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  • Rona
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    Chapter 10

    The Greybeards

    The two of them entered the monastery. It was just as tall and grey inside as it was outside. While impressive in size, it was rather dull inside. There were very few decorative items and not a lot of real home comforts. It was clearly a place of worship for those who cared not for worldly luxuries.

    As they stepped into the foyer, four old men in grey cloaks approached them. It was difficult to discern any sort of difference between them, as they each had long, grey beards, wrinkles and serious looks on their faces.

    The one with a knot in his beard stepped forward and spoke directly to Rona, “So…a Dragonborn appears at this moment in the turning of the age. Tell me, what is your name?”

    Rona wasn’t sure how formal she should be, but put on her most modest voice, “My name is Rona Lightfoot and this is my companion Bishop – oh!” Karnwyr nuzzled her hand, “and this is our wolf Karnwyr, I promise he won’t be any trouble.”

    The Greybeard looked over the wolf and then to Bishop who was casually leaning against a wall with his arms crossed, looking disdainfully at the old men, “I trust he will be no trouble as well?”

    Rona glanced back at Bishop and gave him a, behave yourself, sort of look to which he narrowed his eyes at.

    “He’ll be no trouble at all, I promise you.”

    “Good, good,” the man said, then put his hands together and bowed, “I am Master Arngeir. I speak for the Greybeards,” he held a hand out to the others, “And these are Masters Borri, Einarth, and Wulfgar. Now, tell me, Dragonborn, why have you come here?”

    Rona thought for a moment. Why had she come here? It was initially because it seemed the thing to do, because Balgruuf and the others told her she should. But now that she really thought about it, she wasn’t sure. She’d found out she was Dragonborn and just accepted it, as though it were a fate or destiny she couldn’t change. She needed to know more though. She needed to know what it was all for.

    “I want to find out what it means to be Dragonborn,” she finally said.

    Arngeir nodded, “We are here to guide you in that pursuit, just as the Greybeards have sought to guide those of the Dragon Blood that came before you.”

    “I saw them,” she said.

    “Yes, we heard the songs of old as you entered this sacred place. Tell me Lady Rona, what did you see as you climbed to the summit?”

    “Hundreds of Dragonborn…my predecessors…I think.”

    “Yes, but have you seen any one in particular, one whom you connect the most with?”

    “Jillian,” she answered promptly.

    Arngeir nodded, “Do you understand why your connection with her is stronger than the others?”

    Rona shook her head.

    “Being blessed as Dragonborn is a great honor, one that is bestowed upon mortals by Akatosh. While most Dragonborn are male, the first female Dragonborn was quite extraordinary. It is said that her soul was wove by Akatosh himself and that he created the most beautiful thu’um for her. It was a voice which could never express itself through the body of a dragon, so he blessed a mortal girl with this soul instead. History gives her many names, though she is most well known as Eira the White. You see, Eira’s voice was more elegant than any bard’s and she composed her songs with her thu’um and made them as powerful as the shouts themselves. It is only from her lineage that female Dragonborn are born and because of this they remain deeply connected to one another, passing on their knowledge of songs through one woman to the next. Jillian was the last woman of Dragon Blood before you, so naturally you would feel her connection more closely.”

    Bishop stepped in and argued, “But we saw Khajiit and Argonian women out there.”

    “Yes, even those who are of mixed blood like your friend here still come from the same bloodline as Eira. The children always take on more of their mother’s features of course,” Arngeir turned back to Rona and said, “We will see if you truly have the gift though. Show us, Dragonborn. Let us taste of your voice.”

    Rona stared, confused.

    “Go on,” Arngeir urged her, “Do not be afraid. Your shout will not harm us.”

    She understood what he meant then and took a breath and cried, “FUS!”

    The air ruptured and broke around them, throwing each of them backward slightly.

    Arngeir sounded impressed, “Dragonborn. It is you. Welcome to High Hrothgar. I am sure you have many questions for us, however we wish to witness your power even further. Let us step into the courtyard for a moment.”

    They followed the four old men outside to an open courtyard covered in a light snow. A tall tower loomed high above ahead of them and beyond that was the peak of the mountain itself, surrounded by violent and swirling winds.

    Three of the men knelt in a line at the edge of the steps leading into the courtyard. Arngeir, still standing looked back at Rona and held a hand out, directing her to stand before them. He spoke clearly, “Please, if you will Dragonborn, I would ask that you prostrate yourself before Kynareth, take a moment to absorb your surroundings. Many of your forebears have stood in this very place to study the Way of the Voice. Listen to them and express what you see, hear and feel for us.”

    Arngeir knelt down beside his companions as Rona tread down the steps and into the center of the courtyard.

    Bishop hung back with Karnwyr, watching her with intent curiosity. Rona did not kneel, she’d never worshipped the Gods before and she was not about to start here. Instead she stood and closed her eyes, listening to the faint voices around her. The strongest came from the women and softer still some of the men. Their whispers were not to her but to themselves. All around her she heard the voices of Dragonborn of old expressing their excitement, their fears, their delight, their anger and frustration, but most of all she heard them questioning their purpose. She too questioned her purpose, more than anything.

    Then she felt a hand grasp her shoulder and when she opened her eyes she saw Jillian standing beside her, not a spirit or a ghost in any sense of the word, but a full blooded person. She gave Rona a gentle smile, as if to say that everything would be okay.

    Rona breathed deeply as the desperate sawing of strings, a violin, echoed from all around them and then the beat of the drums pounding in her chest became real. Jillian sang first and Rona joined in with her, their voices reverberating across the mountaintop and spilling over into the lands below.

    (The song is Paradise, What About Us? by Within Temptation)

    It was so empowering to sing with Jillian. Images of the past fluttered around them. They were scenes from the past of the other Dragonborn struggling to overcome great hardships, but it also showed the incredible feats of their accomplishments as their shouts broke the sky. It was incredible. Rona felt more powerful than she’d ever felt in her life. Her confidence soared and she sang even louder, crying out to match Jillian’s classical voice.

    But as their song ended the images and Jillian’s spirit dispersed leaving them in chilling silence. The Greybeards were awestruck, it seemed, as none uttered a word. It was Bishop who broke the silence, as he came forward and awkwardly chuckled at the sight of the old men, “You’re…are you seriously crying?”

    The Greybeards stood up, holding their hands together so that their sleeves cascaded jointly. Arngeir wiped at his tears and simply said, “If you truly understood what you’d just seen here today you too would cry tears of joy young man.”

    Bishop scoffed, “I’ve seen plenty of ghosts to last me a lifetime already old man.”

    Arngeir did not scowl or growl at him, though he maintained a tone of voice that expressed his displeasure, “Ghosts of the past, yes perhaps, but it was more than that. The Lady Rona has not only given us a glimpse through time itself but sung directly with her predecessor Jillian, nary a ghost, but a solid form of a person it seems,” he directed his attention back to Rona, “Dragonborn, you show great promise. Let us begin your training immediately.”

    ~~~

    The training was surprisingly easy. Rona thought it would be so much more difficult and wondered how so many before her had struggled with it. The words simply embedded themselves into her mind and the knowledge drenched her soul. She was able to shout FUS! RO! DAH! with such ease that even Arngeir seemed surprised.

    “Your quick mastery of a new Thu’um is…astonishing. I’d heard the stories of the abilities of Dragonborn but to see it for myself…”

    She could barely stop herself from asking him, “Is it always this easy?”

    She regretted it immediately as she noticed his distaste. His mouth twitched, “No. Indeed it is not. But beware that your skill does not outstrip your wisdom.”

    Rona apologized, bowing her head, “I’m sorry Master Arngeir, I didn’t mean to offend, truly. It’s just, I honestly expected this to be so much more difficult. After watching…after feeling how the other Dragonborn struggled so much, it lead me to believe that I too would struggle.”

    He sighed, “Ah, no need to apologize child. It is I who should apologize, as I should not have taken that tone with you. It is only natural for you to pick up the words this quickly, it’s in your blood after all. You learn a new word like a master, but learning a Word of Power is only the first step. You must unlock its meaning through constant practice in order to use it in a shout…well, that is how the rest of us learn shouts. As Dragonborn, you can absorb a slain dragon’s life force and knowledge directly.”

    “I see…so I must slay dragons to become stronger?”

    Arngeir nodded once slowly, pressing his hands together under his sleeves, “Yes. Though that is not the only way of course. If you are willing to train with us here you can learn all we know. It is a slower method, but certainly safer…”

    Bishop was standing aside, his arms crossed, listening to them when he said, “Do it. Stay and learn all they can teach you.”

    Rona looked at him. He always pretended not to care, but his actions gave him away so easily. If she stayed here, up in High Hrothgar she would be safe from dragons. She wouldn’t have to fight. She decided to challenge him on this, though she’d wait until they were in private.

    She said, “I’ll think on it.”

    “Well,” Arngeir interjected, “while you mull things over I would like you to take the rest of the day to meditate on these Words of Power and to practice them.”

    Bishop frowned at him, “It’s getting pretty late, when do you serve dinner around here? We’ve been through hell getting up here and we’re starving.”

    Arngeir looked at him surprised, “Ah, yes, well you are free to rummage through our stores and take what you like, though we do not have much.”

    “You don’t cook?”

    “We cook very little,” Arngeir replied, “We prefer to eat small meals throughout the day, keeping sustenance only as needed and therefore balance with Kyne.”

    Bishop grumbled along with his stomach, “Well we’d like to eat more than a bird’s share.”

    Arngeir said, “We Greybeards have our ways, though you’re free to do as you like so long as you maintain a sense of peacefulness within these walls.”

    Rona gave Arngeir a cheerful smile, as she often did when she intended to sway someone’s opinion, “Please dine with us Master Arngeir, all of you. Bishop is a great cook. He makes the best meals I’ve ever had.”

    She noticed Bishop smirking slightly at her compliment.

    Arngeir hesitated but Einarth or Bolli (Rona could hardly tell them apart) whispered something in his ear to which Arngeir nodded back and said, “Hmm, well I suppose…this is a momentous occasion for us. It seems reason enough to celebrate the return of a Dragonborn to High Hrothgar. We shall take you up on your offer then.”

    ~~~

    Because the Greybeards did not have any kind of kitchen to speak of, and their only hearth was centered in the middle of a table Bishop had to create his own makeshift kitchen of sorts. He and Rona ran around the monastery first collecting loose stones which they could make a hearth from. They set lined them up and positioned them against a wall in an empty hall near the dining room. Then they gathered firewood from the small pile the Greybeards had sectioned off in a corridor and placed several logs into the hearth, nearly tripping over Karnwyr several times as he ran back and forth with them, acting like a playful puppy the entire time.

    As Bishop put together the metal grate and hook to hang a cooking pot onto from their camping supplies Rona went about collecting tables, dishes and utensils Bishop could use to prepare their food with.

    They actually managed to put together a mediocre kitchen to work from. The two of them looked over their work admiring it and Bishop, with his fists on his hips said, “Yeah, I can work with this,” though he immediately turned to Rona and pointed a finger at her, “Don’t volunteer me for anything like that ever again, I don’t care how many compliments you lace your words with. I’m not an idiot.”She raised her brows at him and he said, “Don’t give me that look. You knew exactly what you were doing.”

    She cocked her head and said, “You mean like how you insisted I stay and train in the monastery so I wouldn’t have to fight dragons?”

    He dropped his finger and turned away to crouch over the hearth and attempted to light it with a piece of stone on flint,  mumbling, “It’s just smarter, learn everything you can from them before you have to leave, right?”

    She walked over and snapped her fingers, lighting the wood instantly, “Don’t pretend you don’t care. I’m not an idiot.” Then she turned and walked away before he could reply.

    ~~~

    Rona stood outside on the edge of a cliff overlooking Whiterun. The view was stunning. As the sun set in the west the lightly clouded sky had become a blend of reds, yellows and oranges. She shouted out repeatedly, “FUS! RO! DAH!” and watched as her voice rumbled through the sky and over the horizon.

    There was a moment when Wulfgar, or perhaps it was Bolli, came to her side and watched as she shouted. When she’d finished she looked over at him, mystified. She said politely, “Urm… was that alright Master?”

    He nodded slowly and whispered a rumbling, “Dovahkiin,” before walking away. Her eardrums felt sore from the sound. She looked after him, perplexed and saw Arngeir walk by. He came to check in on her progress and she asked, “Master Bolli,” she took a guess, “He just spoke to me, I think, but I didn’t catch what he said.”

    “Hm?” Arngeir looked over at the departing Greybeard, “Ah, that is Master Wulfgar. And he shouldn’t have said anything to you, it is dangerous for your ears. You see the other Masters, well, their voices are too powerful for anyone not trained in the Way to withstand. Even a whisper could kill you. Is your hearing alright?”

    “I thought my eardrums would burst…but I’m alright.”

    “I will talk to him about it. Until you have trained more it would be safer not to expose you to the power of our thu’um. Carry on then,” he said leaving her.

    She spent a good two hours outside before the cold winds nipped too harshly at her face and, shivering, she retreated into the warmth of the monastery. Rona nearly crashed into Bishop who’d come looking for her, “Oh, there you are. Supper is served, Highness.” His words dripped heavily with sarcasm as he gestured in servile fashion towards the dining room.

    She ignored his obvious attempt at provoking her and joined the Greybeards at their oversized round table with the hearth in the center. She took a seat across from Arngeir, and admired the incredible spread Bishop had managed to put together for them.

    There was of course bread, mead, wine and cheeses, but there was also a large plate of cooked beef, an entire pot of cabbage potato stew, a half dozen baked potatoes, and a platter of fresh fruits and a few deserts.

    Rona looked over at Bishop who’d pulled up a chair beside her and practically shouted with enthusiasm, “This looks amazing! You made all of this?”

    Bishop looked rather pleased with himself, no matter how he tried to hide it and said, “Of course! A feast fit for a king! Or in this case the Dragonborn. Dig in!”

    Everyone filled their plates and tucked into their meals. Even the Greybeards were incredibly impressed and though three of them hardly said a word, a few times the room shook from their groans of pure bliss. Arngeir had a broad smile as he said, “Splendid Sir Bishop. I must say I am absolutely impressed with your skills.”

    Bishop laughed, “Sir? Please, drop the formalities Arngeir. I am not a noble by any stretch of the imagination.”

    Arngeir chuckled back and said, “Watch your tongue young man, that’s Master Arngeir to you. I did not train in the Way of the Voice for a third of my life only to be called on so informally. I’ll let it go this once since you’re such an extraordinary chef. Tell me, does cooking come as naturally to you as the thu’um to the Dragonborn?”

    Bishop said, “Hah, hardly. This took years of hard work and practice. I probably read the Uncommon Taste cover to cover at least twenty times before I got the hang of it.”

    Rona scoffed, smiling and said, “Hey! Quit having a jab at me, there’s plenty of things I spent years studying before I got the hang of it.”

    Arngeir clasped his fingers together and looked over at her, “Ah yes, Lady Rona, we’d certainly love to hear about your history. Tell me, are you from Skyrim? You are nordic, obviously, though I can’t place the other part of your lineage, bosmer perhaps?”

    Before she could get a word in edge-wise Bishop said, “Well that’s a first. Everyone just assumes she’s just some elf and dismisses her right off the bat. You should see the look on these nords faces when they find out she’s Dragonborn.”

    “Sadly it is a common misconception that the Dragonborn must be a full blooded nord. This belief most certainly stems from The Dragon of the North, Ysmir. Most nords hear tales of him as Dragonborn and rarely, if ever, hear more of the old tales about all of the other foreign and mixed blood Dragonborn. But the fact remains that anyone can be Dragonborn so long as Akatosh sees fit to grant one with such power. And of course you would be part nord,” he nodded to Rona, “you do come from Eira’s bloodline. What is your other half?”

    “My ata, my father, he’s full blooded Altmer,” Rona said.

    “Ah!” Arngeir’s eyes lit up, “There are several quite notable Altmer Dragonborn and one other woman who was half altmer, half nordic such as yourself. Her name was Taanil Storm-Ire. There are few passages about her though, as much of it was lost to the pages of history…”

    Arngeir told her story after story about the history of Dragonborn and she shared a few details about her own life, that she was from Cyrodiil, and she was a member of the Fighter’s Guild in Cheydinhaal. She mentioned that her father was in fact the current Arch-Mage of the Arcane University to which Arngeir asked if it might be possible for him to acquire copies of several texts on Dragonborn lore and history which were highly guarded by mages and scholars of the Emperor’s Court, she said she’d try writing him but made no promises.

    As she went on telling him about her first encounter with the black dragon in Helgen Arngeir grew quiet and the other three Greybeards stared quite intently at her.

    After such a long pause she said, “What? What is it?”

    Einarth, or perhaps it was Wulfgar, whispered to Arngeir who was pulling at the end of his beard thoughtfully. Then he said, “Ah…it’s nothing. I’m just sorry to hear you had such a difficult time getting here,” as if purposely evading her prodding gaze Arngeir asked, “Were you able to finally meet with your mother then? After all of that?”

    Rona looked down at her plate, she really hated talking about it. She tried to avoid thinking about her mother at all costs lest she feel a mix of emotions that she’d rather ignore. She kept it brief and said, “No, unfortunately she’d already passed long before I had a chance to meet with her.”

    “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said.

    They were always sorry to hear it. This phrase was meaningless to her. It was just something people would say when they didn’t know what else to say. Arngeir seemed to sense her discomfort on the subject and said, “Well, it has been a long day for you both,” he and his companions stood up. “We thank you, Bishop, for providing us with great food, it was splendid.”

    Bishop gave a nod as he sipped at a bottle of mead and said, “Don’t expect it again old man. I’m not your new chef. This was a onetime occasion and it was more for me than anyone else.”

    Arngeir raised his brows at Bishop’s sudden coldness towards him, “Hmm, well we certainly don’t care much for indulgence and of course we wouldn’t expect that from you, you are one of our guests after all.” Again he turned to Rona, decidedly ignoring Bishop’s rude attitude and said, “As for your sleeping quarters, we only have one extra spare room and bed, specifically designated for the Dragonborn when he or she is to stay here at High Hrothgar. I’m afraid your, affable companion,” he said with a derisive tone, “will have to make his own bed.”

    “Fine by me,” Bishop said getting up, “I’ve got a bedroll and it suits me just fine.”

    Arngeir showed them to the room and as Bishop laid out his bedroll next to the stone carved bed he looked between the both of them, “I trust that you two will treat our monastery with the utmost respect. Anything,” he searched for the word, “amorous will not be tolerated inside these walls.”

    Rona felt her face burning and Bishop burst out laughing, “Oh you’ve done it now!”

    “Me and – and him?” she sputtered.

    Arngeir raised his brows, “I beg your pardon Dragonborn. I meant no offence of course. I just thought…”

    Bishop smirked and said, “You thought that a devilishly handsome man like me must certainly be giving it to the lovely Dragonborn? Sadly, no.”

    She’d have thrown something, anything, at him if she’d had it in hand, instead she just glared at him, face burning hot with anger and embarrassment.

    “Oh if looks could kill,” Bishop chuckled, shaking his head.

    “My apologies Lady Rona,” Arngeir attempted to diffuse the situation, “I did not mean anything by it…Now, get a good night’s rest as we have plenty more to teach you tomorrow.”

    Arngeir left them both in a hurry and Rona threw her bedroll onto the hard stone bed. Bishop rapped the side of it with his knuckles and said, “What’s the point of having a bed made out of a rock when the floor is just as hard?”

    “No idea.” Rona kicked her boots off and crawled into her bedroll, turning away from him, still fuming.

    “They always say you shouldn’t go to bed angry Princess,” Bishop teased. She persistently ignored him as he said, “Oh c’mon. You’re really that mad at me?”

    She sighed and rolled over, “Why do you have to be that way?”

    “What way?”

    “So rude to everyone!”

    “Don’t you ever get tired of walking around your words and trying to spare their feelings? No, I won’t do that.”

    “I just don’t understand it. One minute you seem to care and the next you push everyone around you away. ”

    Bishop got quiet as he lay there, running his fingers through Karnwyr’s fur.

    Rona took a breath, cooling off then said, “Thank you for tonight.” He didn’t reply. “I appreciate what you did, entertaining them and cooking and everything. It was very kind of you…”

    He rolled over, away from her and murmured, “Don’t waste your favors and kindness on anyone Ladyship. You’ll just get your heart broken.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 11

    Training in the Way of the Voice

    Every few days Rona was trained on three new Words of Power which created a full thu’um. Arngeir insisted that she meditate and practice each set for several days. She knew he was treating her as a simple acolyte instead of the Dragonborn. This is how Arngeir always taught and he was so thrown by her mastery of the words that he wanted her to take more time to learn them as though she didn’t already understand as immediately as she did. She could sense his jealousy at her power and by the fourth week she’d have given anything to just grant her powers over to him so she wouldn’t be stuck aimlessly wandering the grounds thinking about the Words of Power for no reason at all.

    Bishop also quickly grew weary of mulling around the monastery and left every few days. The two of them went from playful flirtation to regular bickering. Both were taking their frustrations out on the other. To alleviate this Bishop decided to head back down the mountain and into Ivarstead at least twice a week.

    While there he stocked up on food supplies and did some hunting with Karnwyr. This helped a lot and gave Rona something to look forward to between her dull training sessions and her even duller meditations.

    When Bishop came back he cooked large pots of stew and delicious platters of venison. Rona appreciated it more than anything because the Greybeards really didn’t have much to eat other than hard bread, dried jerky and moldy fruit.

    And although the Greybeards followed their philosophy of avoiding indulgence, every evening the mouthwatering scent of Bishop’s cooking would drift through the entire monastery. As Rona would be enjoying dinner with her companion, each one of the Greybeards would appear with a small bowl or plate in hand, each at separate times as though hiding it from one another. Bishop would smirk and oblige them by filling their plates and bowls and they’d politely nod then swiftly disappear down a dark corridor no doubt to eat their supper without being seen by the others.

    Arngeir was the last one of the evening to walk by and as he leaned over the broiling stew pot to get a whiff of the delectable scent he said, “What an inviting aroma. Bishop, perhaps you won’t mind if I take a small bowl?”

    Bishop leaned back in his chair, half lidded eyes and said, “Careful now Arngeir, don’t want you to indulge too much.”

    Arngeir had given up correcting Bishop on his lack of formal titles. They both referred to one another by their first names, though whenever Arngeir called him young man, Bishop was sure to shoot old man right back at him.

    The stodgy Greybeard was already ladling a helping into a bowl when he said, “Ah, it would be far more displeasurable to Lady Kynareth if we were to let such so much precious food go to waste.”

    He grabbed a fresh bread roll, swept a thick helping of butter through it and vanished down a corridor.

    Bishop turned back to Rona thumbing behind him, “Is it just me or are those four getting fatter?”

    Rona laughed, “Well if you weren’t such a great cook.”

    Bishop shook his head, “You flatter me Ladyship. Still, I just can’t wait to see two of them bump into each other already and spill their bowls all over the place.”

    “Oh, I already saw Wulfgar and Bolli pass by one another the other day. Bolli just finished his plate and Wulfgar had one of your pheasant roasts in his mouth as they made eye contact. I think they have some sort of unspoken agreement when it comes to your meals because Wulfgar just kept walking and Bolli picked at the crumbs on his plate.”

    “Unspoken indeed, I don’t think I’ve ever heard those three say anything.”

    “Master Arngeir said it’s because their voices are too powerful for those not trained in the Way…I did hear Master Wulfgar speak to me once, although he just whispered Dovahkiin – and I thought my eardrums were going to rupture.”

    “Damn…” Bishop mumbled through a mouthful of stew.

