And he began dumping the wine bottle onto her gown. Aunt Mina shoved him away and ran off across the grounds and back into the house.

    Almost everyone in the vicinity was double over in laughter and Richelle shouted, “THANK YOU!”

    He laughed and shouted over the crowd and the music, “My pleasure, sorry about the clothes!”

    She waved him off and went back to dancing with her husband and her little boy Damien while Mimi held Quinn, looking a little worried at the house where her sister disappeared into.

    As Bishop came back over to them, plenty of folks from both families pat him on the back and said, “Good work, lad!”

    “Was seriously considering doing that myself!”

    “Nicely done yah bastard!”

    He approached the now grinning bride and groom and said, “Told you I had your back.”

    Magrob chuckled and said, “I’d hug yah, but it looks like you were a casualty with all that wine.”

    “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you Bishop! Oh my gods you’re the best!” Roxlin squealed and then grabbed her husband’s hand and they tore back out to dance some more.

    Rona went right up to him and kissed him full on the lips, not even caring that he was damp with wine.

    “Mmm!” He moaned, then she pulled away and he said, “What was that for?”

    “For being such a good man,” she said smiling.

    He wrapped an arm around her waist and said, “What do you say we change out of these clothes and go find a nice quiet spot by the lake to uh… continue this?”

    “Sounds perfect,” she said.

    They changed out of their very ruined formalwear and back into their usual gear. Bishop in his new leathers, which Richelle had been kind enough to repair after his battles in the Arena and Rona in her red dress.

    He brought his dagger, because he always brought it. The man was never without some form of protection on his person, though Rona rolled her eyes and said, “We’re in the city, on a fancy estate.”

    He shrugged, “You never know Ladyship. Better to be safe than sorry,” he grabbed their bows and quivers then and said, “Let’s do a little shooting across the lake.”

    She snorted a laugh thinking to herself that they would not be doing much of that kind of shooting at all. They went around the manor and through the garden, walking by Karnwyr who was busy tearing up a rose bush. Bishop kicked him in the rear and said, “Quit that Karnwyr. Go find Boomer and Bear.”

    Karnwyr barked at them and ran back towards the dancers. Rona giggled and shook her head when she saw her father, towering over everyone else dancing with one of Magrob’s older orc aunts.

    “God damn,” Bishop said, “I really need to get his advice on picking up old ladies.”

    Rona laughed and grabbed his arm pulling him along with her towards the lakeside. The sun was slowly setting in the distance and they barely heard the sounds of the exciting music and boisterous partygoers from their quiet spot by the lake.

    They sat down in the grass and Bishop leaned back on his arms and said, “This has been fun.”

    “Yeah,” she smiled, “I love it.”

    “Me too,” he said, “They’re a good pair, those two. It’ll be nice having them close by in Skyrim too.”

    “You’ve really been getting along with Magrob,” she said.

    “Yeah. I think we’re actually friends now,” he laughed, “Haven’t had a real friend in a long ass time.”

    “Not true!” She said pointedly, “Farkas and Vilkas.”

    Bishop scoffed, “I guess so. Wonder how they’re doing. Think Freya’s driven Farkas crazy yet?”

    Rona laughed, “I hope not. I think those two are really good for each other.”

    “Yeah, me too,” Bishop said.

    They were quiet for a while, just enjoying their moment of peace together by the water, when finally Rona said, “Not doing a whole lot of shooting out here.”

    “Uh yeah,” he said, “It would be a waste of arrows.” She looked at him with half-lidded eyes and he smirked, “How else was I supposed to get you to arm yourself?”

    She rolled her eyes and said, “I was unarmed for most of our visit here! Even during your little cage match against Odahviing.”

    “Yeah well, that’s exactly why I want you armed,” he replied, “Never know just when one of those bastards is going to show up.”

    “Uh huh, suuure,” she said.

    He smirked at her, then sat upright, leaning forward and asked, “So. You ready to go back to Skyrim?”

    She was quiet for a minute and then said, “I am. Actually kind of missing it.”

    He raised a brow at her, “Really?”

    “Yeah. I want to see the others, Nelkir and the rest of them. When we get back we’ll start plotting out all the ruins to visit. You can help with that right? Best tracker on Nirn?” She smiled at him.

    “Of course. Like I already told you Ladyship, I know Skyrim like the back of my hand… still you really plan on searching every dwemer ruin?”

    “I do,” she said as she looked out on the lake, “We’ll take our time with it. I’m not going to stress out over it anymore. I mean, obviously the world isn’t on the verge of ending yet, so… I think it’ll be okay. Even if it takes us years.”

    Bishop sighed, “Years, huh?” Then he stood up and held out a hand to her, smiling, “If it’s with you Ladyship, I’ll gladly spend the rest of my life searching every dwemer ruin on all of Nirn with you.”

    Her heart skipped a beat at his words and her eyes met his loving ones. She didn’t care what anyone else thought of him. She wanted to spend the rest of her life with him too, she reached for his hand and started to say, “Bishop I love-”

    It all happened so fast. In a flash she watched as a huge beast with red scales and white horns swooped in, slashing at Bishop so that he was ripped from the ground and thrown violently across the grass and although the world itself had not ended, hers did.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 90

    Let Us Burn

     

    Rona felt her mind shudder to a stop. Across the way was Bishop, laying in a crumpled heap on the grass, covered in blood. And soaring over the manor was the dragon that did it.

    Her mind was reeling. It couldn’t be real. None of this was real.

    But the roars of the others made it real. She heard them and then turned just in time to see another one of Alduin’s lead generals flying towards her now, aiming its claws at her. But did it matter anymore? Bishop was surely dead and what reason was there to go on without him?

    But in that second when she nearly allowed the claws of the beast to claim and crush her, as it did him, blue flames exploded all around and a tall nordic woman with sweeping raven hair stood in front of her holding her glinting greatsword in both hands, utterly defying Nosvaat as he roared, “KRII LUN AUS!”

    “FUS RO DAH!” She replied in turn. Her shout broke straight through the purplish wave lurching towards them and plowed right into Nosvaat, sending him careening back across the water.

    Jillian turned immediately to Rona and shouted, “Slow time now Dragonborn!”

    Rona did as told, “TIID KLO UL!”

    Everything slowed way down, giving her a chance to collect her thoughts, to process what just happened. Jillian stormed right past her, heading for Bishop and Rona numbly followed, feeling her entire body trembling madly.

    Jillian knelt beside him, and pushed him over onto his back. Rona threw her hands to her mouth, she wanted to scream, but her pain and horror only came out in shuddering whimpers.

    Bishop was absolutely still, his chest was torn apart by three brutal claw marks. One over his abdomen, the other his rib cage and the third directly over his heart. Jillian looked at her and said, “I can only heal one for it will take the strength out of me. I will try to stay, to fight by your side, but I can only heal one…”

    She stood up again, holding her blade over his chest and aimed for the slash across his heart. She lifted it above her head and it glowed with blue fire. She brought it swinging down and stopped just above his chest, over the mark, so that the force of her fires hit it in a sweeping slash. Rona watched as the wound vanished instantly, as though Drogaavlok never slashed him there.

    But the other two still remained and it was so awful. He was still losing blood fast – so fast. Jillian knelt down to his side again, looking tired but hanging in there. She put a hand to his neck and said, “He is fading. He barely clings to life,” she looked right at Rona then, more serious than ever, “Alduin is in Sovngarde now. He soars over the land of the dead searching for his soul. He means to claim the ranger for himself. You must bring him back from the brink,” she looked around as the slowed time was starting to end, “But first we must dispose of the dragon menace.”

    Rona was just staring down at Bishop’s face. It was so pale, eyes barely open, looking lifelessly into the sky. She’d seen it in her nightmares so many times that she couldn’t believe it was real. She fell to her knees and clutched his shoulders, her tears streaming quickly. “It’s my fault,” she whispered, sobbing, “Bishop… I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”

    (PLAYLIST: The Song is What Have You Done by Within Temptation,

    followed by in this order:

    Liberators by Epic Score

    The Last Stand by Two Steps From Hell,

    Divinity I and Divinity II from the FFVII Advent Children Soundtrack)

     

    Her music came in like a heartbeat through the night and a figure flickered into being, standing above, looking down at his own body. Bishop’s spirit, translucent and fading looked down at her mournfully and he said, “Don’t let me die in vain Rona and don’t you dare let that fire inside you burn out. Get mad,” he snarled, “Get pissed Ladyship. FIGHT BACK!”

