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Chasing Echoes

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A cold breeze played with the strands of hair around her face. It lightly tickled her cold skin. Sara shivered, but her eyes remained closed as her body floated on what felt like soft clouds that surrounded her from all sides. It was like nothing she'd ever felt before, and Sara couldn't tell if she was moving or not. It began to disorient her as the wind increased in speed, now tugging more earnestly at her hair and clothes. A murmuring of voices at first echoed softly in her ear in an unknown language. The more Sara struggled to understand what was happening the more confused she became. The wind and the voices increased in volume until everything was roaring so loudly in her ears it caused a high-pitched ringing that coursed through her entire body.

Suddenly everything stopped. Sara felt like she was being moved through a massive vacuum as her body was tossed forward through space and the next moment, she was thrown against something very hard, and very angry.

There was a loud snarl, and Sara hit the ground hard while partially landing against whatever she had fallen into. Her vision swam as she rolled onto her back, groaning softly. She reached up to press her palms against her aching temples when the sound of something metallic rang in her ears and suddenly a massive figure appeared in her cloudy vision and something sharp was laid against her neck.

"What the fuck!"

Sara blinked rapidly, her eyes watering as she struggled to peer up at the angry man. The more she stared, the more confused she was by his appearance. He was the most massive person she had ever seen, and his bright red eyes glittered with anger as he peered down at Sara in the fading light of dusk.

"Who are you?"

"I... I-"

His hostility was overwhelming. Sara opened her mouth to say something but she was utterly stunned by the man. Her eyes roamed over the strange features of his face. Two white tusks jutted between a full set of green lips which matched the rest of his skin. He appeared to be wearing some sort of armor that looked like something out of a fantasy movie.

"I'm not going to ask you again."

Sara lifted her hands, which shook with fear as she realized that she was in actual danger. The light sting on her neck was a testament to her that she was in fact, not dreaming.

"I'm sorry... I um, where... where am I?"

The man snarled and then he threw himself off of Sara and plopped down on the floor with a small growl. She was a small woman, but the impact had knocked him clear off his feet. The sticks he had been gathering for firewood were scattered on the ground before them and he let out another sigh as he dragged his gloved hand down his cheek and glanced back over at the strange girl. She wore no armor or shoes. It didn't look like she had any possessions on her at all.

Sara slowly started to move. Each little movement brought a wave of nausea and her vision would spin but after a couple of moments she had managed to sit up and she tried to look at her surroundings as much as she could, trying to see if anything looked familiar.

But nothing was familiar to Sara. She was surrounded by colorful birch trees from all sides and the strange man sitting on the ground across from her was even more unfamiliar than the forest.

I know he looks like an Orc her thoughts swirled inside her skull, but that's not supposed to be possible. That's utterly impossible...

"To answer your question," the Orc growled as he began standing up. "You're in Skyrim."

"I'm in- what?" Sara blurted back.

The Orc ignored her outburst and re-sheathed his sword. Then he glanced back down at the girl, noting how strange her clothing looked. He began picking up his fallen kindle while she silently watched him with a stunned expression.

"I am tired and hungry. I will let you share my fire."

"I um," Nara murmured, and she squeezed her eyes shut for a moment. "I appreciate it..."

When he didn't move to help her, Sara sucked in a deep breath and started to move her legs. After rising very unsteadily to her feet, she slowly followed his massive figure back towards his camp, where a large satchel and small circle of rocks resided. Sara winced as pine needles and other sharp debris from the forest floor pierced her bare feet she pushed through. Once the Orc dumped the sticks back on the ground, he knelt in front of his firepit and began placing them expertly inside the circle of rocks.

Sara tried to remain standing but she still felt faint and so after a few moments her knees felt too weak and she slowly sank back down onto the cold ground. She shivered and tucked a strand of her flyaway hair behind one round, pale ear, wishing she wasn't wearing such thin pajamas.

When he was finished, the quiet Orc lit a fire with a small flick of his hand. Sara's eyes widened in surprise and she hastily swallowed back her excitement at having witnessed magic in person for the very first time. This Orc didn't seem like the type of person for chit chat and so she remained quiet and focused on trying to calm her racing pulse.

Once satisfied with his handiwork, Rogan turned to his satchel and swiftly unbuckled the straps containing his bedroll. Then he unfurled the large matt and laid it down before glancing back at the human sitting nearby. She stared at the ground with a faraway expression, and it was then in the light of the fire that he noticed the dark blood that had seeped into her left sleeve.