    Rona finished her bowl and pushed it aside on the table then pulled a scrap of parchment from her pouch and a quill and started writing on it.

    Bishop looked over at her inquisitively and said, “What’re you doing?”

    “You’re heading back into town tomorrow right?”

    “Yeah, probably. We’re already out of venison with the way those four eat.”

    “I need you to give this letter to a courier if you can,” she finished signing the letter at the bottom and looked it over frowning at her work. “Hm… well it’ll have to do I suppose.”

    Bishop leaned over the table to glance at the paper and scowled, “The hell is all that nonsense?”

    “It’s Aldmeri, I’m writing a letter to Ata.”

    “What’s it say?”

    “Just told him about…well, everything. My trip here, everything about my mother, the fights with the dragons and…well…that I’m Dragonborn.”

    Bishop leaned back and put a boot up onto the table, causing the dishware to clatter, “Yeah? How’s he going to take that you think?”

    “About me being Dragonborn? He’ll be proud I’m sure, but worried too.”

    “And what about the part where you tell him you were nearly executed by the faction he works for?”

    She folded the paper and sighed, “I don’t know. Knowing him he’ll probably speak directly to the Emperor and the heads of the Imperial Guard. I’m sure plenty of officials will be disciplined for nearly executing the Arch-Mage’s only daughter.”

    Bishop smirked and looked into her face, “You want them to get punished don’t you?”

    She put her head in her hands and leaned on the table, “Kind of…maybe? I don’t know. What they did was just…it was horrible. I’d rather it never happened to anyone ever again and if it takes a letter like this then so be it.”

    “Well they’ll be shitting bricks when they find out they nearly murdered the Dragonborn. Somebody’s losing their job over it,” he looked away thoughtfully and said, “I wonder if they’ll replace General Tulius?”

    She shrugged, “I could care less, honestly. I just hope Ata writes before he comes rushing up to Skyrim.”

    “Hah, now that I’d like to see, an all powerful mage burning Imperials to the ground looking for you.”

    Her stomach turned at the thought and she looked down at the letter and considered rewriting it but Bishop snatched it from her and stood up.

    “Hey!” Rona cried and leapt from her seat to try and get it back from him.

    “Ah, ah, ah. Don’t go changing your mind now Princess. This letter is going to make waves. I’ll be sure to pay the courier a hefty fee to get it there quick,” he proceeded to stuff the letter into his trousers and dared her to take it from him, “Unless you really want it back, feel free to take it.”

    “This isn’t funny Bishop! Give it back now!” she demanded furiously.

    He raised an eyebrow at her sudden ferocity and taunted her still, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. A lady shouldn’t raise her voice like that.”

    She was so aggravated by his behavior and was absolutely not in the mood for his perverse games and slapped him.

    “Don’t do it again wench,” he growled at her.

    She hit him again, glaring fiercely at him and he repeated himself. She went in for a third strike and he grabbed her wrist twisting her arm sharply and pulling her back against him.

    She muttered crossly, “So this is how you like it?”

    He shoved her off of him, yanked the letter from his trousers and threw it at her. “No. I don’t.

    Rona watched, stunned as he walked away without another word. She wasn’t sure what to make of what had just happened, she felt angry and flustered all at once. She stuffed the letter back into her pouch, ran to her room to grab her lute and stormed outside to cool off. She climbed the stairs to the tower overlooking the monastery. She was thankful that none of the Greybeards were up there because she didn’t feel like dealing with the awkward silence or having Arngeir talk her ears off about Dragonborn history or the Way of the Voice.

    She leaned back against a pillar and stared out at the clear sky and the full moon prominently hanging above the mountain peak. Her mind was running through what just happened between her and Bishop. They’d gotten along just fine before all this. Though she knew the stagnant lifestyle was starting to really get to them and they were both beginning to nitpick at one another each and every day, Rona especially began to take her frustrations out on him and regretted it every time.

    She didn’t want to fight with him. She wanted…honestly she didn’t know what she wanted. She cared about him, maybe even liked him. She enjoyed flirting with him and being around him, but it wasn’t enough to be together stuck in a place like this. Rona wanted to leave soon, though she was most definitely not done with her training. If Arngeir had it his way she’d be there for another fifty years sitting around and thinking about words.

    She plucked at her lute and started humming. Even singing was becoming difficult. Nothing inspired her anymore. When she was traveling she always got to see something new, but when she was there, up on the mountain the only inspiring thing was the aurora borealis in the night sky and even then it was often shrouded in clouds and snowing.

    She tried to sing. A few words left her mouth but fell flat. She tried again and got so frustrated at the sound that she leapt up and shouted, “Why does he have to be like that!?” She paced back and forth in short sweeps and grumbled loudly, “It’s just so inappropriate! So disgusting! So rude! I don’t get it! Why can’t he just court me like a normal suitor!? Is it that hard to admit he likes me!? Why does he have to be so…so obnoxious!?”

    As she spun around the breath sucked straight back down her throat and she went pale. She felt a chill run up her spine and her hands got clammy as she froze just staring at the thing. Perched there, clutching at the pillar she’d been leaning against only moments ago and gazing inward at her was an enormous grey dragon. She hadn’t even heard it when it landed on the tower.

    The dragon gazed at her, then blinked and said in a gentle, baritone voice, “Krosis Dovahkiin. I did not mean to frighten you. I could…sense your frustration and came near. When I heard you playing your instrument I grew curious…”

    Rona opened her mouth and made to speak but the words wouldn’t come. She was trembling all over and her hand instinctively felt for her dagger, but her weapons were down in the monastery, sitting on a table in her room. Still this dragon wasn’t trying to kill her…at the moment. But he was curious about her? He turned his head like a bird to get a better look at her. She saw his pupil dilating and contracting.

    His enormous maw opened and closed slightly as he spoke again, “You need not fear me vahdin. We have met once before…briefly.”

    She realized it then that this was the great grey dragon who saved her life from the other dragon upon the seven thousand steps. She relaxed slightly and breathed, “You…you were the dragon that killed the other one.”

    Geh,” he rumbled, though she did not understand. He clarified, “Yes. I heard the call of the dov. I left my roost to see the pilgrimage of dovahkiin along the seven thousand steps. I did not mean to interfere with your grah… your battle. Krosis. You appeared to be outmatched so I intervened.”

    “Thank you,” she said, “You saved mine and my companion’s lives.”

    She wasn’t sure but the dragon seemed to smile slightly and said, “I would make a request of you dovahkiin.”

    She hesitated, not sure if she could really trust the fearsome creature, “What would you ask of me?”

    Zu’u paar wah hon aan lovaas. I wish to hear your voice, to hear a song.”

    She cocked an eyebrow at him, “You just…want me to sing?”

    Geh… your voice carried up to my roost, but all has been quiet for some time. I must admit, the absence of your lovaas… your song, has left me restless.”

    Rona faltered a moment before mustering up her courage and stepped forward boldly. The dragon pulled his head away so that she could sit on the edge of the tower. She grasped her lute and strummed the strings, making them ring with sound.

    She paused and looked into the face of the waiting dragon and asked, “What would you like to hear?”

    His low voice rumbled softly, “I will gladly hear anything the brit vahdin… the lovely maiden wants to sing.”

    She couldn’t believe she was conversing with a dragon. The songs should have been drowning her thoughts, what could be more inspiring? More amazing than this? And yet her mind wandered back to Bishop and her heart hurt. How could she have hit him like that? He was just being playful, being himself. How could I be so cruel?

    She started playing her lute with great feeling. Her passion flowed as she plucked each note perfectly and the lyrics graced her lips.

    (The song is You Don’t Know Me by Erutan)

    “The rain now falls
    Each drop an agony
    The war has come
    Without you next to me

    Oh, wandering love
    Farther with every mile
    Know no defeat
    Through ice and dragon fire

    Come back to me if I fall
    Please believe you once loved me
    Though you don’t know me

    The arrows fly
    Points tipped in misery
    To ruins laid
    Our home, our sanctuary

    Smoke fills the skies
    All the world’s a burning ember
    Shall our love die
    With no one to remember?

    Hold on to me and what was
    Please believe you once loved me
    Though you don’t know me

    Come back to me if I fall
    Please believe you once loved me
    Though you don’t know me.”

    The dragon at one point closed his eyes and listening closely to her song, swayed his head slightly to match the rhythm. As Rona finished he turned his head to face her straight on and said, “Brit nuz tiiraaz… beautiful but sad. You sing from your soul dovahkiin. Your feelings etched in every word. Bormahu was wise to grant joor vahdin… human women with the thu’um. There is no dov that could, nor would, express such brii – such beauty, in this way.”

    Rona looked up at him and said, “You knew other Dragonborn women? Like me?”

    Geh. Eira do Yot Sol…I once knew Eira of White Fire. She was the first. I sense her blood in you.”

    She was astonished, “You knew Eira the White?”

    Geh. She oft sang songs for me. For a joor, a human, she was as powerful as a dov. Her soul more brit… more beautiful.”

    Rona studied him. She was very intrigued by this strange dragon, talking about beautiful human women that sang to him. It was certainly a story straight out of a fairy tale. She was roused from her reverie though as the cries of a man bellowing below carried up to them.

    “RONA! RONA! I SWEAR IF YOU’VE TOUCHED HER!”

    It was Bishop, screaming his head off and racing around the tower with his bow drawn. Rona stood up and the dragon released the pillar from his clutches. He soared downward then drew himself back up to where Rona was standing. He flapped his wings to keep steady in one spot and spoke quickly as an arrow flew by, “It seems my time here is nigh dovahkiin. I will leave you a parting gift for the lovaas. We will meet again soon. Su’um ahrk morah!

    The grey dragon swept over Bishop who was aiming his bow at the beast. He flapped harshly causing Bishop to lose his balance and trip. The dragon roared at the ground nearby casting a blue flame against it before sailing over the cliff and disappearing around the mountain.

    Rona grasped at the pillar and cried out, “Bishop!” She leapt off the ledge and used a spell to slow her ascent. She landed softly and Bishop stumbled over to her, grabbing her shoulders and still panicking shouted, “Are you alright!? Are you hurt!?” He panted looking her over and pushing her hair from her face, “You…you…you’re alright. You’re not hurt.”

    She smiled up at him, amused by how worried he was. She just hugged him and said, “I’m sorry I hit you.”

    “Wha…what!?” he stammered pushing her away, “You were just attacked by a dragon and you’re worried about that!?”

    She looked towards the cliff and said, “He didn’t attack me. We just talked.”

    He threw his hands up and pressed his fingers through his hair, “You? You just talked?” Bishop put his hand out, cutting the air with it, “You just talked to a dragon? ARE YOU INSANE?”

    Geh,” she said half laughing and half smiling.

    “Bishop rubbed his face with his hands and sighed deeply, “You’re going to kill me woman. One of these days, I’ll be dead and it’ll be because you did something so utterly stupid that, hey – hey! Where are you going? Are you even listening?”

    Rona had in fact stopped listening to his rant and wandered over to the words on the ground. The persistent chanting coming from them completely captivated her. She stared into each word taking their meaning into her soul. FO, KRAH, DIIN bound through her mind, but when she spoke the words nothing happened.

    “What are you saying now?” Bishop demanded.

    “They’re the Words of Power that the dragon left for me,” she looked into Bishop’s annoyed face and said, “He’s the dragon that saved us back on the steps. He just wanted to hear me sing. It was incredible!” she said excitedly, waving her arms in the direction the dragon flew off, “That just happened. I talked to a dragon! You know he once knew Eira the White?”

    Bishop gave her a piercing glare and said, “Do you even care how I feel? I thought you were dead and here you are just going on and on about your pointless conversation with a fucking dragon! I don’t know if you forgot but those things are trying to kill you! They’re not your friends!”

    She got extremely defensive and shouted back, “How can I care how you feel when you won’t even trust me!?I know what I’m doing! I’m not a complete idiot! I’ve dealt with all kinds of monsters and been in more battles than you could count! You know nothing about me! So stop treating me like I’m some stupid kid!”

    “I’m the only one between us even bothering to look out for your life because you’d just as easily throw it away! I treat you like a stupid kid because you keep acting like one!”

    “Why can’t you just admit your feelings!?” she screamed at him. They both stopped, staring furiously at each other before Rona said, “I know you care about me. And of course I care about your feelings Bishop, I trust you. You’ve saved my life more than once already, why can’t you trust me back?”

    His eyes darted away from hers and he looked as though he were chewing on his tongue before he said, “Bah! I’m done talking.” He turned his back on her and stomped up the stairs and into the monastery.

    Rona grit her teeth and closed her eyes as tears streamed down her face.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 12

    Taking a Chance

    When she went to her room that evening she noticed Bishop’s bedroll missing. Her heart dropped and she tip toed around the monastery, wondering if he’d up and left. She could hardly blame him. He’d just tried to express his concern for her and she threw it back in his face. She felt horrible. When she saw him curled up near the hearth in their make-shift kitchen she felt relieved. He hadn’t left…yet.

    She slept fretfully all night on the hard bed and woke up feeling absolutely miserable. As she sat up and put her boots on Bishop walked into the room wearing his travel pack. He glanced at her then turned away quickly and started rummaging through one of the dresser drawers. He pulled out all of the supplies and camping equipment he’d stored in there and began stuffing it into the bag.

    Rona silently watched, feeling her distress mounting as he finished packing and wandered back into the kitchen where she could hear him packing up the pots, pans and other utensils. She stepped into the foyer as he walked right past her, Karnwyr padded beside him.

    Her lip trembled as she cried, “Wait! Are you…you’re coming back right?”

    He did not turn back and simply said, “I’m leaving Ladyship. I can’t stay in this place a minute longer. Good luck with your training…if you ever need a tracker, you know where to find me.”

    She made to grab him when Arngeir called out, “If you could hold for just a moment young man.”

    Bishop turned back looking more solemn than she’d ever seen him. Arngeir slowly came down the steps, his hands clasped together so that his sleeves draped inward. “I am afraid you cannot leave without your traveling companion.” He grasped Rona’s shoulder and looked to her. “My dear, you have learned so much, so quickly in such a short time. I must admit that I have been holding back with you, teaching you at a snail’s pace when you are already on par with the Masters.”

    She was stunned, she couldn’t believe he actually admitted it. He continued, “Though you were right not to fear the grey dragon on the tower, Bishop was only concerned for your safety and well-being.”

    “You saw that?”

    “No, but, ah…we did hear. You two are much louder than you might think,” he chuckled and looked down at her like a father would to his daughter, “Though you have not learned all that we can teach you here I believe being in the monastery has stifled you. Your songs are so few now than when you first came and spread your joy throughout these cold halls. I was selfish to keep you here for so long. It is time for you to carry on your journey outside these walls,” he looked over to Bishop and said, “but I would like it if the two of you stayed together.”

    Bishop gave him a skeptical look and said, “What’s it to you if we stay together or not?”

    Arngeir met Bishop’s scowl with a friendly smile and replied, “Believe it or not, despite your incessant bickering and…erm, other questionable behavior, you are a great influence on the young Dragonborn.”

    Both Rona and Bishop were looking at him with the same puzzled expression.

    Arngeir laughed again, “It is true! Lady Rona, because of your heritage, because of your blood, you will find yourself far more fearless than most men would be when facing off against a dragon. You see dragon’s have a natural desire to dominate – especially to dominate each other. Because you have the body of a human and the soul of a dragon this makes for quite the dangerous combination. Too many Dragonborn have lost their lives in battle due to their own headstrong natures. Bishop here has been the voice of reason in this case. He has and hopefully will continue to remind you to value your own life.”

    Rona looked over at Bishop intending to apologize but he held a hand up and stopped her, “Don’t say you’re sorry. I don’t want to hear it. But if you want to join me in getting the hell away from this damned place you’re more than welcome to.” She grinned at him.

    Arngeir said, “I will give you a task, Dragonborn, which you may pursue at your leisure. Retrieve the Horn of Jurgen Windcaller, our founder, from his tomb in the ancient fane of Ustengrav. When you have found it and you are ready you may return to us to complete your training.”

    She turned to Arngeir bowing her head, “Thank you for everything Master Arngeir,” then scurried off to her room to collect her weapons, her lute and her cloak. She caught up with Bishop who was waiting outside on the steps taking in the fresh air. She drew her cloak around herself and said, “I’m ready to go.”

    “Great! Let’s get out of this place! I don’t want to come back here for a long time.”

    Their walk down the mountain was fairly quiet and unadventurous. Bishop had cleared the path so many times already that there were no trolls, wolves or any enemies to worry about, except perhaps another dragon if it decided to grace them with its presence.

    Still Rona was thrilled to be leaving. She’d learned a lot from the Greybeards, but that kind of life was not for her. She couldn’t imagine staying in one place and sitting around doing nothing all the time. She was ready for adventure.

    They walked for two hours in complete silence, Bishop hadn’t said a word to her and she wondered if he was still mad at her. She was afraid to say anything though and possibly upset him more so she bit her tongue every time the word ‘sorry’ started to travel over it.

    Finally, Bishop said, “You’ve been awfully quiet Ladyship. Got nothing to say?”

    She stared down at her boots and cringed as ‘sorry’ once again fluttered across her mouth. Finally she stammered, “I…I’m just so happy to be out of there! I couldn’t take it anymore! The quiet, the meditating, ugh! It was so boring. I was starting to go stir crazy.”

    He laughed, “Yeah, it was getting to me too. S’why I left every other day.”

    She paced beside him as best she could through the snow and said, “But you always came back. Can I ask why?”

    He stopped and looked down at her, studying her face then sighed and said, “I have no idea.”

    “Oh…” she looked downtrodden.

    He cocked his head back and said, “You were pretty mean to me after all, slapping me and screaming at me a lot.”

    She bit her tongue, no apologies. Instead she said, “What can I do to make it up to you?”

    He grinned mischievously at her. “I can think of several things.”

    She rolled her eyes and smirked then kicked through the snow ahead of him. She shouted over her shoulder. “You’re going to have to try harder than that!”

    They spent the next several hours of their trip joking, laughing and flirting like normal. She felt relieved to be back in his good graces and having fun instead of fighting. By the time they made it to the bottom of the mountain the sun had already set and they made their way to the local inn for food, drinks and a place to sleep.

    Rona bought their drinks while Bishop pulled out a map and spread it across the table. She handed him his bottle of mead and sat down while sipping at her glass of wine.

    “So, where do you want to head next?” he asked her, tracing a finger over the map, “Riften is close by if you want to go there, though that place is crawling with lowlifes and thieves.”

    “What about Windhelm?” she said pointing to the hold just northeast of them on the map.

    “What? So you can freeze off that sweet ass of yours some more?” he laughed.

    “That’s where Ulfric Stormcloak is from, right?”

    “Yeah, so?”

    “I want to meet him,” she said.

    He frowned at her, “You already met him once didn’t you? That wasn’t enough for you?”

    She shrugged and said, “Well…I’d like to see how he treats his people, what his hold is like and you know…”

    Bishop narrowed his eyes at her as she turned her head to avoid his gaze. “You’re thinking of joining up in the civil war, aren’t you?”

    Rona’s face clearly gave her away and he barked, “Of course you are!” He groaned and rubbed a hand to his forehead, “Ladyship, the last thing you want to do is get involved in the war.”

    “And I appreciate and respect your thoughts on the matter, but I just have to know.”

    “Have to know what? If he’s worth siding with?”

    “Yeah,” she said through her glass.

    Bishop looked around at the mostly empty inn and said in hushed tones, “Look Lightfoot, let me level with you here. Ulfric is a complete piece of shit. He’s racist, his Stormcloaks are racist, it’s how most nords are, to be honest, but he takes it to a whole new level. The man murdered the High King because he wanted that power for himself, he doesn’t give two shits about Skyrim. All Ulfric cares about is himself. He will gladly use you, the Dragonborn, to stir his cause and rally his troops and then he’ll boot you right out of here along with all the other elves as soon as he’s done with you.”

    She cocked her head and gave him a wry smirk, “So you think I should join the Imperials then?”

    “Hell no!” he blurt, “They tried to execute you, remember? I stand by what I said before, don’t get involved. Let these idiots sort it out for themselves. It’s none of our business.”

    “I still want to go there,” she said, “Let’s start with Windhelm then work our way back to Whiterun and stop by the farm before heading up to Solitude.”

    He rolled his eyes and snapped up the map, folded it up and slid it in his pocket. Then he raised his bottle and said, “As you wish Ladyship.” He downed his drink in a single gulp.

    ~~~

    The next morning, they packed up and ate a quick breakfast. Rona found a courier and paid him to deliver the letter to her father. She felt nervous about it but really wanted to start corresponding with him. She needed his fatherly advice now more than ever.

    As the two set out on their steeds, Karnwyr did his usual thing of keeping up then getting distracted by the local wildlife as they crossed paths. Every time he’d lose track of his prey he’d come running back over to them, panting and being his playful self.

    They trod along fairly slowly, not wanting to rush anywhere and just take their time. Rona was taking in all the sights of the lush forest and enjoying the scent of wild pine. It was a wonderful change from the dreary white snow and blank mountain landscape she’d suffered through the last month.

    She was so much happier now and she could tell Bishop was too. He reached over and grasped the reins of her mare for a moment and said, “Hey, hold up.”

    She looked over at him, “Hm?”

    He paused chewing on his lower lip slightly then met her gaze and said, “How do you feel about surprises?”

    She looked unsure and said, “That depends. What kind of surprise did you have in mind?”

    He chuckled and said, “If I tell you, it won’t be a surprise. Come on, just follow me.”

    She shrugged, “Okay…”

    He grinned at her, “This way, Ladyship. We want to get there while it’s light. No detours.”

    He spurred his horse onward and moved at a quicker pace. Rona did the same and followed closely behind. They followed the river and came up to a bridge where an injured man lay next to his broken trolley. They both came to a stop and Bishop eyed the man warily while Rona leapt off Karinda and ran over to him. “Are you okay?”

    The man looked up at her and coughed, holding his arm, “Ah…thank goodness. Are they gone? Please help me, I can pay you.”

    She knelt over him, searching for a wound though she didn’t see one anywhere, “Here, I have healing magic that can help you.” She cast a spell over him.

    “Thank you, kind lady. Bandits attacked and ransacked my cart. Would you mind escorting me back to my camp? It’s just nearby and my companions are there. I can reward you,” he said desperately.

    “Of course,” she agreed.

    The man stood up fairly easily, she wasn’t sure if her magic was that good or if perhaps he wasn’t as hurt as he seemed to be. Rona looked over at Bishop who eyed the man suspiciously, his hand on his dagger. Karnwyr came rushing over to them, barking loudly and ran up to the man and started sniffing his boots.

    Rona shouted, “Karnwyr! Come here! I’m sorry, he’s friendly.”

    The man got really nervous and said, “Ah – oh… good dog.”

    Bishop grumbled, “He’s not that friendly…”

    The man looked over at him and stuttered, “Th – thank you kindly strangers, really, I appreciate your help.”

    As he led the way Bishop grasped Rona’s arm and pulled her close to him and whispered, “Don’t trust him Ladyship. I’ve seen this ruse more times than I can count. Get ready to shout him and any other bandits down.”

    She nodded and stayed close to Bishop who already had his dagger drawn. Karnwyr padded alongside Bishop, sensing his master’s apprehension, the fur on his back started to bristle.

    “It’s just across the bridge and up that hill…we’re close now I can see the camp,” the man assured them.

    They continued to follow him, both prepared to fight. Rona hoped Bishop was wrong but when the man said, “Wait here, I’ll go get your reward,” and she saw the men and women in the camp staring maliciously at them she knew he was right. The man got up to the top of the hill when he shouted, “KILL THEM!”