    He held his hand out to her and she quickly took it. He grasped her hand, surprisingly solid and pulled her to her feet. He stood by her side, drawing his ghostly bow.

    Slow Time broke and Nosvaat came swooping back in, along with Drogaavlok, both looking to tear her apart. She drew her bow, nocking an arrow and her eyes burned with rage and hateful vengeance as she stared them down and sang,

    “Would you mind if I hurt you?
    Understand that I need to
    Wish that I had other choices
    Than to harm the one I love”

    Her golden flames burst forth as Bishop roared,

    “What have you done now!?”

    And they both fired spinning, bright arrows into the hides of the beasts set on killing her. Rona’s hit Nosvaat and Bishop’s buried deep into Drogaavlok. They hissed in pain, screeching and diverted their attacks to retreat across the lake.

    Bishop joined her in song making it so much more powerful because it was with him.

    “I know I better stop trying
    You know that there’s no denying
    I won’t show mercy on you now

    I know I should stop believing
    I know that there’s no retrieving
    It’s over now, what have you done?
    What have you done now?”

    They ran forward, to fight for their lives, together.

    “I have been waiting for someone like you
    But now you are slipping away, oh (What have you done now?)
    Why, why does fate make us suffer?
    There’s a curse between us, between me and you.”

    Rona shouted ice at the lake, freezing it over. Across the way were both Nosvaat, Drogaavlok and one more familiar, small white dragon. The one that escaped in the Jerall Mountains.

    Nosvaat was viciously attacking him, as he hissed back, trying to defend himself.

    “[YOU LIED! YOU SAID SHE HAD NO VOICE! DOES IT SOUND AS THOUGH SHE HAS NO VOICE!?]”

    “[My lord! I swear to you! She could not speak when I fought her!]”

    Drogaavlok noticed them running across the now partially frozen lake and flapped his red wings, roaring, “[THE DRAGONBORN COMES! SUMMON THE OTHERS!]”

    Nosvaat ceased his attacks against the now very maimed and bloodied white dragon and stared murderously at them. Then he threw his head to the skies and shouted in succession, “[NOSMEDQO! AGMEDYOL! DIINMEDIIZ!”

    Nosvaat and Drogaavlok took flight and Rona and Bishop continued to race forward, bows nocked. The white dragon also tried to fly away, but his wings were torn.

    Rona allowed her hatred and anger to burst from within, sending her vicious golden flames forth, licking and biting at the creature, forcing it to recoil and screech in pain. She hated that creature with her entire being. It was the reason Bishop stood as a ghostly figure beside her now instead of a living, breathing solid being.

    She and Bishop both started firing arrows into the body of the white dragon as her flames burned it up. She roared with all the fury in her voice and lined up a shot, putting great power into her arrow, which glowed as bright and hot as the sun. She lined up her shot and fired. It cut through the air so fast and pierced the beast’s chest cavity, exploding it apart. It fell into a crumpled heap and burned up and she took its soul. Then she turned her eyes to the north where she heard loud roaring coming from the location of the Jerall Mountains.

    She watched as three enormous serpentine dragons came flying over the fields, their shadows as big as houses as the moonlight cast over them. They looked just like the one she fought at the Thalmor Embassy, with sleek skin, jutting underbites and hundreds of sharp, crooked teeth lining their jaws. Each one was a different color, cold silver, fiery orange and electric yellow.

    She vocalized to the skies, calling for the others. Flaming pillars of white, blue and green burned into being, Eira, Jillian and Kitaere stepped from their fires, weapons in hand, ready to fight.

    Each woman kicked off the ground, each aiming for one of the giant dragons bearing down on them. Rona set her sights on Alduin’s generals though. She was intent on utterly destroying them both. She aimed for Drogaavlok first and foremost and started firing spinning arrows into his hide. He roared fire at her and she returned her breath of ice. Then she shouted, “SU GRAH DUN!” Increasing the power and speed of her attacks.

    But Drogaavlok flew higher, escaping her reach and Nosvaat roared, “[Take down the other mortals to weaken her will! Kill them all!]”

    They aimed for the manor then, where Rona saw all of her friends standing by in their finest clothes, with weapons and magic at the ready.

    Her father was kneeling over Bishop, doing everything in his power to keep her beloved alive. Lorrie and Linel began casting powerful destruction magic at the beasts as they swooped down, seeking to pick them off.

    All her friends were powerful warriors in their own right and they were very ready to face this new challenge. Charissa and Magrob took support with their arrows and bolts, Lorrie and Linel focused on long range magic attacks while Roxlin and Marco were ready and waiting with their melee weapons, her battleaxe and his sword.

    The beautiful bride ran in just as Drogaavlok stomped down, going on the offensive, roaring at them all. She swiped at the dragon before her, cutting a bloody swath against his neck which sprayed blood all over her white gown.

    Nosvaat took the defensive approach, staying in the skies as he spewed ice at them all, which the mages deflected with their wards.

    Rona feared for their lives and raced back across the lake, catching a glimpse of the raging battle between all the Dragonborn women and the daunting serpentine wyrms.

    The women absolutely held their own, with Eira focusing shouts of fire against the icy silver one, Jillian took to shouting her freezing ice against the fiery orange beast and Kitaere focused physical attacks, jumping and leaping over the one roaring an electrical power storm against her.

    But Rona could not watch them. Whether they survived or died again, it did not matter. Her friends and her father, however, they could not die over and over just to come back and fight again.

    She belted across the ice, shouting, “WULD NAH KEST!” And leapt off the ground, spiraling through the air, she landed in the grass and sprinted up the hill firing arrow after white hot arrow as her golden flames grew larger all around her, touching and sticking to the foliage.

    She watched as Roxlin nearly lost her arms to Drogaavlok’s snapping maw, but Marco leapt in, braver than she’d ever seen him and buried his blade into the beast’s cheek. Drogaavlok thrust his head sharply in Marco’s direction, however, sending him reeling backward, hard. Roxlin took the opportunity to tear up her beautiful dress and jumped onto Drogaavlok’s face, holding her battleaxe with one hand and his horn with the other. He roared, swinging his head wildly, but that tiny woman held on with incredible tenacity.

    Rona shouted, “ZUL MEY GUT!” Catching the beast’s undivided attention for just a moment and she fired a glowing arrow straight into his eye socket, making him roar in pain as he started to dig at his eye. In his distraction, Roxlin let go of his horn, gripped her battleaxe with both hands, brought it high over her head and furiously slammed it into his skull. He thrust his head back roaring in agony and she clung onto the handle of her axe which was still buried in his skull, so as not to be thrown off.

    Rona pelted him with more arrows and didn’t notice when Nosvaat flew down blasting ice at her. It caught her in the arm and stung something fierce, she just knew despite the resist frost on her clothes that her arm was completely frostbitten.

    She fell to her knee, feeling sudden weakness, which was not good. Her health dictated the ability of the other Dragonborn women to stay in that plane of existence. She tried to turn her focus away from the pain and the others swept in, Charissa and Linel standing protectively around her as Magrob fired shot after shot into Drogaavlok’s throat, trying to get to his wife.

    The dragon was beginning to weaken and slow, giving Roxlin another opportunity to yank her battleaxe free and swing it hard back into his head. With that final blow, she killed the beast and he collapsed in a heap. Roxlin yanked her axe free once more and quickly leapt into Magrob’s arms as Drogaavlok’s body burned up and his soul washed over Rona.

    All of a sudden the manor shook as one of the serpentine wyrm’s smashed right into it, tearing a hole into the building. It was the yellow one and Kitaere was riding it and burying her spear into its back repeatedly. It too died and Rona felt her body take its soul. The wild Dragonborn was covered in blood and her chest heaved as she caught her breath. She gave Rona a crooked smirk, showing off her pointed canines, but then slumped over and vanished in a pillar of green flame, she could fight no more.