"You're hurt."

Sara blinked and looked up. She had to crane her neck to see his face. Then she glanced down at herself and finally realized that she was injured. Blood had seeped through a small rip in the sleeve of her pajama top.

"Oh," Sara replied quietly, and her brows furrowed together. "I see."

Rogan sighed and turned his back to her. He rifled through his pack for a minute until he found the materials he was looking for. Then he wandered over to the girl and knelt in front of her. He grabbed Sara's arm with a touch that was slightly rough and began rolling up the sleeve of her shirt with a small scowl.

"Your clothing is odd."

"Sorry," Sara replied, and she winced when her shirt pulled away from the cut on her arm. "It's um... sleeping attire."

"It's ugly," Rogan grunted, and he began dabbing at her cut with a moistened cloth.

"You... uh, you don't have to do that."

"If you leave it, it will fester."

Sara stared at Rogan with a confused expression. His demeanor was cold, but the way he tended to her cut was soft. She opened her mouth to say something and then quickly changed her mind. She resided herself to silently sitting and letting the giant Orc clean her wound, and when he was finished, he wrapped her arm with a slim white bandage.

"I can feel your eyes burning a hole into my head," he growled quietly, his head bowed.

"Um," Sara stammered, and she hastily looked away. "I'm sorry."

"What is your name?"

"Oh! Um, it's Sara."

"Sara," the Orc echoed. "Strange name."

"I guess," Sara replied quietly, and she shrugged. "What is your name?"

"Rogan."

"Rogan. Well um, thanks for... not killing me."

Rogan only grunted in response and then he uncorked a red vial and handed it to her.

"Just take a sip, it is strong."

"Okay," Sara whispered, and she took the vial from his gloved hand.

Rogan watched as Sara took a small sip of the liquid. She wrinkled her nose at the bitter taste, licked her lips after swallowing the health potion and handed it back to him. He could see the relief wash over her as her aches and pains started to melt away and a small smile danced across her pale lips. Rogan hastily turned away from her to stop himself from staring and went back over to his bedroll. He returned the medicinal materials into a pocket in his satchel and then straightened up again.

Sara had shuffled a little bit closer to the fire, basking in the warmth as it washed over her cold skin. She couldn't resist watching Rogan as he worked. He was both fascinating and mysterious. Now that her head wasn't pounding Sara was able to study Rogan more clearly. He wore a set of leather armor with matching boots and gloves. The entire ensemble hugged his form very nicely, lending a perfect outline of his athletic body. His hair was long and dark, what color it really was Sara had no idea for it was too dark to tell. Rogan had opted to braid it while traveling as to keep the tangles under control and Sara could tell he took great pride in his appearance. She knew just by looking at him that he was a very powerful Orc, and the knowledge that he had almost run her through with his sword sent a shiver up her spine.

Rogan ignored Sara's stares and began strolling around the perimeter of their little camp. She watched as he raised his hands and a glimmer of faint light issued from his fingers before it quickly dissipated. When he was finished walking around in a full circle he returned to his bedroll and plopped down on the bedding with a loud sigh.

"What... were you doing?" Sara asked, and she bit her lip when Rogan shot her a sharp glance.

"Magical precautions. If something comes close, I'll know."

"Oh."

Rogan frowned, but after a moment he sighed and shook his head. He reached down and began tugging at his boots. When they were off, he neatly placed them beside his bedroll and then he dragged his satchel closer towards himself so he could rifle through it for some provisions.

Close by, Sara was still sitting on the cold ground. She had wrapped her slender arms around her waist to try and keep some of her body heat but it was futile as the cold of the night was quickly setting in. However, the cold was a welcome distraction from her thoughts, which threatened to turn Sara into a sobbing, hysterical mess. She wanted to talk to Rogan to keep herself busy but he was not offering any conversation and she felt like she was already too much of a bother for the lone traveler.

Once Rogan had found his meager food rations, he sent Sara another small glance. She was now staring at the fire with her arms wrapped around her waist and she nervously chewed on her bottom lip with a concerned expression. He sucked in a deep breath as he studied her for a second, still confused by her attire. Her trousers were the color of light blue with strange markings resembling some sort of animal and her tunic matched. How Sara had ended up running into him in the middle of the woods somewhere in the Rift filled him with curiosity, although he kept it to himself. He had been prepared to kill her the moment she'd knocked into him, but one look into her frightened eyes had caused him to pause.