    Bishop cried, “Cover me Lightfoot!” and ran up the steps after him. Karnwyr chased his master growling and barking viciously. Rona twisted on the spot to face the three bandits coming for her from their camp on the right. As they drew their weapons she shouted, “ZUN HAAL VIIK!”and was pleasantly surprised as she saw their weapons fly from their hands. They looked around flabbergasted as Rona drew her bow and shouted again, “FUS RO DAH!”

    Her voice launched two of them over the cliff and the third off his feet. He slammed backward into a rock and she picked him off with her bow. Bishop had wrestled the terrified man’s arms back, holding him in place while pressing a blade to his throat. Karnwyr had a hold of the man’s leg with his teeth and growled furiously, shaking his head ever so slightly and making the man scream and writhe in pain.

    Bishop snarled at him, “Best apologize to the Dragonborn for that dirty trick.”

    “D-D-Dragonborn! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I didn’t know it was you! Please have mercy!”

    Bishop growled, “That’ll do,” and slid his dagger deeply across the man’s throat and let him drop to the ground.

    “Stand aside for a minute?” Rona said and Bishop stepped back so she could use her Unrelenting Force shout on the dead man and sent his body flying over the cliff.

    Bishop laughed, “Damn woman! That is impressive.”

    She smiled inwardly and stowed her bow away as Bishop called to her from the stairs of the ruined tower ahead of them, “Come on, this is what I wanted to show you.”

    She met him on a hanging overlook just outside the other side of the tower. The view was incredible. She could see half of the Rift and all of Eastmarch beyond.

    He stood beside her on the edge of the overhang and said, “Well, here we are. It’s no Throat of the World but it’s mine. Well, partly mine, a long time ago. My first home in Skyrim.”

    “This is beautiful,” she said captivated by the scenery. She turned to him after a moment and asked, “But why did you bring me here?”

    “It’s where I found Karnwyr as a cub. I haven’t been here for…,” he stretched his shoulders and thumbed his dagger then muttered, “Damn, always feels longer than it actually is. I’ve never brought anyone here before.”

    “That’s very sweet, this place must mean a lot to you.”

    “Yeah…yeah it does. This tower is still standing because of a man I once knew… He’s… gone now. Anyway. I made the first good decision of my life here, I wanted to make you a part of it,” he scoffed at himself, crossing his arms, “I’m still not being clear, am I?”

    He turned to face her straight on and looked deep into her eyes, “You’re here because… Trust doesn’t come easy for me. To me, this is the most important place in Skyrim. I wanted you to know…”

    She smirked at him, hardly believing what she was hearing, “Where’s Bishop and what have you done with him?”

    He scowled slightly, “Oh for – really? Bishop is standing right here and just took a chance and told you he trusts you…Are you willing to do the same? To trust me?”

    She met his gaze more fully now. He really was being serious and she wanted him to know she was listening. She said sincerely, “You’ve never given me a reason not to.”

    Bishop closed the space between them so suddenly and put a hand around her waist pulling her in. Her heart was racing as he leaned in and pressed his lips to hers, kissing her softly. He tasted like honey mead and smelled like warm pine. He was too good at this and she wanted more. She drew her hands up around his neck and ran her fingers through his hair, pulling him in closer for a deeper kiss. Surprised by her need he too pulled her closer to his body and twisted his tongue around hers. When they parted she hadn’t realized how much she was lacking for air and took a deep breath.

    He grinned at her, pleased by how flustered he’d made her or perhaps just happy to finally be one step closer to his prize.

    She muttered, “You just kissed me…”

    He chuckled, “And you kissed back Princess, or was I just imagining your hand digging into the back of my head just now?”

    She diverted her eyes, feeling the heat burning in her cheeks and traveling up to her ears. Despite her sudden shyness she felt butterflies in her stomach. She was completely exhilarated. He didn’t hate her, he actually trusted her, and he just kissed her! And he kissed really well too. It was all very overwhelming.

    Bishop laughed at the sight of her and said, “If I’d known you’d react like this I would’ve kissed you sooner,” he cleared his throat, “Yeah, so… I’m not exactly a romance kinda guy.”

    She looked up at him and said, “What are you talking about? This,” she waved an arm out to the rolling landscape, “this is incredibly romantic Bishop.”

    “It is, is it?” He sat down and hung his legs over the edge of the overhang and pat the ground beside him, “So, come sit with me a while. I’d like to enjoy the scenery before we leave again.”

    Rona did as he asked and sat down close beside him. She let him put an arm around her waist to scoot her closer to him. She felt content leaning her head against his shoulder and listening to him breathe. After a minute or so though he couldn’t seem to resist and put a finger under her chin to tip her face up to his. He graced her with his lips again and she accepted it willingly.

    They spent a short while on the overhang, looking out at the sky before something large and loud caught their attention. A dragon loomed off in the distance and Rona felt her blood boiling at the sight of it. She fidgeted in her seat and drew herself up, Bishop still holding her hand said, “Going off to fight it, aren’t you?”

    She looked down at him and said, “I have to. I have to test my thu’um.”

    He let go of her hand and stood up, “Not alone you won’t.”

    ~~~

    They rode swiftly, taking the winding path to the edge of the forest where they were met with the strong scent of sulfur. Hot springs were scattered across the open plateau. A khajiit caravan was stopped nearby, overlooking Bonestrewn Crest. Four khajiits and three Stormcloak guards looked on at the creature. A khajiit woman was hysterically pleading with one of the guards while a fully armored male khajiit held her back.

    The dragon was, at the moment, attacking two giants and their mammoth herd near the hill. The giants were losing that battle, though still faring better than Rona expected.

    Rona and Bishop trod closer to the group. One of the guards stopped them and said, “Wouldn’t get too close if I were you. Best take the long path around if you’re headed to Windhelm.”

    The khajiit woman was sobbing, “Please, oh please! My son! Please help him! I beg you! He’s just a boy!”

    One of the guards growled at her, “There’s nothing we can do about it cat. Your boy’s lost! You’d be a fool to try.”

    The male khajiit pulled on the shoulders of his weeping friend and hissed, “Zaynabi, we cannot. It is too dangerous. We will come tonight when the dragon sleeps to search for him.”

    “Kharjo is right. We must wait until nightfall,” another female khajiit dressed in lavish clothes tried to comfort her friend, “Nakir will be fine until then, I saw him, he is hiding in a crevice. He will be safe.”

    Rona slipped off her steed and walked over to them. “Please, can you tell me what’s happened?”

    The khajiit woman Zaynabi cried into her hands while the other woman in finery stepped forward, “Her son was playing in the springs when the dragon came upon the hill. He is trapped in a crevice. Are you mercenaries? Will you help us?”

    “Heh, better than that,” Bishop said, but before he could go on, Zaynabi and a few of the other bystanders started screaming in terror. The dragon had killed both giants and their mammoths, reducing them all to smoldering corpses when it turned its attention to a crevice in the rocks, trying to stick its nose through and viciously clawing at the stones, attempting to break them open.

    It roared spraying flames across the stones and scratched madly at them. It was now or never, a child’s life was on the line. Rona drew her bow and dashed across the plateau, ignoring the calls of the guards, “Are you mad woman!?”

    “What is she thinking? Wait! – Lad! Don’t! It’ll burn you alive!”

    Bishop caught up to her and shouted, “What’s your plan?”

    “You’re backup! Get as many arrows into its soft spots as you can! Go for the eyes, its wings, and its belly!”

    He pulled back as she raced into the fray, crying out, “SU GRAH DUN!“she felt lighter than ever as she nocked an arrow and let it fly into the back of the beast.

    The dragon turned right around to investigate the source of this sudden attack and Rona yelled at the thing, “Come pick on someone your own size!”

    The echoes of a choir rang through the plateau and Rona sang her song of power.

    (The song is Shot in the Dark by Within Temptation)

    The dragon looked at her quizzically for a moment before uttering a guttural, “Dovahkiin,” when it realized who and what she was.

    It launched itself at her and she kicked off the ground, lighter than ever because of her shout she was able to soar through the air without any aid. She pulled back her drawstring and set free an arrow into its face. She scarcely missed her target, however, as the arrow lodged right beneath its eye. The dragon howled and scratched at its face with a claw. Bishop lobbed several arrows into the beast’s hide and wings then leapt back and ducked down below a large rock just as the dragon growled fiercely and blast flames across the plateau in his direction.

    Rona sailed down and the second she touched the ground she bolted away, rolling just as the creature scrambled forward, it’s jaw snapping shut right where she was standing a moment ago. It turned its head towards her and she cried, “FUS RO DAH!” with all the force in her very being, sending the dragon flying sideways across the plateau. She tossed her bow aside, withdrew her dagger and shouted, “WULD NAH KEST!

    She sprint forward, faster than the eye could see and clutched at the dragon’s horn, pulling herself atop its head where she buried her dagger into its left eye. Its roar boomed out like thunder, breaking the sound barrier and causing the ground to rumble. She held on for dear life as it flapped its wings, launching itself upward. She’d never wanted to kill the damn thing more in her life and kept sticking her dagger into its skull while still clinging to its horn.

    The dragon did a barrel roll through the air and she nearly puked as her stomach flew into her throat. She couldn’t hold on and let go, quickly casting a spell to slow her ascent. As her eyes stopped rolling in her head she saw the dragon skidding across the ground. She noticed the three Stormcloak guards gathered around Bishop, holding their bows and launching arrows into the creature on his command.

    The dragon finally stopped moving and collapsed heavily on the ground. Bishop came running over towards Rona and made to catch her as she slowly drifted downward. He was smiling broadly up at her and called out, “I’ve got you Ladyship!” She laughed as she fell into his arms and feeling high on the thrill of conquering the beast she wrapped her arms around his neck and passionately kissed him. Bishop returned her vigor with his own and when they pulled apart he said, “Wow. We need to do this more often.”

    They were hit with a powerful wind as the soul of the dragon spun around her body and absorbed into her skin. Rona felt the word FO tickling her lips and she cried, “FO!” setting free a crisp, cold breath of ice which left her mouth tasting like mint.

    The khajiit all went running toward the crevice in the rocks and Rona grasped Bishop’s hand, pulling him along with her to meet them. Zaynabi crouched near the opening in the rocks and cried, “Nakir! Fado vaba etofor – please come out little one.”

    In a moment an adorable little black and brown khajiit boy, no older than seven or eight came crawling out of the rocks and embraced his mother. She clutched at him as he sobbed in her arms mumbling in ta’agra, “Fado ahziss vaber opa qojithka!”

    Zaynabi looked up at Rona, the fur on her cheeks damp with tears and she moaned, “Thank you, oh thank you.”

    Rona knelt down beside them and looked the boy over, checking for any wounds. She asked him, “You’re not hurt anywhere are you?”

    He looked up at her shyly and shook his head, burying his face back into his mother’s chest. Rona cast a grand healing over the party all the same, just to be safe and stood back up.

    The khajiit woman in finery came up to her and grasped her hands with her soft paws. “I cannot thank you enough Dragonborn. You and your companion are true heroes.”

    Rona smiled and said, “I’m really just glad he’s okay.”

    “I am Ahkari,” she introduced herself.

    “My name is Rona and this is my companion Bishop.”

    Ahkari smiled, displaying pointed teeth and purred, “Ah! I remember you! The lovely elf-bard with sparkling green eyes. I hope you will continue to visit us in your travels my lady. You are always welcome at our caravan, anything you need I can sell for half price!”

    Kharjo, the male khajiit in armor growled, “Do not be so stingy Ahkari, the Dragonborn has done us a great kindness,” he handed over an assortment of potions, ingots and glittering gemstones.

    Ahkari looked like her eyes were going to bulge out of her head but she held her tongue as he gifted Rona with the items.

    Rona awkwardly thanked him, she never felt comfortable taking so many items for nothing and insisted she pay something for them. Ahkari nearly leapt at the chance when Kharjo firmly said, “No. The life of Nakir is worth so much more, though we can only part with this.”

    As the khajiit thanked them once more and left, (Ahkari scolding Kharjo in ta’agra in hushed tones as they left), several of the Stormcloak guards came over to them. One of them pulled his helmet off, revealing a young face and blonde wispy hair. “So you’re the Dragonborn,” he said looking her up and down, “You know, my friend Hamvak sent me a letter saying he met the Dragonborn and that she was an elf, I thought it was a joke.”

    Oh great, she thought, putting her guard up.

    “But when he said she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen I was positive that he’d lost his damn mind,” he smirked at her, “Now though I can see he was right.”

    Rona’s face turned beet red and Bishop stepped in front of her, his arms crossed and stared down the young man, “Watch yourself Stormcloak.”

    The guard backed up and chuckled hesitantly, “Whoa! I was only kidding! Miss Dragonborn, mind calling your dog off?”

    Rona laughed, “Oh him? He’s my personal bodyguard, I wouldn’t mess with him.”

    Bishop gave her a side-eye glance and a flirtatious smirk.

    A female Stormcloak stepped in and asked, “You said your name is Lady Rona?”

    Rona nodded, “Yes, that’s right.”

    The woman held out a hand, “It is an honor to meet you Dragonborn Rona,” they shook hands, “We did our best to help you bring the beast down, but my! Everything you did, well, I’ve never seen anything like it. You are truly amazing.”

    The third Stormcloak said, “Heh, yeah, I’ll be telling my kids all about this one when I get home, doubt they’ll take my word for it though.”

    “It was nice to meet you Dragonborn,” the woman said as she made to leave with her companions, “I hope you will continue to bring this dragon menace at bay.”

    She watched them leave and the blonde Stormcloak looked back and made a ridiculous face at her, blowing her kisses and waving his arm flamboyantly. The woman knocked him on the back of the head and said, “Quit making an ass of yourself!”She could hear the three of them chuckling amongst themselves as they departed.

    Bishop wrapped his arms around Rona’s shoulders and whispered deeply, “What do you say we make camp, have dinner and go wash the filth off ourselves in the hot springs?”

    She twirled around in his arms and beamed at him, “That sounds like a fantastic idea! I’ve never been in a hot spring before!”

    He laughed, surprised by her enthusiasm. Rona pulled away from him, ran ahead over the rolling plateau towards their horses and shouted, “Did you see that!? It was amazing! It was so easy!”

    “Whoa, whoa Ladyship! Don’t go crazy on me now – and easy? I don’t know about that, I was getting pretty worried there for a minute,” he barked back, trying to keep up with her.

    She spun on the spot and said, “No way! Easiest kill ever with my shouts! The training was so worth it!”

    He picked up her bow and tossed it to her, “Take it easy killer.”

    She couldn’t hold back her smile until she realized, “Hey, where’s Karnwyr?”

    Bishop looked around and said, “I saw him run off as soon as he caught sight of the dragon,” he put his thumb and forefinger to his mouth and whistled. After a few minutes the wolf came bounding up to them and jumped all over Rona, licking at her face.

    “Ah! Hey!”

    Bishop chuckled, “Guess he’s happy you killed that overgrown lizard for him.”

    Rona managed to throw the heavy wolf off of her and he got immediately distracted and ran off to nip at a stray rabbit. Rona looked over the dragon bones as they walked by. She couldn’t help but think that things were really looking up for her. She started to feel like her destiny was unfolding and that she had the power to really help people. She was bursting with a determination and confidence she’d never had before.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 13

    Windhelm

    They settled down and made camp near one of the smaller springs. Rona was still brimming with excitement from her recent kill and couldn’t seem to sit still. Bishop got fed up with it and said, “Just go wash up already! I’ll put the tents together, roll the bedrolls out and get dinner started.”

    She was bouncing on the balls of her feet and said, “No, I can help!”

    “GO!” he barked, pointing at the spring, “Before you drive me mad woman.”

    She rolled her eyes, he wasn’t angry, just annoyed. She stopped partway through the camp, and just to mess with him, kicked her boots off and then undid the button on the back of her dress and let it fall right there in front of him. Rona knew she was being a tease, but she enjoyed every second of it. She glanced back and saw him drinking in the sight of her. He mumbled something which sounded an awful lot like, you temptress.

    She walked away with a saunter in her step, just to drive him a little more crazy before dipping into the hot spring. It was incredibly soothing and she loved how hot the water was on her skin, it was a nice change from the constant cold she’d experienced all over Skyrim. She could have done without the awful stench of sulfur though.

    Rona rested her back against the rocky wall of the spring and closed her eyes, trying to relax and calm down. Her heart was still racing. A lot had happened today, she killed a dragon and rescued a little boy and she’d passionately kissed the man she was falling for… Am I falling for him? She started to wonder how she really felt about Bishop. What exactly were they to each other? Traveling companions? Mercenaries in arms? He certainly wasn’t courting her, at least not in any of the ways she’d been courted before by proper noblemen. And yet, something was different about him.

    Sure he was kind of gruff and rather moody at times, she could be quite moody herself. And yes, he was a bit off-color…okay, very off-color. No, that wasn’t accurate either… he was down-right obscene and vulgar. Did she really like that? She could feel the heat rising in her cheeks. Yes, she loved it. It was different. He was honest. He never pretended to be someone he wasn’t, he was just himself and that person just so happened to be someone who really, really, really wanted to have sex with her.

    She wanted it too, but…

    “Wow, you’ve been so quiet over here.”

    Rona practically jumped out of her skin. Bishop had sat down, his bare feet dangling in the spring right next to her. He was shirtless and leaned over, his bulging arms resting on his knees. She was so lost in thought she hadn’t even heard him come over. I really need to stop doing that, she thought, kicking herself for spacing out so hard to the point of going deaf.

    She took a deep breath and sunk deeper into the warm water, “Just trying to relax.”

    “Mind if I join you?” he said, a sensual overtone to his voice.

    Her heart beat harder. Yes please, she thought, but meekly said, “Sure.”

    She heard him stand and unbuckle his trousers which fell to the ground behind her. They’d already been like this once before, in a brisk pond hidden among the Rifts forests and yet she felt just as embarrassed as the first time, if not more so. Her face was burning, though she could simply blame it on the hot water, certainly.

    Bishop slipped in right beside her and wrapped an arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer to him. She turned her face up at him and looked into his dusky amber eyes. He spoke so clearly, and gently then, “Have I ever told you just how sexy you are when you blush?”

    His remark just made her blush even more. But before she could protest and blame the hot water he chuckled lightly as he leaned in to kiss her. His wonderful mouth pressed against hers and then his tongue entwined with her own and she grasped his shoulders, pulling herself in for more. He wrapped his arms around her and she around him, feeling his rippling muscles on his back. Somehow, she’d ended up straddling him and he was kissing her neck up and down, nipping at the softest spots and making her moan. Why did this feel so damn good? Why did he have to be so good at this?

    She felt his hardness pressing firmly against her inner thigh as his hands roamed up and down her back. She was startled when her bra came unclasped and fell into the water. Instinctively she pulled away, covering herself.

    Bishop laughed lightly and said, “Are you alright?”

    She stammered, “I…I’m not ready…for that…”

    He cocked an eyebrow, “No? You seemed pretty ready when you climbed on top of me.”

    She sunk into the water some more, trying not only to hide her naked breasts but the burning shame all over her face. He looked at her curiously, before it dawned on him, “You’ve been with a man before…haven’t you Ladyship?”

    Why did he have to phrase it like that? Although outright asking if she were a virgin wouldn’t have been any better. She wanted to drown herself right then and there. She diverted her gaze and mumbled, “No…never.”

    He threw his head back smacking a hand to his forehead, “Ah…wow. Well then. I feel like an idiot.”

    She stammered, “D-don’t! It’s…it’s my fault. I should have told you and you’re right, I was getting…frisky…”

    He tossed her delicate, lacy bra over to her and said, “Well I certainly won’t force you to do anything you don’t want to do…but I won’t hide exactly what you do to me anymore.” He stood up, the water dripping over his muscles, accentuating his physique in the low light of the sunset.  She got a full view of his perfectly erect manhood through his bries as he climbed out of the spring. He collected his clothes and turned to walk the short distance back to their camp when he called over his shoulder, “By the way Ladyship, wearing white in water doesn’t leave much to the imagination.”

    She pulled her bra on and clipped it, then looked down, realizing that it had become shear in the water. She groaned inwardly at how stupid she was. After pulling herself together and using a spell to dry herself and her underwear she wandered back over to the campsite and saw that Bishop had been kind enough to drape her dress over a clothesline nearer to the spring. He was sitting on the ground, his back turned to her, as he sharpened his dagger. Karnwyr snoozed by the fire, tuckered out from chasing rabbits, though it looked like he caught one from the mess all over his paws.

    Rona threw her dress over her head and buttoned it. She grabbed her lute, from Karinda’s saddle and took a seat across the smoldering fire and began to strum it, playing a song which had no words, trying to hide her embarrassment from what just happened.

    Bishop didn’t even look up from his work when he said, “Soup’s almost done.”

    “It smells good,” she replied.

    “You smell better,” his eyes flickered lasciviously through the firelight.

    “That’s because I bathe regularly,” she joked.

    He scoffed, “Oh and you’re saying I don’t?”

    She shrugged, grinning. He shook his head a smirk playing at his lips as he kept sharpening his blade. They were quiet for a while, both lost in their own thoughts while listening to the sounds of the wildlife around them and the gentle tune of her lute.

    She kept glancing at Bishop, half expecting him to ask her something, anything. Instead he just examined his blade and sheathed it. She watched as he slowly pulled it in and out of the sheath, perhaps rubbing rust off of it, but then he moved it faster, in and out and her eyes met his. He was smirking at her and she scowled and grabbed a piece of half eaten bread and chucked it at him. He caught it and said, “Got something on your mind Princess?”

    “You’re ridiculous,” she chided.

    He put his dagger away and laid down on his side propping his head up with a hand and said, “So…”

    Here we go. She inhaled quickly, expecting a bombardment of questions regarding her virginity. Instead he asked, “…you gonna sing me a lullaby or not?”

    She exhaled and said, “Sure.”

    She sang a quiet, sleepy song which by the end of it she noticed Bishop had completely passed out, snoring lightly on his bedroll. He hadn’t even eaten yet so she stood up, and took the time to put out the fire and put a lid on the uneaten soup. She was quite tired herself after a long and eventful day and curled up on her bedroll. Her thoughts were racing but finally settled on the pleasant thoughts of kissing Bishop.

    ~~~

    When she woke up the next morning Bishop and Karnwyr were missing. Whiskey was still saddled nearby and all of their things were still in camp. She figured he must have gone off hunting or who knows what whenever he disappeared.

    She pulled on her boots and armed herself with her bow and dagger and took a walk across the plateau. She didn’t have to go far to reach the dragon remains from the day before.

    Rona looked them over, eyeing a few good pieces. She knelt down by one of the beast’s enormous claws and tugged on it. Some of the tendons remained, holding it in place. A few strikes from her dagger set it free. She pulled hard on one of the ribs, she’d only need a piece of it for what she planned to craft. With a loud snap! It splintered and separated from the body. She gathered the bones up and turned around to see Karnwyr bounding towards her, Bishop following close behind with a black wolf’s pelt thrown over his shoulder.

    “There you are!” he said as he came up to her.

    She smiled up at his grumpy expression and asked coyly, “Were you worried about me?”

    He scoffed, “Worried about the Dragonborn? Hardly.” He looked at the pile of bones in her arms, “The hell is all this?”

    “I was thinking of crafting a pair of swords,” she replied, “These bones are really strong, I think I can make some good weapons with them.”

    He crossed his arms and said, “You won’t be crafting much with a regular forge. We’ll stop by the Skyforge in Whiterun, see if one of the Gray-Mane’s would be willing to make you something with those.”