    Rona looked out at the other two, where fire and ice waged war as they fought their damndest against the serpents. They were struggling to hold their own as Rona felt so tired suddenly, no doubt a side effect of the frostbite, but if she healed herself she would weaken immensely, so she held out.

    Then she turned her gaze skyward and saw Nosvaat soaring in predatory circles, either looking for an opening or deciding whether to continue risking his life now that his comrade was dead.

    “[Give up now],” she yelled up to him, trying to muster up the courage within herself to face down this horrible beast, “[You won’t win this one!]”

    Nosvaat slowed his flying and flapped his wings, steadying himself in one place as he looked on at her. Then he grinned as dragons do, his jowls curling up as he said, “[It matters not. For your companion no longer stands at your side. Alduin shall feast upon his soul soon.]” He laughed at her and she looked around, realizing he was right. Bishop’s soul was no longer by her side, or anywhere for that matter.

    She panicked and stood up searching, when Charissa shouted, “RONA LOOK OUT!”

    In that second Nosvaat made his move snatching Rona right off the ground. She’d already been like this once before though and was absolutely not about to let it happen the way it did before again. She shouted, “TIID KLO UL!” slowing time immediately. She could feel as Nosvaat attempted to crush her in his talons, as they were slowly coming to a close. She pulled her arms free and swiped an arrow from her quiver and slammed it into his chest. She took another and another and continued to bury them into his talons and body.

    When the shout broke he roared in pain and dropped her. She slowed her fall and took aim with her bow as he flew in a circle, getting ready to take him out. But he did not come for her, instead he roared down at the other two, who were still waging war with Jillian and Eira. He directed them to her then and they pelted off the ground, forgoing their fight with the ghostly women.

    Rona was not about to be snatched from the sky like that, so she said the incantation to make herself fall a little faster. They were quick though, despite how huge they were and she aimed herself for a shattered window in the manor, letting herself fall dangerously fast just to escape them. She landed inside at a roll, hitting the carpeted floor a little harder than she liked. She scrambled to her feet and ran just as one of them crashed into the building behind her throwing shrapnel and debris at her back.

    She needed her swords and quickly swept into the foyer as a roaring blast of fire engulfed the room she was just in. She nearly slipped on the tile as she hurried down the spiraling staircase and into the drawing room where all her things were. She hurried to the couch and snatched her swords up. Then one thing in particular caught her eye. She saw a distinct little pouch sitting there. She picked it up and opened it revealing the beautiful shimmering aurora of powdered nymph’s heart. The gift from the forsworn chieftain.

    She recalled his words when he gave it to her, It is a rare ingredient, nymph’s heart. The heart of a nymph is like a beautiful pearl and when it is ground into this powder it can be used in healing potions to make them strangely potent. It is meant for those who are close to death. I doubt you will need its power, but it’s as unique as you.

    She choked back her tears and whispered, “Thank you Cael.” Then the window ahead of her blew open and glass shattered everywhere as horrible blue frost hissed inside. She felt a pang of anguish as she thought of Bishop and a flurry of hatred as she thought of the dragons who’d hurt him. She allowed her feelings to burst free in the form of her golden fires, letting them burn away the freezing cold.

    The silvery wyrm hissed as her flames licked its flesh and she tore out of there again, desperate to get the life saving ingredient to her father. She held one blade in hand and the pouch in the other and sprint through the foyer and into the atrium. She made to go through the garden when the body of the fiery orange beast smashed down into the trellis, hissing and roaring wildly. She saw her comrades fearlessly fighting off against it. Roxlin was in a mad fury and Magrob was determined to protect his beautiful wife with his life, staying absolutely true to their very recently taken vows. Charissa and Linel were working as backup, firing arrows and casting magic into the creatures angry face.

    Rona was ready to end it all though, because the longer the battle waged, the more likely Bishop was to die or one of them would be hurt or even killed. She shouted, “TIID KLO UL!” Freezing time once more. She carefully crawled out a broken window, because the door was now blocked.

    She went around the body of the dragon and noticed that Roxlin was in a very precarious position, where the fiery behemoth had every opportunity to take her arms with its snapping jaws. Rona walked right up to the creature and his eyes slowly moved to her, as though it could sense her there and she took her sword and slammed it right into its chest cavity, digging around and pushing for its heart.

    She withdrew her sword and did it again, slamming it back in over and over and didn’t even realize that she was screaming at it, “I HATE YOU! I FUCKING HATE ALL OF YOU! I’LL KILL YOU ALL!”

    When she was satisfied that it was dead, she walked between her friends, touching their shoulders in thanks and solidarity for a moment before running off just as the shout broke and she felt the soul of the orange behemoth wash over her. She ran as fast as her legs would carry her towards Bishop’s lifeless body. Her father still had his hands to the ranger’s chest and was casting powerful glowing white magic over him as he swiftly whispered long strings of Aldmeri incantations. Just as she reached them that damned silver wyrm peered around the smashed manor and eyed her murderously. She stood by her father who looked surprised, but relieved to see her.

    She dropped the pouch of shimmering dust next to him and said through her angry tears, “It’s nymph’s heart, Ata. Please save him.” Then she ran forward, leaping over Bishop, drawing her second sword, ready to kill. She would not let the others help her. She would not let anyone risk their lives for her anymore. This was her fight.

    She roared, “WULD NAH KEST!” and kicked off the ground, aiming for the side of the manor, she pelted off of it and spun swiftly through the air, somersaulting. The dragon looked at her almost surprised and she shouted, “TIID KLO UL!” slowing time once more. She saw it slowly opening its maw, ready to rip and tear or even shout at her.

    “Go to Oblivion,” she uttered hatefully and with her in air momentum, she slammed her white hot swords right into the top of its skull and raced down its back, cutting it in twain and absolutely rending its flesh asunder. She leapt off its back, just as the shout broke and it gave a painful roar to the skies. She took its soul and then looked challengingly up at Nosvaat who was hovering nearby, watching it all play out. He gave a low growl of anger at her.

    He seemed to second guess his chances then and retreated, flying off towards the Jerall Mountain Range. Rona took a moment to just breathe before she turned back to face the damage.

    (The Song is The Promised Land from the FFVII Advent Children Soundtrack)

    When she did look what she saw was horrific. Most of the manor had been obliterated in places, other parts were covered in chunks of hard blue ice and a large portion was on fire. Her friends though, seemed to be alright, save for Marco, who was slumped against a wall of the manor, holding what looked like a broken arm while Lorrie worked to heal him.

    The rest approached her and Roxlin broke into a sprint and just hugged on her. But Rona did not return the embrace, she pulled free and quickly and numbly walked by them all back to where Bishop lay. She saw her father mixing a vividly colored potion together, one that shone just like the aurora borealis in Skyrim. He carefully poured it over Bishop’s two remaining slash wounds, but it did not seem to help at all.

    Rona collapsed to her knees beside his body, letting her swords go. Her tears came quickly and steadily and aching sobs burst from her chest as she touched his handsome, but very pale face. His beautiful golden eyes were still open and staring blankly up at the night sky. His lips were blue as though he wasn’t breathing which couldn’t be right. She didn’t want to believe it. Then her father touched her hand and whispered through his own tears, “Rona dear… I’m sorry… I tried… but he…” He could not muster the words but his face said it all to her.

    Rona choked on her fitful sobs and hundreds of ghosts, Dragonborn men and women alike, appeared all around them, singing mournfully every painful feeling she felt inside. She buried her face into his chest and cried. She cried and cried for the man she loved, the man who lay dead beneath her. And it was her fault. He was gone because of her. She would never hear his wonderful voice or feel his warm touch again. She would never feel his strong embrace or hear every silly nickname he’d ever thought of for her. She would never have that beautiful happy ending she’d always dreamed of with him…

    “Bishop,” she whispered as though he could hear her, “I want to travel Skyrim with you. We’ll go together, just you, me and Karnwyr. We’ll visit all the swemer ruins, won’t we? You promised,” she sobbed and clutched his shoulders, “Bishop you promised. You promised. We have to. Please. Bishop, Bishop PLEASE. BISHOP! WAKE UP!”