Sara could feel that Rogan was watching her but she pretended otherwise and continued gazing at the fire, watching the flames hungrily consume the wood. After a long moment, Rogan let out a small huff and slid along the side of his bedroll so there was more room.

"Come here," he barked rather harshly.

Sara blinked and looked over at Rogan but his attention was on the small cloth sack which contained his food. Ignoring the urge to tell him off for talking to her so rudely, she stood up from her spot on the ground and slowly wandered over to where Rogan was sitting, careful not to step on anything too sharp.

"What is it?"

"Sit," Rogan growled. "Or would you rather continue sitting on the cold ground?"

"I... alright" Sara replied curtly, and then she quickly shook her head and took a seat on the bedroll beside him. She wasn't in the mood to argue.

Rogan pulled out a couple of strips of jerky. His food supply was running low and he was glad that Riften was only a few days walk from where they were. He silently offered two strips to Sara, and he frowned when she refused him.

"Oh, I'm okay," Sara murmured as she bit back a yawn. "I'm not hungry."

"You need to eat," Rogan argued firmly. "You look malnourished."

Sara shook her head as Rogan persisted.

"It's okay, honest. It's your food-"

Rogan ignored Sara's protest and he quickly snatched one of her pale hands. Before she could say anything, he pressed the jerky into the palm of her hand and glared at her with a furious expression in his bright red eyes.

"Eat it or you can sleep on the ground. I won't have your stomach growling in the middle of the night."

The air between them was tense. Sara peered up at Rogan with a mixture of confusion and anger but after a long moment her frown disappeared and she stared down at the food in her hand.

"If you insist," she finally replied, and Rogan turned his head away from her as they both began to eat.

After polishing off the two strips of jerky and a sliver of soft cheese, Sara took a few sips of water from the waterskin Rogan had offered her and thanked him for the meal. When she was finished eating, she sat with her arms resting against her thighs and stared blankly at the fire, not really looking at it. Despite how heavy her eyelids felt, a furry of questions ran through her head. The biggest question was of course, how it could be physically possible that she was in Skyrim, a place that only existed on a screen. It was something she struggled to wrap her head around. The forest she was currently occupying looked like any other piece of nature she'd experience back home. However, the Orc brooding silently beside her was a compelling argument that she was indeed very far from home.

Eventually, she grew too tired. Rogan yawned as well and then he told Sara to move back. When she had slid far enough away from him, he pulled the covers back and instructed her to lay down.

"There isn't much room..." Sara started, and then she bit her lip when Rogan flashed her another glare.

"It's your choice. I'm going to sleep."

Sara pursed her lips together and silently watched as Rogan slid his massive frame under the blanket and he laid down on his side with a small growl. His eyes were closed, but he listened, waiting to sense Sara's movement. When several moments went by eventually, he opened his eyes and found Sara staring down at him with a pained expression.

"Must you stare at me so much?" He growled. "What is it now?"

"Am I... really in Skyrim?" Sara whispered, and she played with the sleeve of her pajama shirt.

Her throat constricted tightly and she felt like she was going to cry but she sucked in a deep breath and kept herself composed. Even though he couldn't see her very well, Rogan could sense by the tone of her voice that she was upset. He let out a deep sigh and closed his eyes for a moment, willing himself to remain calm.

I've known this girl for five minutes and she's already getting on my nerves.

"Yes, you are in Skyrim. Specifically, the Rift, specifically... North of Riften. I will show you a map tomorrow if you still don't believe me."

"I believe you..."

"Now will you shut up and go to sleep?"

Sara slid forward and slipped under the covers, trying her best to keep her distance. She kept her back towards Rogan and was facing the fire, which lent plenty of warmth. She could hear Rogan's sighs and there was some movement behind her as he struggled to get comfortable. The bedroll was a generous size, but for an Orc as large as Rogan it wasn't built to hold himself and another person.

After several failed attempts to stay away from Sara, Rogan let out a frustrated growl and slid forward so his leathered body was pressed against her backside.

"There's no room," he mumbled angrily, more to himself than out loud.

"I'm sorry," Sara whispered, and she clenched her fist around the blanket tucked under her chin.

"Hmph," Rogan replied sleepily, and he snuck his arm around her waist.

Sara tensed for half a second, but Rogan was finally comfortable and he didn't try to touch her in any other way. After laying in silence for a few minutes the sounds of his soft snores drifted to her ears, mixed with other night sounds and a tiny whistling of the wind. It was a calm night, free of predators or rain. Exhaustion won over and Sara closed her eyes.