    She nodded and he took two of the bones from her, helping her carry them back. As they packed up their camp Bishop made her put her cloak on, insisting it would be getting cold fairly quickly on their way up to Windhelm and remarking that he didn’t want to listen to her teeth chattering the whole way. As he draped it over her shoulders and fastened it for her she leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek.

    He nearly leapt backward and sputtered, “What was that for?”

    “For being so cute,” she replied as she pulled herself up onto her mare.

    “Cute!?” he grumbled, “Ladyship, sometimes I wonder just how your mind works.”

    They made their way northeast from Bonestrewn Crest towards the road and headed north. Bishop’s assumptions proved true shortly as they trod over snow strewn steps and light flecks of white drifted from the sky. Rona watched as her breath turned icy in front of her.

    She’d wanted to play her flute but her fingers had gone numb in the cold. She pulled her cloak tighter around herself and rubbed her hands together, breathing on them. It wasn’t too long before they arrived at the steps of one of the most broken down holds she’d ever seen. Windhelm was a dreary dark gray, blending dismally into the white landscape. It reminded her of High Hrothgar and although she had the sudden desire to dart as fast and as far away from the place as she could she pressed on, taking Bishop’s lead. They stabled their horses and carried up the steps to the icy front gates.

    There were two guards posted at either side of the gate and one of them sneered under his helmet, “Damned knife ear…”

    Before Bishop even had a chance to bark at the man, the other guard shouted at him, “Hey! Watch it! That’s the lady Dragonborn.”

    “You’re kidding,” the first guard said skeptically.

    The second guard pulled his helmet off revealing his wispy blonde hair. It was the young man from the day before. He grinned at her, displaying slightly yellowed, but even teeth, “Welcome to Windhelm Lady Rona! Good to see you again.”

    “Oh! Hello!” she said returning his smile.

    Bishop glowered at him and he chuckled nervously scratching his head as Karnwyr sniffed his legs. “Ah, I see you brought your friendly wolves with you.”

    “Watch yourself boy, my bite is much worse than my bark,” Bishop growled at him.

    The man boldly stepped around Bishop and held out a hand, “I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself the other day, my name is Benon,” she shook his hand despite Bishop’s clear disapproval.

    “So, uh, I just want to warn you miss, we’ve had some trouble here in Windhelm as of late.”

    “What kind of trouble?” she asked.

    “Murders,” the other guard said snidely, “of pretty little lasses like yourself.”

    “That’s horrible,” she gasped, “Is there anything I can do to help?”

    Benon laughed and said, “Well, if you happen to catch The Butcher in the act you could always shout him to pieces for us. I’m sure Jarl Ulfric would certainly appreciate it.”

    She grinned, “I’ll keep that in mind if I happen to see any suspicious characters murdering people.”

    “Thanks…well, uh, gotta get back to guard duty, see you later!” he pulled his helmet on and they entered the city. Rona was utterly underwhelmed by the dilapidated city before her. The entire place was covered in snow and seemed to be made of very old and broken stones. The city needed some serious renovating. She wondered if the war had depleted the city coffers and that’s why it was so run down.

    She was also disturbed by the scene playing out before them. Two nord men were verbally harassing a poor dunmer on the side of the road. Bishop leaned over to her, his arms crossed and muttered, “Told yah.”

    One of the men was very clearly drunk as he said, “You come here where you’re not wanted, you eat our food, you pollute our city with your stink, and you refuse to help the Stormcloaks.”

    The woman protested, “But we haven’t taken a side because it’s not our fight.”

    The nord man in rags suggested, “Hey, maybe the reason these gray-skins don’t help in the war is because they’re Imperial spies!”

    The woman scoffed at him, “Imperial spies? You can’t be serious!”

    The drunkard threatened her, “Maybe we’ll pay you a visit tonight, little spy. We got ways of finding out what you really are.”

    The two men spat a few more racial slurs before wandering off to the inn, most likely for another drink. The dunmer woman sighed loudly and Rona went over to her and asked kindly, “Excuse me, miss, are you alright?”

    The woman took one look at her and said, “Do you hate the dark elves too? Are you here to bully us and tell us to leave?”

    Rona brushed her hair back behind her ear, “Of course not.”

    The woman looked surprised, “Oh! An altmer…or are you?” She stared at Rona trying to discern her heritage which seemed to confuse everyone in Skyrim.

    “Something like that,” she said.

    “Huh… well you’ve come to the wrong city girl. Windhelm’s a haven of prejudice and narrow thinking.”

    “Those men threatened you,” Rona persisted.

    Bishop cracked his knuckles and said, “I don’t normally offer this service to strangers, but I wouldn’t mind splitting their heads open for you.”

    The woman smirked, baffled at a nord suggesting such a thing and said, “Don’t bother. Those two aren’t worth it. Rolff comes by the Gray-Quarter each night to harass us, but he’s a harmless oaf otherwise.”

    Bishop shrugged and turned away, heading towards the inn ahead, Karnwyr at his heels, but he stopped the wolf and said, “Sorry buddy, you’ve gotta stay out here. Stay,” leaving the wolf out in the snow. Karnwyr obeyed and laid down next to the door whimpering.

    The woman stared after him and said in earshot of Rona, “Never thought I’d meet a nord willing to stand up for us.”

    “I hope this doesn’t sound haughty, but I’m the Dragonborn,” Rona said introducing herself, “My name is Rona Lightfoot. I’ve come here to see how I can aid the people of this city.”

    The woman cocked her head, “Really? Dragonborn eh? My, my, that certainly explains your heritage then doesn’t it? By Azura what a mix you are. Well Dragonborn, there are plenty of folks around here that could certainly use help, though I don’t know what kind of luck you’ll have in swaying the nords to change their ways. I wish you luck.”

    The woman turned, leaving her. Rona shivered, standing alone in the cold and went to find Bishop at the inn. He was seated at the bar drinking a pint of mead and eyeing the two nords from before. They were seated at a table in the corner by the door drinking their own pints. As soon as Rona stepped inside the drunker of the two complained loudly and slammed his mug on the table, splashing it everywhere, “Gods be damned! Another fucking knife ear – even worse than a gray-skin, this time it’s some Thalmor cunt!”

    Bishop was on his feet in seconds, slamming the man’s face into the table and snarling fiercely, “Apologize to the lady you filthy shit!” He pointed a finger harshly at the nord in rags as he pressed his back to the wall, “And don’t you fucking move or you’re next.”

    The man under him sputtered as Bishop was throttling his neck, the inn keeper shouted, “Take it outside! I won’t tolerate that kind of behavior in here!”

    The bar patrons all came round to see what was happening and Rona screamed, “BISHOP! Let him go!”

    “Not until he apologizes for treating women like trash. Filthy racist pig. I say we just kill you and throw you out like the garbage you really are!”

    She yanked on his arm to stop him from strangling the man, “STOP!” she shrieked.

    Bishop reluctantly let go at her cries but made sure to spit on the man. Everyone stared at them as Rona turned and started telling Bishop off someone shouted, “Milady! Behind you!”

    Rona spun around to see that both drunks had armed themselves with small shivs and were coming right at them. Rona shouted, “ZUN HAAL VIIK!”

    Their weapons flew from their hands, shunting and sticking straight into the wall behind them. Their faces fell as Rona’s eyes burned with a dragon’s fury. Both men backed away and bolted out the door.

    The crowd in the room was quiet for a moment before someone started cheering and clapping and the rest of the tavern joined in. An Imperial man dressed in classical bard’s garb came down the stairs and took her hand, kissing it. She looked at him bemused as he bowed deeply, bringing his arm inward to his waist as he dipped and said, “Milady I am so glad you are safe! Forgive me, have I the honor to speak to the Dragonborn?”

    She nodded stiffly and he cried, “By the Divines! It is delightful to be standing in your presence.”

    Rona could hardly believe how silly and formal this man was. She hadn’t experienced this level of pompousness since she was in the Mage’s Guild years ago. She laughed and before she could get a word in edgewise the bard declared to the crowd, “Today, we witness a living legend among us, none other than the Dragonborn herself! Our hero, our hero indeed who claims a warrior’s heart. I told you, I told you and the Dragonborn came!”

    Bishop’s head rolled heavily along with his eyes and he groaned at the ridiculousness of the bard. Rona truly felt his pain and promptly said before the man could interrupt again, “Thank you, but who are you?”

    “How foolish of me not to introduce myself! My name is Alec. I am The Prince of Song. I am pleased to make your acquaintance. You are the Lady Rona, are you not?”

    “Yes,” she was surprised he already knew her name until he started rambling.

    “I have spent so much of my time studying your adventures. From the terrors at Helgen to your endless eradication of the Dragon menace. You are our hero! Your strength and humility brings hope to every heart in Skyrim. We bards sing your songs so that our children’s children may remember the glory of the Dragonborn, savior of Tamriel!”

    She realized then that word had started traveling about her and much like Bishop predicted, the tales of her deeds were being woven and twisted as they spun along from person to person.

    Alec finished his monologue as he took a step closer to her, forcing her to lean back awkwardly, “Milady, meeting you I see no account of your beauty has ever given you the justice you deserve.”

    He winked at her and she had to stifle a laugh, “Thank you, that’s very kind.”

    “Kindness holds no place over honesty,” he turned away from her, trying to look brooding and failing miserably in his costume, “I speak only the truth. You are truly inspiring, a beautiful muse for the beating heart of a musician. Pray tell, I have heard stories that you too are a bard? Is it true Lady Rona? Do you not only have the gift of a powerful voice but one of beauty and song as well?”

    She looked around at the crowd staring intently at her before slowly saying, “Um…yes?”

    He placed a hand to his chest and gasped, “That is wonderful my lady! Would you do me the honor of singing a song for us? I would love to hear your voice.”

    She glanced over at Bishop, pleading for help with her eyes, but he just fed into it even more, “Go on Ladyship! Give the people what they want!”

    She scowled at him then looked over to Alec again and awkwardly said, “Well…I suppose I could -”

    “Oh! Wonderful!” he grasped her hand and lead her up the stairs to a room that looked as though it were in an attic, with sloping ceilings on either side. He stood her in front of a fireplace and the crowd gathered round. She’d never really experienced stage fright in her life, but the crowd was much larger than any she’d had before and she suddenly felt nervousness creeping up her spine.

    “Would you like me to accompany on an instrument for you Milady?”

    “Er…I’ll take lute if you can play flute,” she said giving him direction and then asking, “What do you want to hear?”

    “Oh anything that comes to mind Dragonborn, please! I heard you are from Cyrodiil and I am sure these kind folk would appreciate something other than the Age of Oppression!”

    Rona glanced around, her heart flitting nervously in her chest. She caught sight of Bishop leaning against a post, his arms crossed. He was watching her and when their eyes met he gave a faint glimmer of a smile.

    She breathed deeply and asked Alec, “Do you know the song, The Willow Maid?”

    “Ah! An old but good one, yes I can certainly accompany that.”

    Alec began playing a solemn tune on the flute, she was surprised by how perfectly he played each note. Rona started to strum the lute, matching the rhythm while another woman, a dunmer, pulled up a seat and joined them on drums.

    Rona looked out at the crowd and sang with jubilance.

    (The song is The Willow Maid by Erutan)

    A young man walked through the forest
    With his quiver and hunting bow
    He heard a young girl singing
    And followed the sound below
    There he found the maiden
    Who lives in the willow

    He called to her as she listened
    From a ring of toadstools red
    Come with me, my maiden
    Come from thy willow bed
    She looked at him serenely
    And only shook her head

    See me now
    A ray of light in the moondance
    See me now
    I cannot leave this place
    Hear me now
    A strain of song in the forest
    Don’t ask me
    To follow where you lead

    A young man walked through the forest
    With a flower and coat of green
    His love had hair like fire
    Her eyes an emerald sheen
    She wrapped herself in beauty
    So young and so serene

    He stood there under the willow
    And he gave her the yellow bloom
    Girl, my heart you’ve captured
    Oh, I would be your groom
    She said she’d wed him never
    Not near, nor far, nor soon

    See me now
    A ray of light in the moondance
    See me now
    I cannot leave this place
    Hear me now
    A strain of song in the forest
    Don’t ask me
    To follow where you lead

    A young man walked through the forest
    With an axe sharp as a knife
    I’ll take the green-eyed fairy
    And she shall be my wife
    With her I’ll raise my children
    With her I’ll live my life

    The maiden wept when she heard him
    When he said he’d set her free
    He took his axe and used it
    To bring down her ancient tree
    Now your willow’s fallen
    Now you belong to me

    See me now
    A ray of light in the moondance
    See me now
    I cannot leave this place
    Hear me now
    A strain of song in the forest
    Don’t ask me
    To follow where you lead

    She followed him out the forest
    And collapsed upon the earth
    Her feet had walked but a distance
    From the green land of her birth

    She faded into a flower
    That would bloom for one bright eve
    He could not take from the forest
    What was never meant to leave.”

    The crowd cheered, clapping loudly when she finished. A few in the back even yelled out, “Encore!”

    Rona smiled softly at Bishop who hadn’t taken his eyes off her the entire time she sang. She was broken out of her reverie when Alec suddenly clasped her hands and looked into her eyes, “Milady, that was inspiring! Your voice! You sing like an angel. Please, you must come to a special performance I’m arranging here in Windhelm tonight. I would be delighted for you to be my guest.”

    “That sounds…wonderful,” she said through a fake smile.

    “Just you wait, my dear! I am so pleased to share the experience with you. I will see you at the palace my muse.”

    He kissed the top of her hand and left. As soon as the bard swept out the door, with a group of women giggling and chasing after him Rona was bombarded by several patrons shaking her hand and greeting her.

    “Dragonborn, it is an honor!”

    “So kind to meet you Milady.”

    “If you’re ever in the market, please stop by my stall miss.”

    She was kind but short with each of them. Her attention was elsewhere as she scanned the room for her ranger. He’d disappeared from the place he was standing so she wandered down a nearby staircase looking for him. As she rounded a corner someone grabbed her arm pulling her hard against them. She inhaled sharply and looked up to see Bishop staring down at her, passion burning in his eyes.

    His strong arms wrapped securely around her waist and back as he planted a fiery kiss on her lips. She wanted nothing more than to do this forever with him. Her hands traveled up to the back of his head and she ran her fingers through his soft strands. They parted only for a moment to breathe before it was her turn to take the lead and she buried her face in his neck, biting lightly at the nape of his neck. He groaned and muttered, “Ladyship, if I didn’t know any better I’d say I’m starting to rub off on you.”

    She gave him a parting nibble and looked up at him, biting her lower lip.

    The innkeeper happened to walk by and glanced at them, entwined in her hallway and barked, “Ten gold pieces for a room you two! I don’t care if you’re the Dragonborn or not, I’ll not be having any funny business in the middle of my hallway.”

    Rona blushed fiercely and apologized. Bishop chuckled and handed the woman a ten piece. The woman pointed to the room and narrowed her eyes at them, “Try not to be loud. The walls are thin.”

    Bishop grasped Rona’s hand dragging her into the room with him and closing the door behind them. She gave him a smirk and said, “I don’t know what we’re doing in here, but it’s definitely not what you think.”

    He growled low and pushed her against a wall, grasping her hands and pulling them up over her head, “Just kissing right? I have plenty of that to give, Milady,” he drew out the word with a mocking tone and kissed her tenderly, playfully, holding her hands at bay. He was being careful not to go too far, only stroking her arms and back, though he was incredibly forceful otherwise. At one point he let her arms go free and grasped her legs, lifting her and forcing her to wrap them around him.

    She gasped under his mouth as she felt his rigid manhood press against her through his clothes, he chuckled and whispered, “Ah, too much Ladyship?”

    “A bit,” she said smiling at him and he set her down. He pulled away from her and laid back on the full sized bed, throwing his hands behind his head.

    “Wow, this bed is tiny! Shall I get the bedroll and sleep on the floor tonight?”

    She rolled her eyes at him, “Keep trying ranger. And yes, you should.”

    “Oh I’m trying Ladyship. What I wouldn’t give to see what’s under all those clothes of yours.”

    She sat down on a chair facing him and said, “So, what do you think of Alec?”

    “Hm? You mean that pompous little jester? Ugh, bards. As if he’d know anything about letting women come for anything. His voice alone is enough to send them running in the opposite direction.”

    “Oh, you’ve got something against bards now do you?” she teased.

    “All of them but you Ladyship. The way you sang back there…you really know how to mesmerize a crowd I’ll tell you that much.”

    “Did I mesmerize you?”

    He looked over at her, dead serious, “You always mesmerize me Rona.”

    Her heart fluttered at the sound of her name. He rarely ever said it considering he had an infinite number of nicknames for her. But she knew when he said it, whatever he was saying, he was being sincere.

    “So you’re going to his little show tonight are you?”

    “And you’re coming with me,” she said adamantly.

    “Oh no I’m not,” he argued, “There’s not enough mead in all of Skyrim to make me even consider going.”

    “Aw” she whined and pouted, “You’ll make me go all alone and leave me with all those people?”

    He rolled his eyes at her, “You’re the Dragonborn, just shout them off if you have to.”

    She got up suddenly and threw her leg over him, straddling his waist.

    “Whoa!” He looked up at her taken aback then smirked and said, “I like this…yeah I’d definitely rather do this.”

    She pressed a finger to his lips to quiet him, “I’ll make you a deal.”

    He gave her a wry look, but kept silent.

    “Come with me to the performance and I won’t make you sleep on the floor tonight.” He licked her finger and she pulled it back shouting, “Eugh!”

    He grabbed her waist and sat upright with her still in his lap. She yelped as he was suddenly inches from her face, “I’ll agree to that deal if you promise not to sleep on the floor instead and no sleeping outside, or renting another room either,” he added quickly and gave her a devilish grin, “We share this bed tonight, just me and you.”

    She pressed her lips together. Damn, he saw that one coming a mile away. Still, it couldn’t hurt to just sleep next to him, she’d done it before.

    He seemed to know what she was thinking and he said, “And no kicking me in the snowberries this time.”

    “Okay. Deal,” she agreed and pulled away from his reluctant grasp.

    “Where are you going now?” he implored.

    She was fixing her dress as she said, “I’m going out to mingle. Want to come with?”

    He groaned and rolled over, “Nah, you go. I’m going to take a nap. Take Karnwyr with

    you and keep him busy for me.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 14

    The Jarl of Windhelm

    Rona bought a slab of raw meat from the innkeeper before leaving and gave it to Karnwyr who stood up and wagged his tail, happy to see her. She knelt down next to the wolf and scratched behind his ears as he tore apart his meal and praised him, “You’re a good boy Karnwyr, I don’t care what Bishop says. You’re definitely more dog than wolf.”

    Once he finished eating she pulled her hood up and clicked her tongue, getting him to follow her. She turned to her right and headed down a corridor leading into a market square and stood out of the way while she watched the city goers bustling about their day, exchanging goods and making conversation. She noticed the nords scowling, scoffing and tutting every time a dunmer passed by, meanwhile the dunmer tried to pretend the nords didn’t exist at all. It was a strange sight to behold. She could never imagine such prejudice taking place in her very mixed hometown back in Cyrodiil.

    Rona decided to take a chance and interact with the people at the stands. The first person she met with was an altmer woman running a general goods shop. The woman looked at her taken aback and said, “Never thought I’d see another altmer around these parts – ah! You must be that Dragonborn girl everyone’s been talking about, well welcome dearie. Please have a look at my wares, I have only the best and the lowest prices too.”

    “Do you mind if I ask how long you’ve been in Windhelm?”

    The high elf flit her long lashes at Rona and said dryly, “Just got here from the Summerset Isles. Lots of opportunity in Skyrim.”

    “Are you treated as poorly as the dunmer?” Rona asked her as she perused some of the items on the counter.

    “It was difficult at first. The nords of this city are, at best, suspicious of outsiders. But in time, I made the right friends and proved myself useful enough that they don’t give me trouble anymore. The dark elves are too proud and naive to understand the way things truly are and so they continue to dwell in that slum.”

    Rona was surprised by her answer. This woman had thick skin and seemed to take things in stride. And despite the way the nords treated the elves she’d worked for and earned their respect. Rona almost felt proud to call her kin until the woman dropped right into the snooty Aldmeri stereotype and simpered, “Well, if you’re not going to buy anything dear would you mind clearing the way for actual patrons? I don’t have all day and a girl’s got to make gold you know.”

    Rona politely thanked her for her time and moved on, rolling her eyes to herself. Kin indeed, she thought. As she wandered around the small marketplace, meeting all kinds of people she learned quickly that being Dragonborn meant people were very comfortable divulging all their personal problems to her. Rona pulled an old journal from her pocket and started taking down names and notes for each person with a problem, hoping she could resolve it for them.

    She really got into the swing of things as she wandered through the city. Every time she stopped to chat with total strangers and took a moment to listen to them, they seemed very appreciative. Though the nords were wary of her initially, thinking she was just another elf, when they realized she was the Dragonborn they opened up right away. They even stopped to pet Karnwyr who was loving the attention.

    As she made her rounds she came down the steps to the slums of the city. They called it the Gray-Quarter because of all the dunmer living there. Rona walked by a sign with the words, New Gnisis Cornerclub, etched into it. She decided to pop in and get a glass of wine, telling Karnwyr to stay outside. As she entered the shabby, low lit tavern the bartender called out with a tone of hostility, “You lost friend?”

    Rona lowered her hood and glanced at him. There were four other patrons inside, three sitting at the bar and a fourth leaning over a table, asleep or passed out drunk with a tipped over mug in his hand. They were all dark-elves.

    The dunmer woman that had been harassed by the nords earlier was sitting at the bar. When she realized it was Rona she hissed, “Hush Ambarys, she’s one of us. That’s the Dragonborn. I told you about her earlier.”

    “Ah, I see. You’re right Suvaris, I could have sworn she was a nord, but there’s no mistaking it now,” Ambarys muttered eyeing Rona’s pointed ears, “Well feel free to take a seat Dragonborn!” He was suddenly much more amiable as Rona joined them. “Luaffyn here told us all about what you did to Rolff over at Candlehearth Hall.”

    He nodded to an orange haired dark elf woman sitting at the bar. She was blushing brightly and trying to hide her face, “Ambarys…”

    “Oh!” Rona recognized her, “You were the one on drums when I sang earlier. Thank you for accompanying my song,” she smiled brightly at the woman.

    “You flatter me Dragonborn, though it’s I who should be thanking you. I’ve never felt more inspired to better my voice than when I heard you sing.”

    “So! What’re you having?” Ambarys interjected, “The drink is on me!”

    Rona smiled hesitantly and said, “That’s quite alright, I can pay you.”

    “Oh come now,” Suvaris said leaning her back against the bar, “You did us all a favor putting that idiot snow-back in his place. I heard your friend nearly choked the life out of him too. Serves him right!”

    Suvaris and Ambarys laughed loudly though Rona looked uneasy and said, “I just didn’t want anyone to get hurt.”

    Suvaris playfully pushed on Rona’s shoulder and said, “Don’t be like that girl. If you knew what he was like you’d laugh too. Tell you what, come back here tonight after midnight and you’ll see exactly what I’m talking about.”

    The third dunmer patron who’d been quiet the entire time finally spoke up and said, “She’s right. These nords treat us like trash and let their filth run down here into the slums so we get to live in it too. Suvaris was saying you wanted to help us? Well you can start helping by giving the nords what they deserve and I say Rolff and Angrenor got exactly what they deserved.”

    “Always worried about the garbage aren’t you Malthyr?” Ambarys chided, “Still the pollution in our part of the city is out of control. Bet they’d shape up with a knife to their throats!”

    “Violence won’t solve this problem,” Rona said firmly.