    Her cries burst from her chest painfully and she wailed agonizingly to the night sky. It wasn’t fair. Why should he have to die and she go on living? It was her they wanted. They should have taken her. Why him? He was good, kind, loving. He’d suffered so much only to fall in love with her. Why had she done this to him? How could she? It was so cruel and so selfish.

    Her breaths came in shuddering droves and then she felt a hand touch her shoulder and she looked up. Eira stared down at her with the same bright green eyes.

    She said, “His soul lingers at the border of Sovngarde. There is still time. You must bring him back. Find the power within yourself Rona. Reach in and pull him back. Alduin draws close… You must hurry!”

    ~~~

    (The Song is Benedy Glen by Celtic Wonder this song will not finish)

    Bishop opened his eyes and noticed that it was very bright. Like a bright white all around him with roaring winds. It was strange to him, but he felt so at peace. Then the white started to fade, revealing a sprawling landscape beyond. One that was incredibly beautiful, like a nordic warrior’s dreamland. It was Skyrim incarnate, every beautiful part of it brought together in one incredible scene.

    He marveled in awe at it. But he noticed something strange too. The ground below was covered in a thick fog and hundreds of Stormcloak and even Imperial nord soldiers wandered through it, seemingly lost. He also heard a song in the distance. A song that described this incredible landscape in all its glory just perfectly. Whoever was singing it, did so beautifully and in a very familiar accent. He felt drawn to the voice, wanting to follow it.

    “She’s trying to guide the lost souls to the Hall of Valor.”

    Bishop looked immediately to his right and his eyes widened, “Jules?”

    Jules smirked knowingly at him but then they both looked back out over the landscape as a great black dragon soared over the land, roaring deeply. He flew down picking off the lost, wandering souls of the dead and consumed them whole.

    “He’s back already,” Jules said, “He’s been waiting for you, you know.”

    Bishop turned to his brother again and asked, “Why me?”

    “To get to her, your girl,” he smiled, “But we won’t let that happen,” then he sighed and said, “It really is a beautiful song. She comes out every day to sing it, trying to give them something to follow through the fog,” he knit his thick brows together and said, “Bishop, I know it seems nice here but… you have to go back. She needs you.”

    “What?” Bishop said, shaking his head, “I don’t understand, what are you talking about?”

    “She’s reaching out for you. Can’t you feel it? Listen closely and you’ll hear her voice.”

    Bishop took a breath, still confused, as though he were in a strange dream. But then he heard it, soft and faint like it was echoing through a cave. His name was being called by a very familiar voice.

    “Bishop!”

    He looked back where the landscape edged off into nothingness. Then he shook his head and said, “No… Jules. I want to stay here with you. I’ve missed you. Gods… I’ve missed you. I’m sorry Jules, I’m sorry for what I did. Can you ever forgive me?”

    Jules laughed and said, “Bishop, I forgave you long ago, long before it ever happened. Don’t ever blame yourself for it. Now go,” he looked out at the landscape. Alduin had his sights set on them and Jules grit his teeth, “He’s coming. You have to go back.”

    “Bishop!” The voice was a little louder, more clear and so familiar, so beautiful.

    He looked back again and then at his brother who was still urging him on.

    “Reach for her and never let go!” Jules shouted as he shoved Bishop backward, into a pair of soft, delicate arms that wrapped around his chest and pulled him back.

    Jules just smiled at him and said, “Do me a favor and tell Elise and Holly that I love them. Oh and Bishop… I love you too, brother. Stay strong.”

    Bishop watched in horror then as Alduin flew down and snatched his brother up into his clutches and consumed his very soul.

    “JULES!” He roared trying to reach for his brother to save him, “JUUUUULES!”

    ~~~

    (Background music Yuna’s Theme from FFX Soundtrack)

    His eyes snapped open and he squinted a bit, letting them adjust to the light in the room. Once his vision cleared, he noticed that he was laying on a very comfortable bed in a very nice room. It looked like he was in an infirmary though, with all the potions and medical supplies on shelves and tables everywhere.

    The walls were lined with simple light blue wallpaper and the floors were grey stone. There were two windows against the far wall across from him letting in a soft light from outside.

    Bishop still felt foggy and couldn’t remember why he was there. Then he felt a gentle clutching at his hand and looked down to see Rona, head laying against the bed, and her hand holding his. Her eyelids twitched, like she was dreaming. He grasped her hand with his and it caused her to stir awake. Their eyes met for a moment and she immediately started to cry, grasping his hand even tighter.

    He looked on at her sadly and said, “Hey, don’t cry beautiful. It’s okay… I think.”

    She let go of his hand and threw herself on him, burying her face into the crook of his neck and just held him tightly. He felt bad for her, but couldn’t for the life of him figure out why she was so upset.

    She mumbled something into the side of his neck and he chuckled a little and said jokingly, “What’s that, Ladyship? I can’t hear you when you’re so busy kissing my neck.”

    She pulled back, eyes still streaming with tears and she sobbed, “I’m so sorry Bishop. I’m sorry. I love you!” Then she went right back to hugging on him and crying.

    He gave a light and very clueless sigh and said, “I love you too Ladyship, but I’m not gonna lie. I have no idea what you’re so upset about.”

    She pulled back, wiping at her eye, sniffling and said, “You don’t remember?”

    He shrugged.

    Her chest heaved, heavy with more choked sobs and she sputtered, “You… you almost… died.”

    He blinked and muttered, “Ah…”

    “And it’s all my fault,” she said, her face cringing up more.

    The sight of her so distressed made him just want to comfort her. He pulled her back into a tight embrace and said, “It’s okay Rona. Don’t cry…”

    But she only kept it up as he pulled her in close and just held her, trying to soothe her. After a while a pair of imperial nurses came in to check on him. They were very surprised, but pleased to see he was awake and called for Serlas.

    The old elf came in and gave an immense sigh of relief, “By the gods Bishop! You scared us all half to death!”

    Bishop just chuckled still lost as he held the weeping Dragonborn in his arms and gently stroked her back and hair. “Mind filling me in on what happened exactly?” He glanced down at the top of Rona’s head and said, “Because I don’t think she’s capable of speech between all the crying and blubbering.”

    Serlas smiled gently and took a seat in the chair Rona had been sitting in and folded his hands neatly in his lap, “You were nearly killed by a dragon.”

    “A dragon… here in Cyrodiil? We’re still in Cyrodiil right?”

    Serlas chuckled, “Yes. We’re in the infirmary in the Imperial Palace.”

    “Alright… so how did this dragon almost kill me?”

    “With three slashes to your body, one across your abdomen, one across your ribs and one across your heart. Jillian managed to heal the one over your heart, which may just have saved your life. And our dear Dragonborn here managed to fight off six powerful dragons just to save you.”

    “Whoa,” he looked down at Rona and said, “Ladyship, you really did that?”

    She just gripped him harder in reply and he shook his head smirking at her.

    Serlas continued, “Well, as she and the rest of the Fighter’s Guild worked to kill them all, I was doing my best to keep you alive. I honestly don’t think my magic helped… I’m almost positive you really did die on us Bishop.”

    “Then how am I here now?” He asked perplexed.

    “Well, a combination of things really. It seems that if you are a hero chosen and blessed by Akatosh you are granted some special privileges, one of which is the ability to reach into the realm of Sovngarde and pull the lingering soul of a loved one right back out again. The other thing which saved you was a powerful potion mixed with ground nymph’s heart. I hate to say it, but it seems you owe some gratitude to a certain forsworn chieftain for that.”

    Bishop just gaped at him, “You can’t be serious. I’m alive because of that soft-spoken, skirt-wearing freak?”

    Serlas smiled and nodded slowly, then he asked, “How are you feeling by the way? Your wounds seemed to have healed over quite well, though last I looked you had some very large scars.”

    “I feel fine,” he said, then he nudged Rona and said, “Hey Sweetness, mind letting me take a look at myself?”