    Suvaris rolled her eyes, “Well of course we don’t expect you to go about it by – what is it? Screaming people to death, the way Ulfric did with High King Torygg. Still you’d at least have a fighting chance just speaking to the man. All we want is some respect and common courtesy.”

    “And for the nords to quit dumping their trash down here,” grumbled Malthyr.

    “And for more gold to trickle down to fix up our part of Windhelm,” Ambarys added, tapping the bar with a finger, “We pay our fair share in taxes, I’d like to see some of that money come back to us for once.”

    “I just wish Elda would stop taking all my tips,” Luaffyn whispered shyly, “At least Susanna is nice enough to share hers when Elda’s not looking…”

    Rona listened closely to their plight, taking it all in. They were a lively bunch, keeping up high spirits despite the squalor they lived in. She started to realize just how large a rift there was between the dunmer and the nords was and she began to doubt herself.

    Suvaris looked over at her, “So you’ll talk to Ulfric for us? That was your plan from the beginning right?”

    “Yes. I really wanted to see how he runs his hold and it’s quite a lot to take in. The whole city seems to need renovations to be honest,” Rona said downtrodden.

    “Don’t give up on us already,” Malthyr pleaded when he heard her tone of voice, “Please Lady Rona, you’re all we’ve got anymore. Everyone else is too afraid to speak up and even if they did, they wouldn’t listen just cause we’re dark-elves.”

    She met his gaze and gave him half a smile, “I’ll try my best, but I can’t make any promises.”

    Ambarys implored her, “Well if you do ever pick a side in this war, stick with the Imperials will you? If Ulfric gets his way it’ll be over for us,”

    Rona didn’t agree to anything but instead pulled a large coin purse from her pouch. “Take this,” she said handing it over to Ambarys.

    “Wha – whoa,” he opened it, letting the pile of gold slide onto the counter, “Lady Rona, I can’t accept this.”

    “I’m investing in your business,” she said firmly, “I’ve got plenty of gold now that people practically throw it at me and I want to put it to good use. Take it and use it to clean up the place. Invest it in your community.”

    “There’s at least a thousand gold here,” Malthyr stared, bewildered.

    “Lady Dragonborn…I – I don’t know how to thank you,” Ambarys said.

    “Use it to pull yourselves up because the nords won’t help you. When I return and I see it’s been used to build up your part of the city up I’ll invest more.”

    “If Ulfric finds out, he’ll raise the taxes on us to be sure!” Suvaris argued.

    “See to it that he doesn’t find out then,” Rona said.

    She took a bottle of wine and left another twenty gold on the counter and pressed fifty into Luaffyn’s hands to keep as a tip for accompanying her song. She thanked them for their kindness, promised to do what she could to help them and left, Karnwyr following close behind her. The sun was setting and that meant she’d have to attend Alec’s performance soon.

    Rona had one more destination for the day and intended to go alone. She didn’t want Bishop interfering with her talk with Ulfric Stormcloak. She stopped by Candlehearth Hall and made Karnwyr stay there as she left to go to the palace.

    The guards on either side of the door stared at her as she went in but otherwise remained silent.

    The palace was quite large, on par with Dragonsreach in Whiterun, with tall vaulted ceilings and two enormous long tables pressed together and centered down the middle of a long hall. At the end of those tables and further along the hall was a solid stone throne where Ulfric Stormcloak sat, perched at the edge of his seat discussing details about the war with his general.

    “Balgruuf won’t give us a straight answer,” his general grumbled.

    “He’s a true nord. He’ll come around,” Ulfric sounded certain.

    “Don’t be so sure of that. We’ve intercepted couriers from Solitude. The Empire’s putting a great deal of pressure on Whiterun.”

    “And what would you have me do Galmar?”

    “If he’s not with us, he’s against us.”

    Ulfric drawled, “He knows that. They all know that.”

    Rona approached the throne, keeping her hands at her sides where the guards nearby could see. The last thing she wanted was another incident with a Housecarl drawing on her, however the moment he noticed her, Galmar drew his axe and held it at the ready.

    Ulfric stopped mid-sentence and narrowed his eyes at her. He leaned back in his seat and put an elbow on the arm of his throne and addressed her loudly, “Only the foolish or the courageous approach a Jarl without summons and I don’t recall summoning a Thalmor for an audience. In fact I’m rather disappointed that my guards didn’t cut you down where you stood…they should know better.”

    She heard the guards behind her start moving in. Rona gave Ulfric a harsh look and said, “I believe we’ve already met.”

    He took a closer look at her, his eyes scanning her over, “Is that so…?” He seemed to come to a realization and waved off his approaching guards and said, “Ah yes, you were at Helgen. Destined for the chopping block if I’m not mistaken. So what brings you to my hold elf? Come to fight for Skyrim and her people now that you’ve seen the Imperial scum treat even your kind as cattle meant for slaughter?”

    “Considering you just called me Thalmor and elf without even knowing me, I’m going to have to decline,” Rona shot back.

    Ulfric leaned back, resting his head in his hand, and scoffed, “Hah, did I offend you, girl? Wait…” he paused again to look her over thrice more, “You’re the Dragonborn aren’t you? I see it now, the nord in your eyes.”

    She gave him a knowing look.

    He laughed loudly and shook his head, “So you’re the one my guards have all been whispering about. I heard you caused quite a stir in Candlehearth Hall. Best watch where you use your shouts though, I’ll not hesitate to have you arrested if you harm my people.”

    “And by your people you mean the nords?”

    He raised his brows at her comment, “Ah, I see you’ve been talking to the dark-elves.”

    “I’ve been talking to many people,” she confirmed.

    “Hmph, I imagine you have. So what brings you here Dragonborn? If it’s not to join our cause then why do you stand before me?”

    “I wanted to see for myself if you are worthy to be High King of Skyrim. A King should be good to his people, to all of them regardless of their race, so far though you’ve done nothing but disappoint. The way you treat the dunmer and the argonians is deplorable. How could I follow a man who would take one look at me and judge me purely by the shape of my ears or the color of my skin?”

    Ulfric smirked at her, head still in hand, “You are an idealist Dragonborn, living in the fantasies of your own mind. No doubt you were raised in the Empire, am I right?”

    Rona said nothing, though her blink may have given her away.

    “I thought so,” he said so sure of his assumptions, “Skyrim is the realm of the nords, it always has been. We did not ask the dark-elves to come here but when the Red Mountain erupted and they fled their homeland in droves we gave them a nords welcome. We provided them shelter and food, we let them sell their wares and pass through our city. We expected they would move on, but alas they did not. You wonder why they live down there, in the Gray-Quarter, dwelling in the slums, it is because they choose to. They are not forced to stay. And if you were to tell me that I should tear nord families who’ve lived in their homes for generations so that I might give them to the elves, then you are a fool.”

    “I would never ask such a thing,” Rona replied.

    “Then what do you ask of me Dragonborn?”

    “To treat them better, to show them kindness and to put money towards restoring their share of this great city, which they help to preserve,” she implored.

    Ulfric waved a hand, dismissing her, “There is no money in our coffers, not even for our own people while this war wages. You ask too much Dragonborn. Though…if you were to join us, to help take down the Imperial dogs and free our lands I might consider it. What say you?”

    She paused, studying him and treading carefully with her words, “You are right, I was raised in Cyrodiil, but I was born in Skyrim. Ever since I came here I’ve struggled to find my place in this land. I’m half altmer and half a nord and while I’ve faced discrimination from the Thalmor my entire life I was troubled to find that the kin of my other half do the same. Every where I’ve turned I’ve faced needless cruelty and harsh words from the nords who see me as nothing more than an outsider, as though I’m here to persecute them when in fact I only wish to help them. Despite the prejudice I endure every day, I choose to stay here. These lands hold a special place in my heart and I want nothing more than to see peace and prosperity throughout them.”

    Ulfric stood up and approached her, a fire burning in his eyes. He held his hands up and said “You have great passion Dragonborn! You are a true daughter of Skyrim,” he stood before her, towering over her, forcing her to look up to him, “Tell me, who do you fight for?”

    “I fight for Skyrim and her people, all her people,” she stood resolute.

    He grinned down at her and said, “Do you know why I fight?”

    She remained silent, knowing he’d give her the answer in a moment.

    “I fight for the men I’ve held in my arms, dying on foreign soil. I fight for their wives and children whose names I heard whispered in their last breaths. I fight for we few who did come home only to find our country full of strangers wearing familiar faces,” his voice grew louder and more impassioned as he carried on, “I fight for my people impoverished to pay the debts of an Empire too weak to rule them, yet brands them criminals for wanting to rule themselves! I fight so that all the fighting I’ve already done hasn’t been done for nothing. I fight…because Skyrim needs heroes and there’s no one else but us.”

    He stared down at her, a smirk pulling at his lips. She was astounded by the arrogance of this man. He certainly had a way with words; words which he injected a fiery fervor into. She could see how people would be easily duped by his heartfelt monologues. Whether he truly believed in what he was saying or not was another matter in itself.

    Rona might have been a petite woman of four foot, eleven inches, nearly two heads shorter than the large nord looming over her, but her heart burned with an even greater passion than his own, for hers was genuine.

    “I won’t join you.”

    “Tsk…” he threw his head and turned away from her, “Then what good are you? Do you intend to join General Tulius? I dare you to meet with him. See if he won’t tell you why he meant to execute you. I can see you’re no criminal, but you’re certainly no Dragonborn either.”

    She felt her blood boil, a rage burning deep inside her. He was provoking her, purposely, she knew that much. She wanted to shout him to shreds, but held back. Instead she said, “I’ve already been to see the Greybeards and begun my training.”

    He looked back over his shoulder, “Truly. So you’ve met them then? Tell me, how is Arngeir?”

    “Thoroughly disappointed in you,” she lied, seething.

    He laughed, “Ah, of course he would be,” he took his seat upon his throne and looked down at her again, “I was to become a Greybeard myself you know.”

    She didn’t hide her surprise this time.

    He smirked, “You didn’t know? Of course not. Arngeir never told you about me at all, did he? And why would he, I’m sure he hasn’t forgiven me for leaving,” he looked off to the side, as he reminisced, “They chose me when I was just a boy. It was a great honor, of course and so I went and studied with them. They taught me how to shout. I spent nearly ten years there on High Hrothgar learning the Way of the Voice. Then the Great War came…I couldn’t stand missing it. I often think about High Hrothgar. It’s very…disconnected from the troubles down here.”

    Rona felt a strange spark of kinship with him. She absolutely hated living up on that mountain, missing out on the adventure and spirit of the world. She couldn’t bear to imagine what ten years of that would be like.

    He looked back at her, almost brooding in a way. “But that’s why I couldn’t stay and why I couldn’t go back. I suppose the Greybeards care about Skyrim’s troubles in their way, but I needed to do something about it. I’m sure Arngeir would call it one of my failings.”

    “So it’s true what they say. You did shout the High King to death.”

    He chuckled, “That’s not entirely true, though not entirely false either. Any Nord can learn the Way of the Voice by studying with the Greybeards, given enough ambition and dedication. My shouting Torygg to the ground proved he had neither. However it was my sword piercing his heart that killed him. I rarely use my training though. The Greybeards believe the Voice should only be used for worship of Kynareth. I have…fallen from their strict teaching, but I still don’t feel it should be used lightly. Not all of Arngeir’s lecturing was wasted, it seems.”

    “I don’t understand,” she said, feeling more confused than ever about her path, “Why would they teach me to shout if they didn’t want me to use it?”

    “You’re Dragonborn,” Ulfric said simply, as though that were reason enough, “The rules don’t apply to you. You can shout the way dragons do…without training, through inborn instinct. They always hope to teach the Dragonborn to respect the Way of the Voice as they do. They never fully succeed. You’ll have to make your own decision. It’s a beautiful philosophy, but outside the seclusion of High Hrothgar, I was never able to hold to it.”

    Her focus drifted from him as her mind wandered, stirring over this information. Ulfric must have been staring at her for over a minute or so when he finally said, “Well Dragonborn, it seems our meeting must come to an end. I have a performance to attend this evening and important people to meet with.”

    She broke from her reverie and cried, “Ah! The performance!” she turned to race out of the palace then turned back quickly to a very amused Ulfric. She bowed cordially and said, “Thank you, Jarl Ulfric, for speaking with me.”

    As she made to leave again he called out to her, “Wait Dragonborn. I’m afraid I did not get your name before.”

    She turned back and smiled brightly at him, though deep down inside she wanted nothing more than to punch him in his smug face and said, “My name is Rona Lightfoot.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 15

    The Performance

    As Rona left the palace she came outside to an entire crowd of people, royals and nobles abound were in attendance. She carefully made her way through the people waiting to be ushered in. When she got through to Candlehearth Hall she found Bishop sitting on the steps, Karnwyr at his side, watching the procession of people coming through.

    “There you are!” Bishop called as she raced up to him, “Was starting to think you got cold feet.”

    She caught her breath and looked at him confused. He raised his brows and said wryly, “You know, about our little deal? I go with you to the pompous jester’s concert -”

    “And you keep me warm tonight. Yeah I get it,” she said rolling her eyes and crossing her arms.

    “My, my, aren’t we in a mood?” Bishop teased.

    She took a deep breath, “I just…had an awful conversation with an uncouth nord.”

    “Another one huh? Want me to gut him for you Ladyship?”

    She diverted her eyes, “That probably wouldn’t be a good idea…” He looked at her curiously and she changed the subject, “Come on! We don’t want to be late.”

    Bishop told Karnwyr to stay again but the poor wolf wouldn’t listen. Rona ran inside to collect one of their blankets and laid it down outside giving the wolf a place to sleep. He seemed content as they both firmly said, “Stay!”

    They left, making their way to the palace. Thankfully Rona didn’t see Ulfric anywhere in sight as they were ushered inside with the nobles. They passed through the main hall and entered a long corridor leading down into a large theater room with a wide array of first and second floor seating. Both Bishop and Rona garnered strange looks from all of the nobles, especially when they started digging into the free food set aside on either side of the room. A nobleman even walked up to Bishop at one point thinking he was a servant and ordered him to bring him a glass of Firebrand Wine to which Bishop replied, “You think if I had some fucking Firebrand I’d give it to you?”

    The man looked at him astounded that someone so beneath him had just said that to his face and he screeched, “I demand to speak to your superior!”

    Bishop told him to go stuff it in his stupid hat and walked away leaving the nobleman fuming and huffing, “Well I never!

    Rona snickered over her piece of snowberry crostata and Bishop came up to her thumbing back, “Can you believe that guy?”

    She swallowed her mouthful of pastry, still giggling and said, “He thought you were a servant.”

    “Yeah I know, I just like messing with these freaks. I mean, just look at them!” he shouted and motioned a hand at them all, drawing the attention of a few royals nearby. Bishop was not afraid to give any of them a piece of his mind either as he started pointing directly at each one and said, “Stupid hat, stupid beard, stupid eyeglass…ugh, just look at that guy, nice moustache buddy and what’s with all the tights? I’ve never seen so many men wearing tights!”

    Rona was bent over stifling her belly laughs. Bishop smiled broadly, pleased he amused her so much. He pointed out a very rotund and very drunk nobleman who was flirting with a much older lady, her chest prominently displayed in her low cut dress, “I like him. He gave me a couple of Black Briar Reserves, do you know how much these cost? Hundred gold a piece!” he handed one to Rona, “Oh and he gave me a bottle of Colovian Brandy, I know you’re a fan of wine but you’ve got to try some of this.”

    Rona smirked at him suspiciously, “You’re trying to get me drunk aren’t you?”

    “What? Nooo… Why would I ever do that?” He grinned back.

    She nudged him in the ribs as he threw an arm over her shoulders, pulling her closer. Alec popped up in the crowd and cried, “Lady Rona! Ah there you are Milady!” He came right over to them and stopped abruptly staring up at Bishop with a look of disgust tracing over his face. He slowly turned to Rona and said, “Good evening my muse.”

    Rona was smiling as she said, “Good evening, I’d like to introduce you to my traveling companion, Bishop.”

    “A savage? In Windhelm? Are you sane Dragonborn?”

    She was stunned by his reply. “Well that was rude.”

    He blushed lightly, realizing his mistake and said, “I’m sorry to have offended you my lady, I just don’t trust you with a…man like that.”

    “Oh, but she should trust a man in tights?” Bishop growled, “No, you know what? I don’t need to defend myself to,” he looked Alec up and down and with a sneer said, “this.

    Bishop wandered off, calling out to the drunk nobleman, “Hey! Reginald! Any luck with your lady friend?” Rona heard a faint, “Damn right she let you touch ’em!” and a hearty laughter as he disappeared into the crowd.

    Alec, who’d also watched Bishop leave, turned back to her looking distressed and she said, “You shouldn’t judge before you know him!”

    He gave off an air of superiority as he said, “And there is the compassion I have heard so much about. How very considerate of you. But I’m not sure if he should be here.”

    “I’m sorry you feel that way Alec, but if Bishop isn’t welcome then I’ll leave with him.”

    He caved, “For you my muse, I would do anything. I don’t suppose there’s anything I can say to change your mind?”

    She smirked at him and shook her head slowly.

    “Very well, if that is what you wish your,” he cleared his throat, “friend… may stay. I will arrange to have a seat placed next to yours.” He clapped his hands, calling a servant over and instructed her to place another chair beside the Dragonborn’s seat.

    “Where exactly am I sitting?” Rona asked him.

    “I’ve given you the best seat in the house, right up in front of the stage,” he pointed to a single, tall backed chair centered at the end of the aisle. Rona’s mouth dropped. She was meant to be seated all alone in front of everyone? Where they could all stare at her back the whole time?

    Alec smiled at her, seemingly proud of himself, “Milady, please enjoy yourself. The performance will start soon. Oh and can you believe it? Jarl Ulfric is in attendance as well,” he pointed up at one of the theater boxes on the second floor where Ulfric was seated, chatting with his steward and staring right at her, a faint smile perking at his lips when she noticed him. Rona felt her cheeks burning and put a hand to her head, turning her face down so he wouldn’t see her blushing.

    “Well I’ve got to finish getting ready! I’ll be looking to you for inspiration my muse,” Alec kissed her hand and waded through the crowd as several young noblewomen and even a few older ladies scurried after him.

    Rona wandered over to the wall nearest Ulfric’s theater box so that he couldn’t see her from his angle. Bishop found her and said, “Is the tart gone?”

    She looked up at him, “Tart?”

    “You heard me.”

    “He’s gone, for now,” she said.

    “Right, I forgot, he’s the star of this show. I don’t mind sleeping on the floor if you want to back out now Ladyship,” Bishop urged her.

    She was seriously considering it. Between sitting directly front and center to a bunch of royals and to have the Jarl of Windhelm staring down at the top of her head all night she wanted nothing more than to run away screaming. Still, she wasn’t about to show fear or weakness to Ulfric, not after he’d told her she was no Dragonborn.

    She smiled at Bishop and said, “No, let’s stay.”

    He rolled his eyes and sighed, “Alright, if you insist. Where do you want to sit?”

    She pointed ahead, through the clearing crowd. Bishop looked at the two chairs stationed right in front of the stage.

    “No,” he gaped.

    “Yup,” she said and grasped his hand pulling him forward. They awkwardly took their seats and Bishop gave her a side eye glance that said, why are you doing this to me?

    The ushers encouraged people to take their seats as the performance began. Alec stepped forward on stage, lute in hand and greeted them all with confidence, “Good evening Windhelm! May I thank you all for venturing out on this cold, wintry night to witness the One, the Great, Alec, the Prince of Song!”

    Rona thought he was quite bold to even be there, an Imperial directly under the eye of Ulfric Stormcloak, though she could understand why Ulfric would never see this man as a threat. Bishop was completely right about everything. Alec was most certainly a weak, simpering bard, performing solely for the wiles of women and his own fame.

    Rona cringed hard as Alec tried and miserably failed to garner favor with her. He waved a hand out to her, giving her a sultry look and said, “I wish to dedicate tonight’s performance to someone very special to me. She is the most inspiring, beautiful woman I have ever met, and I have a song in my heart I must sing for her.”

    The audience applauded and he pulled his lute to his chest and began to sing surprisingly well. She noticed Bishop leaning forward in his chair, scowling at the ground, doing his best to behave, which she appreciated more than ever now.

    Alec’s performance went on for nearly an hour, a combination of him singing solo and with other female backup singers. He even put on a grand finale where several people acted out the scene of Ulfric Stormcloak shouting High King Torygg to death while he sang a magnificent rendition of Age of Oppression. The whole thing was quite impressive and even Bishop perked up near the end of it, though he might have just been glad that it was nearly over and eager to leave.

    As Alec finished, everyone in the crowd roared with cheers and whistles. He looked out over the crowd and thanked Ulfric, ‘the Dragonborn’ and everyone else for attending the performance. As Bishop and Rona stood to leave they heard Ulfric shout down from the stands.

    “If I might have everyone’s attention please!”

    The theater goers all stopped and looked up at the Jarl. He said, “I want to personally thank you all for coming,” he looked over the crowd and locked eyes with Rona, “and for you Dragonborn Rona, I can’t thank you enough for taking such an interest in our fair city. Though I have one request.”

    She glared at him, her heart pounding in her chest.

    “I would be honored if you would let us taste of your voice, as the Greybeards might say. Would you be willing to perform for us, to share one of your songs of power? Unless of course…you’re afraid?”

    She felt everyone’s eyes crawling all over her then. Bishop looked between her and the Jarl before he muttered, “No…did you talk to…you didn’t -”

    “The honor would be mine,” she said loudly and forcefully enough for everyone to hear. She whisked by Alec, who stood by the stage looking more confounded than ever. She took center stage and looked out over the crowd and felt a chill run up her spine and a sense of nausea taking over. She inhaled deeply to combat it and looked away from the crowd, focusing on Bishop. He looked back with a mixture of concern and anger etched into his face. He couldn’t even try to hide if he wanted to.

    Rona wanted to summon forth something commanding and when she looked at him all she felt were sweet songs of love. No. She needed something truly powerful so she turned her gaze to Ulfric and felt her anger mounting as she looked into his conceited face.

    “Well Dragonborn? You can’t keep us waiting here forever,” Ulfric needled her.

    There was a song just for him twisting in her throat, desperately seeking it’s escape. She needed no instruments to summon forth the music that poured into the theater. The crowd looked around, confused as to where it was coming from, especially as it grew louder and a choir started chanting loudly all around them.

    Rona parted her lips and sang keeping her eyes trained on Ulfric. This song was for him and him alone.

    (The song is Deceiver of Fools by Within Temptation)

    “He feeds on fear
    He feeds on pain
    He rules again
    With growing hate 
    He will gain their faith again
    A light in the darkness is too small to see
    There’s always a sparkle of hope
    If you just believe”

    The strings sawed quickly as the music picked up, drums banging and trumpets roaring around the crowd. Rona felt her fury mounting and placed her wrath into the words.

    “He told the tale so many times 
    About the dream not meant to be
    In the world of the free
    He plays with your mind
    As faith for the future faded fast
    He grows strong with their displeasure
    It sets him free

    Deceiver of hearts
    Deceiver of fools
    He rules with fear
    Deceiver of hearts
    Deceiver of fools
    He rules again

    He feeds on fear
    Poisons the truth
    To gain their faith
    To lead the way 
    To a world of decay

    He rules your heart
    He will sell your soul to the grave
    Without a hesitation to make
    He belongs to the dark

    [Chorus]

    Please awake
    And see the truth
    He can only be 
    If you believe what he tells you
    Remember who you are
    What you stand for
    And there will always be a way

    [Chorus]

    In my heart there is a place
    In my heart there is a trace
    Of a small fire burning
    A sheltering ray shines through this night
    Although it’s small, it’s bright
    But darkness is lurking
    He will sell your soul to bitterness and cold
    All fear him

    Deceiver of hearts
    Deceiver of fools
    He rules with fear
    Deceiver of hearts
    Deceiver of fools
    Shall he rule again?”