    She shook her head, burying her face more into him and clutching him harder. He laughed again and said, “Damn… you’re really choked up about this aren’t you?”

    She just gave a deep sob and Serlas asked, “You really don’t remember any of it?” Bishop just shook his head. “What’s the last thing you do recall?”

    Bishop tilted his head back and thought about it. He remembered a peaceful evening near the lake by the manor, sitting in the grass and chatting with his lovely Ladyship about all the dwemer ruins they were going to scour through.

    “Just sitting by the lake talking with Rona,” he said, “That’s the last thing I remember.”

    “Probably for the best,” Serlas said, “It really was dreadful. But I’m incredibly grateful to see you in such good health.” Then he stood up and touched Rona’s arm and said, “Velvyn, let me get a look at his wounds, will you?”

    She pulled back, face a hysterical red mess and she relented, letting him go. She stood back as Serlas helped Bishop out of his bandages and he looked down at himself. Sure enough he had two huge and jagged white scars, one across his abdomen and the other a little higher, wrapping around his ribs. He scoffed a little, “Wow. Well just add it to the rest of them I guess.”

    Serlas ran a hand over them, pressing on them, “Tell me if it hurts.”

    The one over his ribs was fine, but when Serlas pressed on the one over his guts it felt painful. He grit his teeth and grunted, “That hurts a bit.”

    Serlas sighed and said, “I’m going to brew some more of Qetesh’s elixir and add some of that nymph’s heart. I’ll give it you to drink and see if that helps.”

    “Sounds good,” he said. Serlas took his leave then and Rona grasped his arm. He smiled at her, “Well, what’re you waiting for beautiful? Come over here already.”

    She gave a slight smile and crawled back onto the bed with him, embracing him again. He held her in his arms, pressing his face to her sweet smelling hair as she rest her cheek against his chest. She stroked his arm and said, “Bishop… do you remember being in Sovngarde?”

    “Hm?” He thought about it, “No, not at all,” he chuckled, “as if they’d let someone like me in there.”

    “You were there,” she said, “I found you. I pulled you out.”

    “Thanks for saving me Lightfoot.”

    She paused a moment and then said, “I couldn’t save him…”

    “Save who Sweetness?”

    She looked up into his face again, teary eyed once more, face cringing as she made to break into more fitful sobs and choked out, “I couldn’t save Jules.” He looked at her, mystified and she said, “Alduin took him Bishop… he took his soul. He was protecting you.”

    He just stared at her for a minute and then pulled her back in, letting her cry against his chest some more. He whispered, “Shh, shh… it’s okay. It’s going to be okay.”

    ~~~

    After the nurses checked in on Bishop and Serlas gave him his mixed potion, Bishop seemed well enough to get up and move again. They decided then to leave and return to Skyrim, only a day after the attack at the manor.

    They stood outside the north gates of the city and the entire Fighter’s Guild stood by, looking to see them off. Roxlin and Magrob brought Karnwyr with them, who they’d been kindly looking after overnight while Bishop recovered.

    Roxlin hugged Rona tightly and said, “We’ll be in Skyrim in another month! Right after our honeymoon!”

    Rona sighed a little and said, “I’m so sorry for everything that happened Roxie… and your parent’s house…”

    Roxlin pulled back and smiled widely, “Are you kidding? That was the best way to end my wedding! Battling dragons like that? Pft, best story ever to tell our kids someday! Too bad the rest of my family were all a bunch of scared little babies and ran off to find cover or whatever,” she giggled and Rona laughed a little with her.

    Bishop stepped forward and shook Magrob’s hand and said, “Looking forward to having you both close by.”

    “Definitely,” Magrob said with a grin, “Be sure to come see us any time over in Fort Dawnguard. We’ll have these mutts with us too and I’m sure Karnwyr wouldn’t mind visiting them.”

    “Yeah,” Bishop chuckled, looking down at the wolf, who was laying between the two huskies, “Honestly, I don’t think he wants to leave at all.”

    Rona gave big hugs to both Lorrie and Linel as well and they said almost in unison, “Going to miss you Lightfoot.”

    She smiled and said, “I’m going to miss you both too, all of you.”

    Marco sighed, “I’m a bit disappointed. Never did get that dance you promised me back in Solitude.”

    “Aw Marco,” she said giving him a friendly hug too.

    He smiled and said, “Watch yourself woman. Seriously. You’re like my little sister, just like Roxie here and well… I’d throw myself in front of one of those overgrown lizards all over again if I had to. Promise me you’ll stay safe?”

    “I will,” she assured him. Then she glanced over at Charissa who was leaning against a wall, arms crossed and staring hard at the ground.

    Rona went over to her and asked, “You okay?”

    She sighed, “I dunno…. What the hell am I gonna do about the guild now that everyone’s leaving?”

    Rona said cheerfully, “Start recruiting!”

    Charissa chuckled, “Yeah sure. As if I’ll ever get a team as good as you guys again.”

    Rona hugged her friend then and Charissa hesitated but then hugged her back and sniffled a little, “Please be safe Rona. We all love you and never want to see you get hurt.”

    “I know,” she whispered back, “I promise I’ll stay safe.”

    They pulled apart and both wiped at their own tears. Lorrie and Roxlin ran over and hugged Serlas then and he shook hands with the others. They finished saying their farewells and went to leave when Roxlin shouted, “Rona wait! Almost forgot!”

    She grabbed a tightly wrapped parcel she had leaning against the wall. She went over and pressed it into Rona’s hands, “Richelle wanted to make sure you didn’t forget your new armor!”

    “Oh yeah,” Rona said smiling, “Tell her thanks again for me, please?”

    “I will,” Roxlin said and gave her one last tight hug and they were off.

    ~~~

    It took them three days to return to Skyrim. Illia was pleased to see them all when they finally arrived at the farm and she celebrated their return with a lavish feast that Bishop helped her cook.

    Everyone was in good spirits despite what had happened before. Even Rona, which surprised Bishop. She laughed and joked with them, smiling widely every time she told a new crazy story from their time in Cyrodiil. He thought that maybe she really was finally making the effort to drop her worries and fears and just be more leisurely about their journey.

    On the third day of their return to the farm Bishop pulled out a map of Skyrim and laid it out on the dining table. He’d started marking the locations of all the dwemer ruins he’d ever come across on his travels through each hold and began marking out a route for them, starting in the Reach.

    He wanted to take her there, because she’d never really been before. It was definitely one of the more dangerous places in Skyrim, so once they’d finished there, they could move on to the slightly safer areas. It seemed the logical choice, although he did worry about her trust in the forsworn. He figured once they met a new tribe that attempted to slaughter them that she’d change her mind really fast about that.

    She came into the house then, with her father at her side and fresh food supplies from Falkreath in their arms. She set everything she had on the counter and walked over to Bishop and looked at the map.

    He smiled and said, “Already got it all laid out Ladyship, figured we’d start with the Reach and work our way up north, maybe zigzag up and down a bit. What do you think?”

    She smiled softly and said, “Sounds great, but…”

    “What?”

    “I was hoping we could visit High Hrothgar first.”

    He raised a brow at her, “Why? Oh, want to train a little more first?”

    “No, it’s more personal,” she said, “I just really want to finish spreading my mother’s ashes and I wanted to do it at the Throat of the World.”

    He shrugged, “Whatever you want Ladyship. This is your journey.”

    She smiled and hugged him, “Thanks. I want to leave tomorrow. Get moving again, oh and… let’s take the long way.”

    He laughed a little, “Like, towards Whiterun and back that way?”

    “Yeah,” she said, “I want to visit a few places first before we get there. Just take it slow.”

    He smiled and nodded, “Tomorrow then.”

    She went back to helping her father put away their supplies and Bishop put a hand in his pocket, fingering the engagement ring sitting there. It had been heavy on his mind. He’d wanted to ask her very soon, but he was struggling to find the words, the best way to propose. He also wanted to talk to someone else about it first.

    The next morning Bishop got up very early. He carefully crept out of their shared bed, so as to not wake her, got dressed and went into the living quarters where he found Serlas, the early riser enjoying a cup of tea and some oatmeal while he pored over an old book on the dining table.