    As she sang the ghosts of the past drifted in with a dark fog. They joined her on stage, first appearing quite ethereal before solidifying beside her. Dragonborn women of all kinds sang with her and images of the past reflected in the echoes of their thu’um. Glorious battles and raging wars. Rona felt everything, their anguish, their sorrow, their pain. The wars raged in her very soul as she shattered glass with her voice.

    And as the music faded so too did the spirits around her. Rona breathed heavily as the fog lifted. Some in the crowd had disappeared, perhaps fleeing in fear, but there were many others who’d wandered in from outside and all of the guard stood by, weapons at the ready, as though she were about to attack them. Bishop had his own dagger in hand, ready to go down with a fight.

    However their attention was drawn suddenly to a wispy woman seated at the edge of the stage. She had flowing, fiery red hair and pale, white skin and wore a bright green tunic, over a pair of light brown trousers, fitted tightly to her form. She played a melodic tune on her lute and sang with melancholy in her voice as white flames burned around her body.

    (The song is The Dragonborn Comes by Malukah)

    “Our Hero, our Hero, claims a warrior’s heart

    I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes

    With a Voice wielding power of the ancient nords arts

    Believe, believe, the Dragonborn comes

    It’s an end to the evil of all Skyrim’s foes

    Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes

    For the darkness has passed, and the legend yet grows

    You’ll know, you’ll know, the Dragonborn’s come

    Dovahkiin, Dovakhiin

    Naal ok zin losvahriin

    Wahdeinvokulmakfaeraakahstvaal

    Ahrk fin norokpaalgraan

    Fodnust hon zindrozaan

    Dovahkiin, fah hinkogaan mu draal.”

    When the woman finished she stood up and turned to Rona, revealing her breathtaking beauty. She had bright green eyes, full red lips and long, dark lashes. Rona knew in her heart that this was Eira the White. She’d summoned the woman here with the power of her voice and she was almost real enough to touch. Eira took a step towards Rona and put a hand on her shoulder. And with a warm smile she pressed her lips to Rona’s forehead, kissing her and vanishing in a spiral of soft, white flames.

    Rona swallowed hard, unsure what to make of what just happened. She looked up at Ulfric whose smile had been wiped completely from his face. He stood up from his seat and Rona prepared herself to shout down his army when, to her astonishment he started to clap loudly. Soon everyone joined in, cheering and clapping for her.

    He said loudly, “Thank you Dragonborn, for that bold performance.”

    When it was over and the people started to leave Bishop came right up to her, furious, “You fucking talked to him? Without me!?”

    “I didn’t want you to interfere,” she admitted.

    He put a hand to his head in frustration, “Ladyship…I…I don’t even know what to say right now.” He grumbled to himself, clearly trying to hold back his anger.

    Alec came up to her and said, “Lady Dragonborn…that was…”

    Rona apologized, “I’m so sorry Alec, I didn’t mean to…do…all…that.

    “But it was amazing,” he said, actually sounding genuine for the first time. “I’m starting to question just what I’m doing as a bard,” he stammered, trying to find the words, “I mean, you…you’re song, it painted – literally painted – scenes of history for us,” he paused thinking hard, “I think I may return to the Bard’s College in Solitude. I too once sang for the sake of reciting great epics for people. Now I just…I really need to think about what I’m doing with my life,” he grasped her hand and said, “Thank you milady, you’ve shown me great things today. I wish you well on your journey, may we meet again someday Dragonborn!”

    He kissed her hand and bowed deeply, retreating behind the stage. Bishop had already started to walk away and Rona let him go giving him a chance to cool off. As she approached the exit Ulfric stopped her in the hall, “Dragonborn…Lady Rona. If I might have a word.”

    She took a breath and turned towards him, “Yes…my Jarl?”

    He smirked at her, “I must admit I’m impressed. Your choice of song was quite brave to say the least, proving you’re as fearless as you make yourself out to be. I wanted to tell you I was wrong. You are indeed Dragonborn and more – a true daughter of Skyrim, I’m certain of that now. And to be blessed by the presence of Eira, Maiden of Dragon Flame…you are peerless. I look forward to your return when General Tulius fails to meet your expectations or give you the answers you seek. Talos guide you Dragonborn Rona.”

    He grasped her shoulder, nodded and left with his steward.

    ~~~

    Rona had to wade her way through a crowd of noblemen and noblewomen after they stopped her repeatedly to shake her hand, greet her and express their love of her voice. She was short with quite a few of them, feigning fatigue just to get away and find Bishop who’d disappeared. When she finally escaped the palace she found him again on the steps to Candlehearth Hall, petting his sleepy wolf.

    She sat down beside him and sighed, “Okay, go ahead. Let me have it.”

    He glanced over at her and said, “I’m not going to yell at you. You’re an adult, you can do whatever you like.”

    “That’s it?” she said leaning over to look up into his face.

    He met her gaze and said, “That’s it Ladyship.”

    Trying to cheer him up she leaned back yawning and said, “I’m pretty tired. Ready to lie down?”

    He looked over at her with half lidded eyes. Though instead of showing an eagerness to crawl in bed together and make good on their deal he said, “I don’t want to share a bed with you if you’re just doing it because we agreed to. I don’t want to make you do anything you don’t want to.”

    She was speechless.

    Bishop stood up, shaking Karnwyr’s hair from his hand. Rona got up to match his height.

    He crossed his arms, looked down at her and said, “I’m not going to sit here and play your games, Rona. You’ve seen the way I look at you and what’s more I’ve seen you steal glances at me. I’ve felt the way you pull against me when we kiss and you…well you’ve felt me. You can’t lie to yourself and neither can I.”

    “I take it you don’t like this game since you keep losing so badly at it?” she replied playfully.

    He chuckled, “You are funny. And despite, or perhaps, because of your sharp tongue I find you incredibly irresistible.”

    She smiled, “I know I am.”

    He growled, backing her against a wall to the inn, “Mmm…I really do want to see what’s under that dress of yours. What sweet, tempting surprises you hold,” he pressed a hand to the wall by her head and leaned in, “I want to rip it off of you. Has anyone else wanted to do that to you, sweet lady?”

    Her heart fluttered madly in her chest at his words. She hesitated, “Bishop I…”

    “Alright enough toying around,” he grasped her by the waist and kissed her with incredible eagerness and when he pulled back he took a breath and cried, “I want to claim you as my own! I want you to be mine and mine alone! If I see someone else so much as looks at you wrong!”

    Her lower lip trembled as she stared up into his amber eyes which burned with desire. She breathed, “I – I…I can’t!” and pulled away from his grasp racing down the steps towards the main gates.

    “WHY!? What are you so afraid of Rona?” he shouted at her.

    She stopped, tears swimming in her eyes and she turned around and screamed at him, “I’m afraid you’ll leave!” She ran out the gates, tears spilling over her cheeks that she didn’t want him to see. Rona turned at the path and ran down a slope towards the lake, slipping on the ice and catching herself before she fell in. She sat down in the snow, pulling her knees up to her face and cried, pathetically like a child.

    Bishop’s boots crunched in the snow behind her and he said, “The only one I see leaving is you.” He sat down beside her and groaned, cringing at her, “Oh, Ladyship, not the waterworks, please.”

    She sniffled, rubbing her eyes with the palms of her hands and looked over at him. Words failed her in this moment, there was so much she wanted to say and yet if she did she was terrified he’d leave.

    He sighed heavily and gave her a feeble smile, “You really are pitiful sometimes. You can slay dragons and summon ghosts with the power of your voice, but when it comes to me you just crumble?” She stayed silent, holding back everything. “So you’re afraid that I’ll conquer you and leave, is that it? After all the time we’ve spent together you think I’d do that to you?”

    Her lips parted, trembling still, she let go, unleashing the floodgates of all her fears and worries to the man she put all her trust in, “I can’t do this alone Bishop. I’m realizing that more and more now. I talked to so many people today. The nords, the dunmer, the argonians. They all confided in me just because I’m the Dragonborn. I promised to help them, I want to help them. And I thought – no – I honestly believed that I could,” she laughed through a sob, letting her legs go and sat upright, “I’m the Dragonborn! I should have some pull, right? People will listen to me. How could I be so stupid!” she hit the ground with a fist.

    She stared out at the water as stray tears traced her cheeks. “I went to Ulfric Stormcloak and I pled the plight of the dunmer. I asked him to change things and you know what he did?” She turned and looked straight into Bishop’s eyes as he listened closely. “He spat in my face. You were right Bishop. You were right about everything. He just wants to use me. He doesn’t care about anyone else.”

    Bishop sighed, folding his arms together, clearly not knowing what to say or like her not wanting to say the wrong thing.

    Rona wiped at the tears clinging to her lashes and said, “I was so sure of myself when we left High Hrothgar. I was confident and ready to take on the world. But now, I just feel naive and helpless to do anything for anyone. You’re my voice of reason, you’re always right about everything. I’m too trusting, too hopeful, I need you to tell me when I’m being stupid.”

    He touched her hand, grasping it and moved closer to her, “Don’t ever let that light of yours burn out. You’re a beacon of hope for a lot of people and sure, I think you’re wasting your time with them…but if I ever see you become like me, cynical… distrusting… I’d hate myself for it. Your upbeat optimism, it’s one of the best things about you.”

    She smiled at him, a stray tear drifting from her eye. He cupped her head in his hand and wiped the tear away, drawing closer to her. “You’re waiting for love. I know that. I can’t say…I feel that yet. It’s hard enough for me to trust someone but to love a woman? I don’t think I’ve ever,” he hesitated pulling back and crossing his arms, “I like you,” he cleared his throat, “A lot… What I’m saying is, I keep wondering if you feel the same about me. I mean sure, it seems like you do, considering how…excited you get sometimes, but…am I just wasting my time here?”

    “No,” she said quickly, “You’re not. I…like you too Bishop. I enjoy being around you. You make me laugh and you make me feel…wanted,” she blushed, “I think I’m falling for you – and that scares me.”

    He gave her a wry smile, “You’re falling for me, huh? What’s there to be scared of then Ladyship? I won’t deny it anymore. I want you, I want you more than I’ve ever wanted anyone and I’ve never in my life waited this long for a woman. So I have to ask, do you want me the same way I want you?”

    Her face burned brightly, “Yes…I want you. I want to…”

    Bishop grasped her, by the waist then, pulling her up with him as he stood and held her body close to his, his face inches from hers. She looked up into his eyes and waited, but it seemed he wanted her to make the first move so she threw her arms around his shoulders, pulling herself up and entwined her lips with his. He met her kiss with deep intensity. They kissed under the moonlight as snow drifted slowly down. She shivered in his arms and he whispered, “Let’s get some sleep, hm? You’ve had a long day.”

    She nodded and they walked back to the inn together. They passed by a snoozing Karnwyr and Bishop nudged the wolf with his foot. “C’mere boy,” he muttered. Karnwyr got up, yawning and stretching and slowly followed them into the busy inn. Some of the nobles from the theater were there, drinking and being all around noisy. Rona pulled her hood around her face, not wanting to be stopped and bothered by them as she followed Bishop to their room.

    It was all too easy to sneak the wolf by when the innkeeper was busy serving food and drinks to her bustling customers. Bishop shut the doors behind them locking them. He kicked his boots off and undid his shirt laying it over a chair. He threw an old blanket on the floor for Karnwyr to curl up on and then he fell into the bed face first and rolled over on his side.

    Rona wasn’t sure what to expect. She really did not want to lose her virginity in that dirty, noisy place so she took her boots and cloak off and left her dress firmly buttoned to her body. Bishop made room for her on the bed and she laid down next to him. Both were on their sides, facing one another. Bishop touched her face and ran his fingers through her hair. He had a soft expression as he looked into her eyes.

    She reached out for him, running her fingers over his stubble and tracing the scar on his cheek. Finally she whispered, “I can’t…not here. Not in this place.”

    “I know.”

    He always knew. It was like he could sense everything about her, reading her mind. He was so wise for someone so young, she knew, most likely due to his haunted past. She wished so much that he would talk to her about it, that he would at least tell her more about himself.

    But before she could ask him the burning questions he beat her to the punch. He pushed himself up slightly, his head resting in his hand and said, “Can I ask you something Ladyship?”

    “What would you like to know,” she smiled.

    “How is it that this lovely maiden, who has men literally throwing themselves at her feet, still a virgin? You waiting for marriage?”

    “No, not marriage,” she confessed, “I don’t know. It just never happened.”

    He raised his brows. “Surely not because men have ignored you.”

    She rolled her eyes and said derisively, “No…I’ve had plenty of suitors. I’ve even kissed before.”

    He shot her a look, “Kissed like we have?”

    She blushed, “Not quite like that.”

    He shook his head slowly, “I just can’t believe you’ve never had sex.”

    She looked away and said, “Well I almost did…once.”

    “Almost, huh? So what happened? What, did your suitor get cold feet?”

    She looked solemn. “He did actually.”

    Bishop’s mouth dropped and he sat up. “You’re kidding.”

    She sighed, reaching for a blanket as she felt a chill and pushed herself up on the bed, wrapping herself in it. “He was never really a suitor but we spent a lot of time together in the Guild and I grew fond of him. He was very kind, very…formal and a bit reserved. We fought in plenty of battles together for a long time. I actually trained him in healing and he helped me train my swordsmanship. I thought he cared for me but…”

    “He fancied men, didn’t he?” Bishop guessed.

    Rona laughed and shook her head fiercely, “No! No…nothing like that. He left the Guild to become a paladin. His vows precluded him from enjoying worldly pleasures, which just so happened to include intimacy with women.”

    Bishop stared at her, his face suddenly harsh and grim.

    “You’re not upset about that are you?”

    He seemed to snap out of it and said, “What? No…of course not.” Bishop changed the subject abruptly when he said, “I wish you hadn’t sang that song.”

    “What?” she said confused.

    “At the theater. You played right into Ulfric’s hand. He wanted to know how powerful you really were,” he chided her, “You shouldn’t have done it.”

    She looked down at the bed and said, “I know…it’s just I couldn’t let him think I was weak. I guess…the dragon in me just took over.”

    “And nearly got the two of us killed,” he frowned.

    She grit her teeth and grabbed a pillow, “I know! But I just hate his stupid, smug face! I want to punch it!” she pounded her fist into the pillow several times.

    Bishop laughed, “Wow, he really got under your skin didn’t he?”

    She smirked at him and fell back down on the bed, laying her head on the pillow. “A bit, yeah.”

    Bishop laid down next to her, wrapping an arm over her back and pulling her close. He yawned and said, “Next time you go see him, I’ll punch him in his stupid, smug face for you.”

    She appreciated the sentiment, kissed him on the cheek and closed her eyes to drift off into a deep sleep.

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 16

    A Difficult Past

     

    The minute morning came Rona was already up milling about their room getting dressed. She sat down at the desk and pulled her journal full of notes out then leaned back and dug through one of Bishop’s shirt pockets searching for the map. She pulled it out noisily and spread it across the desk.

    Bishop stirred and sat up rubbing his eyes and yawning, “Ugh, is it morning already? What are you doing?”

    “We’ve got a busy day ahead of us and I want to get moving as soon as possible,” she said.

    “We’re just going to Whiterun,” he groaned, “We’ve got plenty of time to get there, what’s the rush?”

    She looked over at him and said, “We can’t leave Eastmarch yet, we still have a lot to do.”

    He leaned back on the bed and threw her a stern look, “What the hell are you talking about woman?”

    “I already told you, I met a lot of people yesterday and listened to their problems.”

    He looked at her with heavily lidded eyes and said, “And?”

    Rona spoke quickly, listing off everything all at once, “So we have a lot of places to go! There’s something called the White Phial we’re going to search for, I told the local alchemist I’d find it, he’s really ill otherwise he’d do it himself. I need to see if anyone has an Amulet of Arkay too, I told a nice old man I’d bring him one for his wife, they’re mourning their daughter – she was murdered by The Butcher last month – speaking of I want to talk to the guards about that, see if we can’t help out somehow to solve it. Oh! We also need to kill off a bandit leader that’s been causing problems for the locals and someone mentioned that there was a dragon sighted nearby Shearpoint Mountain…”

    She rambled on and on and Bishop just stared at her open-mouthed, the scowl growing fiercer on his face by the second. At one point he finally threw a hand up and said, “SLOW DOWN! First of all, when did you decide all of this? And second, what makes you think I’m going to come along and do any of this?”

    She was focused on marking the map and determining the best route to take for each task as she said, “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to. You can stay here, I can handle most of these tasks myself, although I wouldn’t mind your help with the dragon.”

    His eye twitched slightly and he leaned forward, rubbing his forehead in his hands as he groaned, “Okay…fine. I’ll go. But what’s in it for us? What do we get for doing all this?”

    She was busy drawing out a smaller map of Eastmarch in her journal and tracing out their route when she stopped a moment to look over at him and grinned, “Gold of course! That and the personal satisfaction of doing a good deed for someone else!”

    He looked entirely apathetic, “What do you care about finding someone’s long lost spoon or their gran’s old hat? Why are we even helping these people?”

    “It’s called compassion Bishop, you should try it sometime,” she said as she finished the final details on her map. She snapped up her journal, folded the map and got up from her seat, grabbing Bishop’s shirt and tossing it to him. “Better hurry up,” she said, “We’ve got a busy week ahead of us and I want to get started as soon as possible!”

    ~~~

    They started their journey in the south of Eastmarch, around the badlands and hot springs. Rona insisted they trek through every cave, ruin and climb every mountain to not only complete their given tasks but to simply explore. She was not far off on this either as she found several Word Walls hidden deep inside the caves and ruins. They faced off against their fair share of dragons as well.

    Each battle took its toll on them, but with each new Word of Power learned she was that much stronger. She was finally able to complete her knowledge of Frost Breath which really came in handy when combating dragons that had breaths of flame.

    She was starting to worry about Bishop though, who, despite keeping up with her physically, was mildly injured numerous times. She’d heal him up right and apologize profusely, though he’d say nothing at the time, later he’d remark about how much trouble she was for always dragging him around dangerous Dwemer ruins and deep into dark caves.

    His lewd remarks were becoming more aggressive as well, taking every chance he got to comment on the gait of her swaying hips and her sweet ass in front of him. She took it in stride however, knowing it was just his way of easing his sexual frustration. Soon, she thought after a particularly passionate kiss from Bishop. He’d cornered her after they cleared out a cave and pulled her into his arms, kissing her with such ferocity that his facial stubble rubbed her raw. Perhaps he was taking his reward for putting up with all the danger she’d put him in. She didn’t mind it, in fact she was becoming entirely too eager as well.

    One day, as they made their way back to Windhelm, they noticed the khajiit caravans passing through and Rona insisted they stop to replenish their potion stock. She was met with great hospitality from Ahkari and her companions. Rona was pleased to see little Nakir getting along fine, happy as could be. The boy shyly thanked her for saving him and then immediately asked if he could pet her dog. She smiled brightly at him and let him pat Karnwyr’s back. The wolf was as amiable as ever and licked Nakir’s face. Even Bishop smiled slightly watching the two interact and Rona left him in charge of supervising them while she stepped over to look at Ahkari’s wares.

    “Greetings Lady Dragonborn,” Ahkari smiled at her, displaying her pointed teeth, “What can Ahkari do for you today?”

    “I need to replenish my stores of healing and stamina potions. I think I’ll take a few for magic as well, just to be safe,” Rona said, handing her a list.

    “Staying busy I see,” Ahkari said as she perused the list and began gathering the items from their wagon. She wrapped up a bundle of potions for her while conversing lightly, “I’ve heard you took down quite a few dragons in the region. We appreciate that, it makes traveling between the cities much safer for us.”

    “I’m glad,” Rona said, pleased to hear it but her mind was elsewhere, “By the way…”

    “Hm? What is it?” Ahkari noticed the young woman blushing and brought her voice down an octave, “Go on dear, is there something else you need?”

    Rona took a breath and said in hushed tones, “Do you have any…contraceptive tonics?”

    Ahkari glanced over at Bishop who’d sat down on a rock and was showing little Nakir his knife and telling him a story about one of their recent adventures. The khajiit boy was enthralled as he stared at the silver dagger, still gently patting Karnwyr on the back with a paw.

    A broad grin sprawled across Ahkari’s lips only making Rona blush even harder. “Your companion…he is very handsome for a nord. Let me see what I can get you,” Ahkari climbed into the wagon and dug through a chest, tossing jewelry, trinkets and other assorted items aside when finally she pulled out three tiny crystal bottles and came back over laying them out for Rona, “Ever used anything like this before?”

    Rona averted her gaze as she said, “Um…no. How do they work?”

    Ahkari explained as matter-of-factly as possible, trying to keep the poor Dragonborn from burning up in flames of embarrassment, “You only need one a month. It works through a full three weeks of your cycle until your next menses. Once your menses has finished you drink another to start again. But you must stay on top of it, as soon as your bleeding ends you must take another. Any more or any less makes it ineffective.”

    “How effective is it? Is there any chance…?”

    “The chances are very low. Be sure to start it after your next menses. It must be at the beginning of your cycle. Give it a day for your body to adjust. You should be fine after that.”

    Rona paid the woman and quickly stuffed the three bottles into her pouch. Her next period wasn’t due for another week so she’d have to wait. Ahkari finished wrapping up the other potions and Rona thanked her. The khajiit woman gave her a wry smile, “Enjoy yourself Dragonborn! You certainly deserve it after all you’ve done for Skyrim.”

    As Rona walked back over to their horses and started organizing the potions into their saddle bags she noticed Bishop getting quite excited telling his story to Nakir. He dipped an arm through the air and said, “Shoulda seen it! That overgrown lizard came sailing right down at us breathing wave after wave of fire, but Ladyshi- er, the Dragonborn, she breathed right back at it with freezing blasts of ice! She froze over the dragon’s snout and as it came swooping down she used her magic to lift herself off the ground and landed right on its face, stabbing the vicious thing right in the eyes!”

    Nakir’s eyes were lit up in wonder, “What did you do Bishop!?”

    “Well naturally I ran along and started picking it off with my bow as it flew off into the sky with her,” he pulled his bow out, showing the boy and nocked an arrow to it, just to demonstrate, “I couldn’t let the dragon make off with the lovely Dragonborn and so I punctured it’s wings with arrows. It couldn’t stay up anymore and crashed down to the ground, face first into the mountainside!”

    “But – what about the Dragonborn!? Was she okay?”

    “She leapt off it’s back before it crashed and I saw her, falling to the ground so fast she would’ve splattered all over it – so I ran over and caught her right out of the sky saving her!”

    “Wow! That’s amazing! I wish I was as brave as you…”

    Rona was surprised by how well he was getting along with the boy. He actually seemed to be enjoying himself. Bishop even pulled out a small memento from his pocket and said, “Here, it’s a scale from the dragon. I was going to give it to the Lady Lightfoot, but I think it suits you better.”

    He draped a thin string with a large dragon scale and some beads on it over the boy’s head. Nakir was completely dazzled by it, sporting the widest grin any little boy could.

    “Thanks!”

    Bishop stood up and pat the boy on the shoulder and said, “Take good care of it kid. We’ll see you around sometime, I’ll have another story for you then.”

    Nakir shouted, “Bye!” and ran off towards his mother.

    Bishop came over and mounted Whiskey while Rona pulled herself up on Karinda. They were only a few paces away from the caravan when Rona said, “You saved me from splattering all over the ground, huh?”