    Serlas glanced up at him and said, “It’s quite early Bishop. Planning to leave already?”

    “Not yet,” he said, “I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute,” he glanced back at the slightly ajar door to Rona’s room and said, “Maybe outside?”

    Serlas raised a brow and set his teacup down and said, “Alright.”

    Bishop led the way outside and around the side of the home, nearest to Illia’s room. His heart was pounding in his chest realizing he was about to tell Serlas this, about to ask him for his blessing. If he was this nervous just doing that, he wondered if his heart might really explode when he actually proposed to her.

    Serlas stared at him expectantly and Bishop cleared his throat and said, “So… I’m not very good at this sort of thing, but… um. Shit,” he laughed trying to find the words. When they wouldn’t come he just pulled the ring from his pocket and showed it to Serlas.

    A huge grin sprawled across the elf’s lips and he said, “Oh my Bishop. This is so sudden. We really hardly know each other.”

    Bishop laughed pretty hard at that and said, “Alright, you got me. So… yeah. I uh,” he sighed, “I’m going to ask her to marry me and I really wanted your blessing. You’re like a father to me. A real father and I hope that you’ll accept me into your family.”

    Serlas started to nod his head, still grinning and then he stepped forward and pressed his hands to Bishop’s shoulders and said, “You are already family, my son.” And then the old elf hugged him and Bishop felt his eyes stinging with tears a bit.

    Serlas pulled back and asked, “May I see it?”

    Bishop handed him the ring and he looked it over. “The craftsmanship… this is stunning, truly,” he touched the centerpiece with a slender finger, “And this gem, I’ve never seen anything like it. Gods this must have cost you an arm and a leg.”

    Bishop laughed, “You have no idea,” then he paused and asked, “Think she’ll like it?”

    Serlas handed it back to him and replied with the biggest grin, “She will love it because it came from you.”

    It meant a lot to him knowing that Serlas approved and even more that he’d already accepted him into their family and that he thought of him as a son.

    ~~~

    Their entire trip from the farm, through Riverwood and beyond Whiterun was very peaceful. They rode steadily along the path, Karnwyr chasing rabbits, birds and foxes, happy as could be. Rona couldn’t seem to stop singing either and her smile was absolutely infectious. Many passersby would stop and greet her and she’d sing for them, or share a story about one of her adventures.

    More and more people were starting to recognize her as the Dragonborn. Bishop wondered if new rumors had started to circulate, corrected ones in fact.

    It didn’t seem to matter either way. She was enjoying herself immensely and so was he. He loved being by her side and spending that time together.

    When they came along the path near the falls, just past Valtheim Towers, Rona stopped suddenly and said, “I want to stay here again.”

    “Mm, I would not mind that Ladyship. Want to revisit some fond old memories?”

    She laughed and blushed, “Yes, actually.”

    (The Music is Quen a Omagen by Erutan)

    They made camp for the night and as Bishop sat by, stoking and prodding the fire with a stick and listening to her lovely lute she asked, “So… the first time…” she trailed off.

    He raised his brows at her smirking, “Yes, Princess? The first time, what?”

    Her blushing cheeks seemed to burn more in the firelight, “The first time we made love… why didn’t you take the dominant role?”

    He chuckled and shrugged, “It’s just easier when you let a virgin go at their own pace.”

    Her face seemed to burn even more at that remark.

    He rolled his eyes and tossed the wood piece into the fire and dusted his hands off, “What? You asked.”

    “Did you like it? Doing it that way with me?”

    He scoffed, “Ladyship, I would have loved to have done it any way with you. Still want to do it any way with you. However you want, whenever you want, wherever you want.”

    Her eyes flicked up to his, meeting his gaze through the firelight and she said, “How about right now?”

    He grinned at her, “You want to reenact our first time?”

    She blushed again, “I don’t know about that. I was pretty sore afterwards.”

    “You were? Should have told me.”

    “Yeah, but I didn’t want to stop doing it…”

    “I remember,” he laughed, “There was even a dragon roaring around the place and you still wouldn’t quit.”

    She smiled, laughing too and he stood up then and walked over to her and sat down behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist. He rest his chin on her shoulder and she leaned back into him, still gently playing her lute.

    “I like this,” she said.

    “Hm?”

    “Being here with you.”

    He hummed, smiling, “Me too.”

    Then she asked, “Bishop, what do you like about me?”

    “Hah, so many questions this evening.” She turned her head a little, meeting his gaze and he said, “What do I like about you? Well… you’re fun, snarky, quick-witted. You have a damn sexy body Lightfoot, I’ll tell you that much and you’re really great in bed.”

    “Am I really?” She sounded surprised.

    “Fucking amazing,” he kissed her cheek and started nipping down the side of her neck as he said, “You’re very, very sexy. Your smell too, it’s just incredible. I don’t know what it is about you, but I love your scent, even more now since becoming a werewolf,” he kept up the playful kisses and the compliments, making her moan a little through a wide smile, “And your voice. Gods I love your voice,” he paused the motions suddenly and said, “When you lost your voice Rona… I felt like… it was the worst thing that had ever happened. I can’t live without the sound of your beautiful voice.”

    (The Music is Rimani by Mattia Cupelli)

    She set her lute aside then and turned in his arms, facing him, looking almost mournful all of a sudden, which surprised him a little. But then she kissed him and he pulled her into a passionate embrace, returning her eagerness a hundred fold.

    He wanted to make love to her there in that special place. To truly make love, not just have sex. He wanted her to be his wife and to love her every day for the rest of their lives.

    He honestly believed she felt the same, he knew she did, when she buried her hands into the back of his head and pulled him that much closer to her lips, biting and nibbling and touching with just their mouths alone.

    Their pleasured moans echoed through the forest. He wanted more of her, so he ran his hands up the back of her neck, undoing that feeble little button on her dress and pulled it down enough to reveal her beautiful chest. He quickly cupped his hands to her breasts and kneaded them, making her release her perfect pleasured cries as she pulled her mouth away from him.

    He was panting with need and desire for her. He wanted so much to show her true passion, to put all his feelings for her into action. He buried his face into her neck, nipping and biting and breathed, “Rona. I love you. I love you so much. I want to make love to you.”

    “Oh Bishop,” she moaned back.

    He pulled back from her neck and looked deeply into her eyes and said, “I want to make love to you always.”

    “Yes,” she whimpered, “Yes, please. I love you Bishop. I love you so much.”

    They pulled apart for just a moment, both standing to tear their clothes off of their bodies before reuniting once again, lovers under the stars touching, fondling and feeling all over each other’s bodies, like it really was the first time all over again.

    He ran his fingers through her wet folds, touching her swollen nub while he enjoyed the feeling of her grasping his hardness and stroking him. She knew just how to pleasure him in all the right ways. They’d spent so much time together, learning and teaching one another how they loved to be touched. They fit together like a perfect puzzle, like they were made for each other. He didn’t understand why he could never get enough of this woman. There was just something about her and he wanted to surrender himself to her. He wanted to be with her forever.

    Bishop pressed his lips forcefully to hers, taking her tongue in his mouth and feeling all over her soft, supple body with one hand while he continued to touch her intimately between her legs with the other. He couldn’t wait another second, so he gently pushed her down, onto their bedrolls and she lay there, so ready and willing for him. When she spread her legs apart and held her hands out, begging for him, “Bishop please. I need you. Make love to me.” He lost it. He fell to his knees, between her beautiful thighs, running his hands over them and grasping her hips, he buried himself into her so quickly. In one swift thrust they’d become one and it felt so natural, so right.

    They were meant to be this way together. He thrust harder and faster into her, overcome with his emotions and love for her. He groaned into her neck, feeling the pleasure of their bodies pressed so closely together. She gasped and bucked her hips back. Yes, she felt the same. She had to. This was meant to be.

    It was not long before both of them were heaving and panting, hot and heavy into each other’s ears. Rona wrapped her legs tightly around his back and he pulled her into a tight embrace with his strong arms, seeking to hold her close, to protect her and keep her safe always.

    He felt it coming then, everything he had and she did too. She breathed, “Bishop! Bishop! I – I – I’m coming!”

    “Oh gods Rona! I coming too!”

    They grasped each other tighter than ever as his shuddering climax washed over him and hers convulsed through her entire body. He truly did give her everything he had then and she took it all willingly. Someday he thought… someday they would do this to have a family and he wanted that more than ever with her.

    He breathed into her ear again and again, “I love you Rona. I love you.”

    “Oh Bishop,” she sighed, “I love you too.”

    ~~~

    (The music is Snow Angels by Thomas Bergersen)

    They stood in front of the great grey monastery. Rona stared up at it and sighed a little. It had taken them a week to arrive because they’d spent at least a day at all their most private places. First at the falls and then the hot springs and finally at Nilheim. Remembering all their firsts together and enjoying their time together. They told stories and laughed together and made love over and over again.

    Bishop was still trying to find the right moment, the right way to propose to her. He’d spent nearly every night after Rona had drifted off to go practice everything he was going to say to her. He was ready and he wanted it to be there. Not in the monastery, hell no. But up there, on that mountain. At the Throat of the World. It wasn’t ideal, but he was making himself anxious putting it off.

    He looked on at her as she stared up at the building. Their entire hike up she seemed a little sadder. He wondered if it was thoughts of her mother. They were there to finish spreading the woman’s ashes, so naturally it would be weighing on her mind. He hoped to the gods he wasn’t making a mistake choosing that place and time to propose, but he felt that if anything it would cheer her up again, that it would put an enormous smile on her face. He was looking forward to that.

    Finally she stepped forward, moving up and along the steps and into the monastery. They met briefly with the Greybeards, Arngeir was thrilled to see them, asking if they had the Elder Scroll. Rona gave him the bad news, granted, considering how apathetic he was to the entire situation it didn’t seem to bother him that much. She didn’t seem interested in dwelling there and conversing as she quickly excused herself and they both made their way outside and up the path towards the Throat of the World.

    The entire way up was absolute silence. Rona seemed very focused with every step she took. He was almost amused by how serious she was taking this final spreading of her mother’s ashes. Finally when they reached the peek they saw Paarthurnax off in his usual spot, perched on the blank word wall.

    They approached the great grey beast and he seemed happy to see her, jowls curling into a grin, he said kindly, “Greetings dovahkiin. Drem yol lok.”

    She spoke to him in dragon tongue, which always impressed Bishop. Even that hard language she made sound so elegant and beautiful.

    “Paarthurnax, zu’u lan hin aak,” she said. He only caught bits and pieces because he didn’t understand a word of it. He wondered why she didn’t just say it in Cyrodiilic. Paarthurnax obviously knew their language, so why not just speak normally? “Bo ko fin strunmah erei zu’u bo,” she finished.

    “Zu’u mindoraan vahdin. Zu’u fen bo,” the old dragon replied and then he flapped in the air and took off, flying over and around the mountain.

    “Where’s he going?” Bishop asked.

    She said, “I asked if he wouldn’t mind giving me some privacy while I spread her ashes.”

    Bishop raised a brow at her back but shrugged it off. His stomach was turning like crazy out of sheer nervousness. He had his hand in his pocket and was rolling that little ring through his fingers over and over again.

    Rona started walking through the snow as the wind picked up and caught her cloak in the air, making it flap around her. He followed her to the edge of the mountain, overlooking the north of Skyrim. It really was beautiful seeing it all from that height. Even higher than the Emperor’s suite in the Imperial Palace. They were literally on top of the world and it was so clear out. Not a cloud in the sky as the sun was setting off the in the distance. He could only imagine how incredible the aurora borealis would look up there that evening. He hoped they’d stay for it.

    Rona gave a deep sigh and pulled her mother’s urn from her pouch. She held the little round urn in her hand, tracing the flowery carvings with her thumb and then she opened the lid and poured the dust into the air. It was swept away on the wind and they watched as the last remnants of her mother disappeared across the sky.

    He glanced at her. She seemed so deep in thought. He knew how that felt. He swallowed hard then, heart pounding so damn hard in his chest. Bishop two steps closer to her and said, “Rona, there’s something I want to ask you.”

    She looked up at him and asked, “What is it?”

    He took a deep breath, inhaling and exhaling as he grasped her hands into his, “Rona… you know what I feel for you, right?”

    “Of course,” she said smiling feebly.

    “You’re a part of who I am now and you’re always going to be. I want to be a part of your life too. I want you to be mine and have no one question it for the rest of our lives. I want,” he sighed losing track of what he was saying, “Look, the first time I saw you,” he chuckled shaking his head, “Scratch that, the second time I saw you, I knew you were going to be special to someone, being as beautiful as you are. How could you not be? And I couldn’t let you go without stopping you, because whoever that guy was, he’d be so much better for you than I was,” he laughed, “I hated that lucky bastard.”

    She stared into his eyes, her brows knit tightly together as he spoke, “Then we got to talking, we stuck together. You listened and showed me trust again and I wanted you from the very first day,” he smiled, “I’ll never be ashamed to admit that. But I hadn’t realized that I was the lucky bastard I hated so much, until you said you loved me.”

    He reached into his pocket then, pulling out the engagement ring and held it up in front of her. Her expression was not entirely what he’d hoped for, though he felt she was probably just overwhelmed with emotion.

    “I uh… had this ring made for you. Paid for it with my winnings in the Arena, designed it myself, mostly,” he laughed a little then cleared his throat again and said, “I’m in love with you Rona. Yours are the only words that matter to me now. Will you marry me and be mine forever?”

    Her lower lip trembled and she made a shuddering sound like she was choking back her tears. But she looked far too sad for it to be tears of joy.

    She looked up into his eyes, tears now streaming and she shook her head and breathed almost a whisper, “I can’t. Not now.”

    It felt like his heart was torn in half. He frowned at her, knitting his brows together and uttered, “Why not Rona? Why?”

    A sob broke from her chest and she cried, “You don’t understand,” and then she buried her face in his chest.

    “Rona… I know that your journey has been hard. I know. I’ve been with you every step of the way damn it,” he was shaking, his own words coming out and shaking, “But why not?” He grasped her shoulders, pushing her back so he could look into her face, “We have no idea when our last day will be, no idea. But whenever that day comes I want it to be as husband and wife. I want you Rona. I want you to be my wife. I love you. Don’t you want that too?”

    Her face cringed and she sobbed, “I do Bishop. I want it more than anything but… you don’t understand.”

    (The Song is Let Her Go by Within Temptation)

    Suddenly the sound of a piano started to play and all the Dragonborn women shuddered into being around them on that mountain. Bishop looked over and saw Eira playing a strange piano built into the word wall while Jillian sang the most mournful song he’d ever heard in his life.

    “Staring at the bottom of your glass
    Hoping one day you’ll make a dream last
    But dreams come slow and they go so fast

    You see her when you close your eyes
    Maybe one day you’ll understand why
    Everything you touch oh it dies

    But you only need the light when it’s burning low
    Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
    Only know you love her when you let her go

    Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low
    Only hate the road when you’re missin’ home
    Only know you love her when you let her go

    And you let her go”

    Bishop just stared at Jillian for a moment taking in her words. Taking in the meaning behind them and letting them burn into him. His heart was racing now as Rona broke into deep agonizing sobs and he looked at her, his own tears streaming suddenly, but he felt angry and afraid and he said, “No… NO. You can’t. You can’t do this. YOU CAN’T DO THIS. NO!”

    She sobbed and looked up, her face distorted with anguish, “I’m sorry Bishop. I’m so sorry! I love you. I love you so much, but I can’t-”

    “NO!” He roared shaking her shoulders, “I WON’T LET YOU GO!  I won’t Rona! You can’t do this!” He threw a hand to his chest and he bellowed angrily at her, “You don’t get to do that to me! You can’t just come into my life like that and make me tell you all those things and – and – make me love you Rona. If you leave it will kill me!”

    “IF I STAY YOU WILL DIE!”