    He laughed and said, “Well, it sounds better than you saving my ass all the time. Besides, you always get to be the hero, I’d like to be the heroic one for a change.”

    She smirked and asked him, “What was that necklace you gave him?”

    “Ah that. Well I was trying to collect dragon scales to make a necklace for you but those dragons burn up so quick that I’d only gotten one so far. I sort of gave up on the thing, figured he’d like it.”

    “That was really sweet of you.”

    Bishop smirked, “Yeah well, he’s a good kid. He reminds me of…someone I knew a long time ago.”

    “Ah yes,” Rona said sarcastically, “Vague allusions to your past. Hmm.”

    He frowned at her, “What? That’s not good enough?”

    “I just wish you’d tell me more,” she said plainly, “You pretty much know my life story, but you? You’re still a complete mystery to me.”

    He sighed, “It’s…hard to talk about. Not worth remembering.”

    “But it’s part of who you are Bishop, it’s made you who you are today. I know… I can tell, there was a lot of abuse in your past. I’ve seen it before, I’ve had friends just like you, who couldn’t and wouldn’t talk about it.”

    “Then you know exactly why I don’t want to speak of it,” he growled.

    “And how do you expect me to sleep with someone who won’t even share the most intimate parts of his life with me?” she shot back meeting his gaze.

    A mixture of anger, pain and fear played on his face. Fear, this was an emotion she rarely ever saw from him. Was Bishop afraid that something in his past would chase her away? He suddenly pulled Whiskey away from the path and wandered off towards the hot springs. Rona halted Karinda and watched him. He didn’t go far, just away enough to be out of obvious sight of the road and he started unpacking their camping supplies and putting up the tent.

    Rona rolled her eyes, it was still the middle of the day with plenty of time to make it back to Windhelm, yet here he was putting up camp. She navigated her horse over to him and leapt down to help him build a camp in silence.

    When they’d finished setting up Bishop said he was going hunting for a while and to wait for him there.

    “I can go with you,” she said.

    “NO,” he said firmly, “I need to be alone for a while. Just…stay put, I’ll be back with dinner in no time.”

    She watched him leave and disappear off in the distance. An hour passed before she was completely bored out of her mind and decided to go bathe in the hot springs while they were there. The nearest one wasn’t too far off so she scrawled a quick note telling him she’d be back soon in case he returned. Since he wasn’t around she decided to strip naked and wash her dress, underwear and herself properly for once. The warm water was so soothing and relaxing that she nearly nodded off a few times. Dusk drew over the plains as the sun dipped under the mountains to the west.

    Rona was hovering a pruned hand over the surface of the bubbling water and thinking deeply. Bishop went off alone and was being his usual gruff self at the time. He was either busy ‘polishing his dagger’ which is why he insisted on going alone or he was thinking over whether or not to finally start telling her more about himself. She sort of hoped it was both because she was going to have to wait at least two weeks before she could even consider giving him what he desired most from her and she really wanted to know more about the man she intended to sleep with.

    She couldn’t unwind at all with these thoughts permeating her mind, so she started to hum a tune before singing a song out loud to settle her nerves.

    (The song is Butterfly’s Dream by Erutan)

    As she finished her song she stood out of the water and turned around reaching for her completely dried dress, but just as she did so several things happened all at once. First she heard the words, “There you ah-” and her eyes made contact with the dark amber eyes that were both shocked and pleased to be staring at her naked body. The word flew from her throat before she could stop herself, “FUS!”

    Bishop darted out of the way, crashing to the ground as the powerful shout shook the air by him. Meanwhile Rona scrambled to grab her dress and covered herself with it. They both roared at one another simultaneously,

    “BISHOP! WHAT ARE YOU DOING!?”

    “ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME!?”

    She picked up a boot, throwing it at him and screamed, “GO YOU PERVERT!”

    He dodged it and snarled, “I didn’t know you were naked! I just heard you singing and you’ve been gone for forever so I came to tell you your fucking food is ready you lunatic!”

    Not only was she furious she was furiously blushing with embarrassment and just wanted him to leave so she screamed again, “JUST GO!”

    He stormed off, leaving her to collect herself and her clothes. Her chest heaved as she pulled her dress on and she dropped onto her knees and groaned inwardly at herself realizing she’d completely overreacted to him seeing her like that. He’d seen her nearly naked on more than one occasion already, hell, he could probably imagine what her breasts looked like since her bra was sheer in the water. She felt a flood of shame both from how she reacted and to being seen naked. Dread ushered in as she walked back to the camp, ready to face him.

    Rona passed by a mostly dissected elk and found Bishop sitting by the campfire biting into a piece of cooked venison. Karnwyr was nearby gnawing on an entire raw leg. Bishop looked up at her and motioned to her own plate of food. She sat down across from him and breathed an apology, “I’m sorry.”

    Bishop swallowed his piece of meat and grumbled, “Yeah, well teach me not to mess with a woman who can wield her voice as a weapon.”

    “I overreacted,” she said as she tensely traced the folds in her dress with a finger.

    “Yah think?” he grunted through another mouthful, “Just eat already, we’ll talk after.”

    She nodded and dug into her food. When they’d finished Rona leaned back on her hands and stared up into the clear sky admiring the stars. Bishop was still quiet and lost in thought as he fumbled with his bow string, seemingly tightening it when all he did was break it with a loud snap! He snarled, swearing under his breath as he went to get their twine from one of the saddlebags.

    Rona wasn’t sure if he was still mad about what happened earlier or if it was something else entirely. She watched him struggle to restring his bow and he raged loudly when it snapped again, “GOD DAMNIT!”

    He fell onto his back and groaned into his hands mumbling something Rona didn’t quite catch. She leaned over and said, “Are you okay?”

    He threw his hands out and said, “I can’t do this! I can’t talk about this stuff,” he abruptly sat up and looked right at her, “I don’t know how to talk about this shit Ladyship. I can’t. It’s just a fucking nightmare, all of it. Why do you want to know about that? About them? Every single one of them were pieces of fucking trash, not worth mentioning. Except Jules, he was the only one I could trust and even then he – ”

    He practically swallowed the words back down his throat at the mere mention of them. Rona looked at him with great concern, realizing now just how hard this really was for him. She held her tongue, waiting for him to say something, anything else.

    He growled at her, furrowing his brows, “Don’t look at me like that. I don’t need your pity.”

    She turned her eyes away from him and spoke gently, taking care with her words, “I can tell this is hard for you.”

    He gave a low grumble of assent.

    She asked, “Can I suggest something?” He breathed deeply and gave her a pleading look that screamed, don’t make me do this. She ignored his look and said, “Every few nights I ask you one question.”

    “One question?”

    “Just one,” she confirmed, “I’ll start out with small questions – easy to answer questions. And you can answer however you like, with as few or as many details as you like. You can even decline to answer a question if it’s too much for you or you don’t feel ready to share. Is that acceptable?”

    He crossed his arms, thinking for a minute, while chewing on his tongue. Closing his eyes he breathed, “Fine…yeah that’s fine.”

    “I’m going to ask you one question now, which you can answer however you like,” she gave him a reassuring smile.

    His mouth twisted before he said, “Shoot.”

    “What are your parents’ names?”

    He looked at her flabbergasted. Clearly he thought she’d ask who Jules was, but she could tell from his confused and spinning rant that, that particular question was not going to be answered easily.

    Bishop shook his head, arms still crossed, guard way up and laughed. He took his thumb and forefinger and rubbed at the space between his eyes. “What are you going to do, go look them up at a library or check Imperial records or something?”

    She chuckled, “No, I’m not going to bother attempting that. This is your story to tell. I want to hear it from you.”

    He paused and let his breathing steady, “Okay…my father,” he gave a derisive laugh,” Ugh, my piece of shit, worthless sperm donor…his name was Torban.”

    Was, past tense, meaning his father was most likely dead. Rona waited for him to give the other name. He glanced at her awkwardly and sighed heavily, “You really want to know the bitch’s name? Shit…was hoping I’d never have to tell you this one…my mother, my fucking bitch of a mother…her name’s Rina.”

    Rona was the stunned one now and laughed slightly, “Rina? Like, Rina with an ‘I’?”

    “Yup.”

    “That’s why you – ”

    “Yes, Rona with an ‘O’. Now you know, my mother was Rina with an ‘I’. Rina, Rona, Runa, the most popular names for nord ladies!” he laughed harder now and said, “You know, I nearly passed you up that day when you told me your name. I was worried I’d accidentally call you Rina.”

    “Well I’m glad you never did!”

    “Nah, you’re nothing like her,” he sighed, relaxing a little and letting his arms drop and laid back on his bedroll, “There. Now you know.”

    Rona crawled over to him and curled up beside him. He wrapped an arm around her as she lay her head against his chest.

    “Sorry for earlier,” she apologized again.

    “S’alright,” he muttered, “Guess my paranoia is starting to rub off on you and honestly, I’m glad you were so quick to react, better to be safe than sorry.”

    ~~~

    Over the next two weeks Rona got to know a little bit more about her traveling companion. She learned that he was one of nine total siblings that he knew of, though he speculated he’d had more considering how much his parents slept around. He told her about his parents’ twisted worship of Mara and their peculiar ideas of love and how they lived as bandits. Even briefly mentioning that his mother claimed to have seen Mara while nursing and the Divine promised one of them true love for Bishop’s soul when he was only five years old.

    She learned that Torban was viciously abusive to all of his children. Bishop said he had scars everywhere from the regular beatings and although they were mixed in with his usual battle scars he pointed out a few of the deeper ones and aggressively told her what kind of object they came from before he couldn’t stand to talk about it anymore and shouted, “I’m done talking!” and walked away from her.

    Still, even though he struggled to tell her about his past he was slowly starting to open up to her. She was nothing but supportive, listening closely every time he told her something new, and because she never once ran away from his terrible stories he started to trust her more, giving more information than she asked for every time she posed a new question.

    She could see why he was so closed off, so untrusting of the world around him. Growing up in that environment she wondered how he’d survived it at all. A few times he started to get riled up, telling her about the atrocities he’d endured as a child and to quiet him, to tell him it was okay to stop she kissed and held him. He returned her affections quickly, pulling her close and entwining her tongue with his.

    There was one question he was still not ready for and she knew he’d already prepared to turn her down on it when she asked one night, “So, who’s Jules?”

    And he replied tersely, “Not tonight Ladyship.”

    She let it go. She’d already promised not to push him if he didn’t want to answer. So instead she focused on the fact that her menstrual cramps were killing her. She pressed a hand to her abdomen, rubbing the place where he womb sat, torturing her with its endless contractions.

    Bishop noticed and said, “Stomach ache?”

    She groaned, “No…just…girl stuff.”

    He chuckled, “I had sisters, I know what a period is and I know yours bother you a lot.”

    “Really? You’ve noticed?” she groaned, thinking she’d hid the fact she even had a monthly period from him really well.

    “You get really moody this time of the month,” he said as he dug around his pack, “Not to mention there were a few times you nearly got killed because you were already in so much pain.”

    He pulled a bottle of potion from his pack and walked over to her handing it to her, “Drink this, it’ll help with the pain,” he sat down behind her, throwing his legs out on either side of her.

    Rona gulped down the potion and sighed feeling a slight twinge of relief billowing inside her. Bishop then pressed his hands over her lower back massaging it. His hands felt so good, even through the fabric of her clothes. She wanted direct contact though and she looked back at him and said, “Mind getting it…directly?”

    He gave her a salacious grin, “How do you mean, Sweetness?”

    She rolled her eyes and undid the button on her dress, allowing it to open in the back.

    “Mmm,” he murmured tenderly in her ear. She felt his rough, calloused hands touch her bare skin as they rubbed forcefully against her pressing all the tight knots in her lower back.

    He was too good with his hands, as he started tracing them up and down her bare back pushing out all the twisting knots she never knew she had. She leaned forward, feeling her whole body tingle in delight as he worked his way up. A light moan left her lips and she felt him breathing deeply against her ear. His hands made their way over her shoulders and he pushed the dress further down her arms. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t care. The massage was divine and she wanted him to keep going.

    Suddenly she felt his lips on her back, he was kissing her, pulling at her skin lightly with his mouth. Goose bumps crawled all over her arms from the sensation. She wanted him to touch her more. She didn’t want to have to wait even longer. Rona let herself fall against him as he ran his lips over her neck, kissing and sucking hard, looking to leave traces of him on her body.

    She moaned and he groaned in response as she leaned into him. The urge to touch him where he ached most was overwhelming, but she held back. She couldn’t yet. Five more days and then we can, he can…her mind went fuzzy as she twisted around to kiss him. His strong arms wrapped around her and continued to travel over her back. His tongue explored her mouth and she sucked on it, feeling him moan under her. She let go of him briefly so she could climb onto his lap, positioning herself better so that she was above him. Her dress continued drifting downwards around her body. She ran her hands across the sides of his head, pulling his mouth up towards hers again to continue their kiss.

    He grasped her waist and ground his swollen groin up against her womanhood causing her to cry out. His eyes sparkled, his voice low and seductive, “Am I stirring something inside of you Princess? Desire? Passion? I’ll gladly stir it some more ’til you give in to it.”

    “Bishop,” she whispered, “I want to…I want to, but we have to wait.”

    He gave her a wry smile, “I don’t mind a little mess Ladyship, there’s a river nearby.”

    Her face was already so flushed that she didn’t think she could go anymore red. “Five days,” she whispered, “Just, give me five more days.”

    His brow perked up and he smirked, “Why, Sweetness, what happens in five days?”

    “I’ll be ready then…It’ll be…safe,” she insisted.

    He growled low, “Ah…I see now. I wondered why you were taking your time at the caravan.” To her dismay he’d stopped everything, all the teasing had ended which felt like torture as her whole body wanted nothing more than to submit to this man right here and right now. He pulled her dress back up over her shoulders and buttoned it for her, “Five days, Rona. I’ll be counting.”

    Ryli A
    Participant
    Post count: 24

    This is really amazing. I love how you used so much of the dialogue from the mod and made it seamless with your story. You really captured our favorite ranger’s personality perfectly. And omg, the songs. The songs!! I totally played them while reading and ba-jeezus they made it magical and so unique. Keep writing please 🙂

    Leonora
    Participant
    Post count: 4

    I am very much enjoying this story!! I can’t wait for more!!!

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Thank you so much for the compliments! Next several chapters are coming very soon!

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 17

    Blood on the Ice

     

    The next few days really were torture, he spent the entire time teasing her physically with playful kisses, deep massages and the only time he let her be was when she complained of cramps.

    “Ah, the mighty Dragonborn, her greatest weakness – menstrual cramps!” he’d say laughing.

    They’d finally completed all of the tasks given to them by the people throughout Windhelm. Rona was holding the White Phial in her hand examining it as they rode towards the city in the distance. She frowned, “Think he’ll be upset that it’s cracked?”

    Bishop shrugged, “I don’t know, does he seem like the kind of guy who’d be upset about it?”

    “He’s an altmer,” she moaned.

    Bishop burst out laughing, “Oh yeah, he’s gonna be pissed.”

    “At least we found a Word of Power in that cave. That made it worth it,” she said putting the Phial away in her pouch.

    “So how many shouts is that now?” Bishop asked her.

    Rona thought for a moment, counting on her fingers before she said, “Let’s see, Unrelenting Force, Throw Voice, Kyne’s Peace, Whirlwind Sprint, Elemental Fury, Frost Breath, and Disarm so far, that makes seven. That word…Krii, I think it means kill.”

    “Well don’t go shouting it at me,” Bishop pulled on Whiskey’s reins directing him away from her slightly.

    She smirked, “I don’t even have the knowledge for it yet. We’ll have to kill another dragon.”

    He groaned, “We haven’t killed enough already? There’s been at least twenty of them!”

    “Six,” she corrected, “We’ve killed six since leaving High Hrothgar. I was able to learn two more shouts since then.”

    “Guess it’s better for you to learn this way than up there,” he said soberly.

    She knew he worried for her safety and would rather she trained up on High Hrothgar, but they both knew what that would mean as well. Grumpiness and all around bickering from both of them. To be honest she was starting to worry more and more for him and his wellbeing. The last two dragons put up quite a fight and there were several instances when she was sure she was going to lose him in a wave of fire. The dragons seemed to be honing in on her too, like they could sense her presence. It seemed like they could barely go anywhere without one flying overhead.

    Arngeir had told her dragons liked to dominate one another, perhaps the more dragons she killed the higher she was climbing in some sort of dragon hierarchy and so consequently dragons sought her out to oust her from her place in the hierarchy and claim it for themselves. She made a mental note to ask Arngeir next time she saw him.

    They returned to Windhelm and she met with Nurelion who was bedridden. He was, as they expected, thoroughly displeased about the fact that the Phial was cracked and only handed over a measly five gold for their troubles. His apprentice apologized and gave them a hefty five hundred in addition to it.

    As they left the apothecary Rona was quite surprised when she quite literally bumped into Ulfric Stormcloak and his Steward as she rounded a corner into the graveyard.

    “Ah – pardon me,” he drawled, “Oh, Dragonborn Rona, so you’re still visiting with us?”

    “Uh, just for today,” she said stepping back, “I was just finishing a task for…one of your citizens.”

    “Very good,” he actually managed to smile without a sneer for once.

    She asked him, “What brings you out of the palace?”

    He chuckled, “Normally I come out to speak with my citizens, to listen to their troubles – though it seems you’ve taken care of most of them and for that you have my utmost gratitude. Today, however, I am meeting with my guardsmen and discussing the recent murder of the tavern girl Susanna. Unfortunately, I can no longer ignore the man slaughtering young women in my city.”

    She looked at him, horrified, “Susanna is dead?” She’d only met the woman briefly a few times while she worked at the inn. Susanna was nice enough and brought Rona a few drinks on the house and Rona tipped her well figuring she’d share it with Luaffyn.

    “Yes, as of late last night. The murderer struck once again. It seems his focus is on young nord women, so I’m sure you have nothing to worry about,” he glanced at her pointed ears and said, “Take care Dragonborn,” and left them.

    Bishop and Rona stopped off at the inn and he laid down on the bed, his hands behind his head while Rona sat in the chair, perusing over her journal and checking off the last of their tasks. She stared hard at the one she’d initially written in as a joke, Catch The Butcher. She’d never expected she’d ever catch the man, let alone attempt it, but now that another young woman was dead she knew she had to do something.

    “So what’s next?” Bishop yawned.

    “I’m going to catch The Butcher,” Rona said grimly.

    Bishop cast a look at her and said, “No you’re not.”

    “Yes. I am,” she insisted.

    He sat upright and spoke sternly, “You’re crazy enough chasing after dragons, now you want to chase after someone with an actual brain? Look Ladyship, giant flying lizards are one thing, cold calculating serial killers are a whole ‘nother. How would you even go about it? You heard Ulfric – the man’s after nord women and you’re only half a nord.”

    She got up and looked into the dresser mirror. “I just have to change my appearance, look more like a full blooded nord,” she said.

    “And how the hell are you going to do that!? He’ll know it’s you! Every single person in Eastmarch knows the girl with pink hair is the Dragon…born.”

    He watched as Rona ran glowing fingers through her hair, casting a spell to change the color from her natural strawberry to a shade of shimmering, golden blonde. She then waved a hand over her eyes making them sparkle from their vivid green to a dull blue.

    She turned and looked at Bishop who stared at her, mouth partly open. “That’s just…wrong,” he muttered.

    Rona dug through the dresser drawers pulling out some old servants clothes. She undid her dress and let it drop, then quickly pulled the white and brown clothes on. They were quite low cut and not the best fit but it would have to do. She grabbed Bishop’s dark, thin cloak and threw it around her shoulders.

    “How do I look?” she said as she pulled the blonde hair over her ears covering them.

    He frowned, displeased by her new appearance, “Like a fucking nord.”

    “Good,” she said smirking.

    “No way,” he said crossing his arms, “I’m putting my foot down. I’m not letting you do this.”

    “It’ll be so easy,” she assured him, “I’ll wander around the streets at night and you’ll hide in the shadows, to keep an eye out and if you see any creepy murderers stalking up just shoot an arrow into them!”

    “This is the worst idea you’ve ever had, Ladyship.”

    She pleaded with him, “I can’t let anymore people die Bishop, not if I can do something about it.”

    “No! Enough’s, enough Rona! This one is not your problem, for once let someone else handle it! You don’t have to save everyone!”

    She stared sternly at him, “I’m going, with or without you.”

    They glared at one another, fighting with their expressions alone before Bishop finally gave in, groaning loudly, falling back onto the bed, “How do I always let you talk me into these things?”

    ~~~

    As night fell over the city Rona was preparing herself, making sure her ears absolutely could not be seen. Bishop had his hands on her shoulders and looked down at the woman before him, “This is too strange,” he said, “You look like a totally different person.”

    She smiled, “So the blonde doesn’t suit me?”

    He leaned down and whispered, “Never change Sweetness. I’ll see you out there,” and he kissed her on the cheek leaving her as he stepped out into the night.

    She was amused that he wouldn’t kiss her on the lips, wondering if it almost felt wrong to him.

    After a few minutes passed by she slunk outside where Karnwyr snoozed on the steps, he was on his back, tongue lolling out of his mouth. She was grateful that she didn’t wake him as she swept by, last thing she needed was an intimidating wolf following her around. It was well after midnight and the streets were eerily empty.

    She turned left making her way towards the Gray-Quarter and followed the path they’d agreed on and she looked around, wondering where Bishop was hiding. Wherever he was he remained perfectly silent. She passed by a few guards, glancing at them and speculating if any of them were the murderer as their heads turned, eyes hidden by helmets following this strange nord woman through the streets.

    Rona crept down the steps leading into the slums and jumped, startled at the sudden sounds of a drunk howling slurs at the top of his lungs, “Fucking Gray-skins! Damned no good dirty sneaks! You’re all filthy, conniving skeevers, s’what you are! S’why you live down in this shithole!” he threw a mostly empty bottle of ale at one of the walls where it shattered loudly.

    Rona desired nothing more than to blast the idiot into Oblivion with the power of her voice but knew better. She pressed her lips together as she made the awful trek through the slums, heading towards the drunk. It was Rolff, she was sure since Suvaris had mentioned last time they met that Angrenor was the old war veteran in rags.

    Rolff caught sight of her and slurred, “Heeeyyy beautiful, what’s a sexual *hic* sexy thing like yoouu… doing down here in this *hic* this filth?”

    She gave him a friendly smile and said, “Just looking for you…baby,” she made a pathetic attempt at sounding sultry.

    “Oh yeah?” he stumbled towards her and wrapped a hand around her waist grabbing her ass. She cringed at the stench on his breath and prayed that Bishop would control himself.

    She pushed him back lightly and said, “Now, now hun. Let’s not do anything here. It’s so…filthy. Meet me up at Candlehearth Hall in ten minutes.”

    “Mmm yeah, alright gorgeous. I will *hic* see you there,” he moved in for a kiss and she turned her head so she got a cheek covered in drool.

    He finally released her and stumbled off, taking the long way towards the inn leaving Rona to shudder and gag audibly in the alley as she wiped at her cheek. She glanced around her, still no sign of Bishop and no sign of the killer. She continued her trek back up the steps and through the city.

    Snaking her way back around the inn with no sign of Rolff, thank the gods, she wandered off into the graveyard where she paused for a moment, looking over the blood staining the ground where Susanna had been left to bleed out. She heard what sounded like the shuffling of footsteps and looked back, flitting around anxiously. Nothing.

    Rona turned back up towards the steps and made her way towards the marketplace. It was completely deserted at that time of day. She looked around and noticed something sparkling on the ground near the shop stands. She walked over and knelt down to get a better look. It was an amulet of some kind, an aqua green skull glowed in the center of it and she got a horrible feeling in the pit of her stomach all of a sudden. Rona whipped around and saw the killer looming over her, knife in hand, he cried out and bore down on her only to stop midway as he grunted loudly, “GURK!”