    He shook his head, “I’m not going to die Rona-”

    “YOU ALMOST DIED BECAUSE OF ME!” She screamed, then she took a deep breath and said, “I can’t stay with you Bishop. I won’t let you die because of me. I’m sorry. Please… I’m so sorry. I love you so much, I never wanted to hurt you-”

    He grabbed her by the shoulders and pulled her into a tight embrace and cried, “I won’t let you go Rona. I won’t. Don’t do this, please. I’m begging you. Don’t leave me.”

    She embraced him back and whispered, “It’s the only way to save you.”

    He clung to her dearly and then he looked right at Jillian and roared, “SHUT UP! FUCKING SHUT UP YOU STUPID BITCH!” He grit his teeth, shaking all over as he clutched dearly to her, cringing and sobbing with her and then he just begged, “Don’t do it Rona. Don’t go.”

    She said, “I’m sorry,” then she shouted, “FEIM ZII GRON.” and her body became transparent. He literally fell through her, unable to hold her.

    She started to walk away from him, towards the edge of the cliff and he turned and ran after her roaring, “NO! RONA NO!”

    Then she shouted, “TIID KLO UL.”

    When he blinked, she was solid again and already twenty paces away from him. He tried to run for her, to stop her and she just looked back mournfully and said, “I love you Bishop. Goodbye.”

    Then she shouted, “WULD NAH KEST!” And leapt off the mountain. He stopped short at the edge and watched as she landed softly on Paarthurnax’s back and flew off into the sunset. He fell to his knees and pound his fists into the snow and roared, “ROOONAAAAA!”

    ~~~

    Rona held tightly to Paarthurnax’s horns and felt her tears flying in the wind.

    The old dragon said, “Where shall we go young dovahkiin?”

    “Just fly,” she said, “Just fly…”

    (The Song is Let Us Burn by Within Temptation)

    All of her feelings formed into a powerful song that burned all around her and she released her emotions then. She remembered what Kodlak told her, It will break your hearts and what the seer told her when she asked how to save him, the woman had touched her hand and said, you already know the answer to that and then when Jillian told her in a dream to steel herself for what she must do. And she did. She steeled herself for this. She roared to the skies every painful and aching word, facing her destiny head on. Doing what she had to do.

    “The darkness has come to the roses
    The fire is reaching the end
    The colors that I have created
    Are suddenly flying away

    I’m not fighting myself, will not follow
    ‘Cause my choices are mine, it’s my fate
    And I’ll never bow down from the sorrow
    I’ll face all that is coming my way

    Denying the devil of silence
    Embracing the world on the edge”

    Her golden fires exploded forth and fluttered in the sky behind her. Paarthurnax roared his own flames out, joining her anthem of pain as they flew across Skyrim and night fell around them. Together they set the sky on fire and flew through the glowing aurora borealis.

    Her heart ached for him, even more now that he had asked her to marry him. She hated herself so much for doing it. For leaving him on top of the mountain like that. But she’d already made her decision the night she held his wounded body in her arms in the infirmary. She knew she couldn’t stay. She could not watch him die because of her. No matter how much it broke his heart, at least he would live. He would be alive so long as she was not there with him.

    “I’m searching no more for tomorrow
    I reach for the skies while I can
    The unknown will always be waiting
    My last day I’ll jump in its hands

    I’m not fighting myself, will not follow
    ‘Cause my choices are mine, it’s my fate
    And I’ll never bow down from the sorrow
    I’ll face all that is coming my way

    Denying the devil of silence
    Embracing the world on the edge”

    She made her plans the entire time and had everything ready. She feigned her happiness, pulling out the joy within and let it out for him. She spent her time with him, giving him every last bit of love she could before she did what she had to do and now she steeled herself to go on without him, to finish her journey so that someday she could go back to him a woman finally free from the burden of her horrible destiny.

    Rona looked out over the land of her birth. It was so beautiful flying over it like that. She wanted him to see. She wanted him to be there with her. She grit her teeth, shook off those feelings and sang,

    “Why, why don’t you let me burn?
    Why don’t you count down And break out and let us burn?

    Oh why, why don’t you let me burn?
    Why don’t you let me burn? Why don’t you let me burn?

    Oh why? You’re raising the demons in my mind
    Oh why am I, waiting for chains throwing me to the ground?

    Now darkness has come to the roses
    The fire is reaching the end”

    Paarthurnax dove through the sky then, spiraling downward and looping around. The feeling of it was amazing to her, it was so freeing. She really was a dragon at heart, she had to be. It felt so right to be in the sky like that. She breathed allowing her feelings to disperse behind them, leaving her with her flames as they cast off in great, golden vestiges. She would paint the skies with her pain.

    “Let us burn, Let us burn
    And light up the skies here tonight
    Let us burn, Let us burn
    In this fire that makes us yearn
    Whoa! We’re fighting our fear of the silence
    We’re running through walls where they stand
    Let us burn, Let us burn, Let us burn”

    (The music is Love Lost by Mattia Cupelli)

    Paarthurnax landed down by the farm and Rona used her shout to slow time, not wanting to face her father. She quickly went into her room and changed out of her dress, pulling out the leathers Richelle had made for her and put them on. She stepped in front of the mirror and ran glowing fingers through her hair, changing its color and then waved a hand over her eyes to change them too. She took her dress and laid it on the bed and placed a neat envelope on it with the name, Bishop, written on it. She grabbed her travel pack and didn’t look back once. She hurried down to the lake then and stopped in front of Paarthurnax who was happily enjoying Eira’s company as she pressed a hand to his nose.

    The dragon looked at Rona then and asked, “What will you do now dovahkiin?”

    “I’m going to find the Elder Scroll,” she said.

    He purred low and said, “I do hope you find it vahdin. I wish you well on your journey Rona of Dragon Fangs.”

    She smiled up at him, “Rona is dead. Be sure to let the Greybeards know, spread the word. The Dragonborn is dead.”

    Then she turned and walked off into the night. She knew she would have to be quick. Her ranger would come looking, he had a two day trip climbing down that mountain, but she figured he would make it one, running the entire way, no doubt and she could not be found. Not now. She would finish this journey alone. She would never allow another person to risk their life or die for her.

    ~~~

    Bishop stared hard at the snow. His chest ached painfully and he felt overwhelmed with so many emotions. He heard her song off in the distance and he knew why she did it, but it didn’t hurt any less. He grit his teeth, wiped his tears away, stood up and whistled for his wolf. He took long, fast strides through the snow and furrowed his brows furiously over his eyes. “Come on Karnwyr. We have a Dragonborn to track.”

     

    – End of Book One –

    Nuuri
    Participant
    Post count: 5

    Wow. The ending had me in tears. I’ve literally been binge reading this every night for the past two weeks. This was such an awesome story. I love how you tied in other Skyrim quests and Bishop’s lines from the mod. It ties everything together perfectly! I really hope you’ll post Book 2 on here but if you don’t, be sure to let us know where to read it! Thank you for this great story and I can’t wait to find out what happens next!!

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Thanks for reading Nuuri! I’m glad you enjoyed it. =)

    And no, I won’t be posting it on here. The formatting on the forums drives me absolutely nuts here. I do have it up in three different places though if you’d like to continue to keep up with it. So far I only have Chapter 1 of Book 2 up. I’ve been a very slow writer this time around and have been taking my time with it.

     

    https://www.wattpad.com/674815709-rona%27s-story-the-truth-beneath-the-rose-chapter-1

    https://archiveofourown.org/works/17261312/chapters/40592204

    https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13165524/1/Rona-s-Story-The-Truth-Beneath-the-Rose

    Here’s my deviantART if you want to keep up with my artwork as well. I’ve been busy doing stuff for the Forbidden Love mod tho, so haven’t posted much of my own art.

    https://www.deviantart.com/ronalightfoot

    Nuuri
    Participant
    Post count: 5

    Thanks for the linkies! I will probably be reading on DeviantArt if you continue posting book 2 there or Fanfiction.net. I just finished reading chapter 1 of book 2 – So sad for Bishop 🙁 But your fan art cheered me up lol I love the little trophy for finishing book one (and thanks for the tip, Bishop!) ;D

     

    Take your time – I think we’re all still recovering from the holidays. I’ll be checking back often for more chapters 😀

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