    Rona cried, “FUS RO DAH!” sending the killer careening across the marketplace, her shout alerting all the guards and waking the blacksmith and his apprentice who came out to see what all the commotion was about.

    Bishop came out of the shadows, bow in hand and looked over at the corpse. The guards had their weapons drawn and cried, “Halt!”

    He cast the bow aside and threw his hands up nodding to the broken man strewn across the ground, “There’s your Butcher.”

    One of the guards pulled his helmet off, it was Benon. He said, “Mr. Bishop? But where’s the Lady Dragonborn?”

    Bishop looked over at her, nodding to the blonde nord standing before them. Benon looked even more confused until she pulled her hair away from her ears.

    “Can you all please lower your weapons?” she asked anxiously, “Bishop was only protecting me when that man tried to kill me.”

    They lowered their weapons and Benon stepped over to look at the crumpled corpse on the ground. “By the Gods,” he murmured, “It’s Calixto,” he turned back to the guards and ordered them to go search his house.

    They left them and Benon walked over to Rona as Bishop collected his bow.

    “I hope there’s more evidence that he’s the killer for your sake Lady Rona,” Benon looked worried.

    “The hell do you mean!?” Bishop spat, “We caught him red handed going to stab her in the back!”

    Benon looked back at him, “Problem is that no one but you two saw it.”

    Bishop crossed his arms and grumbled, “So the word of the Dragonborn isn’t good enough anymore?”

    “Not when it comes to this!” Benon barked severely, “This is serious! Did you even clear your little stunt with the Steward first?”

    Bishop turned away swearing under his breath.

    “Here,” Rona handed him the amulet, “I found this on the ground nearby, I think he might have been using it to distract me. It looks like something used in necromancy.”

    Benon took it and looked it over, “I’m still going to have to take you in to speak with the Jarl and the Steward, both of you.”

    They went quietly, heading straight for the palace while Benon followed them. Bishop scowled at her, “I told you this was your worst idea yet.”

    Rona pursed her lips, holding back a smile. She knew things would turn out fine, the murderer was dead and that’s all that really mattered to her.

    As they entered the darkened palace Benon asked one of the guards to retrieve the Jarl and his Steward indicating the Butcher may have been caught.

    They waited around a while as the Steward entered first, “Was there another murder?”

    Benon filled him in on what he knew before Ulfric burst into the hall grumbling, “You’d better have a good reason for disturbing my rest,” he approached Bishop and Rona, not recognizing her in the slightest and composed himself. He sounded more polite when he said, “Ah, lovely maiden, is everything alright? Were you attacked by the murderer?”

    She looked at him perplexed before realizing, “Oh!” and she ran her glowing fingers through her hair and across her eyes dispelling the spell and restoring her natural hair and eye color.

    “Ah…of course…Dragonborn Rona. You looked better as a nord,” he said groggily, “Now, what is it? Speak quickly.”

    “We caught your murderer,” she said grabbing his undivided attention now. She explained everything to him, her plan and her walk through the city before she was attacked when Bishop shot the murderer with an arrow and she used her shout on him.

    “I see and what proof do you have that Calixto was the murderer?”

    She was stunned, “I…I don’t have anything, all I know is that he was trying to kill me! I had to defend myself.”

    He seemed unimpressed and looked at her with half-lidded eyes, “Without any proof I will have to hold you until we can complete an investigation into these events.”

    “For how long?”

    “It could be months, I’m a very busy man Dragonborn. I warned you about going around shouting at my citizens. Not to mention you didn’t even bother clearing this little…ruse of yours with me or my Steward.”

    She gaped at him, not believing what she was hearing. Bishop groaned loudly in the background, “I fucking told you woman,” he looked at the Steward and said again, “I fucking told her. But does she listen? No.”

    Just then the door to the palace burst open and two guards rushed in, one of them handed off several journals to the Steward who scanned through them quickly. “My Jarl, if you’d take a look at these.”

    Jarl Ulfric took them and looked them over. “Where did you get these?” he asked the guard.

    “From a chest in Calixto’s home.”

    “They match the ones we found in Hjerim,” the Steward confirmed.

    Ulfric sighed heavily and gave the evidence back to his Steward, “Well Dragonborn, it seems you and your companion are off the hook this time.”

    Rona exhaled, not realizing she’d been holding her breath the entire time.

    Ulfric blinked slowly as he said, “So, I suppose I’ll have to give you a title for all your good works in my city. I hereby grant you Thane of Windhelm, you have the right to purchase property, so on and so forth,” he spun a hand in the air and held back a yawn. “Next time you decide to catch a killer, do me a favor and do it while it’s still daylight out.”

    “Yes, of course Jarl Ulfric,” she bowed politely and apologized for disturbing him.

    Bishop and Rona left the palace quickly and saw Benon just outside, he was conversing with another guard who said, “Looks like Calixto got his hands on Rolff too. Slit his throat ear to ear.”

    Rona stopped abruptly and felt her pulse come to a complete stop.

    “I thought he was only after nord women?” Benon wondered when he noticed the two of them standing by, “Ah, Lady Rona, any chance you saw Rolff on your walk through town this evening? I know he had a habit of bothering the dark elves in the Gray-Quarter.”

    She swallowed hard, “Yes, I did see him tonight. But I passed by him heading westward while he went east from the Gray-Quarter. I – I didn’t think he’d be a target…”

    Benon looked at her thoughtfully, “I see. Well that explains it. If Calixto was stalking you old Rolff might’ve gotten in his way. I’m glad you caught the killer miss. I don’t know how much more bloodshed this city could take. Rolff…well he won’t be missed terribly, poor old man was on his last legs anyhow, at the very least we’ll hear less complaining from the elves.”

    She feigned a look of sorrow and Benon waved a hand and said, “Ah, please don’t be that way Lady Rona! Really, it’s not your fault. It’s pretty late, I’ll let you two go get some sleep.”

    Back in the privacy of their room Rona turned on Bishop and glared at him, “You didn’t!?”

    He smirked, “As far as I’m concerned, nobody touches you like that and gets away with it. Besides you heard the man, nobody’s going to miss that deadbeat.”

    You slit his throat ear to ear?” she gaped as he walked by her and sat down on the bed, undoing his boots and taking his shirt off.

    He scoffed at her, “I’ve seen you do far worse Princess. Nearly cut the heads right off some of these bandits.”

    “That’s different – they’re bandits!”

    “Are you really that upset about this guy?”

    She faltered and sighed, “Well…no… he had it coming, but” she swiped a hand through her palm and argued, “you never go around killing local citizens – people in a community! That’s just…it’s Dark Brotherhood material.”

    He gave her a dark grin, “And who’s to say I’m not an assassin?”

    She crossed her arms and looked at him sardonically. He laid down on the bed yawning and turning away from her. “Caught your murderer Ladyship. Now let’s get some sleep.”

    Rona
    Participant
    Post count: 117

    Chapter 18

    A Night to Remember (NSFW)

     

    After Bishop rolled over and was snoring deeply, Rona sat at the desk and turned one of the tiny potions over in her hand. Her period had finally ended and this was it. Drink this and tomorrow she’d finally be free to safely lose her virginity.

    She felt a twinge of excitement at the thought. She twisted the cork off and swallowed it in a single gulp. It tasted unexpectedly bitter.

    She crawled in bed next to Bishop, pulling herself close to him and looking over the rippling muscles on his back which were accentuated by old scars on his body. There was an exceedingly long one that curved over his right shoulder blade, crossing his spine and settling at his left hip. It looked like it came from the swing of someone’s blade, she speculated from his father, though he’d mentioned that one of his brothers was just as vicious as the cruel old man.

    Rona wanted nothing more than to heal his pain. He held so much of it inside and when he let it out it was like blades cutting through his flesh all over again. Bishop hated it, but the more he did it the better he felt afterward, like finally dropping a thousand weights that bore down on him.

    She still didn’t know who Jules was, though she knew he was someone important that Bishop had cared for deeply and lost. It had been the last straw for him and he’d decided to live a life of seclusion and shut everyone out. Keep them out and they can’t hurt you Ladyship, he’d said to her once, after an agonizing diatribe about his father’s abuses.

    As time went on she felt her love for him blossoming, growing stronger day by day. She hoped that someday he might feel the same and she knew that the path into his heart would be a difficult one, but if she never tried to reach him, he might never love her in return.

    “You’ve been quiet, Ladyship,” he said, drawing her from her thoughts as they rode steadily along the path from Windhelm to Whiterun. They’d finally left the frozen city behind them and returned to the lush forests in the south. A light breeze blew and the sounds of birds could be heard chirping all around, it was a wonderful change from all the snow. Bishop looked over at her, a sensual smile curved at his lips, “Got something on your mind?”

    She smiled back at him and said, “Just glad to be out of Windhelm. The change of scenery is so nice.” She took a deep breath, smelling the scent of pine and rain on the wind.

    He looked out over the wild forests and agreed, “Yeah, I definitely prefer the woods over constant snow,” they crossed a bridge, “Hey, let’s spend the night out here. I’m not exactly thrilled to be going back to another city so soon.”

    She knew what he really had in mind, five days and today was the day. She was ready, she wanted this.

    Bishop pulled off the road, guiding Whiskey through the trees as Karnwyr padded along following them. They came up to a clearing near a turn in the river, a waterfall flowing further west of them, feeding the streamlet.

    They pulled their camping supplies out, setting up the tent and rolling out their bedrolls. Bishop went about collecting firewood while Rona created a makeshift hearth for their fire. When all was said and done Bishop invited her to come hunting with him. She was surprised realizing it was the first time he’d ever asked her to hunt with him. She was a trained mercenary, but was suddenly doubting her skills when seeking wild prey.

    Bishop was an expert hunter, he’d been doing it his whole life out of a necessity to survive. He noticed her sudden anxiety and gave her a reassuring smile, “What, you can kill dragons but can’t hunt deer?”

    “I’ve never hunted before,” she said sheepishly. Why did that feel so stupid to say?

    “It’s just like hunting bandits, Ladyship. Keep quiet, stalk your prey, and strike when the moment’s right,” he held a hand out to her, silently inviting her to come along. She took his hand and he pulled her along with him.

    Rona looked on at him, a feeling of deep affection flooded her heart. He was welcoming her into his world, bringing her along with him to partake in a private ritual of his own making, something that only he and his wolf ever did together.

    After walking a short distance Bishop stopped and showed her how he tracked deer by analyzing hoof prints and deer droppings determining how fresh they were. He showed her the foliage, bits of it chewed off in certain places but still green indicating their prey had trekked through recently.

    It didn’t take long before they came across a clearing with four deer, three females and a buck grazing on patches of alfalfa. Bishop held his tongue, maintaining utmost silence as he watched Karnwyr, his pack mate, sneak around the other side of the clearing through the brush. He slowly drew his bow from his back and glanced at Rona tapping on her arm, then her bow, indicating she should draw too.

    She followed suit and they both nocked their arrows. Karnwyr hadn’t made a move, though he was directly across from them on the other side, with just the deer between them. Bishop pursed his lips and gave a sharp whistle, the deer perked their heads up quickly as they looked around and when they made to sprint Karnwyr burst forth from the thicket rushing them. Two darted to either side, while the buck and a doe bound forward heading straight for Bishop and Rona.

    Bishop released his arrow, it sped through the air and into the doe’s hide, causing the deer to flounder, leaping up from the pain. Rona set her arrow loose and it split through the doe’s neck. The animal bound away from them through the forest.

    Rona grit her teeth and muttered, “Damn.”

    Bishop waved a hand, “Don’t worry about it, it’ll take a while, but it’ll bleed out. If we catch up to it quick enough we can put the poor thing out of its misery,” Karnwyr raced after the doe, barking madly. “Or Karnwyr will do it for us,” he sighed, shrugging.

    Rona followed him down through the clearing and into the forest. There was a trail of blood leading them to their prey. When they arrived Karnwyr was growling and gnawing into the deer’s leg as it cried out miserably. Rona felt a twinge of regret. It seemed wrong to kill something so innocent.

    Bishop clapped her on the shoulder and said, “There, there, Sweetness. It’s all a part of survival, the natural cycle of life.” He knelt over the doe and buried his dagger into its neck, swiftly ending its suffering then he began to dress the deer, showing her how to skin it, what to do about gutting it, which parts to leave and which to keep. He pointed to the leg Karnwyr was chewing on and said, “That part’s got to go. I managed to teach him to quit going for the neck and the back to save the best parts.”

    He hacked off the leg, letting Karnwyr tear it the rest of the way and run off with it. Rona watched closely as he finished dressing the deer and she helped him wrap up the meat and carry it back to camp. Once there he pulled two of the best pieces out and skewered them to roast over the fire.

    Rona sat nearby, humming lightly to herself, still lost in thought. Finally Bishop said, “So, what did you think?”

    “About?”

    “The hunt.”

    “Hmm,” she smiled, “Seems like you and Hircine get along great. Sure you’re not a werewolf?”

    He laughed, his eyes flickering in the firelight, “Couldn’t say. Have I ever ravaged you on the night of a full moon?”

    “I can’t recall if there was a full moon or not, but it seems like you’ve ravaged me every night now,” she mused, thinking back on the last five days of hot, open mouthed kisses and his hands all over her body, all except the places she’d wanted most.

    Bishop wet his lips, “So naive. You think that was ravaging?”

    She blushed lightly and he chuckled, moving over to pull their cooked food off the skewers. Rona finished her meal quickly, eventually pushing it aside as the butterflies in her stomach were becoming too much to bear. Bishop growled, “Shouldn’t waste food Ladyship.” She tossed her remaining pieces to Karnwyr who caught them and tore into them quickly.

    He scowled at her as she said, “Sorry, I’m just not very hungry.”

    He rolled his eyes at her and said, “Don’t come crying to me when you’re stomach’s growling all night.”

    She stuck her tongue out at him and grabbed her lute. He said through a mouthful, “Mm, yeah, haven’t heard you play in a while. I could use some entertainment.”

    Rona looked at him astonished, “I think that’s the first time you’ve ever told me you wanted me to play.”

    “Ah, it’s grown on me,” he shrugged, throwing her a half smile.

    She strummed her lute playing a light tune, though no words traced her lips this time. Butterflies abound in her stomach, she wasn’t sure she could sing even if she’d wanted to. Bishop finished his meal and sounded disappointed, “Not going to share your lovely voice with me this evening?”

    “I just can’t think of a song to sing,” she lied.

    Sure you can’t,” he drawled.

    Something occurred to her suddenly and she asked, “Do you know any songs?”

    “Me?” he furrowed his brows at her, “If you’ll remember right I’m neither a poet nor a bard.”

    “That doesn’t mean you don’t know any songs. Did you ever sing when you were younger?”

    He turned his gaze away from her, frowning. She bit her lower lip, realizing she’d touched a nerve there, still she was persistent, “I’d love to hear you sing. You have a strong, clear voice – which is good for singing.”

    She smiled at him as he turned back to face her. His expression was grim, almost mournful. Her smile fell and she said, “What is it?”

    He breathed deeply, “I do know one song. I sang it a few times, when I was a kid. I sang it for…for my brother, when he was upset.”

    Her heart fluttered, he was opening up, he was telling her things and she didn’t even have to ask. She stayed quiet, listening, not wanting him to stop. But when he said nothing else and only stared into the fire thinking back to that place in time she said, “Can I hear it?”

    He looked at her, his mouth twitched, “You really want to hear me sing that badly huh?”

    A broad grin sprawled across her lips and she nodded.

    Bishop sighed, crossing his arms – guard up – then pulling them apart – guard down, “Hmm…” he hummed, thinking before glancing back at her as she waited eagerly for him to sing to her. He chuckled softly and said, “Ah, I can’t believe I’m about to do this… Only for you, Sweetness,” he scoffed at himself and rolled his eyes sighing heavily, “Well…do you know the song, Heaven’s Not Enough?”

    She paused and thought for a moment then shook her head, “No, I’ve never heard of it before.”

    He raised his brows slightly and said, “Guess I’ll have to give it a go without music then. No making fun of me for this either, if it’s awful or I’m off key, you’re not allowed to hold that over my head. And no telling one about this ever,” he insisted.

    She laughed, “On my honor! I will never speak of Bishop’s bardliness to anyone!”

    He chuckled lightly, then paused taking a deep breath and staring off into the fire before he sang one of the most painfully heartfelt songs Rona had ever heard in her life.

    (The song is Heaven’s Not Enough by Steve Conte)

    “Heaven’s not enough
    If when you get there…
    Just another blue
    And heaven’s not enough
    You think you’ve found it
    And it loses you

    You’ve thought of all there is
    But not enough
    And it loses you in a cloud

    “There”, most everything is nothin’
    That it seems
    “Where” you see the things you only wanna see

    I’d fly away
    To a higher plane
    To say words I resist
    To float away
    To sigh
    To breathe… forget

    And heaven’s not enough
    If when I’m there I don’t remember you
    And heaven does enough
    You think you know it
    And it uses you

    I saw so many things
    But like a dream…
    Always losing me in a cloud

    ’cause I couldn’t cry
    ’cause I turned away
    Couldn’t see the score
    Didn’t know the pain
    Of leaving yesterday really far behind;
    In another life
    In another dream
    By a different name
    Gave it all away
    For a memory
    And a quiet life…
    And I felt the face
    Of a cold tonight
    Still don’t know the score
    But I know the pain
    Of leaving everything really far behind

    And if I could cry
    And if I could live what truth I did then take me there…

    Heaven goodbye…”

    Bishop’s voice was strong and beautiful. He struggled slightly to keep the pacing and the tune, but otherwise sang with incredible passion. The lyrics poured out of him, they told his story in a way. When he finished he seemed deeply lost in thought, pressing a hand to the scars on his cheek before he whispered, nearly choking up, “Those words haven’t crossed my lips since…since,” he swallowed and looked at her, trembling slightly, “This scar, Torban gave me this for singing to Jules. For trying to quiet him every night after he beat our mother, or Jack or any of them. He caught me, comforting him – comforting my little brother and he swung his dagger into my face,” Bishop’s voice rose with rage, “You know what he said to me? As he carved a notch in my face, twisting the flesh from my body!? ‘I’M NOT RAISING ANOTHER BITCH!'”

    Rona felt her heart twist painfully in her chest as he lost himself in these horrible memories, she leapt up and ran to him, pulling him into her arms as he tried to push her away, “NO! Why Ladyship! Why do you want this!?

    She held his face in her hands and looked into his eyes, they sparkled with tears he’d held back for so long and still held for they wouldn’t leave his eyes. He pleaded with her, “Why Rona, why do you want to know? It hurts too much, all of it. I swore I’d never speak of it again. But you reach in, pulling it out of me…why?

    “You can stop,” she cried, “I’m sorry! I didn’t want to hurt you Bishop. Please. I’ll make you forget it all. Let me help you forget. Please…”

    He stared deeply into her eyes then pulled her in fiercely, releasing his anguish, forgetting it all with a breathtaking kiss. The dam broke and they engulfed one another in their passions. She desperately pulled at his shirt, undoing the buckles as he slid his hands over her back and around her neck, twisting at the small button holding her dress in place. He yanked the top of her dress down and they pulled apart briefly to tear their tops off; Bishop casting his shirt aside as Rona threw her dress off and undid her bra allowing her supple breasts to fall free.

    He immediately cupped his rough hands to them exploring them recklessly and buried his face in her neck planting deep, biting kisses all over her nape and down her chest. She leaned into him, running her hands up and over his back, digging her nails across his skin as she moaned from the tingling sensation trailing up and down her chest.

    Bishop looked up at her, desire burning in his eyes and he traced his hands over her arms, grasping her shoulders and drawing her in for another kiss. His tongue exploring her mouth while she straddled him. His groin found hers and pressed against her through their remaining clothes. She moaned eagerly each time he forced his hardness against her.

    She couldn’t take it anymore. Her body was trembling with anticipation and he seemed to sense it. He pulled away from her to stand and undid his belt, dropping his trousers and pulling off his underwear to reveal his fully hardened manhood. He was so erect that it nearly pressed against his abdomen, the tip of it glistening with wetness in the firelight. She admired his body, tanned and toned to perfection, marked with the scars of battle. Dark hair traveled from his arms and chest down to his groin and further on across his legs. His masculinity was intoxicating and the way he looked at her, with warm amber eyes and a wolfish grin made her tremble with need.

    Rona also stood, pulling her panties off as she did so and drawing up to him, running her hands up and over her soft creamy curves, accentuating her beauty with a gentle turn of her head allowing her hair to rest around her shoulders. Her long lashes fluttered over her intense green eyes and her full lips parted slightly. Bishop grasped her, wrapping his strong arms around her shoulders and pressed his hard member against her stomach as they kissed again. Her hands explored his body, feeling over his sculpted abdomen before reaching further down to touch his hardness. He gasped under her mouth at the feel of her soft hands touching him where he ached most and he instinctively pulled her over to their bedrolls.

    He dropped down, taking her with him and laying her on her back. He ran his hands over every soft curve and bump on her body, stopping only to tenderly play with her nipples as she continued stroking his shaft. Each moaning and groaning loudly into the chill wind.

    His fingers moved slowly down her belly, touching over her most sensitive spot. He teased her there endlessly, making her whimper frantically before he slid two fingers into her entrance. She was so wet that they went in with ease. He pressed all the right spots inside, spreading her with his fingers and moving them skillfully in and out wanting to hear her cry out for more.

    “Bishop,” she begged, saying his name over and over,” Bishop – oh! Please!”

    He  growled deeply, “Tell me what you need.”

    He was going to make her say it, make her plead. She whimpered desperately, “Bishop! I need… I need you!”

    Satisfied with her response he pulled his slick fingers from her, but instead of positioning himself between her legs and taking the dominant role, as she’d expected, he laid back and pulled her up on top of him, catching her by surprise. She gasped as she felt his shaft nestle between her dripping folds but not entering her. He rocked his hips back and forth gently kneading his penis against her swollen nub. She moaned, feeling like she was going out of her mind. Finally she couldn’t wait any longer and pushed herself up, positioning the tip of his member with the entrance of her slit. He grasped her hips and whispered, “Take it slow. Go at your own pace.”

    His eyes burned into her own as she pressed herself downward, taking him inside of herself. She cried out and he groaned as she pushed herself further and further until she had his full length buried inside her quivering tunnel. The pain was mild compared to the indescribable wave of pleasure she felt having him there. She moved, sliding him out slightly, then pressed down again. Her rhythm sped up as she rode him, his pleasured groans spurring her on more.

    She was panting and moaning to her heart’s content while Bishop yearned for more of her and lost control suddenly sitting up and rolling her over onto her back. He grasped her legs, spreading them far apart and thrust into her tightness. The speed and pace of his pounding was too much for her. She screamed, feeling her ecstasy peaking, crying out his name out as he groaned heavily, “Come for me Rona! Come!” and he buried himself as deep as possible, releasing a bloom of warmth inside her. She shook with writhing pleasure as she felt him climax, her own orgasm reaching a fevered pitch and when it was over, he toppled over to the side of her, clutching at her bosom, trying to hold on still. Their chests heaved, breathless and exhausted.

    Rona didn’t think she would ever move again, all the energy drained from her being and replaced with euphoria and deep satisfaction. She slowly looked over at Bishop who was utterly spent, his eyes closed and a faint smile playing at his lips. She reached out to him, searching for his closeness and he turned on his side pulling her against his body. She buried her face in his chest and prayed that this feeling would never end.

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